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.
There are no crazy outfits here, no marriage proposals, no millionaire anti-heroes repeating they just showed up so they won’t get fined. The NHL’s media day for the Stanley Cup final is not the exercise in excess and the sublime that is the Super Bowl’s, but you still get the occasional silly question. Jonathan Toews was asked what his second favorite cup is, after the Stanley Cup, of course. He begged off, but we’re thinking “protective” and “Red Solo” had to be high on his list.
It’s the kind of day when the athletes and coaches who are about to embark on one of the most intense and gruelling periods of their careers take time to share their thoughts. It’s also a day when Jon Cooper, the folksy former defense attorney from Prince George, B.C., can add to his growing reputation as the most interesting man in hockey. Sitting alongside GM Steve Yzerman, who was in his full suit and tie, Cooper was wearing flip-flops, shorts and a Lightning-issued golf shirt.
This story traces some of its roots back to 2011-12, when Cooper was coaching the Norfolk Admirals and his team reeled off a 28-game winning streak en route to the Calder Cup. In the words of Ondrej Palat, it was there that “(Cooper) taught me how to play big-boy hockey.” Read more
The Blackhawks have made a remarkable comeback since the days they were ranked the second-worst sports franchise in North America, ahead of only the Los Angeles Clippers. On game nights in the early 2000s, George Lemperis would look out at the Palace Grill and there might be three tables of fans.
Lemperis never gave up on the Blackhawks, even when his hometown did. But the last decade has been the salad days for the franchise and Lemperis, who owns the now-famous restaurant where you can get a pretty good salad and a sandwich before the game. The Palace Grill is an institution with Blackhawks fans and, for that matter, players. One morning in the early 1990s, Chicago defenseman Chris Chelios was out having some beverages with friends and popped into the Palace Grill at about 3 a.m. Lemperis hadn’t arrived yet, but none to worry. Chelios jumped behind the grill himself.
“My cousin came in with a bunch of his friends, and they didn’t believe I was friends with the Blackhawks,” Lemperis said. “And there’s Chris Chelios behind the grill cooking breakfast for his friends. I came in a little later and I missed it all, but they left me with a mess. Everything was dirty, but that’s OK.” Read more
Teuvo Teravainen’s real father, Timo, is a dentist in Helsinki. His surrogate father is a 40-year-old teammate Kimmo Timonen, and while the hockey world was fawning over Teravainen after Game 1, good old dad had a sobering message. “He’s got a long way to go,” Timonen said. “He’s a skinny guy, so he’s got to start lifting weights. I told him, ‘This summer you’ve got to make sure you work out.’ Golf is not a workout.”
Gee, thanks, Dad. Teravainen’s father might be “far, far in Finland,” but that fatherly advice isn’t. As Teravainen makes his way in the world, he’s learning things might not be as easy as he would have thought. In 2013-14, when he led Finland to gold at the world juniors and finished with 44 points in the Finnish League, many thought Teravainen had the second-line center job in Chicago waiting for him. But he struggled. Read more
The pee wasn’t even dry on David Keith’s Chicago Blackhawks sweater when the questions started. There he was, holding his two-year-old grandson, who had undoubtedly gotten caught up in all the excitement of his dad, Duncan, winning the Stanley Cup and forgot to take a washroom break. “We changed his diaper, but when the pants are wet, the pants are wet,” the Keith family patriarch said. “What are you going to do?”
Apparently, putting your baby in the Stanley Cup is quite the rage these days. Every time you turned around on the United Center ice there was another little one with a triple chin and a pot belly, sitting obliviously in the Cup while the rest of the family posed for pictures. It looked as much like a daycare as it did a Stanley Cup celebration.
As team president John McDonough noted, when he first joined the organization in 2007 most of the guys were single. “Now there are babies all over the place,” he said. Read more
With two days between Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final and temperatures hovering in the 90s with the humidity, it’s difficult to escape that feeling of being sticky and fat. It can be tough to get a hockey vibe, but Tampa is getting there.
