Is This The End of The NHL Olympic Hockey?

As it stood, Vancouver 2010 was the last time the NHL was “supposed” to be sending NHL players to the Olympics.  Sure, they are going to attend Sochi for this years Olympics, but only because top stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Evengi Malkin called out the NHL and said regardless of their decision, they would be attending the games in their homeland of Russia.  With enough Russian players playing in the NHL, they had no choice but to head to Sochi for 2014 or face a mass exodus of Russian born hockey players for 2 weeks.

However, the 2018 Winter Games are being slated for South Korea and there is no deal in place at the moment to send NHL players to compete for Olympic gold in men’s hockey.  And I for one, don’t think there will be.

South Korea is not known for it’s hockey players.  I can’t think of a single player in the NHL whose heritage is Korean.  So the NHL will not be bullied into going to the 2018 games since only the fans will put pressure on the league.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman barely bows down to his players and even less to it’s fans, so I doubt that would have any effect.  After all, the NHL HATES the Olympics.

But why does the NHL hate Olympic hockey?

Number 1 money.  As far as the NHL is concerned, it’s lost revenue.  Their players are playing for someone else and not making the NHL any money.  As well the league has to virtually shut down during the Olympics and cannot gain any revenue for over two weeks.

Another factor is injuries and insurance.  Even though the game isn’t as physical in the international realm or with the more open ice, injuries still happen.  Especially small injuries like groin pulls.  It happens every Olympics.  Some of the best players get injured and miss the last 20 games of the season or even worse the playoffs.  The leagues best players are represented in the Olympics and the best players are also at risk of injury.

Even though there is a risk and a loss of revenue, the NHL should think twice about not attending future Winter Olympics.  Right now Hockey is considered to be North America’s 4th largest sport.  The NHL is constantly trying to grow the game and revenues.  This can be witnessed by them starting the season with some teams playing in Europe or any of the outdoor style games.  You’d think that the Olympics would only raise interest in the game of hockey on an international level.

But it seems that Gary Bettman just doesn’t get it.  After all he is the man that’s been at the helm of the NHL for far too long and just doesn’t seem to understand what fans want.  Whether it’s trying to break into an American market that just doesn’t want a team or ignoring Canadian markets that do, Bettman only works for the team owners.  And the team owners do not want to see their players risk anything outside of their teams clubhouse.

Olympic hockey, I’ll enjoy you this year, because it might just be your last.

 

Countdown To Sochi Hockey

Sochi 2014

The countdown is on.  As the NHL winds down for a mid season break, everyone is starting to put focus on Olympic hockey.  Soon NHLers will be reuniting with their countrymen and hitting the ice in the quest for gold.

As it plays out right now, Canada is always a contender for the gold medal in Hockey, but with the Olympics being in Russia this year, you know guys like Pavel Datsyuck, Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin are just chomping at the bit to bring the gold to home ice.  After all, if they don’t, I’m sure Putin will put the whole team into a Gulag somewhere in the outskirts of Siberia.

Gold is never guaranteed in the Olympics for any country (even Canada).  You never know which european country can make for an upset or if the Americans have another Miracle on Ice up their sleeves!  So who’s going to stand out at this years Olympics?  Let’s try and break it down.

In my opinion all great championship teams are built from the goaltender out.  Without a great goaltender, you automatically become a mediocre hockey team, no matter how much offence you produce.   So which Men’s Hockey team is comprised of the greatest goalies?  As much as I hate to admit it, I think team USA is bringing the best Goalie squad.  Here are my top 3 teams based on goaltenders.

1. Team USA – Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard – For so long Canadians (mostly Quebecers) have been the premiere goaltenders.  Not any more!

2. Team Finland – Tuukka Rask, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi – Finland has always had slightly better than average goaltenders, but the addition of Tuukka Rask to the team kicks them up several notches.

3. Team Canada – Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith – Canada used to have the elite goaltenders, but they have all become older and the younger ones just don’t have what guys like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur had.  As well, Luongo is always iffy when it comes to high level hockey and can easily blow a game.

Defenceman

Your goaltender always needs a little help.  Guys to slow down the forwards and keep shots to the outside.  Without good defence, your goalie doesn’t stand a chanche.  So which teams have the better team in terms of defence?

