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Author: The Hockey News
Will Winter Classic set attendance record? Big House is the place to do it
By: The Hockey News
Jan 1, 2014
Michigan Stadium already holds the hockey attendance record, but the 2010 Big Chill was 6,000 fans short of a sellout. The NHL is hoping for a packed house for today's game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.
By Garrett Perry
It’s been dubbed the Big House: Michigan Stadium. A place where Heisman Trophy winners have been crowned, football history written and attendance records shattered.
Home of the Michigan Wolverines for almost a century, it’s the largest stadium in the United States, and third largest in the world. It has an official capacity of 109,901, but it’s held crowds in excess of 110,000 on numerous occasions.
And while the classic venue is widely recognized for its boisterous crowds during Wolverine football games, it has a history with hockey as well.
On Dec. 11, 2010, the Michigan Wolverines played the Michigan State Spartans in the Cold War II, an outdoor hockey game that drew 104,073 spectators and obliterated previous hockey attendance records by almost 25,000. The record still stands today. The event was officially advertised as the Big Chill at the Big House, and would see the Wolverines defeat their archrival by a score of 5-0.
The record-breaking game was a rematch of the original Cold War game played outdoors at Spartan Stadium in 2001. The first Cold War game, which finished 3-3, set the bar in attendance for an ice hockey game at the time with 74,544.
Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith remembers playing in the original Cold War game as a Spartan: “I was a little nervous to play my first college game. It was such a big game, so many people, so many fans. It just kind of magnified everything.”
And while he admits he was more nervous to face the archrival Wolverines, it didn’t stop him from scoring his first career college goal.
“It was a cool experience overall and I was just excited to be a part of it,” he said.
Although the Edmonton Oilers were pushing for an NHL outdoor game as early as the 1980s, it was the success of the Cold War game that eventually opened the NHL’s eyes to the idea.
"It's not the first time that the game's been proposed," former Oilers bench boss Glen Sather told the Edmonton Sun back in 2003. "We tried to get that through (former NHL president John) Ziegler in the early 1980s. We wanted to play against the Russian team. He turned us down. He said it was a ridiculous idea."
How times change, as both the Heritage and Winter Classic outdoor games have become marquee events for the NHL, not to mention huge revenue producers.
With today’s Winter Classic featuring the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, the NHL has its sights on a new attendance record. Upwards of 110,000 people are expected to pack Michigan Stadium. Whether they break the record or not, one thing is certain: there will be more outdoor hockey games on the horizon for NHL fans.
Here's a historical tale of the tape between today's two combatants:
Penguins’ Murray broke hand at World Cup, will miss start of season
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 24, 2016
Marc-Andre Fleury will take the starting job for the Penguins to start the season, but under some unfortunate circumstances as Matt Murray suffered a broken hand during North America’s game against Russia at the World Cup.
The Pittsburgh Penguins might be thankful they didn’t ship out veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of the coming campaign after Matt Murray’s sparkling post-season run, because when the season starts, the young netminder will find himself on the sideline.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford announced Saturday that Murray, 22, suffered a broken hand during round robin play for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. The injury is enough that Murray will almost certainly be out for the entirety of the pre-season, and the 3-6 week timeline for recovery could potentially see Murray miss the first month of the regular season. Just how severe the injury is, though, hasn’t yet been determined. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, Rutherford said Murray has yet to meet with Penguins doctors.
If Murray is sidelined for the whole six weeks, he could miss the entire month of October and a dozen or more games. If the injury persists beyond the six week period, there’s a possibility he could miss an additional three games in the first week of November.
Murray’s injury came during North America’s tilt against Russia on Sept. 19, a game that Murray started but did not finish after allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 4-3 loss. All four goals against Murray came in little more than six minutes of action.
The exact moment Murray suffered the injury is hard to pinpoint, but he said post-game that it was only a minor injury and he had simply “jammed his thumb,” according to the Canadian Press. The injury was taped during the Sept. 19 game and Murray did continue to practice after suffering the ailment. However, he didn’t suit up in North America’s final game of the tournament, watching on as the young guns team closed out their tournament with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win against Sweden.
Murray was set to push Fleury for the starting gig this season, and there was a chance Murray could once again overtake his veteran counterpart for the bulk of the starts, just as he did during the post-season. Murray was remarkable in the playoffs, posting a 15-6 record, 2.08 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup in his rookie season.
Murray’s performance in the playoffs shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, however. He showed signs of his incredible talent throughout his rookie year in the AHL — he was the league’s top goaltender and rookie of the year in 2014-15 — and posted a 9-2-1 record, 2.00 GAA and .930 SP with one shutout in 13 appearances during the regular seasons for the Penguins.
