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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Kings make a Surprising Goalie Trade with Lightning

Ben Bishop - Tampa Bay Lightning
By Lisa Gansky (Flickr: IMG_9865) [CC BY-SA 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons

The Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning made a surprising trade this afternoon. Peter Budaj and defensive prospect Erik Cernak,  and a 7th round 2017 draft pick, plus a conditional draft pick that could be as early as second round depending on if or how well the Kings do in the playoffs. In return for all of this the Kings got Goal-tender Ben Bishop. This move is surprising mostly because of how quiet it was kept. There was virtually no chatter or rumors that Steve Yzerman of the Lightning and Dean Lombardi of the Kings were even speaking about the possibility of trading Budaj for Bishop before the official word came down.

Peter Budaj has taken on the brunt of the goal-tending work for the Kings since Jonathan Quick's injury part way through the 1st game of this season. While he is not the super star the Quick is, Budaj has done an admirable job of helping to keep the Kings in the running for the playoffs this season, including a league record for this season in shutout games at 7. That being said however, Quick was able to return to the ice for his first game back this season yesterday 2/25 against the Ducks. Quick did not appear at all out of condition or to be favoring his injury in any way. He allowed only 1 goal of 33 shots for the Ducks in what turned out to be a 4-1 win for the Kings. With the Kings still planning to make the playoffs this year it makes sense that they would want to have a back up goalie with more post season experience than Budaj has. That is no reflection on the Job Budaj has done this season for the Kings.  In fact it is likely the fact that Budaj has proven his worth so effectively that made him a viable option for trade to the Lightning, though he may well be sent down to the AHL again he is at least considered a dependable player to call back up into the Lightning net should the need arise.  Budaj has played 53 games this season with a 2.12 goals against average and a 0.917 save percentage along with his 7 shutouts. I sincerely hope he does indeed get the chance to continue playing on NHL ice, I believe he has earned it and deserves it.

The other consideration for the Kings organization is that this is not the first time Quick has taken a serious groin injury. Coach Sullivan is reported to have decided, with Quick's input, that Quick can not maintain the full load of games that he used to and remain healthy and effective. This was probably the other key reason that Ben Bishop was an attractive prospect to share the goalie work load with Jonathan Quick.  Bishop has started in 31 games and played 32 so far this season and has a 2.55 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage for the 2016-17 season he has a record of 16 wins, 12 losses, and 3 OT losses. His career stats are even better at 2.32 goals against and a save percentage of 0.919. I believe that he will be an excellent fit for the Kings organization and truly hope that between Quick and Bishop along with the hard work of the rest of the team the Kings will be able to secure a slot in the playoffs this season.

From the Lightning perspective, Andrei Vasilevskiy is more than ready to take over the lead goal-tending slot for the Lightning solo. His stats are nearly the same a Bishop's for this season with nearly and equal amount of games played. This trade of Bishop also frees up some much needed cap space for the Lightning organization, which will allow them to make some better player moves and or contract renewals in the off season. Bishop was also a pending unrestricted free agent in July, so if Yzerman did not make a trade with him before then he would risk getting nothing in return for losing Bishop anyway. Bishop carries a 5.95 million dollar cap hit and with this trade the Lightning will now only be responsible for 20% of that cap.

All in all I think the trade was a win-win for both teams. The Lightning got a talented goalie along with a prospect and some early round draft picks for next season, and the Kings did not give up any more than they could afford to for much needed experienced back up for a potential post season run. I am happy to see Ben Bishop added to the Kings line up and wish Peter Budaj all the best in his new position with the Lightning.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Antonie Vermette to Appeal his 10 Game Suspension

Antoine Vermette
By 5of7 (Antoine Vermette) [CC BY-SA 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
The Ducks Antonie Vermette received an automatic 10 game suspension for his rule 40.3 category II violation during the final period of the Ducks vs Wild game on February 14th. Given the nature of the slash on the linesman in question, taking place in such a way that it could not possibly be anything other than an intentional act on Vermette's part, I believe that the 10 game suspension is entirely warranted even though it was clear that he did not intend to physically harm Shandor Alphonso. This is why it was classified as a category II offense, if there had been clear intent to harm he would have been facing a 20 game suspension.

For this reason I was shocked to find out that on Friday 2/17 Vermette chose to appeal the suspension. He is hoping that Commissioner Gary Bettman will reduce his suspension to five or possibly even three games! I understand why he feels that a reduction of suspension could happen, recent history is in favor of such reductions. Dennis Wideman got his 20 game suspension reduced to 10 last season despite Bettman's clearly feeling that the original suspension was justified. An interesting note both Dennis Wideman and Antonie Vermette are represented by the same agent, Allen Walsh, likely it is Walsh who encouraged Vermette to appeal since it worked out well for Wideman last season.  Another occasion when a player got a reduced suspension through appeal was back in 2008 Mike Peca. Peca had his suspension reduced to five games after another category II violation of rule 40.3, in his case it was for grabbing an official rather than slashing him with a stick. So we can see in more than one instance that when the players association became involved they were able to negotiate a reduced suspension and fine for these types of violations. The On-Ice Officials Association however has been voicing concern that by not sticking to the penalties outlined in the NHL rule book for the Abuse of Official rules it places the officials, who are not suited up for the physical contact that they players expect to occur, in a risky environment. There is evidence to back up this concern, the official involved in the Dennis Wideman incident last season has still not been able to return to work.

