Jay Feaster lost his job this week as GM of the Calgary Flames. Stepping up in his place was Brian Burke, whose torrid hair made big news when he went to meet the press.
“We want black-and-blue hockey here, that’s what we do in Alberta,” Burke mentioned. “We’ve got to be big and more truculent — I know you’re all waiting for the word, there it is. I want a little more hostility out there than what I’m seeing right now.”
He said he wasn’t kissing babies, i.e.: “I’m not running for office. This is about winning hockey games. And I have to take the steps that I think are going to lead us to win the most hockey games we can win.”
“I’m tellin the real world what goes on,” is something Don Cherry said, this week.
Bob Cole watched a Chicago goalie take the net for his first NHL minutes in Toronto on Saturday night, Kent Simpson was his name, 21, from Edmonton, the score was 5-2 for the Leafs and Finnish rookie Antti Raanta had done all that he could do for the Blackhawks, and the first shot that Toronto took, it was Joffrey Lupul, passed Simpson by, and Cole said, “Ya gotta feel sad for that young man.”
Brian Burke: “Easier to fill out the roster with bangers than skill players. Anyone can paint a barn.”
In New York, the Rangers continued to falter. Katie Strang of ESPN heard about it from defenceman Ryan McDonagh. “The hockey gods are testing us,” he told her.
Larry Brooks from The New York Post wrote about the Rangers’ Derek Stepan who, in his struggles, hadn’t scored a goal in ten games. A non-factor, Brooks called him. Maybe was he, quote, playing his way off the U.S. Olympic Team?
“Enough is enough,” Stepan said. “I have to score.”
About his team, he said this: “Our confidence is really fragile. We’re so fragile.” Continue reading
Finally. The way the hockey-book writers cheered one of their own this week, you’d think the whole entire clan of them had been honoured by the Canadian chapter of the Jewish National Fund for their collective achievement in hockey scholarship rather than just the author of A Great Game. Forgive them their pride — these writers work alone, most of the time, shrouded in archival shadows. And if they want to step into the glow given off by the newly announced Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in Israel’s north, near the Golan Heights — well, why not? This is their time, now — the birds can have theirs, later.
In Florida, Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos strolled into a press conference two weeks fracturing a shin. He was limping a little, to be sure, but he was “positive and hopeful” — and not ruling out a return in time to play for Canada at the Sochi Olympics in February. Was he shoved on the play, by Boston defenceman Dougie Hamilton? Yes, he thought so. But in time he’d realized: it was “a hockey play.” He hadn’t heard from Hamilton, but Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara had texted him and the coach, Claude Julien, visited him in hospital.
Also looking this week to the Olympics was Brian Burke, who talked to Eric Francis of The Calgary Sun. If Canada’s the favourite to win in Sochi, according to Burke, another team that unnerves him is Russia. Sorry, that’s not quite right: Russia scares “the living hell” out of him:
“Because it’s their home soil, it’s going to be crazy there, and we hear rumours of huge bonuses for players if they win gold.”
At The Hockey News, Matt Larkin was counting, this week, and that’s how he determined that as of Monday, in the 82 games Sidney Crosby played over the past three seasons, he had 123 points to his name.
Profiling David Booth, Dave Ebner of The Globe and Mail told of the Vancouver winger’s love of the hunt:
For a show on a niche network, Wild TV, Booth killed a black bear with a bow in Alberta after luring it with a pile of bait, a mix of molasses, beaver, and oatmeal. Bear baiting is illegal in British Columbia and numerous U.S. states. Booth broadcast his exploits on Twitter.
Gary Bettman’s week included a big headache and a big deal. Head first: in Washington, former players with lawyers launched a lawsuit citing the NHL’s negligence when it comes to its handling head injuries over “the past decades.” From a statement by Mel Owens, one of the lead lawyers:
In 2004 the NHL introduced a series of updates to the rule-set to encourage a faster, more exciting, and ultimately more marketable product. As a result, the number of violent in-game collisions and occurrence of head trauma have increased. When coupled with the NHL’s refusal to protect players by banning full-body checking or penalizing on-ice fist fights, the league has created a dangerous atmosphere for players. The complaint alleges that the NHL either ignores or consistently lags behind other hockey leagues in adopting protections for players in accordance with current medical knowledge of concussions. Instead, the NHL continues to glorify and empower players known as “enforcers” — players with the singular intention of injuring the opposing team.
Bettman’s response was terse: “We believe this is a lawsuit without merit.”
He was much happier to talk about the massive deal he did, the 12-year, C$5.232-billion media rights agreement that all but wiped TSN off the hockey-broadcasting map; threw Hockey Night in Canada’s long-term future into doubt (not to mention the CBC’s), and united the country’s curiosity around the vital question: what about Don Cherry?
Who, of course, spoke up on Saturday night, between periods. The lawsuit is, as far as he’s concerned, a moneygrab; nonsense; a moneygrab; ridiculous; a disgrace and — did he mention? — a moneygrab.
As for what might happen to Coach’s Corner, Cherry was clear in comparing himself to Bobby Orr and demanding something else that involved a … turnip truck, which he hadn’t fallen off. Continue reading
Toronto defenceman Mark Fraser told Jonas Siegel from TSN.ca about shot-blocking. “In the moment,” he said, “it’s just a reaction, you just do it. It’s hard to explain why, it’s just the ingrained craziness of a hockey player. Honestly. Some kinds literally do it with their face.”
