These are tough, tough days for the Edmonton faithful. The heart and soul of their team has left been dealt away.
He was our last shot at a real Stevie Y type: a true blue Oiler with a special failure of imagination to think of playing anywhere else. At one time, I thought things like institutional memory were important, that we weren't just cheering for laundry, the idea that teams could have distinct identities that could span decades.
But alas, the salary cap era has only made players even more expendable. I'm under no illusion that hockey isn't a business, but it's an increasingly cap-fixated, mercenary one, which totally sucks, especially today.
If I close my eyes, I can see Ryan Smyth's ferrety face; his slinky, durable body slipping past a check on the boards; and of course, that small pile of blood and teeth left on the ice during the 2006 playoffs.
Bon Voyage, Ryan, (and say hi to Marc-Andre Bergeron for me once you get to Long Island).
Mark Messier had his number retired in Edmonton last night, here's some other players writer George Johnson thinks should have their jersies raised to the rafters.
Theo Fleury, No. 14, Calgary Flames Small, fiery, insolent, brilliant, damaged. The image of the tiny terror at Northlands Coliseum in the spring of 1991, having scored after stealing the puck from Messier to send the Flames' playoff series against the Oilers back to Calgary for a Game 7, remains an iconic moment. Love him or hate him, Fleury still holds the franchise records for goals (364) and points (830).
Mike Gartner, No. 11, Washington Capitals The second overall choice in the 1979 draft, Gartner symbolized scoring punch in the way Rod Langway did efficient defense and Dale Hunter unconquerable anarchy. Think about the stats: He scored 30 or more goals in nine of his 10 seasons with the Capitals, hitting a high of 50 in 1984-85. Eighteen years after he was dealt to Minnesota, Gartner, the quiet assassin, still ranks second on franchise lists in goals, assists and points. It took Peter Bondra 14 seasons to surpass what Gartner accomplished in 10.
Kevin Lowe, No. 4, Edmonton Oilers Maybe this current GM thing is what's holding the Oilers back. But, certainly, no one has contributed more to the Oilers organization on as many levels as Lowe, who was the quiet, unsung defensive linchpin of those Wayne Gretzky-Messier-Jari Kurri-Grant Fuhr-Paul Coffey outfits that revolutionized the game. No one played more regular-season games in the colors than Lowe with 1,037. He won five Stanley Cups as an Oiler.
Find George Johnson's complete list of those players he feels are worthy of having their numbers retired >>> here.
Do you like to play Foosball but secretly wish it had more of a hockey oriented theme and feel to it? Well if the answer to that question is yes, then maybe Tockey is the game for you...
I'm not sure how they came up with the name Tockey? To me it sounds a little too much like tacky. I have to admit though that I do like the hockey alterations (including the plexiglass) that they've done to the basic Foosball game we all know and love, but I think a better name should be considered.
I'm guessing the bars up in Canada (and selected regions of the US) would go crazy for something like this.
Don't worry, Lindy, Buffalo Sabres fans are prepared to pick up your $10,000 fine from the NHL.
That's the message Lindy Ruff received Monday when at least two separate fan-based fundraisers were launched to pay the fine against the coach for his role in a wild brawl that broke out during a game against Ottawa last week.
"Put down the pen, put away the checkbook. This one's on us," said Chris Phillips, co-owner of a Buffalo-area pizza parlor, who plans to donate 10 percent of every sale toward what he called, The Lindy Ruff Fine Fund.
"I know Lindy's got the means to pay. But it's just kind of an outrage," Phillips said. "This is our way of supporting the team."
Phillips is among a growing group of Sabres fans unhappy with the league for choosing not to penalize Ottawa's Chris Neil, who knocked out and bloodied Sabres co-captain and leading scorer Chris Drury with a blindside hit during Buffalo's 6-5 shootout win over the Senators on Thursday.
Ruff was fined for helping spark the brawl, which started after the ensuing face off, by sending out his three toughest forwards against Ottawa's top line. Ruff also acknowledged he was at least thinking, "Go out and run 'em," when he sent out his players.
Nothing pulls a team or a community together like a commonly shared outrage. With all the injuries the Sabres are dealing with any energy they can get from the fans and the players as a result of the events last week in Buffalo will be greatly needed to help them over this hump.
Suprisingly, it turned out to be one of the best games I've seen this year. Usually these kind of games don't live up to their advanced billing. This one did. The first matchup of these two since the brawl game the other night had scoring, comebacks, physical play and a couple of fights. What more could you ask for from a hockey game? It had me and I'm sure many others captivated from begining to end.
To be continued, I'm sure...
