Category: NHL (page 1 of 8)

Sidney Crosby among fastest to 1,000 despite delays

By Nicholas J. Cotsonika –

Sidney Crosby isn’t the best player in the world because he’s more talented than everyone else. He’s the best because he works hard, he’s determined, and he’s skilled, especially in tight spaces. He makes the most of his talent and his teammates better.

When the Pittsburgh Penguins captain reached 1,000 points with an assist in a 4-3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday, he showcased his defining traits.

Crosby stood in front of the net while a point shot bounced off Jets captain Blake Wheeler and skidded into the left circle. He and Wheeler raced to the puck, and Crosby won the battle with the strong edge work, huge hockey haunches and low center of gravity he hones in workouts and practices.

He lifted Wheeler’s stick, spun around and shielded the puck with his body. He collected the puck and found linemate Chris Kunitz with a slick pass as he has so many times before. Kunitz scored on a one-timer from the slot 6:28 into the first period, giving the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

But the occasion was bittersweet, even though Crosby assisted on the tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime.

It felt like Crosby finally did it when he received a standing ovation and raised his stick in return. At the same time, he became the 12th fastest to reach 1,000 points in terms of games played (757).

Crosby, 29, should have reached 1,000 points long ago and should have far more than 1,002 now. He has missed 167 games in his NHL career. One hundred sixty-seven. That’s a little more than two seasons of the prime of one of the best players in NHL history.

He has missed about 18 percent of Pittsburgh’s regular-season games since entering the NHL in 2005-06. Had he missed, say, half that and stayed at his career average of 1.324 points per game — fifth-best in history, behind Wayne Gretzky (1.921), Mario Lemieux (1.883), Mike Bossy (1.497) and Bobby Orr (1.393) — he would have more than 1,100 points by now.

Of course we don’t know if he would have produced at the same rate. He might have produced at an even higher rate.

Crosby had 66 points through 41 games in 2010-11, averaging 1.61 per game, on pace for 132. It would have been not only the best season of his NHL career, but the best for anyone since the mid-1990s. But he missed the final 41 games that season and then 60 games in 2011-12 because of concussions, and then the final 12 of the 48-game schedule in 2012-13 because of a broken jaw.

What would he have done had he stayed healthy? Just because we can ask the same about Lemieux, Bossy, Orr and others makes it no less disappointing for him.

Crosby has overcome so much, reclaimed his place atop the game and held it amid increasing competition. Despite the concussions, setbacks and uncertainty, he has come back and played the way he used to — flying up ice, grinding down low, going to the net, taking contact and initiating it.

In 2013-14, he won the Hart Trophy as most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion for the second time each, plus his second Olympic gold medal with Canada. He was fifth in Hart voting in 2014-15, second last season. He won the Stanley Cup for the second time and the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP for the first time last year, plus the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and tournament MVP with Team Canada.

Although he missed the first six games of this season because of a concussion, his 31 goals lead the NHL.

Look at the 11 who reached 1,000 points in fewer games: Gretzky (424), Lemieux (513), Bossy (656), Peter Stastny (682), Jari Kurri (716), Guy Lafleur (720), Bryan Trottier (726), Denis Savard (727), Steve Yzerman (737), Marcel Dionne (740) and Phil Esposito (745).

Pretty good company. Most of them scored their first 1,000 points in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. None of them did it in this lower-scoring era with its salary cap, parity, video study, emphasis on systems and stingier goaltending.

Once known as Sid the Kid, Crosby has aged to the point where he is hitting milestones and being asked to reflect. Among his competition for best player in the world is Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, 20, who grew up idolizing him. Crosby often says he appreciate things more after what he went through and doesn’t take moments like this for granted.

“I think you look at it a little bit differently when you get older,” Crosby told reporters in Pittsburgh recently. “It’s just something you enjoy a little bit more.”

But older doesn’t equal old. If he stays healthy, Crosby should keep playing at a high level, if not the highest, for the foreseeable future.

“Right now Crosby is the best player, and you have to earn your stripes,” Gretzky said before the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian were unveiled in Los Angeles on Jan. 27. “Until somebody knocks him off the castle, that’s the way it’s going to be.”

He’s at 1,002 points and counting.

Jagr collects assist on Barkov goal to record point No. 1,900


With an assist on Aleksander Barkov‘s late third period goal in Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr became just the second player in NHL history to record 1,900 career points.

Jagr joins Wayne Gretzky as the only other player to ever hit the 1,900-point plateau.

With the game coming on Jagr’s 45th birthday, he also became just the fifth player and third skater in NHL history to suit up for a NHL game following his 45th birthday, joining the likes of Gordie Howe, Chris Chelios, Moe Roberts, and Johnny Bower.

Unfortunately, for the birthday boy he still remains 957 points behind Gretzky for first place on the all-time points list.

Jujhar Khaira, family embraced hockey early

By Tim Campbell –

Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira was a Canadian kid who grew up with a love of hockey, on the street and on the ice in Surrey, British Columbia. Thanks to the sacrifices of hard-working parents who went out of their way to foster his devotion to the game, he earned his way to the NHL.

Khaira’s heritage is uncommon; the 63rd pick of the 2012 NHL Draft is the third Indo-Canadian to play in the League. Robin Bawa, who played a total of 61 games over four seasons from 1989-1994 and Manny Malhotra, who played 991 games over 16 seasons from 1998-2015 are the other two. The 22-year-old is enthused about the message being highlighted by the NHL’s Hockey is for Everyone month.

