Video game reviews, NHL 2K7, EA NHL 07 and NHL 94

A fan posted this short clip of highlights from NHL 2K7 cover athlete Joe Thornton set to Dozer's "Drawing Dead" (Note: link to 2KSports official clip here). For a higher video quality review, IGN associate editor Jon Miller took a look at the XBOX 360 version.

Miller notes the improved game play, a contender-like cinema score that varies with how your team is performing on the ice, an improved skating engine with excellent backwards skating, new game modes (pond hockey, mini-rink, sky box), new adaptive rivalry features, and an extensive list of online options including 30-man seasons, tournaments and fantasy drafts. IGN gave the XBOX 360 version of NHL 2K7 an 8.9. The full written IGN review is available here.

Jon Miller also hosted a video review of EA's NHL 07. He notes that the new EA skill stick will take about 10 games to get used to, that new puck physics will add variety to the game play, and that Dynasty mode allows the player complete control over every aspect of a hockey team. IGN was not impressed with EA's online offerings, ranked and unranked play, and gave EA NHL 07 an overall score of 8.7 out of ten. The full written IGN review is available here.

A complete list of all the NHL video games for all platforms is available here.

More along my style, Eric McErlain recently pointed to an online league at NHL94.com. They have ported the Sega Genesis and Nintendo versions of EA's NHL 94 title, and created 4 online divisions with over 80 players. Take a look. Signups are full for this season, but contact them to participate in the spring.

[Update] In a recent Washington Post article, David Betancourt tried to beat EA NHL07 cover athlete Alexander Ovechkin at his own game.

We agree on a best-of-three format. The first two games he will play as himself and the Capitals, and I will play with the Phoenix Coyotes. The third game will be for national pride as I'll play with the U.S. national team and Ovechkin will take the Russian national team.

"Why Phoenix?" he asks.

I explain that the Coyotes were the team he scored his famous behind-the-back, no-look goal on in January and that I want to see if he had any more magic against them. That gets a laugh.

[Update2] IGN traveled to the Sharks practice facility at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose and mic'd up cover athlete Joe Thornton.

The results were a little unsuspected:

2K Sports wanted the authentic arena atmosphere. They wanted to capture the players as they truly are, what they say and do on the ice and put it in the game.

Only thing is, if they use the uncensored content from Wednesday's practice session in San Jose where the Sharks, including cover athlete Joe Thornton were mic'd, the game would have to be rated M.

I had the headphones on as Thornton spit on the ice, blew his nose, then talked to his coach. When his coach spoke it was F-this, F-that, get in the F'n zone and score a F'n goal (paraphrased for the weak of heart).

Mic'ing Thornton would be good, but capturing head coach and quote machine Ron Wilson should also have been a priority. IGN reports that Thornton is a gamer from the days of "making heads bleed" on a Sega Genesis, and that Pavel Bure and Alexander Moginly were two of his favorite cyber hockey players. Both are good choices, but Al Iafrate with his 100 strength slapshot and 0 accuracy still gets the nod. #77 Ray Bourque was also unstoppable.

2KSports producer Ben Bishop also had to dodge players at the practice who wanted to confront them about their in-game player ratings.

"We have one guy, Doug Murray, who is an up and down player, and he had to send one of our teammates down so he could get on the roster and play. He couldn't believe he was a 60. 'A 60! What are you doing to me?' He wanted to see if I could talk to the guys who make the game. Put in a good word. It was funny, he got a good kick out of it."

The first few training camps defenseman Doug Murray attended, you could not help but notice one player consistently flattening opponents each time he took the ice. The audible crunches made everyone at the practice rink take notice.

It is great to see in practice, but that does not always translate into the game. Murray's first few NHL games he would line up and paste someone every other shift. Opponents began to take notice, and skate with their head up when he was on the blueline. He has a case when he claims that his ranking is underrated.

[Update3] Old School.

[Update4] Setting up a public EA or 2K Sports NHL lan tournament would be a great promotion here in Silicon Valley. Internet cafe's are a dying breed, but Euphnet is one of the stalwarts who have remained in business with two locations in the South Bay (downtown San Jose, Sunnyvale). Setting up a PC version of NHL 07 would be possible with the number of on-site PC's, but an Xbox 360 tournament would require a number of consoles. Contact me (jon at sharkspage) if you work for one of the related companies and you are interested in setting up a tournament.

[Update5] Link via Puck Update, Jason Kottke (purveyor of fine hypertext products) discovers a few NHL 94 videos and the above mentioned NHL 94 online league.


Stockton overcomes Long Beach 4-3 in overtime after 13 shootout rounds

ECHL Stockton Thunder Long Beach Ice Dogs
ECHL Stockton Thunder Long Beach Ice Dogs
ECHL Stockton Thunder Long Beach Ice Dogs
ECHL Stockton Thunder Long Beach Ice Dogs

A last minute Stockton goal by Beau Geisler tied the game at 3-3 in regulation, and sent the Thunder and Long Beach Ice Dogs into overtime. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 9 of 13 Long Beach shootout attempts to earn a 4-3 overtime victory.

The win during Saturday's home opener was the third in a row to begin the season. Stockton trails the Las Vegas Wranglers by one point for first place in the Pacific Division.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] More game notes:

Opening night was packed with the usual throngs of fans converging on the year-old Stockton Arena. The Thunder offense was a little disjointed early in the game, and the team took 5 penalties and allowed 17 shots on goal in the first period. Both teams combined for 14 penalties and a seemingly endless parade to the penalty box in the second period.

Stockton goaltender Devan "King Kong" Dubnyk is listed at 6-5, 210 pounds. Dubnyk was selected in the first round (14th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in a draft many called the "year of the big goalie". Al Montoya (6-1, 190) was drafted 6th overall by the New York Rangers. San Jose picked up 6-4, 184 pound Halifax Mooseheads netminder Jason Churchill the same year. 13 other goaltenders selected were 6-2 or taller, with 15 tipping the scales at 190 pounds or above.

It was difficult to take a look at Dubnyk during the second period on my end of the ice because of penalties and the lack of play in the Stockton defensive zone, but 13 overtime shootout attempts gave fans a good look at what they are going to see the rest of the season. Devan Dubnyk is solid positionally, uses his size to play back in the crease more, and possesses good leg mobility. As you can see from the photo above, when down on the ice the 6-5 goaltender leaves about an inch over his shoulder for opponents to shoot at. One errant poke check aside, Dubnyk was able to stifle most of the penalty shots by forcing them to make the first move and then swallowing up open space.

There was talk around the building that Stockton may be a contender for a title this season. They have bulked up on offense, defense, and in goal. It will take a few weeks to see if they can build enough team chemistry to take advantage of that size on a nightly basis, but a 3-0 record to open the season has caused many to take notice.

The Edmonton Oilers also assigned 6-3, 200 pound right wing Stephane Goulet to the Stockton Thunder after he appeared in 2 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Goulet lead the QMJHL Moncton Wildcats with 51 goals, and 93 assists in 67 games in 2005-06. The Wildcats won the 2005-06 QMJHL President's Cup, and appeared in the Memorial Cup Finals. Goulet contributed 7 goals, and 8 assists in 13 playoff games.

[Update2] Shootout Survivors, Thunder completes wild rally in home opener, finished by Hodge’s shootout tally - Stockton Thunder.

[Update3] Thunder win in shootout - Stockton Record.

Brendon Hodge proved 13 could be a lucky number for the Stockton Thunder.

Hodge, the 13th skater in a tense shootout, beat Long Beach goalie Mike Brown and gave the Thunder a thrilling 4-3 win in its home opener in front of a crowd of 8,747 on Saturday at Stockton Arena...

"It was a great feeling to do that in front of that kind of crowd," said Hodge, a forward from Lynfield, Mass., who played in Wheeling, Pa., last season. "That's the biggest crowd I played in front of in my three years in the ECHL."

When covering hockey, sportswriters often have a tendency to focus on the negative. The Stockton Thunder drew 228,364 fans during their inaugural season to lead the ECHL. A close division title race, or an extended playoff run this year would generate a lot of interest in the Central Valley. The kind of environment this would generate may be too good a story for some in the media to ignore.


Northern California undefeated to open ECHL season, Stockton and Fresno combine for 3-0 record

ECHL Stockton Thunder

The Stockton Thunder stockpiled talent prior to the start of their second ECHL season. With several players assigned to the Thunder from the new NHL affiliate Edmonton, the addition of 6-5, 209 pound goaltender Devan Dubnyk, the re-acquisition of forward Steve Slonina, and the addition of several free agents, Stockton has the tools to make an impact in the National Conference this season.

The Thunder faced Bakersfield at Rabobank Arena on Friday's ECHL opening night. Rabobank is a fan-friendly venue with modern facilities and unforgiving seamless glass.

Stockton made a statement with 6 different players scoring goals, 2 in each period (Bodie, O'Connell, Lalonde, Spurgeon, Slonina, Hodge). The Bakersfield Condors pulled starter Jamie Hodson (17 saves, 21 shots), and gave 2004 Los Angeles Kings 7th round draft pick Danny Taylor (26 saves, 28 shots) his first professional appearance. Taylor was last seen on Sharkspage playing for Los Angeles during the 2004 and 2006 Pacific Division Shootout rookie tournaments. Center Nicklas Lindberg scored a power play goal with 11:39 remaining in the third period to put Bakersfield on the board.

Devan Dubnyk made 48 saves on 49 shots, and the Stockton Thunder earned an impressive 6-1 win to open the season.

Thunder dominates Bakersfield Condors - Stockton Record.

Chris Cichocki vowed that the Stockton Thunder would be a much better team this season. But even he was surprised by what he saw on Friday night.

"Yeah, I was a little surprised, you don't expect to come into someone else's building and do this," said Cichocki, who began his second season as Stockton's coach. "I was very pleased. We showed what we could do with the talent we have, and it was a great start."

Condors lose season opener - Bakersfield Californian (subscription only).

"The goaltender on the other side played a great game, but we have to score 5-on-3. Our power play was gawd awful." [Bakersfield Condors coach Marty Raymond]... "That killed us right there,” Raymond said. “We had eight power-plays in a row. That was the game."

