Year: 2017 (page 1 of 13)

NHL poised to enter China, hockey’s next frontier!/fileimage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/nhl-logo.jpg

By Canadian Press

When Andong Song started playing hockey in China at age 6, he wore figure skates on his feet and had to use the straight parts of short-track speedskating rinks for practice.

His father brought back equipment from his travels one piece at a time, and his family moved to Canada a few years later so he could pursue a career in the sport. Song, the first Chinese player selected in the NHL draft, envisions a day when that sort of cross-global exodus is no longer necessary for kids growing up in China.

That could be coming soon with the NHL looking at China as hockey’s next great frontier. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China is eager to step up its game and the league is intrigued by the potential of a new nontraditional market with 1.4 billion people that might take to hockey like it did basketball.

“It’s a place that hasn’t had that much of an opportunity to be introduced to what everybody acknowledges is a great game,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. “Because of the size of the market and the fact that lots of sports haven’t been developed there, it’s a good opportunity to expand the sport even further.”

This week, Bettman is expected to announce NHL preseason games in China between the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, along with grassroots programs to build a hockey foundation where the NBA has laid one for decades. It’s the first big step toward the NHL making inroads in China, whether or not players participate in the 2018 Olympics in neighboring South Korea.

NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said showcasing the NHL, running clinics and getting more broadcast coverage all figure into the long-term strategy. Even though Russia’s expansive Kontinental Hockey League now has a team based in Beijing, NHL exhibition games — and potentially regular-season games as early as fall 2018 — will have a bigger impact.

“Even with the KHL there, they know it’s not the best league,” said Song, a Beijing native and sixth-round pick of the New York Islanders in 2015 who now plays for the Madison Capitols of the United States Hockey League. “They know it’s not the NHL.”

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, China only has 1,101 registered players and 154 indoor rinks. Despite having a quarter of China’s population, the U.S. has 543,239 players and 1,800 indoor rinks.

By October , 14 different NBA teams will have played 24 preseason games in greater China since 2004, so the NHL has some catching up to do. The Boston Bruins sent an envoy on a Chinese tour last summer that included players Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak, and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis recently said his team could be next after hosting youth players from China in January.

“There will be about 200 new rinks being built in China and we would expect China being a very, very formidable force in the Olympics,” said Leonsis, who called China the next great hockey market. “And also we’ll see that China will be producing players and I would expect that we’ll have NHL players that were born and trained, just like we’ve seen in the NBA, and China will be able to bring players here.”

The NBA gained popularity in China in part due to Yao Ming, the first pick in the 2002 draft. The NHL is going into China hoping to develop homegrown stars. Chinese broadcaster and producer Longmou Li, who has worked the Stanley Cup Final and helped families move to North America for hockey, said 500 to 600 new families are joining the Beijing Hockey Association each year, which could mean churning out an NHL first-round pick every five to six years.

Song said because the sport is still in its infancy in China and centralized in the northeast and in big cities, keeping the best players there instead of seeing them leave for North America is the biggest challenge.

About 200 Chinese hockey families currently live in North America, Li said, and the return of those players, coupled with the KHL’s Kunlun Red Star’s presence and a commitment to skill development, will help the national team grow in preparation for the 2022 Olympics. With a broadcasting deal already in place to air four NHL games on state-owned China Central TV and 10-12 online through Tencent each week, his keys to the growth of Chinese hockey are players reaching the NHL and the national team competing at the top level of the world championships.

Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Keenan was recently tapped to take over Kunlun and oversee the men’s and women’s national teams, so the process is underway.

“If NHL can help China to get that, I think we can at least get 100 million fans from China,” Li said. “Because hockey is just so passionate a game, is so fast a game, it’s so easy to get people to get involved. But they will need to attract them to watch.”

Although being awarded the Olympics was impetus for the Chinese government to pour resources into hockey, it’s getting some help from the private sector in the form of Zhou Yunjie, the chairman of of metal can manufacturing company ORG Packaging. The goaltender-turned-billionaire is at the forefront of hockey’s growth in China through NHL partnerships and sponsorship’s.

“As long as (TV networks) in China broadcast many more games in China, it will attract more people to notice the NHL, especially the youth hockey player,” Zhou said through an interpreter. “Because there are many Chinese kids that have started learning hockey there, and there is a good population of the people that will develop hockey in China.”

When Chris Pronger famously plastered Justin Bieber into the boards during a celebrity game at NHL All-Star Weekend in January, not only was Zhou playing goal but an ORG Packaging patch was on players’ jerseys. Talking about spreading the “gospel” of hockey, Leonsis called Zhou “the greatest evangelist.”

Zhou can’t do it alone, and NHL integration in China is also connected to the 2022 Olympics. After NHL players participated in the past six Olympics, there’s pessimism about the league going to Pyeongchang next year. Discussions about Beijing will happen later.

By then, the league should know if the experiment is working.

“If we can get in on the ground floor, help them with that (and) bring our expertise,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “You can’t argue with the population or the economy, so if we’re able to do that it could be a great opportunity for us.”

Ice hockey comes to Santiago

By Nicholas Siler – Santiago Times

It’s a typically chilly Saturday morning during an untypically warm week in early August in Santiago and the Cerrogrado ice rink in Mall Vespucio has opened its doors to the Yetis, the city’s only ice hockey team. The players take to the ice and warm up under the glow of dim ballroom lights and disco balls hovering over the rink. Later the rink will be filled with families grasping the last bit of winter fun. Fresh from winning the Copa Invernada in Punta Arenas in July, the team has its sights set on September, October and beyond. In Punta Arenas they fended off teams from Iquique, Punta Arenas, Ushuaia in Argentina and the Falkland Islands and came home with the trophy. Chile appears to be taking its first steps into the fast-paced and ferociously competitive sport of ice hockey, fueled by aspirations of a federation that previously paid attention only to in-line hockey, a variation of the sport played off the ice on roller blades. However, the Chilean Ice Hockey Federation faces limits and hindrances to funding and publicity.