Right now the hearing for Antonie Vermette is tentatively scheduled for Thursday 2/23 in New York. Vermette will have to appear in person for this hearing with Bettman. It is theoretically possible that Bettman could reduce the length of Vermette's suspension, but he also has the power to increase the suspension and or  amount of lost of wages.  I think that this is a very risky gamble on Vermette's part. Yes in the Wideman case last season there was a reduced suspension on appeal.  In that case however Wideman had taken a hard hit with a resultant head injury which he claimed to have disoriented him.  In addition Wideman was looking down at the ice when he ran into the official and claims not to have see him there. I still believe that he should have had to serve the full 20 game suspension, but he was at least able to come up with a defense for his actions, and a case however shaky that his knocking down of the referee was accidental.  Mike Peca was able to show convincing evidence that he made physical contact with official Greg Kimmerly, by grabbing his arm, for the purposes of getting his attention to discuss a call that he disagreed with. In Vermette's case I can not conceive of any defense that he could present, he was looking right at Linesman Alphonso when he smacked him with his stick, and he made no attempt to talk to the official after the incident.  Also if you are trying to get the attention of an official in hopes of making your case for an unfavorable call, or in this case puck drop at a face-off, striking said official with a stick is not the best way to begin such a discussion. Simply saying you lost your temper momentarily is not sufficient defense in my opinion to warrant a reduction in suspension. In fact if I were in Betman's place I would be strongly tempted to increase the suspension as a message to the league that the officials are not to be attacked in any way, that this is a serious offence and an issue that is entirely unacceptable. On top of that to waste the time of the players association and Hockey Operations Office to appeal and indefensible action should be discouraged, and increasing Vermette's suspension or loss of wages would effectively send such a message.

There is also speculation that the announcement of the automatic 10 game suspension was delayed by more than a day because the player's association was already trying to convince Bettman that the 10 game suspension was too severe a punishment. If that is the case then Vermette's decision to appeal seems even more ridiculous, since the initial request placed for reduced suspension was not granted. I hope that Bettman will at least uphold the full 10 game suspension, as I mentioned before the officials are not wearing the necessary protective gear to be involved in any kind of physical altercation.  In every sport I know of  a violation involving any sort of physical contact with the officials carries one of the stiffest penalties available. That is how it should be the position of official should be respected by all players, even when they do not agree with a call. Players should have the right to voice their opinion, but not through any type of physical attack. I guess we will all have to wait and see what Bettman's decision will be after the hearing tomorrow.

NHL Team Mascots Part 4

By Pikawil (own work)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)].
via Flickr

Stinger (Columbus Blue Jackets): The 6’9” tall mascot is a yellow jacket wasp. He wears the number 00 (shortened from 2000, for the year the Blue Jackets were founded). He is mostly bright green in color rather than the completely black and yellow look that is typical for his species. The Blue Jackets also had a second mascot, Boomer, but he was short lived. He was intended to look like a cannon, but many fans complained that he resembled something more phallic. He was both debuted and retired in 2014.

Stormy (Carolina Hurricanes): This pig wears the number 97 (the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997). Before a pre-season game in September of 1997, the Hurricanes had planned an exciting debut for Stormy. Phil Madren donned the pig costume and he was then stuffed inside a Zamboni which was filled with dry ice. The Zamboni was taken out to center ice, where it was opened to reveal the pig’s feet sticking out and shaking uncontrollably. Madren had suffered a seizure due to lack of oxygen caused by the dry ice in the Zamboni.

Thunderbug (Tampa Bay Lightning): The black and yellow lightning bug wears the number 00. Thunderbug was involved in a controversy after an incident at a January 17th, 2012 game. Kelly Frank (the woman inside the costume) sprayed a Bruins fan with Silly String. The fan then pushed her down. Frank was let go after this and the Lightning stated that this incident wasn’t the only factor in that decision. As it turned out, that was not the only time she had been fired as a mascot. The Tampa Bay Rays dismissed her in 2008.

Tommy Hawk (Chicago Blackhawks): This hawk sports some feathers on his head as well as a Blackhawks jersey. Tommy Hawk is one tough bird, as evidenced by the beating he took from fellow mascot Nordy (Minnesota Wild). During his birthday celebration on January 12th, 2017, Nordy was blindfolded and given a bat to swing at a piñata held by Tommy Hawk. To the dismay of the crowd, Nordy completely missed the piñata and instead repeatedly struck Tommy Hawk, while being encouraged by the announcer to keep swinging. The Wild later issued a public apology for the violent display.

