Thursday, November 29, 2007

Six goals surrendered, six of seven games lost

By all measuring sticks Thursday was perhaps the ugliest loss yet in the Senators current losing skid. As the Nashville Predators took two points out of Scotiabank Place with a last minute flourish of shots and a 6-5 victory. A nice little celebration for the Preds who found out today that Gary Bettman and the twenty nine other owners gave the official thumbs up to their sale.

The Sens who normally are the team filling the net found themselves playing from behind all night long, in the end losing their sixth of seven games with mere seconds to go.

The Senators who gave up the most goals so far this season, had battled back to tie the game heading into the last half minute of play, only to watch Martin Erat lay ruin to their comeback with the go ahead and winning goal with but twenty two seconds left to play, it was Nashville’s sixth goal on 29 shots directed at Martin Gerber, who like Ray Emery before him is continuing to struggle between the pipes.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson seems to at least understand the Sens problems as he suggested that the Senators were finding ways to lose where we found ways to win before.

The last six or seven games have been a puzzling display for the Sens, who seem to have not only lost their scoring touch but have neglected their defensive responsibilities and suffered from inconsistent goaltending from both of their keepers.

With the win Nashville has begun the first incursion into Eastern Canada since 2004, they next play in Montreal on Saturday and then it’s on to Toronto on Tuesday. The Senators entertain the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon for their next match, a game that will be played with a fair amount of desperation to shake the lethargic ways of the last six.

From a 15 and 2 start to the season, suddenly the Sens have given back almost half of those wins in a November slide to remember.

As they head into the December portion of the schedule much like Santa they’ll be checking their line up lists and seeing who has been naughty and who’s been nice. No doubt hopeful that the naughtiest of Sens get back on track, lest there be more servings of coal left in their stockings by the end of the month.

Ottawa Sun--Sens drop fifth straight to Preds
Ottawa Citizen--Sloppy Senators drop fifth straight

Record holding Roberto

After thirty three years Ken Lockett will have to step aside, he’s no longer the record holder in Canucks history books. Lockett who set the career mark for shutouts back in 1975, had a good long run as the Canuck goaltender of note, with 184 minutes and twenty seconds, but as they say records are made to be broken.

Roberto Luongo, rattled off yet another shut out for Vancouver, securing the mark with his third consecutive shut out a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. His latest one, brought his streak of shutout hockey to 193 minutes and 56 seconds, eclipsing his personal best of 182:37 set back in his Florida days of 2004.

His remarkable shutout string has coincided with an amazing run by the Canucks who in the last ten games have gone 7-1-2, a run made all the more impressive considering the injury parade that the team was forced to endure through the month.

Wednesday’s game wasn’t an end to end kind of affair, rather it was a rather plodding inconsistent match not one designed to sell the game as one of constant action. Columbus struggled to find offence in the first and third periods, with five shots each, while the second period proved to be the most challenging for Luongo when the Blue Jackets popped off fifteen shots at him.

Vancouver fired off twenty one shots at Fredrik Norrena, who was in the nets for Pascal Leclaire, who has six shutouts of his own but was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Norrena could not weather a second period swarm(?) when 2 of six shots found the mark leading to the Canucks victory.

Vancouver leaves November quite happy with their turn around, in late October there was much talk about what was wrong with the Canucks, struggling on the ice there were many calls for changes to be made quickly.

No such calls are being made as they head into December, leading the Northwest Division and only six points behind the conference leading Red Wings, they just keep rolling right along playing in front of their record holding goaltender.

A fellow who now holds the new Gold standard for goal tending in Vancouver at 193 minutes and counting…

Legends of Hockey--November 28

Denis Potvin

New York Islanders 1973-1988

Legends of Hockey home page


Other sites of interest:

New York Islanders legends--Denis Potvin
Wikipedia--Denis Potvin
YouTube--Denis Potvin Potvin added to Canadian Sports Hall of Fame Potvin
New York Times--Potvin redirects his chase
Canadian encyclopedia--Denis Potvin
MSN Encarta--Denis Potvin

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sens slide continues on Long Island

Andrej Meszaros is many things to the Ottawa Senators, but the main focus of their offence isn’t one of them, yet on the Sens visit to Long Island Wednesday night it was all Meszaros all the time. The Sens defenceman accounted for both Senator goals in a 3-2 shoot out loss to the Islanders, and if not for a strange bounce he very well have scored the Sens third goal in overtime snatching victory from the Islanders.

The fact that Meszaros provided all the offence on Wednesday tells you a lot about the nature of the game, the first time that the Islanders have won against the Sens since January of 2004.

The Islanders slowed the play significantly in the first two periods by locking down the neutral zone, turning back the Sens attack and slowing down the play at times making the game rather hard to watch.

While it’s understandable we guess that they have to employ a trap like component to their play, we can’t help but have noticed that the Nassau Coliseum was half empty once again, perhaps a sign that a more offensive approach might be needed to bring fans back into the rink.

But as they say a win is a win, and to be truthful the third period play picked up significantly and the overtime was an end to end rush of opportunities, stymied by both Ray Emery and Rick DiPietro.

They set the scene for a lengthy shoot out session which finally went the way of the islanders when Mike Sillinger put away the winning goal after twelve shooters had taken their licks.

The loss was Ottawa’s fourth in a row, an unusual situation for the normally high flying squad, there has been a definite power shortage in the Sens line up the last few games, and while coach John Paddock isn’t pushing any panic buttons, there is a need for the Senators to work their way out of their funk as soon as possible.

