Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Killer's coaching career is complete

He has probably ridden his last bus and filled out his final line up sheet in the OHL, Brian Kilrea the storied coach of the Ottawa 67's saw his hockey team eliminated on Tuesday night, losing a 4-3 decision to Niagara Falls in overtime and bringing to an end to one of the most colourful of coaching careers in hockey .

The 67's loss allows the Ice Dogs to move on in the OHL playoffs, gaining a come from behind win, that secured a 4 game to three victory in the best of seven opening round series.

For Kilrea the final stats will show that he retires from coaching with 2,156 regular season games behind a bench, earning 1,193 wins, a Canadian junior hockey record and one that we suspect will stand for a good many years. And that's not even counting his many playoff appearances and successes.

But beyond that impressive number is another statistic that isn't measured in numbers but in the quality of the people he has sent out into the world. For every success story that graduated from the 67's and entered the NHL (and there are many) there are even more players who have moved on from hockey thankful for their time with the coach and the lessons that he taught them through the years.

Brian Kilrea's name is legend in Ottawa, a long time fixture with the 67's (32 years in charge) he has become one of the faces of the nation's capital, a larger than life figure, who earned his respect the hard way from his early days as a player to the guiding force behind what most agree is one of Canada's most successful sports franchises, Kilrea has always been the definition of class.

While he steps away from the bench (and he's done that before) he won't be too far away from the game and the team he loves, Kilrea will continue on as the 67's General Manager, the most watchful of eyes over the youngsters and the shrewdest of eyes in hockey.

The folks in Ottawa wouldn't have it any other way...

Ottawa Citizen-- 67's lose series in overtime stunner
Canadian Press-- Kilrea's career ends on losing note
Metro News Ottawa-- That’s a career for Kilrea
CFRA Ottawa-- Kilrea's Career Ends as 67's Lose
Ottawa Sun-- Kilrea's career comes to an end in overtime loss
Photo above from the Ottawa Citizen web site

It sure beats trying to solve the auto crisis

Former CAW executive Buzz Hargrove is the anticipated replacement for Eric Lindros as the NHLPA ombudsman.

Hargrove who has been filling in as the temp ever since Lindros left the job earlier this season (under some mysterious circumstances, is considered the favourite to be offered the job full time this summer.

NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly outlined by e mail on Monday that the decision will be made during the NHLPA gathering this summer, as part of the associations annual meetings.

Hargrove retired from the labour wars between the CAW and the auto makers in the most timeliest of fashions, taking his leave just before the entire North American auto sector was turned on its head caught up in the ongoing economic crisis spanning the world.

Since his departure from the auto world, both GM and Chrysler have been flirting with bankruptcy and North America's auto workers are feeling quite nervous about their futures.

It's no wonder he told the Sports Business Journal that he's interested in the NHLPA job on a full time basis, compared to what he left behind in his days as the go to guy for labour in Canada, handling the mild mannered complaints of the NHL's most handsomely rewarded workers must seem like a sunny day at the beach for Hargrove.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Canucks send message in potential playoff preview

It's been a long time since Chicago has hosted a hockey game that had created as much buzz as Sunday's match up between the Vancouver Canucks and hometown Black Hawks had created.

As far back as last week, sportswriters and broadcasters had been circling the Sunday afternoon game as a key barometer as to where the Canucks and Hawks stood heading into the 2009 playoffs.

And if the result from Sunday is any indication, Vancouver fans will be quite happy with their prospects while folks in the windy city will be getting a little nervous about their return to the competitive world of playoff hockey.
Vancouver was quick to the lead and never looked back on Sunday, with a stellar game from the first line featuring the Sedin's and Alex Burrows, a trio that accounted for nine points on the day as the Canucks continued their mastery of Nicolai Kahbibulan, who has yet to beat the Canucks since 1998.
At the other end of the rink, Roberto Luongo put the exclamation point on the night with the Hawks turning aside every one of the 26 shots he faced, securing his seventh shut out of the year and probably sent Hawk fans home hoping that the fates don't bring him back to town in two weeks for the first round of the playoff season.

And as though to show that they were playoff ready, when the third period began with more than a fair amount of rough stuff, the messages were returned by the Canucks, who made their statement that they were not going to be run out of the United Centre on this night or looking ahead on any future engagements. If there were any doubts about the concept of team toughness when it comes to Vancouver, the answering of bell in the third should put them to rest.

With the win the Canucks are one point back of the Calgary Flames again in their bid to wrestle the number one spot in the Northwest away from the slumping Flames, overall they are tied with the Hawks in the Western Conference, although Chicago has a game in hand.

If they wish to avoid the troublesome Canucks in the first round of the playoffs, Chicago had better use that game in hand well and hope that somewhere along the way Vancouver stumbles enough to set up a first round match with another Western team.

If not, the Hawks return to the playoff picture will more than likely be a short lived affair this time around.

Vancouver Province-- Canucks cut Hawks down 4-0
Chicago Sun Times-- An empty netter
Photos above from Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province websites

Sunday, March 29, 2009

2010 is a go, 2014 maybe not so...

The difference of opinion between IIHF head Rene Fasel and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman seems likely to grow larger as the head of the NHL seems to be sending signals that the NHL's participation in the Olympic movement is about to come to an end.

The Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi is the host of the 2014 games, but if the rumblings out of the NHL head office are any indication the likelihood of an Ovechkin, Malkin or any rising star of Russian heritage skating on home ice may not be in the cards.

The NHL has long expressed their concern over the need to shut down business for a couple of weeks for the Olympic break, and with Vancouver providing the last North American host venue for the next few years, the temptation to abandon the Olympic forumla seems a much desired one.