Victor E. Green (Dallas Stars): A furry green alien with hockey stick antennae. He was introduced on September 13th, 2014. He is the Stars first mascot. His name was chosen due to the team’s color being Victory Green as well as a tribute to former owner Norman Green.

Wildwing (Anaheim Ducks): This duck has been the mascot for Anaheim since their inaugural season in 1993. He wears the number 93. Wildwing is known to be a bit accident prone. He can often be seen descending from the rafters of the arena to make his entrance to the game. During one of these entrances, he became trapped and was left hanging 50 feet in the air for several minutes. In another incident, he set himself ablaze when he tripped while trying to jump over a wall of fire.

Youppi! (Montreal Canadiens): This hairy orange fella became the Canadiens first mascot in 2005. He was previously the mascot for the Montreal Expos baseball team from 1979-2004. He was the first mascot to switch between two major sports leagues.

The Crazy Russians, at it Again

The Russians know how to make a promo video. I point you to exhibit A from last year:

http://www.hockeyagenda.com/2016/10/just-in-case-you-missed-itthe-most-epic.html

And now, there's this:


Seriously, OMGWTFBBQ?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Vermette Gets a 10 Game Suspension for Striking an Official with his Stick

Antoine Vermette
By 5of7 (Antoine Vermette) [CC BY-SA 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
On Tuesday night, in the final period of the Ducks game versus the Wild, Antione Vermette committed what has to be one of the dumbest acts I have ever seen. Immediately following a face-off, which his team lost, Vermette glared at linesman Shandor Alphonso and swiped at him with his stick, smacking him in the back of the thigh. This action appeared to be completely unprovoked and was clearly an intentional lash at the linesman, as there were no other players in the area and the puck was already traveling in the opposite direction.
He was of course immediately ejected from the game with a game misconduct penalty for abuse of officials. At first, when the penalty was called, I was as puzzled as the rest of the players, coaches, and announcers seemed to be. I had been following the puck and the players as they skated away down the ice and completely missed Vermette's inexplicable loss of temper and resultant ridiculous actions against the linesman. I had to re-watch the replay once the penalty had been announced specifically following Vermette to catch the hit--it was that far away from where the game was continuing to progress. Vermette has made so far this season eight goals and 14 assists. Clearly, he is not the leading performer for the Ducks, but having any player out for such a significant amount of time is bound to have a negative effect on the team, especially in the unlucky case where another player might take injury, and then leave the team further depleted while still maintaining the full salary cap hit for Vermette. I sincerely hope that this does not become an issue for the Ducks, but the level of irresponsibility both for his own actions and for the well being of his team that Vermette displayed was inexcusable.
   
Vermette's actions were a violation of rule 40.3 Physical Abuse of an Official Category II.  This indicates that Vermette showed no evidence of intent to harm or injure linesman Shandor Alphonso, and as such this calls for a game misconduct and automatic suspension of 10 games. With rule 40, as opposed to other game misconduct violations, while entitled to an appeal, it does not take place through the player safety committee. Commissioner Gary Bettman has the authority to determine if the suspension is warranted and what other disciplinary action the player will be subjected to as a result of the incident. As there is no upside in an appeal of this nature and there is potential for an even more severe punishment, it is unsurprising that Vermette, while participating in the phone hearing for the incident, did not as yet exercise his right to appeal the judgement. In addition to the automatic 10 game suspension, Vermette will also forfeit $97,222.22 of his salary this year.  These funds are placed in the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
   
Given the recent history of rule 40 violations, specifically the incident with Dennis Wideman last season, there is still some speculation that Vermette very well may decide to appeal Bettman's decision. While Wideman's violation was a category I violation of rule 40.2 which carried an automatic 20 game suspension, was reduced to 10 games through an appeal involving the NHLPA--the circumstances were very different. In Wideman's case, he had just received a fairly hard hit, which he claimed disoriented him and was heading to the bench. He was looking down when he ran into the referee so claims not to have seen him there, and that the hit was accidental. I personally do not believe that his hard hit on the referee in question was accidental, but at least there was some theoretically viable defense that he could come up with. Given that the referee in question in the Wideman case has still not returned to work I think that Wideman got extremely lucky, and that he should have served the full 20 game suspension. Vermett's case however, does not have any angle where an observer might be able to entertain doubt that the contact was not completely intentional.   As such I believe it would be incredibly foolish for him to attempt to appeal the outcome of his hearing.
   
