Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quest for Hockeyville: Terrace, B. C.

Saturday night was Hockey Night in Terrace, British Columbia, as the northwest BC community welcomed Cassie Campbell and Kirk McLean to town to share in the bid for Hockeyville status.

The Terrace organizing committee has been busy over the last number of months seeking to put the best impression forward for the community in their hope to be named Hockeyville 2009, numerous community events have taken place over the last number of weeks as the community spirit rose to the occasion of securing their place on the finalists list.

Last week that hard work came to successful conclusion as the city was named one of the five finalists in the Hockeyville competition, their efforts reviewed between periods of the NHL triple header of Saturday night.

The results will now be put in the hands of the judges so to speak (those voters who take part in the online voting and text messaging), and while Terrace might have a head start having been selected first, there is also the realization that by having the first presentation the subsequent contenders will have a good idea just what the bar is for them to rise above.

The background on some of the events that Terrace put on and the excitement that the competition has generated can be found below, all designed to impress enough Canadians that they are indeed the place for hockey this season.

Terrace Daily online-- Hockeyville Schedule of events

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lots of sun, but not much fun for the Habs in Florida

For any Quebecois, nothing beats a late January retreat to the sunny climes of Florida, an annual migration that seems to grow by the year, one that brings a smile to the face and feeling of relaxation, unless of course you’re a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs spent their few days in the Florida sun finding that the home sides of Tampa and Miami weren’t particularly inclined to play the genial hosts, as both Florida teams provided the Canadiens with solid spankings on their southern jaunt.

Of particular concern for Habs devotees, has been the sudden mortality of Carey Price, who has surrendered 15 goals in four games, though to be fair, he's not been particularly well served by his defence, nor by any inclination of his forwards to come back and lend a hand.

By the time Montreal was finished with the Florida festivities, they must have felt as though they had been the main course for the gators of the Florida swamps, such was the fate they suffered from their time with southern hospitality.

As the Panthers put the Canadiens on the plane home with a 5-1 loss, the Habs had tallied up their fourth consecutive loss on the five game road trip, a slide that has begun to worry the always easy to worry Montreal media (and a few other sun worshippers from elsewhere), who took time from the sun block to cobble together a few stories about the sudden appearance of the Habs losing ways.

Perhaps it was all that sun, the warm temperatures and the lure of the golf courses, what Montreal needs it seems to get back into the hockey groove, is some of that good old Montreal winter weather.

Minus 20, some snow, trading golf clubs for shovels and plugging in the car again, now that might get them thinking hockey...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Maybe he just didn't like that particular hat...

A hat is a hat, unless it starts a spat.

Ray Emery is making headlines again, all be it in the Cyrillic typeface.

Emery currently tending the goal in Russia, found himself once again the featured presentation of YouTube, this after an altercation with his team's trainer behind the bench.

Emery, who had apparently been pulled from the game, was a little less than enthused at the constant prodding from the trainer to put on one of the team sponsor's baseball style caps while he cooled his heels on the bench.

After one too many requests, Emery's legendary fuse hit the short side, with a rather quick and very visible scrap behind the bench and through the tunnel towards the dressing room.

The latest episode of fists of fury, Russian rendezvous, have helped to fuel speculation that perhaps Emery might be wishing to return to North America, if so knocking around the trainer might be one way to get yourself off the roster, but one wonders if it may not put him in danger of becoming a guest of the state for a longer term than he originally signed on for...

National Post-- Video shows Emery scuffling with KHL trainer
Sportsnet-- Emery attack on YouTube

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything is just okey dokey....

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held his state of the game address in Montreal this weekend, painting a bit happier portrait than what you might read in the major newspapers, hear on the nations radio stations or perhaps view on the various television networks that pay attention to hockey.

With trouble reportedly flaring up in Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and perhaps a few more that we haven't heard much about (hello there Long Island), the commish instead suggested that things are under control and that the picture isn't near as dire as we might have been led to believe.

While we hear reports of papered houses in a bid to qualify for league financial assistance and owners looking for lifelines, the commissioner was sticking to his talking points that the league is doing well in the midst of the current economic climate and that there needs to be more emphasis on the positives.

And while it's probably his job to put the best face forward for the league, it would seem to even the most casual of observers let alone the graduates of business school, that things aren't quite as wonderful as he might like us all to believe.

More than a few observers point out that the NHL benefited only by the timing of the current economic tribulations, with most of the season ticket sales and sponsorship contracts signed before the economy began its run towards the negatives.

The key might very well be the playoff season as Roy MacGregor points out in his article for the Globe and Mail, with layoffs and job terminations growing daily in the USA and to a degree in some Canadian cities, the prospect of a lot of disposable cash to spend on hockey tickets through April to June may not be very high.

Already there are problem areas in cities where sell outs use to be the norm, Detroit hard hit by economic times has noticed enough of a drop to be noticeable from those filling seats at the Joe, likewise Colorado is no longer a guaranteed sellout anymore, and that's before you reach the questionable ticket numbers in Nashville, Atlanta and other southern centres.

The NHL is a business, like many others in North America and the chances of it staying immunized to the current financial troubles seems unlikely, Mr. Bettman may be saying that the league is strong at this years all star break, one wonders however if the same claim will be able to be made when next years showcase meet and greet rolls around.

ESPN-- Olympics? Vegas? Bettman checks in
Edmonton Sun-- NHL commissioner denies possibility of changes to franchises
Toronto Sun-- Bettman's glass is half full
Globe and Mail-- Wait Mr. Commissioner ... we have some questions
CBC Sports-- NHL is holding its own economically: Bettman

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Skating off to Saskatoon?

