Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Scene stealer's of Saturday night

There was drama, comedy, action, a nod to the classics and no shortage of technology, as Hockey Day in Canada provided more than a few thrills on Saturday. The CBC working to the extreme that mandate of bringing Canadians together, provided over fourteen hours of hockey and hockey themed features to celebrate our national obsessions.

As a scene setter and opening act we were front row cenre at the main stage of Stratford, treated to the vision of King Don and his consort and our narrator of the day Ron MacLean, Cherry regal in his robes as he looked out on the Dominion and its salute to the game.

Through the hours to follow vignettes and features would flow and as would be expected tugged at the heart strings, the usual flavour of fighting the odds of survival, struggling for comebacks and of community togetherness that would no doubt leave even the fiercest cynic reaching for a third box of Kleenex.

There were quite a few highlights as we crossed the country, but two did seem to shine brighter than most, Dick Irivn proved once again that even though he's long been out of the spotlight from his once weekly perch on Saturday night, that he can still weave a magical story, his tribute to the Morenz legacy one of the highlights of the day's information avalanche.

Likewise, Elliot Friedman's backgrounder on British Columbia's iconic Ernie Punch McLean, was a fascinating piece as he provided the nation with a tale that surely could have come out of a Robert Service poem. Beyond McLean's legendary coaching prowess, there were the tales of his wilderness adventures and near death experiences, stories which would seem as though from fanciful flights of fiction, if not documented through the years.

From various locations across the nation we saw the diaspora of hockey in this land, from the everyday fan, through the organizers and officials, on to the smallest of Timbit players and the rising stars of Junior B as well as those that probably know this may be their last stop in hockey, all celebrated the importance of the game on their daily lives, a sport and an experience that captures all their emotion and attention from September through to the spring.

As though on cue from the main stage just off the Avon river, when the day's attentions turned to the ice of an NHL arena, the three games provided for their own dramatic moments, a perfect punctuation point to each segment of the day's progress.

In Ottawa a hard fought match, gets settled in overtime, an iconic Canadian franchise and the team that summons on the past as much as the future, takes on an enigmatic squad that once seemed destined for Stanley Cup dominance and now tries to regain that dream and reward its long suffering fans.

An opening act which required an encore, with Mike Fisher taking the lead role in the taming of the Rouge, blanc et bleu. One of the hardest workers on any NHL rink, it was Fisher's marker with time winding down in the extra frame that sent Ottawa on into the team's history books, recording their 9th consecutive victory, a sudden reversal of fortunes that may bring back many of the bandwagon crowd that were ready to abandon them less than a month ago.
Centre stage in Toronto provided a variety of themes for the night, redemption for a discarded former Leaf (ironically still on the Leafs payroll) as Andrew Raycroft, subbed in for a sub par Roberto Luongo, shut down a surprisingly prolific Leaf attack after the first period. By games end Raycroft would be revelling in his fortune, with more than a few waves to those in the wings that booed him out of town when he wore the blue and white.

Alexandre Burrows took his share of the spotlight, the object of much discussion and observation from Hockey Night in Canada's Ron MacLean but a week ago, showed that he's full value for his statistics with a remarkable night. He started off a five goal Canuck's comeback and played as solid a two way game as any coach could ever hope to find. For good measure and good theater, he even ended up in between periods on Hockey Night in Canada, suggesting that the score at the end of period one was not going to be the night's final tally, and as would be seen as the night progressed he certainly seems to know his team and their capabilities.

Hockey Day in Canada took on a decidedly Nordic twist in Toronto, as the Sedins, showcased their talents as though running a clinic, a remarkable display of game control, passion and scoring that left their hosts reeling and their audience dumbfounded. With each shift on the ice before their former boss Brian Burke, you sense he could only wonder what cruel fates conspired against him. Burke while no doubt concerned about his current teams collapse and flaws, could find some room to marvel at those he brought to North America. In some back compartment of his brain he surely was satisfied that the twins, long ago tagged as a soon to be force in the NHL, have clearly arrived and proven his instincts correct.

Combined with the energetic Burrows, the Canuck's top line is quickly becoming one of the most impressive offensive displays the league has seen in a long, long time. Burke, his coach Ron Wilson, their players and fans could only watch in awe as the Canucks led by their Swedish component, methodically erased a three goal deficit, turned a game around 180 degrees and left their mark at ground zero of Canada's self obsessed centre of the universe.

The final act of the night would need no preamble, the Battle of Alberta, a blood feud that rarely disappoints and even in a game where the Oilers were left to wander the wilds of the Saddledome as though lost in a blizzard, the emotion of that setting provided more than enough drama to cover up a rather anemic Edmonton attack. Both teams have been woeful in recent weeks, tumbling down the standings with just a slight whiff of panic in the air in their respective cities, though after Saturday we suspect that the panic meter runs a little higher in Edmonton.

At night's end the Flames featuring a re-energized captain in Jerome Iginla would have dominated their northern cousins in all facets of the game, gaining the kind of victory that can turn around a season. On the other bench, Edmonton provided another night of mistakes, the kind of mental miscues and lapses of judgement that will continue to eat away at a team that still seems to be more than a few players away from ever thinking of a playoff berth, let alone a playoff run.

The pain of the learning curve etched on the face of Pat Quinn, who can only shake his head at times at the fragility of his team, where one miscue cascades into another and before anyone has a chance to look at the scoreboard the game is seemingly out of reach.

The final game did not provide the storybook kind of finish to cap a perfect day of hockey, but it too had it's purpose, defining the nature of a game that is built on emotion, but requires skill, team work and the ability to claw back from the abyss. Calgary seems to have stepped back from the downward spiral, the Oilers moved a step further into the tempest.

