Sunday, February 29, 2004

Everything Burkie!

Brian Burke's status as GM, is taking on more attention than the team on the ice these days. Is he quitting? Is he being forced out? Has John McCaw sold the team, and the new owners want their own guy in place? The rumours fly around Vancouver like a gale off the Pacific, through Stanley Park and down Georgia.

Tonight on Hockey Night in Canada, Al Strachan spoke on the Satellite Hot Stove and said that Burke had demanded 2 million dollars, to stay in Vancouver. The good news for HNIC is that Burke is a fan, the bad news was that he was pretty annoyed with Strachan and "demanded" some time to rebut the report. Quickly granted (CBC knowing controversy is good for ratings, hi there Donald S) they rushed Burke onto the screen before the Canucks/Blues game Saturday night. Burke once again reinforced his desire to stay in Vancouver and denied that money had anything to do with the apparent impasse at the moment.

Never shy with the media, Burke is taking on a life of his own these days. Check out some of these stories about him and his situation, then you too can be as confused as everyone else involved in this mess.

Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe recounts Burke's Boston years, he wonders aloud if the Canucks management really get this hockey thing or not.

Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail contemplates what being a lame duck GM in Vancouver means for both Burke and the team. The Globe as a newspaper has been rather fascinated by all the controversy in Vancouver with Jim Morris jumping in with a report for Canadian Press.

Burke finds some solid support from an unlikely source, the Denver Post jump into the fray, reporter Terry Frei, say he deserves a better fate than what's playing out at the moment.

Burke is becoming quite the celebrity and if the Canuck's don't appreciate him, there is one group in BC that must love him. The pulp and paper industry will be able to thank Burke should they find their inventories start to dwindle and the price goes up. All this press attention, has got to be good news for them, if the Canuck's don't want him perhaps COFI will sign him up!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Habs hold off Hurricanes

Mike Riberio has stopped taking shots at his captain, instead turning his shots towards the opposition. One of which found the mark tonight in the Habs 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Riberio scored after three minutes of Overtime to give the Habs the win. Montreal climbed into seventh place with tonight's win, three point ahead of the New York Islanders. Collecting their fourth straight win, the Habs helped Jose Theodore celebrate his sixth shutout of the season, as he turned back eighteen shots for the win. Theodore now has 23 shutouts on his career thus far.

Montreal peppered Kevin Weekes with 31 shots on the way to the win, a statistic that tells one a lot about the game. The Hurricanes couldn't find much ice in the Montreal end and left Weekes to his own devices on far too many occasions. Carolina which is apparently raising the white flag this year didn't look particularly interested in giving the Habs any trouble, recording only four shots in the second period. Carolina were lucky to leave the game only losing by one goal.

For the Habs fans it was a rewarding sight, as they entertained their tenth sell out in a row. No booing of Saku Koivu tonight, that controversy apparently simmering, but not on the boil lately. Jacques Demers the latest to toss some oil on the flames, claiming that Koivu wouldn't be a captain on his team. Fortunately for Saku, Demers is far removed from coaching these days, for the most part his fellow players have come out solidly in support of him. Which is good, the Habs back on track now, don't need stupid little ego plays getting in the way of the playoff trail.

Leaf fans begin to breath again

The Eagle is back in his roost, the offence has once again found the net and the Maple Leaf nation is once again breathing regularly. All is well in the centre of the Universe! Funny what a little confidence at the back end will do for a team.

Belfour recorded his sixth shutout of the year Saturday a 3-0 win at the Air Canada Centre. Belfour faced 17 shots as he collected the 71st shutout of his career. Martin Brodeur had an off night facing 27 shots and surrendering three of them. It was a solid game for the Leafs, one which back up goaltenders Telvquist and Kidd might have wished to have seen from time to time over the last month or so.

The confidence showing as the game progressed, the Leafs looked more like the team everyone was raving about two months ago as opposed to the team they were all whining about the last two weeks or so. If nothing else, the return of Eddie is going to bring down everyone's blood pressure, which was getting into dangerous territory for the Maple Leaf Nation!

Sabres hopes, sliding away!

A few weeks ago the Buffalo Sabres were making things difficult for the Montreal Canadiens, pulling closer and closer to the Habs as they seemed to finally get their game in gear. What a difference fourteen days can make! The Sabres were shellacked tonight as the Ottawa Senators led by Bryan Smolinski put on a clinic putting the Sabres down 7-1 at the Corel Centre. For the Sabres the first five minutes were the best minutes, scoring their only goal at 4:15, the Sabre highlight reel ended right then and there. Buffalo has now fallen eight points behind the Islanders in the chase for the final playoff spot in the East.

Smolinski had a goal and two assists as the Senators entertained the sell out crowd in Ottawa and pulled even with Philadelphia in the Eastern Division. The Sens hold a game in hand at the moment and are starting to put together those solid games that everyone expected from the start of the season.

Former Buffalo tough guy Rob Ray rejoined the Senators tonight, filling in for Martin Havlat who began serving his two game suspension tonight for his stick work in Philadelphia the other night.

The Sens won't have much more time to make an impression on the home town fans, they have only four more home dates left in the regular season. But Sens fans aren't worried, they anticipate a long run of playoff hockey at the Corel Centre and look forward to watching the Sens in action into the end of May, possibly as long as mid June. There won't be an empty seat in the place for the rest of the year and scalpers are about to see an increase in profits to rival the high tech bubble of a few years ago. Lets just hope the team doesn't come back down to earth as fast as the stocks did!

Big Line Back , Big Win, Big Points

Vancouver fans will fall back on the bandwagon tonight, as the Canucks righted their ship during the homestand, winning the games they needed to win and pulling to within one point of the Colorado Avalanche. Tonight's 2-0 win over the Blues, featured a big game by the first line where they crashed, banged and had many chances to set the tone for the game, as Vancouver and St. Louis put on a pretty good display of hockey.

Both goaltenders Chris Osgood and Johan Hedberg had impressive games, keeping the teams close through all three periods of play. Osgood who at times seemed to be left on his own, had one of those games that would have saved Joel Quenville's job, had he still been in St. Louis. Hedberg, who has been getting sporadic starts, must have risen a notch or two in the mind of Marc Crawford with his play tonight as well. Making spectacular saves and headmanning the puck impressively at times.

Bertuzzi, Naslund and Morrison had their best game in a long time, dominating play completely in the third period, getting many chances but just coming short of scoring. Naslund is starting to get back into the groove shaking off the rust of inaction, after suffering a concussion in Colorado a couple of weeks ago. The only negative of the evening for the Canucks was the inability of the power play to take advantage of their seven opportunites, only scoring once tonight on the Power play.

Artem Chubarov and Mattias Ohlund were the goal scorers, Ohlund's coming on the power play in the third. Trevor Linden continued his quest to try and become the all time scorer on Vancouver, but didn't get the goal or assist that will put him over the top, despite being on at the end of the game with a St. Louis empty net. Somebody set this guy up and get this monkey off of his back! Hedberg stared down Pavel Demitra in a penalty shot with only 3 seconds to go in the game putting the exclamantion point on the evening.

A rough hitting, fast paced game it was reminiscent of the playoff battles of last year. Matt Cooke was particularly effective tonight, crashing, bashing and getting in the face of many of the Blues. A perfect way for the Canucks to end the homestand with their third straight win at home. They now wait until the much anticipated rematch with the Avs, featuring Naslund assassin (according to Nucks fans) Steve Moore, with first place possibly on the line that night, Wednesday may not be revenge night for the Canucks, instead a solid thumping of the Avs on the scoreboard may do them more good long term than evening any scores that night. At any rate, Wednesday night's game is probably the big game thus far for both teams, should make for some fascinating hockey.

Repeat after me, we are proud of (insert players name here)

The Washington Capitals dusted off the fax machine again today, announcing yet another departure from DC to places playoff bound. Robert Lang is the beneficiary of Honest Ted's fire sale, as Washington shipped the centre off to the Detroit Red Wings for a prospect and two draft picks.

Lang takes his five million dollar a year salary to Detroit and joins a talent laden team seemingly retooling for another run at the Stanley Cup. He is presently tied for the lead in scoring and has a thirteen game point streak going, that done with the woeful Caps, imagine how his stats may multiply with the Wings.

GM George McPhee issued what has become a regular statement, "We could not have asked for more from Robert Lang over the past two seasons,", Please press one to repeat the message, please press two to hear our next departure time.

The final two high profile names left in Capital colours are Sergei Gonchar and OIaf Kolzig, expect McPhee to issue the above statement at least twice more before March 9th. The shelves are almost bare at Honest Ted's, where a good deal is as close as your telephone or fax machine.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ugly start for Bowness

The Rick Bowness era in the desert is not off to a great start. Bowness who replaced Bobby Francis yesterday as coach of the Desert Dogs, watched his new charges lose to the lowest of the low, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Coyotes showed all the same traits for Bowness that got Francis fired, blowing a 3-1 lead going into the third, letting the Penguins get back into the flow of the game and to eventually win it 4-3 in Overtime. It was the first Pittsburgh victory since January 12th, a period of time in which they've been outscored 83-40.

For Phoenix it's more of the same, much to the chagrin of what few fans there are in Arizona. Bowness is to run out the string of the season with a team that has had it's starting goaltender traded away and made some other questionable moves. it's a team that shows no inclination to try and recapture the run they went on prior to the New Year.

