Saturday, October 22, 2016

A little Heritage, for Canada's hockey herartland

The Prairies have delivered much for Canada through the decades since 1867, a wealth of natural resources, bountiful harvests, a strong work ethic that puts the city slickers in the larger communities to shame and of course an endless supply of young hockey players all looking for their chance to make it to the NHL.

They are celebrating the Heritage of Canada's national sport in the heartland of the country this weekend, with Winnipeg the focus point for this years celebration of hockey and it's roots, the Heritage Classic.

The weekend started with a Friday evening gala filled with tales of the past from both the visiting Edmonton Oilers and their dynasty for the ages, as well as the home town Winnipeg Jets.

A team built with a blue print taken from the people they have represented through the WHA days and into their modern era of the NHL. Focused on a dedication to the need for hard work and sacrifice, before expecting any rewards.

Jets fans have made their sacrifices and are ready for some of that reward and for many, the arrival of such a high profile showcase as the Heritage Classic is an nod from the league as to the respect that Manitoba pays to the history of the game.

Friday's reminiscing turned to the outdoor rink at Investor's Group Stadium, as the Oilers Alumni and Jets Alumni faced off in the Saturday afternoon alumni match up.

A game that brought many of the familiar names of the past back for skate on the rink built on the expanse of the football field normally put to use by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or University of Manitoba Bisons.

In its way a symbol of some of the pond hockey of many memories, though with slightly warmer temperatures than say a crisp January afternoon might have delivered.

During the course of the Saturday broadcast, it was noted with some awe the importance that the many community rinks in the city have for the region. With many an NHL dream created on any given Winnipeg evening, under the bright lights and not far from a hot stove.

Most of the names of yesteryear were there Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, a young whippersnapper named Ryan Smyth for the Oilers; Dave Babych, Ed Olcyk and Dale Hawerchuk for the Jets, the appreciation from the crowd ringing in the ears of each and everyone of the players as they took their place on the ice.

The hockey was what might expected at such events, a leisurely skate on the ice with occasional flashes of what once would bring fans to their feet, the game ending on a penalty shot with the Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne sending the crowd of 31,000 plus home with the desired good vibe of a victory over the Oilers. Reversing the narrative of the past of a team, when the Edmontonians would  dash the hopes of River City hockey fans on more than a few occasions in the halcyon days of the Oilers/Jets battles.

Attention now turns to Sunday's showdown between the current Jets and an Oilers squad that for many, is starting to remind hockey fans of a similar collection of youngsters from the eighties whe were ready to make their mark on the NHL.

Though if we're looking for an omen for how Sunday's game might end, look no further than the newest exciting import from Finland.

With the legend Teemu Selanne settling up Saturday's Alumni showcase, surely Patrick Laine will be the name that Jets fans will be cheering when the Sunday Classic comes to an end.

Investors Group Field in Winnipeg is the host venue for this years
Heritage Classic between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers

(Photo from NHL website)

Heritage Classic Website

Some notes on the Heritage Classic can be found below:

Sunday's Main event 
Puck Drop 2 PM Manitoba Time/3 PM ET/ Noon PT
Sportsnet, TVA, NHL Network (USA)

Jets hone in on Heritage Classic
Scheifele catches eye of Oilers head coach
Teemu gives Laine thumbs-up
Stafford ready for full experience
Patrick Laine and Tyler Myers check out the stadium
Jets prep for Heritage game
A fun week for Jets
Jets plan on keeping it simple in Sunday's Heritage Classic
Connor McDavid is excited to play outdoor game
Connor McDavid and Mark Scheifele are fast friends
Oilers outdoor 'rookies' excited
Oilers' oldest rivalry vs. Jets about to get hot in a lukewarm place

The Alumni Game

Selanne of course gets alumni winner for Jets over Oilers
Bandit Berthiaume strikes again
Alumni game a winner
Gretzky's last hurrah?
Reminiscing the retro days of hockey
Mullen feels fortunate
Back to the future for Oilers old timers
Babych had to be good in first season, or else
Once a public enemy, Gretzky not used to getting warm receptions in Winnipeg
Huddy wearing both team's colours at Heritage Classic
Lindstrom doing double duty Heritage weekend
Jet's first Finns paved way for likes of Selanne, Laine
Swedes Hedberg and Nilssson lauded as trailblazers for European hockey
Finnish Flash still has panache
Gretzky takes up stinking way too late
Long time no see Wayne ... help you up, buddy?
Nothing compares to Teemu
For Oilers alumni, it's one last time, with feeling
Selanne scores two to lead Jets over Oilers at Heritage Classic alumni game