Six teams, comprised of Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Finns, Russians and many other collections of the United Nations, all merged into a celebration of a national game, each one as important to the day as though they had just stepped out on the Avon River, the Rideau Canal or a frozen slough on the prairies for the first time.

It was a day featuring a triple header of Canadianna, measured out with tales and characters from a land that follows the sport as though a religion or noble cause. Fourteen hours plus, to focus on the good that is still in the game well beyond the bright glare of the large arenas and the weight of the huge salaries and commercial deals.

A brief reminder that the game still resonates in much simpler forms, in far reaching places that far too often are not given their due for what they have given and what they bring to the sport.
Many of the features from Hockey Day in Canada can be found on the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada website, a good opportunity to catch up on some of those that may have passed you by today.

Hockey Day in Canada where the play is the thing

Stratford shakes off its theatrical robes for a day, pulls on a favourite hockey sweater and welcomes another Canadian passion to its stage, the 10th annual edition of what is now known as Tim Horton's Hockey Day in Canada.

While the adults warm up with a cup of the main sponsor's most famous beverage, a number of Stratford and area's minor hockey participants will be involved in a wide variety of events to help in the celebrations of national game.

Stratford, the host of this years festivities will serve as the main stage for the day, but there are many activities planned across the nation, with the CBC featuring live streaming coverage from such communities as St John's, Newfoundland, Ottawa, Ontario (from the Rideau Canal), Gimli, Manitoba, Auburn Bay, Alberta, Estevan, Saskatchewan and Victoria, BC.

The television proceedings get underway at noon eastern time, 9 am Pacific on the full CBC network. They will check in on all of their venues throughout the day, all part of the triple header of all Canadian action on the ice from Canada's NHL arenas.

The Montreal Candiens take on the Ottawa Senators as the two clubs kick off the NHL action at 2pm ET (11 am PT) from Scotiabank Place in the capital.

The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs pick up the middle shift on Hockey Day, as the Canucks begin their Olympic games required marathon road trip at the Air Canada Centre at 7 pm ET (4 PM PT).

The Canucks may find one of the features of the day of interest, as Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean offers up some tips for future referees, hosting a clinic in Stratford ( his lesson on interpretive lip reading is apparently quite helpful)

The nightcap for the day takes place at 10 PM ET (7 PM PT) as the Battle of Alberta begins anew as the Oilers take on the Flames at the Saddledome.

You can check out all of the events of the day from the CBC's Hockey Day in Canada website where all of the Hockey Day in Canada happenings are listed and streaming video options are available.

Monday, January 25, 2010

We're sorry, but the Canucks are not ready for their close up Ron!

It's probably every hockey players dream to appear on Hockey Night in Canada, a chance to sit down beside Ron and Don before a game or with Scott and Kelly and at the end of it.

But until the folks at CBC (and yes we 're looking at you Ron MacLean) offer up an apology, it would seem that anyone with a big C and an orca on their chest will be a little camera shy.

The Canuck's still steamed at the handling of Alex Burrows by Judge MacLean a few weeks back, have issued their own version of the media black out on the NHL broadcasts featuring their team.

The disappearing Canucks began their hold out last Saturday when nary a Canuck showed up on camera prior to or after the Chicago Vancouver game. All part of their showing of support for Burrows who they believe was given a raw deal when MacLean provided his analysis and personal slant to the issue of the Auger/Burrows debate over officiating from a few weeks back.

How long this goes on before the Canucks either believe they have proved their point or Mr. MacLean issues an apology is a good question, though we imagine eventually the NHL will get involved in this as well, conscious of the image that is made from a team carrying out a fatwa against the leagues major money maker.
So far, the CBC isn't budging from their support for MacLean, offering up the traditional right to make opinion and such as their defence for his report, which certainly wasn't particularly balanced.

Though they perhaps may wish to at least find an olive branch before things get too far along, the CBC would seem to have more to lose than the Canucks over the long term. With Vancouver playing rather well of late and looking like a serious playoff contender while the rest of Canada's teams are struggling to say the least, it could be that they are but the only realistic hope for a long running Canadian franchise in this years Stanley Cup playoffs.

If the Canucks continue to keep the cone of silence in place through til June, that's going to make for a lot of time to fill for Ron and his friends.

Will anyone blink first? Tune in on Saturday night when the Canucks travel into the heart of MacLean's domain with a game against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre and see if the Cold War really is over.

Some of the feedback on the blackout so far:

Winnipeg Free Press-- Canucks boycotting CBC

I'd like a seat in the Eucker section please

Once upon a time perhaps, this might have been the only seat you could find for a Red Wings game, but as attendance figures have shown over the last few years, the economic troubles of Detroit have left more than a few good seats unfilled at the Joe.

However, on Sunday, those rink side ducats or a spot in a luxury sky box wasn't good enough for one particular Red Wing fan. As one over enthusiastic fan climbed out above the action for an overall view of the action.


No word on whether he will be spending the rest of the season in care of Michigan corrections, but if his purpose was to act as an eye in the sky for the Wings coaching staff he failed miserably.

The Kings beat the Wings by a score of 3-2, a trend that if it continues, will mean that the catwalk watcher won't have much to watch at playoff time.

Judgement day beckons for Patrice Cormier

It was one week ago, a Sunday night in Q when Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward Patrice Cormier raised his elbow into the face of the Quebec Remparts Mikael Tam, sending the young 18 year old Rempart defenceman to the ice where he immediately went unconscious and into convulsions, a sight that left the crowd silenced in fear of what may have happened..



