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.
The Montreal Canadiens have announced that they will name a captain for the 2015-16 season. And that’s all good. No Original Six team should be without a captain. Next on the docket should be the announcement that they’ve given it to the most obvious choice, defenseman P.K. Subban.
And it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the fact that Subban is taking French instruction from a tutor in Montreal twice a week. It has everything to do with the fact that, aside from Carey Price, who can’t be named captain, he’s the team’s best player. He’s the face of the franchise. He is uniquely equipped to handle the scrutiny that comes with the position and he’s under contract for another seven seasons.
With plans for the 2016 World Cup well underway, we know how the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are going to grow their revenues. So now we can turn our attention to something that can actually grow worldwide interest in the game, the Winter Olympics.
It’s a tournament that has kind of been lost in the shuffle here, largely because of the ambivalence the league has displayed for future participation and its preparations for the World Cup. At the World Cup kickoff in Toronto Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took a not-so-subtle jab at International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, saying, “We hear rumors that Rene Fasel may be at some point ready to talk to us,” about Olympic participation.
Steven Stamkos asked the question everyone was thinking when it comes to the World Cup. “Whose anthem do they play if they win the tournament?” Stamkos asked, referring to Team Europe. It’s pretty slim pickings to be sure – perhaps A Song for Europe by Roxy Music for Team Europe and Young Turks by Rod Stewart Team North America.
There’s a pretty good chance we’ll never find out because both Team Europe and Team North America stand almost no chance of winning the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, informally known by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association as Cashapalooza. But that doesn’t mean both teams won’t strike some fear in their opponents, if for no other reason than the expectations on them will make them the two least burdened teams in the tournament.
For the record, Fredrik Andersen has indeed stepped on a piece of Lego in bare feet. “Not fun,” he reports.
It seems Andersen is never far from the plastic interlocking bricks that have kept children occupied for years. He grew up about an hour from the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark, where the toy was invented and plays and lives in a place that is about an hour north of the California Legoland resort. Andersen still has his Lego from when he was a child stored away in the attic at his parents’ home and said the family where he stayed his first couple of years in Anaheim had kids who had Lego around all the time.
And following up on his mask design from last season that featured a goalie building a Lego wall, Andersen will brandish a mask this season that will feature the Batman character from The Lego Movie, adorned with the old-school Anaheim Ducks logo and going by the name Duckman. “Last year it blew up a little bit and it got pretty popular pretty quickly,” Andersen said. “So we (he and mask designer David Gunnarson) said, ‘Why not run with it and keep the theme going?’ and it’s cool how it turned out.”
So it’s only fitting that he plays for a team that is a lot like Lego. All the pieces are there and they seem to fit together most of the time, but it’s a matter of finding the right combination of pieces to build the perfect structure. Sometimes you get almost finished and decide to pull it apart a little and make some additions. Whether or not the Ducks have the winning combination this year remains to be seen, but we at THN have declared the Ducks our pick for the Stanley Cup. (Just so you know, for 2014-15 we picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the final over the Tampa Bay Lightning.)
“That’s where we’ve picked ourselves,” said Andersen, who was part of the NHL pre-season media tour in Toronto on Tuesday. “We expect it ourselves.”
That the Ducks will start with one too many pieces at the foundation of their structure could either be a problematic distraction or a strength. Nobody is sure what it will be at this point. Andersen was terrific through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but looked worn down by the time the Ducks faced the Blackhawks and like his teammates, faltered as the series went on. But he was still very, very good and at 25, looks to be headed in the right direction.
Ten years ago, instead of being unveiled at a full arena, the best prospect in a generation was introduced to the hockey world in the ballroom of an Ottawa hotel. The 2005 lockout had just ended and the Corel Center (now the Canadian Tire Centre) couldn’t accommodate the new day for the NHL draft.
But that didn’t blunt the excitement and anticipation of the New NHL, one that featured a ready-made superstar in Sidney Crosby, a salary cap to get the NHL’s economics in order and a host of rule changes and enforcements to allow its offensive stars to shine. As Mario Lemieux posed for pictures with Crosby, the Penguins’ No. 1 pick, you could just envision him using the removed red line to spring Crosby for breakaway after breakaway.
For a while, the plan worked masterfully. After taking a year off, the NHL roared back in popularity. Ratings were up, attendance was up and the excitement was palpable. Read more
Are the Pittsburgh Penguins actually worth $750 million? Well, like most things of this nature, it depends on your perspective.
Suppose you’re a prospective NHL owner in, say, Seattle. The NHL has already set the expansion fee at $500 million and it’s going to cost you probably another $400 million, assuming you don’t get public funding, to build an arena. And what do you get for that? You receive the opportunity to put together a team of has-beens, could-have-beens and youngsters and the privilege of getting your clocked cleaned on a regular basis for a couple of years while you build your brand and your hockey organization into a contender and, hopefully, a money-maker. Read more
When Bryce Salvador announced his retirement Wednesday, he did so with a distinction not shared by many players. Salvador hung up his skates as the captain of the New Jersey Devils, a testament to both his leadership skills and his enduring excellence.
It’s not often a player retires as captain of his team. Most times the player either gets shuffled off to another team to finish his career or his play declines to the point where the ‘C’ is taken away from him and given to a younger player. To retire as captain of a team indicates the kind of continuity, reciprocal loyalty and long-lasting relationship you don’t see very often. Read more
The New York Islanders were responsible for introducing a tawdry and unneeded element to the NHL 14 years ago. And, thankfully, they could be on the forefront of ushering the same one out. This is one time when we can only hope the NHL continues to be the copycat league it has always been.
According to SI.com, the Islanders will not be moving their Ice Girls squad to Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall, replacing it with a co-ed crew that we can only presume will wear more clothing. The Islanders were a pioneer(?) in the employment of Ice Girls, becoming the first team to use them back in 2001 and spawning copycats around the league. Read more