• Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens supports mental health via special masks

    Adam Proteau
    Ben Scrivens (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Ben Scrivens is one of the more conscientious NHLers of his generation, so it was entirely within character to see the Oilers netminder stand up for mental health Monday by announcing he’d wear a series of goalie masks to raise awareness of the issue.

    Scrivens’ “Ben’s Netminders” program, in support of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, is providing a platform for four local artists diagnosed with schizophrenia to design a goalie mask for him that touches on the disease. The masks will be auctioned off to raise funds for the organization – and the first artist selected, Richard Boulet, stressed the words “empathy” and “hope” on his version: Read more

  • CHL lawsuit symbolizes larger struggle in elite amateur sport

    Adam Proteau
    Canadian Hockey League logo (courtesy CHL)

    On a macro level across North America, there’s an ongoing battle for the hearts, minds – and most importantly, the monies – of elite teenaged athletes who are major revenue generators for their development leagues. In the United States, the NCAA collegiate system is involved in a momentous high-stakes showdown with former athletes – with potential repercussions that could shake their business model to its foundations. And in Canada, a similar war is being fought at the major junior hockey level, with the latest volley taking place Friday: a $180-million lawsuit filed against the Canadian Hockey League by former players (including former Niagara IceDogs player Sam Berg, son of retired NHLer Bill Berg) seeking outstanding wages, holiday, overtime and vacation pay and employer payroll contributions and alleging basic minimum wage laws were broken.

    Leave aside the particulars in both cases, and you’re left with the same essential questions: if we’ve turned amateur sports into big business, how much of the cut do amateur athletes deserve? And why do owners get to dictate that players’ dreams of playing in the best league they can has a monetary value equal or greater to the actual money their current organizational structures bring in? It’s been a Canadian tradition to romanticize players chasing their dreams for free, but when everyone can see the amount of money that’s being made, why is it so unfair for athletes to be included in the financial windfall?

    Certainly, it’s worthwhile to ask who is involved with any particular lawsuit – and in their initial response to Friday’s suit, the three commissioners involved at the junior hockey level (OHL commissioner David Branch; QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau and WHL commissioner Ron Robison) did exactly that. While promising they would “vigorously defend” against this latest legal action, the trio accused brothers Randy and Glenn Grumbley, union activists who attempted to start the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association, of being behind it. Read more

  • This is the biggest, strangest hit of the year

    Matt Larkin
    BigHit

    Note the headline. It ain’t hyperbole. And to throw around “biggest hit of the year” is bold in October.

    But this WWE-inspired body blast by Kristaps Zile earns such high scores in brutality, creativity and originality that it’ll be tough to top. The hit happened in an MHL (the Kontinental League’s junior circuit) game last Friday. Zile, an HK Riga defenseman, laid a hip check on Lukas Pozgay of HC Red Bull. Pozgay made the mistake of holding on for dear life, and Zile proceeded to carry Pozgay several meters before stapling him to the boards, as forcefully as you would a particularly thick document. Here’s the unstoppable finishing move, complete with death metal:

    Read more

  • Power Rankings: Ducks flock to familiar perch at No. 1

    Ken Campbell
    Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The Anaheim Ducks almost certainly don’t put a whole lot of stock into Power Rankings, nor should they. They started and ended last season at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings and what did it get them? An overabundance of bupkis when it came to cashing in that currency against the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs.

    But here we go again and here go the Ducks again. After losing their first game of the season, the Ducks have knocked down five straight en route to opening this season as the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings. Since this is our first installment of the year, last season’s final ranking will be in parentheses. In the future, the previous week’s ranking will appear. Read more

  • T.J. Brodie more than doubles his salary, but it’s a bargain for the Flames

    Brian Costello
    Calgary Flames v Chicago Blackhawks

    The Calgary Flames locked up the game’s top-scoring defenseman for another five seasons, and by the time the deal kicks in next season, it might look like a huge bargain.

    T.J. Brodie, who is tied with Victor Hedman and Brent Burns atop the NHL defensemen scoring parade with seven points, signed a five-year contract with the Flames worth $4.65 million annually ($23.25 million total). Brodie, 24, is in the second-year of a two-year bridge-deal that pays him $2.125 million. He would have been a restricted free agent next July.

    For those who don’t watch the Flames on a regular basis, Brodie and defense partner Mark Giordano have been the team’s best players the past couple of seasons. ‘Brodano’, as they’re referred to, match up against the opponent’s top line, are on the first power play unit, play upwards of 25 minutes per game and boast strong possession and zone entry numbers.

    Read more

  • Frederik Andersen makes history, wins Ducks’ No. 1 goalie job

    Matt Larkin
    Frederik Andersen is off to one of the greatest starts to a career of any goalie in league history. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

    So much for the Anaheim Ducks’ goaltending controversy.