The Sens who had ruled the top of the standings for most of the last two months only recently tumbled to second as the suddenly streaking Red Wings passed them by a few days ago.

The Sens can get back to the task at hand on Thursday, as they play host to the Nashville Predators, who are currently 11th in the West and 18th overall in the NHL.

Legends of Hockey--November 27

Darryl Sittler

Toronto Maple Leafs 1970-1981
Philadelphia Flyers 1981-1984
Detroit Red Wings 1984-1985

Legends of Hockey home page


Other sites of interest:

Wikipedia--Darryl Sittler Sittler online Darryl Sittler
Old timers Sittler
The Canadian Encyclopedia--Darryl Sittler
YouTube--Darryl Sittler
CBC Archives--Darryl Sittler
MapleLeafalumnibio--Darryl Sittler

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maple leafs enter a time warp

The original six franchises, frequently like to look back at their past years as a guide for the future. Success breeding success and all that.

The Wings called on the ghosts of Lindsay and Howe, The Hawks of Hull and Mikita (though they are but flickering images now), The Rangers (well they had to go back to the dark ages for some inspiration, but eventually they found success), The Bruins of course still talk of Orr and Espo, while the Habs have so much history to revisit, that they can break it down into decades of success.

Then we come to the Leafs, who seemingly can look no further back than the circus that passed for the Harold Ballard years. Despite being perhaps the most profitable hockey cash register in history, the 2007 edition of the Leafs are starting to bear an eerie resemblance to the farcical moments of Harold and King Clancy, holding court up in the bunker on a nightly basis.

Today’s breathless developments featured numerous media accounts of the fate of John Ferguson Junior, his grasp on the reins of the Leafs seemingly getting looser and looser with each passing game.

All day the talking heads of the sports channels and the home bound GM’s of the radio talk show lines were weighing in with their opinion on where the Leafs should go with their current malaise.

As if to make things even worse than they could possibly be, the Maple Leafs chief cubicle dweller in the main office, Richard Peddie provided more than enough grist for the mill with his declaration that perhaps he had made a mistake in hiring Ferguson in the first place.

While he placed his comments in the context of discussing the overheated nature of being a boss in media heavy Toronto, the headline that came out of his statements was the kind of uttering that normally is followed by the always popular vote of confidence and then the regrettable dismissal of the subject at hand.

The week of dangling commentaries began yesterday, when it was leaked that Ferguson had supposedly tried to have head coach Paul Maurice fired, but had been over ruled by a higher up in the food chain, perhaps the concession manager or a parking lot attendant on a coffee break.

Ferguson was quick to respond that he had no such discussions and had not been over ruled on a topic that never came up.

So, either everyone above the stick boy is lying or somewhere in the food chain is a rather busy Deep throat with his or her pulse on the Maple Leaf situation or perhaps locked away with only a cel phone and delusional thoughts ready to be spread at the first ring.

Fair or unfair, it would seem that the skids are being greased for an exit by the current GM, too many leaks and disinformation campaigns suggest that somewhere in the Air Canada Centre a power struggle is raging, with the casualties as in any battle to come from the lower ranks, as Generals rarely stray in the shooting zones.

While the media and fans may wish to see Ferguson removed, they may also wish to gaze a little higher up into the MLSE structure, for dysfunction of this scale must surely begin much higher than a less than fully endorsed General Manager.

We’re not sure who actually has the final say in matters Maple Leaf, but he, she or they, may want to get a handle on the fascinating train wreck that seems to be Maple Leaf management.

Either that, or like Harold and King back in the seventies, start ordering paper bags. You never know when you may want to introduce a mystery coach/gm/president…
The Toronto Sun-- JFJ's hiring a 'mistake'
The Toronto Sun-- Maurice can take the heat
The Toronto Sun-- Francis not contacted
The Toronto Star--Leafs searching for answers
The Toronto Star-- Turning over new Leaf

A night of Timbits Terror at the Tourney

Minor Hockey took a black eye on the weekend in Ontario, when eight year old players at a tournament in Guelph emptied the benches and began to brawl, all while their parental coaches were busy arguing with each other and reportedly in one instance spitting at each other.

Guelph police were called on Friday night to investigate the end of the game incident when an organizer of the weekend tournament turned to the Zamboni driver to call them to the arena. The on ice brawl took place at the end of a match featuring the Niagara Falls Thunder Novice AAA team who had just lost 8-1 to the Duffield Devils. On ice chippyness and hard feelings boiled over rapidly leading to the unbelievable display of eight year old kids going toe to toe on the ice.

There were conflicting reports as to how the incident started, with one witness suggesting that the coaches were trying to hold the players back, while at the same time others insisted that not only were the coaches involved in the caustic atmosphere they were urging their young charges to fight.

Sergeant Cate Welsh, spokeswoman for the Guelph police put the weekend events into perspective including the unusual nature of the call. "We've certainly been sent to the arenas for disturbances, but generally it's involving parents or fans,"; "But not sending kids at that age level onto the ice [to fight]. That's the allegation made at this point, that they both cleared their benches, and, wow, it's a pretty young age."

The fingers are pointing with most of them directed to the visiting Niagara Falls squad as the instigators of the dark night for minor hockey.

So far in the minor hockey investigation the Niagara Falls coaches and trainers have been suspended pending further investigation of the events.