It was just the latest in a string of ugly on ice incidents in hockey this year, lessons apparently not learned about respect for the game and those who play it.

Tam continues to recover at home in Quebec City, though his future in hockey is very much still up in the air, suffering from brain trauma from the hit and left in a condition which finds him with little strength at the moment. The diagnosis of a severe head injury provides for no timeline of recovery nor indeed if a career in hockey is now on Mr. Tam's agenda.

Cormier has been sidelined ever since, as the QMJHL tries to come to some kind of agreement on what it's next step may be, a decision on the fate of Mr. Cormier is to be rendered on Monday. With many suggesting that he may find that his time in the Q has come to an end.

Regardless of their decision Monday, Cormier's troubles may grow from tomorrow on, the police are in the process of an investigation into the on ice incident, an investigation that Remparts president and coach Patick Roy has suggested may lead to criminal charges.

There also is the possibility of civil charges from Mr. Tam's family over the nature of his injuries and the prospect that they could lead to an end to his dreams of a professional career.

Cormier was involved in another controversial hit not more than a month ago when he became involved in a troubling hit during the World Juniors when he again used his elbow to level a Swedish player, though no penalty was enforced at the time and no disciplinarian action was taken as well. Still it does point to a certain lack of respect, despite the declaration that he is just a hard nosed player, playing a very physical style.


Whlie Mr. Cormier has been reported as remorseful, which is the norm and we suspect heartfelt, he still may be at the beginning of a long personal nightmare, which will continue to haunt him even as he, himself makes his plans for a future in the NHL, (The New Jersey Devils currently hold his rights).

It's doubtful that short of jail time, that his career path to the NHL will be sidelined, his status as a high pick by the Devils is indicative of the perceived value of his style of play, unfortunately for the game, that style of play is taking far too many prisoners these days. A situation that in the long term can only hurt the game as opposed to strengthen it.

Eventually the message must get through that these incidents have to stop, the line between physical play and brutality is getting crossed with an increasing frequency, one wonders how many players it drives out of the sport long before they reach Junior hockey.

Even more worrisome, one wonders how long it will be before a hockey death finally punctuates the need for change, you would hope that the change in the culture will come before that tragic day arrives.

Globe and Mail-- Tam 'very tired,' worried about future after vicious hit
Globe and Mail-- Cormier warrants stronger punishment
Globe and Mail-- TV's talking heads come down hard on Cormier
National Post-- Remparts Tam has no memory of head shot
National Post-- Cormier's fate to be decided on Monday
CBC Sports-- Media line up against Cormier as decision arrives
CBC Sports-- Huskies' Cormier awaits word on suspension
Montreal Gazette-- Lamoriello's views clouded
Calgary Herald-- What was Lamoriello thinking with comments on Cormier's hit?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ron MacLean's Empirical experience leaves a few gaps

“I use my empirical experience and I refereed for 23 years, and that prejudices my opinion, there's no doubt about that,” -- CBC Hockey Night in Canada host Ron McLean outlining for the Globe and Mail some of the foundation for his recent story on the Burrows/Auger dispute.

Ron MacLean, apparently flying too close to the bright flame of Don Cherry (and apparently seeking to outshine it on one night) has moved beyond the role of an impartial arbitrator of the news of hockey and instead, chosen to be a judge, jury and maybe even the executioner of Alex Burrows.

Last Saturday night, MacLean weighed into the debate over the events in Vancouver of last week which saw Burrows and NHL official Stephane Auger engage in a pre game skate and chat session, a public skate which Burrows charges was akin to Tony Soprano pulling up in the SUV to issue one of those never to forget warnings.

During the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of Saturday, McLean (seemingly wearing his former life as a referee on his sleeve) dedicated a good portion of his on air time to the topic of Mr. Burrows and Mr. Auger, clearly siding with the referee and portraying Burrows as just a little bit short of being a pathological liar.

Without any evidence, other than his favourite pieces of video and his impressions of Auger as someone who wouldn't throw away his career on something such as this, McLean basically trampled Burrows right to protest what he believes was uncalled for behaviour by the official.
In particular Maclean steps over the line when he decides he can read minds as to what Burrows was feeling or what he may have said to goaltender Roberto Luongo in an earlier incident. One which MacLean paints as some kind of career long makeup of Burrows, as that of an actor or diver.


It was left to Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault to seize some equal time much later in the evening, making clear his impressions on the post game show "After hours".

For MacLean, if he's decided to change from an "investigative reporter" to an "editorialist" all in one show, then perhaps the CBC needs to reassess his on air assignments and maybe give him his own segment where he can flog his conspiracy like theories as fact, without the fanciful image of an impartial observer that he normally tries to portray.

With Colin Campbell by his side on Saturday, McLean regained any of the penalty points of the past lost with the NHL. With his wonderful dissertation of the NHL line, MacLean trampled over the line of objectivity, becoming nothing more than a shill for the league than any kind of balanced working journalist.

It's a performance that has for the most part been panned across the board, from the media, the Canucks management and by Burrows own parents who have issued their own statement on the matter.

By not allowing for any interpretation of the Burrows side of the story (nor the extensive video piece that Sportsnet had of the lengthy skating conversation), with little examination of the flow of the game in question (including some interesting penalty calls) or any past incidents where Auger has made mistakes (perhaps an interview with Shane Doan could have been helpful, non?), McLean diminished his stature as a journalist, revealing himself in this case as nothing more than an apologist for the league with a fairly secure tie to the referees club.

