Tag-Archive for ◊ National Hockey League ◊

27 Jun 2011 Avs Report: The Good, the Bad and the Potentially Ugly

Well, the 2001 draft has come and gone and this goddess has some mixed feelings about her hometown Avalanche. This is actually good —  for the first time in a number of years they’ve done some things that have needed to be done and I’m not left swearing off hockey for a couple of months while I accept the fact that the Avs will suck yet again.

First and foremost, the Avs picked a solid, scoring winger that is ready to play in the NHL right now.  How many years in a row have I bemoaned the fact that the Avs have become a holding ground for a homogenous group of North Americans, waiting for them to develop, fall out of favor or be traded?  How many drafts have I anxiously awaited the arrival of a skilled European to give us the diversity every team needs to succeed?  Well, we finally got it with the big Swede Gabriel Landeskog.  I’m not alone when I say that the Avs desperately needed this piece of the puzzle – a big left winger with wonderful hands.  And don’t forget our second pick Duncan Siemens who they’re calling a “throwback defenseman” for his stay-at-home, crushing mentality.  Goodbye Liles, hello real defense!

That is the good.

The bad?  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that ol’ Kroenke clearly meets the  criteria for that role – especially when you have a team that is costing you $28 million in salary and you are $36 million under the cap.  That’s right, folks.  The owner of the NHL Rams, soccer legend Arsenault, the Pepsi Center and numerous other teams and business ventures, can’t seem to spend any of his hard earn cash on the team that has given so much to him and his fortune.  It might be excusable if he were struggling for cash flow but the money is there in abundance.  So why is Kroenke refusing to open his wallet?

That, my friends, could be the ugly in all this.  The Avs have money.  The Avs need a goalie.  There are no legitimate goalies available (I will shoot myself if we get another struggling goalie such as Vokoun as people are speculating) and the Avs’ don’t even have a semi-developed goalie ready to step in.  This may mean that the Avs are banking their money and a couple of stellar players for a trade to acquire a big time netminder.  Ugly because while they desperately need a bona fide goalie, I’m not sure I’m ready to say good-bye to Stastny, Duchene Johnson, or whomever else it would take.

The solution?  With the CBA ending this year and next year being a potential strike year, maybe they just call up one of those youngsters and give them a shot. If they’re lucky, they end up with an up-and-coming breaking out into the league.  At this point, they’re better off going with an unknown than with a mediocre known quantity.  If it doesn’t work out so well, they can snag a well-known name after this year.  Lord knows there will certainly be enough cash flow for it.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the best way out of the pickle the Avs have gotten themselves into.  So maybe we can end up with The Good, The Bad and – the Not So Ugly.  Could be worse, I guess.

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14 Feb 2011 Reaping the Whirlwind
Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux

Statement from Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, in the wake of a game Feb. 12 in which his team and the New York Islanders combined for 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts, leading to suspensions for three players (two from NYI, one from Pittsburgh), and a $100,000 fine for the Islanders:

“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed.
“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.

“We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.

“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”

Hypocrisy is such an ugly thing. Especially from someone who we’re supposed to admire. But it just goes to reinforce the lesson that greatness on the playing field or on the ice often does not translate to the real world.

Mario Lemieux dares to speak of “protecting the intregrity of the game” when the team he owns leads the NHL in penalty minutes (1,113), majors (63) and penalty minutes per game (19.2),

He has the unmitigated gall to speak of the safety of the players when he employs the biggest cheap shot artist in the game, Matt Cooke.

Mario Lemieux weeps his crocodile tears about “travesty” and a “sideshow” while Marc Savard sits at home in a darkened room and wonders if he’ll ever live a normal life again, let alone play the game he loves.

I don’t for a moment condone what the Islanders did. But I can understand it. You get abused often enough, eventually you’re going to fight back. Unfortunately the Islanders brought a gun to a knife fight, but the brawl(s) never would have happened at all if the Penguins hadn’t laid the groundwork, not only with the Islanders, but with the entire league. Mario Lemieux can point a finger at the Islanders and the NHL all he wants, but the person he really needs to be pointing at resides in his mirror.  And if he really wants to take his stick and his puck and go home, there’s just one thing to say: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, Mario.

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” – Hosea 8:7.

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06 Feb 2011 Return of Peter the Great

Peter Forsberg in March 2008 during his last comeback.

Pinch me.  I must be dreaming.  For the Avalanche just announced that my all-time favorite hockey player is returning to the NHL.

That’s right.  Peter Forsberg has just signed with the Colorado Avalanche for the remainder of the year.