Some Notes on the Heritage Classic

Wayne Gretzky's fingerprints are all over the Heritage Classic
Perks of the job: Kris King excited for Heritage Classic
A more intimate Heritage Classic
A celebration of hockey history
Heritage Classic revives memories of a night the roof came off at Winnipeg Arena
When the Great One speaks, people listen ... even years after his retirement
Ice tales from a bygone era
NHL outdoor game in Winnipeg, like all of them, has roots in Edmonton
Heritage Classic in 2003 saved in 'the frozen moment'
Steve Staios and Ryan Smyth remember the Big Freeze
Oilers, NHL both want another outdoor game in Edmonton
With Heritage Classic, Winnipeg celebrates the Jets and the future

Friday, October 14, 2016

From One Austin, to another Auston!

So honestly after watching the Austin Matthews debut, just one thing needs to be said his performance on the night.

Now true, while at the end of the sixty minutes and a bit of OT for the 2016-17 debut for the Leafs and Senators the scoreline was Senators 5, Matthews 4, remainder of Leafs 0, the hype surrounding the young Arizonan making his regular season debut seems rather justified.

The young phenom from Scottsdale, Arizona had a fine night of skating on the ice surface at the Canadian Tire Centre, dazzling the Ottawa fans and undressing the Ottawa defenders as he provided for a performance to launch the new season for the NHL.

Bringing to the ice a performance that guaranteed top line exposure on all of the nightly sports highlights shows, even ESPN, which for the most part in the past has placed the NHL's scoring crawl in the same line up as Cricket Test matches from Fiji.

Matthews' rewarded the Leafs confidence of Draft Day in June, picking up his first NHL goal at 8:21 of the first period, followed by his second just six minutes later.  With a short break between periods, possibly to check his twitter feed and instagram account, he came back out and became the thing of nightmares for Senators goaltender Craig Anderson.

With Matthews scoring just after the one minute mark of period number two, collecting his fourth and final goal on the evening with but three seconds remaining in the middle period, a full night of hockey already accomplished with just forty minutes of play out of the way.

With a modern day NHL record in Matthews pocket, that of four goals in his first game, the Maple Leafs night on score sheet would come to an end, as the Senators finally found a way to not only shut down the highly touted addition to the Leafs lineup, but to turn the game around and claim the win in Overtime.

Perhaps a perfect outcome for hockey fans in the Nations' capital who can say they were there when Matthews' collected the first of what appear to be many records that may soon claim his name, while at the same time having seen the home side squad show some grit and take their first victory of the season.

The scoring exploits became one of the trending topics on twitter for part of the evening and no doubt set Leafs' fans hearts to racing at the prospect of a home game schedule that suggests offence may soon be back in the blue print for Maple Leaf hockey.

The only person perhaps that was happier than Maple Leafs fans on Wednesday night was League Commissioner Gary Bettman, it was like winning your Fantasy Hockey Draft on the first night of play.

Bettman has a top level American star, playing for one of the most iconic franchises in the league, one based in Canada, in the home of the top television market for the NHL, a guarantee that the launch of the legend of Auston is going to get maximum exposure.

As an added chance for a short victory lap, the newest star for the NHL hails not from a snowbound town in the hockey belt, but from that newly charted territory of Arizona. A market that Bettman has done all that he could to keep alive and with the ascent of Matthews to the NHL galaxy he no doubt make for at least a short term salute to building footprints across the continent.

At some point the Commish might prefer to see young Mr. Matthews on a US based team in one of the large media markets of the lower 48, but for now the spotlight is Toronto and Matthews it seems is going to fit in just nicely.

Sometimes you just have a great day and Wednesday was that for Matthews, Bettman, the Leafs and hockey fans as well.