It's an unusual mis-step for McLean, who for the most part during his years as a hockey information presenter been pretty non controversial. Occasionally he has stepped into the middle of one of Don Cherry's tempests, but for the most part he has offered up some balance to the mercurial rants of Mr. Don Cherry and the baffle gab offerings of Gary Bettman's occasional visits.

To so clearly mis read the situation at hand and providing the paint for the NHL's whitewash, he has certainly given viewers of the CBC cause to wonder just how objective a viewpoint they get every Saturday night.

Two things from Saturday are certain, one: it's a good thing that CBC doesn't have Olympic rights in Vancouver as Mr. MacLean's reception would most likely be much colder than any temperature to be experienced and two: Don Cherry must love watching his sidekick twist in the wind on this one, it must be an interesting thing to view controversy from the sidelines for a change .

Vancouver Province-- Ron MacLean responds to Vancouver's ire over Burrows segment
Vancouver Province-- Burrows family files complaint over CBC segment
Vancouver Province-- Alain Vigneault slams Ron MacLean in a rare challenge of a specific media member
Vancouver Province-- Healy says NHLPA needs to look into Burrows-Auger affair
Vancouver Sun-- Burrows' parents appalled by CBC's treatment of their son
Vancouver Sun-- CBC's Ron MacLean not sorry for criticizing Canuck Alex Burrows
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks’ Alex Burrows ripped by Hockey Night’s Ron MacLean: Watch videos, tell us — and the CBC — what you think
Vancouver Sun-- Canucks hunted in the land of zebras
Globe and Mail-- Vigneault ready to move on
Globe and Mail-- MacLean won't apologize for Burrows rant
Globe and Mail-- Burrows given no chance to defend himself
Globe and Mail-- Burrows incident lingers for NHL
National Post-- MacLean deserves offside penalty

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is revenge best served on the cold ice of an NHL arena?

"If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge" -- From William Shakespeare's, the Merchant of Venice.

Over the years, Alex Burrows has been accused of harboring some thespian ambitions, but we somehow doubt that on Monday in Vancouver, when Stephane Auger, leaned over to Alex Burrows and whispered something en francais to the Canuck, that they were comparing lines from one of Mr. Shakespeare's works of literature and theatre.

But considering how things have evolved over the last twenty four hours, revenge it seems is something that is going to be a talking point for the next little while.

The NHL came down with a 2500 dollar fine Tuesday on the Vancouver Canuck's winger, that after he suggested that NHL official Auger had it in for him and had in effect threatened him prior to the commencement of Monday nights game.

Burrows was serving a penalty (with Henrik Sedin in for company) when the visiting Nashville Predators scored what turned out to be the winning goal, and afterwards a clearly agitated Burrows expanded on his thoughts for what perhaps could be the next big Oliver Stone film.

The way Burrows explained things on Monday, Mr. Auger was nursing a grudge over a past incident which it's suggested that the Vancouver player embellished a hit, taking a dive in effect and thus putting the official, Auger in the doghouse with his superiors.

According to Monday's post game scrum, Burrows claims that Auger told him he was going to get him for that, and as Burrows sat in that penalty box those words he says were said manifested into a grudge carried out.


There has been little heard from Auger on this topic and its doubtful that we'll hear much about it in the short term, though one wonders if there will be some changes to the officiating schedule over the remainder of the season, keeping Burrows and Auger coasts apart.

Auger for his part is no stranger to controversy, just ask Shane Doan! Four years ago, he was famously penalized for a tasteless comment, a slur against french Canadian playes made by another player, that Auger attributed to him. It was a move that left Doan unjustly criticized, sometimes with venomous outbursts by some in the province of Quebec for comments that he never uttered.

So clearly Mr. Auger comes into the debate with more than a little baggage.

More importantly for the league however is the fact that the integrity of the game could now be topic one, players regularly claim that certain refs have it in for them, it's an ages old battle cry that normally never leaves the sanctuary of the dressing room.

Burrows changed all of that with his impromptu press conference of Monday, a bit of improv that will most likely mean that every game he plays through the rest of the year will be under much scrutiny, from not only the officials on the ice, but the officials at the head office in New York.

It may provide him with more freedom on the ice, or it could mean that he develops a very familiar relationship with the penalty box, only time will provide us with those possibilities.

Likewise, Mr. Auger will find that his on ice appearances will be watched with much interest, to see if he allows emotions to enter his calls, if his conversations with the players offer up more than just the normal banter between officials and players.

They may not have known it when they had their chat at GM Place on Monday, but those few seconds could very well change the relationship between players and officials for a very long time to come.

As the Bard would have put it had he been a hockey fan and beside the boards on Monday, What's past is prologue!

Vancouver Sun-- NHL must deal with referee Auger’s bad behaviour, Canucks with bad Burrows
Vancouver Sun--NHL fails to see smoking gun, as Auger goes unpunished while Burrows fined $2,500
Vancouver Province-- Canuck Alex Burrows fined $2,500 for comments about referee
Vancouver Province-- 'It was personal,' Burrows says of ref
Vancouver Province-- League needs to nip potential scandal in bud
The Globe and Mail-- The NHL's worst nightmare
National Post-- Burrows fined as NHL launches investigation
The Toronto Sun-- Burrows opens NHL can of worms
Montreal Gazette-- Burrows opens can of worms

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Got him, want him, Trade him? Ilya Kovalchuk

Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk seems to be the early and most likely candidate to be changing hockey sweaters in the near future, despite the proclamations otherwise by Thrasher's GM Don Waddell.

Kovalchuk has un-restrictred free agency on the horizon at the end of the season and thus far the two sides have not found common ground on the variety of proposals that have been bounced around.

