Cue the Welcome Back music.
Wayne Gretzky is back.
The Globe and Mail is reporting hockey legend Wayne Gretzky is back in the NHL family after the league made financial restitution with him. Columnist Eric Duhatschek wrote that a source told him an agreement had been reached Tuesday with the NHL in which Gretzky would be paid almost $8 million (U.S.), which was owed to him by former Phoenix Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes as a result of the team’s bankruptcy proceeding in 2009.
Daniel Alfredsson turns 41 next week and though he gained some detractors the past six months, most hockey fans and players will wish him a very happy birthday.
Alfredsson is one of the most well-liked and respected players in the game today. Now in his 18th season, he’s enjoying a career rebirth of sorts with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s producing at near a point-per-game pace despite his time on ice (17:22 average) being at a career low. He received a video tribute and cheers of ‘Alfie’ when he returned this past Sunday to Ottawa where he spent his first 17 NHL seasons, the final 14 of them as Senators captain.
He’s playing as though he could make it through a few more seasons before Father Time catches up with him. Statistically, Alfredsson would have to remain productive for a couple more seasons to be considered a sure bet for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
We just finished putting the finishing touches on our 124-page Olympic collector’s edition magazine called Chasing Glory. It sets the table for all the nations in both men’s and women’s hockey at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in February. It makes for an ideal Christmas stocking stuffer and is available for sale in a couple of weeks.
One story that grabbed my attention was researching the 1952 Edmonton Mercurys team that represented Canada at the Games in Oslo and won gold. It was Canada’s last gold in men’s hockey for 50 years until Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Martin Brodeur and Co., beat the Americans in the championship game in Salt Lake City in 2002.
The Mercurys were chosen in 1952 because they were deemed to be 100 percent amateur. All their members were employees of the Waterloo Mercurys car dealership in Edmonton. A number of other amateur teams applied for the right to represent Canada, but it was too cost prohibitive to have a national tournament to determine a representative. And because the Mercurys won the World Championship title in 1950, it was decided they would represent the country well.
I have to admit that when Adrian Aucoin announced his retirement earlier this month, my first thought was: geez, he must not be playing all that well on the Columbus blueline. Or is it Phoenix? Or did he sign with Nashville in the off-season? Minny, right?
Oops, he was inactive. The market had dried up for the 40-year-old veteran defenseman of more than 1,100 NHL games.
It’s the kind of thing that sure, I should have known he wasn’t playing. But with so many free agents out there and teams always looking for veteran defenseman help, I didn’t know he slipped through the cracks.
So with Aucoin as my inspiration, here’s a primer of some players-who-got-at-least-a-point-in-the-NHL-last-season-but-haven’t-played-in-the-NHL-this-season.
Getting a press release from the Calgary Flames is like rolling back the clock a decade or two. When they sign a player, they include term and dollar value. When they issue an injury update, they include details. At least they did this time.
Don’t they know they’re not supposed to be forthright? Why on earth are they being so transparent? Are they unaware of the expression, “as per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed?” And what about the concern that other teams will now target the returning player’s sore spot?
Don’t answer the above questions. They’re both sarcastic and rhetoric. And they’ve been developing for quite a few years. That’s because NHL team information of this millennium has devolved into a collection of bare facts, blinged up with platitudes, clichés and truisms.
Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam is one up on Big Red legend Ken Dryden and that’s after just his first game with the university.
In a home game versus Niagara Tuesday in Ithaca, N.Y., Gilliam became the first goalie in NCAA history to score a goal in his college debut. With the Big Red up 3-2, Gillam caught the puck in his trapper with 16 seconds remaining, moved to his left and shot it the length of the ice into an empty net. The Purple Eagles had pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker. It entered the net with 12 seconds remaining.
The feat is also the first time a Cornell goalie has scored a goal. Gillam, 21, is a Peterborough, Ont., native who played Jr. A with the Chilliwack Chiefs for two seasons in the BCHL. Read more
It took until he was 23 for Martin St-Louis to play his first NHL game. He didn’t establish himself as a regular until he was 25. And he didn’t make it as a top-six forward until the age of 27.
And now, a little more than a decade later, St-Louis is creeping ever so close to Hockey Hall of Fame territory. The 38-year-old mighty mite was honored Monday by the Tampa Bay Lightning for reaching the 1,000-game milestone in the NHL. Does he have what it takes to be recognized by the Hall of Fame one day? We’ll examine that in the first of a series of features on players worthy of said consideration.
As a Calgary native, it pains me a little to say this, but I’m fully expecting a huge second-quarter resurgence in the Edmonton Oilers. I expect they’ll have among the top 10 records in the NHL in Games 21 through 41. In fact, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see them among the top five.
It all starts in goal. Signing free agent Ilya Bryzgalov was a move I thought the Oilers should have made months earlier. Incumbent Devan Dubnyk has never rated higher than 20th on my list of NHL goalies. Yes, he posted good numbers last season, and true, he’s never played behind anything more than a mediocre defense or a mediocre defensive system, but that didn’t do it for me. He’s never had a prolonged period of excellence. But maybe he’s about to change that.
In Bryzgalov, I see a reclamation project. He may not turn out the way Mike Smith did after leaving Tampa Bay for Phoenix, or the way Sergei Bobrovsky surged in Columbus after leaving Philadelphia. But Bryz has tremendous credentials and at 33, still has some gas left in the tank.