Sat Mar 08 05:10pm EST
Established in 1981, the Canberra Knights were the oldest team in the eight-team Australian Ice Hockey League, and one of the league's last two original teams alongside the Sydney Bears. But on Wednesday, February 26, just six weeks before the start of the AIHL season on April 12, Knights owner John Raut announced the team was finished, effectively immediately.
He cited losses in the tens of thousands, as well as pessimistic concerns that they'd get "smashed again like we did last year" -- they lost many games by double digits, and he expressed -- as the reasons for the fold.
It was sudden and unexpected. Despite practicing the night before, many of the Knights players learned their fate at the same time as the public, via a Facebook posting.
But the players refused to accept their fate. And neither did the fans in the Australian capital, a loyal group that sold out the Phillip Ice Skating Centre where the Knights played on most nights during the season, despite the team's poor record. Maybe a cynical Raut was willing to let the Knights go gently (and suspiciously, as many felt his numbers didn't add up), but he was the only one.
The next morning, a group of players, led by Knights captain Mark Rummukainen and assistant captain Jordie Gavin, alongside Knights fans, launched a bid to save the team by running it themselves.
Sat Mar 08 03:57pm EST
"For God so loved the world, He sent his only son ..." John 3:16.
Ok, that might be a bit over dramatic.
Yet, it does seem like Capitals fans are really, really, REALLY excited - and possibly relieved - with Evgeny Kuznetsov finally signing his entry-level deal with Washington.
Why is this such a big deal, you ask? A few reasons.
Kuznetsov, a center, was drafted at No. 26 by the Capitals in 2010. Considered to be a talented player with a bright future, his drop in draft stock was surprising. There were concerns over Kuznetsov possibly not coming to the NHL after all; therefore, teams didn't want to gamble on the pick.
Fears were somewhat justified when Kuznetsov did not report to the Caps right away. Instead he decided to re-up on a two-year deal with his KHL club, Chelyabinsk Traktor. As that deal came to a close in 2012, and depending on what/who you choose to believe, Kuznetsov was still iffy on coming on over to the NHL.
Kuznetsov decided to re-sign with Traktor for another two-years, keeping him in Russia until 2014. It's assumed this move was made to improve the likelihood of his making the Russian Olympic team. (If the Olympic games are still on your DVR, SPOILER ALERT: he didn't make the team.)
What was bad news for Traktor ends up being good news for the Capitals. The KHL season has ended and Traktor did not make the playoffs. Kuznetsov's KHL contract was terminated early, allowing him to sign his entry-level deal with Washington. The annual value is rumored to be around $900K.
It remains to be seen if the 6'3", 200-lbs. Kuznetsov will make an impact in the NHL. Caps fans - and GM George McPhee - sure hope it was was worth the wait.
Sat Mar 08 11:01am EST
It was the second story mentioned on “The Today Show.”
This was back when Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were setting the conversation for Americans every morning, when the first 10 minutes of “Today” encapsulated the two or three most important things happening in the world at the moment.
On March 9, 2004, the second most important thing happening in the world at the moment was Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi’s sucker-punch on Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore from the previous evening, which sent Moore off on a stretcher after an excruciating 10 minutes on the ice.
Couric, setting up the clip, said: “We've talked a few times before about how unneccessarily violent the sport of hockey can be …”
You have to remember where hockey was in 2004. This was before the resurgence, before outdoor games and Crosby/Ovechkin and Rule 48 and Sheriff Shanahan. It was a season in which over 41 percent of the games featured a fight; this season, that number is projected at 31 percent, via HockeyFights.com.
So it was seen as a league of “unnecessary violence,” and Todd Bertuzzi provided critics of hockey with an Atomic Bomb.
Witness Christine Brennan’s still-stupefying call for the NHL’s end in USA Today, from March 10, 2004:
“Who among us would notice if, this autumn, we found ourselves surveying a sports landscape without major league hockey? And how many of us would complain?”
So it went for Bertuzzi/Moore reactions. Those that loathed the violence in the game had a war chest of fodder for its demonization. Fighting was conflated with an assault by Bertuzzi; but then again, the assault was born out of violation of fightin’s “Code.”
