Top 5 meltdowns of the 2013-14 hockey season, from Phil Kessel to the San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks

When someone or some team melts down in sport, the ensuing range of emotions varies. Depending on the offence and where your allegiances lie, you may be utterly crushed, or elated. You may find a great deal of comedy in the action, or you may be offended. Either way, these moments become memorable talking points long after they’re seen live.

What were the biggest meltdowns from the 2013-14 hockey season? Here is our top five. Read more

Top 5 controversies of the 2013-14 season

John Tortorella (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.

If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more

Woeful Oilers land big off-ice free agent in Nicholson

Nicholson

NEW YORK – When Bob Nicholson stepped down as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in May, he made it clear he was looking for another challenge. Well, if that was his desire, he certainly found one. And while the Edmonton Oilers have had all kinds of trouble attracting big free agents for their on-ice product, they appear to have succeeded in landing the most prized free agent hockey executive in the world.

A TSN report has been confirmed by thn.com that the Oilers have a news conference scheduled for Friday in which they are expected to announce that Nicholson has been hired to be CEO of Rexall Sports, which owns the Edmonton Oilers. As first reported on Twitter by thn.com Wednesday night, Nicholson chose the Oilers over offers from the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. It’s believed the Capitals offered the most money, but the challenge of being a part of rebuilding the Oilers on the ice appealed to Nicholson. Read more

Gay female Olympic hockey players are increasingly comfortable coming out – and that’s great

Adam Proteau
Charline Labonte (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

As someone who has regularly covered elite women’s hockey over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to hearing snide remarks about the sport from other journalists. If I wasn’t getting an arched eyebrow from some crusty old colleague who unfairly wanted to compare the quality of hockey to men’s hockey, I heard “jokes” about how all the women who succeeded at the highest level of their chosen sport were all lesbians, butchy, abrupt and unfeminine.

Of course, I knew how idiotic all that garbage was. I knew there were straight and gay female players from all walks of life, and I knew they were as friendly and multifaceted as any other group of people. I knew how that hateful mindset said everything about the anger and confusion a head and heart must be entangled in to arrive at those baseless conclusions, and said nothing about the targets of that hate.

But what bothered me most wasn’t each individual bonehead who was compelled to quietly reveal their bigotry to me. Rather, I was troubled to think female players would have to stay in the closet for the years and decades to come as irrational loathing was passed down from one homophobic generation of backward people to another. I could see how careful players on the Canadian or American women’s national team were when discussing their sexuality and I fully understood why. When you could leave a rink or a media scrum without having to worry about the very essence of your soul being judged and challenged by people who didn’t know you, why wouldn’t you do that? Keeping your private life to yourself was the best way to keep a semblance of order in your day-to-day existence.

However, as society has moved rapidly to accept gay people and give them the full spectrum of human rights to which they’re entitled, that sea change has extended into the hockey world. And it’s absolutely wonderful to see these incredibly accomplished women of hockey speak out with pride and confidence about who they really are.

To wit: Canadian national team goaltender Charline Labonte has written an inspirational first-person story in which she describes her life, her hockey journey and her girlfriend (Canadian Olympic speedskater Anastasia Buscis). The 31-year-old, who won three Olympic gold medals in a playing career that ended after the 2014 Sochi Games, made it clear that, although she was always open with her teammates, even the dressing room culture in the women’s game – which has been understanding and accepting even as the world around it failed to do the same – had room to evolve and improve. Read more

Players will have to save NHL Olympic participation

Ken Campbell
The NHL and its owners are openly skeptical about sending players to South Korea in 2018. (Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – It looks increasingly as though the future of NHL participation in the Olympics will depend on how much extra hockey the best players in the world will be prepared to play.

That’s because the NHL will – repeat, will – hold a World Cup of Hockey in 2016 and beyond. The tournament is going to happen and it’s not going to be a one-off the way it was in 2004. It has gone way beyond the conceptual stage and with the league and NHL Players’ Association meeting on it last week and again this week to put the finishing touches on the agreement, it is now a matter of what form it’s going to take, not whether it’s going to happen.

And what does that mean for the future of Olympic participation? Well, we know the owners hate the Olympics and want to end sending their best players there and having them exposed to injury. The players, meanwhile, want to play and the leadership of the association sees a lot of value in continuing to go to the Olympics to grow the game on a global level – with or without the World Cup. Read more

Top 5 unforgettable Gretzky memories from off the ice

Josh Elliott
Wayne Gretzky at rally

With Wayne Gretzky’s name back in the rumour mill these days, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, he’ll return to the NHL as a team executive somewhere. So whether he lands in Washington, Long Island or somewhere else, we’ll probably be seeing an awful lot of The Great One in a suit in the years ahead.