Stockton plays at Long Beach on Friday night before hosting the Ice Dogs for their home opener on Saturday night. According to Stockton Record reporter Scott Linesburgh, a sellout at Stockton will equal 9,737 fans instead of the 10,117 fans the previous season due to a reconfigured arena. Linesburgh also has a new Thunder hockey blog on Recordsnet Blogs.

The Thunder recently launched a new website at stocktonthunder.com. In addition to the new graphics and design, they added a blogs page with radio broadcaster Mike Benton and several players slated to contribute throughout the season.

ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers

The first game of the year for the Fresno Falcons previewed one of the rivalries that will be a key for Pacific Division this season. Last year the Pacific Divison champion Fresno Falcons came one overtime goal away from a Game 7 win over Alaska in the National Conference Finals, and a place in the ECHL Kelly Cup Championship series. The Las Vegas Wranglers switched to the Pacific Division after the San Diego Gulls closed up shop last season, and the defending West Division champion brought with them a 6-game winning streak over the Falcons.

The two perennial contenders faced off to open the 2006-07 ECHL season showcasing two new players, Fresno goaltender and 2003-04 league MVP Scott Stirling, and WHL's 2nd leading scorer (42G,51A,72GP) and Calgary Flames 2004 9th round pick Adam Cracknell suited up as a wing for Las Vegas. The Wranglers scored twice in the first, and Fresno came back with 2 goals in the second period to tie the game. A scoreless third period, and a scoreless overtime lead to an opening night shootout. Brady Leisenring and Colin Shields put pucks past McKenna to give the Falcons a 3-2 OT shootout win.

Falcons top Las Vegas in opener - Fresno Bee.

"With Las Vegas [joining the Pacific], every team in our division is having to get players to compete with them," Falcons coach Matt Thomas said...

"I think every game with Fresno is going to be a rivalry game," [Las Vegas Wranglers coach Glen Gulutzan] said. "I was here and our owner [former Falcons owner Charles Davenport] was here so there's always something extra on the ice when we play in Fresno."

In the second game of the season Sunday, Fresno built a 3-goal lead at home on tallies by right wing John Wroblewski, and 2 goals scored by forward Colin Shields. The Las Vegas Wranglers stormed back with 3 goals of their own within the last 7 minutes of play. Defenseman Scott Schoneck and left wing Shawn Limpright scored in the latter half of the third period for the Wranglers, and defenseman Aaron Power scored on the power play with 1:17 left to play in regulation. After a scoreless overtime period, and tied 1-1 after the first of five shootout attempts, John Wroblewski put the puck past Las Vegas goaltender Mike McKenna for a Fresno Falcons 4-3 OT shootout win.

Wranglers Win First Game of Season 6-5 Over Roadrunners - Our Sports Central.

The Wranglers play all 36 home games at the Orleans Arena, located at the Orleans Hotel and Casino at 4500 W. Tropicana Avenue. The Wranglers host the Victoria Salmon Kings for the home opener on Friday, November 3rd at 7:05 pm. Seat packages to see the Wranglers play at the Orleans Arena for the upcoming 2006-07 season are now on sale, starting as low as $157. Call (702) 471-PUCK (7825) for more information or visit www.lasvegaswranglers.com.

Las Vegas opens the season at home on my birthday, which would make for a good road trip. Unfortunately I will be in New York City from November 1st until the 7th. Mark the Orleans Casino down on the to-do list. No word yet on if any poker tables have a view of the ice, but I will investigate furthur.

[Update] Friday matchups: Fresno at Phoenix, Stockton at Long Beach, Las Vegas at Utah, Bakersfield at Alaska. Games are streamed online from B2Networks.com (PPV), an archive of past radio broadcast locations is available here. The RBK Hockey ECHL All-Star Game will be hosted by the Idaho Steelheads on Jan. 17, 2007 from Boise, Idaho.

[Update2] Pink at the Rink Coming this February - Fresno Falcons.


NHL Prospects: A Look At The 2007 Eligible Crop

The 2006-07 season is more than a month underway in Europe and the CHL, where hundreds of draft-eligible players are trying to get noticed by the NHL's scouting community. I scout international and junior prospects for mckeenshockey.com, and it has given me an inside track on the process. Here is a look at who is making the scouting community buzz in a positive and negative way early in the season.

Prospect Spotlight

Sam Gagner, 5-10 180, F, 2007, London Knights

The son of former NHL player Dave Gagner (now his coach in London) turned down his commitment to the University of Wisconsin to play for his father with the OHL London Knights. Disappointed after not making Team Canada's U-18 squad this fall, Sam has rebounded with a remarkable start this season. He leads the OHL in scoring with 9 goals and 24 assists in only 9 games played. That is 9 points ahead of Atlanta's first round pick Brian Little, in the same amount of games.

Sam Gagner is a gifted stickhandler who makes up for his lack of elite speed with anticipation and vision. A threat to both create and finish a play, Gagner is close to a complete offensive package. He has that rare ability to see passing lanes that most can't, and can thread the needle with a pass. He is creative distributing the puck, and has shown the ability to score impressive goals 5-on-5 and in the shoot-out. Gagner had an impressive year as a 16-year old in the USHL last season, however his play with London this year has raised the bar on his potential. His play has erased many of the concerns scouts had with him coming into this season.

Max Giese's Top 35 Draft List:


1. Jakub Voracek, RW, 6-2 200, Halifax QMJHL
Voracek looks like a clone of Marian Hossa, and has a 2-way game similar to a Milan Michalek. He is the complete offensive package of size, skill, hockey sense, and pure strength. He has been unstoppable in the QMJHL when he drives to the net from the wing. His puck protection is world class, and he has natural goal scorer instincts to finish the scoring chances he has created. A gifted skater and play maker as well, Voracek is ranked above Esposito for his complete power game and finishing ability.

2. Angelo Esposito, C, 6-1 180, Quebec QMJHL
The best skater among forwards in the draft, Esposito has an absolute blistering top gear. A gifted playmaker who can create even at top speed, Esposito is still learning how to round out his whole game. He will compete with Voracek all year for the top spot, but he lacks some of the finishing and power forward skills of Voracek. No one can match his end-to-end ability in this draft class, and Esposito has a lanky frame he can still add still bulk to.

3. Sam Gagner, C, 5-10 180, London OHL
Gagner looks to have that innate sense that all elite offensive threats have. While he lacks a top gear, he possesses an elusive agility and exciting one-on-one moves. A gifted playmaker who is also starting to develop a finishing touch to go along with a solid two-way game. Gagner has thrown his name into the mix for the 1st overall selection, but he must prove he can keep this play up consistently.

4. Logan Couture, C, 6-1 188, Ottawa OHL
Couture was amazing in last year's Ontario Hockey League playoffs as a 16-year old. He has been just good, not great, early in this season with 5 assists and 0 goals in 5 games. He missed the U-18's with a leg injury, and now has been diagnosed with mono. Until he comes back and plays to his full potential, Couture is on the outside of the top three looking in. When he is on, no one plays a better 2-way game in this draft class, and Couture's vision is extraordinary. Some question his offensive upside, but he could be a future captain based on his leadership skills.

5. Nick Petrecki, D, 6-3 215, Omaha USHL
Petrecki been a brute force early in the season starting with a rousing performance at the Buc-Bowl. Not a franchise prospect, but Petrecki is going to be a feared physical presence in the NHL some day. A great skater for a big man who has a mean streak like no other, but Petrecki will never be an offensive defenseman. He has to work on his defensive game, and he could have the potential of a shut-down type defensive defenseman.

6. Mark Katic, D, 5-10 180, Sarnia OHL
This small, elite skating defenseman is off to a hot start with the Sting, and has shown more of a physical edge this year despite his modest frame. Mike Green-like power play quarterback, Katic will thrive in the new NHL.

7. Nick Ross, D, 6-1 195, Regina WHL
A raw defenseman who is starting to round into form, Ross had a 5-point night in a recent Regina 5-2 victory. Ross has the potential to be a workhorse, a complete defenseman with size, skating ability, and can carry the puck out of his own zone. Ross also has a mean physical edge in his own zone.

8. Kyle Turris, F, 6-0 165, Burnaby BCHL
Amazed me at the U-18's with his offensive gifts, Turris a sniper's quick release and a playmaker's touch. Still very lanky, Turris will have time to fill out while playing at the University of Wisconsin for the next few years.

9. Patrick Kane, C, 5-9 160, London OHL
Some feel Kane will only produce in Juniors because of his size and lack of a top gear. Kane could be a deadly playmaking threat from the center position, but he also has a natural goal scorers touch and electrifying dangle.

10. Karl Alzner, D, 6-2 210, Calgary WHL
This year's Ty Wishart, Alzner is a big, mobile defenseman who can move the puck while taking care of his own end first. Mature in his game at this stage in his development, Alzner will probally transition to the NHL faster than his peers.

11. Thomas Hickey, D, 5-11 190, Seattle WHL
Small, combative defenseman with impressive strength and offensive gifts. A threat to go end to end.

12. James Van Riemsdyk, F, 6-3 200, USNTDP
A power winger you do not want to defend one-on-one, Van Riemsdyk has slick hand skill as well as a playmaker's eye. Van Riemsdyk could still grow a mean streak to compliment his power game.

13. Jens Hellgren, D, 6-3 190, Sweden
Smooth skating, tall Swedish defenseman who is an anchor in his own zone. Hellgren is also a crisp passer. Hellgren broke out at the U-18's and scouts are anxious to see if he can repeat that performance.

14. John Blum, D, 6-0 170, Vancouver WHL
Not your typical defenseman from the WHL as Blum's more of an offensive specialist than a defensive type.

