Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Britain’s Ice Hockey Icon Wonders, What If?

By 

The International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame inducted a procession of hockey greats in May. The honorees included the former N.H.L. stars Joe Sakic, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and Uwe Krupp as well as Angela Ruggiero, one of the most decorated players in women’s hockey.

But no one made as memorable an entrance as Tony Hand, who stepped toward the podium that night in Cologne, Germany, dressed in traditional Scottish Highland regalia — an argyle jacket, knee-high socks and a kilt.

Hand, who may be Britain’s lone hockey icon, received the Richard “Bibi” Torriani Award, which is given to players from lesser-known hockey nations.

But he might have become well known in North America if a 1980s tryout with the powerhouse Edmonton Oilers had panned out.

“I went and met the queen and had a chat, which was quite nice,” Hand, 50, said in a phone interview from Edinburgh, Scotland. “Even if you look at the career, over here I’ve been fortunate enough to have helped the sport any way I can. I have had a decent career and I’ve got a good family here and a lot of friends. So I’m not sitting back sulking. But it would have been nice to see what could have happened.”

Hand is an accomplished coach in the English Premier Ice Hockey League and with the national program, but his most impressive achievements came during an unrivaled 34-season playing career.

Growing up in Edinburgh, Hand headed to the local skating rink when he was 7 for peace and closure after the death of his father from a heart attack. Playing alongside his brothers, he was eventually discovered by a local team, the Murrayfield Racers, with whom he made his professional debut at 14.

By 17, Hand led the British Hockey League with 116 assists in 50 games to go with 99 goals. He surpassed the 100-goal mark in each of the next four seasons.

Those early years were the statistical high point of a pro career spanning more than three decades during which Hand collected 2,992 assists and 4,634 points, both British hockey records. Wayne Gretzky, the player to whom Hand is most frequently compared in Britain, established N.H.L. records considered unmatchable with 1,963 assists and 2,857 points.

“The goalies were bad; that’s what it was,” Hand said modestly when asked about his British hockey exploits.

Whatever the reason for his remarkable point totals, it was enough to gain the attention of the Oilers, who had built one of the great dynasties in league history when they selected Hand with the final pick in the 1986 draft, making him the first British player drafted by an N.H.L. team. By then, Hand had earned a tryout with Calgary, Edmonton’s biggest rival.

“Our league had a deal with Calgary — they would invite the young player of the year in Britain to the camp in Calgary,” Hand said. “It was a token gesture. I don’t think they realized there was a possible opportunity that one of the players could make the team.”

But his rights were officially owned by the Oilers, who had won consecutive Stanley Cups in 1984 and 1985, so Hand reported to Edmonton training camp in 1986. On a club that would win three more Cups in the next four seasons, Hand made an impression despite facing long odds to make the team.

“There was absolutely no question when he came over for that first training camp that he had enough hockey skill,” said Bill Tuele, the Oilers’ former director of public relations. “He had never been pushed to any great limit. He was a neat kid. He was a bit overwhelmed by the whole process. To be thrown into that caldron was almost an impossible task.”

With few roster spots available, Hand was sent to the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League. After collecting 8 points in three games, a homesick Hand returned to Edinburgh to finish the season with the Racers.

He was invited back to Oilers camp the next season and was one of Edmonton’s final cuts. But Hand again decided to head home rather than report to Edmonton’s top developmental team in the American Hockey League.

He would not receive another invitation to an N.H.L. camp, instead flourishing in Britain and becoming the only hockey player to receive the prestigious Member of the British Empire award from Queen Elizabeth II.

His 82 points with the national team made him the country’s career leading scorer. After 14 seasons serving in a dual role as a player and coach with a number of British teams, Hand retired as a player in 2015 at age 47. He served as head coach of the Manchester Phoenix of the English Premier Ice Hockey League until the club ceased operations in January.

Now consisting of 12 teams, the league is entering what local officials believe could be a new golden age for the sport in Britain, with former N.H.L. players joining the league.

“In Tony’s day, he was the best player in the U.K. by far,” said Andy French, the general secretary of Ice Hockey U.K., the national governing body for the sport. “He was better than a lot of the imports. He had a vision that nobody else had. He’s now passing that quality that he had down through to the younger generation of players. I’m hoping that we can produce another Tony Hand.”

For all the success he enjoyed at home, Hand still, three decades later, sometimes thinks about his decision to leave Edmonton.

“It wasn’t like I was unambitious,” he said. “I just didn’t know. I had never been away. Obviously when you’re young you make these decisions, and I had never had a father figure to sort of guide me. I don’t sit and regret it. But did I make the right decision? Probably not.”

Since ending his playing career, Hand has contributed as a scout and coach to the British national team, which in April won the 1B division of the world championships to earn promotion to Division 1A, one level below the top tier.

Hand’s hope is that Britain’s accomplishments in international hockey can help him find the kind of opportunity in the N.H.L. he never quite pursued in an otherwise illustrious hockey career.

“I think I’ve got a lot to offer teams,” Hand said. “I’ve got a lot of experience. I’ve got a lot of knowledge. I haven’t really put my name out anywhere. I thought I would just wait and see what comes.”

Ice on the Prize

By Bong Lozada – Inquirer.net

The 2017 Southeast Asian Games gold medal is more than a month old already. But forgive the country’s national ice hockey team if they are still giddy over their unexpected triumph.

If it’s any consolation, they already have their eyes set on a bigger prize.