How many times have I sat in my office looking at the almost life-size adhesive image of him that clings to the wall behind my door, wishing I could see him just one more time?   How many times have I sighed wistfully as I reach across my McFarlane action figure of the infamous number 21 to turn on my computer?

Anyone who has ever watched the game of hockey respects the talent he holds.  To this day he is still probably the most skilled, all-around player ever to step on the ice.  And we are lucky we get to see him one more time.

Peter was an icon here in Colorado.  The newspapers were always abuzz about him. They profiled his house up in Genesee, reported on the rare girlfriend he might have at the time and even covered his move to his downtown penthouse condo.  If you was lucky, you might see him and his bff Dan Hinote at local country bar Stampede or at a Cherry Creek restaurant, an experience that you could brag to your friends about for months.

Peter Forsberg and Goddess Sasha c. 2003

I’ll never forget the day I met Peter and had my picture taken with him.  My husband and I were down in the family waiting area with Cody McCormick’s dad, waiting for him to come out of the Avalanche locker room after a game against the Rangers.  Cody’s dad was playful nudging me to ask players like Joe Sakic for a picture.  I was far too embarrassed to ask a player I had never met for a picture.  It just wasn’t something I did.  Until Peter emerged.  I wanted to ask but I was frozen, unable to move.  Luckily, my shy husband took the initiative and asked Peter for a picture with me.

I still have that picture — Peter leaning in and smiling big.  I think I’ve shown it to almost everyone I know. Yes, I’m a Peter Forsberg fangirl and proud of it!

Now, in just over a week if all goes well, I’ll be spending Valentines Day with my husband AND Peter — at the Colorado Avalanche/Calgary Flames game here in Denver.  What more could a girl ask for?

Photos: Peter Forsberg by Goddess Sasha. Copyright 2008. Peter Forsberg and Goddess Sasha by Chris McCormick.  Copyright 2003.  All Rights Reserved.

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07 Dec 2010 Sometimes, a Hit is Just a Hit

Imagine an NFL quarterback dropping back for a pass. He scans the field, looking for an open receiver, as defensive linemen and linebackers struggle mightily to flush him out of the pocket. Finally one breaks through and slams the quarterback to the ground for the sack.

And then an offensive lineman punches the linebacker in the face.

Ridiculous, you say? Well, something akin to that has been going on with increasing regularity in the NHL in the past few years, as it seems more and more often players are responding to a solid check on a teammate by dropping the gloves and pummeling (or being pummeled by) the “offending” player.

This has got to stop. Since when did a clean check become a fighting offense? Why does Mark Stuart have to protect himself when Anze Kopitar gets caught with his head down? Watch…

The worst part of this whole episode is that Stuart broke his finger in that unecessary fight, had to have surgery, developed an infection and missed months of action. He returned for the playoffs but obviously wasn’t himself. All because of some stupid, misguided “code of honor” or some damned thing.

It’s one thing if it’s a dirty hit. If a stick goes high, or it’s knee-to-knee, or a head shot. And I realize that to players on the ice, the action is lightning-fast and at times a clean hit can appear dirty. But the majority of these “sticking up for my teammate” retaliatory attacks are unwarranted. Players don’t need their teammates running around like assassins trying to “protect” them from one of the basic parts of the game – rough, physical play. If a guy’s that delicate, he shouldn’t be playing professional sports in the first place.

Fans need to realize this too. It’s amazing the amount of comments you see on Internet chat sites about this. Oddly enough, it’s most often the posters who advocate for “old-time hockey” who insist that guys should throw down if an opposing player so much as breathes hard on one of theirs.

Just as an example, there were Bruins fans howling for T.J. Oshie’s head when he hit David Krejci a few weeks ago along the boards. Let’s take a look…

I love Krejci, but I saw nothing wrong with that hit. Krejci suffered his concussion because he banged his head on the dasher, not because of the hit itself. Oshie did nothing wrong.

I have nothing against fighting in hockey. There’s a time and a place for it, and sticking up for a teammate is certainly one of those times. But picking a fight because someone gets hurt playing a dangerous game is ridiculous. And fans have to stop insisting on that response, or else start following gentler sports, like tennis.

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21 Aug 2010 Semin in ‘Small’ Wreck and More Russian Hockey News

Semin's car accident - lifesports.ru

Semin's car accident - lifesports.ru

Washington Capitals star Alexander Semin got in a very small car accident last week in Krasnoyarsk — reportedly, his car was slightly hit by another. Semin said he even hadn’t realized what had happened. No one was hurt.

