By Ty Dilello
When you think of Tommy Soderstrom, the first thing you remember is the big Jofa helmet and cage he wore. This was a goaltender who never put tape on the blade of his stick and was known to keep his whole body inside his net when the play was away from him.
The seemingly quirky Swedish netminder, though, felt he was incredibly normal. Former teammate Kevin Dineen once said, “He’s the most relaxed goalie I’ve ever seen. Nothing rattles him.”
So maybe the quirk about this goalie was that he was normal, which is abnormal for a goalie. Read more
By Dom Luszczyszyn
The first half of the season is officially in the books, which makes the perfect opportunity to look at who can bounce back after under performing during the first 41 games.
Thanks to recent advances in NHL analytics, it’s become much easier to pinpoint why certain players aren’t scoring at their normal rate. Whether it’s bad luck or bad play, the answer can usually be found in the numbers. Read more
By Dom Luszczyszyn
The Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks are similar teams on similar paths. They’re both at or near the top of their conferences thanks to recent hot streaks, but their play still leaves a lot to be desired. The standings say Cup contenders, but the underlying numbers say otherwise. Read more
By Geoff Kirbyson
Aside from the odd player on the opposition bench and a few on the home side, Gabe Langlois is the best-known person at every Winnipeg Jets home game. Known simply as ‘Dancing Gabe,’ the 51-year-old has ingrained himself in Winnipeg’s sporting culture over the past quarter century for his unparalleled fandom and his unmatched dancing skills.
Whether it’s the Jets, the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, baseball’s Winnipeg Goldeyes or high school sporting events around town, Langlois is there, showing off a soft sneaker whenever the music plays.
You want popularity? Cults would kill to have the following he has. Consider the fans who gathered at the intersection of Portage and Main in Winnipeg to celebrate the return of the NHL in May 2011. When Langlois joined the throng, the chants of “Go, Jets, Go!” were quickly replaced by “Gabe, Gabe, Gabe!” and he was mobbed for pictures and high fives. Read more
By Rudy Mezzetta
When the Predators partnered with the city of Nashville to build a new community rink – the twin-pad Ford Ice Center, which opened this fall – the goal wasn’t merely to extend the team’s brand. It was to convert new people to true hockey believers.
“Get a stick in someone’s hands and they’re a fan for life,” said Sean Henry, the Preds’ president and chief operating officer.
Growing the fan base, while ensuring existing fans stay happy, is crucial for the league. It’s a long-term commitment, said league executives, but it’s the lifeblood for the sport, and by extension, the business of the NHL. Read more
By Daniel Nugent-Bowman
Canadian coach Benoit Groulx might worry about some players who will make up his world junior roster. He’s at ease that Josh Morrissey won’t be one of them.
Groulx took in the opening game of the Subway Super Series in Saskatoon and was smitten by the improvement of his returning defenseman.
“What I saw is a different player,” said Groulx, an assistant on Canada’s 2014 team. “It was a more mature, more confident player. He seems ready to take on an important role at another level.” Read more
By Pavel Barta
Jakub Vrana goes by the nickname ‘Raven,’ while the literal translation of his family name in Czech is “Crow.” But when it comes to circling international competitions, Vrana has been like a vulture over the years. The 2015 world juniors will be his third, and he doesn’t turn 19 until it’s over, meaning he’ll probably be back for a fourth go-round next year.
Add in three under-18 world junior events the past three years and Vrana has played in six major international tournaments for the Czech Republic. Never let it be said Vrana hasn’t served his country.
“I already have experience at events like this,” Vrana said. “I’ll make sure we’re well prepared.” Read more
By Uffe Bodin
As he left Toronto in disappointment in September, William Nylander knew he would return sooner rather than later. Not to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs but to compete for the Swedish junior national team at the World Junior Championship.
Since Canada won’t be playing in Toronto during the round-robin, the Leafs’ first-round pick from last summer will get his fair share of the spotlight. And that’s fine.
“It’s a huge advantage for me to have gone through training camp the way I did this fall”, Nylander said. “Now I know how the hype thing works. In training camp, I felt I was able to focus on my hockey, and I didn’t let the other stuff become a distraction. It won’t be now, either.” Read more