Waddell for his part says that trading the Thrasher's star is not his first desire, but with the prospect of losing him completely at season's end the lure of the deal to be might be hard to resist.

The NHL trading deadline is March 3rd this year, plus for added mystery there will be two week moratorium on trades during the Vancouver Olympics which get underway on February 14th.

That leaves about one month to finish off the fishing expeditions and make the decision to reel in a deal or cut some bait. Making the next month the showcase period before the Olympic games a good number of GM's may wish to get things sorted out prior to the Vancouver break, which would only leave three days to cobble together a deal on deadline day.

The Bruins, Kings and Canucks seem to be gaining the most buzz as potential new employers, all three seem to be one player short at the moment of making a lengthy drive into the playoff rounds, adding the scoring touch of Kovalchuk could very well be the one addition to help them have a long term playoff schedule this spring.

There are of course many other teams that could no doubt use his talents, but the key question for GM's is whether they are willing to pay the price to acquire him and if they have enough depth in their line up to make the addition a worthwhile venture this season.

Atlanta Journal Constitution-- Waddell: Trading Kovalchuk is option, not first choice
Atlanta Journal Constitution-- Is the Kovalchuk era in Thrasherville nearing an end?
New York Times-- Will the Thrashers Trade Kovalchuk?
National Post-- Bruins, Kings among teams that could make a run at Kovalchuk
CBC Sports-- Thrashers approach teams about Kovalchuk: Hotstove
Globe and Mail-- Expect Kovalchuk to be on the move

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Some of that old time Хоккей in Chekhov

Hockey Night in Chekhov, lasted but three minutes and thirty nine seconds on Saturday after on ice officials sent so many participants in an on ice brawl off to the dressing rooms that they did not have enough players to complete the game.

Players from both Vityaz Chekhov and Avangard Omsk took to the ice as hostilities increased, not stepping away until tempers were exhausted and the line ups depleted.

What has been called the first time a game has been cancelled because of a mass brawl, featured 691 penalty minutes to both sides and now has brought about some particularly heavy fines and dire threats of expulsion from the league.

KHL officials fined Vityaz four-million rubles (US$133,300)and threatened expulsion if a similar incident takes place again, Avangard the Siberian based visiting squad escaped with a one-million ruble fine.

Among the players fined, suspended and forever to be remembered were
Canadians Darsy Verot and Brandon Sugden from Vityaz and Avangard’s Russian pair Alexander Svitov and Dmitry Vlasenkov, who all received fines of 150,000 rubles each. Seven other players, six from Vityaz and one from Avangard received one game suspensions for their pugilistic endeavours.

One suspects that Don Cherry may start developing more of an affection for Russian hockey than in the past, perhaps with a chance to offer up Rock Em Socke, Chehkov as his next video selection.

National Post-- Two KHL clubs handed heavy fines after mass brawl
ESPN-- Jagr part of suspended KHL game
New York Times-- Brawls Cut Short K.H.L. Game
Russia Times-- KHL game turns into major scuffle
RIA Novisti-- Vityaz, Avangard hockey players fined for disrupting game

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Canada's streak stopped at five as USA becomes World Junior Champions

“We played Canadian hockey. We played gritty. We blocked shots. We back-checked … You learn from the best.”-- USA head coach Dean Blais, explaining the secret of their Gold Medal success.

When the youth of the hockey world gather again next in Buffalo, New York in December, the home side will be the defending champions, after the USA wrestled the World Junior championship away from Canada at a highly entertaining gold medal game on Tuesday night.

With what seemed almost to be a replay of the New Year's Eve classic match up between the two teams, the Americans held on during a frantic third period which saw them surrender a two goal lead, only to claim victory in the early stages of the overtime period.

For hockey fans it was everything you could have hoped for in a dramatic conclusion to a tournament which more often than not featured far too many blow outs for the good of a competitive game.

The juniors played the game at such a pace, that channel surfers checking out the NHL action on Tuesday night couldn't have helped but notice that the best examples of the passion, speed and urgency of the game was clearly best found in Saskatoon and nowhere else.

With both teams playing similar styles and many of the players familiar with each other from their junior hockey assignments, the final provided much of the same kind of flow that the Memorial Cup playoffs have, though with a few international twists thrown in to keep things a tad off kilter.

The Americans were portrayed at the start of the tournament as under dogs as they went up against a Canadian team that had made the Gold medal theirs over the last five consecutive years, yet they served notice on New Years Eve, that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Tuesday, they took the play to Canada early on, setting the pace and tone for the game and taking Canada out of their normal rhythm of play. Their transition game was superior to Canada's, they played the physical game as well as Canada did and while they too made their fair share of glaring errors whether in the form of misguided passes, poor defensive play or suspect goal tending and bad penalties, in the end their miscues did not hurt them as bad as those made by the team in red and white.

Canada, which had scored at will when facing the lesser talented squads of Latvia, Switzerland and Slovakia suddenly found that gaining just that one more goal to win was in the end beyond their reach.

That early run of sideshow hockey at the start of the tournament perhaps came back to bite the Canadians a bit, never really tested in the tournament until that match up on New Years Eve, they didn't seem to develop until the third period the same sense of urgency that the Americans had from the opening face off.

And while Canada once again provided the storyline of the team that never quits, this time there would be no miracle finish to secure the gold, and as Canadians bemoan the open nets missed or the rattled goal posts, it does seem that by sheer perseverance the right team on this night won the medal that everyone wants.

The USA was full value for their victory, they went onto Canada's home ice and refused to be sent away without their treasure, they skated hard, they executed their game plan almost flawlessly and they showed that when it comes to heart, Canada isn't alone in that intangible that most defines victory in these do or die games.