Here’s a small video in which a person tries to learn what has happened and is told not to take the video – Semin car accident

More Hockey News — Straight Outta Russia …

  • Former Thrasher Maxim Afinogenov scored for SKA Saint Petersburg at a summer tournament in Switzerland. As for his return to Russia, Afinogenov said: “I realized – it’s time to go back home.” He promised not to change his style of play and to stay himself. Max also said he’s living in the same hotel as former San Jose Sharks netminder Evgeny Nabokov, noting that they often go out together. And, finally, Max insists he’s forgotten about the NHL already.

  • One of Russia’s most talented young players, Nikita Filatov, is going back to Columbus. Again. Filatov promised to work hard and to play his brand of hockey.

  • Little Viktor Tikhonov is going to move his way into Phoenix and the NHL. His agent admitted — it’s the main goal for Viktor.

  • Slava Kozlov will be waiting for offers from the NHL til the end, but if he doesn’t get them, “we’ll start talks with him,” said CSKA president Slava Fetisov.

  • Finally, the ‘unfriendly ghost’ and current SKA coach Darius Kasparaitis has got a son! His girlfriend gave birth to their son in Saint Petersburg. Kasparaitis already has three daughters.

    via Russian press

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  • 22 Jul 2010 What’s Happening to My Avs?

    Not even Alexander Ovechkin could help fill the Pepsi Center last season

    Today I saw a car with an Avs flag flying at half-mast.  I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but it was rather fitting.  Yes, many Avalanche fans are in mourning for our team.

    Why, you might ask?

    Well, while the rest of you were getting excited about prospect camp, taking pictures and watching the final scrimmage, us Avalanche fans were sitting quietly at home twiddling our thumbs.  While you were anxiously watching the news wire for free agent signings by your team, we were napping.  And while you were being wooed to renew or buy more season tickets, we were already making plans as to how we would spend the money that we used to spend on season tickets, our phones silent as no one from the organization even called to ask why we didn’t renew this year.

    Yep. The Avalanche organization has simply stopped caring.  How, you ask?  Let me count the ways.

    First, there’s the development camp.  Apparently, according to the organization, the team had an “off-ice orientation” for the prospects.  Excuse me, but has anyone ever heard of such an “orientation” before?  An orientation where they ask all their prospects to interrupt their off-season training to come hang out for a few days and get “oriented” without stepping on the ice once?  How stupid does the organization think we really are?  If I were a betting woman, I’d say that we were being lied to, and that the Avs were having a development camp that is closed to the public and hence hush hush.  Of course there is the slight possibility that they really were having just an off-ice orientation, in which case they really have thrown in the towel.  Yes, while teams like the Caps, and even the God-awful Islanders were pulling in fans by the thousands we Avs fans could only read about other team’s camps with envy.

    But wait!  That’s not all!  No, not only do you get a team who doesn’t take advantage of a great marketing opportunity, but you get a team that shows no interest in improving next year.  That’s right, folks.  No free agent signings, no help for a goalie who got the team to the playoffs almost completely on his own and no new, talented players for the fans to go watch.  In fact, the Avs have done so little that they actually haven’t even reached the cap floor!  The organization claims they’re “building from within” like the Red Wings, but let me tell you I’ve seen what’s coming up in the system and we have no Datsyuk or Zetterberg in our system to build around.  Hmm.  Maybe that’s why they didn’t have a camp.  They didn’t want the fans to see what kind of talent we really did (or didn’t) have.

    Unfriendly policies have discouraged fans from attending Avalanche games.

    Finally, you’ve all heard me bitching about the treatment of season ticket holders but it begs repeating – those of us that have cancelled our season ticket haven’t gotten so much as a simple call asking us why or to reconsider.   Perhaps it’s because it was seen as a waste of resources, or perhaps it’s because they just don’t care.

    Of course, if this were Phoenix or another small-market, you might suspect that the organization was in financial trouble and just couldn’t afford the marketing, but alas, Kroenke Entertainment has more investments than you can shake a stick at, including the NFL Rams, Arsenal, Nuggets, a soccer stadium, a new ticket agency and whatever else I might be missing.  Doesn’t look like struggling ownership to me.

    Which leads me back to my original hypothesis:  That the organization just doesn’t care.  And if that’s the case, why should we fans?

    I suppose it’s too early to say R.I.P., but I’ll say it anyway.  Maybe the team will survive, or maybe it will be sold and shipped off to Winnipeg.  Stranger things have happened.

    Photos:  Alexander Ovechkin and Pepsi Center by Goddess Sasha. 2009-2010.  All rights reserved.

