Tag Archives: Detroit Red Wings

Goonbye!

Goons are quickly becoming extinct in the NHL. After years of reports on head injuries, concussions, and depression, the pestilence players have been demoted for their own safety. Bummed but not bruised.

The announcement glares from the hockey headlines that the Fourth Line needs skill, not sucker punches.

When a head coach puts a goon out on the top line to take a face-off, it can only mean one thing: an all out brawl. Goons know that is their workload. Goons starting the game sends a clear message to the opponent. However, it’s not a sportsmanlike message but a dirty one.

Goons are not to be confused with the Agitator or the Enforcer. Agitators skillfully stir up trouble, Enforcers fight when it’s a necessity. Both have a skill beyond the fighting. Goons were the guys who could typically skate and play, but the skill level wasn’t at the highest. Often, the Goons got their spot on the roster because of their brutality. There just isn’t enough room on the bench for the Goon in today’s game.

Sure, we’ve seen Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby fight, but he’s not known for that. Crosby isn’t a Goon.

Detroit Red Wings Niklas Kronwall is known for his hits per his namesake. Kronwall- not a Goon.

Agitators are forwards like Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler who likes to taunt players into starting something. Kesler isn’t a Goon, but some would debate that.

The NHL has drawn a larger audience and the demographics have changed. Youth leagues will not tolerate the fighting and expect a higher level of skill in all areas of the game. Women’s leagues are flourishing, and that’s all breadth of skill. The popularity of the NHL and its affiliates challenge the game to become more than just pond hockey.

Who is your favorite Goon?

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Hey Hockey, What’s Up?

I’m really glad the NHL has returned. I missed the righteous slapshots of Pavel Datsyuk,the energy around Madison Square Garden on game day, the Enforcers, and my fellow fans- the best fans in sports.

Though I am wearing my Wings jersey, I really wanted to boycott the NHL and not watch a game. I don’t really care about all the past chaos, I’m just happy I can sit down and watch a game every night. All is forgiven. The lockout forced  me into a path that pays.

Blood, sweat and tears is the art of journalism. The drive is insatiable. No more up all night to hit the news wire, no more fantastic editors to work with….I’ve been so blessed, and no more play-by-play. I got a great marketing job, write for a local paper and get to interview people in sports, music and design….so, I think we’re okay.

I’ve covered the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings, the New York Rangers and will continue to follow. I’ve had the privilege to attend University of Denver Pioneers games, watching Matt Carle and Paul Stastny. Michigan hockey and the Detroit Red Wings have my allegiance. I can’t quit hockey.

Living on the east coast does provide the hockey fan with the best hockey coverage outside of Canada. Almost every night, I have a choice of watching a Devils, Rangers, or Islanders game. The only deprivation I face now is not getting enough Red Wings.

Fantasy hockey owners are scrambling to repair broken teams as players face injuries getting back on the ice. This is the time to watch out for the newbies on the roster. The fantasy hockey portion of my blog will be up next week.

Welcome back hockey fans!

New Year, New Deal

This has been a dreary year for hockey lovers. Visiting my family in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, the absence of hockey was noticeable. Some people don’t realize that entire communities rely on the business and traffic from hockey. Michigan is such a state.

The NHL lockout has sent fans back to their origins of college and junior hockey. That movement has been great for the base of hockey. Just like the holidays, the lockout has given fans a glimpse of what really matters…the game. Unfortunately, the NHL and this lockout nonsense reflects poorly on all those associated with such shenanigans. Benefits of the lockout have freed the players to donate their time for more charity games. Grass roots at its finest.

The University of Michigan Men’s ice hockey team has done well taking third place in the Great Lakes Invitational. Represented by colleges from Western Michigan to Michigan Tech, this college hockey expo draws a crowd at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Good news for Detroit is that Windsor, Ontario is mere minutes over the bridge and brings NHL fans to town, so now long-term damage is expected. Hockey has survived, yet the identity of the Detroit Metro-Area is securely poised as the most successful sports franchise, the Detroit Red Wings.

Every year I haul Red Wings gear home. This year I hauled Michigan gear home. I even scored a Grand Valley State hoodie for those diehards. While it is great to add some more depth to my athletic collection, the Red Wings are not just shirts and key chains. There was little talk of NHL hockey. Fans in my home state have plenty of other options, because that’s how hockey is lived in the frozen earth that is Michigan.

You haven’t really felt cold unless you’ve stood outside in almost any town in the Wolverine State. Canada has bragging rights to the pain that is the cold, but we’re neighbors and feel their pain. Now living in southern New Jersey, I didn’t realize that 40 degrees is balmy. But when you are standing on ice most of the time, it’s natural to want to skate on it and live your life on it.

Despite the 13 degree temps, my sister and I went out Christmas night and took pictures on the streets of Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium stood tall and proud ready for 2014 and the Winter Classic featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Standing at the Big House is a monumental feeling. The Winter classic on this grad scale will bring a misty moment for hockey fans.

The Big House Xmas night….the site of the Winter Classic 2014

The New Year should bring a new deal, but let’s start all over again next year.

Thanks Joe!

Last night, one of the greatest hockey players to grace the ice, was honored as an inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Joe Sakic is a class act. His leadership in the sport of ice hockey has been monumental. He’s a great guy too.

Sakic was the gentleman leader who instilled playing an honest game with integrity. He was shy, yet always the ambassador to the hockey world. He brought the NHL and hockey to Colorado, where most poeple were transplants from elsewhere. I knew Minnesota Wild, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans converted into Avalanche fans due in large part to what heart Sakic and his team brought to Denver. They became one of us, on our team.

I remember seeing him ride along downtown Denver atop a fire engine hoisting the Stanley Cup. The thrill of hockey had been reborn in me. Coming from Detroit, I missed the games, the passionate fans, and the hockey players I followed. Joe Sakic became and will always be my favorite Avalanche player. I devoted much of my blog to how the Avalanche and Joe Sakic’s living legacy created competitive hockey and a strong community.

He had skeletons that he locked away and when asked about them in interviews, he would change the subject or conclude the interview. He was there to talk about his team, not a horrific day tha haunted him. Most journalists knew that event shaped his dedication and emotion for playing the game, and respected his privacy.

Sakic was a pioneer for the youth hockey advancement and development in Denver. Kids new to hockey looked to Joe for inspiration. Denver, primarily a football town, was unaware of young hockey stars in waiting.

The University of Denver Pioneers men’s hockey team had a brighter spotlight as hockey rose in popularity. DU groomed two NHL stars in Paul Stastny and Matt Carle, and became NCAA champions. The Frozen Four would never had been hosted by Denver in 2008 if Sakic hadn’t created such an affection for local hockey.

Players respected and emulated him. Fans wore his jersey proudly. We all knew Joe. And we knew Joe saw us too. We were not just a crowd, we were a community. We were The Avalanche.

As a staunch Red Wings fan, Joe was the only guy who could tear me away from Detroit. When the Detroit Red Wings came to town, it was really a battle between Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. I was heartbroken that I had to choose between the two. Both men remain iconic representatives of a generation of NHL fans who can agree on their talented leadership and sportsmanship. Old school fans still ask, “Sakic or Yzerman?”

All the stats in his career can’t replace the years of happiness he has brought to the many fans around the world. He’s a class-act and his induction as a Hall of Famer is testament to the good guys out there making a difference. Thanks Joe!

Fighting Ends with NHL Lockout

The Ontario Hockey League(OHL) refuses to justify fighting and won’t allow it, and they’re fighting back. The NHL is listening and may follow the call.

“For years, Campbell and his staff in Toronto have chewed on the subject. The Rangers-Devils game last season, where three staged fights broke at the drop of the puck, was a black eye for the league and certainly caused some in-house deliberation at the NHL office.”

The influential intolerance of violence is trending as the NHL lockout lingers. Fighting is a problem in hockey, but just how much fighting is really happening?

Brandon Prust and Shawn Thornton are the two grinders who have racked up the most majors in the league. Prust, formerly of the New York Rangers, accrued 156 penalty minutes. Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins racked 154 minutes of bad behaviour. Not all penalty minutes are for fighting, rather diving, tripping, misconduct, slashing, boarding, and high-sticking (which can rip open a lip, eye or nose).