Still to be heard from however may be the NHLPA, which thus far has been fairly onboard with the idea of participation in the Olympic Dreams of its membership, if Mr. Fasel is looking for a few allies in his quest to secure NHL participation, then a few phone calls to the NHLPA leadership may help his cause.

It's expected that any future participation will have to be enshrined in the next collective bargaining agreement, a process that will probably provide for any number of controversial issues for both sides to negotiate.

Olympic participation may be the price to pay for some NHL desired claw backs, while the IIHF won't have much to say on the tone or result of those negotiations, they will have to deal with the fall out or accommodations that result from them.

He's earned those stripes and soon he'll be taking them off

It's not often that the league celebrates its officials, far too often the guys in the zebra suits hear nothing but the negatives whether it be from television commentators, feature writers or less than complimentary fans.

But Saturday it was a love fest of sorts for Don Koharski, the long time NHL referee who is winding down his on ice career, counting down the last days until his final game in Tampa on April 9. Numerous newspaper articles have sprung up about that final game and Hockey Night in Canada ran a very well done feature on his achievements as part of the pre game Inside Hockey portion of the show for March 28.

Koharski's 32 years as an official will come to an end on April 9, 2,139 games in the NHL either as a linesman or a referee, most of them routine, a few fascinating and one memorable and more than controversial.

He will forever be linked at the hip with Jim Schoenfeld, the one time coach of the New Jersey Devils who is forever enshrined in hockey lore for his outburst at Koharski during the playoffs of 1988, a game three match in the Prince of Wales finals which saw Schoenfeld screaming at the referee about his portliness and perhaps an affection for doughnuts.

As would be the case, Koharski actually isn't a fan of doughnuts, but probably could have made a fortune in endorsements had he wanted to, such was the legend of his run in with Schoenfeld.

The two long ago patched up any differences over the incident, with Koharski going so far as to bring Schoenfeld a box of the confections prior to the debut of Koharski's son as a referee in the AHL.

Perhaps that explains his longevity in a sport that must rank high among the stressful ones for sports officials, keeping a sense of humour and sense of the moment probably is testimony to his on ice success, when he puts down his whistle on April 9th the NHL will be bidding goodbye to not only a long time employee but a valuable part of a key element of the game.

It's said that he has hopes to join the league office in supervisory capacity, one would hope that the NHL has plans for his knowledge of the game and his humour in tough situations, he can have the summer off to grab some coffee and even sneak a doughnut if he really wants to, by September though the up and coming officials of the league more than likely could make use of his history and his contributions to the game.

London Free Press-- Koharski's exit a quiet one

Photo from the Vancouver Sun website

Can Economic pain bring hockey gain to Canada?

The continuing financial troubles around the world are making for some nervous moments for NHL head office types, those at least that read profit and loss statements, attendance figures and can count empty seats rather than promotional gimmicks.

In the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail, Stephen Brunt once again provides a fascinating outline of the current state of the game below the 49th parallel, where the Bettman hope of a strong footprint to the south and west is finding little traction, where the league's main financial trouble spots all seem to be based in the south and west and where the answer to many of the league's current concerns could be found back where the game still resonates with the population, where ticket sales are rarely a concern and where corporate dollars may still find their way into a hockey rink without the need for liquor sale gimmicks or discounted seats.

Brunt provides more than enough of a review of the NHL's concerns to make the case that those once dismissed Canadian cities of the past may one day be the salvation for the NHL and for the NHLPA membership which may wish to continue to be paid for playing the game.

While he correctly points out that Gary Bettman is probably unlikely to admit that his blue print for the game was flawed or that the current structure isn't working, but Mr. Bettman is but an employee of the thirty league owners, many of whom may be getting a little tired of propping up the ongoing problems of Phoenix, Atlanta, or southern Florida.

Better to take in investors who actually have dollars to invest than to keep spending money on teams that can't find a market, can't find followers and in some cases may be having more than a few problems keeping their financials in check.

For those that have long hoped for a return of the NHL to it's homeland the day may not be too far away when those hopes become reality. Whether Mr. Bettman will be making the announcements however may be an item that is still to be discussed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Marksman or Marked man?

When Alexander Ovechkin takes to the ice Friday night more than a few eyes will be watching the Tampa Bay bench, wondering if bygones are bygones or if a little frontier justice NHL style is in store for the evenings match.

The reunion of the Caps and Bolts has been a much anticipated affair ever since they last met, a night which saw the Russian sniper celebrate his fiftieth goal of the season with as they say a little too much mustard for his hot dog.

On that night, Ovechkin channeled the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and mimicked a hockey stick burning up, too hot to touch, a move that didn't exactly endear him to the Lightning, some of his own team mates and the high priest of NHL hockey Don Cherry.

The controversy over Ovechkin celebrations has reached a fever pitch these days, with his hi jinks a frequent topic of discussion on coach's corner and apparently the main fodder for Toronto based sports reporters at least if Capital's coach Bruce Boudreau has his research in place.

Boudreau has become just a little bit exasperated over the many questions about Ovechkin and his enthusiastic embrace of on ice success, so much so that Thursday provided for one of the more long winded of rants of late when it comes to the topic of the young Russian star.

Over on the other side of the night's debate we can find Rick Tocchet, the Lightning's head coach who was more than clear about his displeasure over the Ovechkin celebration close as it was to the Lightning's goaltender.

For Friday however, Tocchet isn't talking so much as any one on one approach to Ovechkin, more to the game plan is an overall outline that the Lightning need to shut down the entire Capital's team, having failed to take even one game from them so far this season, Friday offers them the opportunity to do more than seek a little personal vengeance, instead they can take some points away from Washington and make their positioning in the upcoming playoff season something that still may be up for debate.