Never mind Hamilton, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo or a second team for Toronto, a rumour floating through the NHL ether this all star weekend has the New York Islanders taking the advice of the Guess Who and running back to Saskatoon...

While most likely a fanciful balloon launched to excite the hockey masses of the prairie (and put a scare into less than hurried local officials of Long Island ), it would seem unlikely that Commissioner Bettman would be inclined to have one of his New York City franchises trek across the continent to set up shop in the middle of Saskatchewan.

The story seems to have gained a bit of life through a Reuters dispatch which outlines the troubles that owner Charles Wang has been having in getting authorities on Long Island to build a new arena to house the Islanders.

With that sword dangling over the franchise, the rumours have begun with Saskatoon apparently sharing top billing as a relocation site with Kansas City and their state of the art new sports arena, patiently waiting for a tenant, a prospect that has Islander fans a tad worried.

Saskatoon of course was once down this path before, as the then financially troubled St. Louis Blues were to be moved to northern Saskatchewan in 1983 , only to have the project shot down by then NHL President John Ziegler.

While we would like to see the game repatriated to Canadian ice in greater numbers, unless Saskatoon has some remarkable financial backing and a season ticket base willing to pay huge amounts of dollars to provide the team with financial security, we somehow don't think that this trial balloon is going to fly.

We don't doubt that the city (and province) would embrace the prospect of the NHL playing in the land that sends so many players off to the leagues outposts, but financially we suspect it might be a tough road to travel.

Then again, Saskatchewan has shown time and time again that if a project seems unlikely, then they'll prove you wrong, it will be interesting to watch how this one plays out and what the reaction in Saskatchewan will be, though you can't help but get the feeling that they're being used as a bargaining chip as the Islanders try to solve their local problems on Long Island.

Principal Bettman addresses his recalcitrant students

With the galaxy of stars of the NHL turning into black holes on All Star Weekend, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman read the inter-stellar riot act on Friday, suspending players that won't be showing up in Montreal and cajoling others to do their NHL duty and make an appearance if only to shake hands, sign autographs and give sound bites.

The NHL all star game of late has become a bit of a farce, some of the bigger stars have begged off with injuries, or all star flu, so as to benefit with the five day break like the second and third line players who depart for the sunnier golf courses or beaches of the southern USA during the scheduled break.

With the Montreal game starting to shape up as the best of the B lines, Mr. Bettman decided that the time had come to make missing the contest expensive to those that decided to ignore the will of those that can click the fastest on the NHL voting sites.

The Commissioner advised that players who now skip out on the all star game will be suspended from play for the first regular league game following the all star weekend, this years kids heading to detention are Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. who both decided to take a pass on the festivities in Montreal.

The new edict, which actually is just an enforcement of an existing league decision has been gaining mixed reactions from NHL players, such as the one from Sheldon Souray which suggested that there are more important things than sacrificing family time.

A response that might provide for another classroom session from the Commissioner if it becomes a common thread among the players, though he might have to get his message delivered to league management first.

Globe and Mail-- NHL suspends Lidstrom

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's already next year time for Rick DiPietro

The star crossed season for Rick DiPietro has officially faded to black for 2009.

The Islanders 67 million dollar man, has been told to take the rest of the season off in order to recover from ongoing swelling in his surgically repaired knee.

He made but five starts this season, after having had surgery last June, the second operation on his knees in his carrer.

He made headline news back in 2006 when he signed a fifteen year 67.5 million dollar contract, considered by many to be a rather foolish move by the Islanders and their management team.

Shortly after locking into that deal he suffered the first of his knee problems, this years setback saw him make three starts in October, and one more each in December and January before the decision was reached that time and rest was in his and the team's best interests.

Islanders are preaching patience for the fans, hoping that will a full half season and off season of rest DiPietro will be ready to take to the nets again and that huge investment will show some return.

Newsday-- DiPietro's season done; will another begin?
Newsday-- Isles should make sure they're covered in goal
New York Times-- Rick DiPietro Lost to Islanders Once Again
New YOrk Daily News-- Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro to miss rest of season with knee problems
National Post-- Islanders G DiPietro out for season
Toronto Star-- Bum knee sinks season for Islanders goalie

One more challenge for Pat Burns

The NHL community is once again charging into the corner of Pat Burns, as word was released on Wednesday that former beat cop and longtime NHL coach is facing the challenges of cancer one more time.

Burns has been battling the disease for a number of years now, successfully taking it on in the form of colon and liver cancer, Wednesday it was announced that he now must tackle lung cancer.

There is no shortage of goodwill directed towards Burns, who has been the embodiment of a battler since he first heard of his challenge back in 2003.

Aware of the way the media, especially that of his home province of Quebec can handle the developments, he released a statement on Wednesday that said “The truth is simple: the cancer has returned. But I'm still alive and well. I'm not in great shape, but I still get up every morning, I play golf, I ride my motorbike, and I work despite the disease”.

Burns who currently lives in Florida, has chosen not to take on the ravages of chemotherapy for a third time, instead battling the disease through what he calls another way.

There will be millions of hockey fans hoping and perhaps saying a prayer, that once again he comes out on top of his foe.

Montreal Gazette-- Burns renews cancer battle
Globe and Mail-- Burns faces another fight

Monday, January 19, 2009

Canucks stumbles continue

With but one point out of ten to show for a home stand, the Vancouver Canucks have stumbled about in this month of January, edging closer to the bottom of the standings in the West than they are to the top.

Sunday saw the Canucks surrender an early game lead and eventually lose in a shoot out, Rick Nash going one better than Mats Sundin to provide the Blue Jackets with the victory.