Many thought that Bowness was given the reins as a form of audition for the job, if so it's off to a rocky start. The Gretzky led Coyotes organization have a number of old friends keeping in touch, rumours of a Barry Melrose or Marty McSorley, rejoining old pal Wayne come next season, if there is a next season.

For Bowness it's lame duck season, for his team it's the case of a lame dog wandering in the desert. For both, the end of the season can't come soon enough.

Beflour's back has Leafs off the track

The nervous fans of the Maple Leaf Nation are starting to get a little antsy about Eddie's chiropractic needs and wants. As Beflour continues to sit on the sidelines and the Leafs continue to lose hockey games, the nervous nellies are starting to speak out.

Mojo radio's post game show was full of apoplectic Leaf fans last night as the Bud's dropped a game 4-0 to that powerhouse Florida panther squad. Demands to pick up Olaf Kolzig, Arturs Irbe, anybody really were heard through the night, the assembled faithful deciding that the Telvquist/Kidd tandem just won't do it come playoff time.

The Leafs skid continues and the fingernails get shorter for Leaf fans. Some of whom last night said it was time to get rid of coach Pat Quinn as "he'd lost the team in the dressing room". Now that's the thing you have to like about the Leaf fan, none of them have probably ever been even within smelling distance of a dressing room, yet they all seem to know how the "room" works. It's to make one shake your head, Quinn has taken a not very good team through the first two thirds of the season and kept them far above where they really should be. Toss in the injuries the team has suffered and you have to wonder how he's doing it. To toss him over the side because of the skid would be ludicrous, if it weren't so funny, so typically Toronto.

The clamor for Belfour to return is getting louder and louder, yet you have to wonder why they want him to rush back. It makes no difference if the Leafs finish first, fourth or eighth, as long as they finish in the playoffs. That's when they need Belfour's back, back if you will. To rush him into the lineup now, is only to invite disaster at playoff time. But for the Leaf Nation there is good news this day, Belfour himself figures he's only a couple of days away, he may even play tonight against the Lightning.

Which will do wonders for the nerves of the callers to mojo. Mind you the noisy throng may be correct on one point; they probably will have to trade for a more reliable back up. Trevor Kidd is going to have the recent losing skid tied to his butt, whether justified or not. So they'll want to move him, if they can find someone to take him on. Finding someone to spell off Belfour and who is able to step in should disaster strike, is the thing the Leafs need to work on now.

The hopes of the Leaf Nation are only a slipped disc or spasmodic twinge away, from being dashed yet again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Minor hockey wish lists

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all the negativity around the impending labour situation at the NHL, if you're thinking that the game is a lost cause, here's a bit of a tonic to tide you over the rough periods.
If you are involved in minor hockey or think your local organization could use a bit of help, here's a program to pass on to your local executive. Have them check it out and see if it could be of help.

The NHLPA has a grassroots program called Goals and Dreams, where they provide money for various minor hockey initiatives. A pool of fifteen million dollars is there part of a five year plan to improve hockey around the world. First started in 1999, Goals and Dreams has provided everything from hockey equipment to rink boards. Ice resurfacers to Ice systems.

To find out more check it out at the NHLPA website, they have a video to watch, all sorts of information about the program and a comprehensive list of what's been provided so far. A great program by the players association putting something back into the game, not only in North America but around the world.

Gutsy Moose continue to play hard, despite player shortage

The Manitoba Moose are finding that their character players aren't going to let them feel sorry for themselves in the short term. With the Vancouver Canucks suffering a bout of injuries the Moose have seen their roster depleted by call ups, as Brendan Reid the team's top scorer has been the latest to be summoned to the big show.

For Manitoba that meant that the grunt players are expected to step up now, and last night they did just that. With Fedor Federov and Tyler Bouck joining Reid in Vancouver, the Moose find three of their top scorers not around at the moment, so it's the grinders who go to work.

Last night's game against the River Rats of Albany may not go down as a poetic vision of hockey, and the Moose probably didn't deserve the result as they played to a tie. Ugly hockey is probably an appropriate description of the pace of the game, with the Moose taking the lead early in the third period. Albany came back to tie it later in the third and that's the way the game ended.

It was Manitoba's third unbeaten game and moves them to within four points of playoff spot in the AHL, all the more impressive considering the constant shuffle of players between the Peg and Vancouver. Stan Smyl probably won't tell them just yet, but he has to be a bit proud of the way his team has knuckled down to the job at hand, not made any excuses and kept at it. If for no other reason than that, the Moose deserve to make the AHL playoffs.

Can't put them away

What is it with the Ottawa Senators and late game leads. For whatever reason, the Sens get a two or three goal lead and then proceed to let the opposition get back into the game. Last night was another example of the Senators give til it hurts program. Leading the Habs into third period 2-1 the Sens managed to turn the puck over to Montreal enough times to end up giving the Canadiens a 4-2 victory.

Up until the third it had been a fairly good performance by the Sens and particularly goaltender Patrick Lalime who appeared to be getting into a groove, no doubt fueled by John Muckler's public declaration of support. But then the third period collapse began, the fifth time this month the Sens have thrown in the towel in the third. Lalime was left on his own as the Sens chose to sit back and let the Habs take the game to them. Costly penalties mental mistakes and bad giveaways sealing their fate and knocking them out of first place for the time being.

Not sure how you instill a killer instinct into a hockey club, but coach Jacques Martin and GM John Muckler have got to find that recipe quickly. Last night's game didn't cost them a playoff spot, but it's habits like this that can come back to haunt you later on. The Sens have blown too many opportunities to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference. Not to mention the chance to show other teams that all is lost once they fall behind. Instead, the Sens seem to want to keep the other teams in the game, a trait they had best get rid of should they want to get to the Stanley Cup final.

Sedin shoots, he scores, he scores, he scores, he scores

Last night was a banner night for Daniel Sedin as the Vancouver Canuck scored all four goals for the Nucks as they beat up on the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 at GM Place. It was like a coming out party for the Swede as the Vancouver fan base finally got to see a flash of what they have been promised for a number of years now. It seemed like Daniel could do no wrong, every puck seemed to find a piece of the net, he found himself in perfect position time and time again. Paired up with brother Henrik and Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel showed much confidence on the ice last night, Bertuzzi's influence giving the twins more ice to work with and it's been a successful combination while Marcus Naslund has been out. The third goal in the third period did the most damage, as it took the gas out of a never say die Red Wing team, a team which lost all star defenceman Chris Chelios to injury. Sedins' fourth was into an empty net in the waning moments of the game. Sending the GM place crowd to it's feet with enthusiasm.

The two Sedin's have been at the top of the performer's list on the Canucks the last six weeks or so, picking up their game quite a bit and beginning to silence the critics who had grown tired of waiting for them to come around. The increased confidence has paid off for both the twins and the Canucks, as it gives the team a solid second line threat now, one which other teams have to make allowances for during line match ups. Their sudden burst of scoring, will give Marc Crawford some food for thought when Naslund returns possibly as early as this Saturday. Does he move Bertuzzi back onto the line with Naslund or keep him on the Sedin unit. Most likely the big line will be re-united, but expect Bertuzzi to get some double shifts with the Sedin's from time to time down the stretch, his presence seems to make them a better threat on the ice as well. Look for Brian Burke to try and scratch up someone of similar caliber as Bertuzzi to work with the Sedins by the trading deadline.

The win for the Canucks was a big one for many reasons. It was in front of a home crowd that had been showing signs of bandwagon hopping, destination off, after some setbacks earlier this month. The out hit the Wings and gave notice that they're on their way back to battling for first over all and they picked up some points on Colorado, who lost to Calgary last night. The win last night took some of the bile out of the after game phone callers who have lately been berating the Canucks on the open line shows after poor performances.

Cashiered Coaches

A rather unstable twenty four hours for the coaching profession in the NHL. Three coaches are now no longer behind the bench, after struggling teams decided it was time for a change. The purging of the ranks began in St. Louis where the Blues bid Joel Quennville adieu, after six and a half years the popular Quennville is now a free agent. Injuries, less than stellar goaltending and a certain lack of work ethic at times spelled the end for Quennville as the Blues try to get back into the playoff race. Mike Kitchen has been tapped on the shoulder to fill in behind the bench on the interim basis, it's his task now to turn the Blues around. A team that is showing a degree of burn out of late. As the old saying goes you can't fire the whole team, so fire the coach. Don't expect him to be unemployed for long, if there is hockey in September, expect to find Quennville behind a bench someplace.

Phoenix also processed the unemployment forms, deciding that the slide of the Coyotes lay at the feet of coach Bob Francis, who had coached the team for four years. A month ago many folks were expressing delight at the pace of the dogs as they looked to be in a serious bid for a playoff spot, now with only two wins in fourteen games, they may not even make the playoffs. And with the slide, Francis finds himself on the skids out the door. Rick Bowness, takes over on an interim basis, the Coyote assistant has had head coaching experience in Winnipeg, an expansion Ottawa club, Boston and Long Island under Mad Mike Milbury. It's up to him to get a seemingly dis-interested team back into the playoff hunt, many feel the team turned on Francis and had tuned him out. Which again would mean that the players cost their coach a job, an apparent recurring theme in the NHL these days. But Francis was a holdover hire by the Gretzky ownership group, pre dating Wayne and friends in Phoenix, many thought that this day would eventually come to pass. It's expected that at the end of the season, Gretzky will find someone that is closer in line with his thinking to hold down the coaching position.

