In 13 years as Editor-in-Chief of The Hockey News, I’ve made a ton of suggestions on how to improve the game. You’d almost think I didn’t like it.
The truth is, I feel it’s part of my job to help stimulate conversation and debate. While hockey is still pretty darned fantastic, nothing is perfect.
What follows is a list of various things I’ve suggested, conceived, advocated or supported during my baker’s dozen years in my ivory tower.
By: Dan Marrazza
When you bring up the name Mike Danton to people in hockey, a lot of different thoughts are conjured. None of them are pleasant.
The thoughts center on Danton’s involvement in one of the ugliest episodes in the sport’s history, when he hired a hitman – who turned out to be an undercover police officer – in a failed murder-for-hire plot that targeted his controversial former agent, David Frost.
When the whole sordid episode concluded, Danton was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, of which he served 65 months. Although only 24 at the time his NHL career was halted, and it was clear the hockey world preferred to forget Danton ever existed.
In September, THN’s Ken Campbell touched on one of the issues with having an Under-23 team in the World Cup. Where, exactly, would the club turn when looking for a starting netminder?
The NHL is filled with plenty of good, young netminders, but when it comes to those that fit within the guidelines for North America’s young-stars squad, Ducks’ John Gibson, Rangers’ Mackenzie Skapski, Bruins’ Malcolm Subban and Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck are among the only netminders who could pull duty and have some background as a professional starter. THN’s Campbell isn’t the only one who sees the club’s goaltending situation as an issue, though.
Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston that he asked about carrying a goaltender above the age-limit — all players must be born on or after Oct. 1, 1992, per NHL.com — to help boost his club. Unfortunately for Chiarelli, turns out that’s a no-can-do. Read more
In the early days of hockey at the Olympics, Canada was represented by the team that captured the Allan Cup. In 1947, that was a club from Quebec, the Montreal Royals. But the Royals winning the championship created a predicament for the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, which led to one of the most unlikely stories in Olympic hockey history.
The issue with the Royals representing Canada, said Jim McAuley, an Ottawa-area sports historian, was that several of the players weren’t considered amateurs. Some on the Royals were actually earning pay for their play on the Allan Cup championship team, which wasn’t allowed per Olympic rules. As such, Canada considered not sending a team. That’s when Dr. Sandy Watson stepped in.
“(Watson said) we can create a team and represent Canada at the Olympics,” McAuley explained. “That’s what their intention was. He went to his authority and they told him, ‘OK, go ahead, try and put this team together.’ They made a commitment to the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association that they would go and represent Canada.”
After tryouts in Ottawa — which included some players eliminated as they had played pro before — the Canadian Olympic team made up of RCAF Flyers was selected. But before the team headed head to St. Moritz, Switzerland, where the Olympics were held in 1948, they wanted to gel more as a unit. They set up a few exhibition contests, and the result was awful. Read more
The Halifax Mooseheads turned every game into their own episode of The Flash the past couple years. Nathan MacKinnon had unbelievable wheels and insane hype following Sidney Crosby’s footsteps out of Cole Harbour, N.S. But the man who succeeded MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin as Halifax’s go-to scoring machine, Nikolaj Ehlers, was arguably even fleeter of foot.
No one could catch Ehlers, a kid so athletic he once suited up for Denmark’s national junior soccer team. He ripped it up for 49 goals and 104 points in 63 games in 2013-14. Last year, he was even better, notching 37 goals and 101 points in just 51 games, with 31 points in 14 playoff games to boot. Representing Denmark at the 2015 World Junior Championship, Ehlers appeared to be in fast-forward at all times, skating circles around many of the planet’s top under-20 players.
But we easily could’ve chalked all the superlatives up to typical elite prospect hype, right? Of course Ehlers lit up the QMJHL. Of course he was the fastest player, right up there with Connor McDavid, at the 2015 WJC. The Winnipeg Jets took Ehlers ninth overall in 2014. He better be lighting up his fellow kids.
All the excited chatter feels more legitimate this year, however, seeing Ehlers skating in NHL rinks as a top-six forward on a playoff-caliber team. His six-foot, 172-pound listing is extremely generous – I’m 5-foot-9 and stand virtually eye to eye with him – but the size deficiency hasn’t hindered his ability to blow away opponents with his speed at the NHL level. Not one bit. He’s as blindingly fast as ever. Even during the rare moments when he coasts, waiting for an outlet pass, he still seems to be zooming past people. Ehlers, 19, might well be the fastest player in the game today.
I decided to tell him this last week – “Nik, I’m pretty sure you’re the fastest player in the world now” – and see how he took it. Is he aware of the physical advantage he has over most of his competition?
It’s a busy time in the prospect world with several events wrapping up and others just beginning. In this week’s Prospect Need to Know wrap, I’ll shed the spotlight on players from the World Under-17 Challenge, the Five Nations under-18 tourney and Four Nations under-20 showdown. So we’re getting into all the age brackets today. Also, the CHL-Russia Super Series kicked off, with the WHL taking Game 1 for the major junior side. That’s a series to watch for the next 10 days, as Canada’s world junior scouts will be grading carefully.
When it comes to the Olympics, Canada has been dominant, winning four of the five gold medals in the tournament’s history. But in major competitions outside of the Olympic games, Team USA has been incredibly successful,earning their fair share of gold medals along the way and often giving the Canadians their toughest test. Sunday’s final of the Four Nations Cup in Sweden was no different, as USA and Canada renewed their rivalry.
Throughout the tournament, which began Nov. 4, the American squad had been the strongest in the tournament, which pits arguably the four powerhouse nations in women’s hockey — USA, Canada, Sweden and Finland — against each other over the course of a week. Out of the gate, the American side showed their dominance, defeating Sweden 6-2 to open the tournament.
The first marquee matchup of the tournament came on the tournament’s second day, when the American squad downed Canada 3-0 in what would be a preview of the eventual final. And when it came time for the championship game, Team USA doubled up on their victories over their arch rival, winning a 3-2 overtime thriller off the stick of Hilary Knight. Read more
During what is now a Hall of Fame career, Nicklas Lidstrom garnered so much respect that he earned the nickname, The Perfect Human. Not The Perfect Hockey Player. Not The Perfect Defenseman. The Perfect Human. People called Chris Pronger lots of things during what is now a Hall of Fame career, too. None of them is suitable for publication on a website that might be viewed by young people. Many of those words begin with the letter ‘F’.
It was not easy to play the game the way Lidstrom did, but he made it look that way. Playing the game and preparing for it the way Lidstrom meticulously did and maintaining a ridiculously high standard on and off the ice presented its fair share of challenges. But it’s also not easy going to the opposing rink from the time you’re a kid and knowing that you’re going to be the most hated guy there. But like Lidstrom, Pronger embraced his role and status. Lidstrom wore the white hat and Pronger donned the black, and both of them managed to do it while becoming two of the most dominant defensemen of their generation.