In just one week, the Canucks have lost to three lower echelon clubs (lower by only a few points now as things have turned out) in the west, the Blues, the Coyotes and the Blue Jackets, teams they desperately need to keep ahead of if playoff hockey is to be a going concern in the months of April and May.

With a growing sense of frustration, Canuck fans have watched on five home occasions in recent days as their local squad looked overwhelmed at times by the opposition. Even with Roberto Luongo back in the nets and with Mats Sundin working off the rust as a work in progress, the Canucks have not picked up the pace required to stake their claim for post season play.

While it's certainly not a dire situation just yet, the smell of panic is starting to float across Vancouver like a pacific front, the problem is the Canucks don't seem to be working their way out of the slump, but rather they seem to be digging themselves in deeper.

The team's inability to become a more cohesive unit on the ice and pick up the slack when it has been required has brought with it the first rumblings that change may be required should the Canucks have any kind of plans for hockey in the spring.

The most frequent subject of the cause for change of late seems to be head coach Alain Vigneault who has had a front row spot to watch his faltering squad, who seem to be unresponsive to his suggestions for more collective play.

Five home losses in a row and win less in their last seven home dates is testimony that things are going south in a hurry in Vancouver. Should they continue to keep to the less than successful path that they've taken of late, those rumblings of change may turn into a roar.

Vancouver Sun-- A broken home (record)

No pom pom's, but Fleury has his towel...

Pittsburgh is all excited about their Steelers and their quest for a Super Bowl, and apparently the Steelers may not have any greater fan than Penguin's Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury...

Helmet on head and towel in hand, the Pengs goaltender showed who he was cheering for on Sunday..

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sid to sit for Penguins

When the Anaheim Ducks face off against the Penguins tonight, the Pens will have to do without the services of their captain Sidney Crosby on Friday night, the decision to sit Crosby out for Friday's game was made after the morning skate when Crosby said he didn't feel comfortable with the condition of his "lower body injury".

Crosby suffered the problem in the waning moments of Wednesday's game with the Capitals, that after he had collided with the Caps David Steckel, Crosby fell to the ice and had to be assisted off the ice with help from one of the game's linesmen.

The Penguins have said little about the injury since Wednesday, other than to narrow the focus to the lower body, some suggest it may be a knee injury, but the Pens just list it as a lower body problem.

It's not known how long Crosby may be sidelined, but embattled head coach Michael Therrien must be hoping it won't be for too long, already the Pens are starting to look like a M*A*S*H unit, with forward Maxime Talbot and defensemen Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang all listed as not ready to play.

For a team that has been struggling to score of late and needs to pick up some wins to quiet the rumbles of coaching change, losing your star player for any period of time isn't going to make the task of winning any easier.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review -- Crosby, other Penguins won't be playing tonight
Pittsburgh Tribune Review-- Cumulative crush of injuries punishes Pens
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-- Crosby, 4 other Penguins to miss tonight's game

Almost deja vu for Maurice

The end score wasn't quite the same from what he used to watch on a nightly basis, but for Paul Maurice one time head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, watching the Leafs almost blow a huge lead must have seemed rather familiar.

Thursday night brought the Leafs together with the Hurricanes, Maurice's new/old team for the first time since his dismissal in Toronto and subsequent rehiring by the Canes in December.

As things started out he must have wondered where all that Leaf scoring had been hiding during his tenure behind the bench of the Blue and white, the Leafs jumped out to an impressive 4-0 lead, only to surrender it completely by the third period, providing what surely must have seemed like the same kind of collapse that cost Maurice his job in Toronto.

The Hurricanes battled back with a fury in the second and third periods, in fact with a disallowed goal to their credit, they should have been leading the game heading into the final stages of the third period, however in the end, it was a player that never seemed to understand Maurice's coaching style that caused him the most grief on the night.

Jason Blake counted three goals, including an empty netter late in the third to cement the victory, a burst of offensive prowess that must have had Maurice grabbing for a program to make sure that there hadn't been a last minute trade by the Leafs heading into the game.

Blake's five point night, brought to an end a four game losing streak by the Leafs who had been looking rather futile of late as they start to slide down the Eastern conference standings.

For Maurice, besides the disappointment in not besting his former team, he now has to try and find a way to reverse the Canes own skid, which ran up to four straight losses with the defeat to Toronto on Thursday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Roberto returns, Canucks hope to reverse fortunes

The return of Roberto Luongo couldn’t have come at a better time, well ok, perhaps a little less than two months ago would have been a better time, but with the Canucks spiraling out of the Western Conference race, putting the number one goaltender in the NHL back on the ice certainly can’t help but give the Canucks and their fans hopes for an end to the slide.

While Vancouver waits for high profile acquisition Mats Sundin to find his ice legs and retool those hands, the return of the teams captain and last line of defence is about as welcome a bit of information as they’ve had in a long time at GM Place.
Luongo will return tonight as the Canucks take on the hard charging Phoenix Coyotes, a team that seems just a step ahead of the bailiffs but only a few points behind the Canucks in the race for playoff positioning in the west.

His arrival will hopefully bring to an end the suddenly horrendous home stretch the Canucks have faced, where they have dropped five of their last six games in the friendly confines of the Garage, many of those games lost because that one key shot wasn’t turned away by the platoon of goaltenders that have tried to keep the Canucks afloat in Luongo’s absence.

There’s a lot of pressure now on Luongo to save the season to a degree, though there will still need to be a bit of a recovery period before he is up to speed again in the nets, should he try to rush things too much he is but one more groin pull away from the end of the season, for him and the way they’ve played in his most recent absence for the Canucks as well.