With the country hosting the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Challenge Cup of Asia, the team hopes to make another Disney-like run to the podium in front of a home crowd and build on what a rag-tag “bunch of kids who grew up on SM rinks” accomplished during the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

“The gold was really important for the sport of hockey in Manila and in the Philippines,” said goalkeeper Gianpietro Iseppi. “You guys [the media] are now talking to us because we won the gold, if we came in fourth or fifth we probably won’t have this kind of exposure or this opportunity to talk to the young kids out there or the people out there who could potentially learn more about the sport.”

Indeed, the 5-3 stunner over regional power Thailand in the final in Kuala Lumpur lifted the veil of obscurity off the team—and piled up the Mighty Ducks references on the players.

But with the recognition comes the responsibility of continuing push the sport into the public eye. And there’s no better way to do it than being heroes on home ice.

“We are speaking of the perfect timing that the tournament is being held in Manila,” said team captain Steven Füglister. “The SEA Games gold, the new rink inside Mall of Asia, it feels special and everyone is excited to hold this official IIHF tournament in Manila.”

“I’m confident our team will play attractive, fast-paced, and physical hockey and get good results.”

This is the first time the Philippines will join the Challenge Cup of Asia, an opportunity Füglister and the team want to take advantage of to grow the sport’s fan base—and talent pool.

“We hope that we can welcome big crowds to our games and support Team Pilipinas,” said Füglister. “[Anyone] who has never seen a hockey game live will [find it] a thrill to experience it live and at this high level.”

The Philippines is still unranked by the IIHF but the Challenge Cup of Asia could shine a brighter spotlight on the team which, based on its finish in the tournament, could earn spot in the Asian Winter Games.

Already, there is a subplot bubbling beneath the surface of preparations for the tournament next year: a budding rivalry with Thailand.

“I expect that they [the Thais] want to take revenge for the loss at the SEA Games and this could be the start of a nice rivalry,” said Füglister.

Thailand flew to Malaysia brandishing a four-year-old perfect slate and was the favorite to win, and even forward LR Lancero was unsure if they had the chops to take down the regional power.

“We’ve seen Thailand play and they’re really a good bunch of skaters,” said Lancero. “They’re fast, their team plays amazing, and we actually look up to them when they were playing against Singapore.”

“And we were like ‘guys can we do this?’ We were just a bunch of kids growing up in SM’s skating rinks; we are the underdogs.”

But that’s what made the Mighty Ducks movie franchise a hit. The all-too-familiar plot of the underdog overcoming adversity to reach their goal.

Fittingly, it was Lancero who orchestrated the pivotal play in the gold medal match.

The Philippines took a 4-1 lead in the championship but Thailand finally figured the Filipinos out and breathed down their necks, 4-3, in the fourth. That was when Lancero fired a pass straight to Niko Cadiz’ stick for the goal that iced the final count.

Iseppi felt that the team’s obscurity helped them trip the Thais, who fell behind early trying to feel out their foes.

But whether or not the Filipinos could spring a surprise to shake the Thais early didn’t matter. What mattered was they weren’t skating out of Malaysia without the gold medal.

“For me it was what it was—gold or bust,” said Iseppi. “I said it three, four weeks before and everyone was like ‘wow you’re overconfident’ but I didn’t feel overconfident. I feel like if we played in the level we’re capable of, we were going to win.”

And Füglister believes that win achieved more than just add a gold to the medal haul of the Philippines.

“What makes it even more special is that it has put our sport on the map after years of operating in the shadows with limited awareness in the general public,” he said.

And now that the team is on the sporting map, it is going to do its best to find its way to Asian glory.

Olympic men’s hockey teams starting to take shape

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

With the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea now just a few months away, rosters for the men’s hockey event will begin to take shape over four upcoming international tournaments.

With the exception of a few U.S. college players, the odd Canadian junior teenager and some AHLers, most of the top Olympic teams will be made up of players who compete professionally in Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

The top talents from these European leagues will come together to compete for their national teams in the following tournaments in November and December.

The top talents from these European leagues will come together to compete for their national teams in the following tournaments in November and December:

  • Karjala Cup (Zurich and Helsinki), Nov. 8-12 — Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland.
  • Deutschland Cup (Augsburg, Germany), Nov. 10-12 — Germany, Russia, Slovakia, United States.
  • Channel One Cup (Moscow), Dec. 13-17 — Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, South Korea.
  • Spengler Cup (Davos, Switzerland), Dec. 26-31 — Canada, Switzerland and four club teams.

Here’s a quick glance at the top eight medal contenders for the 2018 Winter Games.

Odds courtesy of Bodog

Canada

World ranking: 1

Odds to win gold: 3-1

General manager: Sean Burke

Coach: Willie Desjardins

Player to watch: Andrew Ebbett. A veteran of 243 NHL regular-season and playoff games, the 34-year-old forward from Vernon, B.C., plays for Bern in the Swiss league. He was a standout for Canada at the 2016 Spengler Cup and sits second in his league’s scoring race with 19 points (five goals) in 12 games.

The skinny: Canada has plenty of depth playing in Russia and Switzerland. Burke and his scouts also will keep an eye on the junior loops at home.

Russia

World ranking: 2

Odds to win gold: 7-4

General manager: Vacant

Coach: Oleg Znarok

​Player to watch: Ilya Kovalchuk. The 34-year-old left wing decided to forego a return to the NHL and stay in Russia for one more season in order to play in Pyeongchang. He has 17 goals and 28 points in 23 games for KHL-leading SKA St. Petersburg.

The skinny: Since the Russians were upended by Dominik Hasek and the Czechs in the 1998 gold-medal final, they have just one Olympic men’s hockey medal — a bronze in 2002. But because of Russia’s depth, they will go to Pyeongchang as the favourites. Znarok coaches Kovalchuk’s St. Petersburg team, which set a KHL record with 20 wins in a row to start the season and also features Pavel Datsyuk.

