Category: North America (Page 1 of 9)

From bobsleds to blades Jamaica Ice Hockey sharpens its skates

(From left) Jaden Lindo, co-captain of the LATAM Cup winning team; Don Anderson, director of JOIHF; Minister of Sports, Olivia Grange; and Teegan Moore, co-captain of the team, on the occasion of their visit to the minister after the LATAM Cup victory









Source: Jamaica Observer

Having made its initial foray in the Winter Olympic Games with the bobsled team, Jamaica is now forging ahead with plans to enter an ice hockey team as well.

The Jamaica Under-20 team in 2017 impressed many with their 5-1 victory over a Nova Scotia (Canada) All Star team, comprising the best college players in the region.

Since then the senior team competed in the Latin American (LATAM) Cup for the first time in 2019, beating defending champions Colombia, runners-up Argentina, as well as Mexico and Brazil, to win the coveted trophy. The onset of COVID-19 prevented the team from defending the trophy in 2020, but the team is gearing up to defend the trophy in September or October this year.

As part of this plan, there have been numerous developments geared towards building the sport, locally and internationally, to enable the team to play in Olympic Qualifying tournaments in the near future.

Big recruitment program under way

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation (JOIHF) has launched a massive recruitment drive to enlist players of Jamaican descent currently playing ice hockey in the US, Canada and Europe. So far, this totals approximately 70 players, some of whom were part of the winning LATAM team in 2019. A major drive, through all existing channels, is under way to strengthen this roster of players.

Discussions with coaches

JOIHF is currently finalising discussions with two very experienced coaches and National Hockey League (NHL) alumni, who have both expressed an interest in working with the team to defend the LATAM Cup. The coaches know each other and are prepared to partner with JOIHF as co-coaches. Former ice hockey players themselves, they each have played over 400 games in the NHL, and are now heavily involved in managing ice rinks and hockey programmers at youth and adult levels. Details are being finalised and will be released very shortly.

Additional hockey and business expertise

In addition to the co-coaches, JOIHF now has on board two other highly experienced ice hockey personnel. One is Gary Smith, who played professionally in Europe, has coached the game at the youth through adult levels, and has 24 years of experience in ice rink development, including design and equipment selection, throughout the USA. The other, Sean Caple, also a former hockey player, has managed ice rinks, developed hockey programmers, and coached teams in the USA. He was one of the original members of the ice hockey personnel that visited Jamaica in 2010, at the launch of the program, and who met with Minister of Sports Olivia Grange then.

The other recent major addition to the team is Cindi Dixon, a financial, marketing, and organizational leadership consultant, who has vast corporate and investment banking experience in the US and other regions, as well as business interests in Jamaica.

MOU with G C Foster College

Last year, JOIHF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with G C Foster College to develop a grass-roots program, which is a prerequisite for Olympic qualifying. The curriculum for the course will fall under the coaches and business degree program, and is being developed incorporating content provided by the International Ice Hockey Federation, as well as assistance from other world-class coaching organizations.

In the meantime, the organizers of the LATAM Cup have already expressed their delight that Jamaica will be back to defend the trophy, and are eagerly awaiting the country’s participation. The tournament has already attracted significant new interest because of the excitement created by Jamaica’s participation, and ultimate victory, in 2019.

The next one? Shane Wright has the intangibles – and shot – of a generational star

Source: The Score

Shane Wright’s never accepted losing. Not even as a toddler.

“Shane has this other edge,” his mother, Tanya, told theScore. “When he was young I had to discipline him for it. It was embarrassing. It would be like three-year-old ‘sportball,’ and he would be losing his mind at three-year-olds who weren’t doing it right or trying hard enough.”

Wright’s competitiveness extends beyond sports, even boiling over into family game nights.

“There’s been the odd board that has ended upside down before it’s over,” his father, Simon, said.

Wright admitted his intensity always shows up, regardless of what’s at stake.

“Everything I do, I want to win,” he said. “I’m also kind of a perfectionist. I hold myself to high standards. I want to win in whatever I do. Whether it’s a board game or a sport or whatever it is, I’m competitive and I want to win it.”

That competitive nature and that will to win, while sometimes embarrassing for his parents when he was growing up, has helped Wright blossom into a potential generational hockey player. Even though he’s only 16 years old and not NHL draft eligible until 2022, he’s already drawn comparisons to Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and John Tavares – the next ones that came before him.

Wright was granted exceptional status into the OHL last year as a 15-year-old, and scored 39 goals and finished with 66 points in 58 games with the Kingston Frontenacs. His point total matched McDavid’s from his age-15 season, but Wright played five fewer games. Of the five players before Wright to be granted exceptional status into the CHL (Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, McDavid, Sean Day, and Joe Veleno), only Tavares had more points in his rookie season (77 in 65 games).

The talent’s obvious. Already listed at 6-feet and 183 pounds – and still growing – Wright’s a strong skater with a heavy shot and elite hockey IQ. Talent only takes a player so far, though. Intangibles are what make Wright special enough to be mentioned in the same conversations as McDavid, Crosby, and Tavares.

“I think what Shane brings is that quiet, unassuming leadership with his drive and determination,” NHL director of central scouting Dan Marr said. “When other players on a team see that the best player is out there as the hardest worker, and wanting to win every battle, wanting to be on every puck, wanting to make things happen out there, that’s infectious.”

Marr has a wide lens on the game’s top prospects and even though his primary focus is generally on the immediate draft class, he still watched Wright in person “about a half dozen times” this season.

Frontenacs assistant coach Luca Caputi, meanwhile, had a front-row seat to observe Wright on a daily basis during his Rookie of the Year season in the OHL. He was equally impressed by his work ethic, maturity, and leadership.

“Every young player that comes through our organization for the next two years will look up to him, just because of the way he does it right every day,” Caputi – who spent parts of three seasons in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs – said.

“When you have those intangibles – and I was lucky enough to play with Crosby – when you’re the best player and you work the hardest and you have the right goals and you’re a good person off the ice, people follow you. People you want around are going to follow you.”

Wright became the youngest player in CHL history to get a letter on his jersey when he was named assistant captain in December. Caputi thinks he could “100%” be an NHL captain someday.

“I talk a lot about being like Crosby, and that’s not fair, and a lot of pressure to put on a kid, but I see some of those similarities just in the way he goes about his business,” Caputi added.

Crosby and Wright possess different on-ice strengths – the former’s more of a playmaker and the latter more of a goal-scorer – but there are some similarities in how each grew up.

“I think it was pretty embarrassing for my parents when people walked by and saw all the holes in our garage,” Wright said jokingly.

“So embarrassed,” Tanya acknowledged with a laugh. “I know we brought the value of the whole neighborhood down.”

Simon added about the door: “I’m surprised it actually still went up and down.”

All those reps on the driveway helped Wright develop a lethal shot on the ice – one that impressed Caputi immediately.

“I think his first goal in the league, I believe his third or fourth game, was an eye-popping goal,” Caputi recalled. “He just caught it on his off wing on the dot in the offensive zone and he went back bar. I think it hit every bar in the net and you said, ‘Oh! There it is.'”

Even though his release was already a strength, Caputi said Wright missed the net a lot early in the season. And so the teenager put in the necessary work to hone his accuracy.

“We do it every day after practice,” Caputi said. “From his one spot on the power play, he might’ve had 5,000 (shots) this year. That’s how committed he is to his craft.”

The work eventually paid off. After starting with six goals in his first 17 games, Wright ended the season scoring 33 times in his final 41 contests. Despite his individual success, though, Kingston finished the season with only 19 wins in 62 games – the third-lowest total in the 20-team league.

“We didn’t win a heck of a lot of games this year, so when you face adversity you see people’s true character and he really cares,” Caputi said. “I’d say the winning aspect, even some of the games when he thought he could play better, that’s when you see that he really cares. Extra reps the next day, staying late to watch video. That’s somebody you want to build your identity and your core around.”

At the end of the day, it’s simple: Wright’s commitment to winning stems from his hatred of losing, which he’s known he’s detested since he began walking. It’s cost him at times – when he “literally exploded with anger” during a centipede ski race his family was losing at a summer cottage, according to Tanya, and when he was slide tackling as a six-year-old during soccer games. But Wright’s matured and learned to harness his competitiveness; in fact, it’s become his biggest strength.

“He hates losing,” Simon reiterated. “He competes to win every single time.”

Wright, it seems, has that fire inside him, that sets the elite of the elite apart, that is required to be the best, and to be “the next one.”

Wilson fueling rise of women’s game in Mexico

15-year-old making strides in quest to help home country win Olympic medal

By William Douglas

Luisa Wilson said people sometimes do double takes when she tells them about her hockey roots.

“Sometimes when I’m in Canada, I’ll be practicing and they’re like, ‘You’re good, where are you from?’ I’m like, ‘I’m Mexican,'” she said. “And they’re like, ‘Mexico has hockey?’ I’m like, ‘We have hockey and ice rinks, the entire thing,’ and they can’t believe it.”

