Bernd Bruckler’s first plane ride in the Kontinental League would be enough to make most Westerners call their agents and request a one-way ticket home. In spy-film fashion, he was quietly ushered into an aircraft, through the back door, along with his teammates. When he saw the inside, he was astonished. It was little more than a cargo-like shell.
“This plane had been completely gutted,” he says, “and they had just put rows of seats in there. No carpet. No insulation. You’d knock on the wall and could tell there was literally one sheet of aluminum separating you from the outside. It was so loud. There were six huge oxygen tanks in the first row instead of seats. It was a shocking experience.”
Fortunately for Bruckler, it was a one-off. Future road trips with Nizhny Novgorod and later Novosibirsk Sibir were flown on more standard, comfortable vessels. But it reinforced a mindset he’d had going into Russia: expect the unexpected.
I was at a function last night when a casual hockey fan asked me which NHL team Jamie Benn plays for. Like the rest of the country, the fan was mightily impressed with what Benn accomplished in Sochi and was surprised he didn’t know more about him.
“Is it St. Louis?” he asked. “I don’t see the Blues on TV much.”
If Benn keeps rolling the way he is, all fans, even the most nonchalant, will know exactly where he plays.
Already a household name among serious hockey followers, his stature will soar. The Dallas Stars’ captain went from being a snub at last summer’s Team Canada orientation camp, to a key cog in the gold medal triumph. Both his goals were game-winners and coach Mike Babcock trusted him in critical situations, including on the penalty-kill.
Last night, he again proved what a dangerous weapon he is. On the PK against Carolina, he scored one of the prettier goals of the season, going end-to-end, splitting the defense and beating Anton Khudobin with a deft deke.
He now has 23 goals and 54 points on the season. That doesn’t make him a threat for the Art Ross or Rocket Richard, or even tops in either category on his team (that honor belongs to Tyler Seguin), but with a sustained push, he could finish top 10. To boot, he’s taking care of business in his own end, posting a plus-12.
Will Carey Price be exhibit B – or C, D, E or F – when it comes to the debate about sending NHL players to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea?
The Montreal Canadiens netminder and Team Canada star is out for at least the next few games with what the Habs are calling a lower-body injury. Coach Michel Therrien said Price aggravated the injury in Sochi and declared him day-to-day.
According to the Canadian Press, Price left practice on Wednesday after moving laterally to make a save during a power play drill.
If Team Canada is to win its third consecutive Olympic gold medal, it’ll have to do so without executive director Steve Yzerman.
The Tampa Bay Lightning GM announced he was resigning from his part-time job on Sunday, leaving a gaping vacancy. Which prompts the obvious question: who’ll take his place?
John Tavares’ stats line from the 2014 Olympics isn’t impressive. No goals, no points and six shots on goal. His legacy from Sochi, on the other hand, could prove immense.
The knee injury last season’s Hart Trophy finalist suffered in Canada’s 2-1 nail-biting victory over Latvia in the quarterfinal might be the tipping point in the debate about sending NHLers to the Games four years from now in South Korea. There’s a faction of powerful and influential NHL executives, whose poster boy is Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider, who don’t see the value in shutting down the season and donating their best assets for someone else’s cause.
“It’s ridiculous, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Snider told reporters. “There’s no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives.”
The NHL says it does not expect to suspend Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom after his positive test for pseudoephedrine prior to the gold medal game.
Here’s the full text of the NHL release, as attributed to deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
“We understand that Nicklas Backstrom tested positive for a substance
banned ‘in competition’ by the International Olympic Committee. It is our
further understanding that the positive test was the result of a common
allergy medication taken by the player knowingly, with the approval of the
team doctor and without the intention of gaining an illegal or improper
performance-enhancing benefit. In addition, the specific substance that
resulted in the positive test is not currently on the League’s Prohibited
“Subject to confirmation of the facts as we understand them, and
given the fact that the substance is neither prohibited in the NHL nor was
used in an improper manner here, we do not anticipate there being any
consequences relative to Nicklas’ eligibility to participate in games for
the Washington Capitals.”
For Team USA in Sochi yesterday, there was no joy and too much Joy all at once.
The work of British referee Joy Tottman came under intense scrutiny after she called three penalties in overtime and Canada won the thriller on the power play.
Hilary Knight claimed the penalty call against her, the one that led to the golden goal, was “bogus.” She says she didn’t touch Hayley Wickenheiser, who had fallen to the ice on a breakaway.
It followed a slashing infraction whistled against Jocelyne Lamoureux, who tapped Shannon Szabados’ pads while Team USA was on a power play of its own.
The chain of events sparked controversy all over the world wide web and, for some, evoked memories of the gold medal women’s game in Salt Lake 12 years ago when referee Stacey Livingston called eight consecutive penalties against the Canadians.
We decided to turn to an expert for his take on what transpired in one of the most entertaining games you’ll ever witness. Here’s what former NHL ref Kerry Fraser had to say on:
Thanks to Team USA’s edge-of-seat 3-2 win over Russia in the preliminary round, the value of having a shootout whiz on your roster has been reaffirmed. If not for T.J. Oshie’s vast array of razzle and dazzle, the Americans’ road to the quarterfinals and beyond might have been more daunting.
Oshie is 7-for-10 this season in the NHL in shootouts (70 per cent), and 54 per cent in lifetime attempts, making him the most effective penalty-shot taker among the Olympians. Teammate James van Riemsdyk (60 per cent this season, 50 overall) isn’t far behind.
For Russia, their top three picks all hover around 40 per cent during their NHL careers in shootouts, which isn’t awful, but also isn’t in Oshie/JVR territory.
But what about Canada? Iif you’re Canadian coach Mike Babcock, with so many skilled players to choose from, which three players do you put your faith in with everything on the line?