Sweden

World ranking: 3

Odds to win gold: 7-2

GM: Vacant

Coach: Rikard Gronborg

​Player to watch: Robert Nilsson. The 32-year-old Calgary-born forward leads the Swiss league in scoring with 20 points in 14 games with Zurich SC. The son of former NHLer Kent Nilsson has formed quite an on-ice partnership with fellow Swede Fredrik Pettersson in Zurich.

The skinny: Sweden won its 10th world championship last spring, defeating Canada in a shootout in the gold-medal final. Of course, in the last non-NHL Olympic Games, in 1994, Sweden also beat Canada for gold in a shootout. Former NHLer Johan Garpenlov is Gronborg’s trusted assistant coach.

Finland

World ranking: 4

Odds to win gold: 8-1

General manager: Jere Lehtinen

Coach: Lauri Marjamaki

Player to watch: Eeli Tolvanen. The Nashville Predators selected the 18-year-old right wing 30th overall in the NHL draft last June. He has started his KHL season with Jokerit with an eye-popping 11 goals and 21 points in 18 games.

The skinny: The Lehtinen-Marjamaki combination didn’t produce good results for the Finnish team in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where the Finns failed to win a game and finished a disappointing eighth out of eight teams.

United States

World ranking: 5

Odds to win gold: 10-1

GM: Jim Johannson

Coach: Tony Granato

Player to watch: Brian Gionta. At 38, the 2003 Stanley Cup champion and 2006 Olympian signed a practice-only contract to play with his hometown Rochester Americans of the AHL to keep sharp for the Pyeongchang Games.

The skinny: Granato played for the United States in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and was an assistant coach in Sochi four years ago. He coaches at the University of Wisconsin and will use the Deutschland Cup next month as the U.S. Olympic team’s main tryout opportunity.

Czech Republic

World ranking: 6

Odds to win gold: 9-1

General manager: Milan Hnilicka

​Coach: Josef Jandak

​Player to watch: Jan Kovar. The 27-year-old forward will be asked to provide offence for the Czechs. He has strung together four consecutive 20-goal seasons in the KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg and is on his way to a fifth with six goals in his first 22 outings.

The skinny: The Czechs have put together an impressive coaching staff with assistants Vaclav Prospal and Jaroslav Spacek (both former NHLers) as well as Jiri Kalous, the head coach of Sparta Prague.

Switzerland

World ranking: 7

Odds to win gold: 33-1

GM: Raeto Raffainer

Coach: Patrick Fischer

Player to watch: Gregory Hofmann. The Carolina Hurricanes selected the 24-year-old forward in the fourth round (103rd overall) of the 2013 draft. He has scored 10 goals in his first nine games with Lugano HC.

The skinny: The Swiss are only four years removed from when coach Sean Simpson of Brampton, Ont., steered them to a silver medal at the 2013 worlds. They have an ability to stifle the opposition with a strong defensive system and outstanding goaltending.

Slovakia

World ranking: 11

Odds to win gold: 80-1

GM: Miroslav Satan

Coach: Craig Ramsay

Player to watch: The Slovaks are hamstrung by the fact most of their top players — like Zdeno Chara (Boston), Christian Jaros (Ottawa-Belleville) and Martin Reway (Montreal-Laval) — are in the NHL or AHL, and thus not allowed in the Olympics. Left wing Libor Hudacek, 27, had a strong 2012 worlds, when the Slovaks settled for silver. He plays for Orebro HK in Sweden. His brother Julius could be one of the Slovakia goalies.

The skinny: Satan hired Ramsay on a two-year deal that takes him through Pyeongchang and the 2019 worlds, which Slovakia will host. The Slovaks surprised some with their trip to the bronze-medal game at  the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but they lost 5-3 to Finland.

OLYMPIC WATCH: WHO’S ON THE RADAR FOR CANADA, USA?

By Jared Clinton – The Hockey News

Without NHL participation, the focus for Hockey Canada and USA Hockey is on players who are performing well overseas and in the minors. So, who is standing out as pre-Olympic tournaments approach?

If this were a normal Olympic year, or an Olympic year the likes of which we’ve come to know over the past two decades, much of the conversation surrounding the rosters for the Canadian and American squads would focus on the early season play by some of each respective nation’s top stars.

For instance, there’d have to be some talk about Dustin Brown, who is having a somewhat remarkable resurgence through the early part of the year with the Los Angeles Kings. Will Butcher would certainly be garnering some attention from USA Hockey, as well. And with eight points through six games, not to mention good chemistry with Patrick Kane, the American team might consider sending Ryan Hartman to the Olympics. The Canadians, meanwhile, might be looking at Brayden Point, Brayden Schenn and James Neal as players whose early play has thrust them into the spotlight.

Unfortunately, though, we all know that’s not the case. There will be no NHL participation in the 2018 Winter Games, so these early season performances, while impressive, do nothing for what Olympic squads will look like come February. What will, mind you, is the play of those who are spending this campaign overseas, and through the early part of the respective seasons in Sweden, Finland, Russia and beyond, there are a fair number of players who are starting to make their case.