The third coaching statistic wasn't all that un-expected, as a matter of fact it had been chanted by the faithful for over a month now. Glen Sather, listening to the crowd chant "fire Sather" took their advice this morning, moving himself back up to the executive offices and away from the bench. The Sather experiment has not bee a successful time, with the vastly overpaid and underperforming Rangers dropping out of the playoff race at a rapid pace. Sather had originally planned to ignore the Ranger fan base and stay the course until the end of the season, but after a meeting with team ownership decided to step aside. Tom Renney will take control on an interim basis, as he tries to get the Rangers to make the last twenty games of the season a worthwhile endeavor. It's been seven years since a Ranger team managed to make it into the playoffs, not many folks are giving Mr. Renney any hope of breaking that losing skid. Not sure what Sather will do with his free time now, but finding new homes for his non performing stable might make management happy if nothing else.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Strap on the blades, grab some tape, you're going to camp!

A new reality type television show, will hit the airwaves next fall, and it's got to be a sure fire winner for Hockey fans across the HockeyNation. CBC is apparently on line with "Making the Cut", co sponsored by Molson Breweries. Making the Cut will hold "training" camps across Canada starting in May, giving hockey players of all abilities, one final chance to chase the dream.

It's expected that over 20,000 amateur would be stars will make the attempt at NHL glory, working their way through elimination rounds across the nation. With Jack Birch, a long time scout in the NHL handling the organization of coaches and evaluators for the series, participants can expect to be put through their paces.

The reward for working their way through the gruelling elimination sessions, will be an invitation to one of six NHL training camps across Canada in the late summer of 2004. The televised episodes will start in September and continue on CBC in prime time, until mid December.

Sharpen your skates, get those graphite sticks and get the gear out of the closet, you could be off to training camp by August!

Is Eric Lindros' career finished?

A well known eye specialist and close friend to the Lindros family is urging Eric to call it a career. Dr. Thomas Pashby, says that Eric should hang up his skates before he suffers another concussion and ends up "punch drunk"

The 88 year old doctor, who has been a long time friend of the family says if he were Eric's grandfather, he would urge him to retire, saying that there's a lot of life left after hockey. And while the advice has been offered as a close friend, Lindros is weighing his options and would still like to play if he can.

He is to see Montreal concussion specialist Dr. Karen Johnston this week, and will need her permission before he can get back on the ice. Dr. Johnston has a full appointment book with Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau and Lindros to name a few waiting for further tests and information. Her word is going to go a long way to shaping some hopes this post season.

Lindros needs to take his time and decide what's best for him, beyond hockey. For most of his career somebody else has been making decisions about and for him. This time it's a very important one that has to be made, he really should do what's best for him and him alone. Perhaps it's time for him to leave the game with his head held high, before he can't hold it up anymore!

Muckler sends a message

Senators General Manager John Muckler laid out the word today, Patrick Lalime is the organizations go to guy for the 2004 Stanley Cup chase. Muckler addressed the media in Ottawa, to advise that the team will not be trading before the March 9 deadline to replace Lalime. A message he also delivered personally to Lalime, in a private meeting prior to talking to the press.

Acknowledging that Patrick has been struggling of late, Muckler said that the team planned on increasing his work load down the stretch to prepare him for the playoffs. Saying that he had complete faith in Lalime, he dismissed the media rumblings about his goaltender as troublemakers with nothing better to do.

The puck is Patrick's to stop, with the message delivered loud and clear, look for his team mates to increase their efforts to help their goaltender. A solid message delivered by Muckler today, one which tells his team, this is the team that can go to the Cup, time to get down to work!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Backyard rink and other hockey icons

Hockey Day in Canada was as usual a smashing success, as the CBC turned over the bulk of it's programming day on Saturday,to everything and everyone hockey. From three great games on the tube, to stories of the game from the far corners of the land, it was a celebration of Canadiana. You know you're in store for a Canadian lovefest, when you hear the strains of Gordon Lightfoot's, Canadian Railroad trilogy as the opening theme.

One of the interesting features this year was the backyard rink contest, in which Canadians from coast to coast to coast, constructed their home backyard rink, submitted the finished product to the CBC for consideration, with the winner announced on the broadcast Saturday. This years winning effort came from Fort McMurray, Alberta, a twin family project, that goes to show that tearing down fences can go a long way to bringing happiness.

The backyard rink has come a long way from the one my Dad constructed for me in our Falcon Avenue backyard in Ottawa, oh so many years ago. The iced over snowbanks giving way to wood, the moonlight replaced by electricity. Today's backyard rink, is almost a marvel of engineering, regulation boards, halogen lights, scoreboards, advertising space, even a hazard (the tree in the winning entry, is priceless, yet only adults manage to run into it go figure). If nothing else our universities will be teeming with creative, Engineering students in the next five to ten years.

Check out the CBC's excellent website links to all the features of Hockey Day In Canada in case you missed something or want to see it one more time. It's a pretty neat way of celebrating the game, brining hockey fans across the country together for one day. Can't wait to see what they have planned for next year.

The Near Miracle

With the release of Miracle, the Hollywood tribute to the American gold medal winning team of 1980 Winter Olympics. Comes the usual hyperbole over that great moment in Hockey History. It has become part of hockey lore in the USA, the modern crucible of their hockey in the States today.

But well before the American's crafted their miracle there was a little Canadian team, that came oh, so close, to toppling the Soviet Hockey Machine. A group of college aged kids, who while unknown to the nation, gave it their all in service for their country.

They may never get a movie made about them, but now, thanks to an article by Tom Hawthorne, on the Tyee, they'll never be forgotten.

Check the article out and think fondly of that 64 Olympic squad, put together by Father Bauer. A fourth place finish and a wee bit of Olympic politics, tarnishing the great experiment. Dashing dreams and leaving some still bitter to this day. It's a fascinating read for any hockey fan, check it out!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Jovo's in the air!

Ed Jovanovski, tired of listening to callers berate his teammates, took to the air on a Vancouver radio station on Friday, defending the honor of the out of town Canucks. Incensed at a caller who called the Canucks a bunch of clowns, Jovo, called the main switchboard of Team 1040 and asked to be put on the air.

The fans were apparently in a foul mood after the Canucks 6-2 loss to Minnesota the night before, and were venting their feelings on the air. Some with a little more venom than others. Jovo had enough and called in to set a few straight. Telling a self-described season ticket holder, that he could go ahead and sell his tickets, if he wanted to be unfair and make derogatory comments about the team.

Not sure how Brian Burke might feel about Jovo's intervention into the realm of season ticket sales, but then Burke himself was rather busy over at CKNW facing the fans on that station. No doubt though he's wishing Jovo was back in the line-up, and had a little less time on his hands.

However, it's nice to see that they can still play a little defence in the Canuck's organization, there certainly was more the morning after, than the night before.

Hit the road Dom?

Well either he can't take a hint, hasn't been confronted yet or the Red Wing management has chosen to play with Curtis Joseph's head. Whatever the answer, Dominik, has not left the building.

Hasek, who announced his own conclusion to the current NHL campaign last week, is still hanging around the Red Wing dressing room, watching the games on tv, attending charity events and lounging around after practice in the Red Wing relaxation zone. All of which is raising eyebrows on a team that thought they were back to business after the shenanigans of the last little while.

The fellow who claimed last week that he never talks with Curtis Joseph, seems to not want to leave the confines of the cozy Red Wing family. Mind you some players are a tad confused about it all, one player saying "is he here again today".

The Red Wings are set to go on a road trip, so the real test of his status will be if he's at the team meal on the first night out of town. If so, Hasek's pulled groin will appear to be a pain in another part of the anatomy for some of his teammates.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Burke speaks his mind!

Fans of the Vancouver Canucks will want to pull up the CKNW website, find the audio archive and select Friday, February 20, 9-10 am. Brian Burke was the guest on the Bill Good show and held court on many of the issues of the day.

He spoke briefly and sparingly about his contract status, claiming he never wanted the situation to become the public affair it has become. He went on to say that he wanted to stay in Vancouver, if the team wants him. Also mentioned something strange, he said he "was trying to set up a meeting with Mr. McCaw". Now I'm not one much on knowing how billionaires work, but you wouldn't think that the guy running your hockey team would have trouble reaching you. Something slightly un-nerving about that statement. Would be nice to know where the Canucks sit on the whole issue of Burke's contract. Faithful readers of HockeyNation know we've been calling for him to be signed quickly, that opinion still stands.

After dealing with that smoldering issue, Burke went on to his team and the league in general. The big topic was the hit on Naslund. Burke said he disagreed with his captain on that hit. Naslund says he didn't think the hit was dirty. Burke said that in his opinion the hit was a cheap shot, dirty hit, given by a borderline player on a star. He also said he wasn't going to whine about it to the league office, having done Colin Campbell's job in the past. Burke added that he expects somebody in blue to take care of the situation for him. I assume that means that Mr. Moore had best keep his head up in the next game against the Canucks.