This just what the NHL needs more of... and it needs to market it. The grit and passions of this sport along with the amazing talent required to play it is what makes this game so freakin great. Rather than shy away from that controversial side of the game the NHL should embrace and showcase it equally with the incredible beauty of the sport. Great play, both physical and emotional = great hockey games.
Hey, what can you say? You don't take out a teams' captain and star player with a high, hard, blindside hit delivered by a fourth liner, leave him bleeding on the ice and not expect a response in kind. Irregardless if the original hit was legal or not. Bryan Murray is a idiot if he thinks Buffalos' reaction was uncalled for or unwarranted.
Other than that, nobody is sure just where the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators will pick things up tonight after Thursday night's bloody, fight-filled shootout.
Senators coach Bryan Murray said he will have tough guy McGrattan back in the lineup tonight for the rematch at Scotiabank Place.
What message will that send?
"I don't know," said Murray. "It depends on how they take it." [...]
"I've been in games where we've had bench brawls and then we played the team the next week and nothing happens," said McGrattan, who has been a healthy scratch for the last nine games. "We'll worry about getting two points."
Murray said he is concerned the usual "code," which allows the most talented players on the ice certain relief from abuse at the hands of the tough guys, has been shattered.
"What's happened now is the respect for the skilled players is not there between us," said Murray. "Beyond that, we'll dress a lineup and try to get the two points."
Peters was taking some hits yesterday for taking on a goaltender, even one with a reputation for scrapping.
Senators president Roy Mlakar told The Team 1200 he had received e-mails from a couple of NHL executives saying it was a cowardly act for Peters to fight a goaltender.
"I'm not using the word myself," said Mlakar.
Ruff admitted Peters might have crossed a line.
"I don't condone the tail end when Andrew's emotion ran a little bit hot. Mine was running a little bit hot. With their goaltender, maybe that was a little bit too far," said Ruff.
"But at the same time, they knocked out one of our best players, they knocked our captain out of the lineup with what I believe was a dirty shot. You don't lay down after that."
Emery will be back in the Ottawa net tonight.
"It's old-school hockey. Everybody in the building and watching at home is pretty excited. Everybody is going to be looking forward to (tonight's) game," said Neil.
Well, it'll definitely be must see TV at the Oddman's house tonight, that's for sure. Thank God for satellite TV and CenterIce.
Here's a blast from the past, although much more intense (they were back then), nevertheless is somewhat similar to the Buffalo-Ottawa ruckus, including a goalie on tough guy matchup.
Maybe old school style hockey is making a comeback. We'll just have to wait and see what (if anything) happens tonight. Regardless, it's got everybody buzzing about hockey again... and that's a good thing.
The NHL has not outlawed hitting. (Please, it can't even get rid of dirty hits; guys continue to leave their feet or throw a high elbow.) This is still a contact sport. Yes, fighting has decreased, crosschecking is rare and a lot of contact along the walls and in the corners has been limited. There's no denying that. But there still are hits to be had. Good, hard checks -- on open ice and along the boards.
The problem lies with the in-between, the bumping and jostling, the inevitable physical contact when players fight for the puck. This incidental contact now brings whistles. Because of that, players are hesitant to even try to land a real hit most of the time. Those who try usually go unpenalized -- appropriately so. Bump an opponent lightly, though, and you're likely going to end up in the box for interference. Referees call holding when there is no discernible pause in play. They call hooking when the stick brushes an opponent. The clutching and grabbing had gotten too extreme. Now, the penalty calling is too extreme.
To the complainers, though, this is largely the game you pined for five years ago. The clutching and grabbing is gone. The dirty stick work has subsided. You got what you wanted, with the slight twist of getting too many nitpicky penalties. But you have to give a little to get a little. Enjoy what you've gotten back: speed, skill, goals and offensive superstars.
NAPLES, Fla.–Never underestimate the NHL's appetite for going backwards.
That was evident yesterday when a major topic on the first day of meetings among the league's 30 general managers was reducing penalties for instigating fights.
The idea, for some, is that skill players are being fouled too much, and that so-called "policemen" on each team need to have more latitude to dole out punishment with their fists.
Not surprisingly, the chief proponent of changing the instigator rule is Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke, whose team leads the NHL in fighting majors this season by a wide margin.
Currently, players who instigate fights are given a two-minute minor, a five-minute major and a 10-minute misconduct, with a game misconduct if they offend again within a game.
Players with three instigator penalties earn a two-game suspension, and Burke wants that rule changed to allow for more instigators before a suspension comes into play.