After Moore's hit knocked [Marcus] Naslund out of the game Feb. 16 at Denver, the teams had played an incident-free 5-5 tie on March 3 at Denver. But in the next game, no doubt frustrated by his team's imminent loss, Bertuzzi erupted. "It would have been eliminated if they had just fought in the second game," said Kings forward Sean Avery, who is second in the NHL with 240 penalty minutes. "Have a five-on-five fight and get it over with. That's how you should deal with it. Put your five toughest guys on the ice and let them fight. Eventually, the anger is going to burn off. It didn't happen and just kept building and building. Then you have a 9-2 blowout game."
And that’s when this happened:
Moore refused multiple invitations to fight on that shift, including Bertuzzi’s. And then he was assaulted.
"When it's portrayed on CNN or by Katie Couric it looks like some ugly beast that's crawled out from under the stairs and you say, 'This doesn't belong in society,’” Stu Grimson told the LA Times at the time.
"I don't condone what Todd Bertuzzi did, but you have to appreciate the context that kind of act comes from. If you don't know the sport and you throw the 15-second clip on CNN all day, it sounds simplistic to say it's presented out of context. But that's really what happens."
Bertuzzi was given a lockout-assisted suspension that cost him 17 months of hockey but only 20 actual games. The aftermath continues 10 years later: The Bertuzzi/Moore trial is set to begin on Sept. 8, with Moore seeing $38 million dollars in damages from Bertuzzi and the then-Canucks ownership group.
Here’s Moore revisiting it all on TSN this week (and my look back at the incident on its seven-year anniversary).
He doesn’t think about Bertuzzi, he says. He’s seeking a chance to get what he believes was taken from him. He’s seeking closure.
Ten years after the incident, he wants people to reconsider Steve Moore.
Ten years after the incident, has the hockey community done any consideration of what happened to him?
Three things that have changed for me, perception wise, over the last 10 years.
1. We’ve seen worse.
I used to hold up the Bertuzzi attack as the nadir of hockey violence. But it came three years before Chris Simon swung his stick at Ryan Hollweg’s head and Steve Downie’s flying shoulder-block at Dean McAmmond’s head. We’ve seen countless “Bertuzzi-like plays” that didn’t rise to that level of malevolence because of a lack of catastrophic injury. This doesn’t excuse it, nor does it reduce its impact on the game culturally. But if it happened today, how much would we hear from some Bertuzzi defenders about “the ice causing the injury?” We’re that jaded.
2. Todd Bertuzzi Was a Patsy?
One thing missing from Brennan’s demonization of hockey: The name “Marc Crawford.”
This is, perhaps, the greatest reframing of the incident in the last decade. That Crawford allegedly ordered the “code red” on Moore, telling his players to make him “pay the price.”
Did that mean hit him? Did that mean doing what Bertuzzi did?
The player and coach filed opposing views on the matter in court, with Bertuzzi claiming that Crawford “failed to exercise control over and caution his players against physical aggression toward Moore” and Crawford claiming he "gave no direction to the players in general and to Bertuzzi in particular, to retaliate for the injury to Naslund, or to engage in any conduct outside the rules against Moore."
Whatever the truth is, Crawford’s role in this has been the one that’s deepened over the years.
3. The Code
The Code has always been a hypocritical, ever-shifting set of morals that serve everything from an excuse for fighting’s existence to a justification for retribution. So it’s only appropriate that the Bertuzzi incident’s 10-year bookend is the Shawn Thornton attack on Brooks Orpik, in which a seemingly honorable player felt he was doing his team a solid by assailing an unsuspecting opponent.
As I wrote after the Thornton attack:
I’m pro-fighting. I’m all-in for the honor thing, the warrior thing. But if “The Code” actually reads “you fight because I want to fight you and if you chose not to fight I’ll assault you anyway,” then it might be time for me to sip tea with Steve Yzerman as we mutually cherish the virtue of Olympic play.
Both incidents raise unfortunate questions about the victim’s role – if only he had fought! – but, in the end, point to the same reoccurring problem for the NHL: What might seem honorable within the context of its secluded set of morals can ultimately bring dishonor to the game.
Sat Mar 08 09:02am EST
Following the grand tradition of Bo Jackson, two Philadelphia Flyers will be become two-sport stars on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center.
On the encouragement of Chris “Handles” Franklin of the Harlem Globetrotters, Wayne “Meadowlark” Simmonds and Claude “Balls” Giroux will take on the clown princes of basketball in an exhibition game. One assumes the invitation was based on experience, as the Flyers played like the Washington Generals for the first quarter of the season.