The bulk of the conversation was about the Canucks travails this season and if there were any plans to improve the lineup by the trading deadline. Burke says if there is a deal out there "that makes sense" he'll do it. Suggesting he had a few chances to make some changes but was expected to give up too much.

The hour was typical Burke, candid, outspoken and loyal to his team. The fans for the most part all urged Canuck management to get him signed ASAP. We imagine he should be able to get a call through to John McCaw shortly now.

In search of hearts and minds

The NHL launched the first salvo in the great PR war yesterday. A website dedicated to the issue of collective bargaining hit the wired world, with the NHL's point of view on the great debate.

Included so far is the Levitt report, a tidy little package of figures of doom, showing how many of the NHL franchises are just living at the edge of the abyss, one little nudge and they could all go tumbling down.

There's a section of collective bargaining basics, a handy little glossary so you can follow the various terms used in this epic struggle. Such as cost certainty, inflationary spirals and player costs, Interesting to note that the terms: greedy owners or players , scabs, union or Goodenow don't turn up in the glossary. Nor does any mention of that hard pressed shareholder the fan, appear.

And a section called understanding the CBA, which promises to give you everything you need to know about the CBA process (no doubt without that filter provided by that evil Bob Goodenow).

A little mutual admiration society exists as well with the likes of old buddy and former boss, David Stern giving him some comfort. Some football players drop by as well, extolling the virtues of the NFL way of doing things. Which apparently is the model Mr. Bettman would like one day to emulate. (minus that humongous cash flow of course).

Already described as nothing but propoganda, you can expect it to narrow it's focus as things progress or deteriorate (depending on your take on half full or half empty glasses). Expect the Players association to counter with their own fact site very shortly, so far the first victor in the great debate are website developers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Clearance, Clearance, Clearance

All that's missing are the loud obnoxious radio commercials and the huge banner signs on the MCI centre. The Washington Capitals are having a clearance sale, and all are invited to come in and browse.

With Peter Bondra packing his bags and getting his passport updated for the move to Ottawa, there's only a few more bodies on the shelves at Crazy Ted's Discount emporium

Crazy Ted is clearing the merchandise, having moved most of his fancy European produce and now looks to finish off the job, taking offers on his trusty German and the relatively young Russian models.

With the season over half over and the Caps mired in the lower reaches of the standings, Leonis has decided it's rebuilding time and he wants to get that salary structure down low, low, low.

Olie Kolzig is expected to have a new zip or postal code by the March 9th deadline, his silver lining is that it will most likely be a team hot in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Defenceman Sergei Gonchar is also expected to be packing his sticks and moving on, as the contenders prepare to pillage the pretenders.

For the long suffering Caps fan it must be hard pill to swallow, in 1998 they were Stanley Cup finalists. Now they resemble the expansion era Caps, as opposed to the team of the future of five years ago.

Having watched the parade of exiles leaving DC the last few weeks, both Kolzig and Gonchar are resigned to their fate. Kolzig, who has been no. 1 for seven years in Washington, acknowledges that his huge salary of 6.25 million is something that a rebuilding Caps team can't swallow. So he knows that he won't be finishing his career as a Capital.

Gonchar makes about 2 million less than Kolzig, but also realizes that a team tearing down it's foundation, won't be needing a veteran blue liner for the foreseeable future. With nine years as a Cap, he's prepared to bid farewell to the team he's starred for. It's part of the game he says, you have to just get up and move on.

As the lights dim for another day at Crazy Ted's, the phones will go silent for the night. But first thing tomorrow morning, the store opens up, and operators will be standing by. There are deals, deals, deals. Everything must go at Crazy Ted's clearance sale. No reasonable offer refused, hell even unreasonable offers may get a positive reply.

Battlin' Habs

Not content with trying to battle for a playoff spot with the fast charging Sabres, the Habs are starting to fight amongst themselves. Captain Saku Koivu and leading goal scorer Mike Ribeiro had two dust ups in practice on Wednesday, as the Canadiens try to come to terms with a four game losing streak.

Apparently laying the lumber on each other too much during practice drills, the two squared off twice only to be separated by team mates and sent on their own way to neutral corners. The scraps highlight a frustrating couple of weeks for the Habs, who seemed free and clear to claim a playoff spot only a couple of weeks ago. Now with their losses and Buffalo's fast approaching climb up the standings, the Habs are feeling a bit of pressure to keep on their game.

Claude Julien wasn't overly concerned with his captain and leading scorer tossing the fists, claiming it was just a tension relief for the team. Ribiero said there was no malicious behavior in the scraps and that all is well, just a little healthy competition. Koivu had nothing to say to the press after practice.

The Canadiens face the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, hoping to rebound after a 4-1 loss to Atlanta earlier this week, a game that saw the team booed off the ice by the faithful at Bell Centre. They have seen an inspirational leader in Sheldon Souray get injured, possibly for the rest of the season. So they're feeling a little overwhelmed by events at the moment. Not particularly deep in a line up, they can't afford to lose too many players, especially if they end up losing them in practice punch ups.

Sens load up the arsenal

The Ottawa Senators have made a statement to their fans and opposition teams today, they will be active participants for this year's Stanley Cup. In a long rumoured move, the Sens acquired the services of Peter Bondra from the Washington Capitals. The Caps who continue to unload star players at a record pace, expressed sadness at losing the services of Bondra, but said that he deserved a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for Capitals fans and season ticket holders that chance will come in Ottawa.

Bondra comes at a relatively inexpensive price to the Sens, going to Washington is minor leaguer Brooks Laich and the rights to the Sens second round draft pick in the 2005 draft. He'll be yet another solid addition to an offensive lineup already deep in goal scoring ability. Look for him to be prominent on the Sens power play unit, having become a specialist at that in Washington.

More importantly the Sens have given their own players notice, that this is the year. The stage is now set, for the Sens to finally achieve the long awaited goal of a Stanley Cup championship. A few more additions may be made as the trading deadline gets closer, maybe another policeman to keep the likes of Tie Domi honest. And the goaltending debate will always be in the back of the minds of most Sens fans, with the Bondra acquisition though that may be a moot point. More goals for per game, will go a long way to countering the ones against. It will be firewagon, shoot out style hockey in the Capital for the rest of the season. If the league is worried about goal scoring this year, look no further than the Senators for an example of who you will need to fill the net.

One disc from disaster

His Maple Leaf team mates might be missing Ed Belfour, but they certainly aren't giving him any reason to rush back to work. The injury to Belfour remains a mystery illness, little said about what it is or how serious it may be. In keeping with the John Le Carre script in Leafland, there still is no word on when he'll be back. The Leafs just say he'll return when he's ready and at 100%.

He must have mixed emotions on the idea though, Belfour who has missed six games now with that bad back, has watched the Maple Leaf players abandon his replacement Trevor Kidd. The Leaf backup, has had a horrid stretch in the nets, hearing the jeers of the Air Canada faithful in the last few outings. While he's been shaky in most of his games, he hasn't been the entire reason for the poor goals against. It has however, been left to Kidd to answer for 28 goals against in six games, even though he hasn't been in the net for all of them.

The entire team has forgotten the idea of backchecking, far too many opposition teams have been able to take the Leaf blue line at will, taking shot after shot at Kidd or Tellqvist. As a team they've completely forgotten their game plan, leaving Kidd to face the wrath of the fans.

Pat Quinn has been quick to take some of the heat from Kidd, explaining that it's a team game and his team has not been there when needed. However, Quinn must be worried about the weaknesses being exploited by opposing teams. The Leafs as a team will feel much more comfortable when Belfour is back between the pipes, but the trouble is deeper than a wonky back from the goaltender.

Finding a way to shut down Belfour's game, will go a long way to bringing down the Maple Leafs in the playoffs. If Belfour's back gets worse as the season goes along, the playoffs will only be a short term job for the Leafs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Hit!

The talk shows are full of venom, the dressing room steeped in revenge. Clear cutting of forests has been ordered to fill the sports pages, as the debate rages on. Was that a dirty hit or did Mats Naslund get caught with his head down.

The hit in question, was part of Monday's Canucks/Avalanche game in Denver. With less than two minutes to go in the second period, Mats Naslund was crushed to the ice near the centre circle, after a hit by Avalanche rookie Steve Moore. The referees made no call on the play, incensing the Canucks bench as they headed into the second intermission. As a matter of fact the Canuck's ended up with a penalty on the play when Brad May took offense to the hit.

After the game Brian Burke has described it as a cheap shot taken by a marginal player. Marc Crawford expressed disbelief at the wanton disregard the referees have for the leagues star players.

Various Canucks vowed revenge the next time the Canucks and Avalanche match up, the date to circle by the way is March 3rd, again in Denver. Burke warned his players not to get carried away with the verbal threats. Trying to keep his team focused on the job at hand, collecting some wins and catching the Avs for first overall in their division. A task they'll have to do without Naslund for at least a week, this was his first ever concussion and he took 13 stitches to close the cut on his nose. He will sit out for a week, then do some light exercises to see how he has progressed. By a strange twist of fate, that March 3rd game could end up being his first game back in a Canuck uniform.

As for the hit, while it may not have been pre-meditated, it certainly bordered on the verge of dirty. But that really wasn't anything unusual in this game, which featured a number of cheap shots and ugly stick work from both teams. Countless replays later you have to decide if Moore leaned in with his elbow, or caught Naslund with his shoulder. Can't say for myself one way or the other, though it did appear that Moore leaned down so as to exert maximum force, no replay I saw gave a clear shot of an elbow, but that much damage had to be caused by something.

