Saturday, September 29, 2007

And they're off!

So don't ever ask me what team you should put money on. My prediction about the season opener would have lost you a bundle.

Despite a seemingly unimpressive preseason punctuated by a goaltending hangover from last year, the Kings claimed the first victory of the NHL season by beating the Stanley Cup champ Ducks 4-1.

Jonathan Bernier was impressive in his NHL debut and will make it hard for LA to send him back to junior, particularly if Jason LaBarbera fails to identify himself as the clear starter.

Here's my latest prediction: Add Bernier to your fantasy team now. He'll soon be the no. 1 guy in LA. You can put money on it, just don't come crying to me when I'm wrong.

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Downie gets 20 games

The NHL levied a 20-game suspension on Flyers prospect Steve Downie for his flagrant hit on Dean McAmmond. It is the fifth longest suspension in NHL history.

To satisfy the ban, Downie must be on the Flyers' 23-man roster for the requisite number of regular season/playoff games. He is also prohibited from playing in the Flyers' last preseason tune-up against the Rangers, however Downie can play in the AHL during his suspension.

GM Paul Holmgren will have to get creative to allow Downie to serve the suspension without stunting the player's development or eating up Philly's cap space.
According to Holmgren, the plan is to deal with the suspension in small chunks, while keeping Downie playing in the AHL...

Holmgren said that Downie would play for the Phantoms and be recalled to the Flyers on days when the Phantoms are not playing. On those days, Downie's salary would be counted against the Flyers' cap.

- Philadelphia Daily News

In response to the increase in head shots last season, the NHL established criteria by which league disciplinarian Colin Campbell will assess suspensions:

- hit unsuspecting player in the head
- hit that is late
- repeat offender
- target the head
- launching
- results in injury (and its severity)

The teams and players were aware of this, thanks to a DVD circulated by the league.

Downie's hit fit the bill in all but the "repeat offender" category. Expect his next dirty hit - and there will be one, the kid's a head case - to satisfy all six criteria.

Update: The AHL has ruled Downie ineligible to play the first month of the season. He can return November 3. Will/can the Flyers call him back up (at least on paper) in the meantime to start serving some of his 20-game NHL suspension?

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Sopel signs with Blackhawks

Former Canucks defenseman Brent Sopel signed with the Blackhawks after a tryout with the Red Wings. Got all that?

Sopel spent the preseason with Detroit on a tryout basis and the club offered him a contract, but it was not as good as the $1.5MM deal Chicago offered. This is the first loosening of the purse strings since notorious Hawks owner/penny pincher Bill Wirtz kicked it. Sopel becomes Chicago's highest paid D-man (per

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More on the Downie-McAmmond affair

"I didn't mean to hurt him and I hope he's OK. My game's to hit and to finish the check. I'm just trying to earn a spot on the roster. It's part of my game and I apologize for him getting hurt. I thought I got him clean. Once we hit the boards after, I asked if he was okay."

- Steve Downie

Gee, how gentlemanly of you. Don't suppose he had much of an answer, being unconscious and all.

God, I hate this kid. What a waste of hockey talent.

There are players who push it to the edge in finishing their checks (Ryan Hollweg) and there are those who attempt to injure (Colby Armstrong). While the former is questionable, there is no room for the latter, which includes Downie.

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Red Bull update: Kings win exhibition tourney

The Kings eked out another win in the Red Bull Salute Tournament, a promotional tune-up for the season opener in London. Anze Kopitar scored with 46 seconds left to win the game and tournament for Los Angeles.

I was expecting their narrow victory over EC Red Bull Salzburg to be a wake up call for the Kings. I know the preseason is not a predictor of regular season play, but expect the Ducks to make quick work of LA this weekend.


RIP: Blackhawks owner William Wirtz

Chicago Blackhawks owner William Wirtz, 77, died yesterday. No word yet if his will stipulates that home games remain untelevised.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sens lose McAmmond to vicious hit

Ottawa defeated Philadelphia tonight, but it was at a cost.