15. Keaton Ellerby, D, 6-3 190, Kamloops WHL
16. John Negrin, D, 6-2 190, Kootenay WHL
17. Jim O'Brien, F, 6-3 200, Minnesota NCAA
18. Brandon Sutter, F, 6-3 195, Red Deer WHL
19. Billy Sweatt, F, 6-1 190, Colorado College NCAA
20. Michal Repik, F, 5-11 185, Vancouver WHL
21. Aaron Palushaj, F, 6-1 190, Des Moines USHL
22. Mikael Backlund, F, 6-1 190, Sweden
23. Alex Grant, D, 6-2 200, Saint John QMMJHL
24. Maxime Tanguay, F, 5-11 180, Rimouski QMJHL
25. Theo Ruth, D, 6-1 200, USNTDP
26. Bradley Malone, F, 6-2 205, Sioux Falls USHL
27. David Stich, D, 6-1 200, Saint John QMJHL
28. Eric Doyle, D, 6-2 200, Everett WHL
29. Ruslan Bashirikov, F, 5-11 185, Quebec QMHL
30. Ondrej Roman, F, 6-1 190, Spokane WHL
31. Bryan Cameron, F, 6-1 200, Belleville OHL
32. Artem Dubinin, F/D, 6-6 200, Russia
33. Oscar Moller, F, 6-0 177, Sweden
34. Colton Gillies, F, 6-4 200, Saskatoon
35. Justin Leclerc, G, 6-0 194, Lethbridge

[Update] Here is a brief youtube highlight video of Sam Gagner from Beyond the Next Level.

Maine takes #1 spot in USA Today/USA Hockey Men's College Hockey Poll

The latest USA Today/USA Hockey Men's College Hockey Poll:

University of Maine Leaps Three Places to No. 1 Position on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-Ups

Friday, Oct. 27
No. 5 Boston College @ No. 2 Wisconsin

Saturday, Oct. 28
No. 5 Boston College @ No. 2 Wisconsin

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The University of Maine leapt three spots to the top of the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll thanks to a pair of road victories against then-No. 3 University of North Dakota. The undefeated Black Bears captured 31-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 507 points to stake claim to the No. 1 spot after Boston College had held the position on the first three polls of the season.

The University of Wisconsin held its position at No. 2 on the poll after taking three points from Western Collegiate Hockey Association foe University of Minnesota Duluth. Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota climbed four spots to the No. 3 position and Boston University grabbed the No. 4 slot after wins over Hockey East opponents Northeastern University and Merrimack College.

Boston College dropped to No. 5 on this week's poll following a home loss to the University of Notre Dame. The victory propelled the Fighting Irish to their first appearance on the poll this year, debuting at No. 11.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #4

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week's Ranking, 2006-07 Record, Weeks in Top-15)

1. U. of Maine, 507 (3), 4, 5-0-0, 4
2. U. of Wisconsin, 461 (2), 2, 3-1-2, 4
3. U. of Minnesota, 430, 7, 4-1-0, 4
4. Boston U., 397, 6, 2-0-1, 4
5. Boston College, 340, 1, 2-1-0, 4
6. U. of Michigan, 331, 5, 3-1-0, 4
7. Miami (Ohio) U., 293, 9, 4-2-0, 4
8. U. of New Hampshire, 267, 12, 2-0-0, 4
9. U. of North Dakota, 234, 3, 3-3-0, 4
10. Michigan State U., 220, 8, 1-1-0, 4
11. U. of Notre Dame, 136, NR, 3-1-0, 1
12. Harvard U., 123, 13, 0-0-0, 4
13. U. of Denver, 85, 11, 3-3-0, 4
14. Clarkson U., 79, 14, 4-1-1, 2
15. Cornell U., 63, NR, 0-0-0, 3

Others receiving votes: Dartmouth College, 30; St. Cloud State University, 30; Michigan Tech University, 11; University of Alaska Anchorage, 6; Northern Michigan University, 6; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 6; Colgate University, 5; Lake Superior State University, 5; University of Nebraska Omaha, 5; University of Vermont, 5; University of Minnesota Duluth, 4; U.S. Military Academy (Army), 1.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.


About this blog

Max Giese

Here is a photo of Sharkspage contributor Max Giese. Contact information for Max has been added to a column on the right. He is currently working on profiles and prospects of the upcoming draft class.

His addition gives this blog one of the best goals against averages in the blogosphere.

[Note] Blogger has been near inoperable for most of Thursday and Friday. Future posts will be delayed until Google gets their servers are up and running in a normal fashion.


Hockey Night in San Jose

Marty Turco Dallas Stars

Patrick Marleau San Jose Sharks


The Dallas Stars reminded the rest of the NHL why they are a perennial Stanley Cup contender with a 5-game unbeaten streak to open the 2006-07 season. The Pacific Division took the brunt of the Stars wrath, suffering a pair of losses at Los Angeles, and a 4-3 shootout loss by the resurgent Ducks on Sunday night.

A look at the Dallas roster prior to gametime read like a general managers shopping list: flamboyant offensive talent (Mike Ribeiro), power forward (Eric Lindros), Sharkspage-favorite (Nicklas Hagman), solid veteran (Jeff Halpern), solid veteran in net (Marty Turco). The Stars are far from being in a rebuilding mode. They are poised to battle the Ducks and the Sharks for a Pacific Division title that may equal a President's Trophy this season.

The Sharks came into the game with a little swagger of their own. An NHL trophy or three, and a league leading 21 goals will do that for a team. San Jose can generate offense from all 4 lines, the defense, the hot dog vendor, and even half of the goaltending tandem has a power play tally on his resume.

Key Plays of the game:

With a man already on Darryl Sydor behind the Sharks net, Patrick Rissmiller came in from the opposite side and almost de-Starred the veteran defenseman. Many around the NHL are describing the Sharks as a two-line team. The third line of Nieminen-Brown-Grier, and the fourth line of Goc-Smith-Rissmiller are going to open some eyes.

Just before Matt Carle's point shot, which Milan Michalek chipped over Turco for the first goal of the game, a few Sharks fans made a semi-audible Matt Carle chant. San Jose has seen a parade of homegrown offensive-defenseman (Brad Stuart, Sandis Ozolinsh, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrei Zyuzin, Jeff Jillson). Matt Carle may be the best outright at jumping up on the play without creating odd-man rushes in the opposite direction. One play showed why. Carle lost the puck skating through the neutral zone, stopped and took two strides towards his own net before the opponent could gather the puck.

Cheechoo faked a shot, and fed Mark Bell a cross-ice pass for an easy deflection past an out of position Turco. How can you fault a goaltender for respecting a shot from the reigning goal scoring champion. Mark Bell left a difficult environment in Chicago to grab the best job opening in the NHL.

Not sure if it was Hagman or Barnaby who split the Sharks defense and created a scoring chance on goal. Radio guys mentioned that opponents have repeatedly taken advantage of the gaps in the Sharks defense, that they need to shore it up. Trying to keep an eye on McLaren and Hannan's ice time. Of course they are first and second on the team [21:49 and 21:33 respectively], but more surprising are numbers 3 and 4 [rookie Marc-Edouard Vlasic 19:58 and Christian Ehrhoff 19:27].

Nabokov made a few incredible saves to finish out the game. After he lifts up his left glove, he shoots his right leg out in a stabbing motion. Goaltending coach Warren Strelow, sitting a few seats down from me, must have been pleased with the 32 save effort to maintain the shutout.

The Sharks win the game 2-0, and earn a tie with Dallas for first place in the Pacific Division.

Eric Lindros

Had a running conversation with two cameramen, one working the game, one in the stands. Obvious question, how do you make hockey better on television? No specific answer. But other tidbits included noting the two robot cameras attached to the top of the glass behind each goal, the fact that a wide angle lens was experimented with at center ice, that teams have tried the new slo-mo HD digital [allegedly better than hi-speed film], that Versus is easier to work with than ESPN, that the cameras normally just pan and focus with most of the other adjustments made by another party, that video guys do not get to use photo holes often.

A few years ago during the playoffs I asked a CBC camerman why hockey on television in Canada was better than hockey on television in the U.S. He said one reason was that they use more cameras, and that the cameramen all grew up playing the sport so they could follow the play better.

Nabokov shines again - San Jose Mercury News.

"It's the whole team," Nabokov said. "It's never about individuals. I don't win the games. We have to be good defensively and offensively, and sometimes you have to get lucky."

SJ Mercury News audio slideshow from the Sharks-Stars game.

A Bagel From Nabby, Sharks 5-1 for best start San Jose hands Stars first loss - SF Chronicle.

"We're happy with our start, yet we know we can still play better," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "With our goaltending as good as they are, you have the comfort level that even if you make a mistake, you've got somebody back there to bail you out."

Stars can't find their way past San Jose, 2-0 - Dallas Morning News.

Although the Stars led the Sharks 32 to 23 in shots taken, San Jose controlled the play for much of the second and third periods. A group of students called the Colgate 13 sang the national anthem a capella prior to the start. Unfortunately the volume was a little to low to hear clearly, and a few fans were a little to loud. The pre-game warmup version was beautiful.

Experimented with a Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR lens with a 2X teleconvertor, but you have to dial up the ISO and lower the shutter speed too much for the photos to be useable. The Sharks granted this blog a photo credential for the game.

[Update] More Sharks-Stars photos posted at Battle of California.

[Update2] More blog coverage from Grapevine, Mark Stepneski on his blog Stars Page and on Hockey Buzz, and The Razor was in the building.

Rookie defenseman Vlasic should remain a Shark

Going into training camp the San Jose Sharks did not expect 19-year old defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to make the NHL this year, let alone play a prominent role 5-on-5 and on special teams. This was evidenced by the fact signings of veteran defenseman Scott Ferguson, Mathieu Biron, and Patrick Traverse. After leading the Sharks prospects in scoring at the Pacific Division Rookie Tournament, and impressing the coaching staff during the pre-season, Vlasic was rewarded with an opening night roster spot.

Now that Vlasic has played in several regular season games, and has earned ice time in all situations, his role with the team is starting to be defined. The coaches are steadily increasing his ice time. Vlasic only trails behind veterans Kyle McLaren, and Scott Hannan for the team lead in total time on ice. Coach Ron Wilson has not been afraid to use Vlasic on the power play, or the penalty kill. He has been one of the go-to guys if the Sharks are down 5-on-3. This has not been blind faith, as Vlasic has looked superb in every game so far, showing maturity and poise beyond his years.