Sadly while thousands of games take place over the course of a weekend without incident and in the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship, it will be the events of Guelph that once again draw attention to the way that the national game is being taught to the youngest of players.
They already have an intensive coaching program for minor hockey coaches, but it would seem that more work is required to emphasize the fun and eliminate any of the nonsense that took place on Friday night.

Clearly over the weekend somebody was missing the point of playing the game for the love of the sport, it’s a lesson that hopefully the Ontario Minor Hockey Association will make all participants aware of with any number of sanctions up to and including suspending the coaches for their lack of control.

There’s hardly any place left in the game in the pros for the bench clearing brawl, but when the eight year olds are clearing the benches then there’s a fair amount of work that still needs to be done with the game.

In Philadelphia, another injurred player is taken off the ice

The bad blood between the Bruins and Flyers apparently won't be ending anytime soon, this after yet another dangerous hit resulted in yet another Boston player to be helped from the ice, not to return to action on Monday night.

At 14:22 of the second period, the Flyers Scott Hartnell elbowed the Bruins Andrew Alberts into the boards near centre ice, a location where Alberts would lay on the ice for minutes before being eventually lifted to his feet and escorted to the locker room for evaluation.

As a result of the elbowing incident, Hartnell was assessed a boarding major and a game misconduct.

It's the latest in high profile incidents involving the Flyers, the second one of which has claimed a Bruin in less than a month. The Bruins Patrice Bergeron was hammered to the boards face-first by Flyers defenceman Randy Jones and suffered a concussion at the time, he has yet to return to action and there is some fear that his problems may be long lasting and potentially career ending.

The Flyers made news at the start of the season after successive incidents in Ottawa and Vancouver, which resulted in lengthy suspensions.

The latest incident on Monday night will once again raise questions about the style of play of the Flyers and whether further sanctions may be required against management over the frequently controversial incidents.
The Philadelphia Inquirer posted a quote from Colin Campbell providing a terse no comment as his reply to any further potential action against the Flyers. Asked last night whether the league will consider addressing a pattern to the Flyers' violence, Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations and league disciplinarian, replied: "No comment."

Canadian Press--Alberts leaves game after another dangerous Flyers hit

Associated Press--Murray has two goals, Savard adds goal and three assists in Bruins' 6-3 victory over Flyers lose, and may face penalty

Legends of Hockey--November 26

Bernie Parent

Boston Bruins--1965-1967
Philadelphia Flyers--1967-1971, 1973-1979
Toronto Maple Leafs 1971-1972
Philadelphia Blazers (WHA) 1972-1973

Legends of Hockey home page
Other sites of interest: Marcel "Bernie" Parent Bernie Parent site
Wikipedia--Bernie Parent
FlyerFly's blog--Bernie Parent Parent Parent
Time Magazine--Bernie Parent: War on Ice
ESPN--Parent can't wait to see who breaks record first

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bolts back on the block!

There are some very interesting developments out of Tampa Bay, where the supposed sure thing deal between Palace Sports and a group led by Doug MacLean seems to have gone off the rails.

"The Lightning entities terminated the agreement because of the failure of Absolute to comply with the terms of the purchase.” Was the quote attributed to the Lightning ownership group, a statement which according to the St. Petersburg Times is code for the MacLean group did not come up with a timely deposit of five million dollars of good faith money on the purchase.

The deal to purchase was announced back in August by the Palace group and while it seemed rather interesting that many of the purchase group’s contributors were keeping a low profile, they trotted out the always engaging MacLean to be their front man. He is a solid hockey man with ties to Florida having been involved with the Panthers for a number of seasons down Miami way. Pretty well the perfect guy to serve as the face of any new venture in hockey, though it would seem he was one that wasn't always in the loop as to what was going on behind the scenes.

Despite all the drama of the moment, it seems that they haven’t given up their goal of purchasing a hockey club; the press release that was put out there paints a picture of a few differences of opinion. "At the same time, the buying group expressed continuing interest in purchasing the team, while informing PS&E that there were internal disagreements to be resolved.”

A few differences of opinion…. That's an understatement, as things turn out one faction of the would be ownership group, is suing the other for fifty million dollars.

According to the St. Petersburg Times paper, Absolute Hockey investors Jeff Sherrin and Doug MacLean sued Hollywood horror movie producer Oren Koules, after he neglected to pony up 4.17 million dollars (his share of the required five million) and perhaps posted his own bid for the team without his new found friends in tow.

Leaving a nice little internal mess to be sorted out and putting the Lightning in the spot of still seeking out a new owner.

So the Bolts are back on the block, seemingly you can have the inside track if you can cut a cheque for five million dollars to hold the team in your name while you knock on the banker’s doors for the full purchase price of close to 200 million.

Hmm, does anyone know someone looking for a hockey club (a pretty decent one at that) who might have a few dollars on hand. Anybody know where David Balsillie can be reached, five million dollars sounds like the kind of cash he transfers in and out of RIM stock every few minutes or so.

Balsillie of course has attempted to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators in the last year or so, only to find his advances rebuffed by the NHL, over concerns perhaps to his intentions of where he might want to operate his multi million dollar would be investment (Hello again Hamilton, glad to see ya).

The NHL hierarchy may not like him, but one thing is certain, Balsillie won’t have any problems finding the cash, unlike some of the other recent applicants for NHL franchises on the block.

St. Petersburg Times-An absolute mess for the fans

Friends and Family Night in two locales

Four games were on the schedule for this Monday night in the NHL, respectable crowds assembled in Edmonton and Philadelphia, where 16,465 and 19,457 respectively took in the action on the ice, fought in the lines for beer, popcorn and souvenirs and added to the cash flow of the two home teams.