For those players, the hot start is coming at the right time, too, as tournaments for both national teams are around the corner. Canada will be sending a team to yet another tournament, the Karjala Cup, beginning on Nov. 8. It will be the third tournament for the Canadians in the lead-up to the Olympics. As for USA Hockey, the new-look, non-NHL men’s national team will get its first taste of international action on Nov. 10 when the Deutschland Cup opens. But who will be there? Here are the players who have been turning heads:

KHL

Standouts:
CAN: Linden Vey, Wojtek Wolski and Justin Azevedo appear to be well on their way to locking down spots on the Canadian squad. Vey is currently third in league scoring, seven points off the lead, with five goals and 25 points through 21 games, and Wolski (19 points) and Azevdeo (18 points) aren’t too far off. And while he sits third among Canadian scorers, it might actually be Azevedo who’s having the most impressive early season, but there’s good news and bad news. The good? In 19 games, the former Kings draft pick has 12 goals. The bad? He’s out two months with injury.

USA: Matt Gilroy might be the name to watch for the American side. Like any team, production from the back end could be a difference-maker, and Gilroy is certainly managing that in the KHL right now. Through 18 games, his five goals and 15 points are the second-most among American skaters. Dan Sexton is the top American scorer, however, with four goals and 18 points through 21 games.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: Defenseman Mat Robinson will be an option on the back end. In goal, Ben Scrivens is pacing all Canadian netminders with a .919 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average in 16 outings. Brandon Kozun, a standout scorer last season, has struggled to find the scoresheet.

USA: Nick Ebert is another defender who is putting up points at a steady pace, but keep an eye on goaltender Ryan Zapolski. He won top goaltender honors this past week and is rocking a stellar 1.11 GAA and .955 SP through 17 appearances.

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SHL

Standouts:
CAN: Derek Roy’s veteran presence, not to mention two-point performance at the Puchkov, makes him someone in heavy consideration for the Canadian squad, and his three-goal, 11-point start to the Swedish League season isn’t going to hurt his chances of donning the maple leaf. Rene Bourque has made himself a player to watch, too. One year removed from a 12-goal NHL campaign, Bourque already has half of that total in nine games in Sweden. 

USA: Making the jump to the NHL hasn’t happened, but 2011 Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele has been nothing short of phenomenal everywhere he’s played since turning pro. It’s no shocker that has carried over to Sweden, where he’s already put up three goals and seven points in eight outings. He’s not the top American scorer, however. That honor goes to Ryan Lasch, who is building off of last season’s solid performance in the Swiss League.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: Mike Kostka bounced between the NHL and AHL over the past few seasons, but he seems ready-made for the Canadian blueline. Daniel Paille may also be an option if looking to add a veteran presence up front.

USA: Aaron Palushaj has had a tough time catching on full-time overseas, but his hot start in Sweden gives him hope of sticking around and of landing a spot with Team USA. He has a history, previously representing his country at the 2009 World Junior Championship.

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NLA

Standouts:
CAN: Andrew Ebbett has carved himself out a nice spot with SC Bern in the Swiss League, but he’s seemingly taken his play to the next level this season. After seasons of 13 and 25 points, Ebbett has blown the doors off the competition early on with five goals and 19 points in 12 games. He had two assists at the Sochi Hockey Open, so he’s only making his case stronger with his current performance. Don’t sleep defenseman Maxim Noreau, either. His four goals and 11 points put him third in scoring by defensemen.

USA: Two of the league’s top eight scorers, Garret Roe and Mark Arcobello, are American-born. Some will be familiar with Arcobello, who has 139 NHL games under his belt, but Roe is a player who could make himself known at the Olympics. He has been a consistent contributor in European leagues since turning pro and his first season in the Swiss League, which has seen him score seven goals and 18 points in 13 games, is getting him noticed.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: A fixture of the European leagues, Barry Brust could be a backup or third-string option in goal. Mason Raymond has only suited up in seven games thus far, but he impressed when Hockey Canada called on him for the tournament in Sochi.

USA: Nathan Gerbe was a point-per-game player in Switzerland last year and, with nearly 400 NHL contests to his name, his experience could be a valuable asset for the American side at the Olympics.

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DEL

Standouts:
CAN: Trevor Parkes is hardly a household name, but Hockey Canada saw enough there to invite him to the Puchkov. He didn’t manage to find the scoresheet at the tournament, but he’s gone back to the German League and put up six goals and 13 points in 13 games. Not a bad start. Dane Fox is also showing he still has his scoring touch. In 13 games, he has six goals and 11 points and could be a power play triggerman for the Canadians.

USA: You know one great thing about the Olympics sans NHLers? A guy like Keith Aucoin might get his due. He’s one of the most prolific players in AHL history and he continues to produce as a 38-year-old overseas. He has three goals and 21 points in 13 German League games this season. Put him on the American power play and let him go to work. Goaltender David Leggio has also turned some heads with a .931 SP and 2.14 GAA through six games.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: He’s nowhere near the top of the scoring list, but Devin Setoguchi’s four goals and seven points might be enough to create some conversation. He played half a season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2016-17 and he chipped in four goals and 12 points.

USA: After 655 games in the NHL, Tom Gilbert found himself out of a job this summer and headed to Germany. He hasn’t put many points up — five assists in 13 games — but he might be hard to pass over for Team USA.

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LIIGA

Standouts:
CAN: Ryan O’Connor hasn’t pulled on a national team jersey since his U18 days back in 2009-10. In fact, the last time he skated on the same ice as Team Canada, he was the opponent at the Spengler Cup. But the rearguard’s two-goal, nine-point start to his season in the Finnish League could open some eyes.

USA: Former U18 and U19 rearguard Teemu Kivihalme — despite what his name suggests, he was born in Minnesota — is off to a good start in his first pro campaign. He won’t be a top-pairing guy, but as a depth option, he could have an outside shot.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: Shaun Heshka’s solid performance last season earned him an invite to the Spengler Cup. He’s not at the top of the list, but he could be in line for an invite to camp.