After taking a heavy check, Flyers prospect/punk Steve Downie looked for some retribution lining up Senators center Dean McAmmond. Leaving his feet, Downie drove McAmmond head first into the boards knocking him out cold. McAmmond was taken off on a stretcher and was later diagnosed with a concussion. Here's the video.

This could very well mark the end of McAmmond's career. He has a history of concussions, the last thanks to a Chris Pronger elbow during the Stanley Cup finals. McAmmond did not return for during the playoffs.

Steve Downie was identified as a head case early in his young hockey career. In junior, Downie was suspended for a cross-check to the mouth of rookie Windsor Spitfires teammate Akim Aliu during practice. London Knights fans remember Downie's spear to defenceman Ryan Martinelli during a playoff series against the Peterborough Petes. Last year, Downie was traded from Peterborough to the Kitchener Rangers where fans and teammates were treated to shows of sportsanship like this.

For those counting, that's 3 teams in 4 years for the talented winger with an anger management problem. Can you say Billy Tibbets, anyone?

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Kings down Red Bull Salzburg...barely

The Los Angeles Kings escaped embarrassment by narrowly defeating the EC Red Bull Salzburg 7-6 in exhibition play. Either Red Bull gave Salzburg wings or the Kings took their European foes for granted.

As a prelude to the NHL season opener at London's O2 Arena, the Kings are participating in the Red Bull Salute Tournament. They'll face off against Sweden's Farjestad BK tomorrow before heading off to the UK.


Rangers-Islanders Brawl

Well, it didn't take long for the first goalie fight of the season. Rick DiPietro and Al Montoya went at it after a line brawl erupted in front of DiPietro's net. Here you go, fight fans:

And the winner is...DiPietro!

I'm not sure why if a player is suspended, you're still allowed to dress him for pre-season action. From the game report and highlights, it appears as if Chris Simon was gunning for Ryan Hollweg as the game went on. You'd think it'd be the other way around. After all, it was Hollweg who took it in the yams.

There were a few other scraps in the game as well. Here's the undercard:
Sutton vs. Dubinsky
Hilbert vs. Pock
Brennan vs. Strudwick
Orr vs. Simon

Without two points on the line, this game was sure to dissolve as it did. The spectacle could have been avoided if either Simon or Hollweg were healthy scratches. (Tell me again why Simon should be allowed to play under suspension?)

Perhaps it's better they got it out of their system while the games mean very little. I'd hate to see Simon take another head whack at someone rather than just drop his gloves, though it seems just a matter of time before his name goes down in history with Marty McSorley's.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

For sale: Nike Bauer

Nike has decided to get out of the hockey business. They've put the Nike Bauer division up for sale and expect to find a buyer and close a deal by May 31. It's not that the brand isn't doing well, it's just $160MM in yearly revenues isn't enough for the sports conglom.

There's been a bit of consolidation in the equipment industry recently, particularly as companies look to grow their business in a market without a lot of growth potential. Youth hockey sales are the main revenue driver yet the sport is still not widely played south of the border.

If The Hockey Company makes an offer, that would put the CCM, Reebok, Koho, Jofa and Bauer brands under one umbrella and give THC market domination.

Industry executives now say even though a number of suitors will probably emerge for NikeBauer, it's doubtful the division will sell for more than $150 million – less than half what Nike originally paid for it.

- Toronto Star

A great article on the history of Nike Bauer and the upcoming sale. Check it out if you want to learn more.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

San Jose's new affiliate: China Sharks

"The San Jose Sharks will be sending three coaches and five players to China to compete in the Asia Ice Hockey League to help develop hockey in the world's most populous nation."

- TSN/Reuters

And you think it's bad if you get sent down to the CHL. How about the ALIH? Ouch.

On a serious note, the Sharks aren't the first to raise the level of hockey in China. Angela Ruggiero and Project Hope, backed by Islanders owner Charles Wang, are providing equipment, translated coaching manuals and U.S. scholarships for youth hockey players there as well.