As Assistant Coach Rick Bowness put it today to Iain McIntyre of the Vancouver Sun, "We put ourselves here. Regardless what Roberto does, we have to play better as a team in front of him. We know what he’ll do. It’s more important what we’ll do in front of him.”

They had best take the coach’s advice to heart, Luongo will be ready to make that game saving stop or spectacular save that turns a game around, what the Canucks do with that boost is up to the other players on the roster, so far they haven’t quite risen up to the challenge.

Vancouver Sun-- Canucks welcome back Louie
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks demote Sanford to AHL Moose
Vancouver Sun-- LaBarbera relieved to be staying as Sanford waived by Canucks
Vancouver Province-- Fit to play Luongo says 'I'm ready to go'
Vancouver Province-- So long, Sanford, we hardly knew you
Globe and Mail-- Canucks place Sanford on waivers

Update: Apparently listening to the assistant coach isn't something they do in Vancouver, with Luongo back in the nets, the Canucks played perhaps their worst game of the season so far, losing to Phoenix 4-1.

Globe and Mail-- Luongo fails to turn the tide
Vancouver Sun-- Even Luongo can’t stop the bleeding as Canucks lose sixth straight at home
Vancouver Province-- Coyotes tear Canucks apart

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is extinction in the future for the Coyote?

Perhaps the World Wildlife Federation might like to lend a hand to the NHL, there's trouble in the sunbelt and extinction is a very real possibility in a very short period of time.

A pair of Globe and Mail articles over the last couple of days, paints a rather grim picture for the future of the Phoenix Coyote, while the team battles things out for a playoff spot in the West, it could be that more than a few NHL owners might be wishing that their southwest compatriots would just quietly finish off the season and then shuffle off.

Both Stephen Brunt and David Shoalts have been tracking the distress of the Coyotes for a number of months now, but this week added more documentation and if the numbers provided and the details gleaned from them are even close to correct, then things indeed are very dire in the desert for pro hockey.

The team has seemingly been turned over to a financial corporation SOF Investments LP of New York, more in the form of collateral than ownership. which means that they aren't injecting much in the way of cash and are most likely keeping busy and keeping the Coyotes afloat by cashing NHL transition cheques, mostly in the form of pre payment of television rights and revenue sharing monies.

With no realistic sense of a turnaround in the fortunes of the team or the market, one has to wonder how long the rest of the lodge members will want to keep carrying the bags for the Desert dogs. If you read Mr. Brunt’s column you’ll find that the shelf life probably isn’t much longer than the final game of this season, regular season most likely the preference as if you’re paying the bills, you most likely would rather your team make the playoffs than Phoenix we would imagine.

Mr. Shoalts turns to the financial statements for his guidance and things aren’t looking very rosy there for Phoenix either. Quickly becoming wards of the NHL (the league must now be consulted on any trade possibilities or financial transactions) and while they try to continue through the season, layoffs have become a necessity with 18 employees let go so far mainly in the sales, administration and public relations departments.

Shoalts outlines how the Coyotes are on track for losses of over 30 million again this year, a millstone that makes the franchise unattractive for any investor and very well may be sending the team to bankruptcy court by the season's end.

It's seemingly not an alarming situation for the NHL, which still sticks to valuations of the franchise of 142 million dollars, a figure that many observers feel is more of the thing of fantasy hockey pools, than real time economics as far as the current situation in Phoenix is concerned.

The two stories are just another entry in what is becoming a very thick tale of woe from Phoenix, the only questions left are will there be many more troubled entries from the southwest before the end of the season and just as alarming, where might the next trouble spot be in a league that seems to suddenly have come to the Rubicon where these economic times might not be very robust ones for the NHL.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Garbovski siadzieć

Maybe I didn't need to do this. It was just five seconds in my head.”-- Maple Leaf Mikhail Grabovski, reconsidering his antics on the way off the ice in Thursday night’s Montreal Toronto game.

He may miss some of the intricacies of the English language from time to time, but one thing should be pretty crystal clear for Mikhail Grabovski, grabbing an official and tossing him aside is not something that you should be doing at any time during the course of a hockey game.

There was nothing lost in translation on Friday from the NHL head office, the Maple Leaf’s Mikhail Grabovski, having pushed aside an NHL official during Thursday night’s game with Montreal will be out of the line up for three games, suspended for his abuse of the on ice official.

The incident took place during a late game scrum between Grabovski and the Canadiens Sergei Kostitsyn, things moved quickly beyond the shouting from the benches leading to some on ice grabbing and shoving, caught in the middle of it all was NHL linesman Scott Cherrey who ended up getting shoved aside by Grabovski, that after his efforts at having kept the two separated for most of the exchange.

As Grabovski left the ice, he repaid the compliments of the Montreal crowd with five seconds of antics on the way to the dressing room, no doubt a move that will endear him to Montreal fans for many years to come, he found even more ways to work his way into their hearts post game, as he described Kostitsyn as more French than Belarussian, as “I never fight with Belarussian guys.”

Grabovski at one time was part of the Canadiens organization, though apparently not a favourite of head coach Guy Carbonneau, the Kotsitsyn’s and we guess now of the Montreal fans.

Familiarities will be renewed on February 7th in Montreal, bring your Belarussian/English dictionaries to keep up to speed if you wish.

Road kill Sens return home

Eight games, one win and only three points to show for their efforts not to mention a whole lot of questions to face from the folks back home, that in a nutshell is the fate of the Ottawa Senators as they return home after their eight game road trip odyssey.

With the first home date since before Christmas set for Saturday night, the Sens seem apparently in a free fall with no shortage of fingers to be pointed and directions for those fingers to go.