Both Giroux and Simmonds have some game, as basketball is a part of the Flyers’ warmup routine before home games. Giroux’s a shooter; Simmonds says he’s going to attempt a dunk in the game.
Does he think Giroux might dunk on the ‘Trotters?
“He might be able to touch the mesh, but not the rim,” Simmonds told CSN Philly. “I’m a disher and power play. G is the shooter. He’s got the touch.”
“I don’t know if I got the skill, but I am gonna try,” Simmonds said. “Be nice to get out there with them. ... I just got to get the ball and go strong to the hoop. Dunk on somebody. That’s my goal. Yeah, I can dunk. Gonna put my Jordan’s on.”
Giroux said he would dish the ball to Simmonds in the paint. “Hopefully, I can do a little alley-oop for him,” Giroux said. “We’re better at basketball. Wayne is pretty good. He played a lot as a kid. He can jump pretty high.”
Coach Craig Berube had no idea his leading scorer was going to partake in an exhibition basketball game on Sunday, and said “they better tape their ankles up good.”
How does Franklin think the hockey players will fare in against the Globetrotters?
“We plan on having a great time,” Franklin told CSN Philly. “One thing is for certain. It’s hard to embarrass Philadelphia stars in Philadelphia.”
(“IT IS?!?!?” said every member of the Philadelphia sports media in unison.)
Thus continues the relationship between the Flyers and basketball. Why it seems like just yesterday that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were challenging Wilt Chamberlain’s records. No, the other ones…
Sat Mar 08 12:54am EST
The Rangers celebrate the slaying of Anton Khudobin.
No. 1 Star: Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
What a debut for Funny Bob, who stopped all 25 saves he faced to give the Florida crowd something they hadn't seen in two years: a shutout. The Panthers skated to a 2-0 win on goals from Jesse Winchester and Dmitry Kulikov.
No. 2 Star: Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings
Franzen led the way for the Wings in a 7-4 rout of the New Jersey Devils, with 2 goals and 2 assists. The Wings had to like what they saw out of their new-look line of Franzen, Gustav Nyquist, and David Legwand. Nyquist had a goal and three assist, and Legwand had 1 and 2. Here's Legwand's first as a Wing:
Sat Mar 08 12:21am EST
It's hardly much of a punishment, being banned from playing for the Vancouver Canucks right now, but it's all the Department of Player Safety's really got, and it's definitely what Zack Kassian deserved for his boarding of Brendan Dillon in the second period of Thursday's content between the Canucks and the Stars.
For this act of boneheaded malfeasance from a repeat bonehead Kassian has been banned three games.
Shanahan, explaining the obvious:
"It's important to note that what raises this minor penalty to a suspension is that, not only does Kassian see Dilon's number for quite some time, but he boards Dillon with significant force."
"And while it's true that Dillon both stops and turns his back during this play, he does both of these actions well before this forceful check from behind. Kassian has enough time to avoid this check entirely, or at the very least minimize this force."
Honestly, Kassian got off light, probably because Dillon came back to the game. As a repeat offender -- the dude broke a guy's jaw earlier this season in what the league effectively deemed to be an intentional stick swing -- the league could very well have thrown the book at him. Heck, they didn't even mention that he appears to leave his feet, or that this was clearly an act borne out of frustration at the team's on-ice performance that night.
Unless, of course, Shanahan knows what everyone else in Vancouver knows: the real punishment is that Kassian has to come back at some point.
Fri Mar 07 06:58pm EST
Here is the Puck Daddy Viewing Guide: Spotlighting five things to watch for during tonight's slate of games. Make sure to stop back here for the nightly Three Stars when the games are finished.
Create-a-Caption: "Ryan Miller #39 of the St. Louis Blues eyes the puck over his head at Bridgestone Arena on March 6, 2014."
• • • • •
Preview: New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET
Preview: New Jersey Devils at Detroit Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET
Preview: Buffalo Sabres at Florida Panthers, 7:30 p.m. ET
Preview: New York Islanders at Calgary Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. ET
• • • • •
Five things to know about tonight's NHL games ...
1) Prodigal Lu. Roberto Luongo starts for the Panthers, something we haven't said since late 2006. It's about the only reason to watch Florida and Buffalo, two of the league's worst teams, at this point in the season.