    Entering training camp, no one knew much about Anaheim’s plans in net. We did know unrestricted free agent Jonas Hiller was a goner, but that was pretty much it. The Ducks were blessed with John Gibson, the NHL’s top goaltending prospect and No. 2 overall prospect according to THN Future Watch, and Frederik Andersen, a less-heralded but highly effective Dane who flourished in his rookie year. It was anyone’s guess as to who would win the starting job in 2014-15. The long-term edge seemed to be Gibson’s, considering his pedigree and the fact Bruce Boudreau had enough confidence in Gibson to toss him into a Game 7 against the L.A. Kings.

    But things haven’t gone exactly as expected between Anaheim’s pipes in this young season – and it’s actually great news for the Ducks.

    John Gibson, 21, wasn’t ready for a Game 7 last spring, and he didn’t look ready for a No. 1 job in the NHL in his first start this fall, a six-goal clobbering, albeit it came against Pittsburgh.

    And then there’s Andersen. The towering Dane, 25, has been the mightiest of Ducks, starting the season 5-0-0 and allowing just seven goals, producing a 1.38 goals-against average and .950 save percentage. He’s made some serious history, too. Andersen is now 25-5-0 to start his career, which makes him just the second stopper in NHL history to win 25 of his first 30 decisions. The other was Boston’s Ross Brooks, who opened 25-2-3 from October 1972 to February 1974.

    Read more

  • Bill Daly on Slava Voynov suspension: This is different from Varlamov

    Ken Campbell
    Slava Voynov and family celebrate after the Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly implied the league did have the National Football League incidents on its mind when it suspended Slava Voynov in light of the domestic assault arrest against the Los Angeles Kings defenseman, but said it was not the only factor involved in the decision.

    In light of the fact that Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was also arrested on domestic assault charges a year ago and was not suspended by either the league or the Avalanche, it might be natural to tie the NFL’s troubles with domestic violence to the league’s decision to suspend Voynov, who is due to appear in court Oct. 22. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are two high-profile NFL players, among others, who have been involved in domestic violence incidents of late and it would be naïve to think the NFL’s bungling of those situations was not a factor. But it wasn’t the only one, Daly said. Read more

  • Rumor Roundup: Red Wings still searching for missing blueline piece

    Detroit Red Wings

    The Detroit Red Wings are linked to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers in the rumor mill, but he’s not the only blueliner they could be pursuing. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports the Florida Panthers want to move blueliner Brian Campbell and the Red Wings are interested.

    Kypreos claims the Wings hope to move rearguard Jakub Kindl, but the Panthers prefer one of their blueline prospects like Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen. It’s unclear if other clubs are interested in the 35-year-old Campbell, who is signed through 2015-16 at an annual salary of over $7.142 million.

    The Wings only have roughly $2.720 million in cap space. They have little room for Campbell’s contract unless the Panthers agree to pick up half of his remaining salary, plus take on a salaried player from the Wings.

    An obvious assumption would be shipping former Panthers center Stephen Weiss ($4.9-million annual cap hit) back to Florida, but he has a modified no-trade clause and must agree to such a move. It’s unlikely the Panthers want him back.

    A bigger issue, however, is Campbell is a left-handed shot, which doesn’t suit the Wings need for a top-four blueliner with a right-handed shot. Unless the Wings get desperate, they’ll likely pursue a more affordable defenseman who suits their needs.

    COULD CANES MOVE SEKERA?

    The rumor mill was abuzz with excitement last week over speculation teams could have interest in Carolina Hurricanes center Eric Staal. It appears, however, he’s not the only member of the Hurricanes generating some trade chatter.

    Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports defenseman Andrej Sekera is also a sought-after trade option. He notes the 28-year-old blueliner is coming off a 44-point performance and is eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end. Johnston feels Sekera would be a good fit in a number of NHL cities.

    The Hurricanes, however, could be reluctant to move Sekera, who blossomed into a solid top-two pairing defenseman following his acquisition from Buffalo last year. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch claims the Hurricanes hope to re-sign Sekera, who’s making $2.75 million this season.

    It’s up to Sekera to decide if he wants to stay with the team which gave him the opportunity to shine, or test the free-agent market for a more profitable contract.

    BRUINS SEARCHING FOR A TOP LINE ANSWER

    The Boston Bruins are still struggling to adjust to Jarome Iginla‘s off-season departure via free agency. Iginla was their first-line right wing and his absence this season has left a big hole on their top line.

    Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe believes the Bruins will keep searching for a potential replacement throughout this season, seeking a sizable winger with a right-hand shot. He feels they can use the assets received from the New York Islanders in the Johnny Boychuk deal as bargaining chips, notably the Philadelphia Flyer second-round pick in 2015.

    Shinzawa also notes the Bruins must re-sign restricted free agents Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith next summer, speculating they could prefer a winger in the final year of his current contract.

    Perhaps Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart could fit the bill. He’s young (turning 27 on October 30), physical, has two 28-goal seasons under his belt and is eligible for UFA status in July. The only sticking point right now is his $4.15-million cap hit, while the Bruins only have over $2.240 million in cap space.

    Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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