Five things we learned from the Canadiens-Maple Leafs season opener

Matt Larkin
Jake Gardiner and Max Pacioretty. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’ve said it time and again in the THN office in the weeks leading up to 2015-16: this is the most anticipated hockey season in years. From Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel’s arrivals to Phil Kessel in Pittsburgh to 3-on-3 overtime to the beginning of the Mike Babcock era, the NHL has exciting storylines coming out the wazoo. And the Montreal Canadiens’ season-opening tilt against the Toronto Maple Leafs gave us an accurate snapshot of what to expect from the game’s maddest markets in 2015-16.

Here are five takeaways from Game 1 of the NHL season:

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Happy 50th Super Mario and St. Patrick – which one would you take?

Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy  (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Separated by only a couple of hours and about 150 miles, two of the greatest players of their generation were born on this day in 1965. So, Happy 50th Birthday to Mario Lemieux and Patrick Roy.

Google tells me that Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe were born on precisely the same day. So were Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. But the best parallel we can make for two people of bound by precisely the same birthday and excellence in the same craft are B.B. King and Charlie Byrd, who were a couple of pretty decent guitar players.

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Zack Kassian has broken foot, broken nose from car crash

Ryan Kennedy
Montreal's Zack Kassian (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin unloaded with both barrels in a scrum with reporters as he detailed the injuries sustained by power forward Zack Kassian in an early-morning car crash on the weekend.

Kassian, who was reportedly not the driver of a truck that smashed into a tree in Montreal, broke his nose and his left foot as a result of the accident. While anyone can get in a car accident, the circumstances surrounding the scene had Bergevin livid. According to one report, the driver may have been drinking.

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Rumor Roundup: Bickell’s future uncertain, Weiss waiting on offer

Lyle Richardson
Chicago Blackhawk Bryan Bickell

Chicago Blackhawks left winger Bryan Bickell enters the upcoming season facing an uncertain future with the defending Stanley Cup champions. Carrying an annual salary-cap hit of $4 million through 2016-17, the 29-year-old has struggled with inconsistency in recent seasons. He was also waylaid through the 2015 playoffs by vertigo symptoms.

In an effort to free up salary-cap space for this season and next, the Blackhawks spent the off-season shopping Bickell. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports they recently contacted the Edmonton Oilers regarding a possible swap for defenseman Nikita Nikitin, but the Oilers rejected the proposal.

On Friday, the Blackhawks placed the 6-foot-4, 223-pound left wing on waivers. Unsurprisingly, he went unclaimed. Instead of demoting him, however, management will keep him on the roster to open the season. Read more

The Metropolit Brothers: one pro hockey player, one convicted felon

Glen Metropolit (Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s a sunny summer morning in Toronto and Glen Metropolit is back home. Well, not exactly. Home is actually a little west of the Starbucks where he’s sitting. To be in an upscale coffee shop at all has to be considered a triumph for him. That’s because Glen grew up in a neighborhood called Regent Park, which was one of the most notorious and densely populated projects in Canada.

Constructed in the late 1940s, it was established to narrow the divide between the poor and the well off. The social experiment ended in disaster. Just a stone’s throw from the financial district where billions of dollars flow every day, Regent Park was once described by a local newspaper this way: “Living here is like getting kicked in the teeth.” The area has been gentrified in recent years and now includes mixed income housing, but back in the day it epitomized the dead end street for the disenfranchised. Glen’s 83-year-old grandmother still lives in Regent Park, but when he comes back to visit in the summer he couch surfs at the homes and apartments of his old friends in the area. He’s used to that, since he moved about 50 times when he was a kid, by his estimation, including foster homes.

Glen’s cellphone rings as he sips his coffee. It’s his younger half-brother, Troy Metropolit. As the two make plans, Glen says his brother’s name at the end of every sentence. “So, what time are you free, Troy?” “Should I pick you up at your girlfriend’s place, Troy?” The name sounds foreign coming from his mouth, given Glen just saw his brother in June for the first time in 16 years, when he was 25 and Troy 22.

“I can’t believe I can just pick up the phone and talk to him whenever I want to,” he says. Read more

CWHL’s Montreal Stars rebrand as Les Canadiennes de Montreal for 2015-16 season

Jared Clinton
Les Canadiennes de Montreal featured

The CWHL announced earlier this summer that the league’s teams would be undergoing a rebranding, and the Montreal Stars are the first club to officially announce a change for the 2015-16 campaign.

Thursday evening the Montreal Stars announced they will now be known as Les Canadiennes de Montreal and the team will take the ice under the new moniker in time for the 2015-16 season. The name was born out of the partnership between the NHL’s Canadiens and the Stars and the name change has been in the works, Canadiennes GM Meg Hewings said, since the partnership became a reality in March 2015.

“History is being made today as there is no better partner in Quebec hockey than the Montreal Canadiens,” said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress in a statement. “As a league, we are proud to have reached this point, where a female hockey player can finally realize her dream of becoming a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization.” Read more

THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Montreal Canadiens

The Hockey News
Max Pacioretty (Jared Silberg/Getty Images)

2014-15 Record: 50-22-10 (110 Pts.)

THN’s Prediction: 3rd, Atlantic Division

What To Expect: Atop Carey Price’s shoulders, the defensively sound Canadiens finished with the league’s second-best record last year. Goal production and power play proficiency were bottom-10, but Price’s Hart Trophy-winning heroics negated offensive shortcomings. Montreal’s lack of scoring punch was glaring, and fans clamored for GM Marc Bergevin to add a scorer this off-season.

He didn’t make a big splash but signed right winger Alexander Semin after Carolina bought him out from a lucrative deal. Semin has seven seasons of 20 or more goals but scored six last year. He is low-risk, high-reward but can’t be counted on. Read more

Former NHLer Todd Ewen dies at 49, police rule death a suicide

Todd Ewen (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The hockey world is mourning the loss of former NHL tough guy Todd Ewen, who passed away Saturday at 49.

CTV Calgary’s Amanda Singroy reported Sunday that Ewen’s death was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and, “police are classifying his death as a suicide.” Singroy added that Ewen’s family said the former NHL enforcer had been battling depression, “for years.”

Ewen was drafted in the eighth round, 168th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers in 1984. Before he could play a game in the league, however, he was dealt to the St. Louis Blues, with whom he broke into the league in 1986-87. Upon the news of Ewen’s passing, the Blues and their alumni association released a statement. Read more