The Oilers will help promote Hockey is for Everyone month with their You Can Play night against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, FS-A, NHL.TV).

“For families that come from different countries, there’s definitely different priorities when they come over [to North America],” Khaira said. “You have to make a living, and parents work so hard here to give their kids a better life.

“I think every parent is like that, but just the hard work in coming over, they never want to see money go to waste. It’s a different culture, a different set of beliefs. Now seeing myself achieve this goal, it opens parents’ eyes and kids’ eyes that it’s possible and it doesn’t matter where you come from. Anybody can do it.

“I think that’s cool, and I hope it motivates more kids to go out there and achieve their goals. It’s a start for a lot of people to start playing.”

Khaira played 15 games for the Oilers last season. He has played three this season and scored his first NHL goal on Jan. 16, a game-winning goal against the Arizona Coyotes. Khaira sustained an upper-body injury Jan. 18 against the Florida Panthers. He was placed on the injured reserve list but is close to returning.

“It was an awesome moment,” Khaira said of his first goal. “You grow up playing road hockey and there are so many different ways the scenarios go [through your head] on the street, how you’ll score, so for it to actually happen there’s a lot that goes through your mind. It was a big smile that night.

“And the amount of support I get from the south Asian community, that’s really cool. Just to score one, I think they enjoyed that just as much as I did.”

Khaira’s support system began with his dad Sukhjinder, a gravel truck driver, and his mom Komal, a speech language pathologist.

“Growing up, my parents made sacrifice after sacrifice,” Khaira said. “My brother (Sahvan, 19, a defenseman with Swift Current of the Western Hockey League) and I were playing, and my dad and mom used to get up at 5 a.m. and take us. I’m sure it’s the same story with any other kids. My parents did a lot for us, and that’s why their opinion on my games is really important to me, even though they tell me they don’t understand it as well as coaches and others. But at the end of the day, they’ve always been honest with me.”

Khaira’s parents immigrated to Canada when they were about 5, he said.

Its also made a lot of sacrifices and their mentality was always work, work, work. And so my parents played sports, but there was never really any funding to try hockey.

“Growing up and watching TV, CBC would be on every Saturday night. They loved watching hockey. We didn’t have many channels but one was hockey on CBC, so when I was old enough to play, they asked me if I wanted to. I loved it.”

Khaira said he’s also amazed at the support and the reach of the growing phenomenon that is OMNI TV’s Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi edition.

“It’s an awesome thing they are doing, especially for the older generation of Punjabi because they can understand,” Khaira said. “My grandparents can understand English, but when it’s in their language and when the talk is fast with the commentators keeping up with the play, it’s better for them to understand it. It’s so great for some of the Canadian cities with south Asian communities, Vancouver of course, Edmonton, and Toronto for sure. This is an awesome thing they are doing.”

Khaira said that his own passion for hockey developed because he found the game inclusive.

“Everybody I’ve played with, I’ve never felt excluded,” he said. “Always felt welcome. That’s from Day One. There’s always a few people that you run into or play against where emotion will get high and stuff gets said, but since I’ve been a pro, not much of that.

“A hockey team is like a family and I don’t think anybody, especially myself, has ever been excluded or not felt part of it in any way.”

Part of the emphasis on inclusion and diversity on Tuesday will see the Oilers use Pride Tape in warmups. Pride Tape is a creation of the local communications and marketing firm Calder Bateman and after the Oilers were the first NHL team to use it to support LGBTQ awareness, it has spread to 19 other NHL cities for You Can Play initiatives this season. Pride Tape is on sale at

Oilers vice chair and alternate governor Kevin Lowe said the team is eager to continue its support of the You Can Play program begun last year.

“Our entire organization is honored to drive positive social change and help foster more inclusive communities, as evidenced by the leadership role last season by having our players be the first NHL team to use the Pride Tape,” Lowe said. “Also important with the NHL and its member clubs, the Oilers are reaffirming that the official policy of our great game is one of inclusion, on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.”

Matt Hendricks is the Oilers ambassador for Hockey is for Everyone month and You Can Play night.

“For me, this about the excitement and joy in being able to support my community through this great avenue with the Oilers,” Hendricks said. “Being a father, this gives me an opportunity to be a great role model for my kids, my teammates and to help set my foot more into this great community that has been so open and welcoming to me.

“I got a little bit involved last year with Andrew (Ference, former Oilers captain) just like the rest of the team did, and when I was asked if I wanted to follow in his footsteps to represent the team, I was more than happy to. A great honor.”

Meet the Chinese billionaire who wants to grow hockey in the world’s biggest market

By Ken Campbell – The Hockey News

High above the ridiculousness that is the NHL All-Star Game, a 55-year-old Chinese billionaire looks on from his suite at the Staples Center. It’s the ultimate juxtaposition on a couple of levels. Chinese billionaires don’t often attend hockey games and this game doesn’t really represent anything remotely close to NHL hockey. At one point, an associate who hands out wooden business cards that cost five bucks each, pulls up a clip on his smart phone of a goalie making a diving save.

“I goalie,” the Chinese billionaire says proudly.

Meet Zhou Yunjie, the chairman of a company called ORG Packaging based in Beijing. In 2016, he was ranked No. 271 on Forbes’ China Rich List with a net worth of $1.2 billion, up from No. 348 the year before. When you’re this rich and accomplished, people call you Mister. So most people in North America refer to him as Mr. Zhou (pronounced JOE). And if he hadn’t already existed, there’s a good chance the NHL would have tried to invent him.

