Blood feud over “L’Affaire Howe” became profitable for former Maple Leaf/Red Wing Gus Mortson

Gordie Howe and Ted Kennedy (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The 1950 semifinal between Toronto and Detroit ranks among the most intense post-season series in NHL history. This was due to Gordie Howe’s near death after an alleged butt-end. “L’Affaire Howe” ignited one of the longest-running hates in the game: Detroit GM Jack Adams vs. Toronto captain Ted ‘Teeder’ Kennedy. The primary witness was Toronto defenseman Gus Mortson who was there when the blood feud started and there again eight years later when Adams bitterly reaffirmed it to Mortson who had by then become a Red Wing.

Adams’ hatred for the Maple Leafs was already deep rooted and understandable by the time the 1950 playoffs began. After all, Toronto had won the previous three Cups, including a sweep of Detroit in the 1949 final. But now it was a year after that debacle and, led by Howe, the Wings were stronger than ever. “We can do it this year,” Adams boasted prior to the opening game. “We’ve got the team this year.”

And so they did, primarily because Howe had blossomed into a star, patrolling right wing on Detroit’s Production Line with captain Sid Abel at center and Ted Lindsay on the left side. But when the Leafs went up 4-0 in the opener at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium few expected what Toronto author Jack Batten described as “one of the most infamous and controversial events” in NHL history. Read more

Can Alex Ovechkin be fixed? Ex-teammates and coaches say yes

Matt Larkin
AlexOvechkin

Watching Alex Ovechkin develop in the NHL is like watching a child grow up. When he entered the league at 20, his ceiling was sky-high, but first he had to learn how to play the game, even how to speak his first words. Of English, that is.

We watched with the same wonder as when a baby takes his or her first steps when Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark in a freshman campaign for the ages. ‘The GR8’ was born, master of the breathtaking goal. His first coaches in Washington, Glen Hanlon and Bruce Boudreau, knew he was gifted and let him treat the ice like his personal playground. Fifty goals gave way to 60-plus and the Capitals stormed into perennial contention. Ovechkin was the best player on Earth.

But we all lose our innocence sooner or later. Ovechkin received the Capitals captaincy in January 2010 and learned about right and wrong when he blew up Chicago’s Brian Campbell with a hit later that season and wound up suspended. Ovechkin lacked the same youthful abandon when he returned, seemingly holding back. And, after four 100-point seasons in a five-year stretch, he hasn’t hit that milestone since.

Life as an adult NHLer hasn’t always been sunny for Ovechkin, 28. His Caps have regressed, from the second round of the playoffs, to the first, and out of the big dance altogether this season. Washington has burned through coaches, too. Ovechkin and Boudreau clashed when the coach cut Ovechkin’s ice time for a lack of accountability. The marriage with Dale Hunter was worse, and Ovechkin ended up playing checking-line minutes. Adam Oates produced a boom in Ovie’s game by moving him to the right wing, but by the following spring he was publicly lambasting his star for a lack of effort. Next up is Barry Trotz, a defense-minded bench boss who, on paper, doesn’t look like a natural match for Ovechkin.

Ovechkin has gone from the golden child who could do no wrong to a lightning rod for criticism, be it for a lack of leadership, not taking the game seriously and especially for his inability to play defense. Fans and keyboard warriors are no longer convinced he can carry a team to a championship, and his $9.5-million cap hit through 2020-21 suddenly looks more like a burden than a safety net.

Everyone has an opinion on Ovechkin these days, but what is the true story from within the Washington organization? Is he really a bad leader? Does he care about backchecking? It’s time to unearth the Myths of Ovie, with help from past and present coaches and teammates.

Read more

Family ties: 22 draft prospects with NHL relatives

Matt Larkin
Sam Reinhart

The 2014 draft class is a geneticist’s dream, as it includes prospects hailing from rich NHL bloodlines. Here are the most noteworthy sons, brothers, nephews and cousins, whose NHL-drafted relatives include Stanley Cup champs and a Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

SAM REINHART, C
Father: Paul Reinhart
Brothers: Max Reinhart, Griffin Reinhart

Paul played in multiple All-Star Games as a Calgary Flame. He was one of the better offensive blueliners of the 1980s. Max is working his way into Calgary’s plans after a great AHL season, while hulking D-man Griffin was the fourth overall pick in 2012. Sam, however, should be picked higher than any of his family members. Read more

The Hockey News Awards: Crosby, Chara take home multiple honors

The Hockey News
Crosby-Chara Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

In our May 26 “Lists Issue”, we handed out our annual hardware, which differs from the NHL’s offerings that will be revealed tonight in Las Vegas. In case you missed it, here’s who we feel was this season’s best of the best:

