Day: September 9, 2016

World Cup Takeways: USA 4, Canada 2

By Chris Johnston – Sportsnet

You just don’t know for sure what it’s going to be like until you see it.

We had all studied the rosters and watched closely as the world’s top players practised together throughout the week. We’d heard talk that the rivalry would be evident even in pre-tournament games.

But, man, who thought it would look so real so soon?

Team Canada played pretty well despite dropping Friday’s game 4-2 to Team USA. There are no moral victories, especially in short international tournaments, but wins and losses don’t count just yet. And the Canadians owned the puck.

The final shots counter read 43-25 and the play felt more lopsided than that.

The teams are back at it in Ottawa on Saturday night and play again in the preliminary round once the World Cup begins.

Here are some takeaways from Team Canada’s first game together:

Price is right
It was a moment nearly 10 months in the making and Carey Price got what he needed.

Facing 18 shots in the first period is not something Team Canada coach Mike Babcock would have wanted, but it was a good test for a goalie who hadn’t played a game since Nov. 25.

Sure, Price allowed three goals. The second one to Patrick Kane wasn’t the sort of shot that would normally get past him.

But there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be better the next time out and this was a big hurdle to cross after recovering from a strained MCL in his right knee. He made some nice saves and got comfortable.

The comeback is complete.

Crosby’s crew
It’s early, yes.

But maybe – just maybe – this will be the one best-on-best event where we don’t spend the whole tournament discussing Sidney Crosby’s linemates.

Brad Marchand had an incredibly strong night on the left side. Patrice Bergeron, a frequent Crosby partner at these events over the years, was his reliable self on the right. Crosby registered four shots on goal in the first period alone and could easily have had a couple goals.

Remember, this was the first time the trio ever played together in live game action and they were in sync.

They also got Team Canada on the board in the second period after Marchand stripped Zach Parise of the puck. Crosby took a hit while making a nice pass and Bergeron beat Jonathan Quick after a toe drag.

When all was said and done, the Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron line accounted for 18 shots on net. They were the best on either side.

Blue-line blues
Alex Pietrangelo has an unenviable job after being moved to the left side despite being a right-hand shot.

He didn’t look like himself at any point. He bobbled the puck at the blue-line and struggled to contain Kane in the corner before Team USA’s second goal. He was on the ice for the third one as well.

It may not be Pietrangelo’s fault, but it’s an issue worth following for Team Canada.

Ever since Duncan Keith had to pull himself out of the event a couple weeks back, it’s created an issue for Babcock. They are dressing four righties and two lefties, so somebody has to be out of position.

Pietrangelo is the guy so far and it’s clearly a work in progress.

No one who watched this game will question if the participants cared.

Wow! It’s only Sept. 9 and that was real hockey.

Crosby cross-checked Kyle Palmieri in the first period and a scrum ensued.

Jonathan Toews went after Ryan Kesler after seeing him drive Shea Weber into the end boards.

Team USA forward David Backes ran over Pietrangelo, his former St. Louis Blues teammate.

There was much more than that.

Three different Team Canada players spent time in the training room and each returned to the game. Tyler Seguin went feet first into the boards, Logan Couture looked woozy after a questionable hit from T.J. Oshie and Claude Giroux was hobbled by a late, unnecessary check from Joe Pavelski.

It’s on now.

Newly elected Council meets with delegates

By Martin Merk –

Delegates from most of the 77 IIHF member countries came together for the 2016 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress to discuss about the upcoming season but also about the future.

It was the first Congress for the IIHF Council that was newly elected for a four-year term in May and the International Ice Hockey Federation’s executive body wanted to use this opportunity to interact with the delegates in workshop sessions led by IIHF President René Fasel.

The planned committees were presented to the delegates by their chairpersons and the delegates and guests had the opportunity to ask questions and give their inputs. It was a session and opportunity that was visibly appreciated and used by the IIHF membership.

The session started with A like Asia. With the next two Olympic Winter Games in the Far East, the session started with the Asian Committee led by IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu.