A billionaire whose goal is to grow hockey in the world’s most fertile and unexplored market? Are you kidding? With the 2022 Winter Olympics going to Beijing, there has been an explosion of interest in winter sports in China, a market that is continually grasping the concept of sports as a form of entertainment. And Zhou wants to work with the NHL as a conduit to that market.

“We are looking forward to future cooperation with the NHL,” Zhou told through a translator during all-star weekend. “I would really like to work with them.”

And the feeling is mutual. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently returned from a trip to China where he had meetings with seven different governmental and private sector companies in three days. ORG already has partnerships with the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings. In fact, the Bruins will be holding their second ORG Night Sunday when they host the Montreal Canadiens and Zhou will be on hand to conduct the ceremonial faceoff. ORG was a sponsor of the World Cup of Hockey, had board advertising at the All-Star Game and currently has a deal with young Bruins’ star David Pastrnak. Daly told that the NHL and ORG are “in an advanced stage of discussions,” to have ORG on board as a league sponsor.

“Hockey is the No. 1 sport on ice. It’s marketable and there’s a big market there.”

“We are thrilled with the relationship we and our clubs have established with Mr. Zhou and the interest he has shown, and the investment he has made, in the NHL,” Daly said in an email to “Certainly it is helpful to have that relationship as we attempt to broaden and deepen our ties with the Chinese business community. But what we are finding is Mr. Zhou is not alone in his interest in hockey. There seems to be a real appetite in the Chinese business community to associate with the North American sports business. And we think we can be a beneficiary of that.”

The NBA has had a foothold in China for more than two decades now. This past year marked the 10th edition of the China Games featuring preseason games between two NBA teams, something the NHL hopes to replicate next fall with exhibition games featuring the Kings and Vancouver Canucks. The NBA is now a huge part of Chinese culture, aided by the fact that homegrown 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming had a Hall of Fame career with the Houston Rockets. Zhou Qi, a 7-foot-2 forward who was drafted in the second round last June by the Houston Rockets, is currently playing in the Chinese Basketball Association and hopes to follow in Ming’s footsteps.

As is the case with most non-traditional hockey markets, there is almost no grassroots connection to the game and that is a huge obstacle. But even that might be changing. The Chinese government is trying to build between 200 and 300 indoor rinks in the next couple of years and, funded by Zhou’s company, young Chinese players have been making pilgrimages to both Boston and Washington to do skill development with NHL teams. Two dozen young Chinese players just completed a 12-day camp at the Capitals practice facility and 25 more will spend the next couple of weeks working with the Bruins.

Zhou said there are currently about 2,000 kids and 100 clubs playing in the Beijing area, a number he said will grow with more state sponsorship of the game.

“People’s lives in China are getting better and they are turning to the concept of competition in the sports into entertainment,” said Richard Zhang, president of Ocean 24 Sports and Entertainment, who helps Zhou put together his deals in North America. “Hockey is the No. 1 sport on ice. It’s marketable and there’s a big market there. That’s why (Zhou) is putting his energy into this.”

It all started with a lunch meeting during the World Cup. Judd Moldaver, an agent with the CAA Agency that represents Pastrnak, thought it would be a good idea for Kings president of business operations, Luc Robitaille to meet Zhou. The Kings’ parent company, AEG, owns the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and the MasterCard Center in Beijing.

The two hit it off over their lunch in Toronto and that led to Robitaille inviting Zhou to come to all-star weekend. And the best part of it all? Robitaille also invited Zhou to play goal in the celebrity all-star game that was held the day before the main event.

“He loves the game and he loves Bobby Orr,” Robitaille said. “He really enjoyed himself in the game and I think he and the guys got a big kick out of it.”

Zhou has been on Forbes’ billionaire list for two years now and is described by the magazine as a self-made billionaire. He founded his company along with his mother in 1984, starting with four employees. Almost a quarter of a century later, ORG is a publicly traded company that has about 4,000 employees and boasts Red Bull, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Campbell’s Soup as some of its major clients. ORG is China’s leading producer of three-piece cans, which are used primarily for food, and two-piece cans, used for soft drinks and beer.

Zhou started playing hockey as a goalie in Beijing when he was 12 and has had a fascination with the sport ever since. He regularly watches NHL games and is interested in hockey not only as a business venture, but in growing the game in China on the grassroots level. According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, China currently has about 1,000 registered players, which means a hockey player is literally one in a million. With that kind of potential for growth, Zhou is using his partnerships with NHL teams to expose young players to the kind of coaching they need to become elite players.

“With people like that wanting to push the development of the game with us, it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

Zhou has arranged for current and former Bruins to go to China to conduct hockey clinics in the summer and this coming summer, Capitals coach Barry Trotz and several alumni players will be making a trip to hold another camp. Zhou has also arranged for players from the Beijing Primary School to attend camps in both Boston and Washington. This week, the Bruins will host 25 players and the Capitals recently wrapped up a 12-day session with 24 players ranging in age from six to 12 that finished with a scrimmage against a group of local players at the Verizon Center between periods of the Capitals game against the Bruins Feb. 1.

“I was definitely pleasantly surprised,” said Dan Jablonic, the hockey director at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether it was going to be a learn-to-skate, learn-to-play clinic, but they all could skate really well. I would say the majority of the players had ‘B’ or ‘A’ level travel skills and there were actually two players who were top players, who were definitely ‘AA’ or ‘AAA’ players.”

What Jablonic found with the players he coached was they had a very good handle on individual skills. He found a group of kids that listened well, worked very hard and kept their attention focused even at the end of the second of a two-a-day session.

