Tag Archives: Steve Yzerman

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!

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.

NHL realignment winners and losers

The NHL Board of Governors will meet in Pebble Beach next week to discuss realigning the NHL to better serve the long hours of travel teams must face. Since the Atlanta Thrashers folded giving birth to the second resurrection of the Winnipeg Jets, the League has  been  bouncing around a few scenarios they hope to decide upon while taking in a few rounds of golf. Is this really that big of an issue? It is for the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There has been some grumbling from the Nashville Predators who would like a piece of something in all this meandering, and then there is the Dallas Stars who for some reason think they should be the helm of a new division.

But it gets better like a hint of juicy gossip that really isn’t that great as much as the  anticipation. Supposedly, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promised the Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch that the Red Wings would join the Eastern Conference among the modern-day dynasties like the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and even the New York Islanders. Detroit would fit right in.

Football and hockey are united in the Michigan/Ohio battle. As anyone raised in Michigan knows, at some point Ohio sticks its nose into Michigan’s business, just as the Columbus Blue Jackets are making a case for their own Eastern Conference  bid. Worried Red Wings fans? Teams like the Rangers and Bruins would prefer the ailing Jackets because they are easy prey. Detroit is serious competition.

Border Wars

The complicated plan of realignment represent this type of promising and not delivering; the easy plan swaps the Wings for the Jets. Steve Yzerman would than face his former team and who wouldn’t want to see that in Hockeytown?

Then there are the Western Conference teams who don’t want to see the Red Wings leave due to revenue stream. Hey, how about pumping up the Vancouver Canucks or the Colorado Avalanche for some money-making ventures.  The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks feed the celebrity machine which should be raising some type of cash flow or call on the Edmonton Oilers with their dynamic duo of Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

That's a goal!

Both Conferences see Detroit as the excellence in the League like fighting over the driving a hot car: it would be cool to drive, but the dangers of that much power could get you pulled over.

Who has the right moves? A summer guide to fantasy hockey

The NHL Entry Draft and July 1 dealing deadlines have mixed the 30 NHL teams into goulash. Yes, it’s a good thing, yet trying to make sense of your fantasy roster next year, could prove enlightening as much research needs to be done. There are many building blocks required to match the force of a Stanley Cup contending teams, but like kids in a candy store agents, players, and managers are gobbling up their sweet deals for next season’s ice time.

I’m already preparing my teams and ranking players for my leagues, and poking around rosters. Should be out in the sun, but the hot weather has me thinking of ice and snow to cool down.

Chicago isn’t the same team that stepped onto the ice last year. Taking out some top players is asking your top guns to perform with more gusto, as Toews, Keith, Sharp and company should be playing hard. If you can get them, get them.

The Western Conference exhibited some dominance last year, and they will continue. The Eastern Conference needs to bulk up and find some identities. These teams are on my radar:

Eastern Conference:

New Jersey Devils- Hedberg backing Brodeur sounds good to me. I hope Hedberg sees some ice time, because Marty needs to rest. The Devils should be able to kick it into the Cup finals with Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and a whole host of good options for your team. When in doubt, go toward the Devils.

Buffalo Sabres– Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller are top fantasy draft choices. Myers was rookie of the year winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, and Miller taking home the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender. But is this enough? Don’t draft too deep into the Sabres bench because everyone scored equally.

Atlanta Thrashers– are in serious building efforts as the landlords realize more effort must be made in the quality of their brick and mortar. Taking Andrew Ladd and Dustin Bufyglien from the Blackhawks was just plain smart. Ladd has quietly worked his way into scoring zones over the past two seasons. He’s the guy who creeps into fantasy teams due to injured wingers, and for the last push of the season. Dustin B. needs no introduction; he is a slayer who can deliver with his bulk and intellect because hockey is both mental and physical.