Luisa, a 15-year-old who was born in central Mexico, is turning more people into believers.

She made history when became the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal when she won the gold competing on a multinational three-on-three hockey team at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January.

“It’s really cool being able to expand the sport that I really love in Mexico,” Luisa said. “It’s amazing what this sport can do to change your life, and I want more kids to be able to experience that.”

Luisa knew she had done something special when the gold medal was draped around her neck at the award ceremony on the ice, “but I didn’t know how big it was until I got to Mexico and there were reporters there,” she said.

She added a bronze medal to her collection weeks later playing for Mexico at the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City.

“It was an awesome experience being able to play with the Mexican team, representing Mexico in Mexico with Mexicans cheering me on because when Mexico cheers, Mexico cheers,” said Luisa, who scored two goals in the tournament. “They bring drums and everything.”

Mexico Under-18 at the Women’s World Championship Division II Group B in Mexico City

Luisa’s exploits have earned her recognition throughout Mexico and beyond. She landed on Forbes Mexico’s list of the 100 powerful women of Mexico in 2020, a who’s who that includes actress and producer Salma Hayek, Hyundai Mexico CEO Claudia Marquez, Kellogg Latin America president Maria Fernanda Mejia, and Graciela Marquez, Mexico’s secretary of the economy.

The hockey gloves Luisa wore during the Youth Winter Olympics are at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, said her mother, Laura San Roman Onate.

That’s pretty lofty stuff for a teenager who began skating as a 3-year-old with her father, Brian, a Canadian who was coaching hockey and playing rugby in Mexico.

Most people don’t associate hockey with Mexico, but the country has been an IIHF member since 1985 and has more than 3,000 registered players, most of them youth. Mexico has 22 indoor rinks, according to the IIHF.

The family moved around in Mexico for coaching jobs for Brian Wilson and more ice time as Luisa and her two brothers, Jack and Thomas, progressed as players.

Luisa Wilson, the first Mexico-born athlete to win a Winter Olympics medal

In 2017, the family relocated to suburban Toronto so the children could get more hockey experience and games. Luisa said she plays 50 to 60 games a season now as opposed to in Mexico, where she played about 40 games a season.

“My version of the story is we were in the kitchen and my dad and my brother were, like, we should move to Canada,” Luisa said. “And I was, like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And my mom was, like, ‘We can’t just move to Canada.’ And we did.”

San Roman Onate recalled that by the time she heard about the Canada idea, it was a done deal.

Wilson’s paternal grandparents were so excited, they had already decided “‘We’ll sell our house in Parry Sound, we’ll move to Toronto so the kids can come to Toronto and go to school and play hockey in the afternoon,'” San Roman Onate said. “Everybody moved for hockey.”

Luisa said the move has paid off in making her a better player. She said she cringes when she watches old videos of her playing.

“I had no hockey sense back then,” she said. “I really liked playing defense because I got to stay in front of the net and just pound kids down onto the ice. That was my go-to move, basically. I knew how to skate because we used to practice 16-17 hours a week on the ice. But we were terrible hockey players because we only got a tournament like once a year.”

Luisa’s increased ice time in Canada and her performance at the Youth Winter Olympics and IIHF world championship have set her focus on playing college hockey and representing Mexico at the Winter Olympics someday.

The Mexico Ice Hockey Federation wants its national women’s national team, ranked 26th in the world by the IIHF, to compete in the Winter Games in the near future.

“Every day of the week, I’m working out so when the time comes, if I can be on that team, I could actually help them,” Luisa said of the women’s national team. “If I can be on that team, I want to help them, not be a bench-warmer.”

First Cuban American NHL Player Al Montoya Looks to Expand Hockey’s Reach in Hispanic Community

HELSINKI – JANUARY 5: Team USA wins the gold medal by defeating Team Canada 4-3 at the World Jr. Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland at the Helsinki Ice Arena.January 5, 2004

By Heather RuleUSA Hockey

Montoya believes if young Hispanic players get to try hockey, they’ll fall in love just as he did.

Al Montoya, the first Cuban American to play in the NHL, says he was also the first native Spanish speaker in the 100-year history of the league. 

Montoya finds both facts amazing, but also believes members of the Hispanic community would fall in love with the game as he did while growing up in Chicago. That is as long as they’re given the opportunity to try the sport.

“I realized the weight of what being the first Cuban American was the day I got drafted,” Montoya said. “You’re not representing yourself anymore. You’re representing the community. And I embraced it.” 

He spent 15 years in professional hockey as a goaltender, but it’s also his family history that results in Montoya speaking with such pride.