"I do not favour the elimination of the penalty," said Burke. "But I think we've got to get to five or six (instigator penalties) before a player gets suspended so they can do their jobs and protect their teammates." [...]
The NHL is alone among the four major North American team sports in allowing players involved in fights to remain in the game. As of yesterday, there had been 47 instigating penalties, up from 39 in the same number of games last season. Only one player, Philly's Ben Eager, has been suspended too many instigating penalties.
The GM's could possibly vote tomorrow on the proposed change. I kind of doubt it'll go through, but if it did, I think it'd be great for the game.
NAPLES, Fla. (CP) - The NHL's 30 general managers took time away from trade discussions Tuesday to officially recommend changing the instigator suspension rule for next season.
Concerned that skilled players, notably Sidney Crosby, are not getting the protection they should, the league's GMs agreed that a player shouldn't receive a two-game suspension until he has accumulated five instigating penalties. Under the current rules, a player receives the suspension after three instigating infractions.
The NHL's competition committee, which comprises players and GMs, and the board of governors need to approve the change this spring.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says he isn't concerned about the optics of the rule change, which would essentially allowing tough guys to drop the gloves more often without fear of suspension.
"Among other things, it means a skilled player doesn't have to fight," Bettman said after Day 2 of the GM meetings wrapped up. "This wouldn't be the first time that we adjusted this. You fine-tune it, and if you need to adjust it again, you do."
Well, at least that's what it used to mean and we're not just talking fisticuffs at the rinks, as that clip shows. Anyways, many puck fans out there really miss it (on the ice) and think it ought to be brought back for the good of the game... me included.
Cam Janssen could've been somebody. He could've been a contender for the top hockey enforcer of his generation, maybe even putting his name on a list with the great fighters such as Tie Domi, Joey Kocur and, of course, the Grim Reaper himself, Stu Grimson.
Instead, his sport went all peace-love-and-happiness on him, the pansies in the league office making tough guys like him increasingly unimportant. So now Janssen, a kid with endless guts and a mean right hook, rides the Devils' bench most nights.
"You take (fighting) out of the game, it's not going to be hockey any more. It's going to be soccer with sticks!" Janssen says. He is 22. His lip is swollen from a teammate swiping him in practice. "At least now, a guy knows if he take a run at somebody, he's got to step up and pay the piper.
"The guys will go crazy if there's no fighting," he says. "The fans will go crazy, too."
I miss fighting. I think most hockey fans miss fighting. It isn't gone from the game entirely -- Janssen had a doozy on Wednesday night against Montreal's Garth Murray -- but it's down more than 40 percent from 2003, which means you have about a puncher's chance of seeing one for your $60 ticket.
Here's a clip from that Jannsen vs Murray fight...
We return you now to the article already in progress....
And this is really what makes me want to drop the gloves: The NHL thought limiting fighting will make the sport more mainstream. It would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. The nerds who run this sport figured without the brawls, some little old lady in Peoria would find Versus on her cable system and declare, "I'm going to give this beautiful sport a try!"
The result, like much of what Gary Bettman has done, is the opposite. Attendance is down in several markets, and they'll need a breakthrough in nanomathematics to compute recent TV ratings. The lack of fighting is not the main reason, but the farther this sport gets from its roots, the closer it gets to irrelevancy.
It's a fate that's staring Hockey right in the face nowdays and it's one that's worse than death... irrelevancy. Unfortunatley that's indeed where Bettman and his crew has this sport headed.
Yeah, yeah, I know I sound like a broken record about this subject by constantly posting about it, but what can I say? I grew up with and grew passionate about the sport before this element was largely stripped from it's character and I think doing that has done a great deal of damage to the game I love.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The Philadelphia Flyers finally traded Peter Forsberg, sending the star center to the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators on Thursday night for forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and two draft picks.
Forsberg, slowed this season by chronic right foot problems, can become an unrestricted a free agent at the end of the season, and the Flyers decided to get some value for the former NHL MVP rather than risk losing him for nothing.
"Peter Forsberg is one of the NHL's most complete players and the ultimate competitor, a consistent winner who has year in and year out been a difference-maker in the Stanley Cup playoffs," Predators general manager David Poile said.
"He strengthens our club up the middle and will provide another battle-tested, veteran voice. Adding a player of this caliber also sends a strong message to our fans that the Nashville Predators are prepared to compete at the highest level."
The 33-year-old Swede had 11 goals and 29 assists in 40 games for the Flyers this season, his second with Philadelphia after 10 years with Quebec and Colorado.
Forsberg has visited with doctors around the globe to find out why his foot hasn't felt right in his skate, the health issue mostly responsible for keeping him out 16 games this season.