Those two solid hockey markets in the NHL, provided a marked difference to the scenes on Long Island and in Washington on Monday.

Monday night on the island found but a reported 8,161 souls in the seats to watch the hometown Islanders drop a one goal game to the Stars of Dallas. An optimist will point out that there was little delay in placing an order for food or beer and the traffic was light at the end of the game, but if they’re paying the players based on just above 8,000 paid attendees then they may need the Enron accountants to make it work out.

Thing were a little better in the DC area, the hometown Capitals attracted 11,204 fans to their rink to watch the Buffalo Sabres come into town to claim two points from the still reeling Caps. While it’s probably expected that attendance might drop a bit when a team is not doing so well, dropping close to the 11,000 mark is not going to make Ted Leonsis a happy guy. He’s invested a fair amount of money in his team, thought that this was going to be a breakout year and yet it would seem that the fans are beginning to find better ways to spend their time and more importantly spend their money.

Neither city can blame the colossus of sport the NFL for their gate driven misery on Monday night, the featured attraction was Pittsburgh and Miami, and while back in the seventies that may have been a stay at home event, these are not the seventies. And as the riveting final score of 3-0 shows, the Monday night brand on this night should not have been one that would be troublesome to the NHL.

The low attendance numbers show a continuing trend in American hockey markets that must be raising a few alarm bells at the league office. If a former rock solid franchise such as the Islanders is struggling at the box office and a strong owner such as Leonsis sees little in the way of progress on his front, you have to wonder how long the owners in the less hockey savvy markets will be thinking of hanging on.

Even the long time traditional hockey markets like Chicago, Detroit and Boston are starting to show empty seats on a nightly basis, a once unheard of thing in the NHL.

The NHL needs to keep on top of the trending; otherwise crowds of 8100 may start to be the norm, rather than the exception. And in a gate driven league such as the NHL that spells out trouble with a capital T.

Legends of Hockey--November 25

Dick Duff

Toronto Maple Leafs 1954-1964
New York Rangers 1964-1965
Montreal Canadiens 1965-1970
Los Angeles Kings 1970-1971
Buffalo Sabres 1971-1972

Legends of Hockey home page

Other sites of interest:

Wikiepedia--Dick Duff
ESPN--2006 Hockey Hall of Fame: Terrance "Dick" Duff
Maple Leaf Legends--Dick Duff
Canoe sports--Better late than never
YouTube--Dick Duff
Mile of Gold, Kirkland Lake Legends--Dick Duff

Hello Bryzgyy, bye bye Abbie

At one time he was considered the guy that would bring some stability to the nets of two high profile NHL teams, and now he’s checking for his passport and he’s Switzerland bound.

With the acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov from the Anaheim Ducks and his subsequent winning streak on behalf of the Coyotes, Phoenix has dug deep into their farm system and “loaned” goaltender David Aebischer to HC Lugano of the Swiss elite league.

Not a surprising thing considering he had only appeared in one Coyote game all year and had fallen to fourth on the Dog food chain of coyote goaltenders, lost in the lower regions of the Coyote farm system.

His transfer to Lugano was made necessary when the Coyotes demoted Alex Auld off their NHL roster to make room for Bryzgalov, dropping Aebischer to the fringes of the witness relocation program.

Aebischer who first came to North America in 2000, has had some pretty impressive if less than successful stops on his NHL resume, first with the Colorado Avalanche fresh off their highlight reel years and then over to the legendary Montreal Canadiens (notoriously hard on their goaltenders). In both locations he was thought of as possibly the next Patrick Roy, but never seemed to measure up to the suit that had been made for him.

While it’s considered a loan, all the tea leaves suggest his move back to Switzerland could most likely be a lease to buy for Lugano, bringing to an end to his North American wanderings, the last stop of which was the less than historical hockey stop of San Antonio, the spot where Aebischer met his Alamo.

Things seem to be a bit brighter for him in Lugano, he won his first game with his new team a 2-1 decision that he reportedly "instilled tranquillity to the defence zone." And no doubt some tranquillity for the goaltender now away from the high pressure roller coaster of the NHL.

If not now, when?

It's stay the course time for the Maple Leaf nation, with Blue and White taking it on the chin in Arizona on Saturday night to the tune of a 5-1 thrashing, one might be thinking that a change is set to come.

But not according to General Manager John Ferguson, who is nothing if but loyal to the line up he has compiled for this season, holding back on any drastic trades or movements at the moment. Ferguson did admit that he was seeking ways to address his teams shortcomings, but a general house cleaning is not apparently in the cards.
And any talk of head coach Paul Maurice being in trouble was dismissed by Ferguson and echoed by the players.
From Captain Mats Sundin who suggests the Leafs still have time to turn things around through and gave his coach his full backing, advising that he feels that Maurice has "done a great job since he got here."

Sundin and his team mates are taking some of the rap for the poor performance, claiming that they have to work harder and that they are prepared well for each game by their embattled coach, yet they seem to have a problem in putting that preparation into play.

The Leafs are currently on a losing skid, on the wrong end of the score in six of their last seven games and presently holding down 27th spot overall in a thirty team league. They are much closer to the Washington Capitals than they are to the Ottawa Senators, a situation that is not lost on their faithful if long suffering fans.