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    20 Jul 2010 Kovy’s Contract Rejected — Why?
    Ilya Kovalchuk

    The NHL says Kovalchuk's contract is 'illegal' -- how can this be? Hasn't precedent been set? (see: Hossa, Ricky D, Bobby Lou, et. al)

    File this under “things that make you go ‘hmmm…’”

    It’s quite intriguing that the National Hockey League has decided to put its foot down with the Ilya Kovalchuk contract. There are several contracts similar to his, though not as long. I doubt they have a legal leg to stand on. Even if the New Jersey Devils and Kovalchuk himself knows this contract was written in such a way as to circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement, how can they prove intent? Is it that he’ll be 44 years old when the contract expires and, basically, nobody (let’s say 0.005 percent of players) plays past 40-ish?

    Even so, how do you prove intent to circumvent? And even if you do prove it, if the current CBA has that loophole, how do you retroactively close it? And where do you draw the line? Fifteen years was OK for the Islanders’ Rick DiPietro. Marian Hossa signed a big front-loaded contract. Robert Luongo is on a monster deal. Where is the line? Why bring the hammer down at this point?

    I am very curious as to how the league thinks it can get away with this randomness — either you can or you can’t do something under a contract. And, while I am not a lawyer, if those other contracts were not in violation, how can this one be?

    The Kovalchuk drama continues!  He always was a diva — this somehow fits.  (No really … don’t you think?)

    What are your thoughts?

    Photo:  Ilya Kovalchuk by Getty Images.

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    25 Jun 2010 Live Blogging the NHL Entry Draft: Mr. Goddess (!)

    Hello!  I am a guest blogger, standing in for Goddess Kaatiya.  And, yes, I am a man.  Strong men can be goddesses too, without fear — except of their goddess wives.  Ha!  So, since her sister is having a baby as I type, I will stand in for Kaat and proudly be Mr. Goddess for tonight.  Here goes nothing  …

    *  NHL Entry Draft begins with welcomes as always

    * I think I see Goddess Sasha and Mr. Sasha!

    * Pierre Mcguire is annoying!  Too bad he knows alot about hockey.

    * Was that an audio problem or were they dubbing out obscenities?

    * Number one pick for best hair- Taylor Hall!

    * Yell really loud Edmonton fans!  They can hear you in LA!

    * Gary Bettman is so exciting.  Wake me up when he is finished.

    * Healthy snacks on the Edmonton table.  Plenty of fiber in those bananas.  These guys are going to be running to the toilet all night!

    * Number one pick for best hockey player- Taylor Hall.

    * No surprise with pick No. 2

    * Any event in LA requires a shot of the Hollywood sign.

    * I like the Florida Panthers approach.  No greetings or BS, just make the pick!

    * What is Columbus waiting for?

    * Johansen to Columbus.  I saw this guy going to Atlanta on several mock drafts.

    * Keith Ballard to Vancouver.  Watch out Luongo, Ballard likes to club his own goaltender after giving up a goal.

    * Alyssa Milano- an encyclopedia of hockey knowledge.

    * Nino Niederreiter- does Pierre Mcguire have something against Swiss players?  “He may from Switzerland, but he does not have holes in him like Swiss cheese.”  Give me a break Pierre!

    * Brett Connolly to Tampa Bay.  I could say something about Pierre’s commentary but I won’t.

    * Let’s get excited Caniacs, your pick is Jeff Skinner!

    * Thrashers are on deck.  Why is Waddell on the phone?  I thought Dudley was calling the shots.

    * Alexander Burmistrov to the Thrash.  Hope he is the next Kovalchuk!

    * Had to take a break for a couple of hours to entertain Annabelle.

    * Hey, a cool Minnesota Wild jersey!  Never thought I’s say that.

    * Dylan McIlrath- The Undertaker.  That is a great nickname.

    * Mark Messier is annoying as well.  I know he is a legend, but he rubs me the wrong way.

    * Joe Nieuwendyk- It is a crime he did not get selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    * The Dallas Stars pick a goaltender with their first pick.  Can’t trust that Kari Lehtonen will stay healthy.

    * It looks like Scott Niedermayer just rolled out of bed, put on his suit and did not bother to brush his hair.

    * Cam Fowler- American with a dad from Canada.  Is it just me or are there alot of Cams from Canada?

    * Don’t have much to say about the Coyotes or the Blues.

    * Being a geek myself, I know one when I see one.  Those Kings fans reacting to the trade with Florida are mega-geeks!

    * I’ll try to be more positive with my comments.

