The incredible story of Team USA’s Randy Hernandez

Ryan Kennedy
Randy Hernandez (photo courtesy of the player)

Randy Hernandez isn’t the son of a famous NHLer. He didn’t grow up playing on backyard ponds and his first words weren’t the name of his favorite hockey team.

“Actually, I didn’t watch hockey at all when I was little,” he said. “I didn’t watch until I was 12.”

Hernandez just completed his first full season of AAA hockey, in fact. But this year, he’ll be a member of one of the most exclusive teams on the continent, the U.S. National Team Development Program’s under-17 squad. How he got there is remarkable.

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New concussion handbook teaches kids and parents how to heal properly

Matt Larkin
ConcussionHandbook

It’s difficult to type these words. Not because there’s nothing to say, but because my brain is in my way.

Today, it’s the pain. It’s not a sharp pain – that comes some days, too, in the form of migraines – but more of a dull, steadily increasing pressure, like the inside of my skull is hosting a birthday party and some poor clown keeps trying to inflate balloons inside it.

It’s been 11 years since my last serious concussion, with a couple car accidents sprinkled in since then, and I know my life will never be the same. I’m lucky to write about hockey for a living, as I can’t play it anymore. I can do 30 minutes of cardio, once a week, and if I push my luck with a second session, the vertigo kicks in. Missing a step on a staircase or hitting a big wave on boat can do me in for a couple days, too. When a subway train pulls up, I have to look away until it comes to a stop.

After visiting the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital this past Wednesday, however, I realize my path could have been very different. Had I not returned to class, cracked the books hard and written my exams just days after my severe head trauma, and taken the time to recover properly, I might have no limitations today.

That was the message delivered by Dr. Nick Reed, Dr. Michelle Keightley, and a team of uniquely qualified hockey people at Holland Bloorview as they launched Concussion & You: A Handbook for Parents and Kids. The central tenet is ensuring no young person returns from a major head injury too soon.

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North American flag-planting and the Sean Day cut

Ryan Kennedy
Sean Day (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Sean Day is one of the more fascinating prospects available for the 2016 NHL draft. A Canadian who didn’t live in the country until he was drafted by the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads, Day was the first player to be granted “exceptional status” by Hockey Canada who did not go on to be drafted first overall in the OHL. Now, he has been cut by the Canadian national team’s under-18 squad, which will compete in the Ivan Hlinka summer tournament in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

And some hockey folks are raising some interesting points about the defenseman.

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Shane Bowers was never going to play for Cape Breton

Ryan Kennedy
Shane Bowers (photo courtesy Vincent Ethier/QMJHL Media)

There was a great deal of drama at this year’s QMJHL draft and the fall-out is still making headlines. Officially, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles just announced on Wednesday that fourth overall pick Shane Bowers would not be attending training camp. But as I first reported minutes after the selection was made, Bowers was never going to be a Screaming Eagle.

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Ranking the new Kings High School League’s jerseys

Jared Clinton
West Ranch HS

The Los Angeles Kings officially unveiled the eight teams that will take part in the inaugural season of the L.A. Kings High School Hockey League. And, as always, with new clubs comes new threads.

While all the jerseys follow a similar style, which closely reflects that of the Kings’ jerseys, the color schemes and logos make all the difference in separating the threads that shine and those that could use some improvement. But for a first pass and for an inaugural season, none of the jerseys stick out as an altogether eyesore, which is already a victory for the LAKHSHL. (That initialism needs some work.)

Here are the jerseys, and their rankings, for the 2015-16 season: Read more

How USA Hockey went from failure to hockey factory

Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones and Pat Sieloff, all members of the NTDP, won the U-18 championship in 2012. (Photo by Pavel Paprskar/isifa/Getty Images)

It’s a crisp autumn morning in Ann Arbor, Mich., and the front office of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is jammed with teenagers. Two NHL teams have sent scouts to interview the players, who are getting their schedules for the day from ace manager of communications and marketing Jake Wesolek.

It doesn’t take long before the smack talk about video games begins. The night before, I’d asked Jordan Greenway, a 6-foot-5, 223-pound battleship power forward, which member of the squad was best at NHL 15. He slyly demurred and said to ask two-way center Colin White. Now it’s time to unleash the snare. “So who did Colin say was the best?” Greenway asks in front of the whole crew. White, who admitted the night before that Greenway rules the sessions, nevertheless returns serve as everyone smiles and chuckles: “I never play, but I bet I could grind you out!”

The din grows as the teens shuffle about, until uber-skilled Jeremy Bracco spots the mom of fellow right winger Jack Roslovic entering from outside and runs over excitedly to give her a hug. Behind him is a trophy case featuring almost every championship chalice from the past six world under-18 tournaments, plus a couple from the world juniors.

These aren’t your standard goofy teenagers: they’re the best prospects in the nation. And every year a new cohort signs up for battle. In less than two decades, the NTDP has become a force, counting at least 10 NHL draft picks per year in recent times and helping Team USA go from also-ran to constant threat on the international stage.

And it all started with failure. Read more

Connor McDavid will stand up for the little guy

Ken Campbell
Connor McDavid (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

In the world of teenage fiction, J.K. Rowling created the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and installed Harry Potter as The Chosen One. In the world of teenage on-ice wizardry, Neil Doctorow created the Hogwarts of Hockey and installed Connor McDavid as The Chosen One.

If you marvel at McDavid’s skill level and wonder where it was nurtured, a good part of it can be traced to an airport hangar on an abandoned Canadian Air Force base in Toronto. That’s where the PEAC School for Elite Athletes is located and where McDavid spent three years honing his skills. For upwards of $30,000 a year, parents can send their aspiring hockey stars to an institution such as PEAC, one of a growing number of private sports schools in Canada, and place them in a high-end cocoon with like-minded kids.

It was there McDavid spent Grade 7, 8 and 9, combining a rigorous youth hockey schedule with the Toronto Marlies AAA team with life at PEAC, which included 90 minutes a day on the ice, plus dryland training with a full school day jammed in between. PEAC produced two first-overall picks in the OHL draft in McDavid (2012) and Travis Konecny (2013) and will have three NHL first-rounders in 2015 with McDavid, Konecny and Lawson Crouse. McDavid was special, however.

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