“Asia is a big market of growth. We have more than 20 members but the standard of hockey is at a very different state in the various countries and grows at different speeds. We work among the countries but also with the entire hockey world to get support from the bigger countries,” Wu said.

Asked about the new KHL team in Beijing, Wu praised the initiative to bring that calibre of hockey to China and to make people interested in hockey.

During the next winter, the Asian Winter Games will also be on the list. 20 countries expressed the interest to play with 20 men’s and seven women’s team at the event in Sapporo, Japan.

Next was IIHF Council member and former world-class goalie Vladislav Tretiak with the Athletes Committee.

“We think about safety, about respect. Some parents don’t want to send the players into the game because they’re afraid of injuries,” Tretiak expressed one concern specifically mentioning head injuries. Another is the position he used to play himself.

“Today we have very big goaltenders who are up to two metres tall. We need to think about changing the equipment or making the goals bigger. Nobody wants to see 0-0 games. We will keep thinking about how to improve the game for the public,” he said.

It’s this but also many other topics the committee members will discuss to make sure the athletes’ voice is represented within the IIHF.

“We have to listen to athletes about their concerns on food, accommodation, formats and other topics. It’s our mission to listen to them. We have to promote hockey especially in the field of player safety,” he said.

That’s a good buzzword since there will be a Player Safety Committee in place as well. It will be a committee with wide representation with experts from different areas.

“It’s about rules, equipment, facilities, coaches. We will be working with all other committees to get inputs,” said IIHF Vice President Bob Nicholson, who will chair the committee. “To recruit and retain players you need a safe game for top players, young girls and boys. We need to have rules and an environment in place to have the safest possible conditions.”

Newly elected Council member Franz Reindl will chair the Competition & Coordination Committee where he has previously served as a member. As the title says it’s about competitions but also to coordinate the efforts with representatives from different stakeholders – IIHF, national associations, leagues and clubs.

“It’s more than 100 games for the best players, it’s incredible,” the Olympic bronze medallist of 1976 said. “We need to co-ordinate it. It’s homework on one side but on the other side we have to bring people together on one table to find solutions. To fulfil the mandate we need the right people to do it and we need to listen. Then we can create something together. We have a lot to talk and we have a lot to solve.”

The IIHF goes a slightly different way for the Coaching Committee where Hockey Canada President and CEO Tom Renney will be the co-chair. He’s not a Council member but his experience in this area is second to none working with grassroots program to top-level hockey in Canada and having been a top-level coach with the Canadian men’s national team and NHL clubs until just a few years ago.

“I see opportunities for ice hockey to do exceptional things through our great game. The leadership of coaches is very important in the children’s lives,” he said.

He also thinks about a certification program that’s harmonized globally, but first about auditing around the world where the countries and their philosophies are. “Once we understand where people are in the game of coaching development, then we can think about what to do. In today’s world coaching couldn’t me more important in any sport. It’s important for the lifestyle of people.”

The Event and Evaluation Committee will be led IIHF Vice President Kalervo Kummola, who talked in his speech about the immense development in the last decades that can also be seen in the World Championship program with many new venues that have been built. “Getting new facilities is important not only to host championships but also the leave a legacy and help the local people,” he said and hopes that there will be more applicants for top-level events in the future.

The Ethics and Integrity Committee has been newly established for the new four-year term and will be led by outgoing IIHF Council member Beate Grupp and as an external person Michael McNamee.

“If you hear the word ethics, it’s not always associated with good thoughts,” Grupp said in reference to other organizations making headlines. “When we sit here in four years we want to have positive thoughts about ethics and integrity. It’s educational, advisory instruments that will have a positive impact in our family. We will have a lot of success and positive impact,” she said.

Michael McNamee is an expert in sport ethics and a professor at the University of Swansea in Great Britain.

“The principles of good governance, accountability, transparency and so forth are nowadays taken very seriously by international organizations,” he said and praised that “the IIHF doesn’t wait for a crisis but takes an active approach in topics like anti-doping, match fixing and player safety.”

