• Do you really have had to bled on a sweater to mete out discipline in the NHL?

    Ken Campbell
    David Branch (left). (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

    Those of you looking for a fresh, new approach to discipline under new director of player safety Stephane Quintal are going to be disappointed. Quintal has made it clear that he has no intention of deviating from his predecessor, Brendan Shanahan, when it comes to filling the role as NHL sheriff and hanging judge.

    And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you evaluate Shanahan’s performance during his three years on the job. There was no way Shanahan was going to please everyone when it came to handing out suspensions and there were some head-scratchers to be sure, but Shanahan did an outstanding job of communicating his methodology and reasoning behind each of his suspensions. Even if you disagreed with his decision, you could at least appreciate his reasoning behind it. Shanahan streamlined the process and spearheaded its evolution into a pretty well-oiled machine.

    The fact that Quintal wants that to continue is good. The fact that he seems to truly want to keep players safe is even better. Just don’t expect Quintal to usher in a new era of discipline in the NHL. Chances are, he’ll be hamstrung by the same pressures and the same culture Shanahan was.

    For example, Quintal was a guest on Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports radio program Tuesday and made it clear that those who are not former NHL players need not apply for a position in the NHL’s department of player safety. “I think you need to for sure have played in the NHL to do this job,” Quintal said. That means Quintal’s replacements for Rob Blake and Brian Leetch as his assistants will come from the ranks of former players only.

    Well, doesn’t that feed into an avalanche of stereotypes? First, it reinforces the ridiculous notion that in order to have any feel for the game or make any educated decision about the way it is played you have to have bled on an NHL sweater at some point. Second, it brings only a player’s perspective to NHL discipline. Which would be fine if those who are charged with policing the game – usually the players themselves – weren’t doing such a farcical job of it themselves at times. How can a player be expected to be 100 percent objective in these situations?

    And third, it maintains that the NHL will forever be an old boys’ network that will continue to be controlled and administered by those who played the game. How provincial.

    If the NHL were truly concerned about the levels of violence in the game and the possible ramifications that can come from it, it would have hired Ontario League commissioner David Branch. But he never played the game, at least at the NHL level. The highest Branch made it as a player was at the U.S. college level with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Branch, one of the game’s most progressive thinkers, has done an outstanding job preserving the physical integrity of the game while also coming down hard on miscreants who step beyond the bounds of the rulebook. Of course, Branch does not have a players’ association looking out for the interests of the perpetrators, at least not yet.

    But by Quintal’s definition, Branch would not be qualified to work in the NHL’s department of player safety. Nor would any good lawyer or hockey observer who has not played in the NHL.

    Since non-player Brian O’Neill handled this job for the NHL, it has been held by four different people – Brian Burke, Colin Campbell, Shanahan and now Quintal. The latter three combined for 5,101 career penalty minutes in the NHL and Burke was supposedly a tough guy in college and the minor pros and his views on the “pansification” of hockey are well documented.

    This is not to say that former players are not good judges when it comes to discipline because it’s undeniable they have a feel for the game at the highest level that the vast majority does not possess. Much of the on-field discipline in the NFL is handled by Troy Vincent and Merton Hanks, both of whom had long careers as players, but non-player commissioner Roger Goodell is also heavily involved.

    But the fact is, players are not the only ones with qualifications to make these kinds of judgments. In fact, opening the department up to those who haven’t played at the NHL level would enhance, not diminish its ability.

  • Former Canadiens captain Saku Koivu retires, but his amazing legacy will live on

    Adam Proteau
    Saku Koivu (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Saku Koivu’s NHL career came to an end Wednesday when he announced his retirement, but the ideal manner in which he conducted himself over 18 seasons in the sport’s top league – and the courage he showed in triumphing over cancer – will resonate in the hockey community for years to come.