While it's commendable for the players to admit to their shortcomings, unless they rectify them on the ice, it's a safe bet that the howls for change will continue to come from the ticket holders and media types who follow them.
Many of whom it would seem saw enough in the last week to demand changes fast.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Legends of Hockey--November 24

Harry (Moose) Watson

Toronto Granites 1921-1924

Legends of Hockey home page


Other sites of interest:

Wikipedia--Harry Watson
Capital newsonline--Harry Watson

Sens skidding on the ice

Winter arrived in Eastern Ontario this week, a nasty little weather system that dumped snow and coated roads with ice making for slipper conditions.

It would seem that the members of the Ottawa Senators are having a bit of a problem getting their winter skills into shape, like a car on the Queensway they have hit a bit of a skid and are hoping to turn the wheels in the right direction to get out of it.

The Sens lost their third game in a row, and fourth of five games, a most unusual situation in recent years, as they let a 2-1 lead at the end of the first get away from them. Allowing the Flyers to not only get back into the game but to take the lead and hold on for victory, despite a number of unsuccessful Ottawa power plays..

The Flyers chased starting goaltender Martin Gerber from the game in the second period after Gerber let in a bad goal, the flyers third of the game. Gerber left the game after facing 25 shots; Ray Emery took over an faced 16 shots of his own, surrendering one to give the Flyers the win. The recent struggles for the Sens won’t do much to quell the controversy over starting goaltenders, with Gerber allowing a weak looking goal to give the Flyers a life, Ray Emery may find that the battle to get back the number one spot is back on.

Daniel Briere proved pivotal in the Flyers victory, scoring twice on the way to the Flyers success, while Antero Niittymaki received the start for the flyers stopping 26 of the 29 shots directed his way.

The problem for Ottawa was an inability to shut down the Flyers attack, with uncharacteristic miscues on defence and in the neutral zone. They were mistakes that the Flyers did not hesitate to take advantage of.

The Sens Captain Daniel Alfredsson missed the game on Saturday, due to a groin injury, a significant missing ingredient considering the start to the season he has had so far.

While they aren’t panicking in Ottawa, they are expecting that head coach John Paddock will be working them hard in practice over the next few days, to knock down any of the bad habits they’ve shown in the last few games and to refocus their sight on the job at hand.

They have a break now until Wednesday when the travel to New York to play the Islanders on Long Island. Four days to gry and get everyone back on the same page.

Philadelphia Inquirer--Another giant falls to Flyers

Saturday, November 24, 2007

An entertaining lecture from Professor King

Friday night on Dan Russell's sports talk show, a program heard nightly on CKNW, was almost like a guest speaker session at your local university or community college.

The course: International Industry, the hockey industry and how it is evolving in Russia

The Professor: Dave King, former NHL coach, Canadian Hockey program coach and most recently a coach in the Russian Super League.

We recently took a look at his new book King of Russia as part of our Top Shelf feature. The book which was co-authored by Eric Duhatsheck, provided a fascinating look inside the Russian super league and recounted some of the more memorable moments that King and his wife Linda shared during their year and a bit while living inside Russia.

King spent an hour, going over some of the highlights that he selected for his book and it was a fast moving and highly entertaining discussion as he reviewed many of the events and personalities that made his year a memorable one.

You can listen in to the interview for the next couple of weeks by accessing the CKNW audio vault and selecting, Friday, November 23rd and then the 10-11 pm hour.

It's great way to whet your appetite for the book, which will take you into parts of the Russian hockey structure that few Canadians have seen or been allowed to venture into, many places that still stand out in King's mind to this day.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Legends of Hockey--November 23

Gordie Howe

Detroit Red Wings 1946-1971

Houston Aeros (WHA) 1973-1977

New England Whalers (WHA-NHL) (1977-1980)

Detroit Vipers (IHL) 1997-1998

Other sites of interest: hockey
Collections Canada-- Gordie Howe
Canadian encyclopedia-- Gordon Howe
CBC archives-- Mr. Hockey
Red Wing alumni-- Gordie Howe Gordie Howe
Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan-- Gordie Howe

Leafs drop the lead in big D, Stars keep streak alive

The Toronto Maple Leafs went to Irving on Thanksgiving Day Thursday, a chance to watch the mythical Cowboys keep their winning record alive and take in some of the ambiance of America’s Team.

They apparently did not take notes…

On Friday, Toronto met the hometown Stars and after taking an early lead in the first period and holding the Stars to a tie heading late into the second, they let things unravel through the third.

By the third period, the Stars were playing more like the Cowboys, taking charge of the play and packing away two more goals in the third, good enough to secure a 3-1 victory and keep a modest little wining streak of 4-0-1 alive since GM Doug Anderson was let go.

It was not a barn burner of a game by any stretch, as Marty Turco made 18 saves on 19 shots on the way to victory, his first in the nets in three games as the Stars had gone with backup Mike Smith for the recent winning roll.

Toronto has a record of 1-3-2 in their last six games, with just one soul satisfying victory over the Ottawa Senators to boost their spirits. Friday night saw the Stars directing 24 shots on Vesa Toskala, who turned aside 21 of that Stars attack.

The continuing slide by the Blue and White, will no doubt once again start up the rumblings that the positions of GM John Ferguson Junior and perhaps even head coach Paul Maurice, may be on the cusp of a change.

With the Stars and Thrashers now the poster children for turning around a negative situation, it may not be too long before the public chants start to be heard in the Air Canada Centre, declaring that it’s time for a change at the centre of the hockey universe.