1.  Team Canada – Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Shea Weber – Big guys, punishing hits and explosive shots.  Team Canada stands out head and shoulders above the rest with this crew of defencemen.

2.  Team Sweden – Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, Henrik Tallinder – Guys like Karlsson, Kronwall and Oduya will set up a solid wall against anyone trying to score.

3.  Team USA – John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter – USA has a strong mix of defencemen.  Guys of all ages and each one brings a different element to the game.

Forwards

They say a good defence is a good offence.  You can’t win games without scoring goals and on the over sized Olympic hockey pad, their is more room for speed, creativity and getting yourself into open ice.  So which teams will take full advantage of this?

1.  Team Canada – Jamie Benn, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews – There is so much scoring ability on this team, it’s absurd.  So many gifted goal scorers where left off the roster, Team Canada could have easily sent over a second squad of players that could compete with this group.  The talent runs that deep!  Even though it’s unlikely Steven Stamkos will play, a replacement won’t be hard to find.

2.  Team Sweden – Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrik Berglund, Jimmie Ericsson, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Carl Hagelin, Marcus Kruger, Gabriel Landeskog, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jakob Silfverberg, Alexander Steen, Henrik Zetterberg – The Sedin’s have grace, Alferdsson is a leader, Steen a gifted scorer and Zetterberg is one of the best players to shovel home garbage goals.

3.  Team Russia – Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Denis Kokarev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Soin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereshenko, Viktor Tikhonov.  Guys like Datsyuk, Malkin, Kovalchuk and Ovechkin will give nightmares to goalies throughout the Olympics.  The squad is not as deep as others, but features some of the best forwards in the game today.

Thats my roundup.  When all is said and done, I think the Olympic podium for men’s hockey will consist of:

GOLD – Canada

Silver – Russia (Only because home ice is going to be a huge factor for these guys)

Bronze – Sweden

Loser of the Bronze medal game – Team USA

Those are my picks.  Love them or hate them, let’s see what happens in the next few weeks.

More Hockey Brawling

Well it seems that the hockey gods are a bit pissed off this month.  Maybe it’s all this cold weather that has everyone cranky!

This time, it was college hockey that brought us a huge brawl.  Saturday, Albany NY, played host to the Mayors Cup, a college hockey tournament.  Check out how it all ended between teams Union and RPI.

Yes, that’s right.  Even the coach wants a piece in this fight.  Check it out.  It’s a great watch.

 

Tortorella Gets 15 Day Suspension

Vancouver Canucks Coach John Tortorella

John Tortorella loses it on Calgary

Well it seems after John Tortorella met with Colin Campbell, it’s been decided that Tortorella would be suspended for 15 days after trying to confront Calgary coach Bob Hartley following the antics of their Saturday night game.

I understand the NHL wanting to crack down on this kind of behavior, but it seems silly that Bob Hartley gets off free, even though he instigated the whole mess to begin with.

But I guess that’s hockey.  Usually the aggressor walks away while whoever retaliates to a situation gets a penalty or suspension.

You never want to get a suspension in the NHL, but I think Tortorella did it for all the right reasons and by the end of it, hopefully the Vancouver Canucks are going to become even more of a “Team” knowing that their coach is %110 behind them.

Canuks and Flames Brawl It Out

John Tororella loses it on Calagary and refs

Give em hell Tortorella

As most of you sports junkies have probably seen already seen, Saturdays western conference game between the Vancouver Canuks and the Calgary Flames was a crazy one.

The game started out with Calgary coach Bob Hartley putting out his fourth line goon squad and Vancouver coach John Tortorella matching with his fourth line.  As soon as the puck dropped,  Calagary instantly went for the jugular and a brawl broke out amongst all the players.   What a wild ride.  Check it out in this video.

Of course things got even more outrageous as you might suspect.  Tortorella was obviously pissed with Hartleys decision (as he should have been).  If Tortorella had instead put his first line out and had the Sedin twins would Calgary have tried starting the game in the same fashion?  If so, Hartley should be punched in the head.  And it’s no wonder why Tortorella had some choice words for him and tried to make his way into the Flames dressing room during the first intermission to give Hartley a piece of his mind (or maybe a black eye).

