World Cup Power Rankings: Take a wild guess who’s No. 1

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Now that the rosters for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ have been finalized, we can now set about to devoting our energies to predicting everything that’s going to happen. After all, the tournament is only four months away and time is of the essence.

With that said, here’s our stab at World Cup of Hockey Power Rankings. Remember, these are Power Rankings and have no bearing on how a team will finish, so stop it with the hate mail and nasty tweets just because your team didn’t do well in this little exercise. That goes double for all you Team Europe fans out there, all three of you.

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Massive Russian doping scandal at 2014 Olympics allegedly included ‘entire women’s hockey team’

Jared Clinton
Yekaterina Smolentseva celebrates with goaltender Anna Prugova (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Every player on Russia’s women’s hockey team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was reportedly part of large-scale Russian doping program that included “at least 15 medal winners,” according to the New York Times.

In a shocking report published Thursday morning, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during the 2014 Olympics, told the Times’ Rebecca R. Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz of a doping operation that saw as many as 100 potentially positive urine samples destroyed and replaced with clean samples. None of the athletes involved in the reported doping program were caught.

According to the Times, the athletes who were part of the program took a “cocktail of three anabolic steroids — metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone.” The mixture allowed the athletes to recover quicker and perform better over the course of a gruelling Olympic schedule, Dr. Rodchenkov told the Times, and the drugs were dissolved into alcohol to both speed up the absorption and “shorten the detection window.” Read more

IIHF president says ’60 percent’ chance NHL not going to Olympics

Jared Clinton
Rene Fasel (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

IIHF president Rene Fasel has already said the financial hurdles standing between the NHL and International Olympic Committee could make the league think twice about sending its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but it may shock some to learn Fasel doesn’t even think there’s a 50-50 chance the two will reach an agreement that sees the game’s brightest stars play at the upcoming Winter Olympics.

In an interview with The Associated Press’ James Ellingworth, Fasel said he thinks a 50-50 chance is “very positive” and believes it’s more like a “60 percent (chance) that (the NHL) are not coming” to the 2018 games. The NHL has remained tightlipped and non-committal about participation in PyeongChang, but their decision may be coming sooner rather than later, according to Fasel.

While the league has been hesitant to announce a firm deadline for deciding on their potential participation in the games, Fasel told Ellingworth the NHL will likely come to a decision by the end of 2016 for scheduling purposes. However, the league waited until seven months before the 2014 Olympics to confirm they would send players to Sochi, so that doesn’t rule out the NHL coming to a final decision in early 2017. Read more

IIHF president says outlook ‘not really good’ regarding NHL participation at 2018 Olympics

Jared Clinton
Sidney Crosby. (Getty Images)

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey could be the closest hockey fans come to watching a best-on-best international hockey tournament as it appears the chance of NHL participation at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics may have become slimmer.

According to insidethegames.biz, IIHF president Rene Fasel acknowledged there are some new financial hurdles between the NHL and International Olympic Committee which could make the NHL hesitant about sending players for the 2018 games. Namely, the IOC has reportedly elected not to pay transportation or insurance costs to have the NHL athletes at the games.

“We had a meeting with the NHL last week and the prognosis is not really good,” Fasel told insidethegames. “Our wish is to have the best players. [But the IOC] not covering the cost as they did at the last five Olympic Games puts us in a difficult financial situation. We still have challenges — it is even more difficult than before.” Read more

A coach’s challenge might have changed history for Flyers and Pat Quinn

Pat Quinn  (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Sadly, we cannot ask Pat Quinn what he thinks of the NHL’s implementation of a coach’s challenge for offside calls. As it was with almost any subject from World War II strategy to the neutral zone trap, it would have been very interesting to hear the former coaching great’s perspective on it.

Your trusty correspondent has been covering this game for almost 30 years and they have never seen a coach who had a deeper disdain for officials than Quinn did. And the roots of that go back to May 24, 1980. And if you want to talk about how one of these overturned calls can change a game or a series, consider the fact that not one, but two were not overturned that day had an enormous impact on a series, a career and a legacy.

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Why a top Quebec goalie prospect played in the Toronto suburbs

Ryan Kennedy
Alexis Gravel (photo by Ryan Kennedy)

Minor hockey is getting very complicated. At the top levels, the battle for talent is constant and the CHL’s feeder leagues don’t just involve local kids – you also have international flavor. For example, Russian-born player Nikita Korostelev, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who currently skates with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, was not considered an “import” by the league, because he played two years of minor hockey for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. This year, the same squad boasts several Russian-born players, including Kirill Nizhnikov, who is expected to go very high in the OHL draft.

And at the OHL Cup, the victorious York-Simcoe Express were backstopped by goalie Andrei Berezinskiy, himself Moscow-born.

Which brings us to Alexis Gravel, who competed at that same tournament with the Mississauga Senators. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound netminder with great athleticism and a dad who played pro, Gravel would be a dream for any OHL team – but they can’t have him.

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Canadian Blind Hockey Association hoping Select Division can be first step toward Paralympic goal

Jared Clinton
CBHA logo

The Canadian Blind Hockey Association’s annual tournament is taking place this weekend at Toronto’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, and this may be the most important tournament in the sport’s history because it could be the first step for blind hockey on its journey to become a Paralympic sport.

Friday night featured the tournament’s inaugural ‘Select Division’ game, which is a contest that pits the tournament’s best players against each other, pulling from each of the competing teams in order to provide a showcase for the game. The game, which the Eastern select team won 4-2 over their Western rivals, was hopefully the first of many steps on a long journey the CBHA is taking to create a World Championship and position the sport to become part of the Paralympics by 2026.

“The idea behind it is to have a more competitive division while still maintaining the inclusive approach and making sure everyone is able to participate in the tournaments,” said CBHA communication director Nick Beatty. “The goal is to develop the competitive side in terms of trying to find players who are moving toward a World Championship is ideally what we’re trying to develop here.” Read more

Suspension finally ends, but the Wideman Affair is far from over

Dennis Wideman  (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)

So 44 days and 19 games after the Dennis Wideman Affair began, we’re where most observers predicted we would be – with Wideman being hit with a 10-game suspension for abusing an official.

And nobody is particularly happy with this. The NHL, which originally mandated a 20-game suspension that was upheld in an appeal to the commissioner, said in a statement, “We strenuously disagree with the Arbitrator’s ruling and are reviewing the opinion in detail to determine what next steps may be appropriate.” That’s code for, “Don’t be surprised to see this thing end up in court.”

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