Considering the efforts of the Leafs in the last six games, they aren’t doing much on their end to give the impression that they could be the kind of team that they sat and watched on Thursday afternoon.

All of that successful history and hype either overwhelmed them or went clear over their heads like a wayward slap shot from the point.

While the Cowboys had a few dark seasons in recent years, they also have had far more successful ones over the last three decades.

Something that the Leafs and their fans certainly can’t relate to in any way!

One thing is certain, nobody and we mean NOBODY is saying "How about those Maple Leafs"

Backstrom Brings in a win for Boudreau

Washington Capitals rookie Nicklas Backstrom welcomed his new coach into the NHL by providing the winning goal in overtime, to give the Capitals their first win, in their first start under the Boudreau era.

While the Capitals of old seemed to rise up in the third and try to hand the victory over to the Philadelphia Flyers, when the game went into overtime, the Caps went into overdrive.

Backstrom combined with Alexander Ovechkin to put away the winning goal, Backstrom recovered a shot directed by Ovechkin at the Flyers Martin Biron, and waited a second for the goaltender to commit before he tucked away the winner.

It allowed all of the Caps and their interim coach to take a deep breath and forget about a 3-0 lead that they blew starting in the second period.

It was an emotional win for the struggling Caps, who yesterday saw their popular coach Glen Hanlon dismissed by the Capitals management, with a bottom dwellers record the Caps have been fairly woeful for a good portion of the season. So getting off to a 3-0 lead in Philadelphia must have felt like a trip to Oz.

Of course this being a Capital’s story, the tide soon turned as the Flyers began to put the pressure on in the second and started their trek towards a tie and the chance to win in OT.

The Flyers found themselves in the middle of bit of melee in the waning minutes of the second period as Scott Hartnell, laid out Boyd Gordon with a legal, but rather shuddering shoulder check to the head in open ice.

It was a check that the Caps captain, Chris Clark took exception to and he took on Hartnell in a fight, which found Hartnell in the penalty box for a total of 19 minutes in penalties. Two were for unsportsmanlike conduct, two for instigating, five for fighting and he was assessed a 10-minute game misconduct. The unsportsmanlike was assessed because he initiated a fight while wearing a visor.

While his captain was lost to the team for almost an entire period, the Caps coach Boudreau had no problem with him sticking up for a team mate, who found himself on the wrong end of a nasty check.

Perhaps it was a sign for Boudreau that his new team is willing to get bloodied a bit, in order to send a message that they are involved in the game and will not be pushed around while they’re down.

Between the leadership of the captain and the scoring touch of the rookie, Boudreau might be thinking that his new situation is not only salvageable, but that there may be some hope for the Caps after all, though one suspects that expectations should not be raised too high.

The fans back home in Washington will no doubt be pleased with the result and especially at the expense of the Flyers, who find they rub most team’s fans the wrong way in every city.

So far Boudreau is undefeated, granted it’s only after one game, but considering the season so far, they’ll take the two points and keep an eye on the standings for some upward movement to come.

The Patriot News-Boudreau's streak intact
Associated Press- Boudreau wins debut

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Legends of Hockey-November 22

Yvan Cournoyer

Montreal Canadiens 1963-1979

Legends of Hockey home page


Other sites of interest:

Wikipedia--Yvan Cournoyer
Oldtimers hockey challenge--Yvan Cournoyer
Lung Associatoin--Yvan Cournoyer
CBC Sports--Canadiens to honour Cournoyer
1972 Summit series--Yvan Cournoyer
Canadian Forces Navy News--Yvan Cournoyer
Ottawwa Sun--Hockey's classic
Time magazine--Summit on Ice

Hmm, Gary! There's still some work to be done on the American footprint.

Thanksgiving Thursday, in the USA it's a day all about football. Well there’s that Turkey thing happening and family and friends too! But for the most part, from about 9:30 am to 8:30 pm here on the West Coast, American sports fans are probably watching or listening to a football game.

We tuned into the Colts and Falcons game this evening, one of the projects put on by the NFL Network, who of course employ that well known sports authority Bryant Gumbel.

Gumbel who once commented that the Winter Olympics were a waste of time, due to the nature of the sports covered and devoid of the great athletes of our time, reached into his vast winter sports knowledge kit on Thursday, with an off the cuff remark about hockey.
One which probably tells Gary Bettman more about his current invasion on heartland America than even declining attendance or meager financial returns could provide.

Gumbel was commenting on a catch made by the Colts Ben Utecht, and commented with words to the effect that “Utecht once played hockey up in Minnesota, playing goal, and playing in a state where hockey actually matters.”

Leaving some 49 other states we guess to revel in their disregard for the game. Call the travel office with a cancellation, we suspect that Gary can put aside any grand ambitions to be a guest on Real Sports anytime soon.

Gumbel's line was but a throwaway one in a football game. One probably missed by millions of fans, who had by then overdosed on turkey, beer and other groups of food and beverage.

But it’s indicative of the state of hockey these days in the USA, reduced at times to a punch line to a story filling time in a football game.

They’re carving more than birds in Washington…

Thanksgiving Day was dismissal day for Hanlon, on a day best known for carving up a golden bird for a feast; the Washington Capitals decided that the time had arrived to sacrifice their coach.

Glen Hanlon, the victim of an underperforming Capitals squad, was let go following yet another uninspiring game from his team. A rather common experience this year unfortunately for Hanlon, who has been unable to light a fire under his team and turn them in the right direction.