While they may still be a little annoyed at Ovechkin's contortions from March 19th, the best way to keep him from doing them again is to keep both he and his team mates off the score sheet. That would go a long way towards sending him a message and it won't result in any lost time in the penalty box or beyond.

In the end, one has to wonder if perhaps Ovechkin may one day be the test case for an NFL style rule in the NHL over taunting, where a two minute penalty may follow any over exuberance in the celebration department, providing for a period of silent reflection for the celebrator to ponder his over excitable ways.

Globe and Mail-- Boudreau rips media over Ovechkin celebration
Globe and Mail-- Tocchet wants win over Caps
Washington Post-- Ovechkin's Celebration Already 'a Done Deal'
Washington Post-- TSN Arrives, Boudreau Goes Off

Hurricanes blow Sens off course

They probably are putting away the abacus, shutting down the super computers and throwing away the slide rules, all helpful this past month in predicting the path of the Ottawa Senators to a playoff spot, but now seemingly not required.

The team that needs to win all of their remaining games for a shot at the last playoff spot, lost a costly one on Wednesday night as the Carolina Hurricanes blew by them to take a 2-1 victory in Raleigh, perhaps bringing an end to the Senators hopeful playoff bound rally.

With the loss, the Senators cannot lose another game and then must cross their fingers, seek out augers and maybe click their heels a few times all in the hope that Montreal might fall completely out of the playoff race.

It’s a tall order for the Sens, who brought their push for the playoffs just a little too late it seems.

In fact, despite the chatter around Ottawa of the last few weeks of a possible grasp of the final playoff spot, the Sens ownership seems to be hedging their bets on the future and making plans for some kind of hockey at Scotiabank Place this spring.

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the Sens are contemplating hosting some of the farm clubs playoff games in Ottawa this spring, not by choice but by necessity.

It seems that life in the minor league arenas is on a first come first served basis and with any number of franchise cities finding their rinks booked, the hockey teams are seeking out creative ways to get in some post season shinny.

The Citizen outlined some of the obstacles to hockey in the minors this coming month including, three days of the monster trucks, a business show and rock concert in Binghamton. Over in Bridgeport there's Sesame Street live and a couple of rock shows, while Hershey has cash in the bank thanks to Disney on Ice.

All of which leaves the Baby Sens looking for a place to call home, perhaps up in the big rink, where the cry of Go Sens Go will once again be revived, though not quite the way that folks in Ottawa might have hoped back in September.

Drop on by and kick some tires here at the home of Les Habitant

The whispers turned into a roar this week as news finally was confirmed that George Gillett, owner of the Montreal Canadiens was seeking out a valuation of his franchise, perhaps in a bid to secure some liquidity for his many other business ventures.

Gillett like many other of the monied class is finding that the current economic upheaval is causing no shortage of troubles with his varied interests, from his stake in the English League's Liverpool squad, to his Formula one inclinations and on to any number of car dealerships across America, the bills seem to keep coming due even if the revenues aren't quite as rewarding as they once were.

While Canadians may think that the storied Canadiens franchise is the jewel in a financial portfolio crown, in reality considering the vastness of the Gillett holdings, it probably is just another line item on his financial prospectus, a rather treasured one for Canadians, but an asset none the less that could provide some fast cash in troubled times.

There hasn't been much said as of yet as to what his inclinations are regarding the Habs, though just the prospect of the team going up on the "For Sale" block has caused no shortage of angst in Quebec, where the hockey team is much more than a sports franchise, steeped as it is in the culture, one part emotional touchstone and one part financial status symbol.

Many in Quebec are putting together their own personal short lists as to which company or local notable should be getting ready to contact the lawyers to close the deal. A veritable who's who of Quebec society and financial muscle have been mentioned as potential investors, from the Desmarais family of Power Corporation fame, to Guy Laliberte; the owner of Cirque de Soleil as well as Las Vegas based chanteuse Celine Dion have all been floated as would be owners.
Even Jim Balsillie the perennial default guy for NHL franchises has been mentioned, though being a non Quebecois and from the occasionally despised locale of Ontario, one wonders how well he might be received.

The Parti Quebecois always quick to find something to fly the nationalist flag over, has called for a Quebecois to repatriate the club from foreign interests, apparently suffering amnesia that the last time the Canadiens were up for sale, it was only Mr. Gillett that offered up sufficient cash to purchase the team at anything close to the asking price, during that last offer for sale many of those now lauded Quebecois chose to sit on their wallets and purses.

It will be with great interest to see if they approach the table this time around.

In among all the hand wringing over the finances is the realization that this 100th anniversary season is certainly turning out to be a memorable one, but unfortunately for many of the wrong reasons.

The hockey team is in a tail spin and very well may miss the playoffs, the coach was fired one month short of the end of the season, and the taint of organized crime for a while seemed to be wafting through the dressing room of Les Glorieux, now comes the news that their white knight of a few years ago may be looking to ride off into the sunset.

All of which seems to sure put a damper on the birthday celebrations...
Montreal Gazette-- Sale talk adds to Habs' woes
Photo above from the Vancouver Sun website

Friday, March 20, 2009

Canucks continue on their roll towards the playoffs

The winning streak is bound to come to an end before the playoffs begin, but for Vancouver fans as Spring beckons the hockey is getting exciting.

Vancouver continued on their winning ways of late on Thursday night with a convincing 3 - 0 victory over the St. Louis Blues, another night of success in front of the home folk even if the pace of the play wasn't particularly riveting.

The Canucks kept their record settting string of home victories alive as they tallied up win number eleven as their captain and on ice leader recorded his first shut out in four months, his sixth of the season.