Tampa Bay Lightning- Steve Yzerman is all I can say. He’s golden. Piling on the players to pay the piper, the new GM knows his hockey both on the ice and off under the leadership of the Illitch family, who created a dynasty both adored and despised. That’s some power. Nittymaki is a good fantasy goalie option, and Martin St. Louis goes early. Steven Stamkos has won me over his second season matching Sidney Crosby is goals.

Western Conference:

Colorado Avalanche
– youth movement continues to catch all. The Avalanche must continue to play at the top of their game. When they sat in the top three in the West, critics said the team couldn’t keep the momentum and they didn’t. Striving to make the playoffs kept fans on their toes and gives Colorado a head start for next season.  Avalanche players that are must-haves include Matt Duchene, Craig Anderson, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart. Other players are excelling quickly and depth in the Avs means depth for your rotation needs.

St. Louis Blues
– they looked so rough last year, but great the year before. Now, with a few bells and whistles in goal gaining Jaroslav Halak’s contract for a steal, the Blues continued their rally by securing forward Alex Steen on the roster. Steen is a breakout player who could boost the Blues. Alex Steen will be on my fantasy roster. The guy is solid. Halak is tops too.

Edmonton Oilers
– not because they have a chance at the Cup, but I want to see Tyler Hall play in the NHL. I want to see if the Oilers can do what the Islanders are still holding onto. Take a look at videos of Hall placing the puck in net: Ovechkin like but more humble. Draft Hall.

Vancouver Canucks
– has taken over the San Jose Sharks pick for me next year. While I’m curious to see how the Sharks unfold with the new Nittymaki agenda, I turn my head toward the border and offer up Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and the Sedins to the hockey gods. Luongo is a stretch, yet could remold into his former self this season.

Phoenix Coyotes
– Coach of the year,Dave Tippett, is tipping the team in the right direction. And my Petr Prucha posts get a lot of hits on my blog. Wolski, Yandle, no shortage of talent. Shane Doan, super nice guy, disappointed a bit last season. Goaltending is not a problem with Bryzgalov.

Other notables getting a nod:
Los Angeles Kings– love the Johnson-Doughty thing they got going on there. Bordering on the Cinderella team last season, the young Kings have some great abundance to flaunt with all the California hockey hype during the NHL Entry Draft. Good options for fantasy streaks.

Nashville Predators
– adding Matthew Lombardi is a good move in not only points, but he’s a bright spot for you face-off category ranking among the top five usually.  You just have to love this line-up and wonder what is happening out there? Well, they are good but have met opponents that are better. Look at Shea Weber for certain. A lot of great options on this team not to be overlooked by your management staff.

For the Love of Hockey

American’s love of hockey is growing; nowhere near the sparkling thunder of Canada’s devotion to the game.  Russia and Sweden have great fanfare over the sport, yet the NHL has placed its roots in the States.

Every hockey fan can pinpoint the moment they fell in love with the sport.  Growing up in Michigan was close to living in Canada, literally a drive over the bridge or a car ride over a border of forest.  Michigan boasts seven college hockey teams, equivalent to rival hockey state Minnesota.  Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Wayne State, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State create a vortex of goons on ice that is impossible to avoid.  Not to mention minor leagues spanning from Grand Rapids to Saginaw to Calumet in the Upper Peninsula.

I always had a pair of skates.  Never remember not skating on a frozen pond, at Yost Arena or in my best friend’s backyard where her father built us a rink to practice every day after school.  I loved making figure eight tracks in the ice and the whoosh and scrape sounds my skates sang.  I was in training to be a professional ice skater because in my day, girls playing hockey wasn’t the norm.  Today, I know many women who strap on the gear for some non-contact ice time.  The big ice arena where I took lessons was in Muskegon where my dad would take us for Mohawk games.  The thrill of watching the pros move the puck on the very same ice I loop to looped was exhilarating.  I felt a kinship.

Years passed, college came and the Detroit Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman.  To say that most girls in Michigan had a super crush on Stevie Y is an understatement.  His presence in Detroit hockey rivaled the previous generation’s love of Gordie Howe, who was a household name for most in the Great Lakes region.  Some of us may not have known all of Howe’s triumphs but we knew he stood for something great in our state and one of our greatest ambassadors for the sport and the state.   Howe still lives in Michigan.  We love him.

The Detroit Red Wings defined hockey for me beyond what I knew.  Super bad boy Darren McCarty defended the pride of the Motor City with his spunk and fists.  His scraps enlightened my view of fighting’s purpose in the game.  When some player rushed Chris Osgood or Dominic Hasek I awaited a brawl.  Defending your friends and your teammates seemed a viable reason to cause some stink.  I know obsess over penalty minutes for roughing and fighting drafting the toughest defenders for my fantasy teams.  I cheer when my guys rack up the PIMs, and devote my blog to the blue line.

So as I’m writing this in response to a recent posting of the 5 Reasons You Love Hockey, for Puck Daddy’s blog I’m reminded of another great influence of my fascination, Wayne Gretzky.  He may not have started my love affair with the sport but his dominance was eye opening.  Honestly, I never followed his career in Edmonton. I took notice when he went to the Los Angles Kings mostly because I couldn’t believe anyone would put a team near the beach.  Stats and news trickled in on my radar for the Great One yet my interest wouldn’t peak until after the Kings.  I recall a co-worker who was a St. Louis Blues fan thus the debate over our rival team’s greatness. He crashed into my office boasting of the acquisition of Gretzky.  I assured him it wouldn’t help his team.

Off to the bright lights of the big city, Wayne Gretzky landed with the New York Rangers. Comparable to the Stevie Y worship, Gretzky and NYC were irresistible.  My boss gave me tickets to a New Year’s Eve game when the Rangers came to Denver to play the young Colorado Avalanche in 1999.  My love for hockey infiltrated that job with a Boston Bruins fan and a San Jose Sharks fan all under one department.  If we had to stay late during the playoffs, we had a radio broadcasting the games.  Our boss, a Denver Broncos fan, couldn’t believe he had three voracious hockey girls in his office.

Gretzky’s retirement is held in high tribute in my home with a framed print plate from the actual New York Daily News front page announcing Gretzky’s departure.  My husband somehow acquired this for me, along with giving me his vintage Rangers jacket.  The New York Rangers are my Eastern Conference team.

I landed in Denver, Colorado before any NHL franchise planted its roots.  In 1996, I found a new hockey hero in Joe Sakic.  Walking downtown one day, the meager crowds were ambushed by numerous fire engines carrying men waving, and sitting atop one was Sakic hoisting the Stanley Cup.  Shining in the sunlight, my heart raced.  Hockey was finally in the Rocky Mountains in grand style.  I followed Sakic’s career, was an Avalanche season ticket holder in 1998 and wore my Avs gear with pride.  My Colorado hockey experience was born.

In 2002, I looked at graduate schools.  My interest fell on Cornell or the University of Denver based on their academics but a must was their hockey traditions.  DU was down the street from my house, so the choice was clear and what an amazing opportunity to see the DU Pioneers ravage the college hockey scene.  I watched NHL stars Paul Stastny and Tyler Bozak play in front of my third row season ticket seats.

Sometimes, the best time out is cozying up on the sofa with a beer and a hockey game.  I watch hockey every night.  I can’t live without knowing the scores and who’s kicked it on my fantasy hockey teams.  What the players do on their ice time is their concern, as I just want to experience the joy of their triumphs. My fantasy hockey team drives what keeps me watching hockey where stats and percentages finally make sense.  Few players on my team have been notified of their status, yet it’s always fun to tell them this fact.

Five reasons why I love hockey seem too few.   Mentally and spiritually the greatest game on ice fills a place like no other. Hockey has always been a large part of my life.  I never realized how influential the sport has been to who I am and how I approach people and situations.  Tell people you’re from Detroit may invoke a mixed response of sympathy and fear, but tell them you’re a Red Wings fan be prepared to defend your turf.