It's a definite gamble by Nashville, but one I think is well worth taking by a club that thinks this year may be their best chance at a Cup. So, what the heck, they might as well roll the dice with Forsberg and go for it. Why the hell not? With my Av's looking more and more like they're out of the race this year, I'll be pulling for Peter and the Preds come playoff time.
The National Hockey League has always played fast and loose with the fans and media over the word "attendance." And while under the league's revenue- based salary-cap system, it does not behoove the NHL to spin gate receipts, the latest numbers do not paint a positive picture.
In a confidential NHL document obtained by the National Post, the league's overall gate receipts climbed just 4.9% through Dec. 31, despite an average ticket price hike of 5.9% across the league this season.
More alarming is the fact that gate receipts are down in nine U.S. markets, which means in a gate-driven league with negligible U.S. TV deals, more than one-third of the 24 American clubs are not making as much money in ticket sales as they were last season -- despite higher prices in most cases.
To the scouts, media, players and coaches who travel the circuit, the league's latest PR spin -- an announcement last week that NHL clubs drew, on average, crowds of 17,075 to games in January of 2007, giving the league its best month in the NHL's 89-year history -- approached desperation. The people who see the thousands of empty seats in many U.S. arenas know the real score.
Aaaah, yes they do and I fear if the Gary Bettman reign of error lasts much longer those presently hanging on may soon turn up missing also.
Hockey, where even the post game handshakes can occasionally turn into full-contact affairs.
What can you say? It's hockey. Sometimes the passions just spill over the edge. When you put players on ice with sticks and have them crash into and beat on each other for 60 minutes things are bound to get a little wild from time to time. Even as it turns out, in high school, where in this game from New Jersey the 60 minutes of official mayhem was only theoretically over. The emotions are simply hard to switch off sometimes. It's just the nature of the sport.
"Half the game is mental; the other half is being mental." Jim McKenny
Down but not out, enforcers are making a comeback in the NHL.
It's as obvious as a George Parros moustache, a Sean Avery cheap shot or a Donald Brashear meltdown.
You get the point.
Not that we're on the cusp of seeing more of the gratuitous scraps staged by two boneheads simply to justify their existence but the need for a genuine watchdog on most teams is clear.
Take, for example, what's going on in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby.
Coach Michel Therrien made a desperate, pathetic plea for the league to better protect Crosby last week after the league's star attraction was once again used as a Penguin pinata.
Truth is, the league has spent years setting laughable precedents in terms of dispensing justice, thus leaving such security tasks in the hands of enforcers.
And after more than a year of seeing just a handful of genuine bruisers cling to their jobs, GMs around the sped-up, sanitized NHL are now searching through their Rolodexes to relocate the Missing Link. [...]
Statistically, fighting is up 6% this year.
A man chiefly responsible for that is Anaheim GM Brian Burke, whose club leads the league in fighting majors on purpose. As one of the most progressive and successful GMs in the league, Burke sees merit in intimidation even in today's gutless NHL, where the lack of respect is glaring.
"You come to a square dance in our barn and you shouldn't have any problems finding a partner," said Burke on TSN Wednesday, who was then asked if he'd dress Parros in the playoffs.
"It depends who we're playing. Those who say fighting is dead in the playoffs didn't watch any of our games.
"We fought in all three rounds last year and we plan on doing it again this year as far as we go."
That's the spirit.
This from a former league disciplinarian who knows the only ones who can protect skilled players are their teammates -- not the NHL.
So go ahead Mr. Therrien, whine all you want about the mistreatment opponents have reserved for Crosby.
Truth is, until you start fighting back you should be beating yourself up over this one.
I think it's great to see this aspect of this great game making a comeback. Fighting has been part hockey since the beginnings of the sport. It's a huge part of it's DNA and the attempts to sanitize it from the game have been extremely misguided... and dangerous. It's a rough, passionate game of flying bodies, sticks and elbows in which the need to protect your teammates can't be left up to the whims of off-ice league officials.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Gary Bettman says he isn't leaving his job as NHL commissioner anytime soon. "I've watched with fascination some of the newspaper reports having me going on sabbatical shortly," Bettman said Wednesday night. "That isn't the case, wasn't the case. "I think people were somehow under the impression my contract had a year to run and got fixated on that. Those stories were, to say the least, inaccurate."
Where it often resembles Ultimate Fighting on skates...and the fans absolutely love it.
It's called, the Ligue Nord Americaine de Hockey or LNAH for short and if you're a fan that misses the old-style, rough and tumble days of hockey... then this is the league for you.
