The Winter Olympics & the NHL

We’re nearing the end of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the hockey has not had the same shine. Despite attending since 1998, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, Gary Bettman, put a blanket ban on NHL players attending the 2018 Olympics. They argued that the league has no evidence that the Olympics have a positive impact on the business or the sport itself. They listed several, half-hearted reasons:

Money:

  • It’s not cost-effective to send players to the Winter Games
  • Star players are selected for the national team and if they get injured on international duty then it impacts their NHL team: Tavares, Zetterberg, Barkov, and Kopecky all suffered season-ending injuries in Sochi.
  • There’s a lukewarm reception for the NHL in Asia.
  • Player salaries are so good they are able to play for free at Olympics; there is an argument that this is a luxury they can only afford due to the league’s generosity.

Time: 

  • Bye-weeks have been introduced in the last couple of seasons to provide a mid-season break
  • Halting the season for almost a month for the Olympics, disrupts a season; the summer break for the Stanley Cup Final teams then becomes very short.
  • There’s no football or baseball on to compete with at this time of year and voluntarily making the league redundant during this time is a bad business move.

Rights: 

  • NHL doesn’t receive the rights to photos or videos from Olympic competitions therefore Crosby’s Vancouver golden goal and Oshie’s shootout heroics were unable  to be shown.

Already International:

  • The NHL had it’s own World Cup a couple of years ago
  • They’ve hosted “China Games” this season in Shanghai and Beijing
  • They’ve also announced European games in Sweden, Finland, and Germany

On the surface, the majority of these reasons are plausible ones to not attend the Olympics, but when you break it down, it is all about the money. Maybe that’s the way of professional sports, but it’s greedy and dispirited.

In previous years, the International Olympic Committee has paid for the travel expenses, insurance, and accommodation, but refused in 2018. The International Ice Hockey Federation offered $20 million in support, but this was refused then the NHL decided the Olympics isn’t profitable to the league.

Injuries do happen – even to star players – but they happen in league games, they happen in World Cup of Hockey games, they happen in China Games, and they happen in European Games. How many players, at the end of a season, come forward with a list of body parts that need repairs? Imagine if soccer teams denied their players the chance to play in the World Cup because they might get injured. The soccer season is littered with international games; players being injured in a friendly international game is frustrating but representing your country is an athlete’s highest honour.

If there’s no football or baseball to watch, would you switch to hockey? Or would you switch to the Winter Olympics that happens once every four years? Commentary on the Winter Games is meant for people who do not know the sport so can provide an easy introduction to it. What better place to showcase star players who are the big draws to the game!

The season is lengthened when the Winter Games are included, but a new team, the Vegas Golden Knights, has entered the league which has also lengthened the season; Seattle have proposed a team for the league too and that will likely come into effect in the next few years. For the players who are not selected to play for their country, the Olympics provides the opportunity to rest up and have injuries seen to, putting them in better stead for the run up to the play offs. The majority of league players will not attend the Olympics and the majority will not make it to the Stanley Cup final.

Pre-season has been brought forwards, with the inclusion of the China Games and the World Cup of Hockey; these are unnecessary NHL money-spinners that lengthen the season too. They’ve also decided to include the European games as part of the regular league; why not make these players have a 10 hour flight to Europe, play a single game, and fly back to North America! That makes a world of sense… Furthermore, although they have argued that the Olympics isn’t growing the game, it’s more likely that they do not directly receive the profits of these games hence why they’re “growing it on their own term$”.

The Winter Olympics is once every four years!!! FOUR YEARS!! The arguments about costs/season disruption/injuries are ones that are faced once every four years.

Finally, professional athletes are being denied the right to live out a dream of competing at the Olympics. However, this has provided lower league players the opportunity to live that dream. With the absence of power-house NHL roster Canadian and American teams, could it be that there is a more level playing field (or hockey rink)? Certainly, the Germans will be happy with their semi-final win over Canada, but the 36 million Canadians might not be.