Roberto Luongo turned aside all 30 of the Blues shot, full value for his shutout as his team mates seemed at times to be ready to let the Blues shut down the home ice winning streak.

For the bulk of the game it was St. Louis that had the scoring chances and if not for Luongo's skill and more than a few lucky bounces the Blues could very well have been leaving GM Place with the two points.

The Canucks did manage to get untracked enough to pick up some timely goals as Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond and Henrik Sedin tallied the markers for Vancouver while Luongo turned aside the St. Louis attack

The Canucks have been one of the hotter teams in the West over the last number of weeks and seem primed for a good run in the upcoming playoffs, before they get too carried away however with thoughts of Stanley, they still must finish off the regular season.

They hit the road for six games on Saturday in Phoenix, a key trip that could set their tempo for the final stretch period and on into the post season.

St. Louis Post Dispatch-- Blues, Tkachuk go down
Picture above is from the Vancouver Sun website

Friday, March 13, 2009

Habs in no hurry to find Carbo's replacement

Bob Gainey will be the bench boss for the remainder of this season and whatever portion of the playoffs that Montreal might play in, providing they are still among the top eight on the last day of play.

While he contemplates ways to get his suddenly under performing squad to rise to the occasion, Gainey will also have to be rolling around more than line combinations in his head. Then again, judging by some of the speculation in the always rumour crazy Montreal market, maybe he'll just keep the job himself come September.

That's just one of the many theories getting bounced around La Belle province these days as Montrealers come to terms with the slide of their hometown heroes and the nervous looks at the standings that begin each morning now.

While folks look at the wins and losses, and wonder if the Habs will be left standing in the standings when the playoffs begin, the next best bit of sport is the quest to follow the bouncing names around the Montreal media.

So far, only a few days after Guy Carbonneau departed from the scene, there's been a rather interesting who's who of names as potential replacements.

Among the coveted or just plain speculated are: Denis Savard, Michel Therrien, Mario Tremblay, Marc Crawford, Jacques Lemaire and every one's favourite horse in the race, Patrick Roy.

Some of the names above are probably serious suggestions some of them just a little on the loopy side, but make no doubt, the list will grow and the names will continue to raise eyebrows, leaving us with a lengthy list of would be coaches who will have to decide if coaching in the pressure cooker of Montreal really is a career move or a career ending move...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Will the Pugilists and Pacifists ever get to make their case?

The ever popular and seemingly never ending debate over the place of fighting in the NHL has once again popped up on the radar, as the two sides of the ages old discussion over the sometimes too physical nature of hockey continue to prepare their cases.

David Shoalts outlines in the Globe and Mail how the recent intervention by the Players’ Association over the controversial hits to the head issue, was less than warmly received by their counterparts in the General Manager’s offices of the NHL.

The GM”s suggesting that those concerns were already addressed by current regulations, a reply that the Players’ Association found to be hard to believe considering the ongoing nature of the head shot in hockey.

That rebuff from the GM’s might come back to haunt them, as Mr. Shoalts points out the competition committee set to meet this summer will be considering some NHL initiatives into fighting, including stronger measures against the “staged” fights, those that typically break out among the teams enforcers prior to a face off.

NHLPA Director Paul Kelly, perhaps still a little annoyed at the dismissive nature of the GM’s over his head shot initiative, offered up the comment that he has yet to discuss any of the NHL’s planned submissions to the committee with his membership.

Perhaps setting the stage for a little political theatre from the player’s side of the negotiating table.

While the battle between the two sides has yet to commence, one might wonder if not unlike Canada’s Parliament, or America’s congress, that partisanship on these issues might yet subvert any possible changes to the way that fighting and the more overt acts of violence in the game get handled.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NHLPA seeks to put punishment on head shots into the hands of the referees

The NHLPA has provided the NHL owners with its review of the controversial practice of head shots during the course of a game.

Paul Kelly, the NHLPA director would like to see the referees provided with more ammunition when it comes to on ice penalties, allowing for them to have the power to assess either a minor or a major penalty depending on the severity of the infraction.

While realizing that the current policy is to assess fines or suspensions after the fact by the league office, Kelly feels that the referees who mark the flow of the game would be in the best position to provide for a fitting instant punishment for those shots that are beyond the normal physical nature of the game.

Kelly feels that a new penalty for checking to the head would have a positive impact on reducing the careless nature of some of the players, though he was cautious to add that not all hits that involve the head necessarily should be punished, only those which highlight an reckless nature or a definitive intent to injure a player.

The NHLPA outlined how it is more concerned at the moment about the increasing nature of these head shots, much more than it is worried about the need to take fighting out of the game. No doubt a positive message for those NHLers who find their roster spots dependant on the call to arms that sometimes is issued during the course of an NHL game.

National Post-- NHLPA boss proposes new penalty for hits to the head
Globe and Mail-- NHLPA proposes rule on hits to the head
Toronto Star-- Players' Association wants to reduce head shots in NHL

Monday, March 09, 2009

Carbo a go - go

The Montreal Canadiens sent out shock waves across the NHL on Monday as they announced that head coach Guy Carbonneau had been relieved of his duties, with General Manager Bob Gainey taking over the reins behind the bench for the rest of the season.

The Habs who went into a horrid slump through January and parts of February had seemed to be slowly getting back on track in the last few weeks, though the results were still sporadic at best and apparently not enough to rescue Carbonneau from the unemployment lines.

The departure of Carbonneau comes after a Montreal victory on Sunday, when the Canadiens came out on top of their match up with the Dallas Stars. Interestingly enough it was Alex Kovalev who scored the winning goal, a rare occasion in recent months and part of the problem that the Habs have had over the last few months as they had struggled.