A brief profile of Vlasic:

Vlasic has innate hockey sense. After watching one game it is obvious he possesses the subtle intangibles in a defenseman that you look for. His natural feel for the game is terrific, and it is a skill that can't be taught. While he is a smooth skater with adequate speed, it is his anticipation that keeps him one step ahead of the play, and allows him to be in almost flawless position at both ends. Most impressive is his defensive ability, which is in contrast to the 73 points Vlasic put up last year in the QMJHL with Quebec. His ability to disrupt the passing and shooting lanes of opponents has stood out. He has displayed solid fundamentals, tying up his man in front of the net, blocking shots, and keeping an awareness of where players are in his own zone. Vlasic makes this high percentage play in the Sharks end, and it appears as if every time the team is a man down, Vlasic is on the ice as a result. He appears very comfortable with the puck on his stick, calm when making the first pass out of the zone even in the face of oncomming pressure. After watching him quarterback the offensive side in the QMJHL last season with the Quebec Remparts, I have no doubts he will soon QB the power play in the NHL very soon. Vlasic has also been a threat to score himself, as he utilizes a quick release to get a shot on net in an instant. A lot of defenseman have heavy shots, which Vlasic has, but few can combine that with a quick release.

Often in the NHL, a rookie defenseman can be benefit greatly when a paired with a veteran teammate to show them the ropes, and cover for the occasional defensive lapse. While the ability of Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek speaks for itself, the chemistry they have developed with Patrick Marleau has taken their game to another level. Vlasic has found that same role with his defensive partner Scott Hannan.

With defenseman, the conservative approach is to take the slow road with a prospect, allowing him to develop in the AHL, NCAA, or Major Junior for a couple of years. In this case, the play of Vlasic may force the Sharks to keep him in the NHL. And a scary thought for other teams around the NHL, Vlasic has come nowhere near reaching his offensive potential.


Hockey News Bucks N Pucks issue

A few interesting statistics from The Hockey News Bucks and Pucks issue:

Top average salaries: 1. Brad Richards [TB] 7,800,000, 2. Nicklas Lidstrom [DET] 7,600,000, 3. Zdeno Chara [BOS] 7,500,000... 10. Joe Thornton [SJ] 6,666,700.

Last year the NHL made $2.178 billion, the Hockey News notes that a revenue increase of at least 5% is needed to cover growing player salaries.

The average NHL payroll is $41.6 million, and the 2006-07 salary cap is set at $44 million. The Sharks come in just under that figure with $43.4 million in payroll, including retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov's $3.6 million salary.

[Update] With fans coming back, most teams hike ticket prices - ESPN.

Hockey Night in Washington

Eric McErlain of Offwing filed a report from Saturday night's 4-3 OT Atlanta Thrashers win over the Washington Capitals at the Phone Booth. McErlain discussed everything from the pre-game starting lineups, to the game action, to the post-game press conference quotes. A job very well done for one of the few credentialed bloggers covering the NHL.

On Monday, McErlain wrote his first column for NBC Sports on Alexander Ovechkin's visor, yellow pads, and tracking penalties. Worth a bookmark, but NBCSports should grab McErlain and Joe Tasca for their excellent podcast.

John Buccigross of ESPN liveblogged the Dallas Stars vs Anaheim Ducks game on Sunday night. The Stars improved to 5-0 with the win. Ilya Bryzgalov was pulled for Jean-Sebastien Giguere after letting in two goals. With so much hype surrounding the goaltending "controversy" in San Jose, the Bryzgalov-Giguere duel has almost gone unnoticed. Bryzgalov is the goaltender of the future for the Ducks, even though Giguere has Stanley Cup experience.

At an earlier Ducks-Kings game, Battle of California head blogger Earl Sleek took a photo of Mark McGuire in the front row sporting a Chris Pronger #25 jersey. Later reports noted that Pronger selected the jersey number in honor of the former Bash Brother.

Boston College remains #1 in USA Today/USA Hockey College Poll

The latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll:

Boston College Holds No. 1 Position for Third-Straight Week on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-Ups

Thursday, Oct. 19
No. 9 Miami (Ohio) @ No. 5 Michigan

Friday, Oct. 20
No. 9 Miami (Ohio) @ No. 5 Michigan
No. 4 Maine @ No. 3 North Dakota

Saturday, Oct. 21
No. 4 Maine @ No. 3 North Dakota

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Boston College held its position atop the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll for the third-straight week following a 5-2 victory over Hockey East foe Northeastern University. The Eagles received 29-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 505 points.

The University of Wisconsin remained at No. 2 on the poll following a split with the University of North Dakota, which moved up one spot to the No. 3 position. The University of Maine climbed three spots to No. 4 this week following a pair of home victories over Bemidji State University.

Clarkson University and St. Cloud State University made their poll debuts at Nos. 14 and 15, respectively.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #3

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week's Ranking, 2006-07 Record, Weeks in Top-15)

1. Boston College, 505 (29), 1, 1-0-0, 3
2. U. of Wisconsin, 450 (4), 2, 2-1-1, 3
3. U. of North Dakota, 431 (1), 4, 3-1-0, 3
4. U. of Maine, 385, 7, 3-0-0, 3
5. U. of Michigan, 383, 5, 2-0-0, 3
6. Boston U., 340, 6, 0-0-1, 3
7. U. of Minnesota, 295, 8, 2-1-0, 3
8. Michigan State U., 294, 3, 1-1-0, 3
9. Miami (Ohio) U., 243, 10, 3-1-0, 3
10. U. of Vermont, 194, 9, 2-0-1, 2
11. U. of Denver, 122, 12, 2-2-0, 3
12. U. of New Hampshire, 119, 13, 0-0-0, 3
13. Harvard U., 115, 11, 0-0-0, 3
14. Clarkson U., 54, NR, 3-0-1, 1
15. St. Cloud State U., 41, NR, 1-1-0, 1

ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

Others receiving votes: Cornell University, 36; Colorado College, 35; Colgate University, 13; Dartmouth College, 13; University of Nebraska Omaha, 9; University of Minnesota Duluth, 2; Ferris State University, 1.

[Update] No flying under radar: Crusaders are worthy of respect - Boston Herald.

Holy Cross is no longer the little engine that could. It's the Purple-clad vehicle that very much can. Exhibit A is its near-identical record on the road (13-4-1) and at home (12-4-1) in 2005-06. HC was 2-2-0 on neutral ice.

"We didn't sneak up on anyone and I think it's been that way for couple of years now," said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. "We beat four Division 1 teams before that in the regular season last year and all those games were on the road. I think the track record isn't established yet because the league (Atlantic Hockey) is only eight years old, but all the teams in the league are getting better and stronger and we hope to continue to improve."

[Update2] Live chat with University of Michigan and future Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson at 11:00AM PT on College Sports TV.


Pavel Bure highlight video

This Pavel Bure video contains highlights from his days with the Vancouver Canucks and the Florida Panthers. With 437 goals and 342 assists in 702 games played, the "Russian Rocket" averaged over a point-a-game for his entire 13-year NHL career.

Pavel was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the top NHL rookie in 1991-92. He earned the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's overall leading goal scorer with 58 goals in 2000, and 59 goals in 2001. Bure also notched three 50-goal seasons with the Vancouver Canucks (1993-60, 1994-60, 1998-51).

According to Legends of Hockey, Pavel and Valeri Bure set an NHL record for goals by a pair of brothers with the Florida Panthers in 2000 (93).

After several serious knee injuries, Pavel Bure retired from the NHL in 2005. He was named as the general manager for Team Russia prior to the 2006 Winter Olympics. Tom Benjamin posted his thoughts on Pavel Bure's career:

Pavel Bure was a great player, easily one of the best I've ever seen. Like Bobby Orr and Mike Bossy, a brilliant career has been cut far too short. He should be a lock to become Vancouver's first Hall of Famer, but the image created for him by the Vancouver media may work against his induction. The NHL and the hockey media may not care enough to celebrate his career - or sympathise with him for that matter - but I think most Vancouver fans remember him very fondly.

The music in the highlight video is "Rocket Ride" by Felix da Housecat, remixed by Soulwax.


Championship Bling? Detail of the Carolina Hurricanes NHL Championship Ring

Carolina Hurricanes Stanley Cup ring

An interesting post was made today on Flickr by WRALFlickr1:

The attendant to the Stanley Cup was letting people try on his Carolina Hurricane Championship ring. The lady next to me asked to try it on and I got this shot, which shows some more detail to the top and sides.

More from the Carolina Hurricanes: Hurricanes to raffle off "#1 Fan" Stanley Cup Ring.

The ring is identical to the rings each Hurricanes player from the 2006 Stanley Cup championship team received. It is a 14K white gold ring with the Hurricanes logo surrounding the Stanley Cup, set with quality rubies and black sapphires. There are more than 100 assorted collection quality diamonds on the ring.

[Update] A flash photo gallery of the Hurricanes-Oilers Stanley Cup Playoff game on June 7th was posted on Carolinahurricanes.com by photographer Gregg Forwerck.

[Update2] Whitney conjures first victory, After Canes waste 3-0 lead, goal in final second wins it - The News and Observer.

The Canes jumped to a three-goal, first-period lead Friday over the Atlanta Thrashers only to give it all back, but Ray Whitney scored with 0.5 seconds left to give them a 4-3 win, their first of the season...

"That was timely for me," Whitney said. "That was one of the worst games I've played in a long time... I was just terrible. Then I got that opportunity late and threw one of my vintage muffins at the guy."

[Update3] The Carolina Hurricanes travel to Tampa Bay to face the Lightning Monday at 4PM PT, live on Versus.

Boost in hockey video streaming mirrors boom in emerging video technologies

Yahoo Sports NHL hockey video stream online

Last year after news broke of OLN's cable partnership with the NHL, a small but interesting blurb buried in the press release mentioned the streaming of NHL games online. The games were to be webcast on Comcast's online sports page for their hi-speed broadband customers. That requirement was dropped for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

At the time of the OLN (now Versus) deal, NHL Senior Vice President of Television and New Media Doug Perlman commented, "Streaming live NHL games is a key element to our multi-media deal with Comcast. Our fans are some of the most passionate and tech savvy in professional sports, and this is another great way for them to connect with the NHL."

