Few are good enough to get drafted by an NHL team. Even fewer are so gifted that they can choose between a potential career in either the NHL or Major League Baseball. While hockey is the more exciting sport to play, baseball has a better upside for the athletes: the pay is higher, the risk of injury is lower and you get to work outdoors. Each of these men found themselves at a crossroads in their life, one path paved in ice, the other in grass. In the end, they all picked the greener — literally and figuratively — pastures of baseball, but for different reasons.
When Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are drafted into the NHL a week from now, their teams in the Finnish Elite League will receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. Assuming each player earns $50 million over the course of his NHL career – which is probably being conservative – the amount their teams receive represents about one-half of one percent of their career earnings.
The teams that choose Laine and Puljujarvi – almost certainly the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets – stand to make millions in merchandising and ticket sales, particularly if each of them is a central figure in some long playoff runs. Meanwhile, the organizations that have basically developed these players from the time they were children, Tappara and Karpat, are receiving a pittance. That $240,000 is what Karpat will receive for losing Laine’s and Puljujarvi’s World Junior linemate Sebastian Aho to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week.
Ryan Bahl can swear in Cantonese, Czech, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and, of course, English, including a potpourri of American, South African, New Zealand and Australian slang. They’re the first words he learns when landing in a new country, sticks in hand, hockey bag in tow. No matter where Bahl has travelled to play the game – Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, and even Africa – profanity has proven to be the universal mode of communication.
“If you get into it on the ice, you can just use curse words,” Bahl said. “I try to learn the worst words possible and use them if it gets too heated.”
The five-year suspension levied to Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen by the Ontario League does not include off-ice activities, nor will it prevent Nilsen from participating in board of governors’ meetings or conducting league business, thn.com has learned.
And that’s a very important aspect of the suspension. Because the OHL is not denying Nilsen the opportunity to run his business and make a living from his hockey team, the suspension would have a far better opportunity of surviving a court challenge, should Nilsen choose to go that route. Nilsen has not declared his intentions and several calls to Patrick Ducharme, Nilsen’s Windsor-based lawyer, were not returned.
Faced with the possibility of a mass revolt from teenaged prospects against the Flint Firebirds, Ontario League commissioner David Branch had no choice but to take decisive and punitive action against Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen three days before the league’s annual draft.
Branch announced Wednesday night the league has suspended Nilsen for five years – with an opportunity to apply for reinstatement in three years – revoked the third overall pick in the draft and fined the team $250,000 for violations, “contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.” If Nilsen is found to violate the order by getting involved with the team in any way, the league reserves the right to force him to sell the team.
Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues have given up seven goals in their past seven games. But there was a time, almost 30 years ago to the day, that a team coached by Hitchcock gave up that many goals in just a touch more than a half of one game. Then it scored nine of its own in just over 26 minutes.
In one of the more wild games in Western League history, heck in the history of the game at any level, Hitchcock and his Kamloops Blazers went into the Seattle Center Ice Arena leading their best-of-nine – yes, best-of-nine – playoff series by a 2-0 margin over the Seattle Thunderbirds on the night of April 3, 1986. To give you an idea of what junior hockey was like at that time, the Blazers went into the playoffs with 449 goals in 72 games in the regular season. That’s an average of 6.23 per game, which is more than both teams in the NHL score in a game these days.
The consensus among scouts is that the 12-game suspension given to Max Jones of the London Knights for his headshot in the playoffs isn’t going to move the needle one way or the other when it comes to his draft status. Most NHL teams and pundits have him going in the top of the first round, probably somewhere outside the top 10, and that’s where he’ll stay.
The Ontario League announced Friday afternoon that Jones has been suspended for 12 games for his blind-side hit on Justin Brack of the Owen Sound Attack in Game 4 of their playoff series Wednesday night. It’s an enormous, earth-shattering sentence to be sure, depriving the Knights of the kind of player who can have an enormous impact on the playoffs – a big and gritty two-way player who can contribute offense.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
The Minnesota State High School hockey tournament is a classic event that features the best teams in the Land of 10,000 Lakes playing in front of an NHL-capacity crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The hockey is good – but the hair might be even better. See, the kids go all out for the tournament and one mysterious man has taken it upon himself to compile the best looks from the ceremonial opening lineups. This year’s installation really takes things to the next level with butter sculptures, Spam and cameos by Barry Melrose and the Islanders’ Matt Martin.
Behold the Flow: