NHL Notes

- A blue ribbon panel of players, former players, owners, and officials got together to discuss ways to improve the game. Here is a tip from a fan, play a full season next year.

- Any player, agent, owner or fan who thinks an agreement is not possible needs to read this article from a few years back: Hockey Night in Mongolia. If 21 Canadians can drop everything and start a pick up tournament in Ulan Bator, Mongolia [-30 Celsius], then the NHL and NHLPA can come to an agreement before the season starts.

- Sharks defenseman Rob Davison and Jim Fahey each re-signed with San Sose. The terms of each contract have not been released. Both players were Group II restricted free-agents.

- According to the official website, the Sharks will have a mini-prospect camp open to the public Tuesday, August 3rd. Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc and Miroslav Zalesak are scheduled to appear. The camp will take place at Logitech Ice starting at 2pm. It would be nice if the team invited a certain blogger to photograph the non-public days for fans, but the Democratic convention credentialing bloggers was probably just a rumor. LetsgoKings providing excellent photos of the Los Angeles Kings development camp proved this is not a good idea anyways.

- Fans Question and Answer session focuses on on-ice concerns - San Jose Mercury news

- Puck Update does a fine job reporting the 6 new proposed economic structures from the NHL:

1) Salary cap
2) Capping of salary
3) Salary hat
4) Maximum salary per team
5) Paycheck ceiling
6) Pay What You Want (As Long as it All Adds Up to $31 Million)

- I respect Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber, but you have to know that most of the East Coast hockey media are asleep when the West Coast games are played. Here is Farber's list of top five hockey announcers, top five hockey analysts, and top 5 who never should have entered the booth.

I may be somewhat of a homer, but Sharks television announcer Randy Hahn has one of the most professional deliveries in the game. Actually, I am not a homer. The host of the program formerly known as NHL2nite agrees with me. And for those who are not local, Sharks tv analyst Drew Remenda may emit a little too much glare, but he took punches from Scott Parker, put on goalie pads and took shots from the team while Vesa Toskala laughed, and took 4 or 5 of the most brutal Kyle McLaren hip checks I have ever seen, all for the Sharks pre-game Shark Byte television program. His calls not only inform from a former coaches perspective, but they also have that same kind of enthusiasm as the stunts mentioned above. Maybe I am a homer.

- The New York Rangers first round draft pick Al Montoya [6th overall], has decided to play his junior year at the University of Michigan. Woot.

- Non NHL-related: Offwing guest blogger Jim McCarthy gives an update on the Bay Area's favorite center... Manute Bol. With the current situation in Sudan reaching crisis levels, it is hard not to appreciate the humanitarian work Bol has done for years in Sudan. Unfortunately, one of the most selfless players in the NBA, a player who donated most of his earnings to charity, the boxing opponent of William Perry, and the tallest man ever to play hockey, Bol was involved in a terrible car wreck a few weeks back. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he is recovering. Get well soon.


Hannan selected for World Cup by Team Canada

Scott Hannan World Cup team Canada

Scott Hannan has been named to Team Canada's roster for the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. After defensman Rob Blake withdrew, Team Canada's Executive Director Wayne Gretzky commented about Hannan's selection:

Scott had a great season and an outstanding playoff run with the Sharks, and we are pleased to name him to Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey

The 6,1 220lbs defensman had 6 goals and 15 assists [+10] in 82 regular season games, and 1 goal and 5 assists [+7] in 17 postseason games last season. According to the official SJsharks website, Hannan led the Sharks in postseason ice time, averaging 26:38 minutes per game.

Team Canada opens its training camp August 20th in Ottawa. Team Canada's first exhibition game against Team USA [go USA!] takes place August 25th at the Corel Centre in Ottawa. Team Canada's first World Cup game against Slovakia at the Bell Centre will air on ESPN2 Wednesday, September 1st.

Hannan becomes the eighth Shark to be named to a World Cup roster: Nils Ekman [Sweden], Christian Ehrhoff [Germany], Marcel Goc [Germany], Patrick Marleau [Canada], Evgeni Nabokov [Russia], Marco Sturm [Germany], and Vesa Toskala [Finland].

San Jose Sharks coach Ron Wilson will man the helm for Team USA.


Hockey Photo Project

Damian Rhodes

- Take a few minutes and check out a new website for hockey photographers, the Hockey Photo Project. The picture of ECHL goaltender Damian Rhodes above is from the official Greenville Growler photographer, and HPP member Jimmy Coker.

The Greenville Growlers play at the Fresno Falcons twice this season, on Dec 7th and Dec 12th. I can not say with 100% certainty, but I believe there will be no strike/lockout/workstoppage in the ECHL this year.

You can even see a fan photo of Artus Irbe with the Johnstown Chiefs. Here is another Irbe photo in Carolina red. LIKE WALL!


- On a final note, if you watched Nightline on ABC last friday, you might have seen yours truly. During a special on the 2004 Mavericks big wave surfing contest, they panned towards a bunch of photographers perched on a cliff overlooking the break. I was the soggy one all the way to the right. The waves were between 15-25 feet all day, but what they did not tell you beforehand was that the waves broke a half mile out to sea. In order to take good photos [where the surfers look like more than ants], I would recommend renting a 500mm or 600mm lens.

People were also saying that 20+ feet waves were below average for Mavericks, but I arrived to the contest very early. One other photographer, and a contest official, climbed up the cliff before me. It was raining and cold, but about 6:15 when I got to the top I heard a loud explosion out towards the reef. I jogged to the edge only to hear two more waves explode and shoot a huge funnel of water into the air. The sound was a result of a large volume of water hitting a hole in the reef. When Mavericks is breaking, it is literally booming.

At the time I could not imagine anyone paddling out in such life threatening conditions, but the waves were never that large the rest of the day. Maybe next year. Check out the Billabong XXL contest for more surf pics, no Sharks included.

[Update] It turns out the winner of the Billabong XXL surf contest mentioned above is Pete Cabrinha of Hawaii. Cabrinha won $70,000 for riding, I kid you not, a 70-foot wave at Jaws on the North Shore of Maui. Erik Aeder was the photographer.


The first ever Sharkspage cartoon

The NHL and NHLPA walk into a bar

The title of this cartoon was borrowed from HockeyBird, as was this link from TSN on the scheduled meeting today between Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow.


Jonathan Cheechoo drafted by Toronto

Jonathan Cheechoo drafted by Toronto

Jonathan Cheechoo was drafted by Toronto in the 5th round [37th overall] of the WHA free agent draft.

Right wing Nicholas Dimitrakos [Florida - 7th round - 56th overall], and defenseman Rob Davison [Florida - 12th round - 89th overall] were the other Sharks drafted in the first 15 rounds. Cleveland Barons goalie Seamus Kotyk was drafted by Detroit [18th round - 142nd overall]. For a full draft list, visit the World Hockey Association website.

In other WHA news, the Quebec franchise will assume a name similar to my second favorite defunct franchise: The Quebec Nordiks. My favorite defunct franchise... the Oakland Seals [aka the California Golden Seals].

If the NHL lets a team move out of Canada and change its identity [only to win a cup in its first year], if the NHL and NHLPA can not get their act together and negotiate a new CBA before the season starts, then the league should let the WHA have the Nordiques. Anyone who follows the WHA is already a die-hard NHL fan, so compete with the league instead of threatening it with lawsuits.

[Update] Todd Harvey drafted in round 29 to Dallas [231st overall], Scott Parker goes in round 30 to Dallas [234th overall].

[Update2] In the WHA free agent draft: Steve Bernier drafted in the 1st round by Quebec [6th overall], Lukas Kaspar drafted in the 3rd round by Quebec [22nd overall], Josh Hennessy drafted in the 9th round by Quebec [70th overall], Patrick Ehelechner drafted in the 11th round by Detroit [83rd overall], Matt Carle drafted in the 28th round by Detroit [222nd overall].

[Update3] NHL Labor talks to resume Wednesday - San Francisco Chronicle.


Sharks confirm participation in the 2nd annual rookie tournament.

According to SJsharks.com, the San Jose Sharks confirmed yesterday they will attend the 2nd annual rookie tournament in Anaheim. The Phoenix Coyotoes, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Mighty Ducks will participate in the tournament from September 9th to September 13th [the 11th is a practice day].

The games will take place at Disney Ice in Anaheim.

Slated to attend the tournament are 2004 1st round pick Lukas Kaspar, 2003 1st round pick Steve Bernier, 2003 2nd round pick Josh Hennessey, and 2003 5th round pick Patrick Ehelechner [make sure to check out his website]. The rest of the 24 man tournament roster will be announced in August.

Here is my recap from last years tournament in Los Angeles.

[Update] Hockey's Future is planning on publishing several Sharks prospect and draft related articles over the weekend. Make sure to check their San Jose section often.

[Update2] Nils Ekman, Scott Hannan, Evgeni Nabokov, Scott Parker, and Vesa Toskala filed for salary arbitration yesterday. Wayne Primeau declined arbitration. According to TSN, August 17th is the deadline for salary arbitration decisions to be rendered.

[Update3] Scott Hannan may replace Rob Blake on the blueline for Team Canada's World Cup roster. Blake is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The tournament starts August 30th.