NHL.com's editorial director Phil Coffey released more details, including the availability to 7.7 million Comcast customers, a total of up to 300 games aired, a 48-hour online archive, and the inclusion of game previews and highlights.

Yahoo also stealthily webcast a few NHL games online last season during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season the internet heavyweight has streamed a few games each week, but the lack of a dedicated video page or a regular schedule give it the feel of an online lottery. Video links can be found on the main Yahoo NHL site, with a weekly schedule posted on the YSports Blog.

A few contacts last season turned up live streams and webcasts from the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Swedish Elite League, the 2005 World Championships, the Central Hockey League, and the United Hockey League. B2 Networks also provided pay-per-view online broadcasts of the AHL and ECHL, in addition to free streaming of the Allstar Game from Winnipeg. Video streaming of hockey was building steam.

The technology to air games became ubiquitous, but a glut of pipeline built to fuel a non-sustaining .Com boom caused the price of bandwidth to plummet. The expectant pay-per-view video models eventually gave way to the occasional ad-supported, and even free video streaming ventures. That is exactly where hockey video streaming finds itself now.

B2 Networks AHL video

All of the major U.S. television networks are currently experimenting with airing full program episodes on the internet (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC). The best of the breed is Fox on Demand, which uses widescreen flash videos, seemless ad intergration, ease of use, and very high video quality to deliver a television-like product online.

Other examples of emerging video technology can be found with this On2 Truemotion Flash video on DVDlabs, or this Apple h.264 video from Japanese visual artist Takagi Masakatsu.

If you have trouble viewing these videos on a PC consider upgrading to Windows Media Player 11 beta2, or the very useful Media Player Classic. Upgrading your video card and display drivers usually fixes most problems.

(Links courtesy of Digg).

Low-res hockey videos are taking off as well. Google's recent purchase of video giant Youtube overshadows a number of smaller players using social media features and flash technology to percolate clips to everyone from college students to technology-savvy retirees. These include: Google Video, Blip.tv, Yahoo Video, Jumpcut, Veoh, Eyespot, Vimeo, Ourmedia, and Motionbox among others.

The quality of videos posted on these sites can range from low hand-held offerings, to high quality productions using television clips and non-authorized copyrighted music. The latter video, heretofore to be known as the "boom video", was even popular with the NHL front office according to NewsWeek's Nick Summers.

"Viral," of course, is another word for "cheap," and the struggling league is grateful for any attention it can get. That means embracing sites that it might have winged cease-and-desist letters at not too long ago. Blogs like HockeyBuzz, OffWing and Kukla's Korner do an impressive amount of original reporting, but they also host videos that technically belong to someone else.

When they cause real sensations, however, the league will look the other way. (One reel of jaw-droppers by rookie phenom Alexander Ovechkin, set to a thumping Chemical Brothers soundtrack, is referred to around league HQ as simply "the 'Boom' video.") And bloggers are only getting more important: in at least five stadiums, you'll find them credentialed for the press box, typing away next to their dwindling peers.

The league needs to balance its copyright, exclusivity and trademark concerns with fair-use rights that hinge on: purpose and character of use (commercial or news related), nature of the copyrighted work, amount and substantiality of the portion used, and the effect of the use upon the potential market.

The effect of each of these uses on a blog may be minimal in most cases, but the viral marketing impact online is open-ended. One example: After Sharks enforcer Scott Parker lept over the glass to confront Washington's Brendan Witt, a video ripped by another was posted by this blog on YouTube. It was widely available at multiple locations. After 3 days, the single post from this blog received 8500 views. An email was sent to FSN Bay Area asking for permission to keep the video online, which was denied. Even though the nature of the video, and the nature of the story itself far exceeded hockey alone as a news item, the clip was removed in good faith.

Other hockey videos on YouTube have received significantly higher audiences: Edmonton Fans sing O Canada [300,311], Boom Video [109,564], Campbell vs Umberger hit [74,255]. This Google hockey fight video was seen 1,411,820 times. All of these clips are available in multiple locations, on multilple platforms. The statistics here are for individual postings.

As other sports writers take one look at NHL television ratings and mail-in yet another column filled with well-worn taunts and criticisms, other more pertinent questions remain for those willing to take a deeper look. How large is the U.S. audience for Comcast and Yahoo video streams? (Versus claims a television reach of 70 million, up from last year) Will the NHL adopt any of the new high quality online video technologies, and will it have the same impact touted for HDTV and television? Will the NHL begin to work with established bloggers, podcasters, or video bloggers when other coverage is decreasing? Will the Boston Bruins win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime?

Time will tell.

[Update] NHL still isn't must-see TV for Americans Fox Sports.

In the end, professional ice hockey isn't a TV-friendly product, and the vast majority of its players represent a faceless lot. This is an impossible sell to an American public.

This latest hit piece comes from "award-winning" author Ian O'Connor. There is very little of substance offered up to respond to. Now that he mentions it, this is an award-winning blog too.

[Update2] Blogger was down several times this week. A few posts were eaten and not re-written. My apologies.

[Update3] Stay tuned for Islanders TV - NY Newsday.

Bernstein heads a four-person staff that travels with the team gathering material that is updated each day. Friday's offerings included 8 1/2 minutes of locker- room reaction after the defeat in Phoenix (in which team cameras did a lot of listening in on interviews conducted by Newsday's Greg Logan). There also was extensive video from both Thursday's and Friday's practices, complete with commentary from the team's radio announcers.

For now, the "station" is available (at no cost) only to season subscribers. But within the next month or two, the team plans to offer it to anyone with a broadband connection for a yet- to-be-decided fee. It remains to be seen how many people care enough to pay, but that is part of the experiment.

Puck Update has more:

This is pretty scary: Islanders TV. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it seems to be a web-based TV station that's all Isles, all the time. Great content like video of ice girl tryouts and players watching movies at home. Right now, this is free for season ticket subscribers, but the plan is to roll it out as a fee-based service. Obviously, it's tempting to say it's the craziest thing you've ever heard, but then you remember the 15-year contract to goalie Rick DiPietro and the idea of Islanders TV seems downright solid and sane.

And I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm not pitching I-TV a semi-reality show featuring me and GM/backup goalie Garth Snow in a bowling league with Islanders great Mike Bossy, where we constantly give Snow advice on doing his job. Of course, it'll be called "Who's the Bossy?"

My time is up. You've been great.


Thoughts on the frustrating loss in Edmonton

- Where was the forecheck five-on-five? Thornton, Cheechoo, and Smith pursued the puck hard and were rewarded with prime scoring chances, however the second line was very quiet. Mostly because of the lack of effort on the forecheck.

- Where was the cycle? The Sharks completely lacked puck possession in this game. The Sharks scored four times but they were on quick plays that where started by Jonathan Cheechoo or Joe Thornton. The second line could have dominated this game by cycling the puck down low, but instead they looked sloppy. They need to do more tonight against Vancouver.

- Do not fault the 6-4 loss to Edmonton on Nabokov. He played very well early in the game, and the fluke goals late(screens, tips) can not be blamed on the goaltender. The defense was often caught running around in their own zone, and it ended up costing the Sharks. San Jose was on the ice for far too long on many of the goals, which lead to prime scoring chances that Nabokov could not do much about.

Nabokov gave the team a chance to win late with a big breakaway save on Steve Staios. On the plays were he did not look good, when he lost the puck and Smyth easily tapped it in, or on Ales Hemsky's breakaway, they were more a result of defensive breakdowns than goaltending.

- It was good to see Cheechoo rewarded with the natural hat-trick. He has been working hard and buzzing around the puck this season. Against Edmonton he finally got the biscuit in the basket.

- Thornton also played well. He came to play and almost carried the Sharks to a win. Beyond his beautiful passes, his physical game stood out. He challenged Torres after he went after Cheechoo.

- Goc, Clowe, and Rissmiller played well while Grier, Brown, Nieminen were idle and not as noticable. Goc was flying all night. Clowe dropped the gloves, and threw a huge hit on Torres. Rissmiller had his best night of the year. They should be rewarded with more ice time on Friday night. The three developed chemistry in Cleveland, and the unit looks good together.

- This loss can quickly be erased from my memory if the San Jose comes out against Vancouver and lay a big smack down on them. If they come out flat and loose, well, it will be a very bitter weekend.


Local colleges kick off 2006-07 hockey season

Stanford Hockey

Stanford University opens the hockey season Saturday, October 21st with a home game against central valley rival UC Davis. Captain Taku Ide from Hyogo, Japan, and 6-4, 210 pound goaltender John Straigis will try to lead the Cardinals to a Pac-8 final, and a berth in the ACHA D2 regional tournament.

The "Big Freeze" home-at-home series with Cal on November 30th-December 1st, and on January 26-27th are highlights of the preliminary schedule.

University California Berkeley hockey

The Cal Bears hockey club will have to rebound this season after losing its top scoring line of Amir Moazeni, Chris Moulton, and Sean Haq.

At San Jose State on September 20th, Cal jumped out to a 4-3 first period lead before eventually surrendering 5 third period goals and losing 9-5. Mike Carcerano, Steve Polchinski, Nick Matzke, Mike Fina, and Aaron Lim scored for Berkeley.

The University of Oregon travels to Berkeley Iceland for 2-game homestand this Friday and Saturday.

San Jose State Hockey

Last year's overall #1 seed in the West Division, San Jose State, also lost a number of veterans, including captain Ray Kellam. The Spartans return this season with solid goaltending in senior Ryan Lowe [2-1], and San Jose native Devon Luna [1-0]. Last season's leading scorer Sean Scarbrough also returns, in addition to centers Mason Nave and Kelly Spain, and senior defenseman Andy Whiteside and captain Adam Smith-Toomey.

The Spartans are 3-1 this season, with a 9-5 win at home against Cal Berkeley, 5-4 and 7-1 wins over USC at Disney Ice in Anaheim, and a 5-2 loss on the strength of a 50-save performance by Long Beach State goaltender Mike Bergman. SJSU travels to New York in October for a 3 game stretch against Stony Brook, Wagner, and Siena colleges. SJSU also hits the road for two tough games against the University of Colorado and Colorado State in late January.