    When Koivu arrived in North America in 1995, he had already established himself as the best player in his native Finland, winning the Finnish Elite League’s regular-season and playoff MVP awards. But none of that could’ve prepared him from life in the hockey pressure-cooker that is Montreal. As the Canadiens’ first round pick (21st overall in 1993), he had expectations placed on him from the get-go, but he amassed 20 goals and 45 points in 82 games of his rookie NHL season.

    His physical challenges began in his sophomore campaign, which saw him miss 32 games because of a knee injury. From that point on, Koivu played just one more 82-game season thanks to a slew of ailments that included concussions, as well as injuries to both knees and one of his eyes. Many of those injuries came because he was an undersized player (listed at 5-foot-10) who never shied away from physical contact. He was as brave as any player and respected by all of his teammates for the way he played the game and the way he lived his life. Read more

  • In Memoriam: Seth Martin – Vladislav Tretiak’s hockey hero

    The Hockey News
    (Photo by Hockey Hall of Fame / HHOF Images)

    By Greg Oliver

    He’s in the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, won two Allan Cups, made Glenn Hall’s first face mask and inspired Vladislav Tretiak. Yet because he only played a single season in the NHL, many fans are unaware of the importance of Seth Martin.

    The native of Rossland, B.C., who died Sept. 6, at the age of 81, is most associated with the Trail (B.C.) Smoke Eaters, the perennial senior powerhouse of the 1950s and 1960s.

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  • The best Russian goalie prospect in years is finally here

    Ryan Kennedy
    Tampa Bay's Andrey Vasilevskiy (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Once a team drafts a hot name in the prospect world, it only stands to reason that fans would want to see that player as soon as possible, even if it’s not with the NHL club right away. For Tampa Bay Lightning boosters, the wait was a little longer with netminder Andrey Vasilevskiy, but he’s finally here.

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  • Bob Suter remembered as rock-solid force for Miracle on Ice team

    Ken Campbell
    Bob Suter (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

    Bob Suter was remembered as the genuine article both on and off the ice, a Midwestern boy whose easy-going nature was contrasted on the ice by a physical presence that helped the U.S. Olympic team win the gold medal in 1980. Suter, 57, also the father of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died of an apparent heart attack in Wisconsin Tuesday afternoon.

    Former Miracle on Ice teammate and four-time Stanley Cup winner Ken Morrow patrolled the blueline for the American team in 1980 along with Suter. On a team that was known for its speed and finesse, Suter was a physical presence who did the heavy lifting for the Americans.

    “He was just rock-solid, on and off the ice,” said Morrow, who is now a pro scout for the Islanders. “We used to call him ‘Bam-Bam’. He loved to hit and he was probably one of the fiercest, most physical guys I ever played with.”

    That intense and physical approach on the ice was belied by a folksy attitude away from the rink. Never terribly impressed with himself, Suter was seen by his teammates and friends as a down-to-earth guy who preferred to be in the background. Morrow recalled Suter never said much in the dressing room, but when he did, it had an enormous impact. After the win, Suter was about as far from a diva as you could expect. Ryan has told the story many times that his father’s gold medal from 1980 would often be sitting on a coffee table in their home in Wisconsin instead of in a safety deposit box and he and his siblings were always encouraged to show it to visitors and even take it to school for Show and Tell.

    “He was just a simple, straightforward guy who was a great teammate,” Morrow said. “He was one of the most honest guys you’ll ever meet. I don’t think I played with a guy who was more down-to-earth than Bob was.”

    Although Suter played most of the time on a pairing with Jack O’Callahan, Morrow said he did find himself on the ice with Suter occasionally. He remembers a player with an incredible work ethic and a teammate that was willing to play a physical game while his teammates took the glory for their offensive exploits.

    Suter never did play a game in the NHL. He was drafted 120th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 1977 and signed as a free agent with the Minnesota North Stars in 1981, but did not appear in a game for either team. He was also drafted 58th overall by the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association, but played just one season of pro hockey, with the Nashville South Stars of the Central League in 1981-82.