Without a doubt, the hockey has been great – but it could have been outstanding with NHL players. That’s not meant to discredit the athletes in South Korea as many college players will go onto professional leagues, lots of ex-NHLers are in the rosters, and numerous other players are in professional leagues around Europe: the bulk of the Olympic Athletes from Russia team is made up of SKA St Petersburg players from the Kontinental Hockey League. But it’s so exciting to watch the faces of each franchise line up together as one team.

The take home message: if Gary Bettman isn’t lining his pockets then he ain’t interested.

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Gary Bettman at it again
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NHL Awards 2017

Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid
Most Valuable Player

Ted Lindsay: Connor McDavid
Best player as voted by NHLPA

Norris Trophy: Brent Burns
Best defenceman

Vezina Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky 
Best goaltender

Calder Trophy: Auston Matthews
Best rookie

Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron 
Best defensive forward

Lady Byng Trophy: Johnny Gaudreau
Most gentlemanly player (61 points and only 4 penalty minutes)

Bill Masterton Trophy: Craig Anderson
Dedication to hockey (took a leave of absence to care for wife fighting cancer)

Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella
Coach of the Year

General Manager of the Year: David Poile

King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Nick Foligno
Leadership/humanitarian (Foligno and wife donated $500000 to hospital that operated on new born daughter)

NHL Foundation Player Award: Travis Hamonic
Core Values of Hockey (Created D-Partner program for children who have suffered loss of family member, encourage them to be open in talking about grief/loss)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award: Nick Foligno

Art Ross Trophy: Connor McDavid
Highest scorer

Maurice Richard Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Top goal scorer

William M. Jennings Trophy: Braden Holtby
Fewest goals scored against

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Congratulations to all the winners!

The Vegas Golden Knights

Every NHL team released their list of “protected” players i.e. the ones that Vegas was not allowed to take during the expansion draft which occurred during the award show. The team had signed their first player, Reid Duke, a few months ago and now finally have a full roster.

Here are their picks from other teams:

Calvin Pickard G
Luca Sbisa D
Teemu Pulkkinen F
Jon Merrill D
William Carrier F
Cody Eakin F
Tomas Nosek F
Jonathan Marchessault F
Brayden McNabb D
Connor Brickley F
Chris Thorburn F
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare F
Jason Garrison D
J-F Berube G
James Neal F
Deryk Engelland D
Brandon Leipsic F
Colin Miller D
Marc Methot D
David Schlemko D
David Perron F
Oscar Lindberg F
Griffin Reinhart D
Alexei Emelin D
Clayton Stoner D
Erik Haula F
William Karlsson F
Trevor van Riemsdyk D
Marc-Andre Fleury G
Nate Schmidt D

In addition, the team also acquired a number of players through trades and the rookie draft

  • Reilly Smith from the Panthers
  • Nikita Gusev from Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Mikhail Grabovski and Jake Bischoff from the Islanders
  • Shea Theodore from Anaheim
  • Alex Tuch from Minnesota Wild
  • David Clarkson from the Blue Jackets
  • Cody Glass in the first round of the 2017 draft with the 6th overall pick
  • Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom were also acquired during the entry draft as a result of trades with the Islanders and Jets for draft picks

So that’s the Golden Knights!

 

Our Lord and Savior, Christopher Kunitz

The Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins had to push things to the limit and so the series went to game seven THEN double overtime. The lord and savior of Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz, fired home a shot to end the game 3-2 to the Penguins who stand victorious as the Eastern Conference Champions.

It’s nice to be able to contribute,” Kunitz said, “but we all know it’s a team game, and we’re all going to have to pull our own weight at some point.”

Incredibly, Kunitz hadn’t scored AT ALL in the playoffs this year until last night’s game where he scored the first and third goals.

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The Penguins will face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final. This is the first time the defending champions have made it to the final since the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 – and the cup hasn’t been won twice in a row since 1998 which is also held by the Red Wings. Big shoes to fill, Pittsburgh!