Two newly elected Council members will co-chair the Officiating Committee with Sergej Gontcharov from Belarus and Marta Zawadzka from Poland.

“One of the several tasks we have is to create a library of educational resources also to encourage young players to become referees and stay in the family, grow the pool of female referees, help also the smaller nations with their officiating programs,” said Gontcharov. Zawadzka will bring in valuable on-ice experience as a long-time referee and from the women’s hockey side.

The Youth & Junior Development Committee will be chaired by new Council member and former Czech national team goaltender Petr Briza, who recently led the successful 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship organizing committee and is the owner and chairman of Czech club Sparta Prague.

“We want to help the development process, what happens at the clubs with the kids between 6 and 15,” Briza said. “During the last five years we have had 250,000 more players who play around the globe, especially more female players. Everybody needs a long-term plan. More players means better quality of hockey. We have to make the work right because mistakes we do now will be felt in 15 years.”

The growth of women’s hockey remains in focus and the Women’s Committee will be co-chaired by the two female Council members, long-time Hungarian national team player Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer and Marta Zawadzka.

“Women’s ice hockey is still one of the fastest growing female sports in the world and the development globally is very fast,” Kolbenheyer said. “The North American countries are still far ahead and we need to support the other countries to develop women’s hockey. It’s a special committee since it touches many aspects of hockey and other committees as well.”

While many committees deal with core aspects of the sport there are also several committees dealing with other important topics surrounding it.

Kalervo Kummola will chair the newly created TV/New Media/Marketing Committee with his business background from television in Finland and his role in the negotiation process of the new marketing contract with Infront Sport & Media.

“It’s a fast-moving world and we want to be at the top,” he said about the current development. “We want that people are following ice hockey every day.”

With Don DeGregorio an person with vast legal experience from USA Hockey will lead the Legal Committee as well as the new IIHF Governance Reform Group. He and IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner outlined that in 2018 it will be the next time to make changes to the IIHF Statutes & Bylaws, so the work is starting soon and the membership can start thinking about proposals for the period changes can be suggested next summer.

IIHF Council member Luc Tardif will continue as Treasurer for the new four-year term and also chair the Finance Committee while Henrik Bach Nielsen will continue as chairman for the Medical Committee. IIHF President René Fasel will chair the Executive Committee and the Historical Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee will continue with Gerhard Mosslang as an independent chairman. “We have to deal with rule violations, anti-doping infractions and ethics and we need inputs from both sides, judges and players,” he said reflecting the tendency to get more former players involved.

Frank Gonzalez will continue with the Facilities Working Group.

“It is important to work with the countries and also other committees such as the Asian Committee with China having the ambition to build 1,500 new ice rinks,” he said but mentions also other examples as regions of potential growth such as South America and Turkey. “For new facilities it’s important not to do the same mistakes that others experienced before.”

Like in the past Beate Grupp will be responsible for Environmental & Social Activities. Her work in the past terms included environmental initiatives but also cooperation and promotion of sledge ice hockey. “There can be a lot of win-win situations for the federations not only money-wise when they think of the environment and social aspects,” she said.

There were many committees to introduce and many topics to discuss. After the committee structure has been determined, the composition of the various committees is being worked on. The full list of committees and members will be published on at a later date and a kick-off meeting for the committees is planned in Zurich in December.

Pro hockey coaches predict ‘surprise’ for S. Korea at PyeongChang Winter Games

By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News Agency

South Korea will face an uphill battle when it makes its Winter Olympic men’s hockey debut on home ice in 2018, but the coaches of three professional hockey clubs here said Thursday the country could still surprise a few people.

South Korea will face Canada, Switzerland and the Czech Republic in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, in the group stage. If the National Hockey League (NHL) decides to send its stars here for the Olympics, then South Korea will stand virtually no chance of being any of its opponents.