Montoya’s mother was born and raised in Cuba. His grandparents fled Cuba and from the Castro regime in 1963 for the United States. They went from being landowners in Cuba to Montoya’s grandfather “selling strawberries on the side of the road and working at McDonald’s,” Montoya shared. 

It’s the work ethic from his grandparents, and his mother working as a doctor, that has rubbed off on Montoya, now 35 years old. He recalls his grandfather telling him how grateful he was for the United States, the place that gave him his freedom. 

“One of the prouder moments of my life is standing on that blue line or that red line, looking up at our flag and knowing the sacrifices that they made to give me that opportunity of freedom,” Montoya said. “They passed it down to me. I can’t say enough about it.” 

Raised by his single mother and his grandparents along with three brothers, Montoya followed his older brother in playing hockey. Montoya started out as a skater, taking up hockey at 3 years old. He began hockey as a forward, but the next year, his team didn’t have a goalie. He remembers playing in a house league before that, where the goaltender bag cycled between teammates, allowing everyone a shot to try the position.  

That second year of mites, “I took that bag, and I never gave it back,” Montoya said. 

He eventually ended up with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program at 16 years old. In 2004, he was part of the U.S. National Junior Team that went undefeated (6-0-0) to win the first-ever International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship gold medal for the United States. Montoya was named Best Goaltender and named to the All-Star Team. 

He called that 2004 team, which included Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, “one of the best teams ever produced by USA Hockey.”

“This is our chance to make this statement and be the first team to ever win, the first U.S. team to win a gold medal,” Montoya said. “Once that American flag is going up, and you know you won it, and you’re surrounded by your brothers, your family, your teammates. It’s really a moment I’ll never forget.” 

He played for the University of Michigan when he was 17 years old and went 86-29-8 there across three seasons. The New York Rangers drafted him sixth overall in 2004. That’s when he realized the platform he had as the first Cuban American NHL player. He also played in Puerto Rico, gave interviews in Spanish (his first language growing up) and even had a sandwich named after him at the Carnegie Deli.

He made his NHL debut April 1, 2009 with the Phoenix Coyotes, coached at the time by Wayne Gretzky. Montoya earned a 23-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over Colorado at the Pepsi Center. He couldn’t have scripted it any better.

“Getting that chance to live that ultimate dream that first game is a moment that will always be close to my heart,” Montoya said. 

KOSICE, SLOVAKIA – MAY 2: Martin Roymark #22 of Team Norway tries to jump on a rebound as Al Montoya #35 of Team USA makes a save during preliminary round action at the 2011 IIHF World Championship.

He ended up playing 168 games in the NHL (67-49-24 with a 2.65 GAA and .908 save percentage) across nine seasons with Phoenix, the New York Islanders, Winnipeg, Florida, Montreal and Edmonton through the 2017-18 season.  

His grandparents died in 2008 and didn’t get a chance to see him play in the NHL, but they watched him at the University of Michigan and saw him get drafted. 

“They got to watch me play which was, now that I think about it, it makes my heart whole,” Montoya said.  

A year into retirement from hockey, Montoya spent time with his family and took “a spiritual, emotional trip” to Cuba last summer. He was the first in his family to return since 1963. Montoya has appreciated this time in retirement.

It’s given me the time to be intentional about the next phase of my life, and that’s dedicating my second career to my passions, which are hockey and the Hispanic community,” Montoya said.

His goal is to grow hockey by incorporating Latinos into the conversation around the sport. Recently, he was a panelist for USA Hockey’s Let’s Grow Forward webinar. This focused on different ways the Hispanic community is already joining the larger hockey family and, even more importantly, discussed ways to get them further involved. During the webinar, Montoya and fellow panelist, Robert Torres, talked about their work together. Montoya has partnered with Torres’ organization Parents for Peace and Justice, a Hispanic community in Montoya’s Chicago hometown. Montoya is also part of the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee.

Montoya sees a grassroots effort taking shape, bringing hockey to Hispanic communities that maybe cannot afford to play hockey or don’t immediately gravitate toward the sport. Hockey isn’t the first sport Hispanics reach out to, Montoya added. In Cuba, there was no ice; kids play baseball or box, he said.

Still, he believes with the celebratory nature of Hispanic culture and how everyone loves to come together that there’s no reason that Hispanics shouldn’t be passionate about hockey as well, he said.

“I know they love speed, I know they love action,” Montoya said. “And by doing that and by starting at the grassroots level, you’ll check all the boxes at the end of the day with fan inclusion and marketing players. The game will continue to grow.”

