Former teammate Marc Savard feels Nathan Horton’s pain

Ken Campbell
Nathan Horton  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

If it turns out that this is the last that we’ve seen of Nathan Horton as an NHL player, there will likely be a segment of the population that figures Horton has had it pretty lucky. After all, he played the game he loved at the highest level and has made $38 million doing it, with another $32.1 million coming to him in retirement.

What’s a little back pain when that’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Well, the money is nice, but it won’t replace the void that is created by being robbed of the opportunity to do something you’ve done since you were a child. And nobody knows that better than Horton’s former teammate Marc Savard, whose career was suddenly ended 25 games into the 2010-11 season, largely because of a concussion he sustained on a hit from Matt Cooke the season before. Read more

Serenity now: Why a calmer, wiser Tuukka Rask is good for Boston

Matt Larkin
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask isn't letting his emotions rule him like they used to. (Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask has been one of hockey’s most interesting personalities as long as he’s been around. Originally, it was because he slapped the Scandinavian stereotype in the face.

When Rask broke into the North American pros, especially during his American League days, he was nothing like what we’d come to expect from Finns, or Swedes for that matter: calm, stoic, humble, quiet, lacking for words. The man was fiery. He got pissed off, often to a fault, when things didn’t go his way. Who could forget this post-shootout tantrum in 2009 with Providence?

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Mumps, welding torch burns and popcorn disasters: The NHL’s oddest medical issues

Corey Perry (Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks announced late Wednesday that star right winger Corey Perry and cornerstone blueliner Francois Beauchemin had (a) been diagnosed with the mumps, (b) are in various stages of treatment for the viral infection and (c) are sidelined on a day-to-day basis (Perry is considered closer to returning). Mumps aren’t a normal diagnosis for any NHLer, but over the course of league history, there have been a handful of out-of-the-ordinary medical situations like this to confront players. Here are a few examples:

• In 2009, Bruins center David Krejci was separated from the team during the season and quarantined with the H1N1 virus (a.k.a. the swine flu) until he stopped showing symptoms or a fever. Krejci was one of five NHLers (including Doug Weight, Ladislav Smid and Peter Budaj) to contract the virus that season. None of the affected players suffered serious aftereffects. Read more

Wrists and stick technology Phil Kessel’s Weapons of Rask Destruction

Ken Campbell
Phil Kessel (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Phil Kessel astonished the hockey world twice and crushed the spirits of the Boston Bruins Wednesday night with his lightning release, Brad Janson was watching from his living room in Kitchener, Ont., and he was not the least bit surprised.

You may not know who Brad Janson is, but hockey players certainly do. Janson has forged a career supplying sticks to some of the biggest stars in the game, which he currently does for Easton, the company that supplies Kessel with what Wednesday night was his Weapon of Rask Destruction. This past summer, at the urging of Kessel and Janson, Easton came up with a stick called the Stealth CX that has made Kessel even more dangerous than he was before.

Now it’s not all stick technology. Kessel’s wrists, which he built up religiously as a young player, are about three times the thickness of the average. And he obviously has a fast-twitch muscle memory that is the envy of any athlete. There is not a player in the league who gets the puck off his stick more quickly than Kessel does – Alex Ovechkin included – and his ability to do so catches goalies so unaware the puck is behind them before they know it. If you’re looking for comparables from the past, start with Steve Shutt and Mike Bossy.

Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle referenced Kessel’s second goal in his team’s 6-1 win over the Bruins as a perfect example of that. “The puck hits areas in the net that you’d never think they’d score from,” Carlyle said of players of Kessel’s ilk. “They puck hits areas in the net that you’d never think they’d score from. That second goal was a real surprise that he put the puck in an area where (Tuukka) Rask just couldn’t get to it, simple as that.”

Back to the stick. First, Kessel knows his sticks the way surgeons know their scalpels, which stands to reason since it’s such a big part of his game. He knows the minutest details of his stick and he’s obsessive about them. And because he shoots the puck so quickly, he needs a stick that has strength at the point where the blade and the shaft meet.