Scotty Bowman talked this week about Gordie Howe, who turns 85 tomorrow. “He was a terrific player — size, strength, offence, defence, toughness, ability to score, ability to make plays. If you were going to make a model of a hockey player for every category, you wouldn’t be able to get a model better than him.”
On Sunday, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman fired his coach, Guy Boucher. “Guy is a good man,” said Yzerman. “He’s a good hockey coach. He’s an intelligent guy. He’s a hard worker. It just isn’t working.”
“It was a bit shocking,” said Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, “but we have to have a short memory and move forward. This was a good character test for us.”
Mark Streit of the New York Islanders told reporters this week that his team would try to take “time and space” away from Sidney Crosby — leaving him, I guess, no dimensions in which to operate.
Turns out Alexei Kovalev didn’t retire so much as the Florida Panthers retired him. Having signed up with the Panthers in January, Kovalev, who’s 40, played 14 games for them. He scored two goals, assisted on three others. Then in February the team told him to stay home. “They never really explained to me.” At a Montreal Canadiens alumni game, he told reporters he hopes to play in Europe next season. “I’m not ready for this kind of event. I feel that I can still play the real game.”
On Monday, the media in Calgary waited to talk to Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla to ask him are you being traded?/where to?/how do you feel?/sad?/is it Los Angeles?/any anger, at all?/do you wish you’d won the Stanley Cup?/probably Chicago, then?/why didn’t you win the Stanley Cup?/are you bitter?/does it sting?/will you miss us?/Boston?/what will you miss the most?/Pittsburgh isn’t out of the question, is it?
“Iginla declines to talk with media after Flames’ morning skate,” tweeted Scott Burnside from ESPN.
Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero traded for Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. “Analytics doesn’t come in to this for me. You can’t measure the heart, the character, the fit on your team you’re looking for.”
“Sad to see Crank go,” San Jose’s Logan Couture twittered about Murray’s departure.
“The more you watch Jake Gardiner,” said former Leafs’ assistant general manager Bill Watters, “the more you see a young Red Kelly.” Continue reading
Sidney Crosby said the headaches are behind him.
Having gone from working in a windshield factory to winning the Stanley Cup in just 11 years, the new coach in Calgary, Bob Hartley, said he has no fear. “For me, I never lose. I just don’t always win.”
Asked how his team would start the new season, Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette endorsed going out and ripping the door off its hinges over just feeling around.
In Calgary, Flames’ captain Jarome Iginla discussed his groin. “I didn’t feel it,” he said after practice mid-week, “and it felt way better than last week. Last week, it didn’t feel very good at all.”
A Maclean’s columnist called Edmonton defenceman Ryan Whitney’s feet “God-botched.” Whitney said he was proud to still be in the NHL, even if he didn’t have what he once had. He said his dad recently told him that even on one foot he could move the puck, because he’d always been able to do that, like Larry Murphy.
Among Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul’s insights from playing for Avtomobilist in the KHL during the lockout: Russian women are absolutely gorgeous; Russian players shake hands every morning in the dressing room; people speaking Russian always sound like they’re mad, even when they’re happy.
In New Jersey, Ilya Kovalchuk laughed when asked whether Vladimir Putin had offered him lots of money to remain in Russia. “That’s not true,” he said.
Claude Giroux, the Flyers’ new captain, gave Scotts Hartnell and Laughton a beating at Scrabble, #gotbeatbyafrenchie.
Chris Kelly of the Boston Bruins reported that when you’re walking around the French part of Switzerland and you don’t know the language, it gets kind of lonely.
Bad luck injured Montreal centre Tomas Plekanec: in the Czech Republic he was trying to pass the puck and, quote, instantly felt there was something wrong with his body.
Prospect Louis Leblanc, who wasn’t invited to the Canadiens’ shortened training camp, didn’t hide his disappointment.
Sorry, Joe Sakic, but Colorado centre Matt Duchene said Hejdie has the best shot in Avalanche history. Milan Hejdie. Hejduk.
Anaheim’s 42-year-old winger Teemu Selanne said he usually likes to drive his four kids to hockey practice — “but this year it’s going to be different. I’ve got to rest.”
In Detroit, winger Tomas Holmstrom was called a goalie menace and a folk hero as, about to turn 40, he announced his retirement. Coach Mike Babcock called him a star, the best at what he did: stand in front of the other team’s net on the powerplay. Jonathan Franzen would be taking that job, now. “Mule, net-front, is as good as anybody,” Babcock said. A week earlier, he’d phoned Niklas Lidstrom, 42, in Sweden to wonder whether he wanted to unretire and play the season for the Wings. No. All in all, though, it was a heck of a week, Babcock thought. He’d expected more injuries.
In Lidstrom’s absence, Henrik Zetterberg was named the team’s new captain. He said his dad was proud. Pavel Datsyuk said, “He deserve it. He leader in locker room, out of locker room. It’s hit to target.”
Of Todd Bertuzzi’s groin, Babcock said, “Bert felt some tightness.”
Nashville centreman Mike Fisher wondered whether they’ll ever find Bigfoot, #headscratcher.