The Reviews quickly came in following Matthew's debut and for fans of the Leafs, the omens would appear to indicate that alls  is going to be fine.

Why Auston Matthews is the perfect prospect for the Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews wows with four goals, but Sens beat Leafs in overtime
Leafs' Matthews offers a tour de force in debut
History was four score and one game ago
Auston Matthews' four-goal NHL debut a Twitter sensation
Sports world reacts to Auston Matthews' incredible debut with Maple Leafs
Babcock happy with Matthews and other kids, wants Maple Leaf veterans to step up
13 players who could challenge Auston Matthews for NHL rookie crown
'This is our kid. He's from our state': Arizona hockey breaming with pride after Matthews' historic debut
High praise following Auston Matthews' first game with Maple Leafs
Matthews proves he's setting the tone for the Leafs this season
Maple Leafs marketing scheme off to flying start with Auston Matthews' historic night
Matthews' historic 4 goals not enough as Leafs fall to Sens
Nothing to C here
The NHL has become a place where kids can play
Calder Trophy, meet Auston Matthews
Senators spoil Matthews' coronation by winning in Overtime
The Auston Matthews effect and dreams for USA hockey
Auston Matthews puts debut 'in the past'
Auston Matthews adding to celebration in Toronto
What they're sayin about Auston Matthews
Five things you likely don't know about Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews has record-setting debut
Auston Matthews historic in Maple Leafs debut
Auston Matthews has unforgettable debut
Watch Auston Matthews drive his mom to tears of joy
Auston Matthews debut sparks social media frenzy
Auston Matthews scores four goals in first NHL game
Auston Matthews. Wow ... just, wow
Scottsdale's Auston Matthews first ever with 4 goals in NHL debut with Toronto Maple Leafs
Spotlight growing on Auston Matthews' historic NHL debut
After four goals in NHL debut, what does Auston Matthews do for an encore?
Auston Matthews' mom was so happy for her son
Auston Matthews saw all of your nice tweets after his incredible deabut game
Number One overall pick Auston Matthews makes history in NHL debut
Gilmour, St. Louis and others weigh in on Matthews' debut
Perspective on Auston Matthews' historic NHL debut
Please Toronto, don't screw up this Auston Matthews thing

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Potus on Puck: President Obama honours the Pittsburgh Penguins at the White House

It's become an annual ritual for sports teams, a sports championship guarantees a trip to Washington and in the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals were not on the itinerary.

Thursday, the Pittsburgh Penguins pulled into a pretty impressive arena all on its own, as President Barack Obama paid tribute to the Stanley Cup Champs for 2015-16 at the White House.

Oilers turn to McDavid to wear the C, making him youngest ever to claim that letter

The Edmonton Oilers are Connor McDavid's team now, though in reality they've been his team since the day the Oilers announced his name at the draft table. Yesterday's announcement awarding McDavid the Oilers C, just reinforced the new foundation for Oiler hockey that will build on the enthusiasm and pure skill that the young player brings to the game.

The Oiler's Centre joins some legendary names that have been selected to lead from the very first Oiler in Al Hamilton, through the Stanley Cup winning ones of Gretzky and Messier and through some names that roll through the Oiler's hockey history books.

The new face of the franchise joins a list of players who bled Orange and Blue through the good years and the not so successful ones, forces that willed remarkable victories at times and suffered the hardest of losses at others.

Beyond Northern Alberta, McDavid can review some recent hockey history for role models for his journey into leadership, Sidney Crosby and Jonathon Toews from the new generation, Steve Yzerman from Stanley Cup champs of the past all were handed the title and rewarded that confidence impressively.

Others that also were tapped early in their careers include Brian Bellows, Gabriel Landeskog, Vincent Lecavalier and Jim Schoenfeld.

As we discovered from the recent World Cup of Hockey, McDavid even at 19, has a presence on the ice that speaks volumes. Team mates gravitate to him and feed off of his passion, while line mates of course benefit from his skills on the ice.

But as the decision making process was outlined on Wednesday it's what we don't see off the ice that made the Oilers realize that the future would be secure in the hands of the young talent out of Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Here's what the Oilers think of the new holder of the Burn't Orange C ...