College radio station KSJS will stream selected hockey games online, and team photographer Don Hoekwater offers galleries of game photos for sale which help support the team.

The ACHA D2 West Regional Tournament is scheduled for Logan, Utah in February. The ACHA D2 National Tournament will be hosted by Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado from March 7-10th. For more information, stats, and a league schedule, visit the ACHA D2 website.


Boston College remains at #1 in USA Today/USA Hockey Men's College Hockey Poll

The latest USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll was released today.

Boston College Retains No. 1 Position on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups

Friday, Oct. 13
No. 4 North Dakota @ No. 2 Wisconsin

Saturday, Oct. 14
No. 4 North Dakota @ No. 2 Wisconsin

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Boston College held onto the No. 1 spot on this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll, receiving 19-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 495 points.

The University of Maine climbed four spots to No. 7 this week following a road victory at then-No. 2 University of Minnesota. Meanwhile, the University of Vermont debuted at No. 9 on the poll following victories over Colgate University and No. 10 Miami (Ohio) University at the Ice Breaker tournament in Oxford, Ohio.

For most teams, this weekend marks the start of the season with 44 games being played between Friday and Sunday.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #1 (Preseason)

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week's Ranking, 2006-07 Record, Weeks in Top-15)

1. Boston College, 495 (19), 1, 0-0-0, 2
2. U. of Wisconsin, 463 (15), 3, 1-0-1, 2
3. Michigan State U., 389, 4, 0-0-0, 2
4. U. of North Dakota, 378, 7, 2-0-0, 2
5. U. of Michigan, 346, 6, 0-0-0, 2
6. Boston U., 345, 5, 0-0-0, 2
7. U. of Maine, 331, 11, 1-0-0, 2
8. U. of Minnesota, 272, 2, 0-1-0, 2
9. U. of Vermont, 264, NR, 2-0-0, 1
10. Miami (Ohio) U., 160, 8, 1-1-0, 2
11. Harvard U., 130, 12, 0-0-0, 2
12. U. of Denver, 119, 9, 1-1-0, 2
13. U. of New Hampshire, 92, 10, 0-0-0, 2
14. Colorado College, 90, 13, 2-0-0, 2
15. Cornell U., 59, 15, 0-0-0, 2

Others receiving votes: Clarkson University, 44; St. Cloud State University, 39; Dartmouth College, 14; The Ohio State University, 10; University of Nebraska Omaha, 10; Mercyhurst College, 8; Colgate University, 6; University of Minnesota Duluth, 6; Providence College, 6; Bemidji State University, 4.

[Update] North Dakota taking NCAA to court over nickname - ESPN U.

State officials filed a lawsuit Friday against the NCAA to challenge its restrictions on the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the lawsuit, filed in Northeast Central District Court in Grand Forks, alleges a breach of contract by the NCAA, a breach of good faith and illegal restraint of trade.

Stenehjem said the lawsuit seeks to allow the University of North Dakota to use the nickname throughout the school year without being sanctioned in possible postseason play, along with unspecified money damages.

[Update2] Hockey in Rockies matures - Denver Post.

[Update3] INCH Power Rankings: The Great 58+1 - Inside College Hockey.

Another season is upon us and we won't limit our attention to those teams that some have anointed as the top 15 or top 20 teams in the nation. Whether it is near the top or near the bottom, each program faces unique circumstances.

There are plenty of challenges that lie ahead as we enter the 2006-07 season. As the Inside College Hockey editors and staff ranked the nation's top teams, we took a look at what might keep each team from reaching its potential.

Former San Jose State captain Ray Kellam plays first game in Spanish Hockey League

Spanish Hockey League

Ray Kellam emailed a few friends a recap of his first game in the Spanish Hockey League. Edited for posting.

Prior to the game I get there 2 hours early and immediately go to tape my stick. None of the sticks are there. The rest of the guys are milling around and no one seems to be too worried about the missing sticks. About a half hour later I start to get worried. I ask this one guy where the heck are the sticks? His response shocked me, "a la iglesia" Our team manager had scooped up every single stick (back ups too) and lugged them to the local church for a blessing of some sort. Never happend to me at state.

So it is game time. 20 minute warm up seems a bit much to me. It is like playing a whole period before the game. Finally game time. First shift, puck get dumped into the Villa Real (visiting team full of Czechs) corner. I go flying in North American style and make a pretty good hit on the defense men who scooped the puck up. He flipped it ahead right before i hit him and it bounced off his player who was getting forecheckd by my other winger and bounced right to me. I snapped my head around and found my center wide open in front of the net off the quick turnover and i fired him the puck moments before being decimated by the big Czech defensemen who abandoned the front of the net to go after me. Ernesto, my center scored!!

Third shift of the game: turnover in our own zone and our left winger scoops up the puck and chips it ahead to me on a semi breakway down the right side. Defensemen is skating fast and closing off my angle to the net. So i shoot a nice hard low slapshot from the faceoff circle which beats the goalie on the lower left side. I tried to do my patented squirrel super fast skate out to the defenseman at the blue line and jump on him but I was so excited I stumbled and lost all my momentum.

My whole trip to Spain was justified however when aggresively embrased by 3 Spaniards and one CCzech Rep guy (my left wing) in an intense celbration huddle, all of us yelling and cussing bad/happy things in spanish frantically (mine the worst gramatically speaking) and tapping helemts in a warm circle. The crowd began to chant an organized song I could not understand but I felt the energy of the whole situacion and understood the universal language of the ecstacy of a goal and the teamwork it took to make it happen...

Unfortunetly, Villa Real came storming back in the second with 2 unanswered goals. Then 2 more in the third. We lost 4-2. Our goalie was standing on his head and must have faced 55 shots. Our powerplay needs major help as we could not set up in the zone at all, we were 0-8 on the PP. (Seems like every team I have ever played on has had that problem.) VR was 3-10 on the PP. Lots and lots of penalties. Any kind of stick work and you are going to the box. Very frusterating. Lots of uncalled interference on the VR team. Anyways a magical experience and something I will never foget. We play FC Barcelona next week. (they are a part of the futbol club so they have the same jerseys sponsors and all that jazz.)

Good luck Ray. Last season my sister Michelle studied Spanish in Barcelona (after studying spanish in South America and Danish in Denmark), and sent a postcard from the "Nou Camp" stadium of Spanish soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona.

More on the San Jose State, Cal, and Stanford college seasons coming up tomorrow.


Stockton Thunder opens training camp with a number of new faces

ECHL Stockton Thunder

The ECHL Stockton Thunder opened their training camp on Friday with a number of new faces.

An affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL will bring in the 14th overall selection in the 2004 entry draft in goaltender Devan Dubnyk, in addition to forwards Liam Reddox, Troy Bodie, Tyler Spurgeon, and Patrick Murphy on a tryout contract.

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report said of Dubnyk prior to the draft:

Devan Dubnyk, from Kamloops in the WHL, is absolutely gigantic at 6-5, 190 pounds. He's gangly and plays a stand-up style with patience and an economy of motion, allowing the puck to come to him. But his rebound control and ability to read plays needs some work.

The 6-5, 182-pound Devan Dubnyk earned a 1-1-0 pre-season record with the Oilers including a 27 save shutout in a 5-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on September 17th. Dubnyk registered a 83-87-14 record in 5 years with the Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers, as well as suiting up for Canada's World Junior Championship team in 2005.

Defenseman Tim O'Connell also agreed to terms with the Stockton Thunder. The 6-4, 210-pound veteran defenseman was a 2-time NCAA champion with the University of North Dakota in 1997 and 2000. O'Connell joins returning veterans Mike Lalonde, Nathan Martz, Jeff Lang, and goaltender Jeff Weber.

Stockton was active in the free agent market picking up goaltender Cam Ellsworth, a former Greenville Grrrowl and Augusta Lynx netminder with a 22-10-2 record in 2005-06 (2.85GAA,.902SV%,35GP). Sharkspage favorite Steve Slonina, Brendon Hodge, Tim Verbeek, Beau Geisler, and Tyler Hanchuck were also added to the training camp roster.

Tryout players for the Thunder include Steve Driedger (D), Jordan Fox (RW), Kristjan Jenkins (RW), Patrick Murphy (LW), Kyle Sheen (RW), Gabe Yeung (D), and former Berkeley center Sean Haq.

Stockton opens the ECHL 2006-07 regular season on the road against the Bakersfield Condors on October 20th. The Thunder open at home October 28th against the Long Beach Ice Dogs.

The San Diego Gulls ceased operations after last season, but the ECHL introduces two returning franchises in the Cincinnati Cyclones and the Texas Wildcatters. The 4 returning Californian ECHL franchises (Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, Long Beach) will be joined by the Las Vegas Wranglers in the Pacific Division ("What happens in Vegas will stay in the Pacific Division this season"). Las Vegas posted a 53-13-6 record in 2005-06.

The Stockton Thunder have scheduled a fan fest for October 14th at 9AM-1PM. It starts with a morning practice, showcases a skills competition, a player meet and greet, and includes several other activities. For more information visit stocktonthunder.com.

[Update] Thunder opens camp with warning: be prepared - Stockton Record.

[Update2] Falcons Participate in Worcester's AHL Camp - FresnoFalcons.com.


Opening night Shark notes

Patrick Marleau

- Curtis Brown scored the game winning goal 2:12 into overtime after leading the forecheck in the St Louis defensive zone. Brown sprinted across the ice to challenge defenseman Barret Jackman for the puck along the boards. After sending the puck behind the net, Steve Bernier gained control and fed Carle for a shot on Manny Legace. Legace makes the save, but Brown lifted the puck over his glove hand for the overtime winner.

- Mark Bell's first goal as a San Jose Sharks came on a notable individual effort by Jonathan Cheechoo. Martin Rucinsky checked Cheechoo up against the glass as the puck squirted to Blues defenseman Eric Brewer. Cheechoo shakes off Rucinsky and poke checks the puck. Joe Thornton gathers the puck as Bell and Cheechoo sprint forward on either side, only defenseman Bryce Salvador is back facing a 3-on-1. Thornton dishes his puck to Cheechoo who fires it cross-ice to Bell for a tap-in goal.