USA: Ben Blood is big, strong and tough as nails. The game will be played on the big ice, but if Team USA wants to add a blueliner who can punish players, Blood might be their guy.

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AHL

Standouts:
CAN: Players on two-way deals aren’t eligible, but that does leave some options for the Canadian team, the clear standout being Colin Campbell. He re-upped on a two-year deal with the Grand Rapids Griffins and has started off with one goal and six points in four games for the defending Calder Cup champions.

USA: No Olympic squad may draw more talent from the AHL than Team USA. Chris Conner, Chris Bourque, Steve Moses and Travis Morin are all capable scorers who could add offensive depth to the team, while Ryan Malone’s comeback seems to be going according to plan. He has two points in four games in the AHL.

Keep An Eye On:
CAN: Patrice Cormier is a former World Junior Championship captain who could be a sneaky addition to bulk up the bottom-six. He’s a role player and a lead-by-example type.

USA: T.J. Hensick hasn’t found the scoresheet yet, but it’s only a matter of time. He put up 16 goals and 52 points with the Kings’ farm team, the Ontario Reign, last season.

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UNSIGNED

CAN: Andreas Athanasiou is set to make a decision regarding his future this week, and, if he’s available, Canada may as well prepare his jersey early. He’s a lock for the team if he wants to play. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported that Jarome Iginla will get an invite to camp. Another name to keep an eye on is Chris Lee. Cut from Kings training camp, Lee was a stud blueliner in the KHL last season and earned a spot on the World Championship club. He could be an offensive addition. Also watch for P-A Parenteau if he’s available.

USA: Brian Gionta is skating with the Rochester Americans and wants a shot at playing for Team USA. He’s a no-brainer for camp and probably a lock for the roster. After getting cut from a PTO, Drew Miller remains without a job. Chris Vandevelde also is seeking work and could have his eye on the Olympics. After a good season in the DEL, Rob Schremp could also be an option.

Ice Hockey, Curling and Luge will be part of the Portuguese Winter Sports Federation.

Curling geral

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey, Curling and Luge will be part of the Federation of Winter Sports of Portugal (FDIP), said Lusa Pedro Farromba, president of FDIP.

Curling and Luge federations have already join, while Ice Hockey will happen at the congress meetings scheduled for May of next year, with Pedro Farromba added that he has only met a few days with the Ice Hockey representatives.

The goal, according to Pedro Farromba, is “to give a new Identity to the FDIP,  by adding new winter sports”,  Skiing and Snowboarding federations have been already welcomed.

Portugal already have an ice hockey team, a formation that on September 29th won it’s first international game by defeating Andorra. In the case of curling, there are players in the country who go to Spain to play.

Curling is practiced on an ice rink and the teams aim to get the stones thrown as close as possible to the target by rubbing the ice to try to defend it’s Territory. 

As for the luge, “there are no place for it to be practiced in Portugal because it is a sled that descends down a mountain in an icy circuit, but there is the possibility, as on the roller skies, of doing it without snow, and adapting.

When it comes to infrastructure, Pedro Farromba believes that if there are athletes and will there will be a number of users, the possibility of a ice rink is real. If there are enough athletes, there will be those who want to invest to do it. We have to make it happen and show people that Portugal have enough interest in winter sports.

The role of the FDIP, to be a leader in winter sports and encourage, motivate, through promotional programs that can create greater adherence to young people in Portugal.

Rockets owner wants NHL team in Houston

By Cory Wilkins – Thescore.com

Houston, we want a hockey team.

Tilman Fertitta – the new owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets following a record $2.2-billion sale – is interested in adding another sports franchise to his portfolio.

“I would put an NHL team here tomorrow,” Fertitta told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “This one has got to work. But I’d love to have the other dates in the building.

“Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely. We’ll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do has to make sense … Will we be aggressive? Yes. That’s my nature.”

The NHL recently completed an expansion phase, adding its 31st franchise in Las Vegas, while deferring a bid from Quebec City. No other expansion applications, including Houston, were submitted to the league.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke on expansion as recently as Wednesday on Fox Sports, stating, “Could it happen some point? Yes, but it’s nothing we are focused on right now,” per Sportnset’s John Shannon.

Adding a team in Houston – the fourth-most populous city in the United States – would be a first for the NHL, however hockey itself is not unfamiliar with the area. The city was previously home to the WHA’s Houston Aeros from 1972-78 and a minor-pro team of the same name from 1994-2013.

Image result for houston aeros wha
Gordie Marty, Mark Howe & Marty Howe Signed Houston Aeros WHA

Houston would also provide some intriguing benefits to the NHL. Not only would the city offer a major television market, but Houston is also a natural Texas rival to the Dallas Stars, and the team could also bring some balance to the Central Division – currently home to seven teams, while the other three divisions carry eight clubs.

The NHL was previously linked to Houston in 2015, when Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who chairs the NHL board of governors, told Nicholas Goss of NESN, “I’d love to see (a team) in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

With Rockets’ ownership now changing hands, it could open the door for the NHL’s entry into Houston and the Toyota Center. The 2003-built arena seats 17,800 for hockey and is home to only one major-league tenant.

“We have to make sure hockey fans in Houston, Texas and Houstonians will come out and support an NHL team,” Fertitta added. “When the Aeros left they were drawing 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 a game. If we have an NHL team, we have to put 16,000 in that stadium every night, 17,000, 18,000.