The surprising aspect of the hit, was indeed the non call. There were many options available to a referee here, elbowing, interference, roughing, obstruction, intent to injure, pick one or two if you wish. No explanation was given as to the missed call, whether the refs believed it was a clean hit, or if they just missed the play. But with four officials on the ice, you have to wonder how so many infractions like these get missed. It also brings up the issue of how the star players are being treated in the NHL these days, Crawford is partially correct, when he says the league has left it's stars out to fend for themselves. Far too many NHL entertainers have been sidelined by marginal hits or unprovoked attacks. Even the Denver media can agree on that point, while they probably won't turn on their Av's, they too worry about their stars.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Sabres mount comeback and a bit of comeuppance for Leafs

That cocky Maple Leaf squad of late, got taught a bit of a lesson last night, never let your guard down. After coasting to a three goal lead, the Leafs sat back and watched their neighbors from across the lake come back in wave after wave. The Buffalo Sabres took complete control of the game, as the second period dwindled. Picking up where they left off, the Sabres completely dominated the Leafs as the third period began, scoring quickly and punishing the Leafs for their miscues. The Sabres have the scent of a playoff team all of a sudden and have been playing very competitive and rewarding hockey of late. Wins like Saturday nights, will go a long way to helping them make the jump into the post season.

A combination of stupid penalties (a wonderful Maple Leaf trait), horrid defensive work and unfortunate goaltending, all served to put the Leafs on the short end of a 6-4 loss. Many of the Maple Leaf faithful have offered up some wonderful suggestions for Mr. Quinn and Mr. Ferguson to consider.

Rosie Dimano composed a wonderfully lyrical account of the Sabres comeback, but one wonders if your average Leaf fan will be able to reference the Greek imagery put to print. Indeed if the Leaf adorned fans of Conan O'Brien week in Toronto are any indication, the average Leaf fan will be more inclined to think of the name Simpson when reading up on Homer. The again, the way that the Leafs performed last night, seems perfectly appropriate for comparisons to Greek tragedies.

Brian Burke's wished for rule change

Last week the NHL Gm's and Governors sat down and cobbled together some new (old) ideas to help speed up the flow of the game and try to put some more offence into things. Moving the nets back again, tag up offsides and reducing the golatenders handling of the puck, are just some of the ideas to be tried.

But if you're Brian Burke of the Vancouver Canucks, there's one rule you want to have implemented as soon as possible. The abolition of the second period. For the third game in a row, the Canucks left their effort in the dressing room between periods one and three. Last night, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks collected a 2-1 win at GM Place mainly on the disappearance of the entire Canuck team in the second period. This follows a similar effort on Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. Earlier in the week they had their troubles with the Calgary Flames and again the second period seemed to be the main problem area.

For what ever reason the Canucks seem to go into an extended intermission mode, that includes the twenty minutes of live time between the first and third periods. They seldom hit, can't score and welcome the opposition members into their end of the rink, as if they were holding an open house. Last night the Ducks outshot them in the second 15-6, testing Hedberg nine times in the first 90 seconds of the second period. To say he was left on his own would be an understatement.

They then rebound in the third, valiantly trying to get back into the game and recapture the quickly slipping away points. There has yet to be any solid explanation as to why they disappear for twenty minutes each game, but surely it must be a concern of both coach Crawford and GM Burke.

So they have two choices, figure out the on ice problem and solve it quickly. Or go to plan B, get that rule change into effect ASAP, instead of three periods, go to two halves. Maybe that way, the Canucks will be able to avoid that second period let down.

Controlling the fate of some of the biggest names in hockey

There is one person who has the power to say yea or nay. One person that can change the outcome of a lineup, to whom the opinion of Coaches and GM's matters not. One person that will send accountants scurrying for an abacus, in order to calculate lost income over insurance premiums. Who is this mystery person, this omni powerful hockey controller.

The name is Karen Johnston. Yes, Karen Johnston. She may not balance the books, make the trades or draft a player, but her word is gospel. If she says you're done, buddy pack your bags you're going home. Karen Johnston is a neurologist in Montreal, and right now she's the most important player in the NHL.

The doctor to the stars, has already done a workup on Eric Lindros, continuing to test his noggin, after the numerous hits he's taken over his career. Lindros has yet to tip his hand about returning to the ice, or retiring from it. But he's mindful of the past history of his brother Brett and Pat Lafontaine, to name a few of the names gone from the game.

This week Karen's appointment book, is once again the focal point of hockey fans. Jeremy Roenick is penciled in for a look see, after suffering what he estimates to be his ninth concussion in his career. Not to mention a broken jaw and over 50 stitches of repairs. The doctor will put Roenick through his neurological paces this week, give him some time to rest up and then discuss his options with him. Roenick has gone so far as to say he's seriously thinking of retiring, after this latest incident in New York City a few nights ago.

Of course there is no shortage of medical advice available in Philadelphia. For their part Doctors Clarke and Hitchcock say ole Jeremy will be back in no time, nowhere near the six to eight weeks rumoured to be the minimum wait. Dr. Clarke, claiming he had no idea that Roenick had such a history, suggested that patient Roenick might be back in four weeks. Dr. Hitchcock of course ever the optimist, says Roenick is suffering more of an emotional condition at the moment and only needs some bed rest, then he should be back as good as new.

For Roenick there is one thing to keep in mind, Dr. Johnston has the medical diploma's on her side and possibly her patient's best interests at heart. He'll have to decide if Doctors Clarke and Hitchcock are of a similar philosophy.

Friday, February 13, 2004

JR done for the year?

Philadelphia fans got some bad news today. Jeremy Roenick could be out of the line up for the rest of the season, having broken his jaw last night at Madison Square Garden. Roenick who was briefly unconscious on the ice, left the Garden with a pool of blood on the ice after taking a Boris Mironov shot to the face. This is the second broken jaw that Roenick has suffered, his last one as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes back in 1999. That time he missed three and half weeks, that would be wishful thinking this year. Ken Hitchcock, said that Roenick suffered a serious break of his jaw, and would most likely miss a significant amount of time. Certainly more than two to three weeks, Hitchcock said they would see how Roenick felt in a week and go from there.

That wasn't the only injury to the Flyers last night, less than two minutes after Roenick left the ice Keith Primeau went down. Primeau was knocked out of the game after a collision with Bobby Holik, but is expected back on the ice on Saturday.

For the Flyers, injuries have been part of their season from the beginning. Starting with Jeff Hackett suffering vertigo and retiring earlier this week. Eric Desjardins has been gone for a month with a broken arm. Defenceman Dennis Seidenberg, broke his leg that same week and has yet to return to the lineup.

Despite the constant stream of injuries, the Flyers have managed to stay atop the Division standings. They presently are tied with the Avalanche for first overall in the NHL.

It will be interesting to see if Bobby Clarke trades to shore up his missing players or tries to make it through the rest of season with the assembled squad. Hoping that everyone is healthy again by the playoffs.


Nothing positive can come from this game tonight. After losing to Calgary on Wednesday night, the Canucks dropped a second home game in a row, this one to the Atlanta Thrashers 4-1. Outplayed physically by the Thrashers, the Canucks failed to capitalize on the may chances they had to score. The game looked like it had the markings of a blowout early on, as the Canucks fired 13 shots to the Thrashers 1 in the first period. Spending most of the first period in the Thrasher end, peppering goaltender Pasi Nurminen with pucks. The Canucks got a taste of the frustration ahead when Jarkko Rutuu missed the net on a penalty shot, after putting Nurminen out of position.

To the Thrashers' credit they battled back in the second period, taking the play and dominating the Canucks outshooting them 11-7 and outscoring them three goals to one. Dany Heatley lead the Thrashers with a goal and an assist. Shawn McEachern, Ronald Petrovicky and Marc Savard rounded out the scoring for Atlanta. Daniel Sedin got the lone Canucks goal.

A lack of discipline and composure was the root cause of the Canucks loss tonight. Too many bad penalties, too much trying to even the score and not concentrating on the job at hand, were all part of the Canucks make up tonight. There's really no way that the Canucks should have lost this game tonight, Atlanta had not won in ten games, this was their first victory in seven games and they were coming in after a tiring trip through Alberta.

Fortunately for the Canucks, it's back to work tomorrow night as Anaheim comes to town. They need to get things back on track as soon as possible. The talk shows were full of critical fans following the game, angry at the effort, upset with the result.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

How timely, a report on the financial status of the NHL franchises.

The much anticipated review of finances of NHL franchises will be released Thursday. Stephen King took a year to put it together, oh wait, that's not right. It was a gentleman named Arthur Levitt, who authored the report. It will just resemble a Stephen King novel, and a rather gruesome one at that. Lots of blood, much screaming, walking zombies, horrific scenes, this should have it all.

Levitt, who previously spent time as the chairman of the American Stock Exchange (hmm, no interesting accounting in the US stock business) will paint a picture of losses, topping the 300 million dollar mark. It's generally believed, that 25 of the leagues 30 teams are losing money. The owners received a "sneak preview" of the document at the all-star game this past weekend. That could account for Gary Bettmans bitter news conference during the all star break. Not to mention the hostile Q and A with Ron McLean on Hockey Night in Canada. Bettman says that this document will prove the leagues point, that some form of cost certainty is required for the health of the game. A way to ensure that costs don't over run the profits.