- Monday before the game opener, Blues forward Doug Weight flew to Raleigh to receive his championship ring and see his named engraved on the Stanley Cup. Carolina raised their Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters Wednesday during a game with Buffalo.

- Manny Legace finished the game allowing 5 goals on 35 shots, but the scoreboard does not accurately reflect his debut for St Louis. Legace is a smaller goaltender at 5-9, 162 pounds, but he uses his speed and reflexes to put himself in the best position to make saves. Two of the goals scored against him came on 5-on-3's, and another after a defensive breakdown lead to a 3-on-1. Legace will not give up on plays, but the defense in front of him will not give him a lot of support over 82 games.

- 6 foot 1, 220-pound right wing Mike Grier makes the third line for San Jose. He creates room for Nieminen and Brown, two players who will control the puck with open ice. The broadcasters noted a pre-game comment by coach Ron Wilson that he was looking for Curtis Brown to find his offensive game this year. Look for Cubro to have a break out year, and possibly surpass his point totals of the last two seasons.

- What happened to Sharktober?

- Marc-Edouard Vlasic played in his first NHL game on Thursday. Not only was he out on the ice for 15+ minutes five-on-five, but he logged 2:09 on the power play, and 2:48 on the penalty kill (including a 5-on-3). Vlasic finished +1, with 3 shots on goal.

- Although the Blues came out firing, more troubling for San Jose was the fact that the Sharks were unable to hold on to a lead at the end of the game. The Sharks are strong up front and in goal, but defense will be a concern throughout the season. San Jose will be able to generate offense from the blueline, but they are taking a chance on skilled younger defenseman who may or may not be able to consistently play a mistake free game over 60 minutes. The more game time Carle, Vlasic, and Gorges receive, the faster they will mature.

- First power play unit: Mark Bell, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle. A later power play unit: Steve Bernier, Milan Michalek, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo. Note from radio broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky, the Sharks recent trade of right-handed shooting defenseman Tom Preissing and Jim Fahey lead to experimenting with right-handed shooting Jonathan Cheechoo at the point on the power play.

- The 5-4 overtime win over St Louis was the first "Black Thursday" at HP Pavilion.

- First opening night win since 1999-2000 (5-3 over Calgary), 3-9-3 overall. - Milan Michalek lead NHL pre-season goal scoring with 7 goals. With two goals scored against St Louis, Michalek is tied with 20 others for the regular season goal scoring lead with 2.

- Marty McSorley was thrown a few curveballs during his first game as a television color analyst: St Louis scoring 36 seconds into the game, Jonathan Cheechoo puncturing the boards with his skate causing a 15 minute delay, referee Rob Martell catching a puck to the eye and having to leave the game, two in game goal reviews by video officials, , back-to-back 5-on-3 powerplays, a highlight package of his playing days, and Curtis Brown's overtime goal.

McSorely delivered analysis of Sharks players, broke down game situations on the ice, and delivered personal stories from his playing days uring the breaks in play. He talked about the delays early in his career coming from a few players having differences on the ice, he talked about what the Hart Trophy meant to a player and noticed that Gretzky's name etched on the trophy up and down, and he talked about Boston fans adding a little color to the game from the sidelines (Hey Marty, we named a town after you. Marty Marblehead).

- The St Louis Blues selected 6'4", 222-pound defenseman Erik Johnson first overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Johnson, who will play this season for the Minnesota Gophers, will become the first person to play college hockey after being drafted first overall. Minnesota opens the 2006 season today against Maine.

- Two new Sharks salvage opener Brown, Bell spark overtime victory - SF Chronicle.

- Sharks Open 2006-07 Season With Victory, Down Blues 5-4 OT SJsharks.com.

"I don't know what to say about the start, but the finish was good. We picked up where we left off after the delay. They played tough and their D was great. We didn’t forecheck enough on their D." - Joe Thornton

- The Mercury News delivered a game report from the home opener, an audio slideshow, a feature trying to manufacture a non-existing goaltending controversy, and a less than flattering blog post with the usual complaints about lack of fans.

My response to John Ryan's blog post is here:

Yes. We know about the ratings for hockey, we know of your concerns about the fan base. Find a new hook.

Toskala and Cheechoo came out cold, but McSorely’s observations were not that bad. He called Toskala competitive and able to keep the Sharks in games. Applicable when you are in a 5-4 shootout. Not as bad as Ray Ratto saying Toskala doesn’t work very hard in net.

I missed what he said about Bernier, but you have to admit a 230 pound power forward with a propensity for 360-spin-o-ramas and one-handed stick moves will catch a few peoples eyes.

Bernier was hot last year and in the playoffs, but Michalek is the one lighting it up now. He can stop fast enough to create 5-8 feet of space, he can stickhandle in a phone booth (aka my cubicle), and this year he appears determined to take it to the hole. The stutter step he threw while blowing by the Blues defenseman was insane. Marleau followed that by splitting two players and still getting a shot on goal.

Ratings are a problem, a large fan base is a problem, and a lack of people growing up playing the game is a problem. But also the overwhelmingly negative media coverage of the Sharks is a problem, except for the beat guys of course. If you need a sample, check the columns from opening day last season.

Peace. Go raiders.

- Blues open season with overtime loss to Sharks - ST Louis Post Dispatch.

- Sharks put Nolan Schaefer on waivers - TSN.

Sharks open season with win, early surprises around the NHL

It was not the prettiest win for the Sharks, but that is expected on opening night when anything can happen. Heck, the Chicago Blackhawks scored eight goals last night. San Jose can take positives away from the game, but there is also room for improvement as they look forward to Saturday's game against the Islanders. New York was pasted 6-3 last night by the Phoenix Coyotes.

Joe Thornton looks ready to go. Thornton is the best play making center in the league. Mark Bell played a solid game and showed why the Sharks acquired him in the off-season. Bell used his big frame adequately, played a two-way game, and put the Sharks ahead late in the third by joining an odd man rush. Cheechoo looked a bit out of sync, but a pass to Bell on a 3-on-1 was notable, as was the effort to create the turn over from Eric Brewer. The Bell-Thornton-Cheechoo line is scary good, and they produced offense on a night where they were not firing on all cylinders.

Patrick Marleau had trouble handling the puck, but he did have a rush late in the game where he tried to split the defense. That did not stop the second line from being dominant at times. Bernier looks stronger and laid out a Blues defenseman along the boards. Bernier looks good when driving the net with the puck, and he took advantage of superb puck protection to pick up two assists. Bernier has soft hands, and he makes a lot of little plays in tight spaces with players draped on top of him. The story of the second line continues to be Milan Michalek. Michalek is finally realizing he can control the play due to his size, speed, strength, hand skill, and hockey sense. Every goal he scores will boost the confidence of a player who may have a break out year for the Sharks.

The third and fourth lines did their job and then some last night. Goc looked much more assertive offensively. Mark Smith had a strong effort, Mike Grier played a solid game at both ends, Curtis Brownscored the game winner, used his speed, and was an asset at the face off circle. Ville Niemenen was a pest, used was able to get his shots on net. The only player that disappointed me was Patrick Rissmiller who was invisible.

Defensively it was a mixed bag, young studs Matt Carle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic where the best defenseman on the ice tonight, along with veteran Scott Hannan. Kyle McLaren had numerous brain cramps, including going down to block the shot instead of playing the body. One instance lead to Keith Tkachuck converting a late shot to tie the game. McLaren also took an ill advised cross checking penalty that gave the Blues momentum in the second period. Gorges looked nervous and should be questionable for the Islanders. Gorges was a culprit in both goals scored against in the first period. Ehrhoff did not do anything bad, but his upper body injury seems to have made him lose a bit of zip on his point shot, and he struggled with accuracy. Vlasic made several great plays, he makes the first pass out of the zone with ease, he blocks shots, plays in one-on-one situations well. Vlasic looks like the real deal. Matt Carle was an offensive gem last night, and looked more like the Hobey Baker award winner then last year. Carle has a rare feel for the offensive game. He is creative, instinctive and has huge upside that the Sharks should see come to fruitation this year.

Toskala struggled early allowing two easy goals within the first five minutes. Vesa rebounded with a huge 5-on-3 penalty kill to keep the Sharks tied going into the third period. The 3rd goal against was a deflection, and the 4th bounced off Scott Hannan's stick into the net. There was nothing Toskala could do there. Overall, tonight showed how mentally tough Vesa is, but at the same time he did keep the door open for Nabokov to take the bull by the horns in the next game.

Ron Wilson and his staff did a great job. I was impressed by the 5-on-3 power play with five forwards. The unit looks unstoppable in that situation.

Some thoughts about the NHL in general: Chicago should be thankful they have Martin Havlat, he is obviously the most skilled player to wear that jersey in quite a while. Who would have thought the Maple Leafs could defeat Ottawa 6-0 after looking horrid on opening night. This proves my theory that the Sens are weaker than everyone thought, and really lack depth this year. How about Marc-Andre Fleury last night? He has got to be one of the most entertaining goalies to watch in the league when he is on his game, amazing athleticism. And it was good to see Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby play with some zest and not back down from Peter Forsberg in a goalmouth scrum.


NHL Executives and Broadcasters hold media conference calls

The NHL public relations department held a conference call Tuesday with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Senior Executive VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, and Senior VP and Director of Officiating, Stephen Walkom.

A select transcript of the questions asked:

FRANK BROWN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this National Hockey League conference call featuring Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell and Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating, Stephen Walkom.

Before we get started, I want to cover some points of information that are new for 2006-07. We have a revision in game timing. All intermissions will be 17 minutes long, and all commercial breaks will be two minutes long, although the additional time is provided at the end of the break after the commercials to allow our broadcasters more time for storytelling and scene setting prior to puck drop.

There will also be a minimum of 40 seconds following each goal to allow our fans more time to celebrate and to allow our broadcasters more time to cover replays and analysis.

There also will be some new hand signals used by the referees for the infractions of butt-ending, checking from behind, clipping, and delay of game. I'm sure Stephen will describe them in more detail so the fans will be prepared when they see the signals used during the season.