Is this the death of the doomed fighting controvrsy to make way for a kinder, gentler hockey agenda? The lockout may be a contributing factor for initiatives to curb relentless fighting in the NHL. Players do not make a habit of fighting and the enforcer role has diminshed on every roster. With the NHL work stoppage, fans may expect to see a stoppage of the bloodbaths on the ice when the season returns.

Can hockey survive a cultural shift so great to adapt to the new culture?

Fans have many options to watch hockey for less expense and travel time. This may be good for hockey overall to take us back to our roots in local ice arenas. The mention of the delapedated concrete building that house large ice rinks and skates, brings joy. It’s the environment where every hockey fan got the itch. It’s the same traits that bring fans to other arenas. It’s a hockey culture where your neighbors are enchanted with the scraping of skates, the whoosh of the ice, the cold, and the fortitude to watch every last minute.

A large part of that willingness, for hockey fans like myself, was the promise of a scrap or two. That culture is dying for the sake of a new breed of hockey player. They’re faster, analytical, and avoid roadblocks like a Prust or Thornton. The new skater must be keen and lean.

Growing up with the Detroit Red Wings, you knew that the Wings represented wth wheels of speed and innovation. Players like Steve Yzerman modeled the quiet, calm leader with the intelligence to create. The Wings moved like a machine. The story of the  tragedy and triumph of the Wings was your story too.

Now, living in New York, the glory of the New York Rangers is quickly falling. Talented players are exiting to play the game they love, and who can blame them? While most fans realize these players enjoy their job, they are men who have families to support. An energized city, an energized Madison Square Garden has dimmed for the Rangers fans this October.

The NHL has shut down neighborhoods.  Hockey fans are resourceful enough to know how to handle their hockey fix. “Run for the exits” is what the NHL has done to the fans.

I really don’t want to start a fight, so perhaps we will see you in the near future. I’m working on locating a KHL channel.

 

Let’s Talk…..

The heat is on. Enter the Collective Bargaining Agreement to shake up your summer. The same waiting game on the CBA is exactly what was experienced by New Jersey Devils fans as captain Zach Parise’s fate was out of their hands. Let’s hope the hands holding the CBA’s fate ends in a positive outcome.

This summer Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Shane Doan will decide what to do with their 2012-13 season, depending on if there is a season. With the continual rise of hockey’s popularity, this lockout would change the momentum of the entire game, the NHL and its players. Fans are holding their breath.

The snubbing of New Jersey by Zach Parise was a shock. It shouldn’t have been. Parise voiced his displeasure over the course of several seasons. The Devils were never seen as contenders without Parise. Now, without Parise, the team rebuilds with alum Scott Stevens returning as an assistant coach. Fans had faith that Parise would return….supposedly, he was a fan of the Shore. Career moves are nothing personal in the NHL, but those moves are taken personally by the fans.

Shane Doan’s fate in Phoenix is another conundrum. Doan has taken that community and ran with it. Doan and his family have been supporters of charitable organizations in the desert for some time. The impact of a Doan loss could cause a ripple effect on the deal to keep the team in Glendale. Fans are loyal but moody on attending games. Very few fans wait after morning skates to get a glimpse of their favorite ‘Yote. Doan may be contemplating the move for a last push on his career since the Coyotes did remarkably well in the playoffs.

Shane Doan after Morning Skate in Glendale (HPWerner)

Bobby Ryan, Alex Semin and Rick Nash just want to move on and feel appreciated. Semin needs a boost to his game and a new team may solve the problem. Ryan isn’t seen as a valuable asset as he once was in Anaheim, so off he goes to some lucky team (Let’s Go Rangers). Ryan is fresh, young and has the skill for a team to build upon.

And who can blame Rick Nash for wanting a change of venue in Columbus? Nash is an island in Columbus. Unfortunately, he’s the face of the Jackets and his departure will be felt heavily. GM Howson can’t replace Nash with another big name, rather a few newbies who will take time to grow. With a rejected trade offer from the Detroit Red Wings, it’s apparently clear that Howson doesn’t want to deal Nash to division rivals or western rivals. The San Jose Sharks, who are also in the Nash lottery, probably won’t land him either.