It wasn't any secret that Kovalev and Carbonneau didn't seem to be on the same page at times in Montreal, with Kovalev recently ordered by management to take some time to reflect on his desire to play, all be it away from the team.
Upon his return he did seem to get his game back on track to a degree, but still could be counted on to make one or two mental errors per game which must have driven Carbonneau to distraction at times.

While all the Habs were trying to sort out their blahs, the General Manager was apparently trying to figure out his next move. It must have been a very hard decision to have had to make, as he and Carbonneau have seen a lot of ice under their skates over their years together, whether as team mates in their playing days for the Habs, or through their time in Dallas and on to the giant microscope that coaching and managing in Montreal is.

Gainey's decision may have been forced upon him by the Habs competitors in the East, with both Pittsburgh and Carolina suddenly making moves towards the playoff spots, a move which could come at the expense of the Habs who at the start of the season looked like a lock on a post season play, but not so much anymore.

By inserting himself behind the bench, Gainey is apparently sending the message that he believes that this team can not only make the playoffs but succeed at them, even if it means removing a long time partner and friend from the Canadiens mix. It will prove to be a much discussed, analyzed and watched move, one that Montreal's always intense press will be recording in each period, of each game until the end of the season and providing the move pays off, well beyond.

Montreal Gazette-- Canadiens axe Carbonneau
Photo above from the Montreal Gazette website

Sunday, March 08, 2009

And the winner is...

The votes have been tabulated and the results revealed to an anxious public, and the winner of Kraft Hockeyville 2009 is ...................... Terrace, BC.

The northwest BC community was named Hockeyville on Saturday night as the announcement was made live during the first intermission of the Vancouver Canucks/San Jose Sharks game on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.

The CBC had the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman make the grand announcement, which sent the crowd gathered at the Skeena Mall in Terrace into joy.

As the CBC went to Terrace, the celebration was raucous and the reaction one of being overwhelmed as Terrace residents celebrated the good news.

Reaction was quick to pour in as the Premier relayed his best wishes, touching on the theme of community involvement as the key to the successful Terrace bid, a senes of community that was outlined by the many You Tube videos that appeared as the bid process went along.

Terrace managed to unite the normally competitive communities of the Northwest to fall in behind their bid, with many residents from Prince Rupert through to Smithers and Kitimat spending the last few days contacting the Hockeyville website with their vote.

Judging by the voting tallies they were not alone, the final vote count had Terrace edging out Humbolt Saskatchewan by just over 110,000 votes. By the time all the texting, on line and phone balloting had come to an end, Terrace had received 1,923,456 votes.

Overall some 7100 communities began the quest to be named Hockeyville, eight times more than last year's contest provided, but the last one left standing at the end of the competition was Terrace.

The community will receive 100.000 dollars for arena upgrades, a featured spot in a one hour Kraft Hockeyville special and will host the Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders on September 14th.

Terrace joins the ranks of Roberval,Quebec, North Bay, Ontario and Salmon River, Nova Scotia as selected cities in the Kraft Hockeyville competitions through the years of the competition.

The Terrace victory spilled out into the streets of the city following the announcement as excited residents honked their horns and celebrated with an ongoing parade and carnival like atmosphere throughout the downtown area.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Olli looks OK in Flame debut

Reunited with his former coach from Florida days seems to have had instant results for Olli Jokinen, his debut game for the Flames turned into a two goal night for him and seven points for the line he centred for the night.

Jokinen was put onto the starting line with Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri, the chemistry seemed to take from the opening face off as the trio accounted for the bulk of the scoring in the 5-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night. Calgary's other marquee acquisition Jordan Leopold also got his name on the scoring summary a good start for his second tour of duty in Flames colours.

The trades made during the Wednesday deadline day marathon, have excited Flame fans with its potential and put the Flames into a prime spot to take a long run into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For Jokinen that will be a rather unusual experience, having played on a number of teams through 781 games and has yet to take part in the annual spring time ritual for NHL players.

Over the last few years Jokinen has struggled to find his place in the NHL, a career that promised much in potential suddenly off track as he seemed to lose some passion for the game, the move to Calgary has been hailed by many as probably just what he needed to fire up his game once again.

His last term of employment for Mike Keenan back in the Florida days provided for some of his most inspired hockey, the Flames are no doubt hopeful that he will rediscover that drive to succeed.

And if game number one is any indication, he's ready to take up the challenge.

Calgary Sun-- Olli cow!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

And there's winners, and there's losers, but that ain't no big deal...

The 2009 trading deadline has come and gone and much to relief of programming officials at the nation's sports networks, the final hour of wheeling and dealing pushed the number of trades close to recent years totals.

Up until the 2pm to 3 pm eastern hour the prospect of a low number of deals had left the assembled panels with not much more than the option but to talk about the deals that didn't happen. Asking why Jay Bouwmeester didn't make that pilgrimage from Florida to Vancouver, or why the Montreal Canadiens decided to take the day off and go watch soap operas.

While the final flurry didn't provide much in the way of earth shattering trades, it provided volume, volume, volume, which in the end is what the networks want to see, thus to prove that the seven plus hours of coverage was worth it all. When the final trade was completed and the last piece of analysis provided, this years trade deadline only came three trades short of the total for last year and the year before that.

TSN and Rogers Sportsnet have seemed to have turned the trading deadline into the another television spectacle much like the World Junior Hockey Championships have become. The panels, the reporters flung far and near, all keep stoking that fire of the next big story, sometimes left with less than riveting news to pass along, but occasionally ready to outline just how that trade is going to change a team and potentially win a Stanley Cup.

