So Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish was scheduled to meet with the media on Friday morning to “address the Oilers performance through 26 games and take questions.” That promises to be a pleasant exchange of ideas.
By all accounts, MacTavish will not announce either of the two things for which many Oiler fans are clamoring – that he’s firing the coach or he’s making a blockbuster trade to upgrade the roster. In reality, with an 11-game losing streak and the stench of defeat permeating the organization, neither of those would provide much relief. The best thing the Oilers could do now is stay the course and finish in the standings exactly where they are now. That would guarantee them at worst the second overall pick and the best chance at the first, meaning they’d have the opportunity to draft a potential generational superstar in either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Not even the Oilers could screw that up. Read more
When I think of Pat Quinn, I harken back to the dark days of February, 1999. Quinn was just months into his tenure as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and I was equally green as the Maple Leafs beat reporter with The Toronto Star covering him.
I had found out not long before that my father was dying of cancer. Word somehow got to Quinn and one day during a post-practice scrum when I think he could see I was smiling on the outside and dying on the inside and was being cajoled by my colleagues, he pulled me into him with his big right arm and held me close for just a second. He never mentioned a word of it ever again, and neither did I. Read more
Viktor Tikhonov, the iron-willed coach who helmed the Soviet Union’s best hockey teams during the height of the Cold War’s peak, died in a Moscow hospital Monday. For better and worse, the 84-year-old was one of the most influential figures in Russian hockey history, winning three Olympic gold medals, eight IIHF World Championship gold medals, 13 consecutive Soviet titles as head coach of CSKA Moscow, and one Canada Cup. Tikhonov had been admitted to hospital suddenly in late October, and was reported to have had lost the ability to “move independently”. Tikhonov is predeceased by his son, Vasily, who died at age 55 in 2013. His grandson, also named Viktor Tikhonov, played in the NHL with Phoenix in 2008-09 and currently plays in the Russian-based Kontinental League.
Born in 1930, Tikhonov first gained prominence on the Russian hockey scene playing for the Air Force’s team and Moscow Dynamo; he scored 35 goals in 296 games during a 15-year career in the Soviet Elite League, but it wasn’t until he retired and moved behind the bench that Tikhonov truly made a name for himself. Read more
The first time Duncan Keith played in the Olympics, he returned to Chicago with a gold medal and then helped the Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years while averaging about 27 minutes of ice time in 104 total NHL games between the regular season and playoffs. Last year he earned his second Olympic gold with Canada and would have won his third Cup had the Hawks not lost a heartbreaking Western Conference final to Los Angeles (admit it, New York…). You would think the compressed NHL schedule in those Olympic years would be tough to shoulder, but Keith sees things the opposite way.
Teams revisit their past all the time when promoting themselves via a redesign of their jersey, logo or mascot, but the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders have made a sizeable mistake in doing so this season.
To wit: the Raiders unveiled their new mascot this week – an Arabian “raider” character named “Boston Raider” after a tie-in to an area pizza sponsor – which is based on their original logo from the early 1980s:
The new mascot’s appearance does not sit well with a number of people who believe it stereotypes those of Middle Eastern heritage. Rhonda Rosenberg, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan’s executive director, told the Canadian Press she found it plays into discriminatory views of people from the region.
“The idea of a somewhat violent Muslim man is a stereotype that is really difficult for a lot of people to live with,” Rosenberg said. “Mascots are not where we should be depicting cultural groups of people. We just need to look at what values and ideas are being put forward, and whether they are really embodying what we want to be sharing.”
A team spokesman said the franchise never intended to offend anyone, nor does it believe the mascot to be “a negative representation of Middle Eastern people and their culture”. They might not, but in this day and age where society is rightfully trying to be respectful toward all ethnicities, the Raiders’ new mascot is a mistake. What may have been seen as appropriate decades ago isn’t always appropriate today; this is why a song like Ray Stevens’ “Ahab The Arab” – a top five radio hit when it was released in 1962 – is seen as patently offensive now.
Eras and tastes change, and sometimes the past is better left where it is. And if the Raiders are smart, they’ll send their new mascot to join former AHL mascot “Scorch” in the scrapyard.
For years now, many who follow the NHL have expected the league to announce the return of the World Cup of Hockey. That’s on the verge of being made official, but what nobody was quite prepared for was the stunning Sportsnet report concerning “dramatic changes” made to the structure of the off-season, league-controlled tournament.
According to the report, the NHL is considering a format that would see the six top hockey nations (Canada, the United States, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic) take part – but in a new twist, two “all-star” teams would join the competition: one squad would be comprised of the best players from countries other than the aforementioned six nations: Slovakia (who could offer Zdeno Chara), Slovenia (Anze Kopitar), Switzerland (Nino Niederreiter), and Germany (Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg), among others. The composition of the second team has yet to be determined, but one of the concepts being bandied about is taking all of the game’s best young players and giving them the same jersey to create a “Generation: Next”-type lineup.
As soon as the news broke, the reaction was less than universally positive. But you know what? I think the new format would be a terrific breath of fresh air – that is, so long as the return of the World Cup doesn’t mean the end of NHL participation in the Olympics. Read more
Just when Michael Corleone thought he was out, they pulled him back in. And every time it seems the NHL’s Olympic adventure will die – no, seriously, this time we’re never going back – the twinkle returns to the league’s collective eye.
The league currently has no arrangement to participate in a sixth straight Winter Games, which shifts to South Korea for 2018, and no short-term timetable to make a decision. At a sport management conference Monday, NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston a decision “should be made quickly,” but that the league needs more information from the Olympic organizing committee. Daly hopes to learn soon “where hockey fits in the pecking order.”
Take a close look at the four men who will be inducted in the players’ category of the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night. You’ll see something you’ve never seen before, and may never see again.
Four players, four different countries represented. A Hall of Fame cohort that includes Rob Blake, Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg and Dominik Hasek belongs in the debate of the best of all-time. We’re not going to get into that debate, but hey, the 1972 class included Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Hap Holmes and Hooley Smith. But there is no Hall of Fame induction group that represents the global reach of the game more prominently than this one. Read more