The Yetis took to the ice as an organized team in 2015 and became a recognized legal entity in 2016. Most of the Yetis had been in-line hockey players. In places like La Serena and Iquique, much of the players’ exposure to hockey came from foreigners – most often Canadians — working at nearby mines. Initially, hockey was played on roller blades on tiles of plastic flooring, since sustaining an ice rink was as good as impossible. Chile sent a national team to the 2000 and 2002 international in-line hockey championships and almost returned in 2015, but rival Argentina took the slot as the sole South American qualifier. Slowly many in-line hockey players became acquainted with ice hockey through media and trips overseas. However, there were very few opportunities at home. The Yetis third place finish in 2015 at the ice hockey Copa Invernada tournament and its title victory at this year’s contest have made Monica Arias, President of the Chilean Ice and Inline Hockey Association, cautiously optimistic.

An ice hockey team from Iquique regularly competes on ice with the southerly teams of Santiago and Punta Arenas. Those teams practice on ice rinks but the rinks are neither regulation-size nor freely available, as they belong to recreational ice-skating companies that operate them for entertainment at shopping malls. Arias points out that despite this handicap, media attention both abroad and in Chile has increased dramatically and she hopes that the Patagonia Challenge Cup (in which a team from Punta Arenas took part) and a potential Chile-only tournament, will increase the public’s interest. The association’s goal of sustaining two teams in Santiago (as is the case in Punta Arenas) will, she says, increase interest, as will its aspiration to field a national team for the Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament next year in Mexico City.

There is good reason for Chile to be hopeful. However, ex-Barcelona player and current Level 4 ice hockey coach Andrew Jasicki cautioned that without a regulation-size rink, none of Chile’s players would perform well in Mexico City. The Copa Invernada is a three-on-three tournament as only so many players can fit on a recreational rink. Full-game experience is severely lacking. Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina practice on larger rinks than those in Chile. In fact, the Patagonian Argentinian town of Ushuaia has an Olympic sized rink as well as a team that competes with teams from Argentina. Additionally, Ushuaia plays host to the End of the World hockey tournament which involves full teams on a regulation size rink. Still, there are exceptions. Colombia, which lacks full-sized rinks, beat heavyweight Mexico twice in a row for the gold and claimed a bronze at three previous tournaments. It benefits from dual citizens with professional or semi-professional ice hockey experience.

Argentina and Mexico send two squads each to the tournament, bringing the total number of teams competing to six. Former Chilean national in-line hockey team member and hockey promoter Mauricio Vieytes told International Ice Hockey Federation reporter Andy Potts that the Chilean federation might look into doing the same as Colombia, drawing on Chile’s expatriate/dual-citizen community from the United States, Italy, and Finland.

There are many challenges. Arias says coaches base their training on anecdotal experiences. The small recreational rinks make training awkward and sometimes teams share space with the public out just to enjoy the ice. Also, the players pay their own way. Arias explains, “At this time, each athlete finances their own actions, such as activities, participation at international tournaments, travel etc. The Yetis are a new club with no external funding, nor has it been nominated for competitive funding projects in any category or institution. We have only been using our own resources. We are already pressed for time to be part of the selection process because our situation is complicated considering the distance players have to travel right now.” At a more fundamental level, there has been little attention given to the prospects of ice hockey in Chile by the organized sporting authorities in the country. Arias plans to hold a meeting with the general secretary of the Chilean Olympic committee hoping for more help, infrastructure, and funding. “The idea is to develop a presentation of hockey to submit to the community either on the municipal or state level. She considers Mexico 2017 a steppingstone to the Winter Olympics in China in 2022.

It will be difficult to get there. Chile has few full-time players and has only three mall-based recreational ice rinks for practice. More public interest is needed to sustain hockey and develop talent for future competitions. Also missing is official cooperation between Argentina and Chile to mutually improve the quality of the sport. But Arias notes that increasing funding for infrastructure alone will not be enough and that teams need to perform. Still, the recent dominance of the Yetis and the successful junior youth ice hockey tournament in Punta Arenas give hope for the future. Perhaps hockey in Chile is finishing the first period of a match to win the public’s attention, with two more to go. How that game will end remains to be seen, but the opportunity for success is there.

Hockey Canada contemplates ‘B team’ to replace NHL stars at 2018 Olympics

Tom Renney was the last man to coach a Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team before NHL players took the reins. It was 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, an event that produced a memorable gold-medal final. Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg competed in a heart-stopping shootout duel. Corey Hirsch was heroic in goal for Canada. When Sweden ultimately won the gold medal, the championship was so well-received it was commemorated on a Swedish postage stamp.

Now, a generation later, Renney is the president of Hockey Canada and may be facing a familiar yesteryear scenario.

Increasingly, it is looking as though the stalemate among the International Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the National Hockey League over the latter’s Olympic participation will drag on – and eventually oblige all national federations to fill out their men’s Olympic hockey rosters with non-NHL players.

If that happens, Hockey Canada is getting ready – just in case.

Back in the fall, Hockey Canada hatched a tentative Plan B, hiring former NHL goalie and two-time Olympian Sean Burke to oversee its participation in two European hockey tournaments – the Deutschland Cup and the Spengler Cup – with a view to evaluating Canadian hockey talent playing abroad.

Renney says he remains in favour of best-on-best competition at the Olympics, but isn’t shrinking from the challenge if it goes the other way.

“We were good in 1980 [without NHL players] and, ultimately, we got ourselves to the point where we were winning silver and within millimetres and milliseconds of gold medals in 1992 and 1994,” Renney said. “Those were special teams and special times. So there’s a bit of me saying: ‘whatever happens, we’ll be ready to go – and we will be.’”

Complicating matters for Canada is the number of different recruiting scenarios that could present themselves if the NHL stays home.

Right now, Burke’s scouting mission focused mostly on Canadians playing professionally in Europe, most of them in either Russia or Switzerland.

But both he and Renney wonder, might the Olympic team have access to AHL players, those NHL prospects on the cusp of playing in the league? Would any Canadians playing college hockey be available? How about top juniors? If Nolan Patrick didn’t make it directly to the NHL as the projected No. 1 pick of the 2017 NHL entry draft, would he be interested in following in the footsteps of his uncle James Patrick, a member of Canada’s 1984 Olympic team?