“To see how well these kids listen was really a coach’s dream,” Jablonic said. “At the end of a two-a-day when most kids are really out to la-la land, these kids stayed focused and would sit and take a knee and listen and watch, even when they were tired.”

Where they are lacking, Jablonic said, was in game concepts and the team game, something he attributed to the fact that so many of the young players receive the bulk of their coaching in one-on-one settings. Jablonic said the one player he classified as a AAA player had tremendous individual skills, but found himself turning the puck over in game situations because he was trying to do too much on his own.

“We tried to get them to understand the concept of them really giving the pass and going to the open area and understanding that you might be skilled, but you have to utilize the other four players who are out on the ice with you to become a better player,” said Jablonic, who played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the ECHL before playing briefly in Sweden. “That’s a part of their game that was a little bit of a weakness, but they were willing to learn that. I was surprised at how well they moved the puck over the course of their time there and became willing to pass the puck, get it back and utilize the whole ice.”

And this is where the cultural differences might be something of an obstacle. As is the case in North America, a good number of former players have seen an opportunity to make a living as skills coaches in China and they have been coming from Russia and other former Soviet countries. There are even some Canadians coaching there. It has led to what Jablonic calls, “almost a figure skating model” where coaching is much more focused on the individual. That could change if the government does manage to build all those rinks and makes the game accessible to more people.

But development takes time. Lots of it. The Sunbelt states producing top players is a relatively new phenomenon and kids not having places to play is a barrier to development. Two years ago, the New York Islanders drafted Andong Song in the sixth round. Song was born in Beijing and began playing hockey there, but moved to Canada when he was 10 and now 20, is playing for the Madison Capitols of the USHL, where he has played 33 games with no points. Players who are willing to go to the lengths that Song and his family have gone to develop as hockey players might be the key to that development, at least in its infancy stages. Jablonic said that a number of players who took part in the most recent camp are already making plans to come back this summer for a deke and score school.

“I think it would be great for Hockey Canada and USA Hockey to help them with the proper development model,” Jablonic said. “I don’t agree with what they’re doing right now. You hear some of the coaches talk about it who were with this group and they were saying certain guys come in and they’re identifying players so early and if that coach has a group of really good mites or squirts, that doesn’t predict how good those kids are going to be as bantams and they’re excluding a bigger pool of players.”

There are critics of the development model over here that might complain about the same thing happening, but the difference here is the massive pool of players. But in terms of building the game, that’s where the NHL might come in. At least that’s what Daly found when he visited there.

“What I sensed was a real welcoming and open attitude to having us there, having us do more things there, making our games more available and accessible there,” Daly said. “They were very encouraging of us bringing our teams and games to China, helping and supporting the Chinese youth hockey infrastructure and assisting them in building a national program. In every one of the meetings I had, it was mentioned that while hockey doesn’t have as much exposure as basketball in China, our game was very popular with the Chinese youth and teenagers who were fascinated by the skill and pace of hockey played at a high level.”

So perhaps hockey isn’t just a unique fascination of one of the country’s billionaires, though having someone like that advocating for the NHL and the game certainly doesn’t hurt. As Daly pointed out, building and growing winter sports there is a priority at the highest levels of government. Hockey can’t help but benefit from that, but the NHL has to be there to showcase its product in more than just pre-season games. That will require it to send players there for the 2022 Olympics, which could be good news for those still holding out hope for 2018 in Pyeongchang. If the International Olympic Committee draws a line in the sand and says no Beijing without Pyeongchang, that could be enough to prompt the NHL to rethink its position.

Zhou, meanwhile, will keep pushing. He has had a number of meetings with both Daly and commissioner Gary Bettman and the two of them held a breakfast meeting during the all-star festivities to discuss business opportunities. And if the NHL is looking to maximize revenues, it could do worse than turn its efforts to a country with 1.4 billion people.

Or as Robitaille said: “With people like that wanting to push the development of the game with us, it’s absolutely phenomenal. It’s a great market and at the end of the day, if you grow the game, there’s more money for everyone.”

Metropolitan defeats Pacific in All-Star Game final

By Tim Campbell –

Wayne Simmonds checked all the boxes at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game, including scoring the winning goal for the Metropolitan Division in a 4-3 victory against the Pacific Division in the championship of the 3-on-3 tournament at Staples Center on Sunday.

The Philadelphia Flyers forward, who was named the MVP, said he had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish in his first NHL All-Star Game.

“Just don’t make yourself look like an idiot,” Simmonds said. “Don’t dump and chase. Try to keep the puck on your stick. There’s a lot of great players around … and I was thinking maybe just defer to everybody else to be honest with you. But it ended up that I had some big goals. It was great playing with all those guys.”

WATCH: All-Star highlights

Simmonds and Cam Atkinson scored five seconds apart midway through the second half to help the Metropolitan Division rally from down 3-2 at the intermission.

The Metropolitan players split the $1 million prize awarded to the winning team.

Playing the second half, Metropolitan goalie Braden Holtby didn’t allow a goal. He got help from the goal post and defenseman Ryan McDonagh on Ryan Kesler‘s shot with about 40 seconds left.

“It was quite a kick save,” Holtby said of McDonagh. “It’s a game-saver right there. I think we were both surprised that it stayed out.”

After Atkinson tied the game 3-3 by scoring on his own rebound with 5:03 left, Metropolitan forward Taylor Hall won the ensuing faceoff by pushing past Pacific center Jeff Carter.