NHLPA leader Bob Goodenow tends to disagree with Mr. Bettman on the issue, not wanting a hard salary cap, but instead preferring a luxury style tax similar to baseball, where the rich teams are punished for spending too much.

To say that they are going in different directions. would be an understatement.

The upcoming negotiations are going to be an important milestone for Mr. Bettman, he championed the NHL into a massive expansion over the years. Lining the pockets of his bosses, with ever increasing expansion fees. It was a gamble designed to make the NHL a more "national" sell in the US, but it seems to have not succeeded as designed. The vast majority of the new franchises are struggling to find a core group of fans, empty seats most nights can outnumber the occupied ones in many of the southern franchises. There are no other places to expand, so the shell game of revolving financing has come to an end. The existing teams will have to make it on their own, and largely on a gate driven league.

A television deal in the US is about to be renegotiated, the long sought after status as a major TV sport seemingly drifting further and further away. The NHL may find itself back on a cable only footing by this time next year, not much progress for the commisioner, in that hope for big time exposure. More importantly is the fact that the television money that does exist, doesn't really add up to much. There's no NFL type revenue pool here, it's the difference between a Monday night poker party at your buddy's house and playing in the World Series of Poker in Vegas. You figure out which one is the NHL.

The upcoming negotiations will be Bettman's legacy achievement. If he can bring a sense of fiscal sanity to the league and return the owners to at least a chance of profitability, then perhaps the mis-steps of the last then years will be forgotten. He'll be known as the Commissioner who stood up to the players union, giving the owners an upper hand in the league.

Money in the pocket goes a long way to making one see things in a better light. If he can put some back in the owner's pockets, with or without a work stoppage, he'll be perceived as the winner in the upcoming battle.

The players union is not accepting of the leagues position, they are prepared to wait him out. Thinking that eventually the majority of owners will return with an acceptable offer, with or without Mr. Bettman.

The loser in all of this? Well that would be the fan. A bit player in this drama, we just turn the pages of that Stephen King like report, getting deeper and deeper into the novel. But unlike a King novel, we may find that this one just doesn't end, it goes on and on. Either we finish the book, or put it back on the shelf, maybe to return to it one day, maybe not,

Injuries piling up

If they could only turn back time. Suddenly the last fourty eight hours, have borught some bad news for a number of NHL clubs. The all star break certainly didn't do much for some, rather than have rested players ready to tackle the stretch drive, teams are finding players heading off to the trainers room, some for the rest of the season.

The bad news parade began in Detroit, yesterday Domenic Hasek announced that he was through for the season, his fragile groin apparently no longer to take the strain of an NHL season. No problem said the Red Wings, not a welcome development but they'll get by, Cujo is ready to go. Well not so fast, tonight against the Sharks, Joseph sprained his ankle and now finds himself off the ice until next week, an MRI scheduled for tomorrow in Detroit. The Red Wings had best assign a 24 hour guard to Manny Legace.

Colorado had their own bad news press conference yesterday, Rob Blake is out for six weeks, having suffered a hairline fracture of his left leg, apparently the injury happened two weeks before the All Star game. Getting progressively worse as the weeks went by. Look for the Av's to be testing the trade waters to try and shore up the defence now. Today they put Andrei Nickolishin on injured reserve, suffering from an abdominal strain. He's out until he's feeling able to play, better known as indefinitely. Also on the injured list for the Avs are Travis Brigley, Riku Hahl, Dan Hinote and Marek Svatos, all listed as out indefinitely.

Radek Bonk is gone for four to six weeks, the Ottawa centre broke his foot blocking a shot last night against the St. Louis Blues. Just another stumbling block for John Muckler, the Sens GM will now have to turn his attention from attracting muscle for the team, perhaps look for some scoring help now. He also has to deal with the end of season injuries to Anton Volchenkov and Vaclav Varada. Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette are both day to day.

Vancouver received bad news this week as well, Magnus Arvedson is gone for the season. He underwent surgery for torn knee ligaments, the good news is the surgery was successful, the bad news is he's gone for three to six months, effectively taking him out of the playoff hunt. Arvedson who had struggled at the start of the season, was starting to come along prior to the all star break. For Brian Burke it's back to the phones or bring up some farm hands. Other wounded Canucks include Ed Jovanovski, Matt Cooke and Mats Lindgren, all listed as out indefinitely.

Montreal joins the injury parade, listing Sheldon Souray as out for at least two games. That after injuring his knee in his first game back since the all star game. Souray will return to Montreal for examination, if the doctors find serious ligament damage he may be gone much longer. Andreas Dackell and Craig Rivet will keep him company in
the trainers room, both listed as day to day.

48 hours, two days that have changed the dynamics of the teams involved. How they handle the adversity, will tell a lot about how far they go in the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Who made the call in Motown

HockeyNation may want to apologize to the management of the Detroit Red Wings, for suggesting that it was they who announced the end of the season for Domenic Hasek. Actually we may wish to apologize, for thinking that the Red Wings have any idea as to what's going through Domenic's head.

For it seems now, that this was yet another Dom moment, going off on his own, making his own announcement. Not really checking in with the head office so to speak. The Wings were caught unprepared for the "announcement" Tuesday, described by General Manager Ken Holland as "a very disappointing outcome". Head Coach, Dave Lewis said he was expecting Hasek back on the ice after the all star break, the next thing they know Dom says he's done. It's expected that Hasek will be receiving significantly less than the six million dollars he signed for, or as Holland puts it, "I'm expecting some relief." Suffice to say, the Wings had no idea this was coming down the tube and now they have to handle the damage control. Don't say nobody warned them.

Hasek has done this kind of thing in the past, his days in Buffalo were full of these kind of surprises. He is a fellow who certainly beats his own drum. Many rolled their eyes, wondering if the Wings had lost their minds when Hasek came out of retirement. Now the doubters can claim the right to boast, that they knew it was only a matter of time. But fourteen games, surely even the most cynical Hasek fan would have expected a longer run, maybe til the first game of the playoffs.

The Dom show has been a distraction for the Wings all year long, in a way they're fortunate that he pulled the plug (er groin) when he did. At least now, the Wings will know who they are going into battle with and can begin to say all the right things to Curtis Joseph. For Cujo, it must seem all so bizarre, he must just be shaking his head at how this insanity has played out. There will be no amount of sucking up possible, to make amends for how the Wings handled this whole situation.

Dom says he's coming back next year, with a rested groin and a fresh look. We suspect it will be in a fresh uniform as well.

An unwanted sideshow

What exactly is going on in the Orca Bay offices these days? The management of the Vancouver Canucks are creating a controversial issue and media feeding frenzy, by their non action regarding the Brian Burke situation. While the players were resting over the all star break, whispers and hidden agendas were apparently being hatched in the back rooms at Orca Bay, or so the reports have it. Over the last three or four days, the newspapers, radio stations and television sportscasts have been full of ominous rumblings of a Brian Burke departure. Tony Gallagher of the Province, got the ball rolling on the weekend with a column detailing the various missed opportunities to get Burke signed to a new deal. Today Gary Mason let lose with an article, which suggested that Vancouver Canucks may not want Burke back. Mason's take on the situation is that there is much animosity between Burke and Orca Bay right hand man Stan McCammon, with McCammon apparently feeling slighted that Burke has received much of the credit for the teams turn around. So this is a reason to turn your team into a soap opera?

There are some things one has to wonder about in all of this. Why would the Canucks sign Marc Crawford to a new contract, if they were going to replace his boss at the end of the season. Most organizations let the GM pick his coach, if Burke indeed is gone as the media is reporting, then why sign Crawford?

Why are they letting this issue fester, just as their team gets set to go into the all important stretch drive and then onto the playoffs? It seems counter productive to have signed your key players, keep your coach and then create a circus like atmosphere to distract the players from the job at hand.

One rumour being floated around Vancouver, is that the Orca Bay group have found a buyer for the team and are merely waiting for the due diligence and such to take place. Then the new owner can take care of the Burke situation. If indeed this is true, then get the lawyers moving at warp speed, sell the team, introduce the new owners and get the hell out of the way.

It's hard to believe that the Canucks are going to get rid of Burke. He may be loud, gruff and hard to get along with at times, but no can deny he's turned the franchise around. Stan McCammon might not like hearing that too much, but it has to be said. Burke took over the nightmare that Mike Keenan had created with his stay in Vancouver, rebuilding a team that was in serious trouble.

When Burke arrived on the scene the Canucks were a mess, the players were lost on the ice, the fans lost on the way to the stadium. The team was bleeding red ink in the balance statement, bottom feeders in the Western standings. Burke got down to work and changed all of that. He brought back Vancouver favourite Trevor Linden, banished and berated under the Keenan regime. He rebuilt Marcus Naslund's confidence, after he suffered under the reign of terror that was Keenan. He's been fairly successful in the draft, not as much as he'd like, but there's potential on the farm. His trades over the years, have for the most part worked out very well, strengthening the squad from past years. The team in 2004 is a much more cohesive squad, playing with a purpose not seen since the early Quinn era.

