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 gets a good deal of criticism from this corner, but giving the league credit where due has never been an issue. And when it came down swiftly in regard to domestic violence charges against Slava Voynov – suspending the L.A. Kings defenseman indefinitely – the NHL did exactly what was required. Voynov will have his day in court to defend himself, but the league cannot permit anyone in its employ to remain on the job while accused of such a heinous offense. And although it’s the NHL Players’ Association’s duty to represent its members, it’s difficult to envision them not working with team owners to craft more punitive measures for those players who hurt women.
That said, this new case of domestic violence should show the NHL that, contrary to what commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier this month – “our players know what’s right and wrong” – it isn’t immune from any societal ill. There’s nothing separating NHLers from any other demographic. They are not inherently better than any other group of athletes or people walking the face of the earth. And that’s why they need to be informed, in the strongest possible terms, that under no circumstances will they be permitted to strike a woman without severe consequences befalling them.
How does the league achieve that? A lifetime ban for a first convicted offense would get players’ attention and send a message to women that they are respected as equals and are deserving of basic human dignities and protections. Read more
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
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
For most NHL teams, losing a burgeoning star on defense like Victor Hedman to injury would be a major, if not catastrophic blow. But if a team (at least, an Eastern Conference team) is equipped to weather the absence of a key cog on the blueline, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the fact they’ll now be without Hedman for at least a handful of games, if not longer thanks to a suspected broken hand he suffered Saturday against Vancouver, the Bolts are still looking as dangerous as many expected they would after their off-season additions.
When Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman signed free agent blueliner Anton Stralman away from the New York Rangers and traded for former Vancouver Canucks d-man Jason Garrison, he turned a group that included Hedman (who demolished career bests in goals and assists last year), veterans Matt Carle and Eric Brewer, and rugged 24-year-old Radko Gudas into arguably the Eastern Conference’s deepest defense corps. And that argument got much stronger after the Bruins dealt Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders. They’re so deep on defense, they made Brewer a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season. (Gudas is a little banged-up himself, but hoped to return to the lineup as soon as Monday.) There’s more than enough talent and balance there to hold the fort until Hedman returns. (And nobody quite knows when that will be just yet. If their worst fears come true and Hedman’s hand is broken, he’s likely looking at a 4-to-6-week recovery period.)
But even if that defense corps weren’t so sturdy even in Hedman’s absence, the Lightning would still be favored to win more games than not because of two main reasons: Read more
The NHL has finally put to rest its debate about visors, but as we all know, there are still potentially life-threatening risks associated with playing hockey. Minnesota Wild left winger Jason Zucker got a scare in that regard Sunday when he narrowly avoided serious injury after L.A. Kings left winger Kyle Clifford accidentally kicked him in the face and had his skate blade graze Zucker’s throat.
Zucker tripped Clifford during L.A.’s 2-1 win over the Wild, but as Clifford fell, his right leg kicked behind him and struck Zucker around the head and neck with his skate blade: Read more
Scoring goals is hard enough these days for NHL teams, but the New York Rangers got two in a hurry Sunday against San Jose. In fact, when Rick Nash scored on Sharks goalie Alex Stalock just four seconds after teammate Martin St-Louis did, they set a franchise record for consecutive goals not including an empty-net goal.
In what would eventually end in a 4-0 win for the Blueshirts, St-Louis made it 2-0 for the Rangers late in the second period when he whacked away at the puck from close range and pushed it past Stalock:
Then, off the ensuing faceoff, Nash fires the puck in at Stalock, who comes far out of his crease, misplays the puck and allows the Rangers winger to swat at it and somehow bat it into the Sharks net: Read more
Roberto Luongo and Zach Fucale were born 16 years apart, but they do have several things in common: they’re both Quebec-born goalies and Quebec League stars born to Italian families, and they’ve each represented their country in high-stakes international competitions.
Fucale, 19, has yet to play an NHL game after his hometown Canadiens drafted him 36th overall in 2013, but he attended Canadiens camp this year and had just returned to his Halifax Mooseheads team to start the season. That’s where special guest editor-in-chief Luongo caught up with him for an exclusive, insightful talk, under the supervision of yours truly, that was more conversation than straight-ahead question-and-answer.
Prior to the start of the season, pundits were projecting a return to earth for the Colorado Avalanche, who won 52 games in 2013-14 despite having some of the worst advanced statistics in the NHL. They leaned on goalie Semyon Varlamov and a superb shooting percentage on their way to finishing second in the Western Conference, and more than a few observers were expecting that couldn’t last again.
About five percent of the way through the season, at least, both those projections have come to pass. The Avs were shut out in back-to-back losses at the hands of the Minnesota Wild to start the year and only managed four goals in their next two games. And now, worse news: Varlamov has been placed on Injury Reserve thanks to a wonky groin, and there’s no timetable for his return. And in Colorado’s first game without him Thursday – a 4-3 loss to Ottawa that saw the Avs blow a 3-1 lead after the first period – they sure looked like they missed him, especially when backup Reto Berra left the game after being hit by Kyle Turris in his crease and third-stringer rookie Calvin Pickard had to step in.
And now they’re potentially facing a serious quandary: if Varlamov’s injury is serious, do they go out and acquire veteran help? Read more