Beleaguered head coach Craig Hartsburg, who probably never thought things could be this bad in the city he signed on with, spent the post game period following Thursday’s 6-4 loss to Boston, calling out his top two stars Captain Daniel Alfredsson and the seemingly frequently on the dirt list Jason Spezza, advising both that their sloppy play on the ice was the determining factor in the latest Senator loss.

From shaky goal tending, through terrible defensive play and an ineffective offensive attack, there is much to try to fix in a season that seems all but lost in the second week of January.

With goal tending constantly the Achilles heel of this franchise, the latest plan it seems is to bring up Brian Elliott from the Senators AHL farm club in Binghamton, not a bad idea considering the thirty three goals that the Sens surrendered in their eight game trek through the NHL west and northeast.

If called up, there’s a very good chance that Elliot (see picture at the top of the page) could be in the nets for Saturday’s game against the Rangers, though you have to wonder if he might wish to come down with the flu or something, having seen the way that Ottawa works for their current tandem. Sure everyone wants to play in the big show, but the sideshow that Ottawa seems to be on the verge of becoming isn’t something that everyone might find career enhancing.

In Friday’s Ottawa Citizen, the coach expressing no shortage of frustration explains how he and his coaches seem to be exasperated at the inability of the Senators to buy into their teachings of team work, a sure sign that things are not going to get any better in Ottawa without some wholesale changes.

Unfortunately for Hartsburg, he too may be part of the business end of any brooms being wielded around the capital by the owner. Rumours continue to fly around the league that both Hartsburg and GM Bryan Murray may soon be cleaning out their offices, the most mentioned name of late set to take over and try to right the ship, being that of Pat Quinn, fresh off his successful voyage with the Team Canada Juniors.

Eugene Melnyk, the Senators owner, who spent a lot of time with Quinn over the last two weeks at the World Juniors, was famously quoted on Thursday, declaring that Contrary to what is being reported today by the media, I have made no decisions with respect to any personnel changes within the Senators organization.

Many hockey observers in Ottawa these days think that perhaps he left out one little word, one that will carry a lot of weight and offers up a view of what must be done soon if the Senators are to be saved from themselves.

That word would be, Yet.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ruutu given two games to chew things over

Jarrko Ruutu has been given a two game suspension for his part in a wild game in Buffalo on Tuesday night, better known for his pesky ways and biting wit on the ice, things apparently went a little off the rails on Tuesday when he apparently locked his teeth on the thumb of the Sabres Andrew Peters.

As the story goes it seems, during one of the may scrums that seem to be featured in the Sens and Sabres games, Peters had shoved his glove into the face of Ruutu, with Ruutu suggesting he had shoved the glove into his mouth, which resulted in Ruutu allegedly disengaging the digit with a chomp or two.

While many followers of hockey may be shocked to learn that hockey players still have enough teeth to actually chow down on an offending finger or thumb, Ruttu apparently is still blessed with a healthy helping of incisors and molars. And it would seem isn't afraid to put them to work should the need arise.

During the course of the melee in Buffalo, he escaped punishment as no penalty was called, but after further review of the video (and maybe a dental x ray or two) justice was served on Wednesday with the two game suspension.

Needless to say the incident has started the tongues a wagging across the NHL, with quite a few players, coaches and managers offering up an opinion on the bite heard around the league.

Buffalo News-- NHL suspends Ruutu for biting
Ottawa Sun-- Ruutu suspended two games for bite
National Post-- Ruutu gets two-game suspension for biting Peters
Gllobe and Mail-- Ruutu gone for two games

Ruutu, while not quite showing contrition nor an admission of wrongdoing over the events, did accept the NHL's edict and his sentence.

Now with two games to think about how things transpired on Tuesday night, Ruutu will no doubt have some spare time to fill in.

It's our understanding that he'll probably catch up on a few hobbies in the course of his two game suspension.

Perhaps check out some tunes from his favourite band:

Watch his favourite movie one more time:

Watch some educational Television:

Or catch up on his reading with a good book

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ready, Aye Ready, says Mats

The slogan of the Canadian Navy is Ready Aye Ready, a clarion call that any challenge will be met and any battle will be joined.

On Wednesday, it seems Mats Sundin will be ready too, ready to begin his hockey life as a Vancouver Canuck.

Reports out of Vancouver late Tuesday have it that Sundin having tested his body over the last few days in Canuck practices will be set to make his on ice debut for his new team when they play the Edmonton Oilers in the Alberta capital.

Unless something unusual happens overnight, the long time Maple Leaf captain will step into the Canuck's lineup and hopefully provide the spark to launch them into the homestretch of the NHL season and a playoff spot.

No line combinations have been outlined yet by coach Alain Vigneault, but for those with curious minds the practice combination was Mason Raymond and Kyle Wellwood keeping strides with Sundin on the practice drills.

The Sundin saga has been a long and drawn out one in Vancouver since the Canucks first made their multi million dollar offer in the off season, with Sundin spending most of the summer and the first half of the season in Sweden, many felt that the possibility of him ever picking up a Canuck paycheque was becoming more and more remote.

If all goes to plan, he'll be making the first investment on that paycheque on Wednesday, Canuck fans anxious to see how his stamina and skill sets are at the moment, will be watching and hoping for some flashes of that Sundin magic from the past.

Vancouver Sun-- ‘I am ready’: Sundin
Vancouver Province-- Sundin set to play in Edmonton

TSN celebrates the numbers of a successful World Junior Torunament

It's by far the most successful ratings generator that TSN has, the ten days of hockey that make up the World Junior Hockey Tournament, spaced out between Boxing Day and just after the New Year brings in audience numbers that television executives can only dream about.