“I didn’t even tell the guys on the ice I was doing it,” said Hall, the New Jersey Devils forward who played for the Pacific Division last season when it won the first 3-on-3 All-Star Game tournament. “I just saw they were lined up three across on the red line and tried to push it through.

“It seemed to work out a couple times like that during the game. It’s fun to try that kind of stuff in an all-star game.”

Breaking quickly on a 2-on-0, Hall fed a perfect pass to Simmonds, who had skated past Pacific defenseman Drew Doughty and beat goalie Mike Smith with 4:58 left to break the 3-3 tie.

“It was kind of funny because I stuck my stick behind [Doughty’s] helmet on the faceoff and flipped it up, so possibly he was trying to fix it,” Simmonds said. “[Hall] went forward with it, and I just took off … I said to [Hall] before, ‘I’m going to try backdoor on one of these plays,’ and about a foot from the net I just thought, ‘Just hit me with the puck and hopefully I can put it in.’

“That’s exactly how we scored.”

Simmonds, who had two goals in the Metropolitan Division’s 10-6 semifinal win against the Atlantic Division, won a 2017 Honda Ridgeline as MVP.

Joe Pavelski, Connor McDavid and Bo Horvat scored for the Pacific Division, all in the first half against Metropolitan goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Defensemen Seth Jones and Justin Faulk scored for the Metropolitan Division in the first half.

In the second half of a tight game, the pace and intensity picked up dramatically.

“When you get to the final, you might as well try to win,” Metropolitan Division captain Sidney Crosby said. “You could see the intensity, guys backchecking and blocking shots. It started to get a little more serious as it went along. That’s to be expected. Guys are competitive.

“And who’d have thought the offside rule would come into play there, but you need the bounces if you’re going to win.”

The Pacific Division thought it went ahead 4-2 at 3:24 of the second half when Kesler’s shot went in off McDonagh.

But Metropolitan coach Wayne Gretzky challenged the goal, and video review showed Pacific captain Connor McDavid was offside.

“It helped us win, right?” Simmonds said. “That was the game-changer.”

The 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend included the announcement Friday of the final 67 of the League’s 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian.

Before the Central Division and Pacific opened the 3-on-3 tournament, 48 of those 67 legends were introduced and came out onto the Staples Center ice before the four All-Star teams made their entrance.

Each all-star exchanged fist-bumps down the line of legends.

“That was pretty surreal, crazy,” Holtby said. “You were giving them fist-bumps, but it was almost like you’re doing them a dishonor, that you should be shaking those guys’ hands.

“When I passed Ken Dryden and I’m fist-bumping him, I felt like I should be shaking his hand and saying how much he’s meant to the game and to me. It was very cool. I’m glad they all looked like they enjoyed it and got the recognition they deserve.”

NHL in China could happen ‘in relative near future’

By Mike Zeisberger – Toronto Sun

When it comes to China, hockey is nowhere as popular as hoops. It might never be. With retired 7-foot-6 Yao Ming as a spokesperson for basketball in his native country, that’s a tall order.

But during his recent trip there, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly heard the same message over and again about that country’s growing fascination with the world’s fastest sport. From government representatives. From potential sponsors. Even during a Metallica concert at one of the venues he was checking out with Chinese officials.

It seems more and more, Daly learned, Chinese kids are into pucks.

“Everyone there kept telling me: “We’ve got a long way to go to catch up to basketball in China, but the bottom line is the younger demographic really connects with our game and thinks it’s cool,” Daly said in a phone interview with Postmedia.

“Not only that, they want to see it more.”

Ask, and ye shall receive.

If Daly and the league have their way, pre-season games involving NHL teams will be held in China as early as this September/October, with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks among the parties reportedly interested. In a perfect world, the press conference unveiling the NHL’s plans will be a spectacle attended by fans, politicians and local children who are among the 1,100 hockey players the International Ice Hockey Federation claims are registered in the nation of 1.375 billion people.

(For the record, various Chinese outlets report the number of people playing hockey in that country is closer to 3,000.)

In any event, Daly and NHL officials understand that inside the borders of the world’s most popular country is a vast untapped frontier with limitless potential to grow both the sport and the revenues that go along with it.

In his visit to China last week, Daly’s activities included: Meeting with government officials looking to the NHL for advice in preparation for the 2022 Beijing Olympics; negotiating with companies eager to get a piece of the league’s sponsorship pie; and trying to lay the foundation that would see the country host exhibition games.

Daly had envisioned what the hockey environment in China might be like. But it took actually flying halfway around the world to have it all sink in.

In fact, Daly admitted his experience in China fueled his enthusiasm about the league’s hopes to establish a footprint in that country.

“I think in a lot of ways it did,” Daly said. “I think once you are there it makes it more real and less theoretical.

“We hope we’re at the point where the commissioner (Gary Bettman) can go over there and have the same reaction. We hope that happens in the relative near future. And it definitely makes it more real. There seems to be a high level of interest in learning the game.”

In 2004, Ming’s Houston Rockets played a two-game exhibition series against the Sacramento Kings, the NBA’s first such contests held in China. Those events gave basketball the type of momentum in China that Daly hopes hockey will enjoy via similar preseason contests.

“In my three days there, part of the process was working on moving the (preseason) game project along,” Daly said. “It seems that the NBA, having brought games over there, has been a game changer over there as far as basketball is concerned.