“If I go out and get an NHL team, I’m going to ask the citizens of Houston to make sure they commit to help me do it. None of this is successful without the fans out there.”

The Russian Senior Women’s Team Snap Japan 26 Game Winning Streak

dyupinagoal-2

By Patrick Conway – Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog

The Russian senior women’s team was also at work this past week, preparing for their second annual trip to the United States to face clubs from the National Women’s Hockey League.  The final stage of that preparation was the visit of Team Japan to the Russian hockey base at Novogorsk for a pair of exhibition games yesterday and today.  The Japanese national team came into the series riding a 26-game winning streak in all competitions, so definitely a squad not to be taken too lightly, even as Team Russia looked ahead to the North American tour.

Team Japan served notice early in the first game, too, that they were to be reckoned with, as Akane Hosoyamada of the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno gave the visitors a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.  Russian Head Coach Alexei Chistyakov’s players found the range thereafter, however; Yevgeniya Dyupina of Dynamo St. Petersburg tied the game seven minutes into the second period.  Then the big Tornado Moscow Oblast trio struck, as Yelena Dergachyova scored with assists to her club linemates Alevtina Shtaryova and Anna Shokhina, and Russia led 2-1 after two periods.  In the third, the Russians pulled away.  First it was another Tornado player, Lyudmila Belyakova, getting her name on the scoresheet, before Agidel Ufa defender Tatyana Shibanova rounded out the scoring in the final minute of what ended as a 4-1 Russian victory.  Shibanova’s Agidel team-mate, the formidable Olga Sosina, picked up assists on both the third-period goals, while Biryusa Krasnoyarsk’s Nadezhda Morozova earned the victory in goal.

Chistyakov opted to go with Valeriya Tarakanova of SKIF Nizhny Novgorod in net for today’s second meeting between the two teams, but the game’s opening act followed the same script.  Once again, Japan held a 1-0 first-intermission lead, this time thanks to Miho Shishiuchi.  And once again, Tornado’s big line came to the fore in the second period, as Shtaryova leveled matters with assists from Dergachyova and Shokhina.  This game, however, would go down to the wire.  With less than three minutes on the clock, Dyupina pounced on a mistake at the Japanese blueline, skated in alone on Nana Fujimoto, and scored what would turn out to be the game winner (see photo at the top of this post).  Tornado’s Nina Pirogova added a third into the empty net with just a few ticks left, and Russia came away with their second victory in two days, by a score of 3-1.

Team Russia sets off for the U.S. on Wednesday, and will open their series on Friday against the New York Riveters.  The full schedule is as follows:

  • Friday, October 13th: New York Riveters
  • Sunday, October 15th: Connecticut Whale
  • Tuesday, October 17th: Connecticut Whale
  • Wednesday, October 18th: Boston Pride
  • Saturday, October 21st: Boston Pride
  • Sunday, October 22nd: New York Riveters

SKA St. Petersburg It’s a record!

Sergei Shirokov: "It's difficult to set records"

By KHL. ru

SKA set a new KHL record for consecutive victories, picking up its 19th win in a row since the start of the season to move past Avangard’s mark. But Sibir made it tough for the Army Men, threatening to crash the party with a resilient display and a third-period fightback.

SKA’s success this season has been built on rollicking offense; this week alone the team blasted 12 goals in road games at Lokomotiv and Salavat Yulaev. Nikita Gusev and Ilya Kovalchuk were in red hot form, and the crowd settled down to await the latest firework display. And waited. And waited. The first intermission arrived, and the game was goalless. And, by recent standards, bereft of goal action. SKA was limited to nine shots at Alexei Krasikov and when the goalie was beaten, a video review reprieved him.

After the break, finally, SKA found its scoring form. The third power play of the night ended with Gusev setting up Sergei Plotnikov to break the deadlock. Two minutes later, Dinar Khafizullin made it 2-0. This was more like it, but the home team’s progress was disrupted by penalty trouble and Sibir was still in the game – just – after 40 minutes.

Jonas Enlund pulled a goal back in the 49th minute, and suddenly a routine engagement was starting to look problematic. The winner came from an unlikely source: Evgeny Ketov is a player often overlooked on SKA’s stella offense, but he came up with the all-important goal when he surprised Krasikov with an early shot from the top of the circle. Sibir tried to battle back, and Simon Onerud got his first goal for the club after moving from Sochi, but SKA closed out the game and established that record.

Andorra slowly growing

By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

The 2017 Development Cup offered Andorra to form a national team for the first time and serve as host of an international ice hockey tournament. Although the host team lost the games against Morocco, Ireland and Portugal, it was a good experience for them. 

“It’s our first appearance in an international event. It was difficult against the opponents. We thought we could win against Portugal but we were not so good at converting the shots,” said Aleix Manosas, the local club’s President and Vicef President of the Andorran Ice Sports Federation who was in the net for his team. 

“It’s important for us to have some international exposure, to say we’re little hockey countries but we’re developing and we’re here.” 

Ice sports in Andorra are centred in the 2,000-soul village of Canillo in the northern part of the country in the Pyrenees. It is one of the major winter sport destinations in the country last but not least thanks to having the principality’s only ice rink, the Palau de Gel (“Ice Palace” in Catalan) that includes a full-size ice rink with 1,500 seats and an indoor swimming pool. 

The opening of the ice rink in 1987 was the start of ice hockey, ice skating and curling in the country. The only hockey club, Andorra Hoquei Gel, was founded in 1990. The Andorran Ice Sports Federation came into existence in 1992 and joined the IIHF in 1995. 