He’s making it a goal to get out and interact with youth, so he can get them involved in hockey at more of a grassroots level. Or maybe his role will also be working at the NHL level to help put fans in the seats. He’d love for the “fantastic” game of hockey and the “fantastic” Hispanic community to be blended together.

Montoya’s outreach is local with the Hispanic community, but he’s also had conversations with NHL general managers and presidents. It’s all about finding a home for his vision and getting to work right away.

“It started out as an idea, and I’ve had a year to grow this thing and grow this thing,” Montoya said. “I’m looking forward to finally putting it all together.”

New gig for John Parco as former Thunderbirds coach heads over to Italy

Sault Ste. Marie native John Parco is returning to Italy for a new gig with the Italian Hockey Federation

By Randy Russon – Sault This Week

A successful three season run at the helm of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League has turned into a new challenge for high-end coach John Parco.

The soon-to-be-49-year-old Sault Ste. Marie product has signed a two-year contract with the Italian Ice Hockey Federation.

In his new role, Parco will be the director of hockey development for the Italian Federation.
Parco told Sault This Week that as director of hockey development for the IIHF, he will oversee all levels of the game from the under 20 national program down to four- and five-year-old kids.
He noted that part of his job relates to a pre-Olympic hockey project program.
“The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan, Italy and we want to make sure that we can put together a team that is at least competitive,” he explained.
“Overall, it is a big job with a lot of responsibility but I am up for the challenge,” relayed Parco, who is no stranger to Italy, having met his wife there and having played and coached overseas for more than two decades.

Parco, his wife, and their two kids have long maintained a residence in Italy, even while he was in the Sault and coaching the Thunderbirds.
On that note, as he prepares to head to Italy at the end of this month, Parco told Sault This Week he will retain a residence in Sault Ste. Marie, adding that he plans to return on occasion to remain involved in the Superior Sports Training gym that he owns.

Before going on to a decorated professional career as a player and coach overseas — mostly in Italy — Parco was a three-year scoring star as a center with the erstwhile Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, playing for coaches Larry Mavety and Danny Flynn.

Drafted by Belleville out of the Sault Major Hockey Association in the third round of the 1988 OHL priority selections draft, Parco produced 109 goals, 148 assists, 257 points over three regular season campaigns with the Bulls.

A National Hockey League draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Parco went on to a 19-year pro career, spending the majority of it as an A Division standout with HC Asiago in Italy.

As he was a team captain in the OHL with Belleville, he also wore the “C” on his jersey with HC Asiago. Parco also starred for Team Italy at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.

After retiring as a player, Parco was the coach for HC Asiago for three seasons and led them to two championships. And having spent the past three seasons in his hometown as coach of the Thunderbirds, Parco led the local NOJHL team to three-year regular season record of 110-46-12.

He led the Thunderbirds to the NOJHL championship series in 2018-2019 before losing to the Hearst Lumberjacks in the seventh and deciding game of what was a thrilling, outstanding set.

Parco resigned his position with the Thunderbirds after the recent 2019-2020 season and has since been replaced by Denny Lambert as head coach.

Lambert, a former journeyman winger of many years in the NHL, also played for, and later coached, the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL.

How Team Canada trained to take on the Soviets in 1972

Hockey players met at Maple Leaf Gardens to get ready for Summit Series.

Source: CBC Archives

Players for hockey’s Team Canada gather at Maple Leaf Gardens in August 1972 ahead of a tournament against their Soviet opponents.

Hockey’s 1972 Summit Series was going to pit Canada against the Soviet Union. And after a summer off, it was time for the Canadian team to start training.

“Team Canada opened its training camp here at the Gardens today with a full squad,” said CBC reporter Terry McInnes on Aug. 14, 1972.

Some 16,000 spectators were expected at Maple Leaf Gardens when Toronto hosted a match in the eight-game contest. The Canada-Soviet competition, he said, had been billed as “the most exciting hockey series of all time.”

Thirty-five of the best players from the National Hockey League would be taking part. “To a man they have one thought in mind,” said McInnes. “To prove that the world’s best hockey team is Canadian.”

Stick handling

Player Tony Esposito hones a hockey stick ahead of the team’s departure for Moscow. “I don’t even know if they’ve got a rasp over there,” he said

Reporters had been invited to the Gardens that morning as training camp got underway, as the players engaged in “light skating, posing for photographers, and interviews.” 

They were captured in pairs wearing white long underwear and doing sit-ups, with player Stan Mikita sitting on a fellow athlete’s legs.