That part of the stick is known as the hosel. Even when traditional one-piece sticks are constructed, they start with a blade that has a hosel that is five-to-six inches long that is inserted into the shaft, then glued and sanded down and fused together. So it’s not really a one-piece stick. But what Easton did this summer at Kessel’s urging was make a true one-piece stick that does not have a hosel, thereby eliminating the weakest point in the stick.

“He doesn’t really take the stick off the ice,” Janson said. “He actually bends the stick and makes the stick snap back. That’s what propels (the puck). He wants that stick to snap back as quickly as possible so the puck flies off the stick. So we had to come up with a design that when he bends it, that it actually wants to snap back to its original state as quickly as possible. So we came up with a design where we eliminated the fusion of the blade and the hosel.”

For his part, the shy and reserved Kessel didn’t tip his hand when asked about the secret behind his shot. “I’ve been doing it for a long time,” he said. “I just kind of shoot it.”

Kessel’s teammates and coach were much more loquacious about his shooting. Linemate James van Riemsdyk sees Kessel’s shot up close every day in practice and in games and marvels at the way he is able to release the puck.

“He’s got that smaller blade and whippy stick and he’s able to just use it like a slingshot,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s the stick, but if you gave that stick to me, I wouldn’t be shooting it like that.”

Carlyle was asked if he’s ever played with or coached anyone with that kind of release and he recalled his days playing with Rick Kehoe in Pittsburgh. In 1980-81, Kehoe had 55 goals using that same kind of pop. “He had the same kind of release,” Carlyle said. “He had that quick wrist shot. A different kind of player, but that release. And that’s the thing those special goal scoring players have. The release is something that is natural to them and they don’t waste any time.”

You’ve seen Bobby Orr’s famous goal, but have you seen it…in live-action toy form?

Adam Proteau
Bobby Orr Oyo (image via Youtube.com)

By now, it’s more than likely you’ve seen Bobby Orr’s legendary Stanley Cup-winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in 1970. But odds are you haven’t seen the same goal interpreted by the people who make Lego-like toys.

The Oyo Sportstoys company has reproduced Orr’s 44-year-old, iconic, airborne moment using Lego-compatible “minifigures” in this short video: Read more

Jaromir Jagr continues his ascent up the NHL’s all-time scoring list

Adam Proteau
Jaromir Jagr (Getty Images)

Jaromir Jagr is a freak of nature and one of the most incredible talents the NHL has ever seen, so it should come as no surprise he added another achievement to the long list he’s amassed over the course of his 21 years in the league. After his goal Monday against Boston, the 42-year-old New Jersey Devils right winger now sits tied as the sixth-greatest goal-scorer in NHL history.

Coming off the half-wall in New Jersey’s zone, Jagr picked up a pass from teammate Travis Zajac and fires a snapshot past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask to score his third goal of the season – and, more importantly, his 708th career regular season goal. That puts him alongside Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mike Gartner for the No. 6 spot on the league’s list of all-time scorers: Read more

Seth Griffith’s astonishing goal will knock off any and all socks you have on

Adam Proteau
Seth Griffith (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bruins rookie right winger Seth Griffith scored a goal against the New Jersey Devils Monday he’ll never be able to reproduce again no matter how many more years he plays in the NHL. That’s why it’s a surefire goal-of-the-year candidate.

After blocking a shot near Boston’s blueline late in the second period, Griffith chases the puck down the center of the ice, splits and fights off Devils defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador, spins 180 degrees so that his back is to New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, then bats the puck between his legs and through Schneider‘s legs to score his fourth goal of the year and give the Bruins a 3-2 advantage: Read more

Take a look inside some of hockey’s finest fan caves

Jeff Libonati

Hockey fans are a special breed. So special, in fact, we dedicated an entire issue, appropriately dubbed the Fan Issue, entirely to the hockey fan. Be it cheering (or jeering) habits, your fantastic fan stories, or a little bit about the players you love the most, we wanted to give you the issue you’ve always wanted.

In return, we asked for one small thing: pictures of your fan cave – the place you go, decked out with all your favorite gear, to watch your team 82 times during the regular season as they work towards chasing hockey’s ultimate prize.

We received a number of submissions, but below you can find our favorites: Read more