Since then Andorra hasn’t hit the international spotlight that much. Senior and junior teams sometimes play games in their neighbourhood with cities with hockey clubs such as Puigcerda (48 km) and Barcelona (200 km) in Spain, or Font-Romeu (65 km) or Toulouse (170 km) in France in driving distance. And in 1997 Spain hosted the 1997 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship D-Pool in Canillo. 

“I remember Korea was here and now they earned promotion to the top division. I know we cannot play against Finland or Sweden like them but why not play in the lower divisions? We’ll fight for that. We are sure that the event is a sign that more people can try to play hockey like us and that more children will play the sport. Like that we can have a better team in the future,” said Manosas. 

According to him there are 90 ice hockey players in the country, about half are senior players and half are children including 12 girls. 

“Hockey in Andorra is played by only few people. Football and basketball are the sport played most often here. But in Canillo it’s a bit colder than in the rest in the country and we have an ice rink. We’ve been developing hockey since the early ‘90s and have been progressing step by step culminating with hosting the Development Cup,” he said. 

2017 was a milestone with having the first official national team. It was mostly composed of players from the local club but also included former players of the club who moved to France including defenceman Louison Courcol (Poitiers), forward Alex Palmitjavilla (Montpellier) and captain Ludovic Blasi (Font-Romeu), who all play in the French fourth-tier competition. 

“Most players are from Canillo, about 70 per cent, or from other towns in Andorra. We just had three players who played in France because they are students. In Andorra we don’t have a lot of universities so they have to go abroad. It’s good for us because they can see another style of hockey and coaching,” Manosas said about the situation in the high-altitude country of around 80,000 inhabitants. 

“Normally the players here play in two small tournaments with ten games and some players play with Font-Romeu in the south of France to have maybe two or four games more. We are trying to do some exhibition games but it’s not so easy to go outside because our budget is not high. And we try to find more players to play in a French competition.” 

For captain Blasi the event has been a great experience despite the losses. 

“We are a small country with a few hockey players in Andorra and those who went to play abroad play at amateur level. We try to play against better teams like at the Development Cup, which is a good way to progress and grow hockey in Andorra,” the captain said. “10 to 12 players from the team have never played according to IIHF rules and with body-checking before. They were adapting the game with more intensity and more shots. 

“It’s an honour to play for the country for the first time. Many play in the club in Andorra but it’s not the same as representing your country. We’ve been hoping for this since childhood.” 

Andorra has a senior and now a youth team to make progress with the youngest players. 

“We formed the under-10 team last year. They competed in two tournaments here and in Barcelona so they had 12 games. In the new season we want to take part in four tournaments so in the future we will hopefully have future champs,” Manosas said. 

A Female Hasek: Klára Peslarová, Team Czech Republic Goalie

Klára Peslarová

By Nathaniel Oliver – The Hockey Writers

The three highest save percentages of Dominik Hasek’s international career were .961, .924 and .923. Those numbers came in international tournaments like the Winter Olympics or World Championships when “The Dominator” played in at least four games of each tournament. In the process, Hasek won an Olympic gold and bronze, and a World Championship silver with three bronze. The Hockey Hall of Famer’s Olympic career save percentage is a staggering .946. As every hockey fan knows, very little ever got by Hasek.

The three highest save percentages (thus far) for fellow Czech goaltender Klára Peslarová in which she has played at least four tournament games have been .975, .954, and .951. Yeah, not much gets by her either.

And she is only a 20-year-old.

“My brother Jakub always said, ‘You are like “You are like  Dominik Hasek in a skirt’,” Peslarová shared.

Peslarová’s Youth Hockey and Where It Began

Like most elite hockey players, Peslarová began playing hockey at a very young age. Born November 23, 1996 in the Czech city of Ostrava she ended up finding inspiration as a goaltender from two remarkable Swedes instead of her fellow countryman, Hasek.

“I started playing when I was three,” Peslarová recalled. “My father was a coach and my brother played hockey too. Because my father was a coach to little children — four to six year olds — I was in the same group. The goalie was sick, so I wanted to try it. I stayed with my group as a goalie, and then the younger group as a forward. You know, you have to be a good skater.”

Around the world, numerous hockey leagues are beginning their 2017-18 seasons. Peslarová is now returning to play in the Czech Republic with a men’s team, HC RT TORAX Poruba after playing two seasons for SDE HF of the Svenska damhockeyligan (SDHL); the top women’s league in Sweden. The SDE HF hockey club is located in Stockholm. While she may be returning to her homeland, it would seem that Peslarová had developed a kinship toward the Scandinavian country long ago.

Henrik Lundqvist was always my hero,” she explained.

Separately, one of the other top female goaltenders in the world — who is also a Swede — helped provide tutelage and fostering to a young Peslarová: “I didn’t know too much about a women’s hockey league, but it was Kim Martin Hasson who helped the team in 2006 around the Olympic Games. This was the first time that I saw women’s hockey.”

Martin Hasson is a silver and bronze Olympic medalist for Sweden, and an NCAA champion from her time with the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is also the Athlete Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and worked with Peslarová at one of the IIHF’s high performance camps when the Czech was a youngster.

Beginning of Her Success at the International Level

Peslarová first got into international play for the Czech Republic during the 2013 IIHF Women’s U18 tournament held in Finland. She appeared in five of the Czech Republic’s six tournament games and posted an important win over Russia. Peslarová’s statistics from that showcase are a bit tough to swallow from sight alone, as her .880 save percentage is rather average while her 5.18 goals against average is cringe-worthy to look at.