“Now everybody is excited about the prospect of NHL teams coming over. So, we’re obviously trying to make that happen as soon as possible. We’re still holding out hope it can happen (this year) but if that doesn’t happen I expect it’ll happen the following year. If you’re able to finalize that, you go over there to make the announcement. And you probably put some of our youth grass roots hockey infrastructure in place around the announcement with some of the local youth hockey organizations but also along with some of the local governments in the bigger cities and even sponsors.

“That’s another thing – corporate sponsors wanting to connect with the NHL and the brands, well, I would say, there’s a lot of interest. That’s all helpful too. So that’s really what’s next for us. It’s kind of incremental.”

To that end, Daly and the league last week completed a five-year partnership deal with Chinese internet giant Tencent which will see the company carry selected NHL games on its video sites and mobile platforms. The league already has an agreement with China’s public broadcaster CCTV to show a cache of NHL contests.

The catalyst for the Chinese government’s interest in hockey revolves around the looming 2022 Games, which are being looked upon to spike the number of people playing hockey there.

“I was surprised was the level of interest and curiosity about the game,” Daly said. “A lot of that has been spurred by the announcement of the Beijing Winter Olympics. I met with a couple of government officials in different capacities and a lot of people are focused on building some grass roots infrastructure and building a national team that can competitive at the Olympics, even if they don’t win a game. There’s a desire to do that.

“What I see as the opportunity is that, because there is a desire to do that, they want to engage in a whole list of levels. And again, there is government support for partnering to do that. And they were asking for our help and our expertise in helping to build on that culture. That I view as a real opportunity.”

This past summer, Connor McDavid took a trip to China as part of a BioSteel sponsorship event while Bruins winger Matt Beleskey also traveled there as part of a Boston contingent helping to teach kids about the game.

After last week, you can add Daly to the list of those with NHL connections who have been to China. And now that he’s returned to North America, he has a better grasp on the climate for hockey in that country.

In fact, he’s got a better grasp on China’s climate, period, one that seems to be more conducive to hockey than he ever thought possible.

“It was cold,” Daly said. “I expected it to be warmer. Everyone said Beijing was more of a summer Olympic city than a winter Olympic city. But it was cold there. And I didn’t bring an overcoat.”

Define “cold.”

“It was below zero Celcius. One day it was minus 11 C.”

Welcome to China, Bill Daly.

Welcome to China, National Hockey League.


Bill Daly was asked a lot of questions during his whirlwind three-day visit to China.

Surprisingly, queries about the possible inclusion of NHL players at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics weren’t among them.

“I expected that topic to come up at the meetings I had and it didn’t,” Daly told Postmedia in a phone interview. “And I had a lot of meetings.

“Even with the government entities which included China Winter Sport Federation and Ice Hockey Association, NHL participation in terms of player participation at the Beijing Games didn’t come up once. Again, maybe it’s because they assume it, maybe it’s because they don’t even know we participate.

“They want our help preparing for the Games. Like I said, NHL participation didn’t come up.”

Meanwhile Daly said the issue of NHLers taking part in the 2018 Games in South Korea remains in limbo.

“Originally I had kind of hoped to have a resolution by the end of the calendar year,” Daly said. “But because we don’t have one and because we have a contingency plan (schedule-wise) for if we’re going and not going, we really haven’t established any type of time frame.

“I can tell you this: There’s been no change in everyone’s respective positions.”

Henrik Sedin scores 1,000th NHL point

By Kevin Woodley –

Henrik Sedin did his best to downplay the milestone all week, but when the Vancouver Canucks captain saw teammates jumping off the bench to celebrate his 1,000th NHL point at Rogers Arena on Friday, it was hard to hold back the emotion.

Sedin scored 5:50 into the second period of a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers to become the first player to reach 1,000 playing for the Canucks.

“When I saw my teammates come on the ice I lost it a little,” Henrik said. “It was very special. If I retired today, I think that was the most memorable moment for me as a player.”

Sedin is the 85th player to score 1,000 NHL points, the 38th to do it with one franchise, and the fourth who was born in Sweden.

The milestone goal came on a pass from twin brother, Daniel Sedin, who sent Henrik in alone in tight for a backhand deke between the legs of former teammate and good friend Roberto Luongo. The Canucks bench emptied to celebrate in the corner to Luongo’s left, and the Panthers goalie came out of his crease with congratulations for Henrik as he skated back to the bench.

“I didn’t know how to feel,” said Luongo, who played eight seasons in Vancouver. “Obviously I was happy for Hank but not too happy for myself that I let that in. Well-deserved on his part.”

The play started with a breakout pass from Alexander Edler, a Swede who has played with the Sedins since 2006, longer than anyone except Alexandre Burrows on the Canucks roster.

“I don’t know if you can really envision it,” Henrik said. “Everything was good about it. We got a big win. It was nice [Edler] and Danny had the helpers. They’ve played for a long time and are two good friends. That was special. I think the best part by far was my teammates coming out on the ice and celebrating with me. That’s something I will remember forever.”

Play was halted as the crowd at Rogers Arena gave Henrik a standing ovation while he remained alone on the ice in front of the Vancouver bench, saluting the fans with waves and clapping his hands above his head. A video tribute was played during the next break in action, highlighting some of the biggest moments since the Canucks selected him No. 3 in the 1999 NHL Draft, one pick after Daniel.

“Very special to do it on home ice in front of our fans,” Henrik said. “It just couldn’t be better.”

Sedin has 233 goals and 767 assists in 1,213 games in 16 seasons in the NHL, all with Vancouver. The 36-year-old center has 11 goals and 19 assists this season. He didn’t get an assist on Luca Sbisa‘s winning goal early in the third period but he started the play that led to it.