If it hadn’t been the Olympic host, South Korea wouldn’t have qualified for the 2018 Games in the first place. And to achieve at least some semblance of competitiveness — and not to embarrass itself before home crowds — South Korea has hired former NHL players Jim Paek and Richard Park as its head coach and assistant coach, respectively. The country has also fast-tracked a handful of Canadian- and U.S.-born players to South Korean passports, so that they could represent their adopted home in 2018.

Three South Koreans clubs in the Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH) will provide talent for the rest of the national team. And coaches for Anyang Halla, High 1 and Daemyung Killer Whales said South Korean hockey is progressing at an impressive rate.

“It’ll be a great experience for the South Korean players to play at home,” said Patrick Martinek, a Czech coach for Anyang Halla, at the ALIH media day in Seoul. “The Korean national team has a great coaching staff with Paek and Park, and the players improve almost every day. Korea’s world ranking is 23rd, but in my mind, it should be 15th or 16th in the world. After five or six years, it could climb to around 10th in the world.

“All games start at 0-0, and they still have to play 60 minutes,” Martinek went on. “Today, everybody thinks there’s no chance for the Korean team, but after a year and a half, there could be a surprise.”

   Song Chi-young, who coaches Daemyung, also gave his thumbs-up to the coaches. Paek is a former Stanley Cup-winning defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins who has also enjoyed coaching success in the minors. Park played in 14 NHL seasons for six different clubs and enjoyed some big playoff moments with the Minnesota Wild in 2003.

“The talent pool has also gotten much deeper,” Song added. “I think our hockey has grown a lot, and if we keep getting better, we’ll enjoy a great Olympics.”

   Bae Young-ho, coach of High 1, said he hopes the two coaches will instill a sense of responsibility in the players, added an Olympic victory is not entirely out of the question.

Captains of the clubs were also looking ahead to the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Kim Won-jung, Anyang’s captain who has played for the country at international events, said going to the Olympics will be “a dream.”

   “You don’t have to do everything well to make the national team because the coaches will require different skillsets from different players,” said Kim, who had five goals and 21 assists in 48 games last season while building a reputation as a hard-nosed, two-way forward. “More so than padding personal stats, I think it’s important to avoid injuries. If I get hurt, I will have to sit out a few games and it will be hard to maintain good form.”

   Suh Sin-il also wants a shot at the Olympics, but he said he knows his limitations.

Suh had just four goals and five assists in 37 games last season, compared to 10 goals and 16 helpers in 46 games the previous year.

“Like everyone else, I’d love to make the Olympic team, but I have to play well in our league first,” the 31-year-old said. “I didn’t make much of a contribution to the club last year, and I’ve prepared hard for this season.”

When India won its first ever international match in Ice Hockey after 23 years

By Shuvro Ghoshal – Sportskeeda

While ice hockey is being played for close to 100 years, in our country it is still fresh rather compared to the international hockey world. Based in Ladakh, the team don’t have much of a fan-following, but the sport is definitely growing with every passing day.

During the 1970s, a team of Indian army soldiers took up the sport for the first time in India’s snowy north. Since then India has never been a superpower in the sport but in a land of cricket, considering what they’ve had to go through, they’re already winners. 19 years later, in the land of cricket, the Ice Hockey Association granted membership to the Indian Ice Hockey Federation, something which many countries have still now failed to achieve. 

It took India some time to arrive on the international scene as infrastructure was a major issue. After the conditions slightly improved, the team made its national debut at the 2009 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia, which happened to be a new competition aimed at supporting the ice hockey loving countries in this part of the world.

Their international debut tournament did not go, as exactly planned. The team conceded 34 goals and scored one for themselves in the three games they played. After taking a year off, they were a part of the 2011 edition of the competition. Luck was not on their side either as they allowed 101 goals in five games.

Passion finally overcame obstacles for American ex-pat Adam Sherlip, who has been coaching the side since 2009. Led by him, the team finally managed to defeat Macau by a score of 5-1, which happened to be the country’s first every victory in this sport back in 2012. Although they could not qualify for the semi-final from Group B, which had Macau and Malaysia, this victory was special in its own way. The United Arab Emirates won the tournament after defeating Thailand 3 – 0 in the final.

