Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wendel's draft day pep talk

Some words of wisdom for any player who will be in St.Paul MN this weekend for the NHL Entry Draft. Few can relate to what the experience is like, especially going to a hockey mad market, like #17 himself Wendel Clark.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Pass the Puck Hockey

Pass the Puck is a solid web site for any hockey fan to check out. The information on the site gives you the opportunity to cover all of your needs revolving around the best game on the planet.

Check it out...

NHL Award night tomorrow

Maybe I jumped the gun on posting my choices of the NHL awards a number of weeks back but with tomorrow being the big day in Las Vegas NV, I thought re-posting my picks today would be a good idea.

I won't edit any of my info from earlier, but it is interesting to read and reflect on what has happened since I last documented my selections.

As curious as most hockey fans will be to see the outcome of each award, I am more interested in hearing the stories of how the players will celebrate in Sin City. Like they say "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". I just hope no one loses their awards.

Hart – Corey Perry (ANAHEIM)....Without Perry, the Ducks push for a playoff spot would not have been possible. Playing on a line that is as heavily checked as any in the league, Corey Perry took his game to new levels and in doing so had a career year, as well as being the only player in the NHL to score 50 goals.  A player once written off by many scouts and experts, Perry has established himself as a franchise player in Anaheim.

Selke –  Ryan Kesler (VANCOUVER)....In a year that saw the veteran centre took his game to new levels across the board. Kesler began refocusing his on ice demeanour to helping his team beyond his past pest-like persona and the results were hard to look past. Breaking the 40 goal plateau for the first time and cutting down his penalty minutes, rounded out his strong two-way game even more. This growth has been evident throughout the early stages of the 2011 playoffs as well.

Norris – Niklas Lidstrom (DETROIT)....over the past few weeks there has been a plenty of media speculating the accuracy of President Obama’s birth certificate, the same should be said for Lidstrom. In a time when the NHL is fuelled by its youth, the veteran rearguard continues to defy the odds and play like a player nearly half his age. The leader of the Red Wings maintained a high level of play and proved once again just how important he is to his hockey club. While other young defenseman continue to make strides, Lidstrom’s play still has him at the head of the class.

Calder – Jeff Skinner (CAROLINA)....In a race that is a close as any of the awards handed out, it is hard to look past the accomplishments posted by the former Toronto Young Nats forward. Not only was Skinner the youngest player in the league this year, he was also the youngest player to be selected to participate in the NHL’s all-star game. Taking advantage of opportunities from the first game of the season by using his gifted skating abilities and hockey smarts.  Another feather in this young man’s cap came when he was chosen to represent Canada at the 2011 IIHF World Hockey Championships in Slovakia.

Byng – Pavel Datsyuk (DETROIT)....Like his teammate, Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk is a model of consistency with his play, as well as how he conducts himself on and off the ice. Few players in the game possess the skills of the gifted Russian pivot, but you will even harder pressed to find a player who plays the game as classy as Datsyuk. While logging crucial minutes on all special teams, 5 on 5 and in various important moments throughout the game, Pavel Datsyuk is able to be provide the Red Wings with elite talent while doing so in fashion that personifies the true reasons the Lady Byng award is handed out each year.

Vezina – Tim Thomas (BOSTON)....Just a year ago, Tim Thomas was sitting at the end of the bench watching his Bruins face off vs the Philadelphia Flyers, perhaps wondering if he would get another chance to be the one leading Boston into battle every night. When the opportunity came about earlier this year for the veteran netminder, he ran with it and has proved that his past success was no fluke. The Bruins have been a club that is always in the mix when talk of Cup contenders are discussed, in order for them to reach those goals they will need Thomas to be the key clog he has been all year. The Flint, MI native has provided his club with the confidence to make the on ice moves they have made and will certainly be focused to return the Bruins to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990.