Update: Among the five lucky soldiers off to China are former WHLers Jason Beeman, Kevin Korol and Keegan McAvoy.
Derek Eisler, a Jr Sharks head coach, and Tom Lenox, a junior coach from Minnesota, are 2 of the 3 coaches heading east. Keegan McAvoy, Kevin Korol, Jason Beeman, Dan Knapp and Zach Sikich are the players that will suit up for the China Sharks. McAvoy has played right wing for the University of Saskatchewan (CIS), and also has WHL and ECHL experience. Left wing Kevin Korol also has WHL, ECHL and CIS experience. Right wing Jason Beeman scored 24 points and racked up 143 PIMs for the Texas Wildcatters of the ECHL last season. Zach Sikich is a 6-foot-2, 205 pound goalie who has played for St. Thomas College (NCAA), as well as for teams in the UHL, SPHL, and ECHL.


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Fight vs. fashion

“I practice all summer to be a good fighter and now they have this new jersey.”

- Jaromir Jagr

A little tounge-in-cheek from Jags but apparently the RBK Edge System seems to be a hit with everyone except the goons. The snug sweaters don't have a lot to grab hold of in a tussle - and they're even harder to wriggle out of should you get tied up, that is if they don't rip in half first.

Devils megapest Cam Janssen found this out the hard way in a scrap with the Flyers' Jesse Boulerice. He's now undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder, a previous condition aggrevated by getting his a** handed to him by Boulerice twice in one night. The good news for Devils fans is that New Jersey may now be forced to dress someone with some actual talent in Janssen's place.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Training Camp Invitations

Now that the kids are being reassigned to the minors and junior, GMs are identifying the holes in their rosters and the camp invitations are flying, more so than I remember in the past. Here's a list of free agents with NHL experience recently invited to audition for depth spots:

Boston Bruins: Glen Metropolit C
Calgary Flames: Krystofer Kolanos C
Columbus Blue Jackets: Joel Bouchard D
Dallas Stars: Philippe Sauve G
Detroit Red Wings: Jassen Cullimore D, Aaron Downey RW, Brent Sopel D
Edmonton Oilers: Rick Berry D, Anson Carter RW, Ben Simon C
Minnesota Wild: Barry Brust G
New York Islanders: Kip Brennan LW, Gordie Dwyer LW
New York Rangers: Francis Lessard RW, Mark Smith C
Philadelphia Flyers: Jesse Boulerice RW, Jim Dowd C, Rory Fitzpatrick D
Pittsburgh Penguins: Adam Hall RW
St. Louis Blues: David Tanabe D
San Jose Sharks: Sandis Ozolinsh D
Toronto Maple Leafs: Bryan Muir D, Bruno St. Jacques D
UPDATE - Vancouver Canucks: Dan McGillis
Washington Capitals: Scott Barney C, Chris McAllister D

While there's some notable names on the list (Carter, Ozolinsh, Sopel, Tanabe), most of these guys are fighting for an AHL roster spot in hopes of getting back to the show as a call-up.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ozo gets 2nd chance with Sharks

Defenseman Sandish Ozolinsh has been granted a tryout with the San Jose Sharks. If he wins a place on the team, Ozo's career would come full circle returning to the club he entered the league with.

The joke here is obvious: Ozolinsh replaces Mark Bell as the team drunk.

I'd like to see Ozo make a comeback...just not with my Rangers. He's no longer the defenseman he was in Colorado, and his time on Broadway turned into a failed experiment. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him shake the demons that have affected his game. It's always tough to see a guy's career end on that note.

The question is, which signing will put the Sharks over the top? Roenick or Ozolinsh? (Sorry, Sharks fans. This may not be your year.)

