Why Gary Bettman was right about hockey in Phoenix

Henrik-Samuelsson

Every year, hockey writer Chris Peters does some serious Yeoman’s work and crunches the raw data put out by USA Hockey regarding grassroots participation in the nation. In his latest post, Peters notes that the state of Arizona was one of the biggest gainers for 2013-14 and I would hazard to guess that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman feels pretty good about that.

As you will no doubt recall, Bettman has played a big part in keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix in recent years, even as many Canadian writers howled (see what I did there?) about bringing the franchise north, where attendance would be plentiful instead of pitiful.

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Dwight King got his start on a unique First Nations team

Ryan Kennedy
Dwight-King-Jeff-Carter

NEW YORK, NY – Rangers fans already hate Dwight King thanks to his crease-interrupting abilities and the way they turned Game 2, but the big-bodied left winger came about his NHL career earnestly and developed under unique circumstances.

King, who is Metis, played his midget hockey in the Saskatchewan League with Beardy’s Blackhawks, the only program in Canada run by and based off a First Nations reserve. While the team is not exclusively made up of those with First Nations status, King estimated that the mix was about 50-50 during his playing days. Back then he followed in the footsteps of older brother D.J. King, who played in the NHL for both St. Louis and Washington.

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Why doesn’t New York develop hockey players? Maybe Rangers can help

Mark-Messier

NEW YORK, NY – For a city that boasts so many people, New York is surprisingly poor when it comes to developing hockey players. Sure, Joey Mullen has a great legacy, but in recent years, there haven’t been too many NHL prospects from the area.

Carolina pick Brett Pesce comes from Tarrytown, where the Rangers practice, while New Jersey prospect Steven Santini hails from the exurb of Mahopac. In the 2014 draft, fans can look for high-flying left winger Sonny Milano of Long Island, but there aren’t a ton of other big names.

Hall of Famer Mark Messier is beloved in New York thanks to his play and leadership in 1994, when he steered the Rangers to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in 54 years. Now, he’s helping the grassroots in the city by working for the Kingsbridge National Ice Center project, which would bring nine rinks to a new complex developed from an old armory in the Bronx.

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Minor hockey doesn’t have a body checking problem, it has an intimidation problem – what’s the solution?

Rory Boylen
kidsforquebec

When you referee minor hockey for 11 years, you see some pretty crazy things.

I remember a tyke coach (tyke!) putting one foot up on the boards and shouting some mighty fine curse words at my partner and I, as the arena fell silent.

I remember a father of a novice player in a holiday tournament going off on me for having the audacity to call a tripping penalty, even though the coach of the team commented on how obvious it was. I wished the dad a Merry Christmas as I left the arena after the game.

And I remember some awfully big hitters in peewee and bantam – especially at the house league level – who didn’t know how to properly throw a hit at all. But they sure enjoyed crunching their opponents.

Hockey is an inherently dangerous game. From flying pieces of frozen rubber, to high-speed collisions intentional or not, there are a lot of ways to injure yourself on the ice even without body checking.

But with hitting, bad coaching – either by the coach of the team or by a misguided parent – can make these dangers much worse at the minor hockey level.

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Connor McDavid scouts his buddies for the 2014 draft

Ryan Kennedy
Connor McDavid (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Ontario League’s Erie Otters went from doormat to powerhouse in a year thanks to a talented ensemble that included Connor Brown, Dane Fox, Andre Burakovsky and Adam Pelech. But the spotlight has always come back to phenom Connor McDavid. The top prospect for the 2015 draft knew about playing for a marquee team even before the Otters turned around thanks to his days with the minor midget Toronto Marlboros. As an underager, McDavid played on a squad that featured a murderers’ row of talent and went all the way to the OHL Cup final before losing to the Mississauga Rebels. Robby Fabbri, now of the Guelph Storm, was part of that Rebels team and he’s up for the draft this year, as are several former Marlboros.

I caught up with McDavid at the OHL Awards, where he took home trophies for sportsmanship and academics. Though top prospects have been known to check out the draft a year early just to scope out the scene, McDavid will not be going to Philadelphia. Instead, he plans on using his summer to get bigger and stronger with training guru Gary Roberts. In the meantime, I asked him to scout his buddies from that Toronto team that will be selected this summer.

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Meet Game 7 hero Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings

Alec-Martinez

It’s the question many casual fans are asking this morning – and the one Chicago Blackhawks fans would rather not hear about: Who is Alec Martinez?

Though he was the most anonymous member of the Kings blueline, Martinez now finds himself in the spotlight after tossing the game-winning shot on net in overtime as Los Angeles won its third straight Game 7 on the road:

He may not have the star power of Drew Doughty or the veteran experience of Matt Greene, but Martinez is slowly and surely finding his way in the NHL.

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Major junior teams: Hey, could I be your next GM?

Ryan Kennedy
Foreurs

The Val-d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec League were the most surprising entry in this year’s Memorial Cup; a small-market team with a handful of NHL prospects, but certainly not packed with marquee names. Yet here they are, two games away from a national championship. As detailed in Sunaya Sapurji’s story for Yahoo! Sports, part of the success can be attributed to 30-year-old GM Alexandre Rouleau, who was just 28 when he got the job. Kyle Dubas was actually 25 when the Ontario League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds gave him the keys in 2011 and his team won the division this season.

So maybe it’s time I got a shot at running a team.

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Guelph Storm dominant in win over Val-d’Or

Bryan Mcwilliam
Val'Dor Foreurs v Guelph Storm - Game Four

The Guelph Storm outplayed the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday in a 5-2 win and nothing changed in their contest this evening against the Val-d’Or Foreurs.

Scott Walker’s Storm came out firing on all cylinders and were up 3-0 after one period, thanks to goals from Kerby Rychel – who has been a monster in the Memorial Cup so far – Zack Mitchell and Jason Dickinson.

In the second, Pius Suter made it 4-0 for Guelph with his first goal of the Cup, putting the game out of reach.

The Foreurs finally got a stroke of luck when a slashing penalty on Guelph’s Brock McGinn led to a power play goal for Randy Gazzola. They would add a second goal less than a minute later when Timotej Sille put one passed Guelph goaltender Justin Nichols.

The two goals by the Quebec team was not enough to withstand the onslaught known as the Storm, with Guelph increasing the deficit to four goals once again thanks to Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi – who like Rychel – is playing great.

After giving up six goals, Val-d’Or coach Mario Durocher saw enough of starting goaltender Antoine Bibeau and pulled him from the game in favour of Keven Bouchard. The back-up netminder held his own, stopping 13 shots in the third and centre Anthony Beauregard added a third goal for the Foreurs, but the gap was just too much as the Storm walked away with the victory 6-3.

Guelph will play their next game against the London Knights on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST, while Val-d’Or play tomorrow night against Edmonton.