    Post-hockey, Suter was heavily involved in youth hockey in the Madison area and was part owner of the Capitol Ice Arena, where he was working when he suffered his fatal heart attack Tuesday afternoon. He was also involved with the Madison Capitols of the USHL and owned a hockey retail store called Gold Medal Sports. He was instrumental in helping Ryan reach the NHL and was also the older brother of Gary Suter, who played 17 seasons in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the Calgary Flames in 1989.

    Suter is the first player on the Miracle on Ice team to die. Coincidentally, coach and gold medal architect Herb Brooks died 11 years ago this Thursday in a car accident.

    “I’m just kind of numb,” Morrow said. “I feel kind of the same way I felt when Herbie died. I’ve played with a lot of guys on that Olympic team, with the Islanders and in college and you know it’s going to happen someday, but you’re never really prepared for it. It’s a real body blow.”

  • Ray Rice saga should spur NHL to be proactive in condemning domestic violence

    Adam Proteau
    Janay Rice and Ray Rice (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT)

    The sad story of National Football League star Ray Rice and his deplorable assault on his then-fiance-and-now-wife continued to unfold Monday when full video of him savagely punching her unconscious in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino was released to the public. Rice’s gutless act cost him his job with the Baltimore Ravens (who cut him from the team hours after the new video footage came out) and perhaps his NFL career altogether (the league suspended him indefinitely after initially bungling the situation badly by suspending him just two games in late July). But the issues the case brings to light – domestic abuse, victim-blaming, and a professional sports league more concerned with churning out product than the human beings behind the product – aren’t going to be solved simply because one man wound up with a small measure of the punishment he was long past due to receive.

    No, if we’re truly outraged about the pathetic sight of a man driving his fist into a defenseless woman’s face, we all need to do more. All public figures should use their platform to decry the destruction wrought by those who believe it’s fine to lay their hands on a spouse because of some warped perception of what love is. And all sports organizations profiting from a system that pushes their athletes as role models ought to be making as strong a condemnation as possible of that attitude – and taking immediate measures to ensure they handle future cases of domestic violence far better than the NFL did.

    Yes, I’m looking at you, NHL. Not with an accusatory eye – indeed, Gary Bettman’s league should be commended for the strong position it’s assumed on social justice issues including homophobia in sport – but with a plea for proactivity. The NHL can take a stand here as well and show its fans domestic violence can never and will never be tolerated. Read more

  • Two arrests made in relation to Derek Boogaard overdose

    Rory Boylen
    Derek Boogaard. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    In May of 2011, Derek Boogaard was found dead in a Minneapolis apartment after accidentally overdosing on painkillers he took while consuming alcohol.

    According to a Fox report, two men were arrested Tuesday in connection to Boogaard’s death: Oscar Johnson, a physician’s assistant from Utah, and Jordan Hart, son of former New York Islander Gerry Hart: Read more

  • 10 players who should break out in 2014-15 based on analytics

    Matt Larkin
    Brandon Saad already looked like a strong breakout candidate for 2014-15, and his great possession numbers make it even more likely. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Just when you thought the advanced stats horse was beaten dead, we bust out the Tommy gun one more time and give it the Sonny Corleone treatment.

    It’s common to predict breakout candidates before every season, but the Great Analytics Boom of 2014 lets us do so through a new lens. Will advanced stats change our prognostications? Here’s a look at 10 players who will bust out if the fancy numbers tell us anything. Team stats come from progressivehockey.com. References to individual Corsi Close numbers come from the THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide.

    10. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils

    On one hand, advanced statistics, at least the popular ones like Corsi and Fenwick, tell us little about goaltenders. On the other hand, those stats are much better indicators of team success than of individual success. We know (a) Cory Schneider is already great, having posted a 1.97 goals-against average and .921 save percentage last season; (b) he has the No. 1 gig to himself for the first time in his career after the Devils and Martin Brodeur parted ways; and (c) the Devils are the hidden darlings of advanced statistics. They were a top-four Corsi team last season. A great goalie with an expanded role on a team that does a great job limiting scoring chances? Looks like a recipe for eye-popping numbers, especially in wins and GAA.

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