Givani Smith didn’t have an enviable situation in his draft year. The physical left winger played for literally one of the worst teams in all of major junior – the Guelph Storm – and watched coach Bill Stewart walk out on his troops after Guelph won just two of its first 27 games. But scouts saw Smith’s unique combination of brawn and skill and knew he’d be a good one. Detroit nabbed him in the second round this summer and now he’s already impressing NHLers.
The Ontario League has announced big rule changes for the 2016-17 campaign, with fighting one of the biggest targets.
The KHL has handed a lifetime ban to Barys Astana’s Damir Ryspayev after the 21-year-old attacked three players during an absurd pre-season brawl against Red Star Kunlun.
Ryspayev’s monumental suspension comes after the league reviewed the incident, which involved him suckerpunching Red Star center Tomas Marcinko — a punch that saw Marcinko stretchered off the ice — and then skating directly at and jumping two other Kunlun players, one of which Ryspayev actually attacked twice during the brawl. After he had roughed up unwilling combatants from Red Star, Ryspayev attacked the Kunlun player bench before finally being wrangled and taken to the penalty box.
The KHL acted quickly by suspending Ryspayev for the entire pre-season, but continued to review the play even after the initial ban.
“It goes without saying that hockey is a contact sport,” said Gennady Timchenko, chairman of the KHL’s board of directors. “But above all, it is a fair contest in which rival players are guided by the rules of the game and spirit of sporting ethics. The league acts as a guarantor of these rules and laws, and cannot allow them to be systematically and grotesquely violated. It is utterly unacceptable to intentionally endanger the safety and fitness of opposing players. Every player’s professionalism is demonstrated by the ability to play a hard, uncompromising game while maintaining full respect for fellow sportsmen and their fans.” Read more
Barys Astana forward Damir Ryspayev has already been sentenced to a full pre-season ban after his actions during an exhibition contest against Red Star Kunlun on Monday, but the KHL could come down hard on the 21-year-old and ban him from competition nearly half the season.
According to a report from Russia’s Championat.com, Ryspayev could be facing a 20-game suspension for his actions, which works out to exactly one-third of the 2016-17 campaign.
A 20-game ban wouldn’t be the first time Ryspayev has been suspended, but it would definitely mark the longest suspension of his KHL career. Previously he had received short suspensions and one five-game ban for punching a downed Michal Kempny. And if that incident caused the KHL to express “extreme concern,” it makes sense that Ryspayev’s actions during the tune-up contest against Kunlun would result in a serious suspension. Read more
Damir Ryspayev has played 23 career games in the KHL. Over that time, Ryspayev has yet to find the score sheet for anything other than heading to the penalty box, and the ridiculousness of Ryspayev’s playing style marred a pre-season tilt between Barys Astana and Red Star Kunlun on Monday.
The 21-year-old Ryspayev, who has racked up nearly 200 penalty minutes over his short professional career in Astana, turned the pre-season game between Barys and Red Star into a joke just three minutes into the first frame. After a faceoff in the Barys zone, Ryspayev tried to goad Kunlun’s Tomas Marcinko into a fight, and when Marcinko wouldn’t drop his gloves, Ryspayev decided to suckerpunch him in the jaw.
As if he hadn’t caused an ugly enough scene, Ryspayev kept throwing fists. He went from socking Marcinko to attacking two more unwilling combatants from Red Star — one of whom Ryspayev targeted twice — before turning his attention to the Kunlun bench, skating over and attempting to fight players who weren’t even on the ice. Read more
The pre-season has many functions for a professional hockey team. For GMs, it’s a chance to make some final decisions about the roster for the coming season. For players, it’s one final tune up before the regular season begins. Even the training staff can get up to speed during the pre-season.
But for two KHL coaches, the pre-season offered a chance to get out frustrations by throwing punches at each other.
During a pre-season game between the KHL’s Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk and Torpedo Nizhy-Novgorod over the weekend, frustrations boiled over. The game, which was played as part of the Governor’s Cup tournament, saw Neftekhimik coach Evgeni Popikhin and Torpedo coach Peter Skudra come face to face between the benches during the second period. The coaches first exchanged some words, which led to them shoving each other, sparking some fisticuffs: Read more
Shortly after receiving a letter from Sen. Richard Blumenthal to address “the safety of your sport,” and the possible connection between concussions chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seemed very eager to respond. “Senator Blumenthal doesn’t have his facts straight,” Bettman said at the time, “and we’ll use this as an opportunity to explain to him why he’s so misinformed.”
And in true Bettman fashion, the commissioner did exactly that by sending Blumenthal a 24-page response recently that reiterated in crystal clear language his continued denial of a link between concussions and CTE. And again in true Bettman form, he got directly to the heart of the matter. In fact, the second sentence basically sums up the tone of the entire letter. It reads: “We very much appreciate this opportunity to share with you important information on these topics, particularly because we are concerned that some of your questions in your letter appear to be premised on misconceptions that have been repeatedly promoted in the media by the plaintiffs’ counsel who are presently pursuing concussion-related litigation against the NHL.”
The American League is often seen as a petri dish for future NHL rules, but there’s no chance the NHL will be adopting the minor pro circuit’s recent rule changes regarding fighting. And that’s mostly because it doesn’t have to because it doesn’t face the same issues when it comes to fighting that the AHL does.
And that’s because, even though its teams seem perfectly content to sign one-dimensional players such as Michael Liambas to two-way contracts, it actually doesn’t have the problems a guy such as Liambas brings to the game. Effectively kicked out of two leagues already in his career, Liambas has averaged during his pro career one goal every 21.2 games and one fight in every 2.6. According to hockeyfights.com, Liambas had 20 fights in the AHL last season, which is more than nine entire NHL teams had in 2015-16. In fact, Liambas had three more fights than the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings had combined.