With Murray on the shelf, though, the Penguins will turn to Fleury as their definite No. 1. There are much worse hands to be dealt than that. Fleury was one of the Penguins best players during a difficult first half of the season under former coach Mike Johnston, and Fleury continued to excel under Mike Sullivan.
Fleury had to battle through concussion issues during the 2015-16 campaign, but he managed to post a stellar 35-17-6 record, 2.29 GAA and .921 SP to go along with five shutouts. Statistically, it was one of the best seasons of Fleury’s career, and it came in the first season of his new four-year, $23-million deal.
Murray’s injury will also have an impact on the backup situation in Pittsburgh, as one of Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire will almost certainly be brought up as insurance for Fleury while Murray is out of action.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Sidney Crosby dominated Canada's first game at the 2016 World Cup, just like he dominated the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Is this is the best version of Sid yet?
TORONTO – I'll try to keep the hyperbole at a minimum here, but when it comes to Sidney Crosby, one of the greatest hockey players of all-time, it's difficult to avoid.
So I won't say the hockey world left Crosby for dead last December. But considering the lofty standard he's set for himself throughout his career, he experienced perhaps his own equivalent of being left for dead. He had two goals and 11 points after 20 games. He was struggling through a season so miserable he even wrote this summer about how badly he never wanted to experience that feeling again. The idea of him climbing back into the NHL scoring race and reclaiming his unofficial title of World's Best Hockey Player seemed far fetched. The sport belonged to Patrick Kane or, the year before, Carey Price. And there was nothing wrong with that. Crosby was a decade into a Hall of Fame career, he was nearing the end of his 20s, and it was possible he was merely exiting his prime a bit earlier than expected.
The Crosby-is-finished hype looks laughable now in hindsight. From the moment the Penguins fired coach Mike Johnston and promoted Mike Sullivan from their AHL affiliate, Crosby ignited. Sullivan helped free him up to play his north-south game at breakneck speed. Crosby's 66 points in 52 games over the rest of the season led the NHL. He was the league's best player in the playoffs and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as second-season MVP. His days of lapping the scoring field with 120-point seasons were over, but the new Crosby was an evolved version, dominant in every aspect of the game, from faceoffs to lower-body strength to puck protection to advanced statistics to his good, ole-fashioned laser of a backhander. Like Steve Yzerman midway through his career, Crosby enjoyed a renaissance of sorts as a more complete specimen.
After watching Crosby skate circles around the Czechs in Canada's first round-robin game at the World Cup Saturday, it's time to wonder if Crosby, already the best player of this generation, is getting better. His chemistry with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is excellent. He showed a sixth sense when he fed Joe Thornton all alone in the slot for Canada's fourth goal. He looked flawless out there.
"I think he's always been the best player in the world," said defenseman Brent Burns, Crosby's Stanley Cup final foe with the San Jose Sharks, now his teammate with Canada. "What makes him that is he works every day at it. He's always striving to get better, to be the best and stay up on that plateau, I think there are a lot of guys chasing him, and that pushes him to get better."
Now's the time when angry Flyers fans, er, blog commenters, strike back against the so-called insufferable Crosby love. But to do so at this point is to merely be a contrarian, to be a hater of greatness. Instead of fighting it, just stop and appreciate it. It wasn't hyperbolic to praise Wayne Gretzky's brilliance, nor Bobby Orr's, nor Mario Lemieux's, nor Patrick Roy's. And Crosby is approaching a similar stratosphere. He has two scoring titles, two MVPs, two Stanley Cups, a Rocket Richard, two Olympic gold medals, two Olympic game-winning goals, a World Championship and the highest points per game of any NHLer in history not named Gretzky, Orr, Lemieux or Bossy. If he keeps playing like he did to open the World Cup, he'll add one more impressive team trophy to the case. Canada coach Mike Babcock isn't yet ready to concede that Crosby has reached a new level, though.
"Let's not get carried way," Babcock said. "He was the star in Sochi. He was the star in Vancouver. What you saw tonight, though, is he got the points. Everyone likes to get points, Sid likes to get points, too, but it took the team to win, and he was the leader. Were in the process here, and as the team gets better, he has to get better. But it was a good start for his line."
And maybe why Crosby keeps improving is because he adopts that same mindset. He's never satisfied. Neither were any of the sport's all-time greats.
"There are still things we can improve on, but to get rewarded for our hard work, and get a couple on the power play, and get some big kills early on, all those little things go a long way," he told reporters after the game.
And that line is Crosby in a nutshell, isn't it? The man accomplishing the big things on the big stage is the one obsessed with the little things.