Whilst the Predators going all the way would be a fairy tale, the Penguins have plenty of their own.

  • Ron Hainsey, 36 years old, played 906 NHL games without EVER going to the playoffs. With his trade to Pittsburgh, he has experienced the playoffs and has gone all the way to the final.
  • Mark Streit, another veteran at 39, has never won a Stanley Cup either and how sweet would it be to win one with the Flyers’ biggest rivals after spending four years in Philly?
  • Matt Cullen is likely to retire at the end of the year, aged 40. He has already won cups in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, and last year with the Penguins – but wouldn’t it be nice to end your career with a hat-trick of Stanleys?
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Credit where it’s due… the Senators played a hell of a series. Karlsson was outstanding, as was goalie, Craig Anderson. Anderson’s wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with cancer in October last year so Craig took around three months off to care for her and their children whilst she underwent treatment. To miss such a big chunk of the season, go through hell with his wife’s health, and to get back and perform at the level he has is commendable – many times throughout the series Anderson kept the Sens in it. Congratulations to the team for making it so far – and best of luck to the Anderson’s in Nicholle’s fight with cancer. You can follow it here: http://www.stickbynik.com/

 

Getzlaf’s Apology

Transcript of Getzlaf’s ‘apology’ after Game 5 of the Western Conference Final: (Thanks to Queeraspuck)

Getzlaf: You know, obviously, a situation like that where I’m on the bench by myself, frustration set in there was obviously some words said, not necessarily directed at anyone in particular, but just kind of a comment. I gotta be a little bit more responsible with the words I choose. Definitely as a father, as somebody that takes a lot of pride in this game and the respect for it, um it’s tough to see somebody refer to it as what TSN did. I didn’t mean it in that manner in any way and, you know, for that to got that route was very disappointing for me.

I did accept responsibility and I accepted the fine. We talked to the league – I understand that it’s my responsibility not to use vulgar language period. Whether it’s a swear word or whatever it is, we gotta be a little bit more respectful of the game and that’s up to me. I expect- accept that responsibility and we’ll move forward.

Reporter: Is that something you regret, looking back? I understand your meaning and what you meant by it, but is it something you regret though?

Getzlaf: Well again, of course, that’s my responsibility is to understand that there’s eyes and ears on us all the time. Um, fortunately enough no one heard it, if you can read lips it’s a little bit harder and I apologize for that. That’s a thing that you know, you won’t hear from me again. I hope I didn’t offend anybody outside the circle that we trust, so.

To translate for y’all: I said something homophobic and can’t believe it’s being called homophobic. I’ll continue to say this crap away from cameras so nobody can call me out on it. I’m not apologizing to the LGBT community, but rather to the league. 

NHL update…

We’re almost at the halfway mark of round two of the playoffs and here’s a quick update of how things are shaping up.

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Preds/Blues
I predicted Blues would win in seven – still possible.

Ducks/Oilers
Ducks in six was the prediction and I am prepared to change that to Oilers…

Penguins/Caps
So far the Pens have looked better but don’t rule the Capitals out yet.

Rangers/Senators
Wakey wakey New York, you’re in the damn playoffs!!

Also… Congrats to the New Jersey Devils who will have the first round pick in the 2017 Draft (and Nolan Patrick will likely be heading their way). Hard luck to the Colorado Avalanche who were absolutely atrocious for the entire duration of the season, had an 18% chance of winning the first pick and still did not manage that, so will take the fourth overall pick. 

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Two

It’s with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to half of our teams until next season. See ya in October: San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, St Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the Montreal Canadiens. But to the remaining eight… welcome to round two – four wins down, twelve to go.