    * Bryan Murray makes me nervous.  Shifty eyes.

    * Vladimir Tarasenko – great pick by St. Louis.

    * I bet Goddess Sasha wanted Tarasenko in an Avs uniform.

    * Joey Hishon – don’t know anything about him.  TSN rank is 46th.  Reach?

    * Can Sidney Crosby just go away for the off-season?

    * Why is Sidney Crosby there?  He can’t even go up to the stage to welcome the new kid!

    * I’m trying to be more positive.

    * Tinordi — great pick by Montreal, I guess.

    * Kevin Hayes is going to kiss everyone in the arena.

    * Can’t wait until next season starts!  Thrashers are taking the cup!

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    25 Jun 2010 I Love L.A.: Live from the 2010 NHL Draft

    I Love L.A.!Well, day one of this goddess’ coverage of the 2010 NHL entry draft is over and the actual draft hasn’t begun.  It was a tiring day, after being up late last night, dealing with business this morning and then flying into Los Angeles and driving to our hotel downtown.

    We walked into the [hotel name not revealed] to a lobby filled with prospects, agents, families and God knows who else.  By the front desk was a young Russian prospect, sitting on a couch with a teenage girl on each side of him and his father (presumably) on a chair next to them.  Had I not been totally haggard from a delayed flight from Denver and an hour drive from LAX to downtown during rush hour, I would have been bold and asked who he was and taken pictures.

    Throughout the evening, we found ourselves in the company of team personnel, most notably the pack of Thrashers staff that we took the elevator with.  I was still a bit overwhelmed, so I was unable to come up with my usual witty one-liners to start a conversation.  Maybe tomorrow.

    We must be staying at the host hotel, as there are NHL Draft banners throughout the building as well as a schedule for the shuttle to the Staples Center.  The draft starts at 4:00 p.m. PT and doors open at 2:00 p.m., so tomorrow we’ll probably just hang out tomorrow after sleeping in.  If we get there early enough, we’ll meet up with a an old friend who, incidentally, happens to be the chief scout for an NHL organization.

    I’ll be tweeting from the HockeyGoddesses twitter account tomorrow as only a goddess can, so check it out at www.twitter.com/hockeygoddesses.

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    24 Jun 2010 Stanislav Galiev has one goal: The NHL
    Stanislav Galiev

    Stanislav Galiev and his mom have the NHL set in their sights

    Call me a bit biased, but there is no better wisdom than a mother’s.   And it could be that very wisdom that makes Stanislav Galiev the best Russian a team could place their pick on this draft.

    While other picks are surrounded by drama and uncertainty, Galiev has been quietly absent from controversy.  He doesn’t have a strong willed father or an uncontrolled ego.  Instead, he has his widowed mother who has been  protective while promoting what she thinks is best for her son.  She moved to the US after Stanislav’s first year here, then to Canada when he was drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.

    Both she and Stanislav have been very clear that his ultimate goal is the NHL, something that is strongly supported by his move to play in the USHL at only 16 years of age.  No games, no posturing:  Just honest sentiments from a family who has many reasons to want to live in the United States.  It’s good both for mom and son –  Stanislav, who can play in a league that suits his North American style, and for his mom as the quality of life for a single woman is by far superior in North America.

    On the playing front, Galiev may not be as big as Burmistrov, may not have as much flair as Tarasenko or may not have the touted talent of Kabanov, but he isn’t far behind in any of those categories.  Best known for his creative play and intelligence on the ice, Stanislav models himself after Alexander Semin.  His style of play, strength and power all lend himself to such comparisons.  However, most scouts have noted his exception defensive play, leading them to comparisons to Pavel Datsyuk.  Although he’s still physically young, needing to fill out, he’ll do so naturally as he progresses as an athlete.  With his talent and potential, there’s no rush as his 6’1” frame will gain the necessary mass.

    Playing in the shadow of Burmistrov, many people will be surprised to find that he’s ranked just eight spots behind his fellow Russian in the North American rankings at 20th and will most likely go in the first round.  His steady play, natural talent and gregarious and easy-going personality have placed him higher than many people had initially anticipated.  Yet make no bones about it, this kid is incredibly talented and is maturing as a player every day, having the potential to be one of the best in the best league in the world.

    So while this somewhat dark horse of a draft pick, like all Russians, is no guarantee to stay in North America and play in the NHL, if he listens to his mom, chances are pretty darn good.

    Photo:  Stanislav Galiev at Indy.com.