The 2016-17 season is one which is highly anticipated by Oiler fans and one that fans in other cities will be watching with quite a bit of interest.

From the celebrations that will come with a new rink and an expectation that the learning curve is over for young but enthusiastic squad, there is very much a feeling that it's time for results now and that this season will be the year where the challenges of the last few years will finally be forgotten.

That may be a pressure situation for some, but having watched Connor McDavid tackle high pressure situations over the last couple of years, one suspects that he's up to the challenge and that its just one more step on the return of the Oilers to levels once thought far away.

Edmonton Oilers website notes:

Captain Connor
McDavid's Dedication to Craft Leads to Captaincy

Some of the notes out of Edmonton on Wednesday's announcement can be found below:

Captaincy a confirmation of Connor McDavid's early ascendancy
Connor McDavid named youngest captain in NHK history
Captain McDavid will need some fierce henchmen to succeed - but he's got them
Oilers name Connor McDavid captain
The question wasn't if the Edmonton Oilers would name Connor McDavid captain, it was when
Edmonton Oilers name Connor McDavid as captain
Oilers' McDavid can look to Crosby, Toews, Yzerman for leadership examples
Edmonton Oilers tab Connor McDavid as captain - youngest in NHL history: 'He's mature beyond his years'
McDavid becomes youngest captain in NHL history as Oilers give him the C
Connor McDavid's challenge to Crosby as best player has only just begun
Inside the decision to make McDavid captain
Oilers make Connor McDavid youngest captain in NHL history
Connor McDavid has hard acts to follow as youngest NHL captain
Connor McDavid 'right guy' to be Oiler's captain, says Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler

Saturday, October 01, 2016

HockeyNation Headlines -- October 2016

Our archive of items for October 2016

October 31 -- 'Connor versus Auston? I'd buy a ticket for that game': McDavid vs. Matthews is here
October 30 -- Rookie dilemma: NHL teams face quandary of sending touted, floundering youngsters to junior
October 29 -- Sens' goalie Craig Anderson learns wife Nicholle has cancer
October 28 -- Canada to face U.S. outdoors at 2018 world juniors in Buffalo
October 27 -- Ottawa Senators give goalie Craig Anderson a leave of absence
October 26 -- Steven Stamkos silences boos quickly with four points against Leafs
October 25 -- Winnipeg, Saskatoon make joint bid for World Juniors
October 24 -- Crosby rejoins Penguins for practice, injects intensity
October 23 -- Oilers shut out Jets 3-0 at Heritage Classic
October 22 -- Selanne of course gets alumni winner for Jets over Oilers
October 21 -- Wayne Gretzky opens up about rarely playing hockey anymore ahead of Heritage Classic weekend
October 20 -- Arizona Coyotes GM adding to his arsenal of ideas through chats with former Blue Jays boss Alex Anthopoulos
October 19 -- Laine explodes for hat trick to lead Jets furious comeback
October 18 -- Marian Hossa scores 500th goal of his career in wild win
October 17 -- Carey Price won't play in Canadiens' home opener
October 16 -- Long-distance goal against Oilers turned game around for Sabres
October 15 -- Leafs finally get it right in honouring - no, retiring - their greats
October 14 -- P.K. Subban golden in big day for Predators
October 13 -- Leafs' Matthews offers a tour de four in debut
October 12 -- Calgary Flames teammates relieved to have Johnny Gaudreau back in the lineup
October 11 -- Johnny Gaudreau returns to Flames, apologizes to teammates, says he wants to play for fans, city
October 10 -- Concussion diagnosis has Penguins preparing to start season without Crosby
October 9 -- Florida Panthers lose Huberdeau for months to injurym name McKenzie captain
October 8 -- Life moves on for Flames without Johnny
October 7 -- Blues acquire forward Yakupov from Oilers
October 6 -- Obama congratulates Penguins on Stanley Cup championship
October 5 -- Captaincy a confirmation of Connor McDavid's early ascendancy
October 4 -- Jackman gets a big sendoff while retiring as a Blue
October 3 -- Avalanche's Matt Duchene suffered separated shoulder in World Cup practice, played on
October 2 -- Connor McDavid leads Oilers offence in win over Kings
October 1 -- Stanley Cup lands in Lumby