Phil Esposito, at the time a player with the Boston Bruins, was customizing one of several hockey sticks he was planning to use for the set of games to be played in the Soviet Union.

As he honed the blade with woodworking tools, he discussed how the Canadian approach to conditioning was different from that taken in other countries.

‘Different training programs’

The players paired off to demonstrate their sit-up techniques for the assembled media

“They have different training programs,” Esposito said, mentioning a Swedish fellow player, Mats Lindh, whose regimen included swimming “15 miles a day.”

Canadians, by contrast, spent their summers drinking beer, swimming, and boating.    

McInnes asked about a story he’d heard that Soviet players were up at 6 a.m. to run around their hotel, while the Canadians were “just coming in at that time.”

“That’s their fault for getting up that early,” Esposito said, with a laugh. “I don’t like it, myself.”

Giving ‘100 per cent’

Player Phil Esposito acknowledged that hockey training in Europe and the Soviet Union differed from Canadian methods

Players Vic Hadfield and Ron Ellis, interviewed in practice jerseys on the ice, knew what was at stake.

“Not only are we playing for ourselves, but for Canada and the National Hockey League,” said Hadfield. “We’re going to give it 100 per cent.” 

McInnes asked about the absence of some of the game’s best players — Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson, and Gerry Cheevers — who, as part of the World Hockey Association, were excluded from the Summit Series.

“Certainly we’d like to have them … but that’s up to the fellows that are running this,” said Hadfield.

According to the Globe and Mail, Hockey Canada had voted in July to limit the Canadian team to players from the NHL due to the “rapidly proliferating war” between the two leagues.

“Two weeks may not be enough time to get in real top shape,” said player Ron Ellis, who was a right winger for the Toronto Maple Leafs

Hall of Fame waits for Lowe, Wilson come to an end

By Sean Leahy – NBC Sports

The waits for were long for both Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson. But after receiving Wednesday phone calls from Lanny MacDonald, the two longtime NHL defensemen are Hall of Famers.

Lowe, eligible since 2001, and Wilson, eligible since 1996, were announced as part of the 2020 class along with Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kim St. Pierre, and Ken Holland.

“It’s not only that you have to get 14 of 18 votes, but it’s also sometimes who you may be up against when you’re up that year,” said MacDonald, the Hall’s Chairman. “Sometimes, it’s timing. Regardless of if they go in like Marian and Jarome, it’s richly deserved.”

When Lowe saw MacDonald was calling, he figured it wasn’t say he didn’t get in.

“It’s all surreal for me,” he said.

Lowe is the seventh player from those great 1980s Oilers teams to make it to the Hall of Fame. After watching Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, and Paul Coffey get inducted, he never thought he would join that group.

“I’ve never seen myself as a Hall of Famer,” Lowe said. “For me, the Hall of Fame was Bobby Orr, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier. Although I know there are players of my ilk in the Hall of Fame and it’s a place for everyone, I don’t want to say I was disappointed in the years I didn’t get selected, but I certainly understood you have to put up more points, win awards.

“My dream was always to win Stanley Cups and the Hall of Fame was something I never dreamed about.”

Lowe finished his NHL career with six Stanley Cup rings between the Oilers and Rangers. In 1,254 games he scored 84 times and recorded 431 points. Internationally, he represented Canada at the 1982 World Championship and the 1984 Canada Cup.

Wilson had the longer wait and since retiring has made an impact as Sharks general manager for nearly two decades. He’s going into the Hall of Fame in the player category, a day he didn’t think was coming.

“It was an unexpected call,” he said. 

Wilson played 16 NHL seasons, finishing with 237 goals and 827 points. He’s the Blackhawks all-time leader in goals and points by a defenseman and led the their blue liners in scoring for 10 seasons. His 0.81 points-per-game average is ninth all-time among defenseman who played at least 650 games.

Individually, Wilson was voted a 1981-82 First Team All-Star and won the Norris Trophy in 1982. He was also a finalist for the award four other times. Like Lowe, he was on Canada’s blue line for the 1984 Canada Cup.

“This game has been so good to me, and all the things I’ve been fortunate to do and the journey I’ve been on, it was very unexpected,” he said.

“It’s worth the wait. That’s an understatement.”

The 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony is tentatively set to take place Monday, Nov. 16 in Toronto.

Long-time Calgary Flames captain named to the Hockey Hall of Fame

By  CTV News Calgary

Calgary Flames icon Jarome Iginla is the team’s latest player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The prestigious honour was announced Wednesday afternoon.

Iginla, who is widely regarded to be the greatest player to wear a Flames jersey, captained the team for nine of the 16 seasons he played in Calgary. He was honoured by the Flames last year when his number 12 was retired and raised to the rafters.