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    21 Jun 2010 Champagne Wishes and NHL Daydreams

    NHL logoExcitement for hockey fans tomorrow: The 2010-11 NHL schedule comes out. I love “schedule day” — you get a chance to daydream about road trips. You get to lament the injustice of too many back-to-back games. You get to plan the season. In short, you get to revel in the possibilities.

    This year, we’re getting to revel in the possibilities much earlier than usual, and I love it. The schedules have usually come out later in the summer, giving people less time to plan. I think the NHL is even beating the Kontinental Hockey League this year — and they start play earlier. Goddess Sasha and I are awaiting the release of the KHL schedule almost as eagerly, as we will be back in Moscow in the fall. Which teams will we get to see? Will my favorite player — need I mention his name? (Slava Kozlov) — be over there this year? Will I get really lucky and get to see Richard Zednik while we’re there? See, for me the daydreams have already begun.

    It’s that time of year for fans of all teams, when anything is possible. For us Thrashers fans, I think enough time has passed that the disappointment of not making the playoffs (again) last season has dissipated and we’re able to be hopeful (again!). The schedule, the draft, free agency, a new general manager, a new coach, a new staff! Thrashers fans: Dare to dream! Because, it’s that time of year when, gosh darn it, in spite of past and present problems, everything seems to be looking up.

    Image: NHL logo from NHL.com.

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    12 Jun 2010 NHL Prospect Zaytsev not so ‘Green’
    Nikita Zaytsev

    Russia's Nikita Zaytsev is wowing NHL scouts.

    He’ll never be an Alexander Ovechkin or an Ilya Kovalchuk.  Heck, he won’t even be a Maxim Afinogenov or a Ruslan Fedotenko.  After all, in 40 games for Sibir of the Kontinental Hockey League he had no goals and just one assist.  But given a chance, he just might just join the ranks of Slava Fetisov and Sergei Zubov.  That’s because Nikita Zaytsev is a defenseman.

    Amidst all the hype of the Russians in this year’s draft, baby-faced Zaytsev has flown under the radar of most fans.  In fact, even sports writers have misrepresented him.  One article from NHL.com headlines a story saying that he patterns himself after Mike Green, based on Nikita’s statement that he thought Green was one of the most exciting defensemen to watch.  Certainly not something many of us who value defensive defensemen find all that appealing.

    However, one only needs look at his international statistics to see what kind of player he really is.  A +7 with 5 points, 4 being assists, at the U18 Worlds a year ago show the caliber of Rob Blake, rather than a Mike Green.  Talk to his teammates and opponents both internationally and in Russia and they will tell you that his defensive zone play is impeccable.  His speed, skill and hockey intelligence are already proving him to be one of the top in the KHL, making him a tough opponent — all this from a kid who is only 18 years old playing against men twice his age and with the twice the experience.  I know, what else would you expect from a Russian-lover like me?  Still, I’m not the only one excited about him.  He may be flying under the average NHL fan’s radar, but the scouts are definitely talking.

    Not only does he have the skill and speed of a seasoned professional, but he is quickly adding size and strength to his overall resume.  Despite only being 176 lbs at 6’ 1”, he scored in the top six at the NHL combine in both jump tests and bench press (including the push test), demonstrating all-around power and strength.  Not bad for a skilled, agile defenseman who still has some growing to do.  These numbers, no doubt, did not go unrecognized by many of the organizations.

    As a Colorado Avalanche fan I can only dream of landing such a fantastic prospect.  Unfortunately, though, the Avs will probably be drafting another tiny offensive defenseman.  It’s really too bad, because this kid has all the tools to become one of the great all-around defensemen in the NHL.

    With Rob Blake retiring this year, someone needs to step in and be that type of player in the league.  Nikita Zaytsev just might be the one.

    Photo: Nikita Zaytsev by Elena Rusko (rusko.fishup.ru), Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

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    10 Jun 2010 Hossa and Stanley: United at Last

    Marian Hossa

    Leave a kiss but in the Cup ... Hoss, forget not thy first time.

    Maybe the headline should have read “Hockey Gods, er, Goddesses Lift ‘Hossa Curse’”? Nah! Too easy.

    Readers of this blog no doubt know of my great love and admiration for Marian Hossa. I’ve believed for years he didn’t deserve all the crap he’s taken from Pittsburgh Penguins fans who somehow feel he jilted them (get over it, you had him for three months!) and Detroit Red Wings fans who derided him as nothing but a mercenary (maybe that’s true, but it was his right — right?). It’s us Atlanta Thrashers fans who could really make a case for being the jilted ones. The ones he up and left as soon as the gettin’ was good.