Bettman's role according to the guidelines set forth for rule 40 violations is simply to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the automatic suspension laid out in the rule book. In this case, with the video showing the incident and the fact that there is no possible interpretation of the event in which Vermette might have made accidental or incidental contact with the linesman, it is a pretty open and shut case. I think it likely that if Vermette were to attempt an appeal, Bettman might increase the severity of the suspension and related monetary penalties already assessed. He was very vocal as to his belief that the arbitrators in the Wideman case did not follow the guidelines as written in the NHL rule book and was quite angry that his ruling was overturned. This is why I believe that if Vermette appealed and was unsuccessful he would be given an even harsher penalty. Bettman would likely use Vermette's case as an example to attempt to dissuade any further appeals to the rule 40 decisions. Or, at the very least, dissuade players from trying to appeal when there is no possibility that the players actions were not intentional.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Crosby hits the 1,000 point mark!

88035039KC090_Stanley_Cup_F
By elle.a.pants licensed under CC by 2.0
Tonight, Sidney Crosby reached another elite career milestone and became the 86th NHL player to cross the 1,000 career points mark. He did this in his 757th career game, against the Winnipeg Jets with his primary assist of Chris Kunitz's goal. He also scored the game-winning goal in OT.

Crosby now has a total of 368 goals and 631 assists.

Other current NHL players who have surpassed the 1,000 point mark (and their current point totals) include Jaromir Jagr (1900), Joe Thornton (1379), Jerome Iginla (1288), Marian Hossa (1123), Patrick Marleau (1069), Alexander Ovechkin (1017), and Henrik Sedin (1004). Ovechkin and Sedin both broke the 1,000 point mark in games last month (January 2017).

Two other players, Daniel Sedin and Shane Doan, are each poised to hit 1,000 points in the near future with 973 and 964 points, respectively.

The player to reach 1,000 points the fastest was Wayne Gretzky in 424 games (and his second 1,000 in just 433 more) and the second fastest was Mario Lemieux in 513 games. Crosby becomes the 86th player to break the 1,000 point mark. (Wouldn't it have been perfect if he could have been the 87th?!?!?)

Congratulations, Sid!!!

NHL Team Mascots Part 3

By moose477 (own work)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)].
via Flickr

Nordy (Minnesota Wild): The 6’6” tall mascot was unveiled on October 5th, 2008. No one knows what kind of animal Nordy is supposed to be, though he sports quite an interesting look with a hockey mullet that Jaromir Jagr would be envious of. During his recent birthday celebration on January 12th, 2017, Nordy was involved in an incident with another mascot. Nordy was blindfolded and given a bat to swing at a piñata held by the Chicago Blackhawk’s Tommy Hawk. To the dismay of the crowd, Nordy completely missed the piñata and instead repeatedly struck Tommy Hawk, while being encouraged by the announcer to keep swinging. The Wild later issued a public apology for the violent display.

Sabretooth (Buffalo Sabres): A gold and blue Sabretooth tiger that is said to resemble Snagglepuss. He can be seen rappelling from the rafters before Sabres games and enjoys playing team chants on his drum.

S.J. Sharkie (San Jose Sharks): It’s no surprise that the San Jose Sharks have a shark for a mascot. He was unveiled in January of 1992. He’s become quite the public figure, escorting a girl to her prom and acting as the ring bearer for a wedding as well as numerous other public appearances. In addition to Sharkie, San Jose also has an unofficial mascot. During warmups before a playoff game between the Sharks and Predators, a black cat was seen running across the ice. The team named the cat Jo Pawvelski and it was later adopted by Patrick Marleau. The feline is said to be the team’s good luck charm. They also have another good luck charm, Chia Burns. Fans attending the March 28th, 2016 Sharks versus Kings game were given a limited edition chia pet resembling Brent Burns. 

Slapshot (Washington Capitals): The 6’3” tall bald eagle was debuted on November 17th, 1995. He was introduced by Stephanie Williams, the 5th grade girl that named him. He wears the number 00. There is a rivalry between Slapshot and the Carolina Hurricanes mascot, Stormy. The Capitals also have two secondary mascots, Air Slapshot and Hat Trick.

Sparky the Dragon (New York Islanders): A 7’ tall dragon with a tail shaped like a hockey stick. Sparky was once the mascot for both the Islanders and the New York Dragons arena football team (the team disbanded in 2009). In September 2015, the Islanders announced that Sparky would no longer represent the Islanders at Barclays Center. This was a short lived retirement though, as he returned as the team’s official mascot in December 2015.

Spartacat (Ottawa Senators): This lion can often be seen swinging around Scotiabank Place. He has a big rivalry with Carlton the Bear, of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Spartacat is very involved with his community, especially the Read to Succeed program that is run by the Senators. He is used to educate kids about the importance of reading.