The CBA talks now coincide with TV deals and those logistics. Hockey writers shiver when the lockout is mentioned. It is debatable whether the strength of the current NHL will withstand the blow and recover. Let the GM’s do the talking until they’re blue in the face. This summer, patience is the new sunblock. Don’t get burned is the name of the game.

Relax, it’s Summer…Let the GMs do the Work

Hockey fanatics everywhere can’t let go just yet. Too many deals, trades and speculations are in works that leave the hockey community a little uneasy. The NHL Entry Draft, the July 1 free agent scurry, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming have descended upon backyard barbeques and the beach.

Relax, enjoy the summer and let the GMS, agents and players worry about the outlook for the 2012-13 season.

If you are a New York Rangers fan, then you have plenty to talk about as the Rick Nash acquisition conjures up “what could’ve been and what could be” talk. Scoring is needed for New York to move past their demons, but at what cost? Fans may have to bid adieu to Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, rookie Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto if they want the big name to save the day. Get ready to rock New York, because the shift is coming. New York has too many solid players and potential to go unnoticed.

In Detroit, it feels like when Steve Yzerman left the organization. with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Hockeytown is without another legend. A new arena and a new captain will recharge the Wings for years to come. The Red Wings will always be a constant influence in the hockey community, but now will have to rebuild mentally and physically.

If any fans are breathing a sigh of relief, it’s the Los Angeles Kings fans who are sitting at the beach. Congrats to a job well done. The Kings have been proactive in bringing their story and talent to the forefront. GM Dean Lombardi turned a dream into a reality. Jonathan Quick as MVP brought home the contributions of the goaltender back in vogue.

Dreams in New Jersey are still alive. Next up for GM Lou Lamoriello is to secure Zach Parise for another Cup run, if Parise isn’t snatched away. Parise has registered for many as a better deal than Rick Nash. As an unrestricted fee agent this summer, Parise will be able to pick his destination.

And then there is Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf who are in the mix. Around, around, nobody knows, where any one of these will go. Keep your hockey news source close at hand on the boat, at the barbeque, at the beach or at the ballpark. This summer will be a hot one.

On the Road to the Stanley Cup

Heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s a little for everyone. From traditional old-school matchups like the Pens and Flyers, to irksome bumps a team must get over like the pressure Nashville faces with Detroit. An interesting pairing in the West puts the Kings and Canucks in a must-see series.

The season starts here and now with a clean slate heading towards the coveted Stanley Cup. Whatever the ranking,the odds, the previous wins, teams have this chance once no matter what happened a few days ago. It’s now or never. The honor of making it to the playoffs can change the course of any team’s season.

East:

(4)Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5)Philadelphia Flyers– One of the best series to follow. The battle of Pennsylvania is always a regular season blowout. The Flyers have the talent in Claude Giroux and the moxy of Scott Hartnell to take on the challenge. With Sidney Crosby back for the Pens, Pittsburgh has the extra power-forward to take the points. Goaltending seems balanced in both nets. Pittsburgh can’t lose with Crosby. Pens win in 5.

(6)New Jersey Devils vs. (3)Florida Panthers The Devils have done a tremendous job this season rounding out their talent and finding ways to win. Though Brodeur was shaky in net early on, goaltending looks fixed for now. The Panthers have the momentum and the spirit to clinch this series. Panthers in 4.

(8)Ottawa Senators vs. (1)New York Rangers– New York clinched the East, so that would make this an easy series win…..not so fast. The Senators have had an upswing that could have them be the upset team. The Rangers may have some concerns and could take this for granted. Henrik Lundqvist wants this and has the tools to finish it. Rangers in 5.

(7)Washington Capitals vs. (2)Boston Bruins– Ovechkin and crew made it by an inch. Boston knows the path and with the depth, even top players for the Caps can’t get it done. Bruins in 4.

West:

(4)Nashville Predators vs. (5)Detroit Red Wings– Nashville always comes to face the Wings in the playoffs at some point. Detroit is the Preds’ brick wall. This year, with home-ice advantage, Nashville have the opportunity to swing it their way. Don’t underestimate the Wings performance this season. Hockeytown finds a way to win. Wings in 7.