Despite the talents of Alexander Ovechkin and the best efforts of Olie Kolzig to stem the tide, the Capitals have far too frequently been on the wrong side of the score on most nights, and even more worrisome appearing to just be going through the motions while on the ice.

Wednesday night’s 5-1 humbling to the Atlanta Thrashers (who recently canned their coach) appears to have been the final straw for Caps ownership, which could not have helped but heard the boos, catcalls and derisive chants that “Hanlon must go”.

The loss was Washington’s 15th in 18 games and gives them uncontested custody of last place in the NHL, marking their worst start in 26 years.

Hanlon, who is a popular figure in the NHL, has been the coach of the Capitals for the last four years, an era which seemed to coincide with a decline in the team’s fortunes. While poor finishes over the last few years have allowed them to select such highly touted rookies as Ovechkin and this year’s Nicklas Backstrom, the process of turning a raw group of youngsters into a pro team has taken longer than expected.

The time to bring it all together ran out for Hanlon on Thursday morning, Bruce Boudreau has been promoted from his post on the farm in Hershey, given the job on an interim basis, and will step behind the bench on Friday when Washington meets the Flyers in Philadelphia.

Hanlon who compiled a career record of 78-123-9-29 in his only stint as a head coach, he previously had been an assistant in Washington and before that worked for the Vancouver Canucks as an assistant coach.

The Capitals had entered this season hopeful of a turn around of fortunes, using a marketing slogan of “New Look. New Season. New Attitude”, as the season progressed however it was more of a case of the “same old story” night after long night. Having lost the fans along the way during this now apparent incomplete rebuild, left the Caps owner Ted Leonis with little recourse than to make what may amount to only a cosmetic change on the bench.

In the end a coach who was considered by many to be a players coach, was let down by those very players. Where the Caps go from here remains to be seen, but a team that seemed lacking in confidence and at times in a work ethic, may find that their problems are much deeper than just the fellow that stands behind the bench. Name Bruce Boudreau Interim Head Coach

Legends of Hockey--November 21

Bobby Bauer

Boston Bruins 1937-1942, 1945-1947, 1951-1952

RCAF Flyers 1942-1943

Legends of Hockey Homepage


Other sites of interest:

Waterloo Public Library--Bobby Bauer
Wikipedia--Bobby Bauer
Peterborough Examiner--Bobby Bauer

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Naslund is back on track as the Canucks continue to harvest points

"Maybe I can go after, or check Naslund and those Pinky and the Brain twins,'' --- Derek Boogaard, earlier this week.

Well, in the case of Mr. Boogaard, we suspect that you can’t stop what you can’t catch!

Markus Naslund and those “Pinky and the Brains twins”, made quick work of the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, as the Canucks who left Edmonton late on Wednesday and arrived in the Twin Cities early in a Minnesota morning on Wednesday, seemed rested enough to more than handle the Wild.

Naslund accounted for three of Vancouver’s four goals on the night, the twins picking up two assists each as the Canucks doubled the Wild 4-2. Good enough to move the Canucks into a first place tie with Minnesota in the Northwest Division.

Coach Alain Vigneault turned Boogaard's comments around, as he praised his club for coming to the rink focused on the hockey and able to put aside the sideshow aspects of the Minnesota enforcer.

Boogaard didn’t even get the opportunity to get on the ice much, let alone into a scrap, according to the NHL's Time on Ice stats, he played for less than four minutes in the first two periods of the game. The lone fight of the game featured the Canuck’s Mike Brown, recently called up from Winnipeg who got into a scrap with the Wild’s Aaron Voros in the first period. The first period was a scrappy affair, but the remainder of the game was fairly calm, with no penalties at all called in the third.

The Wild were left to ponder letting a four game home game winning streak come to an end as they surrendered the two points to a less than intimidated Cancuk squad. Vancouver played Curtis Sanford in goal, giving Roberto Luongo a rest from last night’s long evening in Edmonton.

The rejuvenated Naslund is a welcome sight for Canuck fans, struggling in the early part of the season he has become a much more focused player since being re-united with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. They are a first line that is finding the net much easier these days and able to silence the silly talkers rather easily.

Considering the angst around Vancouver a few short weeks ago, the Canucks have more than risen to the occasion, no excuses over serious injuries, no panic when things start to turn band and providing an exciting and hard hitting display of hockey.

For Canuck fans the bandwagon once again is taking on passengers, but the space is going fast!


Vancouver Sun-Canucks tame Wild

Vancouver Province-Canucks double Wild

Panning for gold on the small rinks of the world

Here at the HockeyNation we are presently in the homestretch of reading Ed Willes: Gretzky to Lemieux, a so far quite interesting look at the riveting Canada Cup series of 1987, a series that seemed to be a defining moment for hockey in so many ways.

I don’t want to tip too many of the notes I’ve made so far, but the late summer and early fall journey to that final game of a three game showdown at Copps coliseum has provided many fascinating tales so far and we suspect more will come as we get closer to the end. We’re hoping to have our review ready for posting to our Top Shelf feature, not too long into the future.

Once we put that one down, however, we’ll immediately look to crack open a copy of Gare Joyce’s: Future Greats and Heartbreaks. That after hearing a taste of it on a radio talk show this morning.

Joyce was a guest on the Bill Good show today, a morning talk show on British Columbia’s most listened to station CKNW. From the 10:30 to 11:00 period, he provided snippets of some of the material in his book.