2) Pittsburgh and Anaheim. It's a battle of division leaders -- and members of the bird family -- as the Penguins and Ducks go at it in Anaheim, but neither of these teams is really in the mood to preen right now. Anaheim is 4-5-1 in their last 10 home games. And the Penguins have surrendered 11 goals in the first three games of a five game road trip.
3) Calgary holds the fort. The Flames aren't very good, but they're pretty good at home right now. They've won 6 of their last 7 in Cowtown, and with the struggling Islanders paying them a visit Friday, they've got a good chance of making it 7 of 8.
4) Ruutu debuts for Devils. The Devils were looking to add a little grit to their top-nine and they grabbed Tuomo Ruutu from Carolina at the deadline. He makes his first appearance for New Jersey in Detroit.
5) St. Louis seeks first Rangers' win. The diminutive scorer looked like the only Ranger interested in winning his debut, so here's hoping they all join him his second time out. Maybe they can take inspiration from the addition of Raphael Diaz, who plays his first game as a Ranger?
Bold prediction: Pittsburgh gets crushed by the Ducks.
Fri Mar 07 04:56pm EST
Jersey Fouls is our ongoing exploration of the rules and etiquette for proper hockey jersey creation and exhibition. If you spot what you think may be a foul in your arena, email a photo to us at email@example.com for inclusion in future installment.
When Martin St. Louis was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the New York Rangers – fulfilling what we now know was a years-long desire to play closer to his home in Connecticut – one wondered how the Tampa fans would react to their captain’s departure.
He is, after all, a franchise legend and a former MVP. He had given his career to turning the Lightning into winners.
On the other hand … he peaced-out at the trade deadline, right as Steven Stamkos returned, because Steve Yzerman had the nerve not to make him a first-teamer on Canada’s Olympic squad.
So how would they react?
With the Protest Jersey you see here, via Caleigh Baldwin. So, yeah, looks like there needs to be some healing before his number gets raised to the rafters. (It still will, right? Right?!).
Coming up, more Protest Jerseys, some unfortunate ‘69’ sweaters and the most Canadian jersey ever.
And here … we … go.
Via @Sabourin91 from the Winter Classic alumni game comes this common misspelling of a Sergei FedOrov jersey. Hey, at least it’s phonetically correct, right?
But the real question is where he purchased it? And by that we mean, is there a gear shop in the greater Detroit area that’s a little hazy on the spelling on Red Wings legends? Are they the source for all the Lindstrom and Eyezerman jerseys in circulation?
While many in the Western Conference would likely agree with this Nickname Jersey for Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, this unfortunately appears to be a case where someone used the captain’s sweater as a foundation for a sexual terminology joke.
And we’ll leave it up to you to discover that whimsy on its own, because (1) it’s unprintable here and (2) WARNING: YOU CAN’T UNSEE IT. Via @BTNemeth.
This New Jersey Devils protest paring is rather clever, via @Stevehague5. One guy has altered his Jamie Langenbrunner jersey into a Damien Brunner one. And the other has transformed his David Clarkson one into an Adam Larsson one. (We’ve had a variation of this before, but not with the ingenious math equation adding up to Larsson’s No. 5.)
Another protest one, and a little hard to see, so we pass the mic to David Simon:
“Saw this outside the Nassau Moseleum after the Isles Kings game. Yes that's an old traffic cone Yashin jersey with packing tape over the 9 and the name CARKNER scribbled on top over Yashin. Pretty sure it's the only Carkner jersey I'll ever see at the Coliseum short of someone in his family wearing one.”
Incidentally, they’re still paying for that Yashin jersey.
Um … what?
Er … whhaaaaaaat?
Via Cameron and Laura come this Oliver Ekman-Larsson Frankenjersey Army, combining his Phoenix Coyotes sweater with this Team Sweden sweater. Which is odd, because he only gets ice time while wearing one of them.
Speaking of Frankenjerseys …
This is one of the worst we’ve ever seen. From Erik Wood:
The second foul came from Saturday's tilt in Nashville between the Predators and the New York Rangers. As you can see, this is a Frankenjersey of the two teams in play that evening. As we all know, Frankenjerseys are always a foul. To make matters worse, the Predators jersey had no name plate, but the Rangers one was a MARK MESSIER jersey. This guy took half of a Messier jersey and turned it into an abomination. I'm no Rangers fan, but if I were, I'd probably hunt this guy down.