John McCaw and Stan McCammon need to keep that in mind. Perhaps the current state of the team has blinded them from the past. The dark days of this franchise are not that far behind them, the half full rink, the massive debtload, a fan base that was losing interest fast. Burke has created this team in his image to a fashion, the players respect his hockey knowledge and his loyalty, for management to basically hang him out to dry at this time just baffles the mind. With night after night of sell outs, and money coming in from a number of sources, it's hard to understand where this supposed animosity is coming from and why.

The recurring theme in the various conspiracy theories, is that Burke overstepped his authority when negotiating with Todd Bertuzzi. McCaw and McCammon, the stories go, are annoyed that Bertuzzi got the contract that he did, feeling that Burke publicly embarrassed them in order to get Bertuzzi signed. If the braintrust that runs the Canucks is upset that they signed one of the key ingredient to this teams success, then there's deeper trouble at GM place than we think.

Orca Bay had best solve this issue as fast as possible. If they don't want him anymore, they should come out and tell him, the team and the fans what is what. If Burke is playing them, angling for a dream job offer from back east, then tell it like it is. Regardless, this situation is quickly getting out of control. There are an awful lot of GM's that have been re-signed and rewarded in the league this year, many of whom are running teams that are just going through the motions. If the gang at Orca Bay misjudges this situation, all the hard work of the last three years, will come unraveling before their very eyes.

Burke is no doubt a valuable commodity on the market right now, you can't tell me that the likes of Boston, Chicago or New York wouldn't jump at the chance to hire him. Just look at the difference between the Canucks and the Rangers or the Hawks, if you were an owner which team would you rather have today.

Stan McCammon said last week on the radio, that they didn't want to negotiate with Burke during the season. His rationale was that they didn't want to create a distraction for the players. Well, by handling this whole thing as badly as they have, it's no longer a distraction. It's a sideshow, a bloated, overexposed, festering sideshow. One that not only is unnecessary but unwanted.

Sign him now, sign him fast and get this mess behind you before it is too late...

When making too much money, is a good thing for a franchise.

Credit Curtis Joseph's contract as the saving grace for the Detroit Red Wings today. It was his high salary that kept him in the Red Wings stable over the last six months, and as it turns out that's a stroke of luck.

The Red Wings announced today that Domenic Hasek is done for the season, his recurring groin injury apparently now at the point of no recovery for this season. The thirty nine year old Hasek signed with the Wings in the off season and returned to the NHL in September, eventually being named the Wings number one goaltender.

At the time, the Wings tried to trade Joseph but his current contract estimated at around 8 million dollars scared off any takers. Things became so crowded in the Red Wing dressing room, that the Wings ended up dispatching Cujo off to Grand Rapids, many expected him to sit there until the Wings decided to swallow most of his contract and trade him away.

But then the always enigmatic Hasek began to suffer his troubles of the groin, and as the days turned to weeks Cujo found himself back in the number one spot in Detroit. Last week, GM Ken Holland said that the job was now Cujo's to lose.

Having handled the entire mess with class, Cujo comes out of this smelling like a rose. He went where he was told, did his job well and quietly showed his team mates how a "team" player behaves. How the Wings managed to avoid disaster this year, will remain one of the great mysteries of sport.

Many thought it would have been perfect justice had Cujo been traded to a contending team elsewhere, coming back to win the Cup against the Wings. Instead, he has a very good chance to lead Detroit to the Stanley Cup Finals. It's hard to believe the Wings could be so lucky.

Listen up Hockey fans, Trevor Linden on the air!

HockeyNation fans will definitely want to check out the CKNW audiovault and listen in to the 10-11 am block for Tuesday, February 10th. The Bill Good show, features a full hour with the always informative Trevor Linden.

Linden who seems to posses one of the best hockey minds in the game today, gave honest and forthright answers about the current labour negotiations. He explained some of the concerns of the day and even went back to the last work stoppage and how it ended some careers.

Through the hour he touched on many issues and answered caller questions.

He spoke out about the brewing controversy over the status of the Brian Burke contract. Canucks management at Orca Bay claiming that they won't settle his status until the end of the season. Something that is starting to raise the alarm in the media in Vancouver. Linden expressed surprise at the length of time that the process seems to be taking. He praised Burke as an architect of a pretty successful franchise and you get the impression the praise was not that of an employee, but as someone who knows how hockey works.

Linden talked about the Sedin twins and their adjustment to the NHL. His opinion is that the boys have finally come into their own now, adjusting to the learning curve that is the NHL. He said that he doesn't understand the constant concern over their level of play. Fully supporting them, he says that they are a solid addition to the Canucks lineup.

A fast paced hour of listening for you, with some reasoned analysis of the state of the league, the aging of key players and the issue of visors. Indeed, he managed to talk about visors without the need of a seven second delay, something seemingly hard to do these days.

Quite a few phone calls that praised him as a "class act" and you can't argue with anyone on that count. Just listen to his comments about how he felt when his errant high stick struck a player last week, you'll understand why the fans and his team mates respect him so much. He is the perfect spokesperson for the NHL of today, no bombast, no ego, just an entertaining and informative speaker. No shilling here, just a true fan of the game, who just happens to excel at it on the ice as well.

If you listen in, you'll learn more in this hour than you probably will for the rest of the week, maybe even the month. Check it out, highly recommended for hockey fans everywhere.

Winnipeg a winner either way

Well if the folks in Winnipeg don't get an NHL franchise in the next couple of years, they can console themselves with the AHL All Star game in 2006.

Winnipeg was granted the AHL classic yesterday, as the AHL Board of Governors, voted unanimously to bring it to Manitoba in two years.

It made for a nice consolation prize after Gary Bettman poured cold water on any expansion, or relocation plans in his state of the league conference on Saturday. Rumours of an NHL team relocating started to pop up about a month ago with talk of Pittsburgh possibly moving to the city. That plan was quickly crushed by the Penguins themselves, but other teams have apparently been kicking the tires.

For now Winnipeg is an AHL town, and they've got a show to put together.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Brush up on your math skills in the new NHL

Grab a calculator, take a refresher course in math or check with your local neighbourhood 10 year old, the NHL is toying with the idea of offering up 3 points for a win. Much like English soccer does now, the NHL is thinking that the extra point may help increase offence. The feeling is that teams will be more inclined to "go for it" should there be three points on the line every night.

Some concerns have been brought up about the idea, the three point strategy would make back to back games six point affairs (which in the case of Leafs and Sens could end up putting the Sens out of the playoffs by the time the all star game arrives). If a team got off to a very fast start, they could run away with the division before the rest of the teams could get untracked. So there are downsides to the bigger reward system.

But you'll have an extra year to bone up on your studies (more if the league has a lockout/strike in September) as it's expected the three point win will be tested out on the AHL first.

Other potential rule modifications discussed were the fatter blue lines tested earlier this year in the AHL, elimination of the centre line, making the nets bigger, downsizing the goaltender equipment some more, no touch icing and eliminating the instigator penalty.

It's likely the GM's will vote on whether to bring back tag up offside, which would result in fewer whistles and more flow to game, which would be a welcome addition to state of hockey these days.

The three days of meetings have had the GM's break off into groups, discussing changes and listening to speaker after speaker explain how the game can be made better. One speaker yet to come, should command the largest and most attentive audience. On Tuesday, Scotty Bowman will address the group with what he calls 8 or 9 ideas on how to make the game better. There should be no sleeping in the classroom and hopefully there's a pop quiz right after the lecture, if anyone has ideas on how to make hockey better it must be Scotty Bowman.

Trader Bob works the phones

Finally Bob Clarke has found himself a goaltender, acquiring Sean Burke from Phoenix earlier tonight. The long rumoured deal finally came to fruition, as Clarke flipped Mike Comrie back to the West to pick up Burke. Shoring up his goaltending had become priority one for Clarke, former number one Jeff Hackett retired today, suffering from vertigo and unable to play this year. Robert Esche, is injured at the moment so the Flyers were down to players from the AHL, not how you want to be going into the playoff drive. With Hackett retiring some money was freed up to help defray the 4.25 million dollar cost of Burke's contract.

Comrie never really fit into the Flyers scheme, he ended up on the third and sometimes fourth line, struggling to get ice time and not doing much when he had it. For him it's a chance to get back to the fast wheeling West, where he can put his speed to better use. He should be a solid addition to what is becoming a fast and young Coyotes team.

For Burke it's one more chance to win a Stanley Cup, his years are dwindling now in the NHL so he can look at the Philadelphia experiment as probably his last kick at the Stanley Cup. The fit in Philly should be a good one, he's close friends with Esche so there won't be any tension between goaltenders upon his arrival. And Clarke strengthens the Flyers by picking up two young players along the way. Branko Radivojevic and the rights to Ben Eager of Oshawa were included in the deal. Earlier in the day Clarke finished off a deal with the Blues, sending Eric Weinrich west for a fifth round pick in the 2004 draft.

Burke knew he was going to be moved it was only a matter of where, the Rangers were in the thick of the talks last week, but things cooled off when they wanted to unload salaries and not provide any young players for the future. That's when the Flyers moved up the list to most likely status, the story was all over the All Star game yesterday that the deal was done, but it took until this morning to dot the i's and cross the t's.