The NHL, of course, would be well-served to welcome its greatest player back into the fold as an executive with one of its teams. There was some bad blood (and more than a few money issues) outstanding after the league took over and eventually sold the Phoenix Coyotes a while back, and those issues kept Gretzky at arm’s length for too long.

But Gretzky got his share of the Phoenix money this year (rumour is, around December) and with that out of the way, the man appears ready to dive back into hockey again.
That’s something the league should be overjoyed about. Gretzky has always been a great ambassador for the game, and even if he’s not lacing up the skates, he can be an exciting figure off the ice, too.

Just look at all the headline-grabbing moments he’s delivered over the years, all without a play-by-play announcer along for the ride.
Read more

Top 5 single-game performances from 2013-14

TJ Oshie

1. T.J. Oshie’s Olympic shootout
When the St. Louis Blue was tabbed for the U.S. Olympic team, his shootout prowess was in mind. Of the 29 NHLers with at least 10 shootout attempts this season, Oshie’s 75 percent conversion rate was tops. Imagine what his totals would have been if the NHL let any player shoot any time after the third round, as is the case at the Olympics. Because, in Team USA’s Sochi quarterfinal match against the host Russians, Oshie went up against Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk in an incredibly entertaining skills competition. American coach Dan Bylsma kept putting Oshie on the ice to counter the two Russian stars and in six shootout attempts, he scored on four of them. ‘T.J. Sochi’ singlehandedly pushed the Americans into the semifinal, saving them from an early exit and earning public praise from U.S. president Barack Obama.

2. Ben Scrivens’ record-setting 59-save shutout against San Jose
In less than a year, Ben Scrivens was traded from Toronto to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to Edmonton, so you wouldn’t expect a nomadic player like that to set any positive NHL records. But on Jan. 29, Scrivens established an expansion era, regular season standard for saves in a shutout – and he did it against the mighty San Jose Sharks. Scrivens made 20 stops in the first period and turned aside all 59 shots for a 3-0 win. He surpassed Phoenix goalie Mike Smith’s record of 54 saves in a 2012 shutout and, obviously, Scrivens also set an Oilers record.

3. Kristers Gudlevskis, cinderella man
Speaking of things no one saw coming, goalie Kristers Gudlevskis almost led an upset for the ages when his underdog Latvian team scared all of Canada silly and threw a major fright into the nation’s Dream Team. A prospect of the Tampa Bay Lightning who toiled for Florida in the ECHL and Syracuse in the AHL for most of 2013-14, Gudlevskis made 55 exhausting saves that game and had the Latvians in a 1-1 lock deep into the third period. But a Shea Weber goal with seven minutes remaining  gave the Canadians a 2-1 edge from which they didn’t look back and a country breathed again. Two months later, Gudlevskis appeared in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for Tampa Bay.

4. Tomas Hertl’s four-goal magic
In just his third NHL game, San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl launched his campaign for the Calder Trophy, setting himself up as the early favorite. On Oct. 8 against the New York Rangers, the Czech scored four goals on seven shots in a 9-2 San Jose romp. But it wasn’t just the stats-packed night that got Hertl a ton of attention – it was the between-the-legs breakaway goal that put him in the spotlight. He scored it against Martin Biron, who retired less than two weeks later. If Hertl hadn’t have gotten injured, the Calder race between him and Nathan MacKinnon would have been ferocious.

5. Teemu Selanne’s bronze medal game
The ‘Finnish Flash’ had his ice time cut this season and his role has been less pronounced in his later years, but on the Olympic stage, Selanne remained the go-to guy for Finland. Selanne scored four goals and six points in six Sochi games, and saved his best for last against the Americans in the bronze medal game. Selanne scored twice in his final appearance to lead his country to a 5-0 win, which earned Finland its fourth men’s hockey medal in the past five Olympics. Though the Suomi has never captured gold, no country has medalled more in the NHL Olympic era – and Selanne was there for each one.

This article originally appeared in the May 26 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.

Tale of the tape: Martin St-Louis vs. Marian Gaborik

St-Louis

They were both dealt just hours before the NHL’s trade deadline. One was a disgruntled veteran who wanted out because of his sour Olympic experience and chose his landing spot. The other was an injury-prone and unproductive winger whose skill set did not fit in with his blue-collar team.

And with Martin St-Louis of the New York Rangers and Marian Gaborik of the Los Angeles Kings emerging as major components of teams that are one win away from playing in the Stanley Cup final, they’re also emerging as the two best deals of the 2014 trade deadline.

But which one was better? Here’s the tale of the tape: Read more