Canadians sometimes take the gold medal as some sort of hockey Manifest Destiny, an assumed right that should be offered up at the end of every tournament. Dismissing the silver as a consolation prize barely worthy of mention.

This year, that's certainly not the case, that silver medal is a testimony to a team that was a worthy competitor, one which offered up as much as they had in the tank, but couldn't make that mad dash to the finish line first.

The end result while most likely disappointing for each and every one of them, should be taken in the context of the sport, on most nights it's the team that plays the best over the sixty or more minutes that deserves the win, there is no short changing on that theory from this years World Juniors.

The USA earned their victory by those very traits that Canadians best identify to the game, hard work, a refusal to let go of the prize and yes a little bit of luck. In a tournament that provided far too many lopsided matches and cries out for a reconfiguration of the seeding, there were two pivotal games that offered up evidence as to why the World Juniors is a holiday tradition in Canada, and one that this year set records for television viewing for TSN, not surprisingly both of those game involved the neighbours to the south.

May they enjoy their year as reigning champs, we'll see them in Buffalo in December, where once again we hope we see the same calibre of hockey and the same passion.

Though we must admit perhaps a different end result, after all there's a new streak we'd like to get underway if you please.

Globe and Mail-- The Winning streak is over - Let the rivalry begin
Globe and Mail-- Victorious Americans steal from Canadian textbook
National Post-- U.S. ruins another Canadian party
National Post-- Record audience takes in world junior heartbreak
National Post-- Demographics may be catching up to Canada
Toronto Star-- Junior loss means pressure's on Team Canada at Olympics
Toronto Star-- Heartbreaking end to Canada's gold medal streak
Toronto Sun-- Heart-breaking loss for Canada
Winnipeg Free Press-- Team Canada denied by Americans
Saskatoon Star Phoenix-- Americans win junior hockey gold
CBC Sports-- Canada settles for silver medal at world juniors
CBC Sports-- Putting Canadian defeat in perspective
The Canadian Press-- U.S. captures gold at junior hockey championship with 6-5 OT win over Canada Character is golden for Team USA in World Junior Championship
USA Today-- Carlson scores overtime goal for U.S. gold in world juniors
Los Angeles Times-- No, Canada! Team USA wins world junior title in OT

Sunday, January 03, 2010

And they didn't even take a doggie bag!

The battle of Alberta is going to get a little bit hotter we suspect, now that the Edmonton Oilers have left their mark (and reduced payments) on the bill of a well known Calgary restaurant.

Saturday was filled with reports of the battle over the bill, which saw the Oilers take exception to the rather large compilation of charges provided to them at one of Calgary's more famous of eateries Osteria de Medici.

At the heart of the dispute was the Oilers final tally for the night of social activity of players, wives and girlfriends, a rather bacchanalian night for the 45 guests, judging by the numbers which came in at $16,796.39, including tax and tip.
That rather abruptly brought the festivities to an end and apparently got the Oilers elbows up, with the boys reportedly at one point refusing to pay anything for the night. As the discussions continued, eventually the price was reduced by $6,000 dollars and the final amount was $12,000 - including an $1,888 tip.

By the time the dust up had settled down, the impression was out there that the Oilers were considered to be cheap skates while the restaurant was painted as akin to robber barons, with accusations flying back and forth, the Oilers were subjected to much in the way of incidental humour through Saturday as they prepared for their match in San Jose (we wonder if they brown bagged it down the coast?)

Today, though all is forgiven, that it seems with the owner of the restaurant reporting back that all accounts have been settled, with any further discussion on the menu selections and payment provisions to be handled by the Oilers front office.

Toronto Sun-- Oilers, restaurant come to 'agreement'
Canadian Press-- Hockey fans buzzing over Edmonton Oilers restaurant bill dispute
CTV News-- Oilers blamed for partially unpaid New Year's Eve tab
Edmonton Journal-- Oilers called cheapskates over huge bar tab
Edmonton Sun-- Bad Aftertaste
Edmonton Sun-- Restaurant GM changes tune on Oilers
Calgary Sun-- Cross chequing for Oilers
Calgary Herald-- Oilers, Calgary restaurant settle spat over bill

The Oilers have one more regular season stop in Calgary this year coming up on the 30th of January ( and perhaps more if they make the playoffs) so as a service to their gastronomical requirements we offer up this helpful list of Calgary restaurants, should they wish to maybe pass by Osteria de Medici.

And to help out even further as they take to the road, perhaps they can find a discount or two from this site which offers up more wallet friendly pricing at any number of establishments around North America

Saturday, January 02, 2010

US builds from the net out for Olympics

New Year's Day proved to be a pretty special way to ring in the new year for Tim Thomas of the Bruins, in the afternoon he was part of the magic that seems to have become the Winter Classic match ups, this year featuring the Bruins of the Original Six with the NHL's original outlaw franchise the Philadelphia Flyers.

Thomas who at one point appeared to be ready to put the goat horns on for the B's after a short burst of selfishness saw him chasing players when he should have been watching pucks, however he redeemed himself in the late stages of the game while his Bruin team mates found the mark twice to win the match, setting the stage for USA hockey's Olympic line up announcement.

With the setting of one of Boston's mos famous landmarks behind him, the Bruin's goaltender was named to the American squad, providing Bostonians with yet another reason to cheer in the New Year.

That naming of the names allowed Thomas to trade in the Bruin's yellow and black for the red white and blue, as he joins Ryan Miller and Jonathon Quick as one of three US goal tenders heading off to Vancouver next month.