Iginla has been the recipient of many prominent NHL awards, including the Art Ross Trophy (most points), the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award (most goals) and the Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player).

He has also received multiple humanitarian awards for his leadership. In the 2000 season, he announced he would be donating $1,000 to KidSport for each goal scored, which he upped to $2,000 in 2005. Those donations resulted in more than $700,000 being given to the charity.

He also established Calgary’s Jarome Iginla Hockey School in 2002, which donated proceeds to the Diabetes Research Association. He is also a member of the NHL Diversity program, which helps disadvantaged youth play hockey.

Iginla is also a legend of the international game. He won gold for Canada on the world stage many times, most memorably assisting Sidney Crosby’s ‘Golden Goal’ in overtime against the United States in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Other gold medals include the 1996 World Juniors, the 1997 World Championship, the 2004 World Cup as well as another Olympic gold medal from the 2002 Olympics.

Iginla was drafted 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 1995 draft, but was immediately traded to the Flames. Iginla’s NHL debut came in the 1996 playoffs with the Flames where he recorded his first NHL point, assisting a goal from Theoren Fleury and scored his first goal in the following game. His career spanned over three decades, playing 1,554 games and racking up 1,300 points. He currently holds the record for most games played, goals scored and points as a Calgary Flame.

Iginla was traded to Pittsburgh in 2013 at the trade deadline for a first round pick and two prospects. He spent the next few seasons with Boston, Colorado and Los Angeles before announcing his retirement in 2018.

This is the first year that Alberta-born Iginla was eligible for the induction into the HHOF.

Phil Esposito a hockey hero the world over

It didn’t matter the situation or the game, once Phil Esposito was on the ice, he wasn’t coming off any time soon.

By Kevin Paul Dupont – Boston Globe

Ex-Bruins great Phil Esposito, 78, has been a regular visitor to Russia in recent years, traveling there for speaking gigs and sometimes consulting with the Kontinental Hockey League, the country’s top pro league.

“I was supposed to go back over in March,” said Espo, reached at his home in Tampa, “but obviously . . . that got changed.”

Now, provided the world can achieve a post-pandemic norm, the prolific Esposito will head to Moscow in September at the behest, he said, of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Because I was awarded this highest award they can give a non-Russian civilian,” noted Esposito. “We’re going to do it now in September, and my buddy Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin is going to present it to me.”

The honor, which Esposito did not identify by name, is likely the Hero of the Russian Federation, given for service to Russia. It’s usually associated with a heroic feat of valor. Russian citizenship or acts performed specifically for Russia are not necessary to win the medal, which is a gold star suspended from a red, white, and blue ribbon.

“I go over there and actually skate with some of the old guys, and have some fun,” said Esposito. “I make a couple of speeches, sign some autographs, go to dinner . . . and they pay me for it. I love it.”

The “Hero” medal has been awarded more than 1,000 times, often to cosmonauts, and at least twice to athletes — including Alexander Karelin, the great Greco-Roman wrestler, and Larisa Lazutina, who won five medals, including three golds, in cross-country skiing at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano.

Putin, an ardent hockey devotee who still plays in pickup games, would have been only 19 years old in September 1972 when Esposito and his Team Canada brethren pulled into Moscow for the completion of the historic Summit Series between the nations.

Russia held a 2-1-1 series lead after the first four games in Canada and stood but 20 minutes from clinching the series when they carried a 5-3 lead into the third period of Game 8 (series deadlocked, 3-3-1).

Esposito, then age 30 and the most dynamic goal scorer the NHL had ever seen (back-to-back seasons of 76 and 66 goals), put on a third-period tour de force that led Canada to a stunning 6-5 win.

Less than three minutes into the third, he connected for his seventh goal of the series. Some 10 minutes later, he set up Yvon Cournoyer for the 5-5 equalizer. And with only 34 seconds remaining in regulation, Paul Henderson knocked home a puck that Espo first landed on legendary netminder Vladislav Tretiak.

Shot. Rebound. Score. Take that, Mother Russia. Henderson forever will be remembered for the GWG, but Canada goes home a loser if not for Espo’s broad shoulders.

Tretiak, by the way, was the starting goalie when the Russians faced Team USA at the 1980 Games at Lake Placid. Russian bench boss Viktor Tikhonov, displeased with what he saw of Tretiak in the early going, pulled him in favor of Vladimir Myshkin, setting the stage for the Yanks’ historic win.