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

RIP: Silvertips annoucer Dave Piland

Everett Silvertips in-arena announcer Dave Piland passed away Friday after a two-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive malignant brain tumor. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Lisa, and their children TJ, Greg, Crissy and Katie. Greg will continue in his father's footsteps, taking over the mike at Tips home games.

Everett fans knew him as "Super Dave", but I remember him as "Deep Voice Dave" aka "DVD" when he was the on-ice intermission voice of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Dave will be missed by fans of both rival teams.

I was fortunate enough to know both Dave and his son Greg through their involvement with the T-Birds. The hockey world has lost not only a booming voice but a great man.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

WHL Blogs

As a follow up to NHL Beat Writer Blogs, here's a list of WHL blogs. This time I'm including blogs by a team's radio guy(s) as well. Again, this isn't a reasearch project. I'll add 'em as I come across 'em. If you have a blog to add, please email it to: hockeyramablog AT gmail DOT com.

Last updated: September 4, 2011

Luber's Lounge: Bruce Luebke (@wheatkingsvoice)

The Hitmen Informant: Brad Curle (@BCurle_Hitmen)


Herald: Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson)

Daily News: Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan)
Keen's Korner: Jon Keen (@JonKeenNLSports)

Daily Courier: Larry Fisher (@LarryFisher_KDC)
Dub Nation: Doyle Potenteau Regan's Rant: Regan Bartel (@Reganrant)

Between the Lines: Jeff Hollick (@JHollick_ICE)
NewsAdvertiser: Jeff Bromley

Hurriance Watch: Pat Siedlecki

News: Sean Rooney (@seanrooney)

Time Herald: Matthew Gourlie

After the Whistle: Andy Kemper (@kemperpbp)
Inside the Coliseum: Todd Vrooman (@ToddVrooman)

Drew's Diatribe: Drew Wilson

Cougar Town: Dan O'Connor (@DanOConnor_PG)

The Red Deer Scene: Marlow Weldon (@marlowweldon)

Leader-Post: Greg Hardner Rod Pedersen (@sportscage)

Blades Blog: Les Lazaruk
WHL From Above: Cody Nickolet (@WHLFromAbove)

In the Corners: Thom Beuning Mike Caccioppoli (@TheBirdBrain)

Spokesman Review: Dave Trimmer (@SRtrim)

Broncos Blog: Shawn Mullin (@shawnmullin)

Tri City Herald: Annie Fowler

The Province: Steve Ewen (@steveewen)
Sun: Elliott Pap (@elliottpap)
Dan Elliott (@GMenDanElliott)


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Niedermayer suspended

The Ducks went through the formality of suspending Scott Niedermayer. He did not report to camp, which opened today. The move was to be expected and takes the captain's $6.75M salary off the books. GM Brian Burke now has the cap room to find a replacement for Teemu Selanne, a UFA who also has yet to decide on his retirement. (Burke effectively found a replacement for Niedermayer, albeit a lesser and older one, by signing Mathieu Schneider.)

The talk around town is Niedermayer will take some time off to recharge his batteries and return mid-season to guide the Ducks on another Stanley Cup run. Presumably, Burke will have to shed some of his new found cap space to welcome Niedermayer back from suspension.

Brings to mind the Ruotsalainen Rule. For those unfamiliar, Reijo Ruotsalainen was a small but fluid skater in the 1980s. Most notably he was a power play specialist for the Oilers when they won the Cup in 1987 and 1990. GM Glen Sather would let Ruotsalainen spend most of the season in Europe - a much lighter and less physical game schedule. He'd join Edmonton before their playoff run without the wear and tear of an NHL season. As a result, the league implemented a rule which requires European players to clear waivers in order to join their NHL club after opening night.

I can't really blame Burke if he's using Niedermayer's inevitable suspension to clear cap room while still retaining the future services of his star defenseman. It's perfectly within the rules of the CBA. But if in fact that's the case, look for the NHL to close the loophole. How's this for a "Niedermayer Rule": If a player returns from suspension mid-season, his entire salary counts against the cap?