All good questions, said Renney, for which there are no ready answers.

Unlike 1994 and the four men’s Olympic teams before Lillehammer, Canada will not centralize a men’s team in Calgary, with a six-month lead time to get ready, said Renney, because the costs would be too prohibitive.

Instead, Canada is tentatively planning to hold a summer evaluation camp, and then bring those players together for multiple international competitions before the 2018 Olympics in the hope of developing the necessary chemistry. The team could be a work in progress until the 11th hour.

An Olympics without NHL players will shift the favourite’s role to Russia, as was the case when Renney and Dave King were icing teams of “amateurs” against the powerful Soviet Union teams of a previous generation.

The NHL’s Russian content has dropped precipitously since the high point – 2000-01 – when 89 played here. This year, it’s down to 39.

According to figures supplied by the Elias Sports Bureau, among the 934 players to have played at least one NHL game through Wednesday, Russia ranks fourth by nationality behind Canada (435), the United States (246) and Sweden (82) and just ahead of Finland (35) and the Czech Republic (34).

In effect, the Russians will lose access to far fewer players at the top end of its player pool – and would have available the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Slava Voynov and others playing in the KHL.

Canada, by contrast, would lose a far greater number of its most accomplished players and thus would have to plumb deeper into the mid-echelon of its talent pool.

Ultimately, it could evolve into the sort of David vs. Goliath battle that characterized King’s three terms as Olympic coach – and Burke’s time as a player in the national program, where he is the career leader in games played (35) and wins (21) at the IIHF world championships.

Burke was also part of the managerial teams that won back-to-back men’s hockey world championship gold medals in 2015 and 2016 and would be the logical candidate to act as Canada’s 2018 Olympic general manager if the NHL bowed out.

In his current role with Hockey Canada, Burke said he was reminded once again of how important it is to players to play for their country.

“We take it for granted sometimes,” Burke said. “We’ve seen [Wayne] Gretzky, [Mario] Lemieux and [Sidney] Crosby in that Canadian jersey and remember the events they’ve played in. But at the Deutschland Cup, which we don’t even go to every year, I saw how important it was, not just for the players, but also for their families and their parents – to see their kids wear that Canada jersey. So that really resonated for me.

“It’s been an interesting assignment – to get to know the Canadian players from around the world who aren’t in the NHL but are still pretty good hockey players.”

One thing Burke is sure of: No matter who might be playing on the men’s Olympic hockey team in 2018, the country will rally around them.

“A year out, sure, people may say they want the NHL players there,” Burke said. “But when that event starts, it is still the Olympics. It is still the greatest sporting event in the world. You’re representing not only your own sport but you’re representing your country alongside other athletes in other sports, too. It takes on a totally different meaning.

“How many people would say, ‘I’m not watching the Olympic hockey tournament because it’s not the NHL guys.’ My guess is, hardly anybody. They’d say, ‘if Canada’s in the gold-medal game in the Olympics, I want to watch it.’ It won’t matter who is playing.”


2018 team (without NHL players)


Zach Fucale, Brampton (ECHL); Drew MacIntyre, Medvescak Zagreb (KHL); Ben Scrivens, HC Dinamo Minsk (KHL); Danny Taylor, HC Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)


Chay Genoway, Jokerit Helsinki (KHL); Geoff Kinrade, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL); Chris Lee, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (KHL); Patrick McNeill, Ingolstadt ERC (Germany); Shaone Morrisonn, Medvescak Zagreb (KHL); Maxim Noreau, SC Bern (Switzerland); Blake Parlett, Medvescak Zagreb (KHL); Mat Robinson; HC Dynamo Moscow (KHL); Jonathan Sigalet, Frolunda HC (Sweden); Daniel Vukovic, Genève-Servette (Switzerland)


Chris Didomenico, SCL Tigers (Switzerland); Andrew Ebbett, SC Bern (Switzerland); Matt Ellison, HC Dinamo Minsk (KHL); Cory Emmerton, HC Ambri-Piotta (Switzerland); Andrew Gordon, Linkoping HC (Sweden); Dustin Jeffrey, Lausanne HC (Switzerland); Brandon Kozun, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL); Jonathan Matsumoto, Red Bull Munchen (Germany); Jacob Micflikier, EHC Biel-Bienne (Switzerland); David McIntyre, EV Zug (Switzerland); Marc-Antoine Pouliot, EHL Biel-Bienne (Switzerland); Mason Raymond, Geneve-Servette (Switzerland); Derek Roy, Omsk Avangard (KHL); Greg Scott, CSKA Moscow (KHL); James Sheppard, EHC Kloten (Switzerland); Nick Spaling, Genève-Servette (Switzerland); Paul Szczechura, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL); Maxime Talbot, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)

100 years ago, Seattle won the Stanley Cup and expanded the reach of pro hockey

Hap Holmes of the Seattle Metropolitans was an outstanding playoff
goalie in 1917.

By Larry Stone – The Seattle Times

The names, even those of Hall of Famers such as Frank Foyston, Harry “Hap” Holmes and Jack Walker, are known mainly just to hardcore hockey aficionados. The arena was razed after a mere nine years of existence. The feat is savored as a trivia question but remains a revelation to many — even longtime residents of the Puget Sound area and devoted sports fans.

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of one of the singular events in hockey history, but still an obscurity in its own backyard.

On March 26, 1917, as the capacity crowd of about 3,500 stood and celebrated in the Seattle Arena located at Fifth Avenue and University Street, the Seattle Metropolitans defeated the Montreal Canadiens, 9-1, to clinch the Stanley Cup

Seattle thus became the first American city to claim what was then a 25-year-old trophy symbolic of hockey supremacy, now celebrating its 125th year as one of the iconic totems in all of sports. It’s a little scratchy, but the engraving of “Seattle Metropolitans” remains to this day.

