Archive for September, 2012

AHL Re-assignments

With the NHL players now officially locked out by the owners, the fate of the 2012-2013 season is up in the air, but it’s almost certainly not going to begin on time — if it begins at all.

However, as with most things, there is a silver lining.

The Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. Formerly the Manitoba Moose.

The NHL squads have all made re-assignments of some of their current, younger talent to their AHL affiliates.

This gives prospects a great opportunity to hone their skills, and get lots of ice time that they probably wouldn’t see if they were playing in the shadow of the seasoned veterans of the NHL.

It also brings NHL-caliber talent to some smaller markets, at a more affordable price. And since these young guns will be big fish in a little pond, hockey fans can likely expect to see some jaw-dropping highlight-reel goals coming out of the AHL this upcoming season.

To date, the players to watch in the AHL this season are:

*Last season’s stats in parentheses.

St John’s IceCaps (WPG): Alex Burmistrov (13G, 15A, 28P)

Adirondack Phantoms (PHI): Sean Couturier (13G, 14A, 27P), Brayden Schenn (12G, 6A, 18P)

Oklahoma City Barons (EDM): Jordan Eberle (34G, 42, 76P), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18G, 34A, 52P) and possibly Taylor Hall (27G, 26A, 53P)

Toronto Marlies (TOR): Jake Gardiner (7G, 23A, 30P), Nazem Kadri (5G, 2A, 7P)

Albany Devils (NJD): Adam Henrique (16G, 35A, 51P), Adam Larsson (2G, 16A, 18P)

Portland Pirates (PHX): Oliver Ekman-Larsson (13G, 19A, 32P)

Charlotte Checkers (CAR): Jeff Skinner (20G, 24A, 44P)

So basically what this means is that if the lockout lasts for the entire season, the Oklahoma City Barons are your 2012-2013 Calder Cup champions.

Enjoy the AHL this year, I know I will!

Money vs. Moments

If you haven’t watched Janne Makkonen’s video Together We Can, just take a moment right now and watch it; you won’t regret it.

I think he did an absolutely fantastic job of basically summing up the frustration of the fans (the ignored third party in these CBA “negotiations”), who seem to be the only ones who are capable of remembering what the sport of hockey is all about. A hint; it’s not money.

For the average joe, blue collar NHL fan, watching the back and forth between the millionaires and billionaires of the NHL as they selfishly fight eachother for a bigger slice of the pie is enough to make most of us sick.

Where along the way did everyone in the NHL, players and owners alike, stop being fans like the rest of us, and become corrupted by the heaps of cash they’re paid to do something that they supposedly love?

We can’t lose sight of the fact that the NHL is a business like anything else, and money is what makes it tick, but for those of us who don’t even breach $50,000 annually, it can be hard to comprehend someone complaining about being paid millions to do what most of us would do for thousands, or for free.

The infinite number of things that don’t make sense about the CBA negotiations aside, Makkonen’s video inspired me to take a look back at some of my all-time favourite hockey moments.

Disclaimer to self-proclaimed NHL historians: This is a list of moments that I was alive for, and remember. Bobby Orr’s world-renowned “flying through the air” Stanley Cup winner doesn’t really resonate with me, as I was -18 years old.

 5) “Welcome back, Sid!”

After being sidelined with a concussion on January 5, 2011, arguably the most anticipated moment of the 2011-2012 season was the return of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain, Sidney Crosby. Sid finally made his season debut almost a year later on November 21, 2011, and to say there were high expectations of him would be an understatement.

All eyes were on Sid “The Kid” right from the puck drop, and it only him five minutes to find the back of the net, roofing a backhand shot on the New York Islanders’ Anders Nilsson and bringing every fan in the arena to their feet.

Crosby would finish the game with two goals and two assists for a four-point performance that not even the most fanatical fans saw coming.

4) The Finnish Flash Returns

After the smoke had cleared on the initial explosion of hysteria surrounding the Winnipeg Jets’ return to the NHL after 15 years, the first thing most fans did was circle December 17, 2011 on their calendars.

It was the day that Winnipeg would play host to the Anaheim Ducks, and one of the greatest Jets of all time, Teemu Selanne.

The reaction Selanne received from the Winnipeg fans was awe-inspiring. From the initial eruption of applause when he came out onto the ice, to cheering him every time he touched the puck on his first shift of the evening.

With an NHL lockout looming, Winnipeg fans can at least count their blessings in that they had one final and emotional opportunity to welcome Selanne back to Winnipeg, and thank him for all the memories he created there.

3) Wings vs. Avs

The Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche will always be one of the greatest (and bloodiest) rivalries in all of sports.

It all started in 1996, after Colorado’s Claude Lemieux crushed Kris Draper from behind, causing him to break nearly every major bone in his face and requiring reconstructive surgery to repair.

The next time the two teams met, in March of 1997, a standard tussle erupted into one of the biggest brawls in NHL history, after the Red Wings’ Darren McCarty took matters into his own hands, socking Lemieux in the mug, and repeatedly punching him despite Lemieux’s defensive, turtle-like position.

The scene of Brendan Shanahan and Patrick Roy colliding in mid-air (0:37 of the video below) is almost as epic and iconic as Bobby Orr’s 1970 Stanley Cup-winning goal.

2) The Captain Caps It

Possibly Steve Yzerman’s greatest moment of his career.

Playing in the second overtime period, the Detroit Red Wings were locked in a fierce battle with Wayne Gretzky’s St. Louis Blues, in Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After stealing the puck The Great One himself, Yzerman brings new meaning to the phrase “full clapper, top cheddar”, rifling the puck top cheese from the blue line, past the Blues’ Jon Casey, to win the series.

Stevie Y is usually pretty reserved when it comes to goal celebrations, but he let it all out after this one. A great and defining moment in the career of who I consider to be the greatest captain in NHL history.

1) The Golden Goal

Up to this point, I could have called this list my favourite NHL moments, but had to specify HOCKEY moments just for this one right here.

This is one of the rare moments in my life (and not just hockey-specific) that I will never forget exactly where I was, and exactly what it felt like.

After Zach Parise tied the game 2-2 with only 25 seconds left in the third period, the epic battle between Canada and USA in the Gold Medal game of the 2010 Olympics would need overtime to decide a winner.

With the Olympic games being played in Vancouver, BC, the pressure on Canada to take home the Gold in our nation’s sport was overwhelming.

I can’t say for sure whether or not my heart dared to allow a single beat for the entire seven minutes and 40 seconds of overtime that it took before Sidney Crosby slid the puck between Ryan Miller’s pads and ignited an entire nation of hockey fans.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud to be Canadian.