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Super Snore no more

The Super Series drew to a close in Vancouver with Canada beating Russia in the final exhibition match. Team Canada fell short of their goal of winning all eight games but did end the series with a 7-0-1 record. Brent Sutter remains unbeaten behind the bench for his country.

Canada's complete domination of the Russians kinda took the fun out the whole thing. Granted the stakes weren't as high as Cold war 1972. If you really want to relive the original event, watch the mini-series Canada Russia '72 which CBC aired last year. Or for the true hockey geek, get the 1972 Summit Series on DVD.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

AHL gets new threads too

We've been hearing about the new RBK Edge jerseys - sorry, i mean "uniform system" - that all 30 NHL teams are adopting. Did you know the AHL will be wearing the new sweaters as well?

The AHL has even been kind enough to put a gallery together. (And BTW, there's a nice gallery of the NHL jerseys here.)

Riddle me this: how can an AHL club (a league notorious for crappy duds) manage to do a better job than their NHL parent?

Yes, I'm talking about those awful Isles unis again. But do you blame me? Thanks to the NHL's rivalry-heavy schedule, I'm forced to stare at those ugly things 59 times this year. I'm might have to start following a team closer to home. Go Nucks!

Oh wait, did you see their jerseys?

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Great Scott, make up your mind already!

The Ducks called a press conference today so that Scott Niedermayer could address the open question of his possible retirement.

And the answer is...

...he's still deciding.

I'm sure those journalists are glad they trekked to the Honda Center for the non-announcement.

On a more serious note, my mind is starting to speculate on why he can't make a decision. Niedermayer never struck me as player who would put his team in this position. His $6.75M salary handcuffs the Ducks with respect to making any player moves -- resigning Teemu Selanne or trading for another elite winger, for example -- not to mention the distraction it continues to create.

I wonder if there's an unreported health issue. Is it simply indecision or is he waiting on a doctor's OK? If in fact it is the former, it's time for the Captain to put the team first and declare his intention.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sharks to open season with Styles

You can stop shopping for Jeremy Roenick's retirement gift. The Sharks just announced they signed the former All-Star to a one-year, $500K contract. I assume he'll be filling the hole left by Bill Guerin, aging rent-a-vet who'll disappear in the playoffs.

"Styles", as he affectionately refers to himself, sits five goals shy of 500 for his career. If San Jose can get that many out of him without Roenick becoming a total distraction, I'll hand them the Cup right now.

Somehow I think I'm still safe in predicting the Ducks will repeat.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

From Russia with love

Tomorrow the Super Series moves to Canada for the final four exhibition games. Canada has a 4-0 series lead and can make it a lock with a win tomorrow night in Winnipeg. But as I said before, Team Canada won't be satisfied with a series victory. They're after an eight-game sweep of the Russians.

In the final game in Omsk, Team Russia finally made a show of it and got a few hits in of their own, namely defenseman Vyatcheslav Voynov who sent Sam Gagner flying with an open ice hip check. Voynov later got kicked out of the game for laying out David Perron.

Ultimately, Canada has been the better team and it was no different in game 4. Despite outshooting the Canadians, shaky goaltending dug Russia in a hole to deep to dig out of. They lost 4-2, but with the exception of a few minutes in the second the gulf between the teams didn't seem so wide.

The Super Series has been somewhat of a dud. The only real entertainment in it now for me is to see how some individual players perform:
  • John Tavares - Is he really the next Crosby?
  • Thomas Hickey - Having seen him play in Seattle, I know he's the real deal. But can he show the world why the Kings picked him 4th overall?
  • Alexei Cherepanov & Artem Anisimov - How long until these Rangers prospects appear on Broadway?
  • Maxim Chudinov & Vyacheslav Vojnov - These two 17 yr-olds have been Russia's best D-men. Will the Super Series increase their stock in the upcoming draft?
I'm debating whether to go to Vancouver to watch game 8 in person, but the series will be long over by then.