At a time when Seattle is attempting to build a new arena that could lure the NHL to town, it’s appropriate to examine this town’s memorable hockey roots. The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, in fact, is sending its curator, Philip Pritchard, to Seattle this weekend with most of its Metropolitans memorabilia to help mark the anniversary. It will be on display Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Washington Athletic Club, part of a series of Metropolitans-related activities planned this week.

“We’re hoping the people of Seattle, even though it was 100 years ago, realize they have a little niche in hockey history no one can take away from them,” Pritchard said.

The NHL also is celebrating its centennial this year, but it was the precursor of that league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), that marked its final campaign by losing the best-of-five Stanley Cup series to Seattle, representatives of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), in four games.

Professional hockey, which heretofore had been almost exclusively a Northeastern, and mostly Canadian, venture, slowly had begun to make inroads in the West. The galvanizing event was the formation of the PCHA in 1911 by the Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, who were part of a still-legendary hockey family. In 1912, the trustees of the Stanley Cup deemed the new league formidable enough for its champion to meet the NHA champ for possession of the Cup.

The Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA had become the Western-most team to win the Stanley Cup when they stunned the Ottawa Senators with a three-game sweep in 1915, but normalcy was restored the next year when the mighty Canadiens prevailed in five games over the Portland Rosebuds. Pritchard points out gently that Portland actually beat Seattle onto the vaunted Stanley Cup by a year, inscribed on the trophy as the 1916 loser.

In 1916, the Patricks installed a team in Seattle, populated largely with players he had raided from the Toronto Blueshirts as part of a salary war, which were common in those days. Given that Toronto had won the Stanley Cup in 1914, it didn’t take long for the Metropolitans — named after the Metropolitan Building Company, which constructed the new arena for the princely sum of about $120,000 — to become competitive.

Among the players poached from Toronto were the three aforementioned Hall of Famers, as well as Cully Wilson, described by hockey historian and author Craig Bowlsby as “a small, vicious badger who wore a sadistic smile when he smashed into larger players.” From the Victoria Aristocrats came Bernie Morris, who would emerge as the Mets’ — and league’s — leading scorer, and top defenseman Bobby Rowe. Another member of the ’17 Metropolitans, Jim Riley, holds the distinction of being the only person to play NHL hockey and major-league baseball.

(Seattle Times archives)

In 1917, when World War I, aka the “Great War,” was in its fourth year, and an eight-room home in the Mount Baker area sold for $4,500, the Metropolitans won the PCHA title with a 16-8 record and awaited the Canadiens, the fabled “Flying Frenchmen,” for the Stanley Cup. Because of the distance involved, all by rail, the entire series was played in one site, alternating annually between the NHA and the PCHA.

By good fortune for Seattle, this was the PCHA’s year to host, so the Canadiens embarked on the 3,000-mile train journey to Vancouver, stopping to play practice games in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Brandon, Manitoba; and Edmonton, Alberta. They made the final leg of the trip by boat, arriving in Seattle at 8 a.m. March 17, some 12 hours before the first game.

Author and historian Mark Hansen, who wrote about the series in The Seattle Times for the 75th anniversary in 1992 and contributed to this story, noted that according to the Seattle Daily Times, the Canadiens upon arrival posed for a team photo, ate breakfast and then retired to the Savoy Hotel for rest. Their coach, George Kennedy, expressed supreme confidence, expressing the prevailing opinion of Easterners that the NHA was the superior league.

“I do not expect my men to have their feet tonight,” he told reporters. “Seattle may win tonight, but after that, I shall be greatly surprised if my men do not make a clean sweep of it.”

In fact, Kennedy had it precisely backward. Montreal, featuring the great goalie George Vezina, for whom the NHL trophy for best goalkeeper is named, and Hall of Famer and team captain Edouard “Newsy” Lalonde, a noted brawler, won the first game, 8-4. But Seattle won Game 2 on March 20, 6-1; they took Game 3 on March 23, 4-1; and then romped in Game 4 on March 26, 9-1, to win the Stanley Cup.

The clear-cut star for the Mets was Morris, the PCHA scoring champion who had an astonishing six goals in the clincher and 14 in the series to go with two assists. Morris would go on to some notoriety in 1919, when the Metropolitans made it back to the Stanley Cup. Just before the first game, Morris was taken away by the U.S. military and put on trial for desertion, ultimately serving 11 months at Alcatraz.

As was the tradition, the 1917 series was played with alternating rules, which meant, among other things, six men a side and no forward pass when under the guidelines of the NHA, and seven men a side and use of the forward pass — which turned into a huge advantage for Seattle — when playing under PCHA standards. The tenor of the series was captured in the Daily Times, which wrote of Game 3:

“Customers who left The Arena last night unsatisfied were either deaf and blind or unfortunate enough to have wagered their kopecs on the Flying Frenchmen. Spectators who were not on their feet during most of the contest must have been brought to the battle in wheel chairs or hobbled to the rink on crutches.”

So what did it all mean? Certainly, said Pritchard, Seattle’s victory helped expand the reach of pro hockey, with the Boston Bruins becoming the first American NHL team in 1924. The New York Rangers in 1928 became the next American team after Seattle to win the Stanley Cup. (Interestingly, no Canadian team has won the Cup since the Canadiens in 1993.)

Added Bowlsby, author of “Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926”: “It helped prove that the PCHA was as good as the NHA or NHL, and it proved that the forward pass could work as a technique that was better than what was happening in the East.”

Did it turn America into a hockey hotbed? Not exactly, says Eric Zweig, author and hockey historian. He likened it to the Toronto Blue Jays becoming the first Canadian team to win the World Series in 1992.

“Certainly, there were a few more Canadian players, but it’s not like baseball became a Canadian game,’’ Zweig said. Same in Seattle. “People loved them at the time. … But if they had made enough of a dent, there’s no way the rink decides they could make more money as a parking garage.”

But that’s precisely what happened in 1924, when the Metropolitans folded after their arena was turned into a parking structure (which remained in place at Fifth and University until it was replaced by the IBM Building in 1963).

The Metropolitans made it to two more Stanley Cups before going under. In 1919, they played Montreal again, but the series was abruptly called off in the middle of it because of a flu epidemic that killed one Canadiens player, Joe Hall. In 1920 — with Morris out of prison and back on the team — the Mets lost to Ottawa, three games to two.

