Ziat Paigin has been suspended for two international games by the governing body for an incident that occurred at the end of the world juniors in Toronto. Paigin claims it was a tradition; the IIHF calls shenanigans on him.
All news releases should be written with the candor that the International Ice Hockey Federation displayed in its ruling against a Russian world junior defenseman.
Ziat Paigin, a towering 6-foot-6 rearguard with the KHL's Ak Bars Kazan, has been suspended for two international games by the IIHF for throwing his stick into the crowd in the wake of Canada's thrilling 6-5 victory in the gold-medal game of the 2015 world juniors in Toronto.
In a written statement to the IIHF, Paigin claimed that he tossed his twig into the crowd as a gesture of appreciation to Russian fans in what he called an "existing tradition."
But the IIHF wasn't buying it and smacked down the talented blueliner in its rebuttal:
"There is no sign whatsoever in the player’s gestures or face during and after the action that would allow such an interpretation; the only explanation is that the player acted out of frustration.
"The Deciding Panel wants to point out that – at least in international games – there is no 'tradition' of throwing sticks into the stands as a gesture of appreciation of the fan’s support and that such a 'tradition' could not be tolerated and is not tolerated by the IIHF."
As you can see from the video below, it's hard to disagree with the IIHF's conclusion here. That dude does not appear to be in an appreciative mood.
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
If you want to win a Stanley Cup, you need speed. And for players on their way up through the ranks, skating acumen is going to be the price of admission for an NHL job
I was having a conversation with an NHL team scout yesterday, which is one of the best parts of my job. I learn so much from these chats and not just about the draft prospects we are discussing, but of the bigger picture as well. While discussing the pros and cons of some prospects, we began to talk about skating and its place in the game today. Simply put, it's becoming a must-have.
"The No. 1 priority is skating," said the scout. "Even if your hockey sense or skills aren't the greatest, at least we can point you in the right direction."
We all know it's a fast game today and you just have to look at all the recent champions to validate the skating argument. Team Canada's World Cup squad suffocated opponents with their skating, taking away time and space at both ends of the ice – though their excellence in the puck possession department dramatically narrowed the amount of time they had to use their speed on the defensive end.
The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this past summer thanks to a team that had speed up and down its lineup. Think about it – how many Penguins from that team would you characterize as slow, by NHL standards? Maybe a couple, at most? Meanwhile, teams had to contest with Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang, among many others.
At the world juniors, Team USA won gold with a similarly dangerous lineup, trotting out the likes of Colin White, Clayton Keller and Jack Roslovic to terrify teams.
What's really interesting for me is how speed is going to change bottom-six roles in the NHL. We're already seeing it, with teams employing fewer enforcers, but how far can the concept be pushed? Roslovic might be the perfect case study to keep an eye on, because as a prospect of the Winnipeg Jets, he's got a lot of talent ahead of him in the form of Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor. But if Roslovic, who is leading AHL Manitoba in scoring as a rookie, despite missing games due to the world juniors, is ready for the NHL leap next season, why hold him back if he can contribute from the third line? If defense is coming from speed these days anyway, it seems like a pretty nice way to get more skill in the lineup.
Tampa Bay will have a similar query to address in a year or two when prospects such as Mitchell Stephens, Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph come knocking on the door. All three have skill, but they can also skate and play with grit. It's a great problem to have if you're the Lightning.
What happens to prospects that aren't blessed with foot speed? Well, it's going to take them a little longer. We're seeing it with Dylan Strome, whom most of assumed would be full-time in Arizona this season. But thanks to his abundance of other talents and attributes, Strome can zero in on improving on his speed and strength, knowing that an NHL career is close. It can certainly be done, but he'll have to watch out for all the young burners out there on the fast-track while he does it.
The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.
We'll find out next Tuesday whether teams in the Ontario and Western Leagues will have to make their financials public.
Canadian Hockey League president David Branch has often publicly stated that people don’t get into the junior hockey business to make money. He has also said that about one-third of the teams make money, one-third break even and one-third lose money and those teams are interchangeable based on where they are in their franchise-building cycle.
We have a pretty good idea that the owners of teams such as the London Knights and Quebec Remparts (which are owned by Quebecor, the company that owns The Hockey News) make gobs of money, but nobody really knows how much. We’re also pretty sure that small markets such as Swift Current, Owen Sound and Baie Comeau face some pretty stiff and unique financial challenges, but we have no idea to what extent. We also know that, judging by the ticket prices and beer lines, the World Junior Championship is a major cash cow for the CHL, even when it’s bungled as badly as it recently was in Toronto and Montreal, since the junior leagues get one-third of the profits. We also know that franchises in the CHL are bought and sold for millions of dollars. We know that the Sudbury Wolves were purchased by Ken Burgess in 1986 for $250,000 and the team and its marketing arm were sold for about $11 million last summer, meaning it appreciated in value by about 4,400 percent in 30 years.
We know the players are paid a relative pittance for their work in addition to having their room and board covered by the teams. The CHL often crows about its scholarship program, claiming that it pays out millions of dollars per year to assist former players with their post-secondary education.
That’s pretty much all we know. And if the CHL has its way, that’s all we’ll ever know. Because when it comes to actually opening its books and proving to people that junior hockey is by and large a Mom and Pop operation, well, that’s where the flow of information is reduced to a trickle.
The question is why? If junior hockey leagues are so quick to claim that having to pay its players minimum wage would cause financial calamity, why do they not want their financial information to be part of the public discourse?
But the hundreds of players who hope to launch a class action lawsuit against the CHL want to change that. Next Tuesday, the two sides will argue before R.J. Hall, a Justice of the Alberta Court of the Queen’s Bench in Calgary, the CHL’s motion to have a sealing order placed over all financial records, scholarship data and revenue sharing agreements for the 42 teams in the OHL and Western League. The CHL was ordered to turn over that information last October as part of the class action lawsuit brought against the WHL for minimum wage.
The documents were filed as part of a certification hearing that’s scheduled to be held in Calgary in February. Once those documents are filed in court, they become a matter of public record unless they are sealed by court order and the CHL wants them to be sealed. “That way no one will have access to them except the judge and parties to the litigation,” said Toronto lawyer Ted Charney, who represents the plaintiffs. “I don’t want to comment on the merits of the motion because it’s coming up in court next week. All I can tell you is we intend to oppose it.”
The CHL originally argued back in October that only the WHL teams for which the plaintiffs played should have to submit their financials. But Justice Hall ordered all 22 WHL teams to provide the information, as well as the 20 teams in the OHL, since the defendants chose to file affidavits from the OHL, arguing that paying minimum wage would have the same adverse effects to OHL teams and, by extension, the entire CHL.
This is all very important to the future of the case because this is evidence that will be used in the certification hearing, at which time Justice Hall will decide whether or not the lawsuit merits being considered a class-action lawsuit. If he decides it does, hundreds of former players who have registered to join the lawsuit would be included. If not, the lawsuit will be restricted to the handful of former players who have come forward.
And if Justice Hall decides next week that two-thirds of the junior hockey operators in Canada must live with their books being open for the public to see, then perhaps we’ll have a better idea whether the former players have a case or Canada’s junior leagues would actually be crippled by having to pay their players minimum wage.