And this years tournament in Ottawa which was a monster at the gate proved to be just as strong for the folks at home.

Monday night's Gold medal game between Canada and Sweden brought in over 3.6 million viewers, the largest audience in TSN history and a definitive exclamation point as to the love for hockey that Canadians have, especially when there is national pride on the line. When you add in the record of 602,000 viewers on RDS the french version of TSN then you have a monumental audience of over 4.2 million fans,

The journey of the Canadian youngsters caught the fancy of hockey fans from coast to coast to coast, with two outstanding and nerve wracking games with the USA and Russia to keep the fans coming back for more.
Among the success for TSN was a head to head victory over the CBC on Saturday night, when the Junior game bested the offerings of Hockey Night in Canada, a testimony to the fanaticism that Canadians have for their junior team.
The Monday night final proved to be the most watched event on Canadian television this broadcast season, and the most watched event on a specialty channel in Canadian history.

With Canada again hosting the World Juniors next winter in Regina and Saskatoon, TSN must surely be looking at the holiday season with great anticipation and as the tournament as their signature sporting event on the Canadian sporting scene.

Globe and Mail-- Record audience for TSN
Montreal Gazette-- TSN wins hockey war with CBC

No drama, but in the end a much desired result

After two consecutive games of nail biting, edge of your seat drama, Team Canada provided a workmanlike finale to the World Junior Hockey Championships with a 5-1 victory over Sweden.

From the first drop of the puck Canada had taken control of the play, sweeping into the Swedish end of the ice, scoring first and taking any steam out of the Swedes early on in the finale, once again denying Sweden of a gold medal, the second year in a row that Canada has quashed the hopes of their European competitors.

For Canada it was a record tying fifth consecutive victory, a drive for five that had been the underlying theme of this homecoming event in the nation’s capital. With a sold out crowd of over 20,000, including the Prime Minister in attendance, and no doubt millions more tethered to their television sets across the land, the youngsters delivered on the expectations, having survived to previous scares against the USA and Russia.

The tournament, one of the most treasured of Canadian institutions over the holidays, provided TSN with amazing viewership numbers, giving the IIHF more evidence if any was needed where the real home of hockey is in the world.

The team, a mixture of young Canadian players and one of the most respected coaches in the game proved to be the right mix, even if there was the occasional stumble along the way, while the reporters, commentators and columnists may have raised some flags over the last two weeks, on the bench and in the dressing room it would seem that doubt was never much of a currency, the steady calmness of Pat Quinn, combined with the youthful desire and constant heart of the Canadian juniors proved once again to be up to the task of delivering gold back to Canada.

The final match wasn’t a classic by any stretch, indeed Canada seemed to have little trouble with the Swedes on this night, with solid goal tending from Dustin Tokarski, scoring from the likes of Angelo Esposito, Cody Hodgson, PK Subban and Jordan Eberle and steady play from the defensive corps it was a full team effort and one that was efficient to the task if less than nerve wracking for the home audience.

The tournament provided a platform for any number of young hockey players, many with a destiny that will no doubt include the NHL in the next few years, yet for all the experience of playing the game at the highest level in the pressure cookers that became Scotiabank Place and the Ottawa Civic Centre has probably left lasting memories whether the pros beckon or not.

The day of course will come when Canada will not prevail at these World Juniors, we may have a sense of invincibility when it comes to this tournament, but eventually someone will come along to knock us off the pedestal for a year.

But, if we may, perhaps we can delay that destiny by one more year, next years tournament will take place in Saskatchewan, a province where hockey is as much of the culture as the crops in the fields or the minerals in the ground.

Canada will be seeking a mineral of its own next year in Regina and Saskatoon, a potential sixth straight gold medal, a feat which if achieved will be the new gold standard for junior hockey achievement on the world stage.

You don’t want to put any pressure on anyone so early in the process, but you have to know that when the world’s Junior hockey players return to Canadian ice next Boxing Day, the record will be high on the mind of all.

Defending champs always have the biggest burden when it comes to a competition, with a home crowd and high expectations again, the road won’t be any easier for those that pull on a Maple Leaf in one year’s time.

Savour the victory tonight Canada, work begins anew shortly for number six!

A gracious team, a grateful nation
Canadian juniors capture fifth straight gold
Golden again
Canada peaked in tournament final
Sweden spoke a little too soon

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sid the kid, he flips his lid

The struggles of the Pittsburgh Penguins of late, are apparently beginning to take their toll, such is the growing friction in Penguinland that even star captain, Sidney Crosby is feeling the pressure these days.

The Florida Panthers were in town on Saturday night, a team which a quick glance at the standings will tell is almost a guaranteed cure for whatever ails a hockey team these days, yet, on Saturday the Panther were more than up to the challenge of Crosby and his Pens.

Florida found their scoring touch just in time for their appearance in Pittsburgh, scoring six times on the way to a solid and dominating thumping of the Penguins 6-1. While the pucks were going in the net, captain Crosby was seemingly doing a slow burn, as the Panthers were pulled ahead 4-1 in the final stages of the second period Crosby challenged Brett McLean to a fight, an uncommon for him move (it was but his second fight in the NHL), that resulted in some nineteen minutes of penalties to the Pittsburgh captain and all but banishment from the third period.

Needless to say, it's probably a scene that we won't see repeated for a Timbits hockey commercial anytime soon.

Considering his penalty totals before the game, Crosby nearly doubled them Saturday night in less than a few minutes of scrapping, such as it was. Though his approach to the unsuspecting McLean has left a few of the more regular combatants of the NHL wars less than impressed.