Pro hockey hardly was done in Seattle, however. A new team, called the Seattle Eskimos, was born in 1928 and played at the Mercer Street Arena, which is in the process of being torn down. Other incarnations of Seattle pro hockey included the Seattle Seahawks, later renamed the Olympics; the Stars, Ironmen, Bombers, Americans and finally, in 1958, the Totems, who lasted until folding in 1975 and earned a devoted following. What has followed is junior hockey in the form of the Breakers and Thunderbirds, who have played in Kent since 2009.

The Metropolitans might be a footnote to history, but it’s a rich and compelling one that is more relevant today than ever.

“I think it’s an important and yet unknown part of Seattle history,’’ said Jeff Obermeyer, author of Hockey in Seattle. “Three Hall of Famers on the team, and the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. That’s kind of a big deal.

“With the potential of the NHL coming here, there’s a lot of talk about Seattle as a hockey town. Hockey has a history here. It’s been played almost constantly since 1915. It’s been part of the culture of the city for a long time. It’s a little underground and not as visible now, but it’s definitely there and part of our heritage.”

The 1917 Stanley Cup Final
In a best-of-five series, Seattle beat Montreal 3-1. Bernie Morris scored 14 of the Mets’ 23 total goals, including six in their big 9-1 victory in Game 4.
Gm 1 Gm 2 Gm 3 Gm 4 Total
Seattle 4 4 4 9 3 wins
Montreal 8 1 1 1 1 win
Notable: Games 1 and 3 were played under seven-man rules while Games 2 and 4 were under six-man rules.

Q & A With Aaron Guli

By National Team of Ice Hockey

We had the great pleasure to speak to Aaron Guli President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association. Ireland has not been on the International scene in a number of years, but Aaron Guli hopes to change that someday but for now the focus is on youth hockey and building the game from with in.

Can you give us some insight on when you became President of the Ireland Ice Hockey Association and why did you take the job?

I became President of the IIHA four years ago. I took the job because our association was in need of a complete overhaul. With my experience in hockey and  business I felt that I could help to implement the changes that were needed.

Ireland has a rich ice hockey history but the game has not taking off like some people would like, can you explain why?

The reason for the stagnation in hockey here in Ireland boils down to one issue, the lack of a permanent rink. There was a lovely arena in Dundalk but it closed in 2010 due to management issues. So without a rink it becomes difficult to implement programs to grow the game.

The Belfast Giants have helped ice hockey grow in Northern Ireland, but has it helped Ireland?

The Belfast Giants have certainly been key in the growth of hockey in Northern Ireland. I feel that their influence has been minimal here in Ireland. It’s good to be able to go and see a live game but it is a haul to get there. It would be roughly two hours each way to get there from Dublin. We have a cable channel here that shows NHL, Swedish Elite League and English Elite League games.

What other things is the IIHA doing to grow the game in Ireland?

There are a good few things we have been focusing on over these last four years. First we are focusing on youth hockey. We have established the first ever National Junior Development Program. We take the more advanced players from out youth clubs and start to prepare them to represent Ireland on an international level. We call the team the Saints. We have been having them travel internationally the past year. We’ve were in Boston and Toronto, Iceland, UK last season and we have teams traveling to Spain, England, and Belgium this season. We work on getting donations of equipment sent from North America to provide for the youth clubs. This helps to lower the costs. We have been working on improving our coaches nationally through course work and seminars. On a senior level we created an annual Cup competition. In one year it has grown from four teams to ten. We have been fortunate to have four teams from Northern Ireland take part this season. There are certainly more things we have been working on but these are just a few.

IIHA Saints in Toronto, Canada.

Ireland Men’s National Team has not played at the IIHF World Championships since 2013 with the closure of the Dundalk Ice dome. When do think Ireland will be back at the International stage?

We are not allowed to put any of our teams in IIHF World Championships due to not having a rink. The IIHF Minimum Participation Rules state that until we get a permanent arena we can not take part.

Are there any future plans to build an Olympic size arena in Ireland?

The IIHA is continuously working on trying to get a new rink open. We have two main possibilities at this point. There is the facility in Dundalk that closed seven years ago and there is a site in Dublin we have been working on. The major issue we have at this point is financing. Our government does not support sports like ours so we would not be in a position to receive support from them. After completing a comprehensive business plan we are looking, primarily in North America, for investment.

How do you think Ireland compares to other national teams after being away for a numbers of years from the international stage?

On the Div 3 level, that was the last level we competed at, I think we would still be one of the top teams in that division.

The Irish Ice Hockey League was founded in 2007 but it collapsed due to funding issues. Are there any plans to revive the league?

The IIHL actually folded when the rink in Dundalk closed. Without a rink it’s rather difficult to run a league. Once we get a rink open again we may revisit the idea of restarting the league but it’s not something we focus on at this time. The Cross Border Cup is the extent of what we are offering at this time.

The league’s inaugural champions Dundalk Bulls 2007-2008.

Can you elaborate about the Cross Border Cup. Who plays in it and when is it played?

The Cross Border Cup consists of 8 clubs and 10 teams. There are 3 clubs/4 teams from Northern Ireland and 5 clubs/6 teams from Ireland. We are currently in the playoff final rounds now. That has been broken in to two levels, A & B. It is played on varying nights, primarily on Saturday nights. The teams are made up of players 18 yrs of age and older (there are a few exceptions of players between 16-17 yrs based on playing ability). The Cup is also open to male and female players.

Have you had any seminaries with players or coaches to improve their skills?

We have been focusing on sending our kids and coaches abroad for camps and seminars. This summer, though, I am hoping to bring over a power skating instructor to run a camp at one of the rinks in Northern Ireland.

What would you like people to know about Irish Ice hockey?

We have hockey here in Ireland! We have a great mix of Irish, eastern European, and North American players. We have a growing youth program. We do this all without a rink. Imagine what it would be like with a rink. We have two great locations to get a rink opened but we need investment. We are hoping to attract interest from North amebic in that regard. Hockey is a sport made for the Irish, fast and physical.