The words. We lack them.
Somehow, we can believe this classy Vancouver Canucks fan definitely eats cake and yet we’re surprised he has the opportunities to do so. Via Chris Rubio.
Meanwhile, we’d like to thank this Pittsburgh Penguins fan for getting to the point with a PERVERT 69 jersey. Via Stephanie Masood.
And finally …
We’ve had many clever Fouls. This one is next level. From Seth Dean:
Nameplate: "Canadian." Number: Upside-down 34 to make "Eh"
Brilliant, ya know?
Fri Mar 07 03:41pm EST
Shannon Szabados won her second consecutive gold medal as the goaltender for the Canadian women's Olympic hockey team in Sochi.
Her next challenge? Backstopping a professional men's hockey team.
Szabados took to Twitter to make the announcement herself:
Well here goes nothing Heading to the @SPHL to join the @Cottonmouths for the remainder of their season See you on the 12th guys! #snakes — Shannon Szabados (@ShannonSzabados) March 7, 2014
The 27-year-old Edmonton native has signed a contract with Southern Professional Hockey League's Columbus Cottonmouths. From the Cottonmouths:
The Edmonton, AB, Canada native is a former teammate of current Snake’s players Jordan Draper, Andy Willigar and Captain Kyle Johnson at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. Szabados’ signing will make her the first female to play hockey in the Southern Professional Hockey League since its inception ten years ago.
“I am very excited to get a world class athlete that has competed and has faced, high pressured situations. Shannon has won at every level she has played, in women’s hockey or men’s hockey,” head coach Jerome Bechard said.
“She won a championship with NATI last year alongside Andy Willigar and Jordan Draper so I know she can compete at this level. We are working on her immigration, and we are looking to sign her officially Thursday, where she will be backing up Loewen. She will play when she feels comfortable and situated.”
As mentioned in the release, this isn't Szabados' first time playing among men. Just last week she practiced with the Edmonton Oilers, who were short a goaltender after making a series of goalie swaps just before the NHL trade deadline.
"She's pretty good," Jordan Eberle said afterwards. "Once you figure that out, you try and score and put in as many as you can."
Before she became the first female to play in the SPHL, she blazed a trail in juniors, becoming the first female to play in the Western Hockey League as well as the Alberta Junior Hockey League, where she recorded a shutout in her first game.
Kevin Dineen, Szabados's Team Canada head coach, is confident that she's got what it takes to succeed in the SPHL. "I think she's going to do just fine in that environment," he said. "I don't think this is one of those gimmicky things, although I'd be naive to think that wasn't on the owner's mind. She can play. She'll be more than up to the task."
Szabados joins a short list of women’s hockey stars who laced up the skates with men’s pro teams. Manon Rheaume was the most famous example, becoming the only woman to appear in an NHL exhibition game with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. Others, like Hayley Wickenheiser, played in men’s leagues in Europe due to a lack of opportunities for women to play professionally in North America.
The Cottonmouths' next home game is Thursday, March 13th, and a press conference has been scheduled to introduce Szabados before the game.
Fri Mar 07 02:56pm EST
Here are your Puck Headlines: a glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.
• Sochi bathrooms strike again! US Sled Hockey goalie Steve Cash gets stuck in bathroom. Good old American ingenuity gets him out. [CBS Sports]
• Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik met with Martin St. Louis twice prior to trade in an effort to get him to stay with the organization. [Tampa Tribune]
• Worst kept secret in hockey: St. Louis and Steve Yzerman had a difficult relationship. [Tampa Bay Times]
• Craig Berube believes the Flyers aren't getting any respect from the officials, but he doesn't want to complain about it. Instead he actively disagrees to reporters about recent calls against the team. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
• Script pitch for the show Scandal: The President has yet to make good on his beer bet with the Canadian Prime Minister. This has international incident written all over it. However, being the trusting, polite Canadian he is, Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes President Barack Obama is good for it. [Chicago Tribune]
• Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Boston Bruins had a deal done in principle on deadline day and it fell through. [CSNNE]
• The New York Islanders are not happy being the butt of jokes, you guys. [Newsday]
• Help is on the way, Capitals fans! Evgeny Kuznetsov terminated his deal with the KHL and is winging his way to DC. [ProHockey Talk]