While the league's tough guys may have their issues with Sid, he was being lauded by fellow team mates, McLean and even the Panther's coach for his efforts to spur his team to get more involved in the game, one simple fact should remain obvious, Crosby is probably best known for his scoring prowess as opposed to his punching abilities.

More importantly he probably is of more use to his team if he's on the ice looking to score goals, s opposed to motivating his team from the penalty box...

National Post-- Panthers add to Penguins' recent frustration
Globe and Mail-- Crosby blows his top
Miami Herald-- Nick Boynton calls Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby's behavior `embarrassing, childish'
Miami Herald-- Fists fly in Florida Panthers' victory over Penguins
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Penguins Notebook: McLean dupes All-Star Crosby into penalty box
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Rare Crosby fight can't spark Penguins, 6-1 losers
Pittsburgh Tribune-- A disastrous day for the Penguins

A never say die attitude and a lot of luck saves the Day for Canada

The night cap for Saturday night’s semi final matches at the World Junior tournament provided for yet another legendary moment for Canadian hockey, as Team Canada and Russia played beyond regulation time, through an overtime session and into a penalty shot finale to determine a winner.

In yet another memorable battle between to the two long time rivals, the Russians gave as good as they got, striking goal for goal with Canada, hit for hit, save for save sending a sold out crowd in Ottawa frequently to their feet in anticipation of another exciting twist in the normally entertaining match up of hockey skills.

Canada came within five seconds of disaster, as Russia held on to a five to four lead until the 19:55 mark of the third period, when Jordan Eberle knocked in the winning goal sending the jubilant Canadians and the suddenly deflated Russians into an overtime session. It was a win that was within the grasp of the Russian team and more than likely should have been theirs, if not for the last gasp drive of the Canadians deep in the Russian end.

The two teams, one with a sudden life, the other with disappointment etched on their faces gave just a little bit more for Saturday night's special, the extra time solving nothing, though Canada had more than a few chances to put the game away in the overtime period, yet the Russian goaltender held his ground to force the two teams to the shoot out.

With an entire arena watching, afraid to take a breath it seems, the shooters prepared for their chance to stare down the opposing goaltender. In the end, it proved to be no match up, as Canada scored quickly to bring the night’s drama to an end, the only question to remain after the enthralling hockey being why coach Sergei nenemchov did not go with Filatov and Klopov his team’s leading scorers, both sat forlorn on the ice at the game’s end never summoned to try and push his team ahead.

The near miss to Russia exposed some flaws in the Canadian game, some sloppiness on defence and a far too frequent urge to make the pretty plays, a process that flirts with disaster time and time again. With one day to prepare his team, coach Pat Quinn will no doubt re address those concerns, pointing out how close they came to throwing away their chance for a gold medal.

In the end the legacy of Canadian hockey has always been that Canadian teams normally find a way to win, some kind of inner resolve to not let a game slip away, to find the big play when it’s needed most.

Saturday, they kept true to their form, though from a sold out rink in Ottawa to a nationwide television audience, the thought probably was couldn’t they have done this just a little earlier in the game, saving all the drama for another day.
Globe and Mail-- Canada finds a way
Globe and Mail-- Canadians lucky to escape semis
National Post-- Eberle's epic goals rescue Canada from the brink
National Post-- Canada's defining moment at tournament
National Post-- Swedes end Slovakia's Cinderella story
The Toronto Sun-- Canada's gold hopes alive
The Toronto Sun-- Swedes turn corner
Toronto Star-- Canada going for gold as Russia falls in shootout
CBC Sports-- Canada eyeing 5th straight gold at world juniors
TSN-- Canada Edges Russia in Semis; Advances to Gold medal final

Saturday, January 03, 2009

USA slides out of the medals in Ottawa

Two nights ago they played in one of the most talked about and viewed hockey games in world junior history, as Saturday will dawn in Ottawa the USA hockey team will face the cold reality that for all intents and purposes their trip north is over, no medals to bring home and many questions to answer for how things went so wrong.

The New Year's eve game with Canada is now being talked about in terms such as another classic, Friday night's game with Slovakia probably won't be quite described in those momentous terms, at least not in the USA.

Slovakia played perhaps the game of their lives on Friday evening, shocking the American's with their tenacity and taking the play to the USA squad despite the outrageous number of shots, 49 in total that Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Janus had to face. The undrafted OHL goaltender, put on a remarkable display of goaltending on Friday, one which will surely register with scouts looking for a solid prospect for their respective clubs.

A clearly frustrated American side just couldn't find the necessary chemistry nor result to propel them past their disappointment of New Year's eve loss to Canada, and instead of hoping for one more shot at the Canadian team in this year's tournament, the US will now be playing for fifth place or lower by the time the Gold medals are awarded elsewhere.

The Americans seemed lost at times on the ice, confused as to how their fate was unfolding and more than aware that each minute on the clock was slipping by on their dreams of a gold medal at this years tournament.

For Slovakia it was an exciting in unexpected result, one which moves them into the final four and a date with the Swedes on Saturday night.

Canada, rested up from their New Year's Eve victory over the Americans will face the Russians in another match that should have the TSN audience count climbing skyward, the New Year's Eve match with the USA set another TSN record, as 1.67 million Canadians pulled up to the television set on Wednesday to watch the thrilling Canadian comeback, the previous record of 1.4 million was set during the 2005-06 edition of the tournament.

Globe and Mail-- Slovakia upsets U.S.
Globe and Mail-- It's Russia up next
The Sun Newspapers-- 'Game of my life'

Friday, January 02, 2009

And it's one, two three goals they win, at the old hockey game...