Adams – Barry Trotts (NASHVILLE)....There is something to be said about the job Barry Trotts has done coaching one of the best clubs in the National Hockey League nobody talks about. Playing in Nashville doesn’t help the cause when it comes to exposure but when you look at the product the Predators put on the ice every night, you can’t help but be impressed. Only a few years ago it appeared as if the club was on the verge of moving to Hamilton, but with aid of strong local ownership the club stayed in Nashville and has become a model franchise. Since being hired a full season before playing a game, Trotts has given his all in making the Preds a tough to team to play. It is no surprise to many to see the Predators competing with the big boys with the likes of Rinne, Weber and Fisher leading the way, but without Trotts this club wouldn’t be where it is today.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Identify the rioters in Vancouver

Hopefully this site helps nab as many of these low life's as possible. A black eye to the the city of Vancouver, the province of British Columbia, the Vancouver Canucks, the country of Canada and even the National Hockey League.

All eyes on players leading towards the draft

During his first tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Cliff Fletcher was asked for his view on the National Hockey League Entry Draft and responded by saying "Draft, shmaft..." Looking back at some of the selections Fletcher and his staff made during his time running the Maple Leafs you can see that Cliff was pretty much a man of his word with early round selections coming in the form of Brandon Convery, Landon Wilson, Eric Fichaud and Marek Posmyk to name just a few. Since those colourful days around the Gardens of the early 1990's a lot has changed, although the Maple Leafs are still trying to master the art of landing a gem during the league's annual draft which is scheduled to commence on June 24th and 25th in St.Paul, Minnesota.

As technology has taken the game to new heights on and off the ice, it has also had a major impact on how future prospects are spotted and scouted during their journey in reaching their goal of becoming a National Hockey League player. Within seconds a scout can upload a players entire bio and stats, along with video and other information pertaining to that player abilities and personal make-up. Clearly the days of a scout finding a diamond in the rough has taken on a whole new meaning.

One area any young hockey player should be aware of is that revolving around the world of the social media. It can show a young man's true colours of who they are and what they are. It is an aspect that doesn't strictly pertain to TMZ following around fallen celebrities or embarrassed politicians, it can play a major role in the future of any young man or woman looking to find success in athletics as well. This recently can true during the recent Vancouver riots as Nathan Kotylak was spotted vandalizing a police car during the events that took place last Wednesday following game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Kotylak, an accomplished water polo player with the National Junior Team and on his way to starting a collegiate career in the fall. As quickly as you can press send on your smart phone, images of Kotylak spread around the world, not only outting him as one of the many culprits during the riot, but also putting him and his future in a serious mess.

For any young hockey player who is in the midst of fulfilling their dream next Friday and Saturday of hearing their name called out by a National Hockey League club, the best thing they can do is stear clear of the antics that can take place in the world of social media. More clubs, agents, and especially parents, are advising their children to use their heads and avoid partaking in these outlets, as just about every thing you say or do can wind up becoming public knowledge. With so much to be had and invested into one's future, it should not be a tough decision to avoid putting ones self in a situation that could end any hopes or dreams you have set out to achieve.

With so many eyes, ears and mouth being connected, teams will be looking not only to land that special player but also a special person. Focusing on what matters most in the long run should take a precedence over something that can cut you and your dreams down before you can finish looking into a camera and saying "Cheese".

Friday, 17 June 2011

Two losses Vancouver didn't see coming

Wednesday night many fans of the Vancouver Canucks were primed and ready for what could have been the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s forty year history. The city had been a buzz all season long and had carried that confidence in their hockey club throughout the playoffs as they worked and earned their way to represent the Western Conference vs. The Eastern Conference representative Boston Bruins.

As game seven progressed it appeared clear that this was not going to be the year the Canucks would bring the Stanley Cup to Vancouver and back to Canada; it had been a long run and winding road for the President’s Trophy winners, the entire organization and their fans. As the clock ticked down it apparently was the cue for a large group of degenerate and useless members of society to turn the city in Vancouver into a complete and utter mess, a scene that reminded many of the actions that took place nearly a year ago as similar group of trash descended on downtown Toronto to make a point that rioting and vandalizing others personal and private property was their best option at expressing their feelings about the outcome of the game and other random topics as well, many of which had no meaning whatsoever relating to the run made by the hometown Canucks, let alone a G20 Summit.

For a country that prides itself on being one of the safest, cleanest and bring home to some of the friendliest people in the world, for the second time in a calendar year we have made ourselves look like a bunch of Benedict Arnold’s. The images of cars being set on fire, store windows being smashed, looting subsequently taking place and droves of people running around laughing and carrying on without a care in the air is nothing short of disgusting and embarrassing. 

