The ugly incidents in Boston on Saturday prompted the inevitable negative attention the NHL receives whenever the violence needle jumps from the “fun bloodlust” zone to “egregious embarrassment.”
And, predictably, the fight debate was re-ignited.
THN senior columnist Adam Proteau, serendipitously, had an interview scheduled with commissioner Gary Bettman on the weekend. While the game’s gatekeeper stickhandled around the specifics on the Shawn Thornton and James Neal cases, deferring to his department of corrections, he did allow that if the time ever came when he felt there was real support among his constituency to make fighting punishable by ejection, he’d expand the dialogue. He went on to cite a recent poll that apparently found 98 percent of players want things to remain status quo in terms of penalties for fisticuffs.
Today’s players are bigger, faster, stronger and the hockey is better than ever. Yada, yada, yada. We’ve heard it ad nauseum and we don’t disagree.
But if we could turn back the hands of time for one aspect of the game, it’d be for fashion. In particular, I miss the jerseys and logos of the 1970s.
Unless he’s able to duplicate the feats of Martin Brodeur or Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist will not be worth the $8.5 million cap hit the New York Rangers will absorb in the final few years of his contract extension.
But that’s not the point. This is the way business is now consummated in professional sports.
Chicago fired 50 pucks on goal last night in their 4-3 loss to Dallas, but the biggest shots came courtesy Stars left winger Antoine Roussel.
The, umm, spirited 24-year-old fought Andrew Shaw, elbowed Jonathan Toews, then scored a pretty goal on a penalty shot to help his team to victory. Not exactly the Gordie Howe hat trick, but a busy, productive and effective night’s work.
But his loudest moment came when he taunted the United Center crowd following his goal, waving his arms in celebration and giving them the Hulk Hogan “I can’t hear you” gesture. Read more
Decision day in Markham is here.
Barring the unforeseen, the city’s council members will vote tonight on whether to accept or reject plans for a proposed NHL-sized arena. If the financial framework is passed, the conversation about a second team in the Toronto area will immediately be stoked. Because, despite the rhetoric, that’s what this gambit is all about.
And that’s when the real excitement begins.
Following a walking dead 1-7-0 start, the Philadelphia Flyers are back among the land of the living in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth-place Rangers with a game in hand. They’ve won eight of 11, have points in 11 of 14 and are serving notice they will be a factor.
None of that is surprising. They boast one of the deepest groups of forwards in the NHL, and in THN’s pre-season predictions, we tabbed the Flyers for third in the Metro Division.
The “aha” is that they’re doing it with goaltending, not in spite of it. The Flyers, renowned for the size of their goaltending scrap heap, are riding a crest powered by Columbus castoff Steve Mason.
Ilya Bryzgalov has a well-earned reputation for being unique, so it’s not a shock to see him sporting No. 80 on the back of his Oilers jersey.
He isn’t, however, the first netminder to wear the unorthodox digits. That honor goes to Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kevin Weekes, who donned 80 for the Rangers, Islanders, Hurricanes and Lightning. Apparently, Weekes chose 80 because it’s the number that most closely resembles “00”, which the league no longer allows players to wear.
As for Bryzgalov, he went with the high numeral because it’s the year he was born and he had success with it one season in the Russia when he posted eight shutouts.
For much of the NHL’s formative years and the Original Six era, when there were no regular backups, goalies almost exclusively wore No. 1. The NHL mandated in 1950-51 that teams have an emergency goaltender in attendance, then in 1965-66 made it compulsory for clubs to dress two stoppers each night. Terry Sawchuk, who began sharing the crease with Toronto’s Johnny Bower that year, went with 24, then soon after made the switch to 30. Others around the league followed the star’s trend.
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s decision to move the men’s Olympic roster announcement deadline from Dec. 31 to Jan. 7 wasn’t warmly received in our office (it really messes with one of our print deadlines), but hey, this isn’t about us.
It does give injured hopefuls such as Tampa Bay superstar Steven Stamkos a bit more time to heal before their countries submit names. It also allows players on the bubble another week to shine (or falter) before the final decision is made.
Could one of those players be Carolina Hurricanes’ stopper Cam Ward?