On this Trading deadline day, it seems that the Calgary Flames were crowned as the big winners, the Flames brought back a familiar face on defence in Jason Leopold and added some scoring punch to the offense with the acquisition of Ollie Jokinen. That single trade seems to be the consensus pick of most of the trade observers as the key deal on deadline day.

If Jokinen can return to the kind of success he last had with Mike Keenan while in Florida, then yes this will have been a very successful trading day for Daryl Sutter. If however, he continues to showcase the less than stellar scoring touch as he's had in Phoenix then all that good chemistry thus far in Calgary may very well be wasted and possible Stanley Cup run derailed.

The Boston Bruins were pegged as a success story as they picked up Mark Recchi, a solid addition to an already impressive Bruin line up. Recchi having been through the playoff wars before will be able to help to keep the younger Bruins focused on the task ahead, a very important move on the part of the Bruins who sense that this may be the year that they could go very far in the playoffs.

The Penguins as well were givent the nod for some smart trading today as they solidified their defensive corps with Andy Wozniewski they also picked up Craig Adams off of the waiver wire and more importantly added some strong leadership skills into the mix in the form of Bill Guerin, it's most likely the hopes of the Pens management that Guerin having been an old experienced hand at playoff battles will help to guide the current group of Penguins into the playoffs and on to more than few rounds.

The Ottawa Senators more than aware that the possibility of playoff action now is most likely a lost cause were ready to deal today, but in the end only one transaction took place. Once again the Sens focused on goaltending as they acquired Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets sending Antoine Vermette off to Ohio. Leclaire will suffer the expectations of the frustrated, as the always entertaining Senators goaltending situation takes on a new directkon.

Everyone's favourite centre of the universe Toronto made a few deals, mostly unloading some of the players that no longer seemed to fit into the new era of Leaf's Nation hockey. Nik Antropov finally won't be kicked around any more by the leafs management and fan base, off to new York he can now prove to be enigmatic to new coach John Tortorella. Also exiled from Toront was Dominic Moore, who despite having a pretty decent season in TO, didn't seem to be on the long term radar of GM Brian Burke.

The Leafs also made a very interesting transaction at the end of the trading day, taking on salary from Olaf Kolzig and Jamie Heward both of whom are injured an in the case of Kolzing destined not to play any more hockey this season. All sorts of possibilities exist for the interesting nature of the trade, though at the end of the day and of the season for that matter, not much in the way instant help came the way of the Maple Leafs, the steady collection of draft picks will surely pay off in the years of the future, but in the here and now, there wasn't much coming into Toronto that suggests that a playoff run would be a sure thing.

The final observation of the trading day came out of the sunbelt state of Arizona, where th Coyotes seemed to hold some kind of fire sale of established players. Gone from the sunny climes of Arizona are Mikael Tellqvist, Ollie Jokinen, Daniel Carcillo and Derke Morris, mainly for either draft picks or minor league or third line players.

Depending on the tentative financial situation of the club, many of those names that went to Phoenix today may yet find that another team is their destination, should the Coyotes continue to struggle financially one has to wonder how long the NHL would allow the team to exist, contraction of the league would result in a dispersal draft of Coyote players, it's not in the cards yet, but considering the quick pace of player dispersal today one wonders if it was not a preview of what may have to come.

As the final trades cleared the NHL office the final tally found that 22 transactions took place, relocating 45 players in the process. Many will make the difference between making and missing the playoffs, a select few could provide one of those turning point moments that lead to a Stanley Cup and for others, Wednesday will have proven to be just another day when they found out that they were playing with another team.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Some are buyers, some are sellers, some just sit on their hands

The wall to wall coverage of the NHL Trading deadline on Canada's sports channels has highlighted an awful lot of practice sessions, more than a few hockey players walking to their cars and provided more analysis of thin air than your local oxygen dealer.

With an early wake up call of 5 am on the West coast, those in Vancouver that slept in until seven could wake up assured that they missed absolutely nothing.

The 8 am eastern start time provided the hosts of both Sportsnet, TSN, the NHL Network and The Score ample opportunity to speculate and ruminate over what they thought may transpire before the 3 pm (ET) final bell, and for the first two hours speculate and ruminate they did.

You could almost sense their relief when the news of the first trade was announced just before 10 am ET (7 am PT).

930 -10 am (ET) Ottawa/Columbus (details)

The first deal of the day saw the Ottawa Senators once again seek out a goaltender, this time grabbing Pascal Leclaire from the Columbus Blue Jackets, sending Antoine Vermette off to Ohio. The Senators also receive a 2nd round draft pick for the transaction.

1130 - Noon (ET) Calgary/Colorado (details)

Some blue line reinforcement is heading towards Cowtown as the Flames bring back Jordan Leopold for a second tour, Leopold leaves the Avalanche and instantly joins a team in the thick of the playoff race. In return the Avs receive Lawrence Nycholat, Ryan Wilson and a 2nd round pick in the 2009 draft.

1130 - Noon (ET) Buffalo/Phoenix (details)

The Sabres picked up some insurance in the net as they made a deal with the Coyotes, bringing Mikael Tellqvist back to the east, the deal proves to be an inexpensive project for Buffalo as all they gave up in the transaction was a 4th round draft pick in the 2010 draft.

1130 - Noon (ET) Pittsburgh/St. Louis (details)

The Penguins shore up their defense on trade deadline day as they grab Andy Wozniewski from the Blues, sending Danny Richmond off to the Blues defensive corps.

Noon- 1 pm (ET) Toronto/Ottawa (details)

It's not a trade but a pick up for the Leafs, as Brian Burke went to the waiver wire to bring Martin Gerber into the Leaf Nation, a head scratching move at first but then one that made a lot more sense when it was announced that Vesa Toskala who has suffered groin and hip problems this season will require surgery and was done for the season.