The city of Vancouver and it’s police department were well aware of similar incidents taking place following the Canucks game seven defeat to the New York Rangers in 1994, as well as promoting their enhanced training and background used during the 2010 winter Olympics. Unfortunately a large number of citizens decided it was best to put the city of Vancouver Police Department on the spot by turning the streets into a scene of out a low budget Hollywood movie. Numerous innocent bystanders witnessed the city they called home turned upside down, some even attempting to thwart the throngs of dimwits only to find themselves being attack for making attempt to be a good Samaritan.  How anyone can justify actions like we saw Wednesday night as well as last summer in Toronto baffles and sickens me.

My view of the series was played out fairly close to the final outcome of the series; it was going to be hard fought, evenly matched and would come down to one of the teams exposing the others shortfalls. In this series, Boston’s experience, depth and a goaltending clinic we have not seen in years by Tim Thomas ended up being the main factors in the Bruins winning their first Cup since 1972 when they beat the New York Rangers.  The Canucks, while possessing one of the more talented clubs throughout the regular season and playoffs found themselves up against a club that would not give them the time and space others had this past season. With the likes of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows all effectively being neutralized by their opponents, the Canucks were unable to gain a great deal of confidence on the Bruins during the series. Boston dominated the Canucks on home ice, while the Canucks won three games in Vancouver all decided by one goal in games that could have gone either way. For the Canucks to stretch this series to the limit was something most observers would say was an accomplishment.

In the end this series and the outcome will unfortunately be overshadowed by the actions of many who had nothing to do with the outcome. From those in the arena who felt it was their right to throw garbage in the direction of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as he presented the Conn Smythe award and the Stanley Cup, to the owner of the Vancouver Canucks’ profanity laden rant to the media after the game and of course unbelievable post game nonsense that took place outside the arena will always over shadow the game so many were drawn to follow in the first place.

There will be no parade through downtown Vancouver and chances are the fans who proudly and respectively supported the Canucks will have to wait until October to officially thank the hockey club for their fine 2010-11 season. Again, the only dancing on the streets of Vancouver anyone will remember was the impromptu dance party that took place on the steps of the Vancouver Art Museum with music blaring and people living it up. Unfortunately very few others will be singing the praises of the actions and events that took place Wednesday night.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

One of the best....Shaun Best

Shaun Best was a proud Winnipger and Canadian, he also had one of the best jobs in the world and he knew it. Covering major sporting events around the world as a photographer is the equivalent to winning the Super 7 or Lotto 6/49 if you ask me. He produced some of the finest shots ever printed and his sudden passing leaves a hole in a community that may be small, it has a very large and appreciative audience. Make sure to check out the link above to see some of the work Shaun Best gave us all to observe on a daily basis.

Game 7

It is a game that anyone who plays or has played hockey has dreamed about being a part of, weather you played the game out on the street with your buddies or as today’s generation tends to do over a video game console. Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is one of the biggest spotlights in professional sports and tomorrow night the hockey world gets to showcase the grand finale to what has been an exciting 2010-11 season. 

As the game turns the corner in the ever changing world we live in, hockey on all levels continues to evolve and take on a different look all at the same time. With technology taking the game to new heights, on and off the ice, we are seeing the game played, taught, officiated and analyze in ways we haven’t seen before.  You can’t help but notice these changes taking place right before our very eyes during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The days of sweeping things under the rug are long gone as very little that happens at the arena goes unseen; every word, every play, every action is not only on documented it is analyze like never before and I am sure tomorrow’s game will bring along the similar attention to detail across the board that we have witnessed on a nightly basis throughout this past season and playoffs. With just over 24 hours to go before the Bruins and Canucks face-off for the final game on the National Hockey League’s calendar many are wondering how the game will be played, how it will be played out and what defining moments will take place over the course of tomorrow’s contest.

With the home team dominating the scoreboard in each of the prior games played thus far most would be inclined to give the Canucks the advantage heading into game 7. They recorded the best record amongst all thirty teams in the National Hockey League this past year and have been equally as successful during post season play. The Boston Bruins ranked third in the NHL during the 2010-11 season and have carried that level of success into their playoff run as well; winning games on the road throughout their run to the Stanley Cup Final. The elements are in place for a tremendous game on Wednesday night.