Sidney Crosby attends Kings development camp

Sidney Crosby

The talented Sidney Crosby is attending the Los Angeles Kings development camp. The 16 year old forward is a lock for the #1 overall pick next year. With Wayne Gretzky calling him the next Mario Lemieux, you have to wonder if that is too much pressure to put on a player that young.

LetsgoKings is covering the training camp with excellent digital photos. He should be shooting for the official site.

Also attending the Kings rookie camp is Japanese goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji. The 8th round 2004 draft pick is only the 2nd Japanese player ever drafted [Hiroyuki Miura was the first in 1992]. The bunny logo on his uniform from that link is priceless. The Kokudo bunnies?


Correction - Rookie tournament between the Coyotes, Sharks, Kings, and Ducks will be in Anaheim

The Phoenix Coyotes emailed to say the rookie tournament between the Sharks, Coyotes, Ducks, and Kings will be in Anaheim from Sept 9-13. The NHL collective bargaining agreement expires on September 15th.


Mike Ricci signs 2 year, $3.5 million deal with the Phoenix Coyotes

Micci Ricci signs two year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes

TSN reported today that former San Jose Shark Mike Ricci signed a two year, $3.5 million deal with the Phoenix Coyotes. The 32 year old center will receive $1.5 million the first season, $2 million the second, and the Coyotes have team option of $2 million for the third.

TSN quoted Phoenix Coyotes GM Mike Barnett:

He lays it on the line, every shift, every night... He has led some great teams, always by example, and I am sure that same leadership and tenacity will be hugely welcomed in our room. On and off the ice Mike has been a winner throughout his entire career.

In 71 regular season games last year, Ricci scored 7 goals and 19 assists for 26 points. In 17 postseason games, Ricci scored 2 goals and 3 assists on a line with Jonathan Cheechoo and Scott Thornton. "Reech" was acquired by San Jose with a 2nd round pick from Colorado in 1997 for Shean Donovan and a 1st. He played close to 7 full seasons for the Sharks and finished 4th in voting for the Selke trophy in 2001 and 2002 [awarded to the NHL's best defensive forward].

Mike Ricci commented on the trade, from the official Phoenix Coyotes website:

I am very excited to be joining the Phoenix Coyotes... I would like to thank Mike Barnett, Wayne Gretzky and Cliff Fletcher for showing confidence in me and going out and signing me. The Coyotes have a great nucleus of young, talented players and I look forward to playing in Phoenix.

If any Phoenix fans want to know what Mike Ricci will bring to your team, he will bring this kind of effort to the ice every night.

For San Jose fans, this has to feel somewhere between losing Owen Nolan and losing Jeff Friesen. And seeing first hand how Friesen felt after his first game in SJ playing against the Sharks, I know some of the players feel this too.

[Update] Coyotes ink Ricci - The Arizona Republic.

[Update2] From Neutralzonehockey, photos of Ricci with the Quebec Nordiques, and with the San Jose Sharks. From the Detroit Free Press, a photo of Ricci during a playoff run with Colorado.

[Update3] Ricci brings true grit to Coyotes - The Arizona Republic.

[Update4] From the official sjsharks website, a quote about Mike Ricci from Sharks GM Doug Wilson:

The ultimate compliment is the influence people like Mike [Ricci] and Adam Graves had on our club... I have mixed feelings. Mike is a special person. He was our heart and soul, but other players have evolved around him.


Shark Notes - offseason edition

- More free agent signings and NHL notes: Dominik Hasek signs with the Ottawa Senators, Joel Quenneville hired as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, Tony Granato moves to assistant coach, Edmonton re-signs goaltender Ty Conklin, defenseman Sean O'Donnell signs with the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Los Angeles Kings sign former Calgary Flame center Craig Conroy.

Jeff Friesen agreed to the $3 million qualifying offer from the New Jersey Devils, and Grant Marshall is reported to have signed a multi-year offer [thanks OffWing].

- Hockeys Future writer Jeff Zank releases a very informative review of the Sharks 2004 prospects. Jeff also gets assistant coach Rob Zettler's comments on each prospects performance and development. Check back with the Hockeys Future for the soon to be released 2004 San Jose Sharks draft review.

- San Jose Sharks 2004 first round pick Lukas Kaspar was drafted by the Ottawa 67s in the CHL import draft. Early reports had Kaspar playing another year in Europe. It will be a lot easier to follow his play at ontariohockeyleague.com than the Czech websites that were near impossible for me to follow. His play at the San Jose development camp will probably determine where he starts next season.

- Several people have emailed asking whether or not the training camp, development camp, or NHL rookie tournament between ANA-SJ-LA-PHO will take place this year. The collective bargaining agreement expires on Sep 15th. Last year there was a prospect mini-camp in the middle of July. Last year the rookie tournament took place for San Jose between Sep 4th-8th, here is the tournament recap.

[Update] According to the Phoenix Coyotes, the rookie tournament this year will be in Anaheim from Sep 9-13.

If I had to guess, I would say the development camp and rookie tournament take place if the CBA is not renegotiated. The full NHL training camp probably would not take place. I will contact the team and try to find out the dates for sure.

- No NHL? No problem. There has been precious little from the league or the players about how the loss of a season will impact the fans. If there is no NHL next year, there are still a few options for Bay Area fans of the game.

There are local college club hockey teams: San Jose State, Stanford, and Berkeley. All are very entertaining teams and inexpensive [$5] if not free. The speed was a little slower than the Sharks of course, but there were also many more hits. The college crowds and college music made for a pretty cool atmosphere. Two thumbs up.

Many familiar faces will suit up for the Cleveland Barons AHL season opener on October 15th, also make sure to visit the Cleveland Plain Dealer Barons page throughout the season. I will be following 2003 first round draft pick Milan Michalek closely.

There is a team not too far away in central California, the ECHL Fresno Falcons. I can kick myself for missing standout goaltender Nolan Schaefer play while in Fresno. The Western Hockey League Portland Winterhawks are also an interesting road trip away.

2003 first round draft pick Steve Bernier can be followed with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. 2003 third round draft pick Joshua Hennessy can be followed with the Quebec Remparts also of the QMJHL.

USA hockey offers a search engine of ice and inline hockey leagues, teams, and associations in California. With the help of more than a few fans, I put together this page of local Bay Area hockey rinks. Feel free to contribute to that page if you know of any more local rinks or leagues.

The World Cup of Hockey starts August 30th and takes place over many different North American and European cities. Many NHL players will be playing for their country. Go USA!

And finally, without further ado... the new World Hockey Association. OntheWings dives into the particulars of the WHA draft, commissioner Bobby Hull, the rules of play, the salary cap [gasp], and more.

I was disappointed Sacramento seems to have fallen through as a franchise [come on Maloof brothers], but if the WHA keeps the Miami Manatees franchise, I may have a new favorite team.

[Update] Owners and league officials of reincarnated WHA confident league can work - CP.


NHL unrestricted free agent list, and free agent additions

Complete list of 2004 free agents available from ESPN, here are the group III free agent highlights:

Group III unrestricted free agents:
Boston - Knuble, Murray, Nylander, Rolston
Buffalo - Zhitnik
Calgary - Conroy, Lowry, Simon
Carolina - Wesley
Chicago - Korolev
Colorado - Barnaby, Nikolishin, Salo, Selanne
Columbus - Brathwaite
Dallas - Corson, Matvichuk, Numminen, Therien, Tugnutt, Young
Detroit - Chelios, Draper, Hasek, Hull, Schneider, Shanahan, Thomas, Yzerman
Edmonton - Nedved, Oates
Florida - Audette, Odelein, Shields
Los Angeles - Palffy, Quintal, Robitaille, Stumpel
Montreal - Kovalev, Perreault
Nashville - Flaherty, York
New Jersey - Albelin, Larionov, Madden, Stevenson
NY Islanders - Czerkawski, Karpovtsev, Ronning, Snow
NY Rangers - Bure, Lindros, McCarthy, Messier, Mironov
Ottawa - Bondra, Leschyshyn, Ray, Simpson
Philadelphia - Malakhov, Recchi, Zhamnov
Pittsburgh - Buchberger, Lemieux
San Jose - Damphousse, Harvey, Marshall, Ricci
St Louis - Baron, MacInnis, Mellanby, Osgood, Sillinger, Weinrich
Toronto - Francis, Johansson, Kidd, Marchment, Reichel, Renberg
Vancouver - Arvedson, Rucinsky

The full rundown of different classifications of free agents, categorized by team, is available on the link mentioned above. Here is a brief look at the additions teams made on the first few days of free agency:

Atlanta - Modry
Calgary - Simon, Ritchie
Carolina - Wesley
Chicago - Curtis Brown, Barnaby
Colorado - Boughner, Gratton, Laaksonen, Laperriere, Skrastins
Dallas - Downey
Detroit - Draper
Florida - McLennan
New Jersey - Langdon, Madden, Pandolfo
Philadelphia - Knuble, Stevenson

The ESPN newswire is a great source to follow late breaking free agent signings.

[Update] The incomperable Jes Golbez offers his take on the first few signings after the free agent deadline.


Damphousse, Ricci, Harvey, Marshall free agents, Curtis Brown not qualified and later signs with Blackhawks

- Three San Jose Sharks entered free agency on July 1st, Vincent Damphousse, Mike Ricci, and Todd Harvey. It is hard to qualify how much each has meant to the Sharks, but it is impossible to ignore the emerging young talent in this organization and the looming financial struggle engulfing the league.

Vincent Damphousse

- Vincent Damphousse had a subpar regular season with 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points in 82 games played. That is 5 points less than the injury shortened point total he achieved in 45 games of the 2000-2001 season. That is 1 point more than he scored in the strike shortened in the 48 games he played in 1994-1995 for the Montreal Canadiens.

It was possible that Vincent Damphousse was playing too large a role during the regular season, that the near 20 minutes of ice time a night was starting to wear on the 36 year old center.

But then came the postseason. After registering 3 assists in the first round against St Louis, Damphousse scored a goal and an assist in the first two games against the Avalanche, and a game winning goal in game 3. San Jose had lost twice in the postseason to Colorado, once after having a 3-2 series lead in 2001-2002. Damphousse helped the Sharks gain a 3-0 series lead, one which the all-star laden Avalanche could not overcome.

After losing the first two games of the Western Conference finals against the cinderella Flames, Damphousse scored the game winning goal in games 3 and 4 of the series. San Jose went on to lose the series to Calgary 4-2, but many feel that Damphousse was the most valuable player of the postseason for the San Jose Sharks.

On the phone from Montreal, Damphousse told the SF Chronicle:

We don't know how long we're going to be without hockey and everyone is a little more tentative to strike deals... I think it's going to be that kind of feeling all over.

I was very happy the Sharks gave me a chance. Every time I've been traded, it's come at a good time. San Jose is no different. I'm just going to move on and not close the doors on anyone.

Another factor in the non-signing was the revelation that the Sharks lost $7 million even after going 3 rounds deep with 9 home playoff games. Damphousse made 4 million this year as the highest paid San Jose Shark. If both sides come together, Damphousse taking a lesser figure to remain in teal, and San Jose making a firm offer before the collective bargaining agreement is settled, then this could be a win-win-win situation for the player, org, and fans.

- Mike Ricci has been the heart and soul of this team for many years. Whether it was his signature spot in front of the crease with two defenseman draped on top of him, or the endless questions about his hair and his half smirk when baiting local reporters, Ricci will be missed. San Jose should publicly offer him a spot with the front office if they do not tender him a contract after the CBA mess is sorted out.

- Todd Harvey had a rough start this year when he was sent down to the Cleveland Barons. He was called up and played 45 games with the San Jose Sharks this season. Harvey demonstrated how valuable he is to a team in the playoffs. Not only did he excel in his role as an agitator, but he picked up his game defensively, cut down on penalties, and chipped in the occasional goal and assist.

- The highlight of defenseman Jason Marshall's short career with the San Jose Sharks has to be his fight with Ville Nieminen in the Western Conference finals. Nieminen, Simon and Iginla were taking liberties with SJ players and Marshall put his foot down. Actually he placed his fist gently against Nieminen's face a few times and impressed upon him the value of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct.

- Curtis Brown was not offered a qualifying offer in San Jose, a ten percent increase that would have equaled $1.76 million. Brown subsequently signed a 4 year, $6.8 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Curtis Brown had 4 points in 12 regular season games for San Jose [2G,2A], 21 points in 68 regular season games for the Buffalo Sabres [9G,12A], and 2 points in 17 postseason games [0G,2A].

Brown had this to say to the official Chicago Blackhawks website after signing his contract:

I'm very excited about coming to Chicago... As a player, I'm looking forward to coming to a team and a city that is excited about having me there. I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of a team that is moving in the right direction. I have always heard great things about the Blackhawks organization and the city of Chicago. I'm looking forward to the experience of coming to a team with a rich tradition and I have a great respect for that.

Whatever. Primeau and Brown were the two forwards who impressed me the least in the postseason. It was the first year in the playoffs with a new club, and more time for them to make adjustments to a new team might have been needed. I expected both to run through walls and lock it down defensively for Ron Wilson, and both did not deliver. Primeau will be challenged by the depth in SJ to play his best next year.

[Update] Larry Brooks has a blistering article on the Bruins and Thornton that finishes with an aside on the fiscally prudent Chicago Blackhawks organization.

And so Barnaby goes to the wonderful organization in Chicago, where players at last season's break-up day were told by VP Bob Pulford they'd be permitted to bring home only two sticks and would have to leave their equipment behind because of the likelihood of a lockout.