Brian Burke is the architect of the 2010 carriers of the flag, composing a team with a number of surprises, with many of the most well known names of American hockey left to watch the action through the prism of Bob Costas and NBC all from the comfort of home or perhaps a beach somewhere during the break.

He offers up an interesting mix of the well known, the rising stars and in some cases the hard working journeymen who will bring their particular skill set to the west coast.

Americans (and Canadians for that matter) who had grown used to the names of Gomez, Tkachuk, Weight, Guerin and Modano will be perhaps a little surprised to learn that they are now part of history, enshrined to the teams of the past. A move that perhaps not surprisingly, has been given a negative review by some fans and journalists.
Regardless of those concerns, the 2010 squad is moving on and with that comes the names of Kane, Parise, Brown, Ryan, Stastny and both Johnson's Jack and Erik, some of them young, others more established, all now set to put their stamp on the US Olympic program.

They are players who no doubt have the heart for the game and the skill and desire to succeed, and are now set to take on the challenge of hockey at yet another level than the seemingly never ending regular NHL season can provide.

The lack of past Olympic experience while perhaps of concern, could provide a spark of adventure for this collection of Americans, already the old memories of 1980 and the Miracle on Ice era of American hockey are getting dusted off. An unfair comparison it would seem considering the changes that International hockey has undergone since Lake Placid.

Still, motivation is always part of the mystique of the Olympics, reaching to the past to move to the future, never to be underestimated once the media machine that NBC will surely become in February gets rolling.

For the USA it will all begin in the crease, if their goaltending troika (providing Ryan Miller is allowed to leave the net during the competition) can stand up the opposing teams on a daily basis, then anything is possible, a change of momentum, a lucky break an untimely penalty by anyone could make the difference, one of many things that could offer up the tournament changing moment that provides the stamp of approval on Burke's squad.

At Fenway on Friday, they introduced the team featuring a collection of minor hockey players from around the Boston area, a smallish group of tykes just at the start of their adventures in hockey.

Part of history in 2010, perhaps one or two will repeat that moment at the other end of the introductions in twelve years, three Olympics down the line, ready to step into the line up of an under dog, but as with the announcement of New Years Day 2010 suggests, one with a bit of a bite .


USA Hockey--The US Olympic team roster for the 2010 Olympics
Toronto Star-- New-look Team USA packed with potential
Globe and Mail-- Youngsters Kane and Johnson highlight Team USA
Globe and Mail-- Whew, Thomas says, after being bailed out
National Post-- Burke says goaltending the key to U.S. team's success
National Post-- U.S. Olympic men's hockey team boasts young lineup
CBC-- Americans go with new-look squad for 2010
CBC-- Americans counting on Miller in Vancouver
Chicago Sun Times-- Team USA has picked itself to fail
Dallas Morning News-- Dallas Stars' Mike Modano understands omission from Olympic team
CBS Sports-- Turning the page
ESPN Chicago-- Kane excited about Olympic opportunity
USA Today-- U.S. Olympic hockey analysis: What each player adds to team Unproven Team USA can mix it up

Headlines of January 2010

Tracking the headlines for the month of January 2010.

January 31-- Flames trade Phaneuf to Leafs in multi-player deal
January 30-- Raycroft unlikely hero in Canucks' comeback
January 29-- Hockey Day takes over Stratford, Ont.
January 28-- Canucks set for epic road trip
January 27-- Canucks, Hockey Night kiss, make up over Alex Burrows controversy
January 26-- Huskies plan to appeal Cormier suspension
January 25-- Cormier hit gives hockey a chance to learn 'valuable lesson'
January 24-- Angry Canucks boycott 'Hockey Night In Canada' over ‘character assassination’
January 23-- Johnson's days with Kings could be numbered after spat with GM
January 22-- Just how good are these flickering Flames?
January 21-- Beliveau in stable condition in Montreal hospital
January 20-- NHL commissioner Bettman blames partisanship for outrage over Burrows-Auger affair
January 19-- Tam out of hospital after head hit from Cormier
January 18-- Cormier suspended indefinitely for hit
January 17-- NHL Olympians dropping left and right
January 16-- Sharks line switch bites Oilers
January 15-- Ovechkin records five-point night in rout of Leafs
January 14-- East going south
January 13-- Slumping Senators fire goaltending coach
January 12-- The NHL's worst nightmare
January 11-- Hall the top-ranked North American for NHL draft
January 10-- Bruins, Kings among team that could make a run at Kovalchuk
January 9-- Tampa-NJ game to finish Sunday
January 8-- Oilers get back to basics
January 7-- Wilson can rant, but this team just isn’t good enough
January 6-- IHL suspends Liambas after ‘fluke’ hit
January 5-- U.S. victory halts Canada's world junior hockey dominance
January 4-- Have the Canadian juniors turned into those damn Yankees?
January 3-- Canada juniors back in gold-medal final, will meet Team USA
January 2-- Blues fire coach Andy Murray
January 1-- A grand slam on ice

Friday, January 01, 2010

Flyers foiled in fabulous Fenway finish

The NHL's Winter Classic delivered once again, though it did take until the third period for the game to produce some high drama.

With perfect weather conditions, a lively crowd and some clearly amped up players, the NHL's annual trek into the outdoors proved to be a hit once again.

Both the Flyers and the Bruins were clearly more than ready to showcase the game in a fable setting, with the Green Monster looming over the rink, and a crisp breeze in the air (occasionally blue air as Bruin and Flyer fans exchanged pleasantries) the game once again provided the magic that rekindles for many an earlier time.