Wayne Gretzky Award (MVP): Sidney Crosby
Usually, the Penguins rely on their supporting cast to step up when Crosby is hurt. It was the opposite in 2013-14. He played 80 of 82 games and did so at an elite level.
Runners up: 2. Claude Giroux; 3. Semyon Varlamov; 4. Ryan Getzlaf; 5. Ben Bishop

Mario Lemieux Award (Best Player): Sidney Crosby
A healthy Crosby is the best player of his generation and he didn’t disappoint in a full season, reaching 100 points for the fifth time and winning the scoring title by 17 points.
Runners up: 2. Ryan Getzlaf; 3. Claude Giroux; 4. Patrice Bergeron; 5. Corey Perry

Patrick Roy Award (Best Goalie): Tuukka Rask
Despite concerns about how he’d hold up over an 82-game schedule, all Rask did was finish in the league’s top-five in wins (36), goals-against average (2.04), save percentage (.930) and shutouts (seven).
Runners up: 2. Semyon Varlamov; 3. Ben Bishop; 4. Carey Price; 5. Sergei Bobrovsky Read more

Dean Lombardi is THN’s pick for GM of the year

Jason Kay
Dean Lombardi

When Dean Lombardi was given the keys to the Los Angeles Kingdom in 2006, he inherited a team that had drafted Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick a year earlier. In retrospect, it was a little like being gifted a lottery ticket, one that wins the Powerball jackpot. While Kopitar was a first-rounder, he wasn’t a sure thing. Quick was a fifth-round project.

So why, then, are we anointing Lombardi The Hockey News executive of the year, when two of his key building blocks can’t be credited to him? And a third, Drew Doughty, was a no-brainer? Because the L.A. Kings are about so much more than their aristocracy. Read more

Patrick Roy is THN’s pick for coach of the year, but can his magic last?

Colorado Avalanche versus the Chicago Blackhawks

You can always tell when Patrick Roy wants his players to make a line change. No matter how deafeningly loud the building is, there is that ubiquitous whistle. Once they hear that shrill sound, Avalanche players scurry to the bench as though their paychecks are waiting there for them. He uses it in practice, too, prompting the kind of classical conditioning from his players Ivan Pavlov would envy.

Roy is the most engaged coach you’ll ever see during a practice. After he explains a drill, he turns to his charges and says, “Did everyone understand that?” And at the end of the workout, he insists on all of his players coming to center ice and forming a circle, putting their hands in the middle and chanting, “Team!” as they raise their hands in unison.

Seriously. Patrick Roy gets away with all of this. In the NHL. That kind of stuff might have gone over well in Quebec City, where he coached the Remparts for six seasons, but Roy is in the big leagues now. Someone should tell him NHL players can see through all that rah-rah crap and doing that is a good way to get fired.

But somehow Roy pulls it off. Stunningly well, we might add. THN’s choice for NHL coach of the year, Roy has gone where few Hall of Famers have gone before. History tells us superstar players, generally speaking, make lousy coaches. Rocket Richard lasted two games with Quebec in the World Hockey Association before quitting. Wayne Gretzky, Bernie Geoffrion and Doug Harvey were all sub .500 coaches in the NHL. Read more

No pinching necessary for Brad Newman

Ronnie Shuker
Newman_644x428

Brad Newman sits on the bench, hoping for the tap on the shoulder he’s been dreaming about for 14 years. Just 24 hours earlier, he cried when his coach told him he’d be dressing him for the game.

The first period goes by and Newman still hasn’t had a shift. He’s so close to realizing his dream of playing pro hockey, but it’s a tight game late in the season, Feb. 1, against Asiago, the second-best team in the Italian League, and Cortina SG is in a fight to make the playoffs.

How Newman even got to this point was a miracle. At 36, he hadn’t played competitively since 1999-00, yet here he was in the lineup for Cortina SG after begging for a tryout and playing the role of Rudy Ruettiger at practice for months, with no guarantee he’d play.

Newman, who grew up in Chicago, was a nominal player at Bowling Green, where he had just two goals and four points in 40 games over four seasons. After graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and continued to play, but never anything higher than rec hockey for the next 13 years. Read more

Top five sophomore slumps of 2013-14

Conacher

By Jared Clinton

1. Cory Conacher
C, Buffalo Sabres
Early last season, Conacher was a sneaky favorite for the Calder Trophy. The diminutive forward was turning in an eye-opening offensive campaign in Tampa Bay when, out of the blue, he was dealt to Ottawa in exchange for Ben Bishop. History will not be kind to that trade. The Senators waived Conacher after he failed to show even moments of the brilliance that put him in the conversation for rookie of the year. In 79 games this season, Conacher failed to match the 11 goals he tallied in his lockout-shortened rookie campaign. Read more