    But I’ve never thought of him that way. As I talked about in a previous entry, Hossa gave Atlanta many good years — years he never asked for (please recall he signed a long-term deal with the Ottawa Senators and was traded the same day for Dany Heatley — after being denied a no-trade clause). While he was in Atlanta, he became a huge fan favorite and, in my observation, got a heck of a lot more love on many days than did the ultimate Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk.

    So with a tiny bit of sadness, I watched Hossa finally raise the Stanley Cup. I am happy for him. Short of some horrible misdeed, I will always cheer for him. I just wish, as I cheered him, he would still be wearing that glorious (!) Thrasher blue. Cheers Marian!

    Photo: Marian Hossa by Getty Images.

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    08 Jun 2010 Video: What Makes Kovy Tick?

    Not so long ago, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Ilya Kovalchuk was one of the subjects of a television program here in Russia called “Millionaires on Ice.” Will he stay in North America? Will he come home to Russia? This clip gives some interesting insights into Kovalchuk the player, as well as Kovalchuk the personality.

    Below is the video, along with my translation.

    ***

    Translation by Goddess Thorkhild.

    ***

    Ilya Kovalchuk: I have a lot of American acquaintances, but as for friends or people with whom I communicate with, they are very few. Because the mentality is different anyway.

    At IIHF Worlds in Quebec in 2008 our hockey players won the title for the first time in 15 years. We won’t have this victory without Ilya Kovalchuk. The decisive final seemed to be lost to Canada. But 5 minutes before the end of 3d period Kovalchuk scored and equalized. 4-4. And in the overtime the precise shot by Ilya was the golden.

    In the hot American state of Georgia, Ilya Kovalchuk arrived from Tver in 2001. He was just 18, and he went to Atlanta alone. His father, who had always accompanied his son, refused to fly with him this time. He thought Ilya wasn’t mature enough for the NHL, but he proved the opposite. He became the most recognizable player on the Atlanta Thrashers at once.

    Ilya Kovalchuk: [At first] I always wanted to go home, and during the first two or three years after the final whistle, I took my things and ran away from here and flew to Moscow –- I missed my friends and parents.

    Lyubov Kovalchuk: When he goes to Tver, he immediately phones [asking] “mom, will I have potato with mushrooms?” You will, you will.

    The Americans at once shortened the surname “Kovalchuk” to a name short and convenient for them: “Kovy.” Ilya got used to that rather fast. But he is still grated by relations among people in America.

    Ilya Kovalchuk

    Ilya Kovalchuk

    Ilya Kovalchuk: [Here] you go to the restaurant — you pay for yourself, and you pay for yourself. It’s unacceptable for us, right? What a man would let a lady pay for him?

    His father taught him to skate. Valery Nikolaevich taught his son to work till exhaustion on hockey tricks and shots. Since age 15 Ilya trained in Tver in the mornings, and went to Moscow in the evenings to play for Spartak’s junior team. In Atlanta Kovalchuk plays wearing number 17, on Team Russia he wears number 71. On Team Russia, the number 17 is retired forever in memory of the legendary Valery Kharlamov. He is Kovalchuk’s idol. Professionals notice -– Ilya, like Valery once did, is able to take the game on himself and to decide the result of any game. If you’re compared with Kharlamov you’re a true superstar.

    After three years of bachelor life in America Kovalchuk decided to marry a Russian only. Nicole is half Lithuanian, half Russian. In 2003 she sang with the pop group Mirage. Then she met Ilya. They had common friends. Nicole still sings.

    Nicole: In the shower, in the car, for the children, to the smallest I sing lullabies, of course.

    Ilya and Nicole married in church in Moscow in Novodevichiy Monastery.

    Nicole:: Yes, it happened after three years after our first meeting, after birth of Carolina. You know, I never asked “When will it happen? Let’s get married.” I think the man should come to this decision himself.

    Ilya Kovalchuk: My mom and dad lived together for 30-35 years, and they had such a united family, that’s why they grew us in the same way. So I knew that if I was making such a step, I should do it only once in my life.

    Ilya Kovalchuk: I have my family, I have my small world in Atlanta, because I try not to get scattered, and to pay as much time as possible to my family, wife and children.

    Nicole thinks that the main thing for a hockey player’s wife is a skill to have patience and wait. But then the meetings are especially joyful.

    At IIHF Worlds in Switzerland in the final game against Canada team Russia hardly scored to lead in the second period. To keep such a tiny lead during the rest of the game is almost unreal. Our team was exhausting in front of us. And only Kovalchuk hardly the ice. He literally brought team Russia to the first place on his mighty shoulders.