What is your favorite NHL team and player?

The Montreal Canadiens. Past, Larry Robinson. Current, PK Subban or Carey Price.

Gold for Emirates

By Adam Steiss –

Edging Mongolia 5-4 in its last game, Team UAE claimed its third IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia title.

Tournament star forward and top scorer Jumah Al Dhaheri got the game winner in the shootout against Mongolia, while goalie Khaled Al Suwaidi stopped both of Mongolia’s shooters to seal the gold medal for the Emirati.

The two teams came into the game tied in points after putting up three straight wins in the previous days to set up a winner-take-all clash at The Rink Ice Arena in the Thai capital of Bangkok, which hosted the 2017 Challenge Cup of Asia.

Mongolia built up a 2-0 lead in the first period, and was still up 4-2 halfway through the game before a furious Emirati comeback, led by a pair of goals from Khalifa Al Marhooqi, sent the teams into overtime and eventually closed with a shootout victory for UAE. Marhooqi finished the game with a hat trick, earning him the game’s Best Player award. 

Al Dhaheri took home both the tournament Top Scorer and Top Forward honours, after posting a sparkling eight goal, six assist stat line in just four games. Hi teammate Al Suwaidi earned the Best Goaltender nod, thanks to a 90.00 save percentage and a 3.00 GAA.

The tenth edition of the Challenge Cup of Asia tournament saw five teams compete in a four-game round robin. Team Mongolia win its fifth straight medal in the competition, claiming the country’s first silver medal ever to go with four bronze in 2013-2016.

Tournament hosts Thailand finished ahead of Singapore and Malaysia to claim the 2017 bronze medal.

Team UAE’s victory halted the streak of four consecutive tournament victories by Chinese Taipei, which did not participate in the 2017 CCOA after joining the IIHF Championship program where it will be competing in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III in April.

The IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia is an international ice hockey tournament held annually in Asia, and is designed to provide competitive opportunities for Asian teams that are either in the lower divisions of the IIHF World Championship or do not compete in the World Championship. The first event was held in Hong Kong in 2008.

Trans-Tasman ice hockey series added to Winter Games

By Stuff

A three-test ice hockey series between New Zealand and Australia has been added to this year’s Audi quattro Winter Games in Queenstown.

The Ice Blacks will host their trans-Tasman rivals on August 31, September 2 and September 3 at Queenstown Ice Arena.

“It’s something we had in our initial planning, but it has taken until now to make it come to fruition,” Winter Games NZ chief executive Arthur Klap said.

 “This is all due to the efforts of both the Australian and New Zealand Ice Hockey Federations.”

It is the first time Queenstown has hosted an ice hockey international and New Zealand Ice Hockey President Gunther Birgel is hopeful that being involved in such an event will give the sport’s profile a significant boost.

“Ice Hockey is such a heavy impact and fast sport, and we are very pleased in being able to show off the excitement and skills of the sport,” Birgel said. “Being an official part of the Winter Games will give us a large exposure and hopefully a lot more people will realise that ice hockey is being played in NZ.”

Birgel added that he and his Australian counterparts were working towards holding the series on an annual basis, alternating between the two countries.

Metallung vs Ak Bars – consistency and renewal. Eastern Preview


When it comes to Eastern Conference success, Metallurg Magnitogorsk and Ak Bars Kazan are the go-to teams. Between them, they’ve featured in five out of eight Gagarin Cup finals. They’ve represented the Eastern Conference in the last three seasons and both organizations are bidding to become the first team in history to win three Gagarin Cups. Yet their paths to glory have been somewhat different.

For Metallurg, continuity has been the key. The team that has reached this stage bears more than a passing resemblance to Mike Keenan’s 2014 championship roster. Persevering with the MozyakinKovarZaripov troika was something of a no-brainer, but it’s impressive to see how many senior players from three years ago are still producing top-class performances. The likes of goalie Vasily Koshechkin and defenseman Chris Lee remain formidable players, while Lee’s partner Viktor Antipin, still just 24, has matured into a player whose contribution belies his relatively young age. New players have been introduced, but they tend to emerge from within the Metallurg youth system – eg Alexei Bereglazov – or get snapped up as promising youngsters – such as Evgeny Timkin or Tomas Filippi. There’s no attempt to buy instant success here; the focus is on establishing a dynasty at the top of the game.

Even behind the bench, the changes have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Keenan moved upstairs into an advisory role during the 2014-15 season, bringing his deputy, Ilya Vorobyov, into the spotlight. Vorobyov has continued to work with the coaching infrastructure that existed under Keenan, and the whole organization has reaped the rewards of that consistency. While there may be an element of good fortune in that key players have remained fit and in form for several seasons, there’s no luck at all about consistent results at a club that has established a clear model of how it plays its hockey.

The Ak Bars story is rather different. On the face of it, it’s easy to draw a direct line linking Zinetula Bilyaletdinov’s all-conquering teams of 2009 and 2010 and the present roster. Coach Bill is still in charge, and during his absence on international duty his place was filled by long-term right-hand man Valery Belov. When Bilyaletdinov led the team to the Gagarin Cup final in 2015 at the end of his first season back at the club following his spell in charge of Team Russia, it felt like business as usual at a club he has dominated for more than a decade.

Not so. A radical overhaul of the club’s roster followed the 1-4 loss to SKA. It started on defense, where Ilya Nikulin, Evgeny Medvedev and Yakov Rylov were among the stalwarts to move on. Of the nine D-men who suited up in the 2015 playoffs, only Stepan Zakharchuk and Damir Musin are still involved in Kazan, while goalie Emil Garipov has emerged from the sidelines to be the undisputed #1.

