Adam Proteau

Adam Proteau, currently the brand's columnist/writer, has worked for The Hockey News since 2002 and won the Professional Hockey Writers' award for best column in 2006. He also won the Esso Medal of Achievement for most improved player as a 13-year-old at the 'A' level in 1985, but he's less proud of that.

The NHL shootout: the part of the game practice and coaching can’t solve

Leafs goalie James Reimer and Sabres center Cody Hodgson (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Flyers’ 2-1 shootout loss to Florida Thursday marked their fifth loss in as many shootouts this season. With even one or two wins in those five games, Philly would be within sniffing distance of a wild card berth and not, as they currently are, closer in the standings to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes. And when veteran center Vincent Lecavalier was asked after the game whether the Flyers practiced the shootout enough, his answer likely didn’t make beleaguered head coach Craig Berube very happy.

“Well, obviously not,” said Lecavalier, who was one of the Flyers’ shooters. “I mean, maybe we could do more. They’re obviously very important points that you’re kind of leaving on the table. We have been practicing, but we probably could do more.”

Berube maintained the Flyers do practice enough, but the truth is, since it was first implemented in 2005, the shootout has been a Bermuda Triangle of expectations and logic. And the more you think about the so-called solution for a team’s shootout woes, the sillier it is. I mean, players have to practice scoring more? These men are almost universally dominant scorers at lower levels of the game and who think of different ways to score constantly, so what exactly would another 20 minutes or a half-hour after practice do for them, when it’s all but impossible to replicate the game conditions (including thousands of screaming fans potentially attempting to intimidate them) of an actual shootout? Read more

Canadiens honor former captain Saku Koivu in teary pre-game ceremony

Adam Proteau
Saku Koivu (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Knowing the love between the city of Montreal and veteran center Saku Koivu, you felt confident Thursday’s pre-game ceremony honoring the recently retired veteran center and former Canadiens captain was going to be a teary-eyed affair. And it was – so teary, in fact, even Koivu got choked up as he thanked adoring fans in a tremendous speech before the two NHL teams he played for (the Habs and Anaheim Ducks) faced off.

As the Bell Centre crowd chanted his name, and with his family looking on from ice level, the 40-year-old began his speech in French, showing the deft touch he displayed during his nine years in Montreal. The Turku, Finland native spoke without staring down at his notes, hitting a high point when he told the crowd “I will always be a Hab at my heart”. But when he began to discuss his bout with cancer in 2001, Koivu understandably became emotional: Read more

Small Ontario town rallies around star Jr. A player badly injured representing Canada

Adam Proteau
Neil Doef (via smithfallsbears.pointstreaksites.com)

Seventeen-year-old Neil Doef is a small-town Canadian kid like so many other small-town kids across this country: chasing the hockey dream, day and night, evenings, weekends, and probably in his dreams as well. But like very few kids, he had talent to go along with that love of the game: he was the leading scorer on the Jr. A Smiths Falls Bears of the Central Canada Hockey League, and the rookie of the year in that league last season at age 16; he’d just agreed to a full hockey scholarship at Princeton University; and he was named to Team Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge in Kindersley, Sask.

Sadly, that’s where Doef’s life took a tragic turn on Sunday. Playing against the Swiss team, the left winger fell into the boards after colliding with a defenseman and suffered a terrible injury that not only threatens his hockey future, but his ability to live as he did before the game was played.

(At the request of Doef’s family, Hockey Canada president Tom Renney wouldn’t confirm Doef is dealing with major spinal trauma, but that was the suspicion. “(We) are not able to provide any further details and will when it is deemed most appropriate,” Renney said in a statement.)

Doef’s home of Smiths Falls (population 8,777) is admirably rallying around the injured youngster. An online fundraising campaign had raised more than $5,500 in two days, and the local Shopper’s Drug Mart has pledged $5,000 and will collect donations at its location. People interested in helping Doef can donate money at any Scotiabank branch under the account name “Doefstrong in trust”, or send an online money transfer to the address doefstrong@gmail.com.

The hockey world needs no more examples of how inherently dangerous the game can be. All we can do is do our best to help people who’ve been hurt. And although Doef faces a long and tough road, it’s heartening to see how quickly hockey’s family has stepped up to support him at such an awful time.

NHLPA boss Don Fehr: owners likely to lock out players again

Adam Proteau
Donald Fehr (Bruce Bennett)

There are still another seven seasons remaining in the NHL’s current collective bargaining agreement and the league’s business is booming to the point of serious and public expansion discussion. But as far as NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr is concerned, once the CBA ends after the 2021-22 campaign, the league’s labor history will repeat in the most unfortunate of ways.

That’s right. Prepare yourself for another lockout.

“If you put baseball to the side where there’s no cap, I don’t see anything yet which suggests any of the other three (North American) leagues are likely to break out of the phenomenon of a lockout every time, because a salary cap produces that phenomenon on the management side,” Fehr told THN Wednesday in an interview for a feature that appears in THN’s upcoming People of Power And Influence special edition. “(Owners) think they’ve got nothing to lose: “Let’s just go see what happens, and maybe we’ll get a little bit more.”