“That’s the stuff dreams are made of,” Sbisa said of the milestone. “That’s what I dream about when I go to bed. Maybe in my next life I’ll get 1,000 points. It’s special to be a part of this. He’s a guy most of us have been watching since we were kids. It was nice to be out there with him on the ice.”

Mats Sundin (1,349), Daniel Alfredsson (1,157) and Nicklas Lidstrom (1,142) are the other Sweden-born players with 1,000 NHL points.

Sedin had an NHL career-high 112 points (29 goals, 83 assists) in the 2009-10 season, when he won the Hart and Art Ross trophies. He led the NHL in assists three consecutive seasons (2009-10 through 2011-12) and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

The Sedins and Luongo helped the Canucks advance to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, which they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

“He’s played a long time with good teammates,” Daniel said of Henrik. “I think he’s very proud.”


Penguins, Capitals play game for ages

By Nicholas J. Cotsonika –

Turn back clock with 15-goal thriller that’s must-see-TV

Here’s the thing about the impromptu ’80s night Monday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh: This isn’t the 1980s.

The reason the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 8-7 overtime win against the Washington Capitals was such a stop-what-you’re-doing-and-turn-on-the-game event was that this isn’t an era of wide-open, no-defense, weak-goaltending hockey.

This is the era of the salary cap, of parity in the standings, of video study, of defensive systems, of fourth-line forwards and third-pair defensemen who can skate, of goaltenders who are bigger, better and more well-equipped than ever before.

And they still scored like crazy.

The score was 3-0, Washington. And then it was 3-3. And then it was 5-3, Pittsburgh. And then it was 5-5. And then it was 7-5, Pittsburgh. And then it was 7-7.

And then, after all of that in regulation, they went to 3-on-3 overtime.

You knew it wouldn’t last long. Penguins forward Conor Sheary ended it 34 seconds in when he drove to the net and jammed at his own rebound with Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer falling backward. As Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen hit Sheary and knocked off his helmet, the puck bounced off Niskanen’s right skate and slid in slow motion across the goal line.

All that was missing was Sheary standing up and yelling to the crowd, like Maximus in the movie “Gladiator,” “Are you not entertained?”

Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo tweeted he was watching the game “in the fetal position.” Retired NHL defenseman Hal Gill, who played for the Penguins in 2007-08 and ’08-09, tweeted it was “bananas.” He said it had “playoff intensity with zero defensive structure.”

There were 15 goals, nine in the second period. There was back-and-forth action, animosity between Metropolitan Division rivals, a hat trick by Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, an NHL-leading 27th goal and three assists by Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Eleven players scored, and incredibly Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, one of the best goal-scorers of this era, if not the best, was not one of them. Twenty-five had at least a point.

Not since Oct. 27, 2011, when the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 9-8, had two teams combined for at least 15 goals. The Capitals became the third team in 21 years to score at least seven goals and lose. The Penguins’ Matt Murray became the first goaltender to play a full game, allow seven goals and win since the Flyers’ Dominic Roussel did it in an 8-7 game against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 21, 1994, according to writer Sean McIndoe.

Bananas, indeed.

Look, we can romanticize for the good old days. We can keep working on improving hockey, including adding more offense. But we can’t go back to the ’80s, and if we go back and watch old games, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t want to. When games are low-scoring, we complain there are too few goals. When they’re high-scoring, we say they have “zero defensive structure” or poor goaltending. Hockey isn’t perfect and never was. It will never please everybody, even its most ardent fans. But it evolved for a reason, and in many ways, it’s better than ever before — more athletic, more sophisticated, more competitive.

This game was special because it was rare and because of the circumstances. Consider the era. Now consider this: The Capitals were on a nine-game winning streak, the Penguins on a three-game losing streak. The Capitals were ranked first in the NHL in goals against, allowing 1.91 per game, and starting Braden Holtby, the reigning winner of the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. When the Capitals took a 3-0 lead, no one would have been surprised had they cruised the rest of the way.

But these were two of the best teams in the League in terms of points percentage, the Capitals second at .733 and the Penguins fourth at .679, and in terms of goals per game, the Penguins second at 3.40 and the Capitals seventh at 3.02. Malkin made it 3-1, Sheary made it 3-2, Nick Bonino made it 3-3 and … well, ’80s, ’90s, aughts, teens, it didn’t matter. Talent took over, and Twitter lit up, and it was must-see TV.

“That could have turned into a rout quickly, and it didn’t, and I give our guys a ton of credit for that,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I just think we’ve got a resilient group, and they know they’re capable of coming back in games when they get down multiple goals. We love that about this group. The compete level, the competitive spirit, the never-say-die, just the stick-to-itiveness is something that we really admire about our guys, and I thought it was evident tonight.

“That second period is one of the craziest periods I’ve been associated with. I don’t even know how to assess it.”

Here’s an easy assessment: It was fun.

Alex Ovechkin glad to reach 1,000 with Capitals fans

By Tom Gulitti –

Alex Ovechkin was one of maybe a handful of people in Verizon Center sitting down.

The Washington Capitals captain wasted no time getting his 1,000th NHL point, scoring 35 seconds into a 5-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, and the crowd was giving him a standing ovation.

Ovechkin’s teammates joined in, standing and banging their sticks against the boards. But Ovechkin remained seated until Nicklas Backstrom did what he has done so often during their 10 seasons together and provided an assist, shoving his longtime linemate in the backside to get him to stand.