Up front, the changes are less prominent, although the departure of Osсar Moller has affected the potency of Ak Bars’ offense. The key new figure, Vladimir Tkachyov, was involved in 2015 but has gone from a bit-part player to a vital component of the attack. Now 23, he’s enjoyed something of a break-out year this time around, winning an All-Star call-up and international recognition. Currently he tops the post-season scoring in Kazan with 11 (2+9) points. This season’s leading playoff goalscorers for the club, Jiri Sekac and Fyodor Malykhin, have both arrived since the previous Grand Final appearance. Sekac, part of the Lev Prague team that reached the 2014 final, has renewed a profitable combination with Justin Azevedo, Malykhin has quietly grown in stature since arriving from Avtomobilist.

Perhaps the most intriguing change in the two rosters involves Rafael Batyrshin. This time last year, the defenseman was part of Magnitka’s cup-winning roster. Now, he’s shrugged off the injuries that blighted his regular season and is a solid part of Ak Bars’ defense. An archetypal ‘stay-at-home’ D-man, Batyrshin doesn’t grab the headlines in the manner of Lee or Nikulin – his three post-season assists this time around represent a career high. Now, Kazan waits to see if his insider knowledge of Magnitka’s all-powerful forwards can wrest the cup away from the holder.

SKA vs Lokomotiv – Former comrades face Final battle. Western preview


Omsk, April 25, 2012. 52 minutes into game seven of the Gagarin Cup Final, Jakub Klepis scores the decisive goal for Dynamo Moscow, defeating Avangard. Dynamo’s captain, Alexei Kudashov, goes to collect the trophy and celebrates victory with head coach Oleg Znarok, two years after the pair lost out in game seven of the 2010 Grand Final with MVD.

Fast forward to 2017. Five years on, Kudashov and Znarok are seeking more Gagarin Cup glory … but this time they stand in each other’s way. Znarok, who went on to defend his title in Moscow before taking up his position with Team Russia, is now behind the bench at SKA. Kudashov ended his playing career after Dynamo’s first triumph and spent two seasons as head coach at Atlant before moving to Lokomotiv in 2015. Now, both men are preparing for this week’s Western Conference Final as SKA faces Lokomotiv.

Znarok’s coaching career is well-known. His success at club and international level speaks for itself, while his spiky character has introduced a new, combative attitude to Team Russia after the patrician strategies of the Zinetula Bilyaletdinov era. At SKA, the lavish collection of exquisitely talented players on offense feels different to his previous club teams at MVD and Dynamo. But for all the thrilling talent on display, the Army Men are no soft touch when it comes to a battle. Maybe it isn’t co-incidence that Pavel Datsyuk, that most elegant of hockey players, picked up the first game misconduct of his career while playing under Znarok. Anyone involved with this coach understands that talent – no matter how outrageous – will never be enough to exempt any player from putting in the hard yards on the ice.

Kudashov’s story is a bit different. Two seasons of struggle at Atlant saw financial constraints hamper the team. Twice, he fell just short of a playoff spot. When Lokomotiv came calling, it looked like a change of direction for the Yaroslavl team: no more big-name foreigners; instead, a calculated gamble on a rising star of Russian coaching. Now 45, Kudashov shows signs of delivering on that promise – and of helping Loko develop its own emerging talents. He’s spoken of his willingness to give serious game time to the leading products of the renowned Yaroslavl hockey school, and that has been rewarded with big performances from the likes of Pavel Kraskovsky, Yegor Korshkov and Alexander Polunin. That trio has impressed for club and country, playing as a single line at Lokomotiv and for Russia’s u20s. The elder two, Kraskovsky and Korshkov, also featured in Russia’s senior roster during the successful Euro Hockey Tour campaign. Polunin, already attracting attention from across the Atlantic, told earlier this season that Lokomotiv’s commitment to nurturing young talent was a big part of why he left Moscow to continue his development in Yaroslavl. “Because of the coaches’ trust, young players gain confidence and play better,” he said. “It’s very good because it helps me develop and grow better and faster.”

That young trio has played a valuable cameo role in the current playoffs, but Lokomotiv’s biggest strength so far has been its power play. It’s no coincidence that D-man Jakub Nakladal, a two-way player with a mighty slap shot, is the team’s leading goalscorer: partnered by Staffan Kronwall while Brandon Kozun pulls those power play strings, the Czech has emerged as a formidable weapon in post-season, three seasons after he helped defeat Lokomotiv at this stage while playing for Lev Prague.

Kudashov has some injury worries: first-choice goalie Alexei Murygin missed the last two games of the series against CSKA and his fitness is uncertain ahead of Thursday’s opener in Petersburg. Kozun took a hit to the head during Grigory Panin’s rampage on Saturday and did not feature in the latter half of that game.

Znarok, meanwhile, is without defenseman Vyacheslav Voynov, who has not featured since appearing in one shift in the final game of the regular season.


Future Watch 2017: The NHL’s Top 10 rising prospects

By Matt Larkin – The Hockey News

We’ve carefully evaluated every NHL team’s farm system and ranked their top prospects. Which players’ stocks have risen the most since 2016?

The approach of spring brings the NHL playoff race’s home stretch and also my favorite issue we publish at THN every year: Future Watch. It’s a farm system breakdown you can’t find anywhere else. We grade out every franchise’s developing crop of NHL-affiliated talent.

First, we consult scouts from all 30 NHL franchises to get lists of their top 10 prospects. In this case, “prospects” mean players under team control who are not yet full-time NHLers. That gives us a list of 300 players. We then turn that list over to our scouting panel, made up of roughly 15 NHL executives depending on the year, including head scouts and GMs. Each panel member ranks the top 50 prospects from that group. Enough players receive votes that we produce a final top-75 individual player list, and we expanded that to 100 players this year.

Finally, we grade every team’s prospect list while also including any players 21 and younger on their NHL rosters – as we can hardly discount Connor McDavid, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel as significant part of their teams’ futures for years to come.

And voila, that’s Future Watch, covering teams’ farm systems from every angle.

Every year, individual player rankings see wild fluctuations. Which prospects not yet graduated to full-time NHL duty made the biggest leaps over the past year? Last year’s top climbers were Jimmy Vesey and Nick Schmaltz, each of whom plies his trade in the NHL today.

Note: the list of risers does not include any prospects drafted in 2016, as they’re appearing in Future Watch for the first time. That includes Clayton Keller, Jesse Puljujarvi and so on.

1. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Minnesota Wild (+63)
Last year: Not ranked in top 75
This year: 13th

Kaprizov forced his way up our rankings with an incredible 365 days between Future Watch 2016 and 2017. He absolutely devoured the 2017 world juniors, with nine goals and 12 points in seven games. Then he ripped off 20 goals in 49 games with the KHL’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and his 42 points set a league record for a teenager. If there’s one thing the Wild lack right now on their deep roster, it’s a truly deadly goal scorer, as they should finish 2016-17 without a 30-goal man. Kaprizov can help them in that area long term. He doesn’t fit the mold of prototypical Richard Trophy contender in that he’s not a pure, “selfish” shooter. He’s more of an all-around scoring type with great hands and speed. At just 5-foot-9, he’s often compared to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin.

Minny fans have to mop up their saliva and wait a couple years, however. Kaprizov’s KHL contract doesn’t expire until 2018. So we’ll anticipate his 2018-19 arrival just like we did Evgeny Kuznetsov’s for so many years.

2. Philippe Myers, D, Philadelphia Flyers (+47)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 29th

The Flyers inked Myers as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He didn’t even crack their top 10 prospects in Future Watch 2016, so a leap inside the top 30 shocked us. Our panel really likes the kid, as do the Flyers, who rave about his blend of mobility and agility on a 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame. He’s quietly been better than a point-per-game player with the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this season. He impressed in a pre-season look with the Flyers last fall, too, and made Canada’s world junior squad. TSN’s Bob McKenzie excited Flyers fans in January by suggesting Myers was NHL ready.

As if the Flyers weren’t stacked enough with young D-men. They already have Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere at the NHL level, with Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg in the system. Myers could leapfrog that AHL trio if he keeps playing this well.

3. Jordan Greenway, LW, Minnesota Wild (+40)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 36th

The hulking Greenway earned a “project” label in last year’s edition but made a massive leap for 2017. He was a huge component of the championship 2017 U.S. world junior squad, with three goals and eight points in seven games. He’s a major part of Boston University’s offense, too. TSN’s Ray Ferraro, quoted in Future Watch, compares Greenway to Todd Bertuzzi. Greenway possesses a similar blend of scoring touch, size and flat-out nastiness.

4. Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa Senators (+35)
Last year: 38th
This year: 3rd

Chabot didn’t make the single-biggest jump of any prospect over the past year, but climbing specifically from 38th into the top three overall makes his rise arguably the most significant. He became a household name in Canada as the world junior team’s workhorse, do-it-all D-man and is the first defenseman to win tournament MVP. Most blueliners need AHL seasoning to learn the pro game, but Chabot might be too good. He could jump from QMJHL Saint John right to the Sens for good next season. First, he’ll try to pad his resume with a Memorial Cup.

5. Brandon Montour, D, Anaheim Ducks (+35)
Last year: 65th
This year: 30th

Montour appears to have landed in the NHL for good but was still spending most of his time in the AHL when our scouts compiled their rankings, so he was still treated as a prospect in our magazine this year. There’s a reason why, despite all the trade rumors, Montour remained a Duck through the deadline, even with Anaheim enjoying a surplus of good young blueliners. Montour is just too promising, and his offensive ceiling appears to have surpassed that of Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Shea Theodore. That’s not to say Montour is a sure thing – but he’s a smooth-skating right-hander who can run a power play and has a big-time shot. He’s a risk taker who makes mistakes, but he could grow into a high-scoring NHLer if he rounds out the rest of his game and earns an increased role. The question now is: should GM Bob Murray shop right-shooting Sami Vatanen to free up depth chart space for Montour?

6. Jack Roslovic, C, Winnipeg Jets (+30)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 46th

Spoiler alert: the Jets’ farm system finished first in our team rankings for the second time in three years, and Roslovic is making nice a splash as a first-time pro in the AHL alongside speedy Kyle Connor. Roslovic possesses promising 200-foot hockey acumen. Is he the long-term successor to Bryan Little as Winnipeg’s No. 2 center? Little turns 30 next year, has one season left on his deal at a $4.7-million cap hit and has missed significant time due to injury three years in a row.

7. Jacob Larsson, D, Anaheim Ducks (+27)
Last year: 50th
This year: 23rd

Sheesh, these Ducks are swimming in ‘D’ prospects. Larsson has strong two-way skills and fluid skating. The Ducks gave him four games in the NHL and AHL before loaning him back to Frolunda of the Swedish League. Larsson’s still just 19, and the Ducks’ stacked blueline buys them time to slow-cook him. He’ll likely get an extended look at the North American pro game next year in the AHL, with an eye on cracking the Ducks for good in 2018-19.

8. Christian Fischer, RW, Arizona Coyotes (+22)
Last year: Not ranked
This year: 54th

Subpar skating hasn’t derailed Fischer’s ascension as a promising power forward. He’s torn up the AHL in his first season of pro hockey, flirting with point-per-game production, and he scored twice three NHL games with the Coyotes.

9. Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets (+20)
Last year: 73rd
This year: 53rd

Like Montour, Bjorkstrand hadn’t yet stuck with the big club when our panel ranked the players. It appears he’s there permanently now. He was a prolific scorer in major junior with WHL Portland, and he found his touch and ripped it up with AHL Lake Erie in the 2016 playoffs en route to winning the Calder Cup. So far, so good in the NHL as well, where he has five goals and 10 points in 18 games this season. He’s bouncing around the lineup a bit but always has quality linemates on such a deep team.

10. Joel Eriksson Ek, C, Minnesota Wild (+18)
Last year: 23rd
This year: 5th

The scouts love Eriksson Ek, and with good reason. He’s a smart, skilled pivot who, interestingly enough, profiles as a Mikko Koivu type of player but with more offensive upside. Eriksson Ek had five points in nine games with Minny to start the year, but the Wild decided they’d rather see him play a ton back in Sweden than toil on their fourth line. He lit up the world juniors with six goals and nine points in seven games, too. He’ll be back in the NHL soon, likely next season, and he’ll contend for the Calder Trophy.

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