Crosby and Marchand: A dream that will probably never happen
By: Ken Campbell
Sep 25, 2016
The way Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand are meshing at the World Cup, it's easy to envision Marchand in a Penguins' sweater. One problem. It'll probably never happen.
There's no doubt that Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand have talked about it. They skate together in the summer and are making magic in the World Cup of Hockey. Lots of it. And with just 263 shopping days left until Marchand stands to become an unrestricted free agent, it’s never too early to start envisioning Marchand playing alongside Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After all, Marchand is the winger Crosby has never had. Throughout his international career, the challenge has been finding a winger that meshes with Crosby and that search has often been a challenging one. But here at the World Cup, Crosby, with some help from Marchand, delivered on the big stage and was the biggest reason Canada won its 14th straight best-on-best game dating back to 2010 in Vancouver and will advance to the final against either Sweden or Team Europe starting Tuesday night. There were a lot of contributors to Canada's 5-3 win over Russia in the semifinal, but it was Crosby and Marchand who provided the spark.
“That’s a long ways away,” Marchand acknowledged when asked last night about the possibility of playing with Crosby. “There’s championship games here, we got to think about that first. But we’ll deal with whatever needs to be dealt with down the road. But it’s a lot of fun playing with Sid, there’s no question about that. But for now we’ll keep that to here.”
He kept that open-ended enough, didn’t he? So let the Brad Marchand Free Agent Watch officially begin. It makes so much sense on so many levels.
Except there’s almost no chance it’s going to happen. The Boston Bruins, who must be growing weary of losing star players as salary cap casualties, seem to finally have their financial house in order. There has been an ongoing dialogue between the Bruins and Marchand all summer and all signs point toward him signing a long-term deal in Boston, likely for eight years and somewhere in the range of $6 million per season. In fact, don’t be surprised if something gets done with Marchand before the start of next season.
And that’s a good thing for the Bruins. Smart call on their part. Because Marchand’s play in the World Cup has been nothing short of brilliant with Crosby. And if he has another season in 2016-17 like he did in 2015-16, the price would continue to rise. Marchand is on a very team-friendly deal in Boston and deserves a raise of at least $1.5 million on a long-term deal. In fact, the first couple of years of that deal might be a bargain for the Bruins still.
So we’ll have to be content with Crosby, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron being a marvel for Canada. And while both Marchand and Bergeron have been terrific, Crosby has been otherworldly. When asked why Crosby has been so good in the World Cup, Canadian defenseman Shea Weber mused, “Because he’s only had a month-and-a-half off? I don’t know. It looks like he just kept skating.”
Indeed. In fact, it looks as though, at the age of 29, Crosby might actually be getting better. The 2016 playoffs will be remembered as the point in his career when Crosby channeled his inner Steve Yzerman. His impressive two-way play was the main reason he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP last spring. But when you watch him strip the puck off Dmitry Kulikov, drive to the front of the net and make a poised 1-on-1 play the way he did on Canada’s first goal of the game, it sure looks as though he may not have actually hit his ceiling. When Crosby struggled through Vancouver, and to a lesser extent Sochi, he might not have scored a goal like that one. Add to the fact that he went 12-5 in the faceoff circle and you may be seeing a player who is actually approaching his apex. It’s little wonder that Crosby and Marchand are running 1-2 in tournament scoring at the moment.
“I just think he knows how good he is and he’s more patient with what he’s doing,” Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said of Crosby. “When things don’t go well, he doesn’t get frustrated. When people crosscheck him he doesn’t get riled up. He just knows he’s going to have success over time. The other thing that happens when he plays with Toews and not on the same line, but Toews does a lot of stuff so he can do what he does. So to me that's a pretty good one-two punch.”
Crosby is part of a core group – Bergeron, Weber, Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty,Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are the others – who have been together through both the Vancouver and Sochi Games and on this team. That certainly helped Canada when it went down 2-1 in the second period and things were looking dicey for, oh, about five minutes there. Seventy-two seconds after Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Russians ahead 2-1 late in the second period, Crosby dug out a loose puck and sent it to Marchand for the easy goal.
And that Crosby vs. Ovechkin thing? Well, that’s becoming as big a rout as Canada vs. Russia, isn’t it? Crosby has bettered Alex Ovechkin in two playoff series and in international competition, his Canada teams are 4-0-0 and have outscored Russia by a 25-8 margin. “I don’t think it’s over,” Crosby said when asked whether Canada-Russia as a compelling game has run its course. “If you look at their team, they have some pretty special players, a lot of talent, a lot of skill, exciting guys to watch and it’s great hockey.”