Chicago's venerable Wrigley Field morphed from baseball shrine to shinny palace on New Years Day as the Chicago Black Hawks hosted the Detroit Red Wings for a fascinating bit of outdoor hockey in the windy city.

The wind as is almost always the case in Chicago proved to be the most troublesome of all of the potential problems with an outdoor game, providing a strong reminder to today's pro athletes that our modern indoor rinks offer up a more controlled environment than the players of the early days faced when they played the game on outdoor rinks or riversides at the turn of the last century.

Thursday's Winter Classic was by all accounts a huge success for the NHL and for Chicago, the weather while cold and the wind while strong, didn't detract from the entertaining game that played out on the field at Wrigley, the home side even managing to hold the lead for a the first period and a portion of the second before the Stanley Cup champions reminded all in attendance and those watching on three television networks just why they were the champs.

Detroit mounted a second period comeback that wrestled control of the game from the Chi-Hawks, who despite playing a strong skating and physical game, could not stop the Red Wings from grabbing the two points and the talking points for the New Years Day spectacle.

Pavel Datsyuk's highlight reel goal in the second period put the Wings away for good with a 4-3 lead, his burst of speed and fancy deke of Christobal Huet the break away point for the Wings who eventually would prevail by a score of 6-4.

The game featured all the elements of a hard played NHL game except for any fights, the physical play punishing and the speed remarkable for an outdoor venue, but most important it was the ability of the Wings to shake off the early stumbles to regain their game and take the play to the Hawks that set the pace for the remainder of the game.

Chicago which is a team that is definitely on the rise in the NHL, could only watch as the veteran Red Wing squad provided yet another lesson in calmness and the ability to use hard work to grab yet another win.

The over 40,000 fans in the stands and those gathered on the nearby rooftops took in the hockey carnival with much enthusiasm, including a hockey version of the Harry Carey classic Take me out to the ball game.

Even though they didn't get the two points in the standings on Thursday, the Hawks were still winners, they hosted what has been described as the best of the Winter Classic events yet, making a leap beyond the Buffalo and Edmonton experiences of modern times.

The spectacle of a New year's Day game is probably going to be here to stay, it creates a major buzz not only in the host city but across the league as well, it attracts the major media that the NHL craves attention from and for the fans it offers up something different, a reminder of the magic of the game that sometimes gets lost in the middle of a long season.

Already the names are being dropped as to where the Winter Classic should travel to in 2010, while it's mainly American cities that get the mention, one can't help but wonder if Montreal, celebrating it's 100th anniversary this season and into the next might not be the most deserving of host city status.

The Canadiens would no doubt make wonderful hosts, considering the teams attention to detail and its ability to seemingly never miss a step when it comes to honouring the game. Though even they might admit that the Chicago experience might very well be a tough act to follow...

National Post-- Wings play spoiler in Classic at Wrigley
National Post-- Classic sends players back to hockey roots
Globe and Mail-- Classic effort by Wings
Globe and Mail-- Chicago's loss still a win for NHL
Chicago Tribune-- Red Wings spoil Blackhawks' fun outdoors
Chicago Tribune-- Winter Classic exceeds John McDonough's expectations
Chicago Tribune-- Winter Classic a perfect day
Chicago Tribune-- Blackhawks' outdoor game a classic Wrigley party
Chicago Tribune-- Chicago Blackhawks are frozen out of a win at Wrigley vs. Detroit Red Wings
Chicago Sun-Times-- Same old same as Hawks lose to Red Wings 6-4
Chicago Sun-Times-- Savard, other Hawk legends lead fans in song
Chicago Sun Times-- Red Wings like atmosphere, want another Detroit-Chicago outdoor game
Detroit News-- Red Wings have a field day at Wrigley
Detroit News-- Wings have a blast, finish series sweep
Detroit News-- Chelios doubles pleasure
Detroit Free Press-- Winter Classic a good sign for Wings, future of rivalry
Detroit Free Press-- The Wings should host an outdoor game - at Michigan Stadium
Detroit Free Press-- Next stop Comerica? Special day leaves players wanting more

Headlines of January 2009

A brand new year and a new month of headlines to track in hockey.

January 31-- Gilmour night ends with a win
January 30-- Cammalleri finishing what Iginla starts
January 29-- Get-out-of-jail cards all used up
January 28-- Melnyk not prepared to blow up Senators yet
January 27-- End of the line?
January 26-- Playoff hopes high for Canada's Western teams
January 25-- Reading between Bettman's NHL lines
January 24-- Ovechkin, Malkin put feud to rest
January 23-- NHL suspends Lidstrom
January 22-- Crosby out of all-star game
January 21-- Burns faces another fight
January 20-- Mason is first All-Star weekend casualty
January 19-- Sharks call up Lemieux
January 18-- NHLPA declines to reopen contract
January 17-- Coyotes cool off Flames
January 16-- Gretzky: No fighting outside NHL
January 15-- Luongo fails to turn the tide
January 14-- OHL says players must keep helmets on in fights
January 13-- Sens end skid in style
January 12-- Gainey mum on Lecavalier rumours
January 11-- Luongo passes all tests; ready to return
January 10-- New goaltender, same result for Senators
January 9-- Google reveals that Canadians are into hockey, NHL
January 8-- Tavares headed for London
January 7-- Sundin looks to the future
January 6-- An NHL return in Quinn's future, but with who?
January 5-- Canadian juniors capture fifth straight gold
January 4-- Blackhawks end Flames' win streak
January 3-- Eberle's epic goals rescue Canada from the brink
January 2-- Hockey player dies from head injury
January 1-- Wings play spoiler in Classic at Wrigley