Category: NHL (page 1 of 8)

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

http://static.seattletimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/1978bf02-1103-11e7-88bd-5aa373880c40-640x495.jpg

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.

 

http://static.seattletimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Screen-Shot-2017-02-24-at-2.55.31-PM-1020x598.png

(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.

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

http://storage-cube.quebecormedia.com/v1/dynamic_resize?quality=75&size=1500x1500&src=http%3A%2F%2Fstorage-cube.quebecormedia.com%2Fv1%2Fthn_prod%2Fthe_hockey_news%2F24b54bf6a577990f114d173fb3b60ca4ca9c1fb6%2FKirill-Kaprizov.jpg

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.

Thornton notches 1,000th career assist

https://d13csqd2kn0ewr.cloudfront.net/uploads/image/file/232840/w768xh576_GettyImages-648884162.jpg?ts=1488860351

By Josh Gold Smith – the Score

Make it quadruple digits for Jumbo Joe.San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton picked up the 1,000th assist of his career with a helper on Joe Pavelski‘s empty-netter against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.

Thornton became the 13th player in NHL history to accomplish the feat, recording his 1,382nd point in his 1,432nd game.

The 37-year-old ranks 23rd on the league’s all-time points list, and his 1,000th assist pulled him to within 16 helpers of Joe Sakic for 12th all time in that category.

 

Burns a special player

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

If you were to ask Brent Burns what his greatest hockey memory is, it would surely be the gold medal he won with Canada at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague.

He was named IIHF Directorate Best Defenceman, was a force on the blueline, and was among the top scorers in the tournament. In the gold-medal game, a 6-1 thumping of Russia, Burns logged more ice time than any other player on either team.

Burns also helped Canada to the World Cup title this past September. In all, he has played at four World Championships (winning a silver in 2008) and one U20 (silver in 2004).

But now, as we play out the final quarter of the 2016/17 NHL season, Burns is on the cusp of accomplishing something great with his club team, the San Jose Sharks. He sits tied for third in the scoring race with Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand, all three having 67 points. Patrick Kane is second with 68 points, and at the head of the pack is Connor McDavid with 72 points.

The focus is on Burns, though, because he is a defenceman, and blueliners don’t often produce offensively at the rate needed to put them in consideration for the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer in the regular season.

Indeed, only six defencemen have finished in the top-ten of NHL scorers. Leading the way is Bobby Orr. The extraordinary Orr is the only D-man to have won the scoring title, a feat he accomplished, twice. In 1969/70, he led all players with 120 points, and in ‘74/‘75 he finished with 135 points. In all, he placed in the top ten for six years running, from 1969/70, through 74/75, before knee injuries ravaged his career.

New York Islanders Hall of Famer Denis Potvin made the top ten twice later in the 1970s, and Paul Coffey did so six times between 1983 and 1995. The only other defencemen to produce to this degree were Ray Bourque (1986/87), Al MacInnis (1990/91), and Brian Leetch (1991/92).

Coffey was the last defender to make the top ten, in 1994/95, a feat Burns is surely going to match some 22 years later. The closest anyone ever came to equaling Orr’s achievement was Coffey in 1983/84, when he finished second in scoring, but that is a misleading figure because although he accrued an astounding 126 points, teammate Wayne Gretzky finished with 205 points!

Why is Burns succeeding this year in a way he never has in this his 13th year in the league? For starters, he has offence in his DNA. When the Minnesota Wild drafted him 20th overall in 2003, he was a right winger with the Brampton Battalion in the OHL. Indeed, the Sharks used him as a forward for much of the two-year period 2012-14, but having a defenceman who can add offence is more valuable than a scoring winger, so the Sharks have kept him on the blueline whenever possible.

Second, Burns is both a tremendous shooter and a skilled passer. He sees the ice as well as any defenceman and is smart about deciding when to pass or shoot. He also is logging plenty of ice time. His 24:55 average per game puts him 10th among all players this season.

At 6’5” and 230 pounds, and a beard that only adds to his intimidating presence, Burns can play physically and create space and scoring chances simply because of his size. Not many players – forwards or defemcemen – can do that.

And, Burns is the anchor on the team’s power play. Indeed, 7 of his 27 goals have come on the power play and 19 of his 65 points are with the extra man. The Sharks are a talented, offensive-minded team, and Burns is a key part of that offence under coach Peter DeBoer.

Last year the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup finals, losing to Pittsburgh in six games. The team has its sights set on getting as far, and then winning it all this year, and key to their chances is Burns’s play from the blueline.

The team has 19 games left in the season, but before the playoffs start Burns has the chance to chase Coffey, and maybe even Orr. No matter how you slice it, he is having a season for the ages.

Sidney Crosby among fastest to 1,000 despite delays

By Nicholas J. Cotsonika – NHL.com

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

https://d13csqd2kn0ewr.cloudfront.net/uploads/image/file/216811/w768xh576_REU_2578615.jpg?ts=1484157044

By

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

http://3951-presscdn-28-25.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Jujhar-Khaira-770x470.jpg

By Tim Campbell – NHL.com

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 shop.nhl.com.

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

http://storage-cube.quebecormedia.com/v1/dynamic_resize?quality=75&size=1500x1500&src=http%3A%2F%2Fstorage-cube.quebecormedia.com%2Fv1%2Fthn_prod%2Fthe_hockey_news%2F7fa0d606bc07d12344b96e8728c7149c240758e4%2Fzhou2.jpg

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 THN.com 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 THN.com 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 THN.com. “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.”

http://storage-cube.quebecormedia.com/v1/thn_prod/the_hockey_news/4d5437d1afdc7370381f8acc60bba6f33fadb9af/zhou1.jpg

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

https://nhl.bamcontent.com/images/photos/286245436/960x540/cut.jpg

By Tim Campbell – NHL.com

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’

http://storage.torontosun.com/v1/dynamic_resize/sws_path/suns-prod-images/1297919797598_ORIGINAL.jpg?quality=80&size=420x

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.

BEIJING SILENCE

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.”

Older posts