    Lyubov Kovalchuk: And in the end there was his gesture, he showed, I said “you weren’t so happy this year as last time.” He said, “mom, I was flat-out.”

    Ilya’s father didn’t see the beautiful victory of his son. In 2005 Valery Nikolaevich died from a painful disease. He wasn’t even 60. Ilya still hardly perceives his father’s death.

    Lyubov Kovalchuk: When Ilya started to practice, his father started a diary. The famous phrase which is often quoted now, is written in the beginning of the diary, “Our goal is the national team.”

    When his father died, Ilya offered to move his mother to Atlanta. But she refused categorically.

    Lyubov Kovalchuk: Why don’t I want to live with him constantly? I must have my own life.

    In this Tver hospital she works already for 30 years. She gets to work by tram at 8 a.m., though she could have the most expensive car. Patients do not have any idea that she is the mother of a millionaire and a Russian superstar from the NHL Ilya Kovalchuk. It is not accepted to brag about fortune at the Kovalchuk’s.

    Photo: Ilya Kovalchuk by Goddess Kaatiya. Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

        7 Comments


    05 Jun 2010 Surely You’re Joking. No, and Don’t Call me Shirley!

    Chris Pronger

    Flyers D-man Chris Pronger works his magic in a room full of lights, cameras and stupid questions.

    Not only am I a big supporter of the boys of the junior ranks; but for the last 30+ years I’ve been a fangirl of the big boys too. For the most part, I’ve leaned towards the good guys like Nicklas Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne and of course my beloved Captain Canuck aka Trevor Linden. But once in a while I would go for someone who didn’t fit that mold … he did what he damn well felt like and f*@% you if you don’t like it. For a long time, that was Mark Messier … well until he went to New York and started a reign of terror over my Trevor, but that is another story for another day. The last couple of years, though, someone piqued my interest. Someone whom I never ever thought I’d find interesting — until he became a member of one of my teams. That man is Chris Pronger.

    Christopher Robert Pronger has been on the radar for quite some time but as we came more and more into the Internet age; things that you wouldn’t read about other than in local papers or see on ESPN/TSN for 30 seconds would cross the globe (especially for those of us in the Pacific Time Zone). What kept my attention on him was the whole “Pronger wants to be traded” thing that got started in Edmonton after the Oilers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. There were all sorts of stories concocted from the actual reason that was given by the man himself which was “personal reasons,” to his getting a local celebrity knocked up; and the one that most of the media ran with, which was that his wife hated life there. I’ve been to Edmonton. Sure, it’s not the mecca that St. Louis is; but it’s not that bad. You just have to like miles and miles of flat land and build your kids’ Halloween costumes around snow suits that look like the little brother in “A Christmas Story.” Other than that, it seems like a very lovely town.

    Once the Oilers found a buyer for their disgruntled boy, he went to a place that might possibly be the photo negative of Edmonton and that is Southern California. I wasn’t sure what to think when he was traded to the Ducks. I was happy to have a player of his caliber on my team; but I wasn’t sure what sort of mischief he was going to get himself into. What we found out is that, yeah, he’s really good at what he does but part of what he does is knock people around. He is also kind of an ass sometimes. Sometimes, though, you are willing to accept the “con” of his being an ass, for the “pro” of what else he can bring to the team. Namely, he is a player who is not only skilled at what he does, but he was willing to step into a leadership role, taking over the captaincy of the Ducks while Scottie Nieds made up his mind about retirement.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say, and may get rotten fruit thrown at me for saying it, is that Chris Pronger doesn’t owe anything to anyone; and least of all the media. As a professional, he has missed the post season only four times; and one of those was because no one else in the league was working. During those playoff runs, three separate teams in the last five years went to the Stanley Cup Finals, with one winning it all — and the team he’s on this year has a good chance.

    And for a very large defenseman, he’s scored a fairly respectable 661 points in a little more than 1,100 games, as well as being a six-time All-Star and owning one of those cute little copies of the Hart and the Norris Trophies. On top of that, he’s helped Team Canada win a World Championship and two Olympic gold medals. What more do you want from the man?

    It amuses me reading different blogs and watching various sports shows. It appears that the media, both here and on the northern side of the 49th parallel, expect that since he’s a veteran and a Stanley Cup champion that he’s in the same vein of interview as Sidney Crosby or Johnny Toews. Well, kids, he ain’t. He never has, never will be; and for God’s sake stop having the nerve to look so surprised.

    Photo: Chris Pronger from The Associated Press/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

        2 Comments


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