While it's obviously all a pre packaged event these days, from the numerous advertising opportunities across the Fenway infield to the frequent trolling of baseball themes by NBC, on the ice it was pure pond shinny, the players reverting to their parent's early days and maybe a few of their own ( though we wonder how many of today's young stars ever spent many cold nights on an outdoor rink) where the second most favourite spot at the rink was around that wood burning stove.

New Years Day at Fenway started out as a worrisome thing for the home side, the Flyers were quick out to frozen expanse and taking the game to the Bruins, they had numerous chances to jump out to a large lead, with only Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas denying them the opportunity.

Their only goal of the game the product of Thomas' occasionally disruptive anger, as he sought out to settle a score on the ice off his crease, a decision that provide the Flyers score as Danny Syvret picked up his first career goal in the NHL, a rather memorable location for a personal milestone one would think.

From that point on the action bounced back and forth, slowing at times, with the Flyers taking a lot of the play but continuing to become frustrated, the Bruins seeking a way to give the 38,112 fans (less the Flyers contingent) something to let loose over.

That moment came about in the hectic final moments of period three, when former Flyer Mark Recchi scored on the power play, a goal that would propel the Winter Classic on to its storybook finish.

With the extra five minutes underway, the flow continued on at it's hurried pace, each shot a possible game ending marker, with chances at either end, framed by remarkable saves.

Two minutes into the overtime all would be well in Boston, Marco Sturm took a Patrice Bergeron pass and deflected it into the net, securing the 2-1 victory and putting the Bruins faithful into full salute, all that was missing was the run around the bases if anybody could have found them under the ice and snow.

The New Year's Day tradition has grown with each successive year, from Buffalo to Chicago and now Boston, each game adding to the celebration of the game with a spectacular setting.

Every once and a while the NHL gets lucky, they are provided with a chance to return the focus of the game away from the usual number of concerns that normally dot the NHL landscape,and on a frozen field of summer dreams hockey took Centre Field (well second base really, but you get the drift) and knocked one out of the park.

Globe and Mail-- Bruins win dramatic Winter Classic
Globe and Mail-- Whew, Thomas says, after being bailed out
National Post-- Flyers 1, Bruins 2
CBC-- Sturm seals Winter Classic win for Bruins
CBC-- NHL exceeds Winter Classic expectations
CBC-- Greats marvel at NHL Winter Classic
CBC-- Outdoor game brings back childhood memories for Marc Savard
CBC-- A Beantown Winter classic
Boston Globe-- A grand slam on ice
Boston Globe-- Happy return
Boston Globe-- They still need home run hitter
Boston Globe-- Bruins win a classic, 2-1
Boston Herald-- Fans, Bruins make Fenway a wild New Year’s Day
Boston Herald-- Tim Thomas’ field of dreams
Boston Herald-- Entertainment value a real high
Boston Herald-- Marco Sturm smiles bright
Boston Herald-- Thrill comes with chill
Philadelphia Inquirer-- Flyers fall to Bruins in Winter Classic, 2-1
Philadelphia Inquirer-- Sam Donnellon: Was Flyers-Bruins a 'Classic,' or just an outdoor game?
Philadelphia Inquirer-- Winter Classic musings: Philly fans invade Boston
Philadelphia Daily News-- Winter Classic no winner for Flyers
Philadelphia Daily News-- Fenway an ice place for Flyers to play hockey

Saskatoon shoot out adds to the New Years Eve legends

There's something about International hockey played on New Years Eve, through the years a bit of shinny before welcoming in a new year has provided for some of the most exciting of feasts that the sport can provide.

This year, the tensions did not build until the late third period, as Canada and the United States renewed acquaintances and Auld Lang Synes.

For the better part of Thursday nights game, the United States seemed to have found the answer to Canada's tournament template, the Americans knocked Canada off their game for the first forty minutes, knocking them around as well like few other teams seem able to do.

With but a few opportune bounces off a post or shots whistled just wide, the two goal lead heading into the late third would have been a three or four goal lead, but as seems the case on most of these epic struggles, we were merely having the stage set for another frantic finish.

Canada finally got untracked as the minutes ticked off in the third, chipping away at the USA lead, eventually grabbing the tie in the last few minutes of play. Their never say die attitude continues to build that Canadian belief that any win is within grasp until the final whistle, as it was on Thursday that belief rings true once again.

It was a game that highlighted the non stop energy of juniors, who seem to perform at a different gear when the World Juniors are underway. Thursday featured a frequent exhibition of that frantic action, a tone that continued right into the 4 on 4 overtime frame.

With no result after 65 minutes, it was on to the shoot out and again it's a different gear, if you can find the highlights of hockey both junior and pro for New Years Eve, check out the pace of the shootouts.

Where the NHLers for the most part appear to be Sunday skaters lounging towards the net for their shot, the Juniors of both Canada and the US were at full tilt speed towards the goal, trading off success until finally an American shot was pushed aside bringing to an end the nights entertainment and keeping Canada's record intact if but by a slender thread.

We clearly get spoiled with our New Years options, from that magical Canadiens/Soviet Red Army night of 1975 and its follow up four years later, to the latest of grudge matches between neighbours of last night, the safest prediction one could make on January 1st is that there will be a dandy hockey game in 364 more days.

National Post-- Canada shows resiliency with comeback win over U.S.
National Post-- Canada upsets U.S. in shootout win
Globe and Mail-- Canada cuts tension on the ice
Globe and Mail-- Brandon Kozun: the eh team all the way
Toronto Star-- Canadian juniors' third-period rally ends '09 in style
Toronto Star-- Canadian juniors beat U.S. in shootout
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix-- Happy New Year, Canada! Junior squad wins shootout over USA