It's possible but not likely that Burke will be in the nets Tuesday night for the Flyers, but after tonight it may be a while before he gets another break.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Armageddon preview: The Bob and Gary show

Whew, these guys are really starting to heat things up! Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow addressed the media at the All Star celebrations in Minnesota today, and the tone was ugly. Bettman gave his state of the league address to the assembled media, challenging the version of negotiations that Mr. Goodenow is expressing of late. The contentious issue is the infamous Salary cap, Bettman instead prefers to refer to the need for salary certainty, whatever that may be. Basically the owners want some kind of system in place, where player costs don't overrun revenues.

For their part the players association is digging in it's heels, they are telling the players that they need to be prepared for a two year shut down. The players say they believe the owner's have much more to lose with a disruption than the players. Jeremy Roenick, never short of an opinion, asked the media types if the likes of Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Buffalo and Carolina were going to be able to wait two years before they go back into business.

The mere mention of a two year dispute frustrates Mr. Bettman to no end. He accuses the players association of not dealing with reality, Bettman says that things could be settled rather quickly if they only accepted the concept of "cost certainty".

The Commissioner also took time out from the verbal warnings to comment on the recent rumours of the return of Winnipeg. Bettman said he found it doubtful that the city would be returning to the NHL soon, either by franchise relocation or expansion, despite the construction of their new arena in the downtown area. A comment that won't win him many friends in Manitoba or the rest of Canada for that matter. In a league where attendance plummets in cities that have never warmed up to hockey, it seems ridiculous to turn your back on hockey markets that live and breathe hockey.

That perhaps is why the players feel so secure in their position. They can go play in Europe next year or spend some time in the new WHA, which vows to be ready for September. Biding their time in France, Italy, Germany or Sweden isn't a bad way to suffer through a labour dispute. The owners may be faced with dormant franchises, mothballed for two years or more. Not many suits fit the same after two years of non use. One wonders if the suits in the NHL offices are willing to take that risk.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Scoring machine Brookbank sent to Winnipeg for conditioning

With two goals in two games, newly made right winger Wade Brookbank must be feeling pretty good these days. Hot off the Canucks recent Eastern swing and an impressive victory over the defending Stanley Cup champ Devils, Brookbank now packs his bags for a road trip with the Moose.

While the more established Canucks take the all star break off to rest weary bones and nurse bouts of the flu, Brookbank, Martin Grenier and Tyler Bouck were all returned to the Moose. Winnipeg is in the midst of a struggle for playoff positioning and on an all important AHL road trip, they welcomed the return of their grads.

It's not known if all three will return to the Canucks on Wednesday when they resume their NHL schedule, but expect Brookbank to have a ticket waiting for him in his locker room stall. He's been a solid performer in his short time with the Canucks, having spent time on the Sedin line, creating a little bit of room for the twins to start to score again.

His presence has helped take the physical load off the likes of Brad May, Jarrko Ruutu and Ed Jovanovski, he also frees up some time for Todd Bertuzzi to concentrate on scoring. In the meantime, the Moose are glad he's back for the bus trips, it may be the last one he has to take for awhile.

An Instant Fan favourite

Credit Todd Simpson with knowing how to make friends in a new town. Simpson went to the top of the Sensfan popularity list with just six simple words. "I thought everyone hated the Leafs", politicians should be so succinct and universally loved. Simpson uttered the battle cry when faced by a crew of reporters anxious to know if he was ready for the wars ahead. He went on to offer another gem gobbled up by the press, " I've never really been a big fan, no. I don't need to go naming names. No need tipping them off." Ah it's like the soothing words of a mother to her babe before drifting off to sleep.

Simpson who was traded to the Sens last week from Anaheim, also got down to work in the Battle of Corel Thursday night. In the second period he engaged in mortal combat with arch villain Tie Domi, actually it was more of a pre-school wrasslin match, but at least he showed up, which is all Sens fans want these days.

As well many Sensfans remember that it was Simpson who laid the lumber on that reluctant Sen, Alexei Yashin when he had been forced to return to the Sens after a contract holdout. An event that at the time, surprisingly found favour not only with Ottawa fans, but Yashin's then team mates as well.

With his bona fides already established in record time, Simpson will be able to write his own ticket in the capital. If by his presence, the team should get a bit more space, a bit more respect, win a few more games and most importantly beat the Leafs, then he'll be worth far more than the dollar amount of a contract.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Seven Second Solution

Football in the USA had the nipple that popped out this week, Hockey in Canada gave us the mouth that popped off. As the Orwellian like language bureaucrats of Canada continue their investigation of the syntax, pronunciation and content of Don Cherry's vocabulary, the CBC has made it's own moves to muzzle the mouth of Grapes.

In a decision announced earlier today, Harold Reddekopp, executive vice-president of CBC television, said that the network would put Mr. Cherry on a seven second delay after he made "inappropriate and reprehensible personal comments" during a broadcast on January 24th.

Cherry's remarks, a tailing off line about players "who wear visors are usually European or the French guys", has created a storm of outrage in some quarters. Columnists and commentators in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, have expressed concern over the latest behavior of Mr. Cherry. The Language Commissioner herself jumped into the fray, Dyane Adam said the issue was important enough for her to investigate. Though it's not exactly clear how this is an issue of concern for the Government watchdog on Official Languages, and whether it justifies the attention of two of the departments thirty Language detectives.

Not to be outdone, parliamentarians have jumped into the debate. Bloc Quebecois MP's called Cherry a racist, Denis Coderre the Liberal cabinet minister for La Francophonie said he was fed up with Cherry. Jack Layton, leader of the NDP also got into things, expressing annoyance at the implications of Mr. Cherry's words.

While not to belittle the controversy, don't these people have much more important things to worry about? Is Canada in such wonderful shape at the moment, that our elected officials can waste time debating the latest five minutes of Coachs' Corner? Yes, Don Cherry says very politically incorrect things, he can be rude, loud and bombastic, he can be a boor, a stuffed shirt and come across as someone totally out of touch with current day Canada. But to paint him as a racist, one thinks not. Cherry has made a living out of controversy, over the years he's been on the hot seat over many of his comments. People either love him or they hate him, but they all have one thing in common, they can turn the channel when he comes on.

He obviously, would be best to leave his personal commentary on non hockey related issues to himself. The safe and controversy free path would be to stick to matters of the actual game of hockey. But every Saturday night, nearly a million (sometimes nearly three million) hockey fans tune in to watch and listen. So somebody must find some interest in his opinions. To have this so called issue dragged out as it has, is insulting to the majority of Canadians who watch television. Surely to God we can be trusted to make our own decisions about the validity of an opinion, without the guidance of politicians and the bureaucrats they employ.

Cherry is an employee of the CBC, which the last time I checked was supposed to be an independent institution. One supposedly free from governmental interference. It has a president, who in this case has made a decision to institute a delay of seven seconds, on all future appearances of Coach's corner. Though it would be of interest to know who has control of the delay button and what the list of words are that may get Cherry bleeped. Perhaps the CBC could publish them on their website, or as a way to raise money for the network make the little "Grape" book available for purchase.

Normally a radio or television station puts these delay mechanisms in place to protect the station from the ramblings of their callers, in this case it appears to be to protect them from the ramblings of the host.

Atlanta wins All Star game for 2005, will anyone be there?

We can probably scratch Atlanta off the list of cities looking to relocate in the NHL. The league announced today that the Georgia city will be the host of the All Star weekend in 2005 (providing of course they have any all stars playing hockey by then, hockey Armageddon day approaching fast now).

The Thrashers will host the weekend, the third big league event to grace their city in the last five years. The NBA set up their all star circus in 2003, Baseball was by in 2000. So it's Hockey's turn to dazzle the locals.

Of course all plans are contingent on their actually being hockey played next year. As the league and players association continue to utter doomsday threats and allegations, one wonders if it's worth planning an all star event at all.

At least it should quell the rumours of the Thrashers' being one of the teams in a financial bind, though to my knowledge they were still on the market. The league wouldn't put an all star game in a city that may not be in the league by the time the puck was dropped, would they? Surely they have a sense of long term planning in the Bettman empire!

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Salvage job at the Swamp

Henrik and Daniel Sedin found their groove tonight, as the Vancouver Cancuks ended their pre all star game road trip with a 4-0 shutout of the Devils. The win a convincing one should help take the sting out of the two losses suffered on the other side of the Hudson river earlier in the week.

The Sedins who have been putting the chances away the last few weeks added to their totals, with Henrik getting his 8th point in six games and Daniel tallying up his tenth point in six. The Sedins have found that their third linemate changes as the game progresses, tonight Mike Keane seemed to be the most effective with them. Keane helped to set up the first goal and seemed to be a solid influence with the twins. With the success of the last six games the Canucks now once again have a second line threat, taking the heat off the first line of Naslund, Bertuzzi and Morrison.

Dan Cloutier picked up his third shut out of the year, facing 24 Devil shots before the final horn. For Vancouver it sends the team off to the all star break on a high note. Having won six of their last 8 games, and they probably should have won the two they lost, just mental miscues separating them from a perfect road trip.

A complete team effort tonight, the defence kept the zones clear for Cloutier to see the first shot, few rebounds were given up and those that did occur were quickly cleared up the ice. With the first line firing on all it's cylinders and the second line now a tangible threat, the opposing teams are going to be spread thinner and thinner. With Cloutier gaining confidence as well, the playoff drive should be an enjoyable run for the Canucks.