It is hard to say whether the home ice advantage will continue in Vancouver tomorrow night, but it is a bonus for the Canucks as they look to bounce back from a deflating defeat in game six. Both clubs have players who have played in big games in their careers and it should have an impact during the course of the contest. In the Vancouver dressing room you have the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo, all of whom who have played in Olympic Gold Medal games and Raffi Torres who played for the Oilers in game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, while Boston can turn to Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton for past Stanley Cup success as well as Patrice Bergeron who was a member of the 2010 Canadian Team that brought home a gold medal during the Vancouver Olympics.  Many others in both dressing rooms have been in pressure cookers of their own, whether it be the Memorial Cup, World Juniors, Calder Cup or World Championships as well.  

Who’s time will be it be? The Canucks who have yet to win a championship since joining the National Hockey League back in the fall of 1970, or the Bruins who last carried the Stanley Cup around Madison Square Garden on a spring evening back in 1972. Clearly, both organizations have waited a long time for this moment and both are ready, willing and deserving of being a part of game seven tomorrow night. It has been a long time coming and one can only hope that the game played by both clubs reflects the hunger felt both by organizations.  It is time to leave the verbal jabs, the ego’s and the theatrics in the dressing rooms and just play the game, it is a moment every player has waited for and has earned to be a part of, hopefully we will be able to look back on this game seven with as much interest and memories as we can with those that took place in the past.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Another shot to the head

It has been nearly 48 hours since Aaron Rome sent Nathan Horton back in time with a late hit that has drawn the ire of many following the series, as well as those playing in it. Upon Mike Murphy laying down a four game suspension I was caught off guard by the surprised reaction of some of the expert analysts who felt the suspension was too much.

Too much? Seeing a player get drilled into orbit and having to lie down on the ice the way Nathan Horton did is a scene that nobody wants to see and to the credit of Mike Murphy he made a decision that needed to be made. What is the point of suspending a player for a game or two just because it is the Stanley Cup Final when the injured player will be lucky to watch an entire game in the series, let alone play in one? You ask me, four games is fair but it should be addressed and stated that any actions similar will not be tolerated any longer. Suspensions need to be swift and strict, like any other rules we abide by on a daily basis. No matter the player, if you do the crime, you should serve the time. Can you imagine the state Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan would have been in if the NHL forced Joe Thornton out for the remainder of the season for his hit on David Perron?

There was a time when Scott Stevens would deliver a hit like the one Aaron Rome did and it wouldn’t raise an eye brow; today with the players and the game growing at a rapid pace we are seeing injuries and the ramifications become a serious issue for those at the National Hockey League’s head office. With the NHLPA rarely playing a role in the protection of the victim, rather taking the role of looking out for the villain, something clearly needs to be done before an injury takes place that blows any of its predecessors out of the water.

This isn’t an issue strictly left within the National Hockey League, it should also pertain to the various minor, junior and college leagues across North America. Anyone who happened to follow the 2011 Memorial Cup can tell you that the Owen Sound Attack can relate to what the Boston Bruins are going through as they not only lost one, but two of their top players to head injuries during the week long tournament. One of which involved Colorado Avalanche prospect Joey Hishon who was drilled by Kootenay Ice defenceman Brayden McNabb. I mention this not only because of the paralleling resemblance to the Horton-Rome incident, but because of the rather light sentence handed out by the usual stern David Branch. Branch has a history of handing out lengthy suspensions but in this case levied out a one game suspension to the Ice rearguard, while Hishon was unable to participate in any further contests.  This along with having Garrett Wilson sidelined later in the tournament essentially left the OHL champions in a hole they could not get themselves out of as they were eliminated in a tie breaker vs, you guessed it, the Kootenay Ice.

The Stanley Cup Final is an intense time for the players, coaches, management and those following the series with any invested interest. You are going to see things happen that will be under a microscope only brought out at this time of the year, but is it time to keep that microscope out from October until June? If you ask me, yes. It is time for the league to make things as black and white as possible and let it be known that actions speak louder than words and if you intend on hurting an opponent you will essentially be hurting your team as well as yourself. If Sidney Crosby decides to cross check Matt Hendricks in the back of the head, or Alexander Ovechkin feels the need to drive his elbow into the ear of Tim Brent, the time penalty will be no different if the parties involved were reversed.