Stanley C. Panther & Viktor E Rat (Florida Panthers): Stanley was introduced in 1995, when he was named by Darrel Ambrosini. Viktor wasn’t introduced until 2014. His name was given to him due to the team’s run in the Stanley Cup Final where rats were thrown onto the ice. The team also has a smaller version of Stanley, simply dubbed “Mini Stanley”. Raphael Estevez, the man who used to play Stanley C. Panther, sued the team in December of 2016 for discrimination. His claim was that he was illegally fired by the NHL after he returned from a hospitalization due to depression. He also claimed that he was owed 1,400 hours of overtime for unpaid public appearances.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Circular Paths of NHL Hockey Coaches

Claude Julien
Julien looks not too pleased at a practice, 2008.
By Dan4th Nicholas from Cambridge, MA, USA
From a recent article on Sportsnet.ca:
"On Tuesday, the Canadiens made the surprise move of firing head coach Michel Therrien and replacing him with Claude Julien, fired by the Bruins just last week. It’s not only the second time Julien will coach the Habs, it’s the second time Therrien has been fired mid-season for Julien to take over."
Yeah, let's wrap our heads around that. Therrien coached the Canadiens 2000-2003, followed by Claude Julien, 2003-2006, and then Therrien was Canadiens coach again, 2012-2017, until Tuesday last week, when they replaced him with Claude Julien (who was fired as coach of the Bruins, last week).

I don't find it so surprising that the Bruins fired Julien. It's not that he was a bad coach. It was his 10th season with the Bruins, making him the longest tenured active head coach in the NHL, and during that tenure, the Bruins picked up a cup (2011). But, the team was under-performing, if not struggling this year, and they just won three games in a row since his departure. So, maybe it was time for a change. As Heidi Klum would say, "one day you're in, the next day you're out."

Apparently one team's trash is another team's treasure, because the Canadiens snapped Julien up immediately, and as you can see, this was not the first time. It will be extremely interesting to see how the Canadiens and Bruins long-running rivalry plays out now.

Another question is, what will Therrien do now? Where do you think he is going? I hear that the Bruins need a new coach...

The Other Number 30: Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik Lundqvist 2007
Lundqvist at Madison Square Garden, 2007
By duluoz cats
Henrik Lundqvist recently became the 12th NHL player to reach 400 wins. This puts him within close shooting range of the top 10 all-time list. He only needs a few more wins to overtake Grant Fuhr (403) in tenth place, and by the end of this season, he is likely to also surpass Glenn Hall (407). 

He still has a long way to go to reach the greatness of Martin Brodeur who has 691, but it is not unreasonable to include Lundqvist in a conversation about perhaps becoming one of the all-time greats. He is definitely on track for that, and there is still enough runway left in his career to climb up that list, and maybe pick up some more trophies (he only has one Vezina in 12 years). But he has a lot going for him, as he is amazingly consistent in raking in those wins. 

Happy 45th birthday, Jaromir Jagr!

Jagr in the KHL
Panthers winger Jaromir Jagr turns 45 today. He is the oldest active player in the NHL, followed by the Penguins center Matt Cullen (40), and Coyotes winger Shane Doan (40). However, he is not the oldest ever to play in the NHL. That distinction goes to Gordie Howe (52), followed by Chris Chelios (48). Could Jagr eventually beat Chelios? Or even Howe?

Colorado debuts new goalie; still loses 4th straight

Jeremy Smith - Boston Bruins
Smith in September 2015 
By Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA (IMG_3807)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
A new goalie was in the net tonight for the Colorado Avalanche. 27-year-old Jeremy Smith made his NHL debut with the Avs in New Jersey against the Devils, stopping 37 out of 40 shots in the Avs' 3-2 loss.

Smith's professional hockey résumé includes 43 games in the ECHL and 265 in the American Hockey League, and he earned high praise from Avalanche coach Jared Bednar for his solid performance tonight.

Despite Smith's performance, Colorado's free fall continues as their record drops to 15-37-2. The team has lost four straight, and this road trip concludes with games at Buffalo on Thursday and Carolina on Friday.

Monday, February 13, 2017

NHL Team Mascots Part 2


Harvey the Hound (Calgary Flames): The 6’6” tall hound was debuted on February 16th, 1984 in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was involved in an incident with Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish on January 20th, 2003. Harvey was standing behind the Oilers bench while taunting the team. Coach MacTavish didn’t take kindly to this. He grabbed Harvey’s tongue and ripped it right out of his mouth.

Howler the Coyote (Arizona Coyotes): He was first introduced on October 15th, 2005. He stands 6’1” tall and wears a number 96 on his jersey (to represent the year the Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona). He can often be seen beating on a bucket to excite the crowd.

Hunter (Edmonton Oilers): The newest NHL mascot. The lynx was introduced on September 26th, 2016. He wears the number 72, to represent the year the Oilers became a team. His name was chosen in honor of the Oilers founder, “Wild Bill” Hunter.

Iceburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins): What could be more fitting than a Penguin to represent the Pens? Iceburgh was created in 1992. His name was chosen by a contest. The original team mascot was a live penguin named Penguin Pete. He was loaned by the Pittsburgh Zoo. Pete was introduced on February 21st, 1968. He succumbed to pneumonia in November that year. A second penguin, “Re-Pete”, was borrowed from the zoo and he remained the mascot through the 1971-1972 season.

Louie (St. Louis Blues): A blue polar bear that was introduced on October 10th, 2007. Fans named him Louie on November 3rd, 2007. He wears the number 00. The Blues have an unofficial mascot thanks to an autocorrect fail. On November 4th, 2015, they posted a photo to Instagram with the caption “#OurBlues roar bacon” (instead of “roar back”) after overcoming a 5-2 deficit against the Chicago Blackhawks. Blues Captain David Backes was so inspired by the popularity of the new #RoarBacon hashtag that he brought a live pig, named Piggy Smalls, into the locker room.

Mick E. Moose (Winnipeg Jets): A 6’2” tall moose that started his mascot career with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL. After 15 years there, the Jets recalled him to be their official mascot on October 7th, 2011. He is now the mascot for both the Jets and the Manitoba Moose.

N.J. Devil (New Jersey Devils): A 7' tall devil crafted to remind fans of the myth of the New Jersey Devil. He wears the number 00. He made his debut in 1993, after the former mascot, Slapshot, resigned due to being accused of inappropriately touching several women.

Friday, February 10, 2017

NHL Team Mascots Part 1

By Matt Boulton (own work)
[CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)].
via Flickr

The first current NHL team mascot to be introduced was Harvey the Hound of the Calgary Flames. His debut game was February 16th, 1984 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many teams were inspired by Harvey and they soon began adopting mascots of their own. Today, 28 out of 30 NHL teams have a mascot. Only the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers are without. The Flyers briefly had a mascot, Slapshot, but he was retired after the 1976 season. The most recent mascot to be introduced is Hunter of the Edmonton Oilers. He was introduced in September 2016.

Al the Octopus (Detroit Red Wings): This is the only non-costumed mascot of the NHL. In 1952, Pete and Jerry Cusimano, local fish merchants, threw a real octopus onto the ice during a playoff game. The eight legs of the octopus were meant to symbolize the eight victories that were necessary to win a Stanley Cup back then. It then became a tradition for fans to throw an octopus on the ice during home Red Wings games during the playoffs. This led to the creation of Al the Octopus in 1995.

Bailey (Los Angeles Kings): A 6 foot tall lion who wears the number 72. He replaced the original Kings mascot, Kingston, in 2007. He was named after Garnet “Ace” Bailey, who served as the Kings’ Director of Pro Scouting and was a former NHL player. Ace was killed during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when the plane he was on hit the World Trade Center.

Bernie the St. Bernard (Colorado Avalanche): Bernie, short for Bernard, is a 6’5” St. Bernard dog. He made his debut on October 3rd, 2009 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. He is the Avalanche’s second mascot, replacing Howler the Yeti.

Blades the Bruin (Boston Bruins): A bear that made his debut on October 28th, 2000, when he was named by a young fan, Jillian Dempsey. Some more recent Bruins TV and online advertising has featured a different, more lifelike mascot known only as “The Bear”.

Carlton the Bear (Toronto Maple Leafs): A 6’4” polar bear. He made his debut on October 10th, 1995 at the Leafs’ home opener against the New York Islanders. He wears the number 60. He received his name and number because the Leafs’ original home arena, Maple Leaf Gardens, was located at 60 Carlton Street in Toronto.

Fin the Whale (Vancouver Canucks): A 6’3” orca whale. He was first introduced for the 2001-2002 season, when a contest was held to choose his name. He is the first official mascot of the Canucks. He can often be seen shooting steam from his blowhole and beating on a drum during games.

Gnash (Nashville Predators): A saber-tooth tiger that made his debut on October 10th, 1998, during the Predators opening night. The tiger mascot was chosen due to the discovery of a saber-tooth tiger skeleton that was dug up during construction of the First American National Bank in Nashville in 1971.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hockey is for Everyone: Black History Edition

ColouredHockeyLeagueNovaScotia
Coloured Hockey League, Nova Scotia, 1910
Years ago, I ran across a kickstarter campaign, that piqued my interest. It was a plan by Arvay Adams to design a line of apparel to honor the teams of the Coloured Hockey League, which was founded in Nova Scotia around 1894. The NHL was not formed until 1917, so I was surprised to learn that such a league existed, and I wanted to know more about what contributions these early hockey players made to the sport.