(8)Los Angeles Kings vs. (1)Vancouver Canucks- Winner of the President’s Trophy, Vancouver is on a journey to win their destiny. Last season, the Canucks  lost in game 7 releasing chaos into the streets of Vancouver. Canucks can’t afford to lose again. The Kings have made an impressive run and will be formidable opponents. Quick can beat Luongo. Carter, Richards and Kopitar can beat Kesler, Burrows and at least one Sedin. The Canucks will take the series, but not without a fight in 6.

(7)San Jose Sharks vs. (2)St. Louis Blues– St. Louis will win. That’s all I can say. The Sharks have been a disappointment in many areas. The Blues have been an amazing team this season. Blues sweep.

(6)Chicago Blackhawks vs. (3) Phoenix Coyotes– Tight fight. The Coyotes just seem to find a way to win, but mostly goaltender Mike Smith has found a way to win and a nod for the Vezina. Chicago may not have it. The momentum going in to the series will determine the outcome. Coyotes in 7.

With the Western Conference team surge, the competition is fierce. The Eastern Conference has been the victim of sharp criticism for the sagging efforts of the traditionally winning side. New York serves as a good measurement of the talents of the Eastern teams. The West is growing in strength and the race was tight. The East brings the skill and sharpshooters,  while the West brings the intensity and passion play. What a great season it has been! Good luck to your playoff team and enjoy the games.

March Madness- Western Conference

The Western Conference has been building strength for years, so it’s no surprise that the race is tight. Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix all could get a bid for the postseason party. The Colorado Avalanche, The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers bid adieu to the postseason and will be booking tee times later this week. Finally, the West can bring in new blood to represent emerging talent.

The biggest success story is The Los Angeles Kings.  A few weeks ago, the Kings looked lost and doomed down the stretch. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was not quick, but has his game back and could be the weapon of choice for the Kings.  Anze Kopitar will get an opportunity to prove his worth as a top forward.

St. Louis Blues-
Success comes from patience and persistence. St. Louis deserves to be the leading team in the West and should win the President’s Trophy. With top talent in Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk on defense, and Captain David Backes at the helm, the Blues could win this whole shebang. With Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott making a dynamic goaltending duo, the odds are in The Blues favor.

Vancouver Canucks-
Hockey fans know Vancouver can deliver, but can drop at a moment’s notice. Consistency is the key for The Canucks and with Daniel Sedin out, and Kevin Bieksa,  the remaining mates must muster more points. Kesler and Burrows have not produced much, so these two gotta get a groove going. Goaltending is world-class with Luongo and Schneider, but can’t carry the team. Or can they?

Los Angeles Kings-
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter reunion equals Stanley Cup bid. This was their goal in Philadelphia, so maybe the chemistry and drive is propelling the energy in the locker room. Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll have been Kings and would like this season to be the one. Chances are good for Los Angeles. They really spiked up the standings, and likely will make it to semifinals.

Nashville Predators-
Every hockey fan can get behind the program Barry Trotz has put together. Trotz is truly a hockey pioneer. The Predators have an awesome netminder in Pekka Rinne, who is Vezina worthy. Expect Nashville to do well, because the players have turned on the heat and are cohesive. Best chance this year for a conference final showdown.

Detroit Red Wings-
They’re fighters. No matter where Detroit is in the playoffs, they find a way to win. With a healthy crew, the Wings will fight until the end. Goaltending has been spotty. Offense has gone up against tough opposing goaltenders. Scoring must increase and Howard must be at the top of his game if Detroit wants to move on.

Chicago Blackhawks-
The Chicago boys just hang in there. While they have a seemingly secure spot as the No. 5 seed, teams are chasing them. Chicago may be bumped. They play in a tough Central Division this season and sit just ahead of Columbus in the fourth slot.

The Dallas Stars and The Phoenix Coyotes will fight to the death to get in. Dallas has done an outstanding job staying in the hunt. Dallas forward Michael Ryder has been a force to reckon with. The Coyotes have a solid goalie in Mike Smith. The outcome is boosting hockey in the Southwest for certain. The Pacific Division at this point is a 3-way tie. Expect some tenacious play in the next week for a guaranteed spot.

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.