Noon -1 pm (ET) Dallas/Anaheim (details)

Brendan Morrison moves on from Southern California as the Dallas Stars grab him off the waiver wire out of Anaheim, Morrison who has struggled to regain his form from his Vancouver days, will gain a new start with the Stars

Noon - 1 pm (ET) Boston/Anaheim (details)

The Bruins add to their roster with Steve Montador who must feel as though he's won the lottery heading to a Stanley Cup contender in Boston, heading off to work on his tan in Southern California will be Petteri Nokelainen.

Noon - 1 pm (ET) Calgary/Phoenix (details)

Olli Jokinen will be reunited with Mike Keenan as the Flames swing a deal with the Coyotes to bring the enigmatic Jokinen into the line up. Jokinen had probably his best success under the steel grip of Keenan while in Florida, the trade provides him with perhaps his last chance to show that all that promise of the early days finally will begin to shine through. Of to the shaky foundations in Arizona will be Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first round pick.

100 - 2 pm (ET) Pittsburgh/Chicago (details)

The Penguins added some experience to the line up as they claimed Craig Adams from Chicago off of the waiver wire

130 - 2 pm (ET) Boston/Tampa Bay (details)

Mark Recchi once again has to pack a suitcase on trade deadline day as the Tampa Bay Lightning send him off to the Boston Bruins, not the first time that a team looking to make that step into a Stanley Cup final has picked up Recchi for the push to the Cup. The Bruins also will apparently gain a second round draft pick in the 2010 draft. Reportedly heading towards the Lightning will be Matt Lashoff and Martin Karsums.
130 -2 pm (ET) Pittsburgh/New York Islanders (details)
Bill Guerin is on the move again, destination Pittsburgh, Pa. Guerin leaves what has been a disappointing situation on Long Island to join a team with great potential, but one struggling through this year. The Pens no doubt are hoping that Guerin's veteran leadership will help to push the Penguins into the playoff race with an eye on returning to the final. A fifth round pick goes the other way, with any number of possibilities as to where in the draft, depending on the success of the Penguins in the playoffs.
230 - 300 pm (ET) Philadelphia/Phoenix (details)
The Flyers add some grit, energy and hard work to their line up as they pick up Daniel Carcillo who moves east. Scottie Upshall now heads for the desert as the Coyotes continue their collection of draft picks picking up a 2nd round draft pick in this transaction.
230 - 300 pm (ET) Toronto/New York Rangers (details)
The much maligned Nik Antropov will be skating in New York now, as the Leafs and Rangers came to an agreement which will see the Leafs receive a pair of draft picks ( a conditional and a second round pick) in exchange for the occasionally spectacular Leaf, who at times also tends to disappear a habit that has left both coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke annoyed to say the least. It will be interesting to see how Antropov fits in with the new ear of John Tortorella.
230- 300 pm (ET) New York Rangers/Phoenix (details)
The Coyotes continue to clear the shelves as they send Derek Morris to the New York Rangers, he will provide some depth on the Ranger blue line. With Mike Barnett serving as an advisor to Rangers GM Glen Sather, it's no surprise that he was an advocate to see Morris in Ranger blues. Three players in the Rangers system will be seeking the desert sun, as Dimitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha join up with the Coyotes.
As the final horn went off, a few trades were still working their way through the NHL bureaucracy providing a few post deadline announcements to come after the 3 pm deadline.
300-330 pm (ET) Toronto/Buffalo (details)
The much anticipated move of Dominic Moore took place at the deadline as the Leafs sent him to the Buffalo Sabres, in return the Leafs will receive Buffalo's second round draft pick by way of Carolina.
300-330 pm (ET) Anaheim/Atlanta
The Thrashers and Ducks exchange some Eric's, as forward Erik Christensen heads for Anaheim while forward Eric O'Dell will enjoy the charms of the south.
300-330 pm (ET) Florida/Tampa Bay (details)
The east west highway of southern Florida will be busy as the Panthers and their cross state cousins the Lightning exchange players. Heading to the east will be Defenseman Steven Eminger, while making the move to the West coast of Florida will be Defenseman Noah Welch, the Lightning also receive a 3rd round pick in the transaction.
330- 400 pm (ET) Columbus/Calgary
The Blue Jackets shore up the goaltending acquiring Kevin Lalonde from the Flames system for a 4th round pick.
330-400 pm (ET) Philadelphia/San Jose
The buzzer beater deals flitered through the system, as the San Jose Sharks sent Kyle McLaren to Philadelphia for a sixth round pick.
330-400 pm (ET) Chicago/Anaheim (details)
Samuel Pahlsson will trade in the Santa Ana winds for the blustery gusts of Lake Michigan, as the Ducks send him off to Chicago in exchange for James Wisniewski.
330-400 pm (ET) San Jose/Anaheim (details)
The Sharks add some depth to their system as they acquire forward Travis Moen and defenseman Kent Huskins from their southern relations in Anaheim, the Ducks receive forward Nick Bonino, Goaltender Timo Pielmeirin and a conditional pick in return.
330-400 pm (ET) Carolina/Los Angeles/Edmonton (details)
A three way deal of sorts at the deadline sees Patrick O'Sullivan eventually packing a bag for Edmonton, while Justin Williams ended up in Los Angeles and Erik Cole returns to Carolina, with the Canes gaining a draft pick for their troubles.
400-430 pm (ET) Buffalo/Edmonton (details)
The Oilers gain some help on the forward lines, as they take Ales Kotalik from Buffalo in exchange for a second round draft pick.
400-430 (ET) Toronto/Tampa Bay (details)
Suddenly the Maple Leafs are chock a block full of goaltenders as they pick up Olaf Kolzig from the Bolts, also heading to Toronto from Tampa are Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a 4th round pick. Kolzig is injured as is Heward, so one wonders if they ever play a game for the Leafs. Tampa receives Richard Petiot for there day and removes a whack of payroll from their ledger with the numerous departures.
Tracking the trades:

Tick Tock, they'll soon be on the clock

The NHL trade deadline looms large as Wednesday prepares to dawn across North America, the major sports networks in Canada are set to launch their open to close coverage, offering up some speculation, some fact and a whole lot of filler when there's not much happening.