According to wikipedia:
"The Coloured Hockey League is credited by some as being the first league to allow the goaltender to leave his feet to cover a puck in 1900. This practice was not permitted elsewhere until the formation of the National Hockey League in 1917. In their book Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925, historians George and Darril Fosty also claim that the first player to use the slapshot was Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eureka in 1906."
Since the CHL existed decades before the NHL, I imagine that they were responsible for many other innovations that were adopted by the NHL. ESPN did this segment on the book, Black Ice, mentioned above:


Last year, the film Soul On Ice: Past, Present, and Future debuted, and it tells the stories of the contributions of black hockey players throughout history. As part of #HockeyIsForEveryone month, select Clubs will host screenings of the film. Official trailer:


The CHL was disbanded by 1930. We would not see a black player in the NHL until Willie O'Ree made his debut with the Boston Bruins in 1958. Now, there are currently around 30 players of African descent, playing on an NHL or affiliate team.

At this year's NHL All Star game, Philadelphia Flyer forward Wayne Simmonds won the Game MVP award, becoming the second black player to do so. The first was Edmonton Oilers goaltender Grant Fuhr in 1986. Fuhr was also honored as one of the 100 best players in the NHL.
Wayne Simmonds 2012-04-20
Wayne Simmonds is interviewed prior to an April 20, 2012 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Pens Through My Lens (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Hockey fandom is also growing among African Americans. Just check out this latest blog from Evan F. Moore on The Shadow League - A Black Man's Guide To Loving Hockey.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Blues lose Fabbri for season

Robby fabbri 001
By Johnmaxmena2 (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
Last night, the St. Louis Blues lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1, but unfortunately the Blues lost more than just the game...

Forward Robby Fabbri left the game in the first period after sustaining what was later determined to be a season-ending ACL injury to his left knee. Fabbri played in 51 games for the Blues this season, registering 11 goals and 18 assists (29 points).

In response to Fabbri's injury, the Blues recalled forwards Kenny Agostino and Magnus Paajarvi from the Chicago Wolves. Agostino is the AHL leader with 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists) through 48 games this season, while Paajarvi dressed in 25 games for Chicago, posting six goals and 10 assists.





Friday, February 3, 2017

February is #HockeyIsForEveryone month

Yesterday, the NHL announced a partnership with the You Can Play Project, and designated ambassadors from each of the 30 franchise teams to promote diversity, equality, and inclusion in the sport.

The NHL has put together some wonderful stories and videos about the campaign right here - https://www.nhl.com/community/hockey-is-for-everyone - in celebration of #HockeyIsForEveryone month.

There will be theme-events happening across the league this month, including this one in my own back yard:

Penguins to host LGBTQ advocacy night on Feb. 7
"Teams will host Hockey Is For Everyone™ awareness nights honoring and recognizing hockey players of all ages from diverse backgrounds including: sled hockey players, blind players, youth boys and girls players, special needs players, and recent immigrants."
See also: Hockey is for Everyone: Punjabi Edition

And

IIHF Hall of Fame 2017 Inductees Announced

Flyingrainbowflag

Historic Night for the San Jose Sharks - The Long Road to Goal 500 for Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau
Drumjeff215 at en.wikipedia
[CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
The San Jose Sharks have been working hard all season to continue to prove that winning the Western Conference Championship in 2016 wan not simply a lucky break or a fluke for the team. There has been a lot of news coverage of the Sharks this season, most of it has been focused on Brent Burns and his performance as one of the top scoring defensemen in the league.  The team has overall been performing well so far this season, and have maintained a playoff position throughout the season often staying in the 1st place slot in the division.  Last night's game was no exception. However the big name last night for a change was Patrick Marleau, sometimes referred to as Mr. Shark.

Marleau has been with the sharks since his initial NHL draft in 1997 and has historically been an important offensive force for the Sharks.  He was known for his consistency in scoring he had 30 or more goals in 7 of his last 10 seasons.  Unfortunately in the last few years his production has tapered off noticeably.  Up until the week before the All-Star break Marleau had only 8 goals in nearly half a season.  Then on 1/23 he had his 4 goal night against the Avalanche bringing him within as few as 3 shots of his 500th goal.  There was speculation that Marleau would hit 500 in his next game against the Jets the following night, but I predicted that as highly unlikely at the time.  My prediction was that Marleau would hit 500 in February.  He did manage to get point 498 that night so things were still looking great for getting to the milestone goal by the end of January.  Sadly in the Sharks next game against the Oilers the whole team fell flat, losing that match 4-1.  The only Sharks goal came from Logan Couture, though Marleau did get the assist on that one.  It was at that point that I was afraid that the 4 goal night from the beginning of the week was just a flash in the pan, and that Marleau may again slip into the background to be overshadowed once again by Burns and Pavelski.  Marleau's last 2 seasons have been among his worst performances in his 20 years in Teal.  Last season he had only 25 goals and 48 points even with the team making it all the way into the final round of play of the Stanley Cup in post season.  In 2015-16 he had only 19 goals and 57 points by season end.  With these two comparatively dismal years in mind I was concerned that my prediction of Marleau getting to goal 500 by February might have been wishful thinking, even though he was so close.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised when in the next game against the Blackhawks on 1/31 Marleau was able to put away goal 499 six minutes into the 2nd period of play.  His goal was the first of the game by either team, and again I became hopeful that he would prove me wrong and hit 500 before the end of January.  Alas that was not in the cards.  The team did go on to win the game 3-1 with an additional 2 goals scored by Hertl, in his first game back from IR, and Pavelski putting away his 17th goal of the season.  It was last night that Patrick Marleau finally put puck number 500 into the back of the net!  Once again Marleau opened the scoring for the game against Vancouver in a power play goal just before the half way point of the 1st period.  After the game when interviewed Marleau was quoted as saying, "that'll do getting it right away!"  He was also very gracious when speaking to the press giving his linemates, Pavelski and Burns credit for setting him up for the scoring opportunity beautifully, and expressing his gratitude at playing with such talented teammates.   This is one of the reasons I have always liked Marleau as a player and as an individual off the ice as well.  He sees the whole team as a part of the success of any single player, especially himself, and makes a point of praising his teammates skills and efforts even in speaking about his own achievements.