Even though after 23 years and a Stanley Cup in the market the newspapers still feel compelled to run a ‘Hockey 101’ column in which they explain faceoffs, icing and changing on the fly, Tampa has come a long way. Game 1 of the final got a local TV rating of 18, compared to Game 7 of their 2004 Stanley Cup final triumph, which scored in the single digits.
Jeffrey Vinik’s rather unpretentious office in Amalie Arena looks over a bar named Ferg’s, one of the places where fans congregate after games. But there is also a mother lode of undeveloped land, about 40 acres to be precise, and that’s where Vinik’s vision for transforming downtown Tampa is taking shape. And it all started five years ago with a hockey team nobody wanted, run by Oren Koules and Len Barrie whose ill-fated ownership flamed out spectacularly amid bickering and poor decisions. Read more
When Brendan Shanahan interviewed Lou Lamoriello for the GM job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Shanahan joked to Lamoriello that there are days when he shows up to the office not wearing a tie. “He laughed and said, ‘That’s fine with me,’ ” Shanahan said.
Remember, this was the boss talking to the prospective employee. But that’s the kind of respect Lou Lamoriello commands. He was notorious as GM of the New Jersey Devils for making his employees wear ties every day and not have facial hair. So Shanahan, who started his playing career with Lamoriello and ended it with Lamoriello, felt the need to bring it up.
But the worst thing Maple Leafs fans could do at the moment is get caught up in that kind of minutia. The second worst is to look at the Devils record, both in the draft and in the standings, in recent years and declare that he’s a declining asset, a bad fit for the organization. Because the GM Lamoriello was with the Devils is not the one he’ll be with the Maple Leafs for the next three seasons. In Toronto, Lamoriello will be part of what is becoming a strong front office filled with people who have lots of potential. In New Jersey, he was the Devils front office, full stop. In New Jersey, he regularly hired and fired coaches every two years or so. In Toronto, he’ll have one who has an eight-year contract and makes more money than he does.
Will Lamoriello be a savior? Probably not by himself, no more than Mike Babcock will exclusively be the savior for his work behind the bench. What Lamoriello gives the Leafs is something they lack and desperately need, managerial experience and the ability to work the back channels of the NHL. He is a man with old-school values such as integrity, respect, accountability and hard work, but he is not an old-school guy. He will turn 73 about a week-and-a-half after the puck drops for the Leafs first game this season, but he will not slow down.
The good people of Quebec City have been without their Nordiques for 20 long years now, but they may not have to wait long to find out whether the franchise will be coming back.
Now that the NHL has separated the true contenders from those whose expansion efforts were, “at best, merely dreams and aspirations,” it can get onto the business of entering Phase II of the three expansion phases. The entire process of vetting the prospective franchises is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 4, which would allow the league’s board of governors to hold a vote at its meeting later that month. No time or venue has been finalized, nor is it known whether the board will vote on expansion at that meeting.
Insiders would be surprised if it moved that quickly, but it’s possible. After all, the league gave prospective buyers less than a month to decide whether to bid from the time of its announcement and only two weeks after it made its bid package available. The league has already set a firm date for the process to be complete. It has already stated it will focus exclusively on Las Vegas and Quebec City, although there were reports that Connecticut businessman Ray Bartoszek, who was spearheading one of three potential Seattle bids, was summoned to the NHL offices to speak with commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday. Read more
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that legally obliges the NHL to grant an expansion franchise to Quebec City. In the 80-page expansion bid kit, the league repeatedly points out there are absolutely no guarantees, that the bid is a $2 million expression of interest only. And NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made all of that crystal clear when he announced the process in late June. “The fact that we’re going through the process doesn’t mean we are going to expand,” Bettman said at the time. “All it means is that we’re going to stop listening to expressions of interest and take a good, hard look at what they actually mean and represent.”
All that said, the NHL has no choice but to grant a franchise to the good people of Quebec City. Because even though the court of law is on the NHL’s side, the court of public opinion would crucify the NHL and Bettman if it did anything else at this point.