However, those numbers do not tell the entire story though. Keep in mind that Peslarová was only 16 at the time of this tournament. In a 10-0 drubbing by the United States in the semifinals she took on 42 shots of a total 76 that the U.S. peppered onto the Czech net that game, and still stopped 37 of them. Her other save totals in the tournament games were 11, 28, 26 and 30 respectively. Certainly a solid performance by a first year player on the national team.

The numbers that Peslarová was about to produce from here on out would seem otherworldly.

2014 Becomes Peslarová’s Coming-Out Party

The 2014 IIHF Women’s U18 tournament was held in Budapest, Hungary and would be the final U18 of Peslarová’s career. Seemingly, this tournament belonged to her. Through Peslarová’s remarkable play in net, the Czech Republic would win only their second medal in the tournament’s history, and their first since 2008 when the Women’s U18 was first brought about by the IIHF.

Peslarová was brilliant in net. She posted four wins to go with two losses, with one of the wins coming in a shootout over Finland in the Czech Republic’s first game of the tournament. She shut out Sweden in the quarterfinals of the tournament 3-0, and then did the same to Russia in the bronze medal game by a score of 1-0. In total, she played 345:00 of ice time, allowed a mere nine goals in six games, had a 1.57 goals against and a whopping .951 save percentage.

Klára Peslarová

Three times Klára Peslarová has been named Best Goaltender by the IIHF in
international competition

Peslarová’s greatest heroics came in the 3-1 semifinal loss to the United States. In the 2013 tournament, the Czech Republic had twice allowed 10 goals to the U.S. the two times the teams squared off. This time Peslarová was a wall that could also move and stand on its head. The U.S. put 61 shots on Peslarová and she steered aside 58 of them. In a most deserving performance, Peslarová would be named the Best Goaltender award recipient for the entire tournament.

When asked what that tournament and bronze medal mean to her today, Peslarová shared: “Certainly a lot. I like to always remember it. This was the last opportunity at the U18 level. Also, every award and medal means a lot for me.”

Continued Heroics Throughout 2014 and 2015

The IIHF decided to host a Women’s World Championships during an Olympic year for the first time in 2014. In order to continue the development of teams not participating in the Sochi Games, the IIHF continued to fund participation in the women’s tournament. The Czech Republic simply ran the table over the likes of Norway, France, Denmark, Austria and Slovakia at that year’s Division I Women’s Worlds. Peslarová had now graduated to the Czech women’s national team and once again shined brighter than the sun as their star goaltender.

Peslarová went a perfect 4-0 throughout the tournament as she helped vault the Czech Republic into the top division for women’s international play. The Czech Republic won all five of their games, and Peslarová was once again named the tournament’s Best Goaltender. In her four games she allowed only two goals and posted an almost unfathomable 0.50 goals against and a .975 save percentage.

There would be a near exact repeat performance by Peslarová in 2015 in France. The Czech Republic went a perfect 5-0 once more throughout the Division I tournament to again be promoted back into the top division. Peslarová allowed just two goals — one each to Latvia and Austria — and posted shutouts over France and Denmark. Once again she finished with a 0.50 for goals against as well as a .954 save percentage. For the third time in international play, Peslarová would be named Best Goaltender.

Looking back on the two successive tournaments, Peslarová recalled: “It is definitely an honor for me. I got a chance as a young goalie, I am glad I got this opportunity; and I did not disappoint the coachesEvery year I am doing my best. We have a lot of young goalies in Czech, and I know that everyone can get this chance.”

Peslarová’s League and Professional Play

Since those stellar performances, Peslarová has played in two other Women’s World Championships and one Olympic qualifier. She also ventured forth into professional play and into some of the premier women’s leagues in the world.  As mentioned earlier, Peslarová played the previous two years with SDE HF. She also briefly spent time with Biryusa Krasnoyarsk of the Russian Women’s Hockey League. Now she will be playing alongside men.  Peslarová explained the progression of the past few years and how it has taken place:

“In Russia I played for Biryusa Krasnoyarsk and in Sweden it was for SDE HF in Stockholm. In both it was the highest league. In Russia I was paid like a professional player. In Sweden I had to earn money by work, and in the evenings I had hockey. In Russia there is a limited number of foreigners that can play, but in Sweden it is an undetermined amount. That’s a reason why I liked Sweden more.  Right now I am working hard and preparing myself for the next Olympics.” She smiled, “Let’s see what happens.”

Intangibles of Peslarová’s Game

Dominik Hasek played professional hockey until he was 46 years old. Klára Peslarová will turn 21 at the end of next month.  Hasek didn’t play his best hockey until after he turned 30 and won Stanley Cups at the ages of 37 and 43. That being said, Peslarová has many, many more years of elite level hockey left to play.

The Czech Republic are not one of the eight teams participating at the upcoming 2018 PyeonChang Games in South Korea. Make no mistake, Peslarová will do everything in her power to get her country there in 2022. She possesses numerous intangibles that will help ensure that it happens.

“I think the best is that I’m positive in my mind. My brother thinks I am better in skating than catching the pucks,” Peslarová laughed. “So definitely my movement helps me. But the most important thing I have learned is cooperation with my teammates. Be part of the team, because when you are successful in collective sport you can be successful in private life too.”

Already Peslarová is the most decorated and is decisively the best female goaltender in the hockey history of the Czech Republic. Asked if she wanted to continue playing until she is 46 like Hasek, Peslarová laughed and responded:

Jaromir Jagr can surpass Dominik Hasek – not me!”

At the very least, we know that there will be a solid number of more years to enjoy the play of Peslarová. When all is said and done, she may very well be forever known as “the female Hasek”. Perhaps someday there may even be a goaltender known as “the male Peslarová”.

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