SOREL-TRACY, QUEBEC -- Think of the worst nightmare you have ever had.
For those selling the Gary Bettman-led vision for top-level pro hockey, it would be the fight-filled, Ligue Nord Americaine de Hockey (LNAH), or the North American Hockey League.
As the NHL spins shootouts, fuzzy-faced teenaged sensations, aero-dynamic new uniforms and corporate talking points, fighting majors continue their steady decline. Fighting has been declining or levelling off at the minor-pro level as well, in leagues such as the 27-team American Hockey League, the 25-team East Coast Hockey League, and the lower-level eight-team Southern Professional Hockey League, according to statistics gathered by websites like hockeyfights.com.
All except in places like Sorel-Tracy, 80 km northeast of Montreal, in a 56-year-old rink called Colisee Cardin. This is a place where bare-knuckle hockey is not only condoned but marketed. As the heavyweights gradually disappear from pro hockey's landscape, as minor pro leagues adapt to a faster, offence-oriented game in lock-step with the NHL, this is where many come to find their final hockey resting place. [...]
For the Sorel-Tracy Mission and the St-Georges CRS Express, and for the other six teams in Quebec's minor pro league, it is still mostly about the fight. The league is evolving, but fighting is its core, which brings up a high-wire act for LNAH commissioner Michel Gaudette and the owners: How far do they go in raising this higher quality of hockey --which people in the league compare with the ECHL, one notch below the AHL -- while not turning off the paying customers, those who watch on RDS, and the website traffickers who come to the league because of its hardcore element? These are the people who have come to expect Ultimate Fighting Championship on skates, the anticipation that a game might turn into a bloodbath.
Speaking of bloodbaths here's one of the more infamous incidents from the LNAH's recent past...
Ok, now back to the article....
As the NHL struggles with where to slot fighting in its game, the LNAH struggles with where to slot fighting during a game. It is becoming a balancing act -- when to nail the tough guy to the bench, when to turn him loose for tactical purposes to turn the tide of a game, and when to throw him out there and slide in a fight for the sheer entertainment value for the fans who have come to expect it. Here, developing players for advancement is not in any business plan. Dollas said typically teams are made up of two lines of scorers, one line of grinders, and one line of fighters. [...]
The "goon" tag bothers Gaudette and Dollas, a defenceman who played in the LNAH before he became coach. "I cannot be the only guy thinking the NHL right now isn't very good. I watch the Canadiens, the Leafs, and it's basketball on skates. It's a chess match. If you touch somebody, the piece falls over and you're in the penalty box. Here, this is lunch-pail hockey. You have to have courage, guts, balls to play here. It's hard-fought from the front line to the fourth."
Like anything, an idealistic future for the fan who wants to see more fighting likely falls somewhere between the extreme, sometimes manufactured element that is the LNAH, and the increasingly passionless NHL product, where the mind games and intimidation factor, in the opinions of many, are bleeding out of the game as players grow acclimated with anti-obstruction rules brought in after the lockout.
So, if you think this style of hockey is your cup of tea and you're interested in seeing more of the action that is the Ligue Nord Americaine de Hockey, YouTube has quite a collection that you can view >>> HERE.
In the Oddman's continuing worldwide quest (hey, it's a tough job but somebody's got to do it) to bring you, his loyal readers, (all 62 of you oddballs per day at last count) the very oddest of hockey oddness, he presents.....
Hmmmm, I think these boys (knuckleheads?) might be on to something. With a few adjustments here and there it just might work (aaah, not really, I just love the oddness factor of it all). I very much like the idea of players being checked over three and a half foot boards, rather than into them. Makes for more dramatic TV visuals. However an indoor version will require some kind of cushioning system other than piles of snow, unless the desire is to go for more player/fan interaction. But equipping referees with fire extinguishers is a brilliant innovation that I suggest Bettman and his crew implement immediately.
Hey, it makes about as much sense as anything they've come up with recently for the NHL... which is none.
The Devils lead the NHL in scoring game-tying goals in the final minute. Zack Parise’s tally with 32 seconds left in regulation Thursday night in Philadelphia marked the 27th time this season a team has scored a goal in the final minute to force overtime. The Devils have done it five times, by far the most in the league — five teams have done it twice and 12 others once each. Two of the Devils’ five last-minute tying goals have come against the Flyers. New Jersey’s Brian Gionta has three of the five goals, and New Jersey has won four of the five games in which it rallied to force overtime. In all, the teams that scored to tie the game and force OT have gotten a boost: They’re 18-0-9 in the 27 games.
Obviously the Devils have been pretty good at following "the plan."