This is the biggest, strangest hit of the year

Matt Larkin
BigHit

Note the headline. It ain’t hyperbole. And to throw around “biggest hit of the year” is bold in October.

But this WWE-inspired body blast by Kristaps Zile earns such high scores in brutality, creativity and originality that it’ll be tough to top. The hit happened in an MHL (the Kontinental League’s junior circuit) game last Friday. Zile, an HK Riga defenseman, laid a hip check on Lukas Pozgay of HC Red Bull. Pozgay made the mistake of holding on for dear life, and Zile proceeded to carry Pozgay several meters before stapling him to the boards, as forcefully as you would a particularly thick document. Here’s the unstoppable finishing move, complete with death metal:

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KHL has two fastest goal records set in one day

Wojtek Wolski scores.

The NHL season may still be two days away, but the KHL season is in full swing – and Monday a couple of goal speed records were set.

First, there was Wojtek Wolski who is playing his second season with Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. His team won its game against Sibir 3-2 and Wolski scored all three goals.

What made it special, though, was that Wolski scored the natural hat trick in a KHL record 1:47. Here they are: Read more

Electrifying Jeremy Bracco leads off Ryan Kennedy’s Hot List

Team USA's Jeremy Bracco (Photo courtesy of Tom Sorensen/USHL)

Welcome back to another season of The Hot List, my weekly update of who is making noise in the world of prospects. Players are eligible for the list as long as they haven’t stepped on the ice for a regular season NHL game; otherwise, they come from all different leagues and development points. Some will be on hot streaks, others will be new names you’ll want to bank in your memory. All will be potential NHLers one day. Hockey’s back, so let’s take a look at this week’s roundup.

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KHL coach Andrei Nazarov goes nuts, flips off refs and fans

Matt Larkin
Nazarov Mad

Andrei Nazarov had quite the heel turn in Wednesday’s Kontinental League tilt between Barys and Admiral.

Nazarov, Barys’ coach, wasn’t pleased with a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. He took it out on the refs, flipping them off, and when he was tossed out of the game, he turned his attention to the Admiral fans.

Nazarov was extremely efficient in his obscene gestures, packing many into a rapid-fire barrage. Take a look:

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See KHL’s Sochi expansion team score 19 seconds into first home game with beautiful goal

Bolshoy Ice Dome. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

The Bolshoy Ice Dome opened in 2014 for the Winter Olympics and this year it’s home to a KHL expansion team. The Sochi Leopards won one of their first three games on the road and yesterday they played their home opener.

And here’s the first-ever home goal scored by the Leopards, which came just 19 seconds into the game against Ekaterinburg’s Avtomobilist. Alexei Krutov, a player who’s spent his entire career in Russia and Switzerland, left former NHL defenseman Sami Lepisto in the dust and on his butt, and then beat goalie Jakub Kovar through the five hole.

Sochi won its first home game 6-3. According to the KHL’s website, there were about 8,000 people in attendance. Read more

Arena of KHL’s Donbass Donetsk “seized” by armed men

Ruslan Fedotenko. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Last season in the KHL, Ukraine-based Donbass Donetsk finished as the fourth seed in the Western Conference. But during their playoff run, they had to move out of their home arena and into one in Bratislava, Slovakia because of the ongoing proxy Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

The region is still a hot spot in the conflict as forces representing both sides struggle for control. According to the hockey club, their arena was broken into Wednesday by armed men who “seized” the offices inside the building. It wasn’t immediately clear if the group was the same one that looted the building and set it on fire in May. Read more

The best Russian goalie prospect in years is finally here

Ryan Kennedy
Tampa Bay's Andrey Vasilevskiy (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Once a team drafts a hot name in the prospect world, it only stands to reason that fans would want to see that player as soon as possible, even if it’s not with the NHL club right away. For Tampa Bay Lightning boosters, the wait was a little longer with netminder Andrey Vasilevskiy, but he’s finally here.

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What have we learned since Bertuzzi-Moore? Not much it seems

Todd Bertuzzi (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In the 10-plus years since the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, you can be rest assured that NHL coaches and players have chosen their dressing room words very, very carefully when it comes to the issue of seeking retribution. And there hasn’t been an incident as egregious and disastrous since then, so the culture of revenge no longer exists in hockey, right?

Wrong. It has been speculated that with the civil lawsuit between Moore and Bertuzzi/the Vancouver Canucks finally settled, Moore will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million. But there is so much we will never know. Such as, how was the amount split between Bertuzzi and the Canucks? That would go a long way toward determining whether Bertuzzi acted alone as a friend hell-bent on revenge or was simply a pawn that was contractually obliged to follow the instructions of his superiors.

Even though it went seemingly down to the last minute – the trial was to begin Monday – the reality is probably that this was never going to go to trial. Because if it had, the truth would have had to come out. And it would not have been pretty.

The NHL and its culture of violence/revenge would have been on trial every bit as much as Bertuzzi and the Canucks were. It’s a culture many in hockey would have us believe is no longer a part of the game. Fighting has been trending downward for some time and fewer and fewer teams have space on their rosters for the second coming of Ogie Oglethorpe.

But have we really learned that much from Bertuzzi-Moore? That’s debatable. At the very least, Shawn Thornton seemed to have missed the memo. Last season, in response to what he viewed as a dirty hit on teammate Loui Eriksson, Thornton attacked Brooks Orpik, then of the Pittsburgh Penguins, in an incident that looked eerily like the Bertuzzi-Moore attack. Thornton received a 15-game suspension for his act, with then director of player safety Brendan Shanahan justifying the ban by saying: “It is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game, the result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik.”

And did Thornton get ostracized from the game for what he did? Actually, when the Boston Bruins decided not to sign him after last season, the Florida Panthers offered him a two-year contract. As my colleague Adam Proteau pointed out recently, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux calls out the league to get violence out of the game, then allows his team to sign Dan Carcillo and Steve Downie because the Penguins star players get pushed around too much in the playoffs. I’m not sure that makes him a hypocrite. It’s more an indication that Lemieux knows his message is falling on deaf ears, that the league is not going to protect his stars and he has no choice in the matter. (There’s a reason why Carcillo, who is on his sixth NHL team, has the survival instincts of a cockroach. It’s because teams continue to see worth in what he brings.)

And when Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks seemed to push the envelope by getting a little too cute on his fourth goal against the New York Rangers, there were almost as many critics as there were admirers. One of them was Nashville Predators color commentator Terry Crisp, who said, “Let me tell you young man. You pull that move too often and somebody’s going to want retribution on you.”

And how often do we see a player being forced to stand up for himself and face an onslaught of punches after executing a perfectly clean, but devastating hit on a star player? How often do we see teams still “sending a message” to its opponent late in a game that is out of reach? And really it wasn’t that long ago that former director of hockey operations Colin Campbell made his infamous, “We sell hate. Our game sells hate,” comments. How often do we see the league’s own website tag a video as a “Must See” when that video involves fighting and mayhem?

It’s great to see the Bertuzzi-Moore incident finally settled, even though there are a lot of people who would have liked to see this thing go the distance. So, that has been put to bed and confidentiality agreements will likely keep us from ever knowing the minute details of the case. We know Moore will never play in the NHL and Bertuzzi, after reportedly rebuffing a pitch from Mike Keenan to play in the KHL for Mettalurg Magnitigorsk, is a veteran free agent still waiting to find a team. But to suggest the game and the NHL have made enormous strides since then is probably a stretch. A big one.