As directors of amateur scouting for the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, Joe McDonnell and Bill Armstrong constantly cross paths during the hockey season. Whether it’s at a junior game in Brandon, Man. on a Friday night or a small rink in eastern Europe for an under-18 tournament, McDonnell’s message for Armstrong is the same. “I always say to him, ‘You’re just such an asshole,’ ” McDonnell said. “I always tell him he stole my ring away from me.”
The two can laugh about the experience a quarter of a century after the fact. McDonnell was 29, less than a decade older than some of the players he was coaching with the Kitchener Rangers. Armstrong was a big, physical defenseman known more for his fists than his scoring touch, but it was his goal at 2:05 of the second overtime that gave the Oshawa Generals a 4-3 win over the Rangers and the 1990 Memorial Cup.
The Memorial Cup comes around every year, and some are more memorable than others. The 1990 tournament might have been the most compelling, exciting and dramatic tournament ever played. Of the eight games in that event, four went to overtime. Two of them, the round-robin game between the Generals and the Rangers and the final, needed double overtime. Eric Lindros, who had spurned the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and was dealt to the Generals at Christmas, was showing the world why he was one of the most hyped prospects in a generation. The Kamloops Blazers blueline featured a 16-year-old defenseman named Scott Niedermayer, and their coach was Ken Hitchcock. The Laval Titan were a big, mean team that featured Sandy McCarthy and Gino Odjick and a cast of characters who sported dyed Mohawks. Read more
Kenny Reardon, the rambunctious Montreal Canadiens defenseman, had one thing in mind as he stickhandled across Madison Square Garden ice on the night of March 16, 1947 – freeze the puck. “Dick Irvin, our coach, had bawled me out for losing the puck and the game last time we were in New York,” Reardon said.
Montreal was leading the Rangers 4-3 with 32 seconds left. If the visitors could hold the lead they’d clinch first place and a new prize of $1,000 for each player the NHL was giving away that year. The downtrodden Rangers, on the other hand, needed the win to stave off elimination from a playoff berth.
As hockey games go, this one was ripe for mayhem. The teams had been nurturing individual and collective hatreds all season. Montreal’s Reardon and Maurice Richard squared off with Bill Juzda and Bryan Hextall of the Rangers in the second period. “They were out to get Richard and Reardon,” Irvin charged, “in order to ruin them for the playoffs.” Reardon, who in 1946 had declared war on Ranger fans by slugging a promenade customer, agreed with his coach. “But,” added Reardon, “I couldn’t afford a fight in that last minute. I wanted to stay out of trouble.” Read more
Imagine four weeks of acupuncture, saunas and hot tubs. There are yoga, Pilates, meditation and tai chi sessions, too. And don’t forget the massage therapists, stretch therapists and chiropractors at your disposal. Oh yeah, and sleep, lots of sleep. It’s mandatory.
Sounds like a blissful all-inclusive vacation, doesn’t it? Except there’s no mile-long white-sand beach or five-star hotel. No sun tanning, sipping margaritas or napping on lounge chairs. Just a gym and a long summer of training ahead.
When NHLers start training in the off-season, they don’t begin by pounding out squats, deadlifts and bench presses. Heck, they usually won’t lift anything for three or four weeks. After eight months or more of hockey, they’re so beat up that strength and conditioning coaches like Matt Nichol and Ben Prentiss spend up to a month just rebuilding their bodies. All those massages, yoga sessions and therapists are just part of the initial process of taking these broken-down jalopies and turning them into finely tuned machines again.
By Joshua Kloke
With the end of another hockey year, most fans fret over their team’s shortcomings and begin the long wait for next season.
Yet the end impacts some on a much more personal level than others: fans such as Lori Bowman, longtime billet for the OHL’s Guelph Storm. Bowman and her husband, Blair, open their house at the start of every season to young Storm players who need the comforts of home away from home and the support to endure the demands of junior hockey.
Eventually though, like clockwork, the snow melts, the season ends and players return home. And it never gets any easier for Bowman. “It is heartwrenching,” she said. “The house feels empty.” Read more
All right, let’s get one thing out of the way. It gets cold in Winnipeg. Ten months of winter and two months of bad skating. Heh-heh. The day this piece was written in mid-February, it was forecasted to go down to minus-38. Don’t bother with the Celsius to Fahrenheit calculations. When it’s that cold, they’re pretty much the same.
There are bigger cities in the NHL (about 25 of them) that play in bigger arenas (about 29). There are other places where a star can slide right under the radar if he wants. There are places with lower taxes and places where your Bentley won’t get wrecked by road salt. There are places with a few more entertainment options. Read more
By Rachel Villari
An historically sharp rise in visor users suggests the NHL and the NHLPA’s decision to grandfather-in face shields may be doing the league some good.
In the past year alone, visor wearers have grown five percent, with all but four teams increasing in usage. Toronto, Calgary, Columbus, Chicago, Vancouver and Carolina all increased over 10 percent each.
Of the 640 players league-wide with more than 20 games this season, 549 of them wear visors. The Canes were tops in eye safety with all 20 of their eligible players. Read more
By Denis Gibbons
If all Soviet players who died before their time or under tragic circumstances had been spared, the statistical history of hockey would have to be rewritten.
Evgeny Belosheikin, named best goalie at the 1986 World Junior Championship, took his own life after battling the bottle. Anatoly Fetisov, the younger brother of legendary national team captain Slava Fetisov and a prime prospect for the 1985 draft, was killed in a car accident. New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov died from a heart ailment during a game in 2008.
Perhaps the best talent of all, Viktor Khatulev, was found dead at the age of 39 in 1994. It’s believed he was murdered, but the case was never solved. Read more
The Czech Republic came into the 2015 world juniors with high expectations thanks to its deepest lineup in years. But glory wasn’t to be had.
The Czechs struggled throughout their stay in Toronto, and everything ended with a dispirited quarterfinal loss to a much more game underdog squad from Slovakia. One player who didn’t disappoint, however, was David Pastrnak, the Boston Bruins first-rounder who had been playing in the AHL.
Had his team gone further at the world juniors, Pastrnak would have garnered more consideration for the tourney’s all-star team because of his combination of talent and drive. But even in the midst of the event, he knew his time in the AHL had been valuable so far. “It’s definitely different hockey,” he said. “I try to do my best, but sometimes it doesn’t go well and you feel bad. I have to get better with everything. I’m not satisfied right now.” Read more