A number of NHL teams disappointed by the progress this season (hello there Ottawa) will be sellers on this Trade day, seeking to retool their squads for next year, hoping that there are some quality offerings out there to make a deal worthwhile. The Senators who surely must by now realize that the playoffs are but a dream now, have a number of assets to put forward on Wednesday, it will be with interest that Sens fans watch GM Bryan Murray navigate the trade deadline obstacle course in his quest to return the Senators to a legitimate threat for the Stanley Cup.

For Brian Burke, this trade deadline will no doubt be more familiar thistime around, ensconced as he is in the bunkers of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, every name mentioned that wears a Maple Leaf will find more than a bit of coverage, not since his days in Vancouver will Burke have felt the all encompassing blanket that the trade deadline brings to Toronto, where the locals hope against hope that this time around they'll win the trade, they'll attract the name players and they'll be a different team when all is said and done.

In Montreal Bob Gainey has to decide whether the Habs of the last few weeks are going to be the team to go down the stretch with, or still suffering the nightmares of January and early February, whether he shouldn't start seeking out some vital parts for his teams Stanley Cup run.

Edmonton always seems to offer up some of the best intrigue on deadline day, it will be quite interesting to see what Kevin Lowe has up his sleeve this Wednesday deadline day. The Oilers still deep in young and promising players have to decide if a move will take them further along the playoff trail this year.

Calgary most likley won't be too heavily involved in Wednesday's proceedings, with the exception of the occassional hic cup on the ice, the Flames seem to have all the parts they'll need for a long run in the playoffs.

Likewise Vancouver, suddenly back on the winning track will have to thnk carefully about chaning up the chemistry of the team, over the last two weeks the Canucks have managed to put together some impressive wins and seem ready to make their move into the playoffs.

For the early risers this deadline day (5 am on the west coast for the truly dedicated deadline follower) we provide some background items to help get you in the mood for the NHL's version of March Madness..

Globe and Mail-- Deal, or no deal?
Globe and Mail-- A warning to deadline-crazed NHL
Globe and Mail-- Staying put?
Globe and Mail-- NHLers rarely enjoy deadline buzz
National Post-- Deadline day causes anxiety for players
National Post-- Trade plans for Canadian teams remain fuzzy
National Post-- Economy drives the trends at NHL trade deadline
National Post-- Trade deadline is Burke's time to shine
Toronto Star-- Going, Going. . .
Toronto Star-- Trade winds are swirling
Toronto Star-- Leafs' Moore a lock to be traded
Montreal Gazette-- Clubs wary of making bad deals
Ottawa Citizen-- Anxious days for Kuba & Co.
Calgary Herald-- Dowbiggin: Impossible to move these millionaires
Edmonton Journal-- Oilers not interested in Miroslav Satan: sources
Vancouver Province-- Hot GM Place rumour has Canucks trading for Jay Bouwmeester
Vancouer Sun-- Let's (not) make a deal

TSN Tradecentre Tracker
Sportsnet Trade Deadline centre
Globe and Mail trade tracker
Canada.com trade tracker
The Score trade tracker
NHL.com trade deadline blog

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bad Boy, Bad Boy, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do in your Broadway Blues

He's back....

Time once again for NHLers to hide their girlfriends and prepare to slip into ignore mode, as one of the NHL's most outrageous of players prepares to resume his career.

Sent adrift by the Dallas Stars and fresh from his stint in purgatory (aka Hartford) and ready to return to action, the New York Rangers have decided to give right winger Sean Avery one more skate in the NHL.

The Rangers picked up the NHL's version of Public Enemy number one off of re-entry waivers on Tuesday, in a hopeful bid to have the Rangers playoff ambitions re stoked by his, uh, er, temperamental ways. Whether he becomes a tonic or a distraction for their woes remains to be seen, but it certainly seems like a risky move on the part of the Rangers.

Avery last saw action in November, his career suddenly sidelined thanks to his own boorish behaviour after he made derogatory remarks about a former girlfriend, one who is currently dating the Calgary Flames Dion Phaneuf.

At the time of his running off at the mouth, many hockey observers felt that he had finally stepped over the line and would soon be but a forgotten memory of the NHL. Even his own team mates in Dallas couldn't wait to distance themselves from him, sending definite signs that he had already worn out his welcome in Big D, with few other teams showing any form of interest in his talents, it was left to his old team the Rangers to give him cause for rehabilitation one more time.
Since he first appeared on the Ranger radar the Blue shirts have changed coaches, replacing the rather calm and aloof Tom Renney with the occasionally bombastic stylings of John Tortorella, a take no crap kind of coach who will certainly be putting Avery on the shortest of leashes.

If things go off the rails early between coach and player, it might be worth the price of admission to sit in on the one on one session between the two, you have a sense that somehow New York as big as it is, may not be big enough for both.

National Post-- Rangers claim Avery on waivers
Dallas Morning News-- Sean Avery leaves Dallas Stars for New York Rangers
New York Daily News-- Rangers ready to embrace Avery
New York Times-- Rangers Acquire Avery for Second Agitating Run
Newsday-- Rangers, Tortorella react to the return of Sean Avery...
Photo from New York Post website