This of course led to a review by the NHL.  As we speak Tortorella is in New York meeting with  Colin Campell to discuss if there will be any repercussions from the NHL.

Sure there is fighting in Hockey and I am not one of those people to speak against it, but what Bob Hartley did was truly gutless and classless.  The man definitely needs to have his clock cleaned!

But what are your thoughts?

Shootout or Coin Flip? Overtime Rules Need Changing

overtime shootout win

65 minutes wasted in a heartbeat

The shootout has been around the NHL for almost 10 years since it was introduced in the 2005-2006 season and I for one am sick and tired of it.

There is nothing worse then watching a solid 60 minutes of exciting hockey where 2 evenly matched teams end the game tied.  Then they get a measly 5 minutes of overtime to try and finish the game and if that fails, we are awarded with the dreaded shootout.

Some fans find the shootout exhilarating.  A cool mini skills competition that puts skater against goaltender.  But once you get past the initial cool factor of the shootout you realize that many hockey games in the NHL are decided on nothing more than a coin flip.

Because really that’s all the shootout is.  A coin flip.  After two teams pour their blood, sweat and tears onto the ice, it becomes pretty much a 50-50 shot on who is going to win this game.

I for one would love to see the NHL adopt a new way of handling overtime.  Because in the regular season, 2 points can mean the difference between making the playoffs or not.  Every point counts and it’s disappointing that so many of them can come from the shootout.

Granted, a shootout is much more exciting and a better outcome than it used to be in the NHL.  Remember when teams would actually tie and get just 1 point each if a winner wasn’t decided after the 5 minutes of overtime?  That sucked even more!

Of course it wouldn’t work to have a playoff style of overtime where the game isn’t over until someone scores a goal, even if 100 extra periods are needed.  Over the course of a 82 game workload, it would just be overkill to have players play those kinds of minutes.

But something still needs to be done.  Two thoughts I have on the matter would to adopt a longer overtime.  Maybe 10 minutes of 4 on 4 overtime before the shootout would give teams a better chance of settling things on the ice where they belong.  Or even 5 minutes of 4 on 4 overtime followed by 5 minutes of 3 on 3 overtime would work.

Either way 5 minutes alone just isn’t enough time to settle a close game.  Especially when only two goals have been scored over 60 minutes of play, how do we expect to get a victor in a measly 5 minutes of overtime?  Hopefully something gets done with overtime in future hockey seasons.

And while we are on the subject of overtime rules, the single point awarded to a team that makes it to overtime needs to be abolished right away.  Why award a team for being close?  Close enough only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades and not amongst a game played by men!

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please leave a comment and let’s get a discussion started.

 

Joe Thornton Snubbed By Team Canada

Hockey Player Joe Thornton

No Joe? Say it ain’t so!

First of all, let’s face it, Canadian Hockey talent runs so deep in this country that we could legitimately send two Team Canada squads to Sochi and be serious contenders.  There are just so many players for Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman to choose from, it’s outrageous.

While I can’t argue with the selections Yzerman made, I can safely say, “WHERE THE HELL IS JUMBO JOE?”

Obviously there are going to be Team Canada players that end up getting “snubbed”, but Joe Thornton is one of the great playmakers in hockey right now.  He is consistently in the top 10 for points year after year and is an assisting machine.

But Steve Yzerman had to make some tough decisions.  He even didn’t give another great player Martin St. Louis a roster spot and St. Louis plays for his Tampa Bay Lightening.  The team that Yzerman is the General Manager of during the NHL season.  (Can’t wait to see the animosity and backlash that decision creates!)

At age 34, Joe Thornton is at the height of his career and when the winter Olympics come around again in 2018, he’ll be 38 and probably too old to play at a competitive level for Olympic hockey so really this is his final chance and Yzerman blew it.

As long as you put a half decent winger beside him, the goals will come.  Let’s hope this roster omission doesn’t end up coming back to bite Canada in the butt.  We don’t need a repeat of the Turin Olympics!

Tuukka Rask Leading Bruins In Net

Boston Bruins Goaltender Tuukka Rask

Tim Thomas who?

When Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas won the Stanley Cup and then fled the NHL into a self imposed exile, Boston fans were left wondering the future of their goaltending.

Luckily backup Tuukka Rask always shined when he took duties from Thomas, but would he be able to take his game to the next level?  Was he ready to be a premiere, starting goaltender.

Well it’s been 2 years since Thomas left and at the halfway point of this season, the Boston Bruins and Tuukka Rask are in contention of receiving the William M. Jennings award.  The hockey award for an NHL team that has the fewest goals against.

As it stands right now at the halfway mark of the season, Boston is tied with Los Angles for the fewest goals against at 89 goals allowed.  However, Los Angles has played 1 more game, but anything can happen over the next 42 games.  The race will be tight, but Boston could prove they are a force to reckon with in net.

Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out.

Some Thoughts On The NHL Winter Classic

NHL Winter Classic

View from the Big House

As I am still getting over my New Year’s hangover, I thought I would share some thoughts on the New Year’s day spectacle that is the Winter Classic.

For starters, I am a huge fan of the event.  The alumni games are entertaining and fun and the event does so much for spreading the world of Hockey.  Obviously the venue does not bode well for hockey as even if you are in the first row, your seats are not optimal of a hockey game, but I’m sure the point of being at these 100,000+ arenas is the atmosphere and not the viewing of the game itself.

My only real problem with the NHL’s Winter Classic is the fact that it’s a regular season game.  In this case of Toronto and Detroit’s game, both teams at the time were sitting on the edge of making the playoffs making the Winter Classic a very important game for both teams and their playoff hopes and dreams.  If only 2 points make a difference for  either of those teams of making the playoffs, it will be a shame that it came down to a game with less than optimal conditions, bad ice and no home advantage.

Instead maybe the NHL could adopt a new model for their Winter Classic.  Wouldn’t it be better if instead of having a regular season game, turn the Winter Classic into even more of a fan spectacular by having a game of NHL all stars versus the previous years Stanley Cup winning tram? Or even a NHL all stars versus the KHL or European league all stars?

I think that style of game would serve the NHL better for their Winter Classic.  Turn it into an even bigger event for the fans.  Plus the way the All Star game is set up in hockey now is just pathetic and needs a rejigging.

But thats just my 2 cents.

A Bruins Fan Living In Toronto

Image

So I thought my first post for this Hockey blog would be about what it’s like being a Bruins fan living in Toronto.

First of all, let me explain.  I love Toronto.  It’s my home and a beautiful city.  I love the Toronto Blue Jays and support my baseball home team 100%.  Like every other Canadian out there, I am filled with a nationalistic pride, but I just can’t follow that blind pride behind the Toronto Maple Leafs like everyone does.

If you were born in Toronto, moved to Toronto or even just visited, you know this city bleeds blue and white.  Everyone here is a Leafs fan and you will be shunned if you are not.  I don’t know why people buy into it and I don’t know why everyone is brainwashed by it.  Because in reality………

You suck Leafs!

How can anyone just blindly follow this Hockey club is beyond me.  Besides the fact that they have not won the Stanley Cup in over 40 years isn’t even enough to sway people.  This is a Hockey team that is run by a corperation, like a corporation.  Their payroll is about bottom dollars, not skill or a winning product and if they spent the same effort and money that they do on marketing to their on ice product we would have a dynasty team in this city.  But why do they need to spend money or put a good team on the ice?  Tickets sell out at record speed and people keep buying up enough gear even if the team is playing like Columbus!

This is why I cannot support the Leafs organization.

But why a Boston fan you might ask?

Well I grew up in the era of the second best defenseman to ever live.  Ray Bourque.  I was a huge fan of guys like him, Cam Neely and Adam Oates growing up.  I loved their Hockey team even more when they had guys like Joe Thornton manning the helm.  And even more in this new reincarnation of the team that has already won a cup and keeps battling for it year after year.  

But it’s lonely being a Bruins fan in Toronto.  Being the only guy at the ACC to stand up and scream when they score a goal.  Or the guy that gets booed in his Bruins jersey at the bar when the Leafs are down 5-1.

But I’d rather be a lonely Bruins fan in Toronto than another heartbroken Leafs fan.