Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
Former NHLer Brian Savage has never been reticent about taking the road less travelled. After all, during the most formative years of his youth hockey career, Savage packed up his hockey equipment and didn’t skate for two years to concentrate on golf and to play other sports. None of that prevented him from having an 11-year NHL career and making more than $16 million in the process.
So it should come as no surprise that when Savage was presented with a unique opportunity this past summer, he didn’t hesitate to uproot his family (his wife, Debbie, and three hockey-playing boys from Arizona) to join the Red Bull Hockey Academy in Salzburg, Austria. It actually began when the academy tried to recruit his 15-year-old son, Ryan, a bantam draft pick of the Everett Silvertips, and it mushroomed from there. Before he knew it, Savage was being offered a job and the chance to have his three sons develop their skills at an academy that offers more than any kind of hockey program in Arizona, or almost anywhere else in North America, could. “It’s basically a Shattuck or Notre Dame on steroids,” Savage said. “And it’s brand new.”
Granted, it’s a Sunday afternoon and the weather in Winnipeg is unseasonably spectacular. For a city that has 10 months of winter and two months of bad skating, if you can wear shorts and a T-shirt and run the air conditioner in late September, it’s a day to be outside doing stuff, not sitting in a restaurant. Still, it’s strange to see Tyler Myers, all 6-foot-8 of him, walk into a downtown eatery wearing the standard hockey player’s fashion statement – ball cap on backward, T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops – eat his lunch and leave without being singled out by anyone, including the waitress who’s serving him. The irony is Myers had to go to one of the most hockey-mad cities in the world to get out of the glare. And that suits him just fine. “I’m not a guy who needs the spotlight or searches for it,” he said. “I’m pretty easygoing off the ice.”
Myers has won over the fans of Winnipeg and rejuvenated a career that was stagnating in Buffalo. On the surface, it’s a familiar story. A kid comes in and wows everyone, wins rookie of the year, signs a huge contract (which included a $10-million signing bonus) and then struggles to live up to it. All right, so it’s not all that familiar. But that’s a lot of coin. And a lot of responsibility.
Today is American Thanksgiving and for the first time this season, all 30 arenas in the NHL are dark. If you’re not in a playoff spot by now, chances are you won’t be when the NHL schedule wraps up in 134 days. But it’s also a day to reflect on your blessings regardless of what side of the 49th parallel you occupy.
Here are some of mine when it comes to hockey:
Montreal Canadiens backup goalie Mike Condon will get the start Friday night when the Canadiens visit the New Jersey Devils, which apparently would have been the case had reigning MVP and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price not left Wednesday night’s win over the New York Rangers with a right leg injury.
Condon proved that in the short term that he could be almost as good as the No. 1 man, going 4-0-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average and registering a .932 save percentage in the first six games he played after taking over the net when Price went down with an upper body injury in October.
The San Jose Sharks have proved they can handle their Eastern Conference opponents, but if they truly fashion themselves a legitimate contender, they’ll have to do the same against their geographical rivals.
The Sharks capped off a perfect 6-0-0 road trip, the first in franchise history, over the weekend, with all six wins coming against Eastern Conference teams. That puts their record against the Eastern Conference this season to 10-4-0, compared to an ordinary 3-4-0 against western teams. They’ll have a chance to improve upon that when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight and Calgary Flames on the weekend.
On the strength of that trip, the Sharks hold down the No. 1 spot in thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. Last weeks rankings are in parentheses.
Monday night’s NHL games marked the official passing of the first quarter of the season and like Nathan MacKinnon, time flies, doesn’t it? It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for the league to rubber stamp the Las Vegas expansion application and allow Bill Foley into the annual owners’ croquet game. We’re still waiting on that and, if Jeremy Jacobs’ comments have any merit – and they do – we’ll be waiting a lot longer.
Off the ice, that was one of the big surprises of the season so far. Between the boards, here are some of the others that have surfaced after the first quarter:
You could make the argument that there has been no team in the NHL – with the exception of the Chicago Blackhawks – that has lost more young talent over the years than the Boston Bruins. Since they won the Cup in 2011, the Bruins have parted ways with Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Johnny Boychuk. All but Boychuk were under 30 when they left and the average age of the players leaving was under 26.
Even losing a 36-year-old Jarome Iginla was a kick in the slats, considering he scored 30 goals in his only season with the Bruins, then scored 29 in his first season with the Colorado Avalanche.
This all starts two weeks ago, during Hall of Fame weekend. The legendary Scotty Bowman is on hand since, at one time or another, he has coached three of the four inductees. Bowman is asked how many Hall of Famers he coached in his career, so he starts with the St. Louis Blues, who had Doug Harvey and Dickie Moore at the end of their careers, along with a goaltending tandem of Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante.
“They put up big numbers,” Bowman says. “They had 13 shutouts and only 157 goals against in 76 games. We had 22 one-goal games that year.”