“I think he was tired from his shift, so I had to push him up,” Backstrom said jokingly.

With the fans chanting “Ovi! Ovi!”, Ovechkin stood and raised his left hand to acknowledge them.

“He should be honored like that if you reach 1,000 in this amount of games he has,” Backstrom said. “It’s pretty impressive. All the credit to him. He’s an unreal player and he’s been fun to watch.”

Ovechkin became the 84th player in NHL history to score 1,000 points, the 37th to do so with one franchise, and the first to do it all with the Capitals (546 goals, 455 assists). He did it in his 880th NHL game, making him the second-fastest active player behind Jaromir Jagr (763 games), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“After [the] Montreal game, I knew [I’d] have a chance to reach 1,000 points in front of the fans and my family and people who are back home watching on TV,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a pretty special moment, pretty amazing moment.”

After he reached 999 points with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday, Ovechkin’s parents, wife and brother were at Verizon Center to see him go for 1,000 against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Ovechkin demonstrated his flair for living up to dramatic moments by scoring in Montreal and tying Canadiens legend Maurice Richard with his 544th goal, 29th in NHL history.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he told Ovechkin after that game that, “It was really sort of cool that he tied Maurice Richard in Montreal, but I think it’s only fitting that you get the 1,000th point here for our fans.”

“So he did it, and he didn’t take much time,” Trotz said.

After taking a pass from Backstrom on a 2-on-1, Ovechkin carried the puck into the Penguins zone on the right wing and then cut into the slot before taking a wrist shot that sailed past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury‘s glove.

“Well, it took him long enough. That’s what we were thinking,” Capitals right wing Justin Williams said. “I just shook my head. I’m not shocked about anything he does.”

The goal gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead.

“That was a great start for him and for us,” Trotz said. “He sort of had that look in his eye once he touched the puck that something good was going to happen. So real happy for him. I know the guys were thrilled for him and a little history.”

Ovechkin scored a power-play goal, point No. 1,001, from his signature spot in the left circle 8:06 into the second period to make it 2-0. Backstrom assisted on that one too.

It seemed most appropriate that he got one on Ovechkin’s 1,000th point. Backstrom has assisted on 204 of 448 of the goals Ovechkin has scored (46 percent) since Backstrom joined the Capitals in 2007-08.

“He’s the guy who I enjoy playing with and we understand each other well,” Ovechkin said. “Good chemistry together.”

Ovehckin is up to 21 goals, tying him for third in the NHL and within five of Crosby for the League lead, and has seven goals and five assists in the past 10 games. But he’s far from a one-man show.

Backstrom had a goal and three assists Wednesday and has two goals and six assists in the past four games. Williams scored his 12th goal of the season and has 10 goals and eight assists in his past 18 games. Evgeny Kuznetsov  who assisted on Williams’ goal, has two goals and seven assists in his past five games. Goaltender  Braden Holtby has allowed three goals over his past four games.

With a seven-game winning streak and a 14-2-2 record in their past 18 games, the Capitals reached the midway point of their schedule at 27-9-5 with 59 points, one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings.

The Capitals also jumped two points ahead of the Penguins, who have a game in hand, and ended Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak with their second regulation loss in their past 17 games (13-2-2).

“We’re winning, but I hope the best hockey’s going to be a little bit later,” Ovechkin said.

Player better later, meaning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is all that matters for Ovechkin and the Capitals this season. They ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy and set a Washington record with 56 wins last season only to lose to Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

They’ve been trying to build as the season has progressed and have been flying under the radar with the Blue Jackets, Penguins, who are reigning Stanley Cup champions, and New York Rangers grabbing most of the Metropolitan headlines.

Although the Capitals seemed to make a statement by ending the Blue Jackets’ 16-game winning streak with a 5-0 win last Thursday and defeating the red-hot Penguins, they say that was not their intent.

“No, absolutely not,” Backstrom said. “We’re just trying to play our game quietly. So don’t write anything about it.”

Too late.

NHL unveils jerseys for All-Star Game


The National Hockey League’s Centennial, the Los Angeles Kings’ 50th anniversary, previous NHL All-Star Games and the Hollywood setting all influenced the design of the jerseys that will be worn during the 2017 Honda NHL® All-Star Game at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 29.

All four All-Star team jerseys are available for purchase starting today at, the TEAM LA Store at STAPLES Center and the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in New York City. The jerseys will be available at select local retailers, including Lids Locker Room, DSG and Fanzz, within the next week.

The 2017 Honda NHL® All-Star Game again will be a three-game tournament, played in a 3-on-3 format, featuring teams representing each NHL division. The four All-Star teams – the Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific – will wear jerseys that feature colors worn by the Kings during their 50-year history: Purple (Forum Blue), Gold, Black and White. The silver also is a nod to the NHL Centennial logo and the NHL Shield.

The Pacific Division (featuring the hometown Kings) will wear the black jersey. The Atlantic Division will wear gold, the Central Division will wear purple and the Metropolitan Division will wear white.

Each jersey features a band of stars that is reminiscent of the uniforms worn in NHL All-Star Games from 1989-91. Each of the 10 stars represents a decade in the 100-year history of the League. Four stars on the socks represent the four divisions in the NHL today.

The 2017 NHL All-Star patch is located on the right shoulder, while a full-color team patch for each player is found on the left shoulder. The custom font for the numbers and player names is inspired by the letters in the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign. Fans will be able to order player-customized versions of each All-Star jersey at designated retail locations during the 2017 Honda NHL® All-Star Weekend.

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