“All I can say is,” Esposito recalled decades later about Game 8 in Russia to’s Dave Stubbs, “that when they called my name, I was there. And I wasn’t coming off.”

Esposito had a penchant for, shall we say, extending his shifts. In the Summit Series, his protracted flights of fancy took ice time away from a pair of other decent centers, Bobby Clarke and Jean Ratelle, both of whom, like Esposito, also went on to become enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. When Espo had the hot hand, he knew it. Generally, when he was on a roll, teammates were happy to have him keep throwing the dice.

Reminiscing over the phone about his Bruins days, Esposito recalled he often logged around 35 minutes a game, nearly twice the ice time current Boston coach Bruce Cassidy typically feeds top line members Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Different game a half-century later. Much shorter shifts for everyone, fourth-liners and superstars alike.

Some of those 35:00 TOI, your faithful puck chronicler reminded Esposito, came because he often turned a deaf ear to calls from the bench to change up on the power play and stayed out there sometimes for the full two minutes.

“Well . . . hey . . . ,” said Esposito, crafting a faux innocence. ”I had great cardiovascular. I looked like [expletive] on the beach, but I had great cardiovascular. Big defensemen with those sticks, they had to go through 2 inches of fat to get to the muscle.”

Esposito was in Russia some eight years ago for the 40th celebration of the Summit Series. The adulation there for the proud son of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, was of nearly Putinesque levels.

“One time, my wife looked at me and said, ‘I didn’t know I was traveling with Brad Pitt,’ ” Esposito, then 70, was quoted in the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed by the admiration, the adulation, whatever it is. It’s overwhelming. I’m 70 years old and, man, it’s wonderful to still be recognized and known. I think I’m more famous [in Russia] than I am [in Canada and the United States]. Does that make any sense?”

Maybe. If so, sounds like there oughta be a medal for it.

Ugarte optimistic for Mexico

Mexican captain Fernando Ugarte during the Olympic Pre-Qualification Round 2 Group L in Barcelona

By Andy Potts –

Mexico’s captain, Fernando Ugarte, is one of the great survivors of the sport in his country. He first appeared in the national jersey in the U20 championship in 2001 and he’s been a fixture on the senior team since making his debut in a Division II Qualification campaign the following season. Along the way, he’s taken part in three previous Olympic qualifying tournaments, wearing the ‘C’ in World Championship play since 2007.

So, after a tournament that saw the Mexicans suffer heavy losses not only against the Netherlands and Spain, but also lowly Chinese Taipei last December in the Olympic Qualification process, he’s well placed to take the longer view. In Barcelona he was one of just three players who featured in last season’s World Championship campaign. That made a tournament in which Mexico was seeded three out of four even tougher.

Among the absentees in Spain were Hector Majul and Carlos Gomez, the team’s leading forwards at last year’s home-ice World Championship Division IIB event. First-choice goalie Andres de la Garma was also unavailable. Ugarte, one of his country’s longest-serving players, found himself adopting a role as mentor as well as defenceman.

“Sometimes it’s like I’m a coach, but on the ice,” he smiled. “The thing is, I love the game. I came to this tournament because I love being a part of it, I love to give some feedback and help the younger players.”

Despite his country’s difficulties in Barcelona, Ugarte is optimistic about the future.

“Some of our players here are part of a new generation,” he added. “Some are older, but it’s a first international tournament for a lot of players. There are good players but, especially when coming from U18 or U20 hockey, it’s an important step. It’s hard for them to know how these tournaments are until they play here.

“Hopefully in a few years we can get our country promoted. We’re well established in the Division IIB now, but we hope in a couple of years we will be able to fight for the gold medal with our emerging players.”

The challenge in Mexican hockey remains unchanged. In a tropical climate, in a country where football is king and baseball remains the closest pretender to the crown, it’s not easy for the game to garner much public attention. The player pool is close-knit, often relying on family connections to keep the flame burning.

“I started when I was 10 and Mexico got its first ice rink,” Ugarte said. “But my father used to play back in the 50s. I learned to skate with him, he introduced me to the sport. But in Mexico, nobody talks about hockey so it’s difficult to get support and sponsors.”

Without support, especially financial backing, trips to Europe and beyond for international tournaments can strain the resources of Mexico’s players. A recently established league boasts just four teams – colourful names like Ugarte’s own Teotihuacan Priests, the Mayan Astronomers and the Aztec Eagle Warriors speak of the country’s rich history – but could be a starting point for more.

“Right now it can be difficult to keep people coming back year after year,” Ugarte admitted. “Now we have this league, we’re starting to work with it. It’s still small but we want it to keep people in the game.”

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