Patrick Marleau is the 45th player in NHL history to reach the 500 career goal mark!  It took him 20 seasons of play and 1463 games but he finally made it to 500.  He is second behind only Ron Francis (1533 games) in the longest time to reach the milestone, but only a relatively few players have ever made it so it is still an achievement worth celebrating.  In addition Marleau mad all 500 goals as a San Jose Shark.  He is only the 17th player in league history to accomplish 500 goals all with a single organization!

After last night Marleau is now at 19 goals in the season at 52 games in, this is the same number as he made in all 82 games he played in 2014-15.  In fact he has only been averaging 22 goals a season over the last two years.  It is my hope that this will be just a beginning for the season, and that we will be able to look forward to many more Patrick Marleau goals before the end of the season and on into the playoffs as well.  With 30 games to go in the regular season it is conceivable that Marleau could even make it back up to a 30 goal season, which we have not seen with any consistency from him since 2012.  I think that this is probably a long shot for Marleau given his most recent seasons of performance, but it is definitely possible and I for one would love to see him do it.  Also if he can continue to put numbers on the board consistently it will certainly help with negotiating a new contract since he is going UFA on July 1st if the Sharks do not re-sign him before then.  I still hope to see him play at least one or two more seasons in Teal before retirement.  Congratulations to Patrick Marleau on scoring goal # 500 last night!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Islanders learn, Karma is a bitch

Barclays Center western side
By AEMoreira042281 (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
So the Islanders are getting kicked out of their house… Is this "Karma is a bitch," or who didn’t see this coming? The Islanders moved into the Barclays Center for the start of the 2015 season. This initial agreement was really short by most arena agreements ending after the 2018 – 2019 season. All the agreements I have seen are usually 10 to 20, sometimes 30 years.
They ran out of the Nassau Coliseum faster than a rat running down the concourse to hide behind the nacho stand hoping for a dropped chip (on the lucky days he got some cheese as well). The home of Billy Joel and 4 Stanley Cups has now been refreshed for minor league hockey. Initially, it was reported that the Coliseum was not going to consider allowing its ex-tenant back. It seems that when NHL money is involved, tunes change. It will be interesting to see how this plays out; if they get any significant upgrades to the arena or if it's as-is.
To be honest, I don’t see why they had to run out of the building so fast. It was not a terrible arena, though. I saw a Pens game there with a group of pens fans. We had a whole section in the upper bowl. It has one concourse, and if you buy a tallboy, they pour it into two plastic cups. It was an old hockey barn. I miss those. We don’t have them anymore. With a good team and some marketing, this could be a thing.
With a new arena just up the road, they ran to it like a moth to a light. I haven’t been in this building, but I drove past it in May, going to the mall next to it. It’s just ugly, not like it’s an arena...what do you expect? It’s just really ugly. Then, factor in seats with limited views and an ice system that is controlled by plastic piping in an afterthought of an ice making system. You have a recipe for the fourth worst attendance in the league. Limited view seats are something old hockey barns have, in that E-level seating they added in the 90’s. Not new arenas with naming rights. It was built for basketball, hockey was an afterthought at best.
Now, like a college student knowing he can’t live in the dorms in a few years, they need to find a new home. Do they stay in NYC? I know...I know, geographically, Brooklyn is on Long Island, but it doesn’t work. The rumors are a few places on Long Island, even the old building, but a new arena needs to be built. Is the NHL bluffing that they want to stay in NYC? They don’t have a draw right now so a move could work. But, this is an historic franchise, four cups in the 80’s, four in a row. With a city like Quebec chomping at the bit for a team, they could end up there at the end of the day.

Nassau Coliseum 2015
Nassau Coliseum, By TastyPoutine (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons