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
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.
According to a report in the Montreal Gazette, a Hollywood director raised in Montreal is asking a Quebec Superior Court for permission to launch a class-action lawsuit against a suburb of that city after alleging it “turned a blind eye” as a hockey coach employed by the municipality sexually abused him and some 50 other boys. Read more
After Quebec Remparts coach-GM Philippe Boucher accused Quebec Major Junior League director of officiating Richard Trottier and referee Olivier Gouin of conspiring against his team during Memorial Cup round-robin play earlier this week, many expected Canadian Hockey League brass would come down hard on the former NHL player-turned-bench boss. And many turned out to be right: late Thursday, the league announced it was fining Boucher $10,000 for his outburst. Read more
Meg Hishmeh and her son, Blake, will spend Mother’s Day doing exactly what they’ve done for the better part of the past month. Blake will do four hours of therapy at a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, then they’ll watch the hockey games together.
Don’t worry, the story will have a happy ending when 18-year-old Blake is discharged May 20 and returns to finish up his high school year in New Jersey. And with him will be Meg, who took a break from her job as World’s Busiest Hockey Mom™ to help usher her son back to what it is expected to be a full recovery from a traumatic brain injury after a back flip off a jump at the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado went horribly awry during spring break. Blake was airlifted from the ski hill and spent eight days in intensive care before being transferred to the rehab hospital on April 14. Read more
David Levin is going to open a whole lot of eyes when he suits up for the Sudbury Wolves next season. The Ontario League franchise announced today that the skilled right winger with the Toronto-based Don Mills Flyers would be their top choice, first overall, in Saturday’s OHL draft. Levin’s a pretty good prospect, but he’s certainly the best to ever come out of Israel.
Remember when Penguins star center Sidney Crosby was accused of selfishness for not appearing at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game? That was a bogus accusation at the time – anybody who’s had a glimpse at one of Crosby’s daily itineraries can tell you what he happily gives to the league and the game – but news that the Pens captain would spend a portion of his off-season this summer running his own hockey school in his hometown of Cole Harbour, N.S., is another indication of his devotion to the sport and his Atlantic Canadian heritage. Read more
The Florida Panthers “Goal of a Lifetime” contest was supposed to land them an extra practice goalie for March 18. Instead, it landed them two.
After stopping Florida Panthers alumni Radek Dvorak and Marco Sturm three times each, Bill Ruggiero and Dustin Smith have both landed spots to skate with the Panthers in practice. The competition, which began Monday and ended during a first intermission shootout Tuesday, crowned two winners after the shootout ended in a tie.
A big first round – one in which he stopped both Dvorak and Sturm – put Ruggiero ahead early, but the second round was Smith’s time to shine as he brought the score back even with a pair of stops. You can check out the full competition here: Read more