No emotion can beat the joy of the players singing the national anthem under the beautiful tricolor. Something stirs you when it’s a matter of country, the effect and feeling of being a part of your great country are beyond comprehension. It works for all sporting nations and the same feeling was experienced when the players chanted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (Victory for Indian Motherland!) after the match.

That was indeed the most inspiring moment. The result comes after that.



Young stars shine as Team North America downs Team Europe

By Canadian Press

The youthful Team North America came as advertised — plenty of speed and skill — and it proved too much for Team Europe in the first pre-tournament test for both teams at the World Cup of Hockey.

North America scored three goals in a 4:43 span of the second period and Matt Murray made 23 saves in a 4-0 victory over a European side that had several players still adjusting to playing on the smaller NHL-size ice.

Nathan MacKinnon, with two goals including one on a penalty shot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Johnny Gaudreau scored before a full house of 18,005 at the new Centre Videotron.

“Speed and hockey sense were on display tonight,” said Connor McDavid, the 19-year-old Edmonton Oilers phenom who was named North America captain before the game.

The European side had only 10 players at its first skate on Monday, with others joining the next day after playing in an Olympic qualifying tournament. The combination of rust, jet-lag and small ice left them with little resistance as North America, made up of players under 24, buzzed around for two periods before the Europeans finally settled down in the third. Shots ended up at 23-21 in favour of Europe.

While McDavid was held without a point despite several chances, MacKinnon’s line with Nugent-Hopkins and youngster Auston Matthews put on a show.

Luca Sbisa was serving a tripping penalty when MacKinnon took the rebound of an Aaron Ekblad point shot off the end boards and beat Jaroslav Halak at the side of the net at 3:52 of the second frame.

Nugent-Hopkins lost and recovered the puck twice to score on a solo effort at 6:22 and Gaudreau finished a two-man rush with Brandon Saad at 8:34.

There had to be Montreal Canadiens fans in the building as Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara was booed regularly. They were delighted when Chara hooked down MacKinnon, who was speeding to the net, at 11:52 of the third period. That drew a penalty shot and the Colorado winger scored on a deke to the backhand after a slow approach to the net.

“He’s an electrifying player,” Matthews said of MacKinnon. “His skating and puckhandling are unbelievable, some of the best I’ve ever seen.

“It was easy to play with him and Nugent-Hopkins, who is a smart, 200-foot player who can make plays.”

Centre Jack Eichel, who picked up an assist on Gaudreau’s goal, was also impressed.

“We’re all a little surprised at how good everyone is,” he said. “People make plays you’re not expecting.”

North America coach Todd McLellan said he wanted his side to jump on Europe early and was happy to see them create turnovers and chances for two periods, but wasn’t so pleased to see players staying out for long shifts in the third that led to penalties and too much time defending in their own zone.

He said there is plenty to work on before the teams meet again Sunday in Montreal.

Europe coach Ralph Kruger is also looking forward to the rematch.

“We definitely saw a lot of speed from Team North America right off the hop,” said Kruger. “It took a while to adjust to it.

“I thought that as we went on we were dealing with it better. The third was probably the best period for us and we’ll build on that. We knew half the team had been playing on big ice in the last few weeks. But these games are there to learn and grow. Now we’ve got our first live video of our team to work with.”

North America scratched forward Dylan Larkin, defenceman Colton Parayko and goalie Connor Hellebuyck. Europe sat out forward Thomas Vanek, rearguard Denis Seidenberg and goalie Philipp Grubauer.

NHL vice-president Bill Daly, who spoke to the media during the first intermission, was impressed with the Centre Videotron and the turnout, but had nothing to encourage fans hoping to bring back the Nordiques, who moved to Colorado in 1995. He said there were no plans at the moment for expansion (other than to Las Vegas in 2018) or to relocate another club.

Europe forward Nino Niederreiter of the Minnesota Wild celebrated his 24th birthday.