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Preds/Blues

For the first time in NHL history, an 8th seed swept a first seed and I think we all became fans of the Nashville Predators for the way they took out the trash. When Shea Weber was traded for PK Subban, a lot of people thought it was a crazy move. Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, certainly was relieved, but too bad… the lmao.pngPreds are more than one man! Elite goal tender, Pekka Rinne saved 123 of 126 shots he faced giving him a tasty .976sv%, but rival goalie Jake Allen has also been incredible with a .956sv%, and since Mike Yeo took over the Blues _ months ago, the team have allowed less than two goals a game average. Yet before players can get to the goal, they have to get past Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban, who have been defending spectacularly. Firing from the offense, Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka, who has tumblr_oorr91sO9T1wngza3o1_500returned from three years in the KHL, and Paul Stasyny, back from injury. The Preds have Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Scorsberg Forsberg, and should hopefully have Colin Wilson back from injury after missing round one. This will be the tightest series in the Western Conference because the teams are so evenly matched.
Prediction: Blues win in seven (I’d really love it to be Nashville though…) 

 

Ducks/Oilers

The Oilers will be feeling pretty proud that they knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games as the Sharks were last year’s runners up, and the Oilers haven’t been in the playoffs for a decade. That being said, the pressure from fans is high, but they have captain Connor (McJesus) McDavid who has won the Art Ross trophy this year for most points – in only his second season. (Let us not forget that he spent a few months out in his rookie year following a dirty hit into the boards that broke his collar bone). The Ducks always surprise me when they consistently make the playoffs… I forget they exist because I never come across their fans (should have stayed as the Mighty Ducks). In their 22 year history they’ve made the playoffs 12 times, and of those twelve times, they have been the division champion a staggering six times, and won one Stanley Cup. They swept Calgary, so they’re doing something right. Talbot was outstanding in goal against the Sharks, and the Oilers have no significant injuries in the team, but they’re inexperienced – particularly in the playoffs – and up against a very physical, (sometimes dirty) experienced team with the likes of Kesler, Bieksa, Getzlaf, and Perry.
Prediction: Ducks win in six. 

Rangers/Senators

I’m not sure if anybody expected the forgotten Canadian team, the Ottawa Senators, to make it past the first round but the Bruins were sluggish this season and niggled by injuries, so they had an easier opponent. Last time the New York Rangers faced the Canadiens, the Habs were without Carey Price and were beat in six. They declared that if they had their brickwall of a goaltender they’d have beaten the Rangers; well they had him this time and they still got whooped by the Rangers. The Sens are carried more often than not by Erik Karlsson, but so far Bobby Ryan and ex-Ranger, Derick Brassard, are leading in goals and assists in the post-season. The Rangers are favourites to win here. In their last fifteen matches, NYR have taken ten of them. Rangers have good depth; Zuccarello led the team in points, but hot on his tail were Miller, Stepan, and Kreider then they also have the King of Sweden, Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Prediction: Rangers to win in five. 

Penguins/Capitals

This is gonna be the best match up – without a doubt. I am biased as HELL but I’ll be cheering for Pittsburgh – but they have the players to back it up. They’re without Kris Letang and Carl Hagelin who are on injured reserve, as well as

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The End of Crochkin? Say it ain’t so!

Matt Murray who is unable to skate. Their fourth highest point scorer was Sheary with 53 points in his first full season… to put that into perspective Zuccarello, the point leader for rangers, had 59. Kessel notched up 70, Malkin had 72, and Crosby leads the league with an 89 point season. However, hot on his tail was all star Nicklas Backstrom with 86 points. Ovi scores 33 goals and 36 assists – don’t accuse him of not passing again. Big scorers all round in these battles. It’s not just about the points; both teams are notoriously close in terms of cohesion and play like well oiled machines. Whilst Holtby has a .925sv%, Fleury has the edge at .933sv% for the playoffs. However, the Pens are without Murray to back him up, and Fleury can be shaky at times during playoffs in previous years. The big worry for the Caps – besides the two headed monster and the other penguins – is that they tend to fall apart during the playoffs despite being a regular season juggernaut. Still, the Caps ended Toronto’s playoff dreams in game seven whilst Justin Bieber was in attendance in his Maple Leafs shirt, shame.
Prediction: Penguins take it in seven (I really hope)