Ten American hockey heroes for the Fourth of July

Steve Christoff and captain Mike Eruzione hop over the boards  (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s the Fourth of July in the United States, which means hot dogs, fireworks and Uncle Sam costumes. But we’re The Hockey News, so we’re going to concentrate on hockey. USA Hockey may not have as many gold medals or international titles as Canada or Russia, but there have been some pretty dramatic championships in America’s history. Here’s a look at the true patriots of the sport:

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Hall of Fame just can’t help being an old boys’ network, can it?

Sergei Makarov (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, you’d have to think, just can’t help itself. Try as it might, it is simply unable to resist the urge to act like an old boys’ network. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that it’s made up of 18 white guys, the youngest of whom is 50 years old.

With a blank slate due to the fact that there were no first-time eligible players who were worthy of induction, the committee righted a wrong by finally inducting Eric Lindros seven years after one of the most dominant players of his generation was eligible. Sergei Makarov, a talented winger in the former Soviet Union and a vital cog on one of the most dominant teams in the history of the game. Another solid choice. Tough to argue the induction in the builders’ category with Pat Quinn, a career coach who didn’t win the Stanley Cup, but was the only coach in history lead a team to a World Cup, Olympic gold medal and World Junior Championship.

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European teams form alliance to get a seat at the table with the big boys

Sebastian Aho (left), Jesse Puljujariv (middle) and Patrik Laine (MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images)

When Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are drafted into the NHL a week from now, their teams in the Finnish Elite League will receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. Assuming each player earns $50 million over the course of his NHL career – which is probably being conservative – the amount their teams receive represents about one-half of one percent of their career earnings.

The teams that choose Laine and Puljujarvi – almost certainly the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets – stand to make millions in merchandising and ticket sales, particularly if each of them is a central figure in some long playoff runs. Meanwhile, the organizations that have basically developed these players from the time they were children, Tappara and Karpat, are receiving a pittance. That $240,000 is what Karpat will receive for losing Laine’s and Puljujarvi’s World Junior linemate Sebastian Aho to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week.

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Olli Maatta hoping to go to Finnish military this summer as a Stanley Cup champ

Olli Maatta (left) and Patrik Laine  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE – Far too often, hockey players are described as warriors. In the case of Finnish players, that description actually fits. And that is why after Olli Maatta may very well end up going from being a Stanley Cup champion to a buck private in the Finnish military this summer.

Finland is one of the last bastions of mandatory military service. In fact, the penalty for refusing it can be up to 173 days in prison. All men 18 years and older are required to serve a minimum of 165 days, something Maatta plans to do over the next two summers. So shortly after the Cup final ends, which could be as early as tonight if the Penguins win Game 6 with Maatta patrolling the blueline, he’ll head to Santahamina, home to the Guard Jaeger Regiment, and report for duty.

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Top defensemen make their case at the draft combine

Mikhail Sergachev  (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – There was a lot of interest among the local media in defensemen this morning. With Buffalo hosting the draft combine, camera crews and reporters got a chance to quiz a number of potential future Sabres and several of those candidates were blueliners. With Buffalo picking eighth, a top D-man will surely be available, but which one?

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Jesse Puljujarvi will not be quiet any longer

Finland's Jesse Puljujärvi (Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – The main attraction at today’s draft combine access was top-rated Auston Matthews, as it probably should be. But for the few reporters who went to Jesse Puljujarvi first, a new personality could be seen. Puljujarvi, it seems, won’t be taking a back seat to anyone for much longer.

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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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Finland’s international golden era has just begun

Finland's Jesse Puljujärvi (Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

Call him The Narrative Slayer.

When Connor McDavid charged the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal in Canada’s 2-0 golden performance at the World Championship in Russia, the young Oilers star punctured a pretty good storyline in the making. That being, of course, that a Finland victory would have given Suomi all three major IIHF men’s titles this year.

But while Finland may have lost at the worlds, the country’s gold medals at the world juniors and world under-18s were reason enough to believe that Finland is entering a golden era of hockey.

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