Ekman-Larsson shooting to become best in Sweden and NHL

Ken Campbell
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Before Oliver Ekman-Larsson can even think about being the best defenseman in the NHL, he has to be the best defenseman in his own country. Heck, he’s not even the best defenseman in his own blueline pairing for Sweden. But Larsson is shooting for the title, both literally and figuratively.

When Sweden chooses its World Cup team, it will have some vexing decisions to make on its defense corps, but one of them will not be whether or not to include Ekman-Larsson. And there’s probably a good chance that whoever coaches the team will not duplicate the actions of Par Marts, who sat Ekman-Larsson out for the entire semifinal of the Olympics in Sochi and for the first two periods of the gold medal game. After starting the tournament as Erik Karlsson’s defense partner, Ekman-Larsson played fewer than 24 minutes total in Sweden’s final four games in Sochi. Ekman-Larsson started the tournament strongly with Karlsson, but was a fixture on the bench when Alexander Edler returned from his two-game suspension to start the tournament.

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Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward announce retirement from Team Canada

Jared Clinton
Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward celebrate their gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When Team Canada takes the ice to defend its Olympic gold medal in Pyeongchang, South Korea, they’ll have to do so without the help of three women who have won a combined nine Olympic golds.

Jayna Hefford, Gillian Apps and Catherine Ward each announced their retirement from competitive hcokey Thursday, which means they won’t be back when the Canadian squad attempts to win its fifth consecutive Olympic gold.

Hefford, 38, is one of the greatest women’s players to ever lace up the skates and it’s hard to imagine what Team Canada will look like without her.

Her first appearance in a major international tournament was at the 1997 World Women’s Championships. In what would be foreshadowing for the rest of her international career, Canada won gold at the tournament. Read more

Could Beijing 2022 be the game changer for NHL Olympic participation?

Ken Campbell
Andong Song  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With plans for the 2016 World Cup well underway, we know how the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are going to grow their revenues. So now we can turn our attention to something that can actually grow worldwide interest in the game, the Winter Olympics.

It’s a tournament that has kind of been lost in the shuffle here, largely because of the ambivalence the league has displayed for future participation and its preparations for the World Cup. At the World Cup kickoff in Toronto Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman took a not-so-subtle jab at International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, saying, “We hear rumors that Rene Fasel may be at some point ready to talk to us,” about Olympic participation.

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Shannon Szabados forgoes NWHL opportunity to re-sign in men’s pro league

Jared Clinton
Shannon Szabados. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Shannon Szabados has her eye on a starting job this season, but that doesn’t mean she’ll have to leave the SPHL to play in either of North America’s women’s leagues.

In an interview with the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, Szabados said she was given the opportunity to join the NWHL — the newest professional women’s league in North America and one that will pay its players — but she has instead chosen to return to the Columbus Cottonmouths for her second full season in the men’s league.

“I definitely thought about (the NWHL),” Szabados told Matheson. “I wasn’t contacted directly by a team, but I was by the league. I got all the information about the draft and signing up and, yeah, I read it all.” Read more

Sundin, Lidstrom, Alfredsson join Swedish national team in advisory roles — free of charge

Swede Daniel Alfredsson watches his backhander in the final Olympic game of his career (Getty Images)

The Swedish men’s national team is one of the most successful programs in international hockey history, and now three of the country’s greatest players are now joining the front office staff.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association announced Tuesday that Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom and Daniel Alfredsson will all be aiding Sweden’s men’s national program going forward — and they’ll be doing so free of charge. Reason being, said the Swedish Ice Hockey Association’s development chief Tommy Boustedt, is the three legendary national team members want to give back to the program.

“We have not talked about any compensation whatsoever,” Boustedt told Swedish news outlet Aftonbladet. “All three have said they want to be involved and give back what they have received from the Swedish ice hockey.” Read more

Ovechkin says he’ll play at 2018 Olympics whether NHL players are going or not

Jared Clinton
Alex Ovechkin (Martin Rose/Getty Images)

If Alex Ovechkin’s dedication to suiting up for the Russian national team wasn’t obvious from his scrambling across the pond to play in the 2015 World Championship, his commitment to playing in the 2018 Olympics should be all the evidence you need.

In an interview Wednesday, Ovechkin said that no matter the NHL’s decision on whether NHL players will be allowed to play at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he’ll be pulling on the Russian sweater at the tournament.

“The same situation was with the (2014) Sochi Games, they said NHL could not be allowed to come,” Ovechkin told Russian outlet TASS. “I hope the sides will reach an agreement.

“Anyway, I and other players will definitely come [to the 2018 Olympics].” Read more

‘Miracle on Ice’ goaltender Jim Craig selling Olympic memorabilia, asking price is $5.7 million

Jared Clinton
Jim Craig's game-worn jerseys from the 1980 Olympics. (via Lelands)

If you’ve ever wanted to have your own Olympic gold medal, you can now purchase the very one given to ‘Miracle on Ice’ goaltender Jim Craig for a cool $1.5 million. Don’t worry, though, you’ve got until Aug. 1 to round up the cash.

With the help of sports auction house Lelands, Craig, 58, has placed a lot of 19 items up for sale that include famed items like his gold medal, game-worn jerseys and the American flag which he famously draped across his shoulders after winning the gold medal. The prices for the memorabilia – it’s not an auction, it’s a sale – range from the $1.5 million price tag on the Olympic medal to $5,000 for clothing items, such as his Team USA pre-Olympic jacket.

Other items for sale include Craig’s game-used mask, stick, pads and skates from the Lake Placid, New York tournament. In total, the 19-item lot is worth an eye-popping $5.7 million. The sale opens up on Aug. 1 and will close on Nov. 1. Read more

Elite Prospects begins building women’s hockey stats database

Erika Grahm was the first women's player to have full statistics added by Elite Prospects. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Women’s hockey is continually growing in popularity, thanks in large part to league’s such as the CWHL and the upstart NWHL, and Elite Prospects is keeping up with the addition of more than 700 women’s players to its database.

The hockey statistics website announced Tuesday that they are undertaking a massive project to add women’s players throughout the world, which began with Swedish winger and Olympian Erika Grahm, who plays club hockey for MODO in Riksserien, Sweden’s women’s elite league.

In an interview with Sweden’s Expressen, Grahm said it was a great honor being the first women’s player to have all her stats added .

“There are many who asked why we are not with (the men) and (I would have) really have liked to answer it,” Grahm told Expressen. “I wondered, too. But it is a step in the right direction.” Read more