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.
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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

Jaromir Jagr ends a quarter century of international greatness

Jagr-2

Two of the greatest careers in international hockey ended this season. One of them, Teemu Selanne’s, went out in a blaze of glory with a goal in Finland’s bronze medal win in the Sochi Olympics. The other, Jaromir Jagr’s, ended with a loss and no points in the bronze medal game of the World Championship amid complaints about the refereeing in the tournament.

But When Jagr announced his retirement from international play after the Czech Republic’s 3-0 loss to Sweden Sunday, it marked the end of a career that spanned a quarter of a century and – with all due respect to Dominik Hasek, Jiri Bubla and Robert Reichel – was the best in that country’s history. Once again, Jagr answered the call for his country and like so many times before, he led the Czechs offensively. Read more

Top 5 most incredible hockey games I’ve even seen live

Eric Lindros - Oshawa (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

When you’ve watched hockey for more than four decades and covered it for almost three, the first thing you think is, “Man, I should really make that appointment to get my prostate checked.” Get it? I’m old.

I figure it’s time to take stock of the best five hockey games among the thousands I have seen over the years. So here they are. The rule: I had to actually be in attendance at the game, either as a spectator or media member. Read more

Why Rick Nash is regular season rich but post-season poor

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHL)

There’s a curious coincidence when it comes to cash and Rick Nash. When the money stops flowing, so does his production.

Come playoff time, when players play for glory instead of green (aside from the occasional, obscure post-season bonus), the New York Rangers’ most expensive regular season asset of $7.8 million scores at the pace of a minimum wage NHLer.

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Victor Hedman is not snubbing the Swedish world championship team

Ryan Kennedy
Victor Hedman (Getty Images)

I don’t know about you, but when I saw twitter posts last week saying Sweden asked Victor Hedman to play at the world championship and he declined, I assumed it was because of the Olympic snub. And while the Tampa Bay defenseman would have been well within his rights to do so, that’s not the true story: Hedman is simply too banged up with undisclosed injuries from his recently finished NHL campaign.

“My body wasn’t anywhere close to 100 percent,” Hedman told me. “It would have been too much of a risk.”

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