Recounting some of the scouts, players and situations that he came across in the year he spent in the mysterious world of the hockey scout. They travel from rink to rink, city to city and country to country. Scouts are the bird dogs of the hockey fields, seeking out that un-noticed gem of a player, the one that could change the fortune of an NHL team.
A good scout can leave a team in a strong situation for years to come, a poor one can set a team back for years. With thousands of players to watch through the years, finding the select few that will make the huge step to professional hockey must be like seeking out a needle in a haystack.

The interview was an interesting taste of what the book must be like, if you want to check it out, head for the CKNW Audio Vault and select the 10 to 11 hour for Wednesday, November 20. The half hour interview provides a tiny insight to an aspect of hockey that few know very much about.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Legends of Hockey--November 20

Viacheslav Fetisov

CKSA Moscow--1974-1989
New Jersey Devils--1990-1995
Detroit Red Wings--1995-1998

Legends of Hockey home page


Other sites of interest: Fetisov
International Hockey Legends--Viacheslav Fetisov
CBC sports--Fetisov is the second Russian in hall
CNN--Fetisov suiing limo company
1972Summit series--Top 10 Russian players
Denver Post--Times change, and occasionally for the better
New York Times--Shooting in Red Square! Of pucks, that is.

Left with nothing but a grimace on his face…

Neil Smith probably figured he might get some kind of remuneration after his unceremonious departure from the New York Islanders. But if reports out of New York are true, he figured wrong.

Smith left the employ of the Isles some six weeks after taking over the duties on the Island after a rather strange string of affairs, even for a team that of late has provided some interesting moments of levity.

The Smith era while short, was rather frantic as the newly hired GM and the team owner Charles Wang didn’t seem to see eye to eye on many decisions at the time. Wang removed his hire after 42 days and turned the key to the executive washroom over to Garth Snow, who previously had been the teams back up goaltender.

According to the Globe and Mail, Gary Bettman has been acting as the arbitrator in this dispute, and the Globe suggests that the Commissioner’s interpretation of events of that time are that Smith did not have an enforceable contract in place at the time. A situation that could mean that smith is out of luck if he expects to collect any money on this one.

Smith and Wang apparently had an agreement in place but no one had signed any papers by the time Smith was sent packing, and in Wang’s eyes that meant that there was no deal, no contract and thus no payday.

If the situation evolves as it seems to be heading, that of Bettman declaring Smith and orphan without compensation a valuable lesson will have been learned by all future GM’s.

Before you get around to building up your new team, you had best get your own contract in order first. After all the players are going to get paid, you might as well make sure to have a pay envelope with your own name on the way too.

Smith is still seeking work as an NHL General Manager, but we suspect that next time before he signs anyone to a dotted line, he'll make sure that he's already dotted his i's and crossed his own personal t's first.

The Top Shelf-- Matchmaster Virtual hockey toy

Design the proper care and feeding program for your own virtual hockey player!
With Christmas on the way, Santa’s gift lists will soon be in the mail, hopeful screeds from youngsters looking for the newest, the latest, the shiniest and the ones that offer the most fun.

A hopeful entry to the Christmas sweepstakes is a new creation for the hockey fan, a small handheld electronic gizmo that offers the player the chance to build their hockey player from the ground up. Each unit can be decorated with the logo of the player’s favourite squad and you can enter the name of your favourite player as your training camp subject.

The Matchmaster, is a virtual hockey toy, which requires the user to navigate through a number of activities that simulate the regimen of an average NHL hockey player.

Designed for the younger set somewhere from 8 years and up, the players will work out a balanced routine for eating, sleeping and training all designed to maximize the virtual player’s performance.

There are a number of skills that you have to work on as well taking part in a number of interactive practice sessions. You need to develop your shots, end to end rushes, sprints, dekes, one timers and shoot outs.

The key to all your training is to get to the point where you are strong enough and trained enough to play an infra red game with a friend, who has gone through the same process on his or her matchmaster.

The harder you’ve trained in the early days, the better your performance in the head to head action, a little incentive to take proper care of your player on a daily basis.

The unit itself is a small handheld device, no larger than a small cellular phone, it features a small screen, easily viewed by the younger folks but for us older types it’s a bit harder to get used to.

However, once you adjust to the process of playing the matchmaster it’s not that hard to master. The action moves fast and the concepts are easy to grasp after you’ve read through the instructions a few times.

The unit is the first attempt to cash in on the North American market and follows similar units in soccer mad England, where the same principle of training and reward are in place on the pitch and feature a number of decorative English and Scottish league stickers.

There is also an MLS version for North American’s who have dreams of feeding and training and bending it, with a virtual Beckham stick man.

Future projects even include Australian football, which we can imagine from our memories of that game would be an interesting concept, one that probably would require as much time in the hospital as you would on the field.

The matchmaster is available across Canada through a marketing arrangement at Wal Mart Stores, and for under seventeen dollars would fit into a stocking and a budget with little difficulty. It surely won’t be taking the place of the EA Sports Empire, built through the amazing graphics and speed of the digital designs for the next generation computers and gaming stations.
But for a diversion on a daily basis, the hand held units are easily transported and thus would set up an instant game in a pretty short order.

If you’re looking for something a little different for the hockey fan this Christmas, the matchmaster may be something to look at. It provides a good chance for Mom and Dad, daughter and son to set up their own Christmas hockey tournament without having to leave the house.

For more information on the matchmaster check out their website, they have a fair bit of information available, as well as some pictures to help you get a better idea of what the game is all about. Your chance to play coach and GM and turn your matchmaster player into a finely tuned hockey machine…