The 66-year-old Fehr – who has made an art out of eloquently keeping his cards close to the vest – discussed a wide array of topics for the feature, including NHLers potentially dealing with gambling and other temptations while playing in Las Vegas (“Lots of people live in Las Vegas and obey the law,”), the recent mumps outbreak and concussion protocols, and the prospect of independent doctors evaluating injured players (as opposed to the team doctors who currently have that job). Read more

Preds’ James Neal first player to be named & shamed under NHL’s anti-diving push

Adam Proteau
James Neal (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

It is something of an understatement to say Predators winger James Neal has a reputation among NHL players and officials, and it isn’t a good one. Even before he was dealt to Nashville this summer, he became infamous for embellishing and vicious episodes.

So it wasn’t in the least bit eyebrow-raising to hear Neal was the first NHLer publicly named and fined under the NHL’s new anti-diving legislation. He had already received a warning after a Nov. 13 game against St. Louis, but apparently the message didn’t sink in. Because even the most ardent Preds fan who’s being honest with themselves would have to admit the play for which Neal is being fined (which took place Dec. 13 against the Sharks) is laughably blatant diving: Read more

Flames reward coach Bob Hartley with new contract, but tough times are still ahead

Adam Proteau
Bob Hartley (Getty Images)

The Calgary Flames announced Wednesday a multi-year contract extension for head coach Bob Hartley and nobody in their right mind was going to argue with the move. The 54-year-old has exceeded all expectations this season, taking a young group near the top of the NHL standings out of the gate. He’s been a crafty tactician with a keen sense of the personalities in his dressing room, and he’s been able to sell his high-energy approach to his players with a virtually 100 percent buy-in rate. He’s earned a new deal.

However, once the warm feelings associated with Hartley’s contract die down, it’s more than a little likely Flames fans will come to know the pace their team has established this season was going to be unsustainable. There’s so much to like about the future in Calgary – the play of captain Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie; their skill and youth at forward (including Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Markus Granlund); the prospects who’ve yet to play an NHL game (Sam Bennett, Mark Jankowski) – that it’s easy to look past the problems that still exist with this team.

And they do exist. Forget the Flames’ current six-game losing streak, and look at the advanced stats: they’re 20th in Fenwick; their Corsi-For is 18th overall; and their Corsi-Against is 29th overall. As well, their overall team depth is lacking: if the injury bug that’s already taken a fair bite out of them continues to feast, Calgary simply doesn’t have a deep enough farm system from which to restock the NHL roster.

Despite the losing skid, Flames fans have every right to be stoked for Hartley’s achievement and the good times ahead. But with the high level of competition in their conference – and so many lessons still to be learned for their dynamic youngsters – Calgary is still bound for some stretches that will push Hartley’s best days to the back of people’s minds.

Caps & Cats make history in 20 rounds during NHL’s longest-ever shootout

Adam Proteau
Nick Bjugstad scores the game-winning shootout goal on Braden Holtby. (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

When you look at the list of shooters who took part in Tuesday’s shootout between Washington and Florida Panthers, you can be forgiven for thinking it looks like the roster lists for both teams. But it may as well be, because the two teams combined to make history, shattering the old NHL record for longest shootout by battling for 20 rounds before the Panthers emerged victorious over the Capitals by a 2-1 score.

The previous record for longest shootout was the 15-round showdown between the Caps and New York Rangers on Nov. 26, 2005 and two Washington players – Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich – can now lay claim to having taken part in the longest and second-longest shootouts. Tuesday’s marathon session lasted a whopping 17:43, and saw the Capitals score five goals, only to have the Panthers reply with five of their own to extend the shootout to Round 20. At that point, Florida center Nick Bjugstad stepped up and beat Washington goalie Braden Holtby to win it for the home team, give the Panthers their 13th win of the season and push them ahead of the Bruins for the final wild card berth.

Here’s video of the entire shootout. Be sure to pack a lunch and hydrate regularly once you begin watching. Read more

Kings unveil new Stadium Series jersey…but about those pants…

Adam Proteau
Kings Stadium Series jersey (image via L.A. Kings)

The Los Angeles Kings unveiled their new Stadium Series jersey Tuesday night – and while it’s up for debate whether they’re a fashion crime or not, the hockey pants that go along with them need to be imprisoned for life.

The sweaters themselves – which will debut at California’s Levi Stadium when the Sharks host the Kings in an outdoor game Feb. 21 – aren’t eyesores, even if the actual design takes some getting used to:

L.A. Kings Stadium Series jerseys hang in the team store. (image via L.A. Kings)

(image via L.A. Kings)

However, the overall look – specifically, the white pants that match the bottom part of the jersey – just looks wrong. I’m not going to say they appear diaper-like, but they do smack of Cooperalls, and that’s reason enough to demand a redesign: Read more