I also would like to direct your attention to the NHL.com website which is completely redesigned, jam-packed with graphics, information, interactive features, and hockey content. I'll turn it over to Commissioner Bettman.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Good morning, everyone. Let me be the first to welcome you to the 2006-07 NHL season. The race for the playoffs starts tomorrow night. I know that every coach, general manager, and player is focused on the fact that, starting tomorrow night, every game matters. Last season, the 9th-, 10th-, 11th-place finishers in the Eastern Conference missed the playoffs by a total combined of 11 points. In the West, the 9th- and 10th-place finishers were a combined nine points out after 82 games.

Bear in mind that virtually every one of the teams that missed the playoffs last season made some moves either in terms of player personnel or front office personnel over the summer. It's going to be very interesting to see how these moves affect the balance of power in both conferences, so I, like you, cannot wait for the puck to drop.

We're also excited because we're coming off an extremely positive schedule of summer activities with our players. Some of the players joined us at the league meetings in Montréal, gave us their input. There's going to be a business marketing representative player on every club who is going to work with us on initiatives to increase exposure for the game.

We, as a League, are committed more than ever to getting focus on the game and on the players and all the great exploits that take place on the ice this season. Now that we've fixed our economics and energized the game with new rules and a standard of enforcement for officiating -- which will be maintained going forward, I promise you that -- we now have the opportunity to build on the momentum generated last season. And in partnership with our players, we are going to shine the spotlight on the game and the players better than ever before. We're looking for good things on television in the U.S. with Versus getting a more favorable schedule and with NBC a dding to its coverage. In Canada, our rightsholders are prepared to continue doing their outstanding work.

All in all, we raise the curtain on this season with a sense of optimism and genuine excitement. I'm not by any means saying everything is perfect. Even if it was, we would strive to exceed perfection. But with the competitive balance we enjoy and with the players able to show their speed, their skill, their grace, their phenomenal abilities, we're able to head into a season focused on the ice, and that's a great thing for this game.

Q. Steve, can you assess Ron MacLean's performance as a referee last week and whether the exercise was worthwhile? Bill, have any teams applied for long-term injury exemptions? If so, can you tell us which teams and which players are affected?

STEPHEN WALKOM: Ron MacLean, I'm not sure long-term what it will hold in terms of his thinking on the game. But at least he was exposed at ice level to the speed of an exhibition game, to the skill of the players at high speed. I think it was a bit of an eye-opener for him. Got him to maybe appreciate the guys that are out there digging in every night officiating games at the National Hockey League level, and how the new game needs four officials on the ice to make sure that there's coverage and that the guys are reacting to the fouls as they occur.

I think he enjoyed himself. He officiated amateur hockey growing up. I truly believe he'll have a new perspective on both officiating at the pro level and the speed of the new game from his experience.

BILL DALY: Actually, there have been no long-term injury filings at this point, but I wouldn't anticipate any until the clubs submit their opening day roster, which is set for 3 p.m. this afternoon as the deadline.

Q. Commissioner, what has been the feedback, say, from broadcasters, especially in the States, to the crackdown on obstruction? What is your personal feeling about how the game has changed from where it was before?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The feedback that we've gotten from virtually all of our business partners, especially and including our broadcasters both north and south of the 49th parallel, is that the product on the ice has never been better -- that everything we did last season seemed to work, seemed to energize the players, and, as important, our fans.

We thought and believe that the steps we took last year, that the efforts that Colie Campbell and his staff, the Competition Committee went through, actually worked the way we had intended. It's not that we were surprised, but we were obviously pleased because we had undertaken a massive job, and a lot of things could have gone wrong. But I think a lot of hard work went into making it all come together.

All of the research that we did during last season and over the summer in terms of fans' approval and satisfaction with what we did was astoundingly high. It was in the high 80 to 90% range of people approving the game on the ice, the shootouts, the various things that we had done.

I think on review this summer, that's why there weren't too many changes made. We had made a lot of changes. You don't want to keep doing that on a regular basis. It worked very well and was well-received.

Q. Commissioner, there have been some challenges recently, I guess you could say, in the L.A. market in terms of drop-off, media attention, the team missing the playoffs the last couple seasons. Is that something that concerns you from the standpoint of the market size, the importance of this market? Also, in general, what is the importance of having a solid franchise in the Los Angeles market?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, we actually believe we should have 30 solid franchises, and each franchise should be solid, well-supported in its market. So we don't play favorites. We don't root for markets. We'd like 30 healthy, competitive teams.

Ticket sales, if I'm not mistaken, over the summer are up both for the Ducks and the Kings. The attention we're getting is very strong. The fan feedback is very strong. The only place where I've detected a note of cutback is the L.A. Times, but that seems to be consistent with what the Times is going through with respect to budget cuts across the board, not just in hockey, not just in sports, but in other coverage as well.

The good news is that fans in terms of game stories have lots of places to get their information on an immediate basis and with video clips. We've been told by the sports editor of the L.A. Times that the other types of coverage, columnists and features will continue. So it's just really the game coverage that seems to be impacted by the L.A. Times. For those who read the L.A. Times and want to know what's happening immediately in the games, we recommend they go to NHL.com.

Q. Are you confident that this market is healthy as it should be or as healthy as it's been in recent years?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Absolutely. I'm not even sure why there's a question questioning it, although you're entitled to ask it. It's fair game. We have no concerns about either franchise in L.A. It's a great market. The teams are well-supported. We have terrific ownership of both franchises.

Q. Bill or Gary, in the first year of the new labor agreement, how many teams reported a profit across the league both before and after the revenue sharing distributions? How many of those teams were teams that reported losses in the 2003-04 season?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Most of our teams made money. We haven't done the final accounting, but I probably wouldn't give you the exact breakdown anyway. The teams that lost money lost far less than they did under the old system.

We believe that with the better competitive balance, with respect to how good the product is on the ice, the teams that lost money will continue to increase filling their buildings and will move towards breaking even and ultimately even profitability.

This agreement worked exactly as we had anticipated that it would, and we are very pleased with it. If anybody has any doubt as to the effectiveness of the salary cap, it worked so well, that's why we owe the players money, because we wound up underpaying on the 54%.

Q. Is there any way that you can quantify sort of the effect revenue sharing had on those figures? Were there a number of teams that moved from losses to profits because of those distributions?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: In some cases, that was the case. In other cases, the losses were dramatically reduced. Some teams received quite sizable or will receive quite sizable revenue sharing distributions. But in all respects, both the revenue sharing and the salary cap range, it worked as we expected it would. As importantly as the economics -- you know, I talked about this in my opening remarks. The competitiveness of the game, I think, what, 25 clubs either made the playoffs or within 10 points of making the playoffs. One of the things we hoped to accomplish, and we believe we did, giving our fans everywhere the hope and belief that each year their team can be competitive...

Q. Commissioner, to follow on the question out of L.A. in addition to the L.A. Times, there are other news organizations scaling back their coverage a little bit. Do you have a plan to try to bring everyone sort of back on board covering the NHL? And can you talk yet about the plans for the NHL store?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The first part of your question is, the traditional print media is going through an incredibly difficult time. There are budgetary cutbacks across the board. There are newspapers that are cutting back all sports. There are newspapers that are cutting back investigative journalism. They're cutting back their foreign and national coverage. While the columnists and the features will obviously remain important, the game stories become less important in a wired world where people can get their highlights and clips during the game, immediately after the game, so they're not necessarily waiting to read their game stories until the next morning. In fact, the people who wait till the next morning download clips onto their iPods and they watch them while they're going to work, with video, with commentary, the like. We offer that to our fans. We will continue to offer that to our fans. With respect to the demographics of our fans, our fans tend to be extremely tech-savvy. They're availing themselves of this new digital world.

Would I like everybody who had traditionally covered us to continue to cover us? Yeah. If this was five or 10 years ago, I would be more concerned about traditional print media game coverage. But this is a newly wired world. We will, and our fans will, adapt accordingly. I think it's really the newspapers that are going to have to spend time focusing on what their businesses are going to look like going forward.

With respect to the NHL store, you know, we would have preferred to launch it more formally after it had been constructed. We are taking more space in another office building two blocks south of where we are on Sixth Avenue, also known as the Avenue of the Americas. As part of that arrangement, taking a number of floors of office space, we're also taking ground floor space, which we think will be an incredible branding opportunity and experience for our fans. It will kind of make clear who lives in this building once we open the store.

We are very excited about it. I'm not getting specific right now in terms of the details. As the architects and the store designers finish their work more concretely, we will have more to say on the subject. We think it's a space that we can have a lot of fun with and that our fans will yet have another way to connect with us.

Q. Do you have a target for when you expect that to open?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: My guess is -- don't hold me to it -- probably sometime next summer. We're not scheduled to move till just before the start of the season a year from now. Construction in New York, in addition to being very expensive, is very fairly time consuming.

Q. Bill or Gary, just a question about the trade from New Jersey to San Jose, and the optics. I know it's a trade that individual teams can make. It seems to me a way for a team to get around a salary cap issue. Is there concern about that in the future, that other teams might kind of do similar kinds of deals?

BILL DALY: Obviously, as with any trade, we scrutinize the facts of every trade. This one was no different. Ultimately, at the end of the day, it's our responsibility to uphold the spirit and letter of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We consulted with the Players' Association on this. The bottom line was, in its form, it was a legitimate hockey trade with a trade of player rights and draft picks. It was not something we had any basis to object to or reject.

Q. I know the paperwork is fine. You have a retired player going one way and being paid by another team. Well, I guess we don't know that. Is there concern if this happens that other teams could have a higher payroll than what's on the ice?

BILL DALY: No. Again, first of all, Malakhov, while he is -- his current status is he's a suspended player. He has not formally or officially signed his voluntary retirement papers. As a result, he is not ineligible to play in the League. If he were, it may have been a different answer on the permissibility of the trade. But he is not getting paid. He's a suspended player. There is no cash changing hands. There is a cap charge related to his contract on the basis of him having been an over 35 player at the time he entered into his contract. But there is no payment being made to him.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I want to add briefly. Every trade, by necessity, has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Something that might pass sc rutiny on one set of circumstances, if you change some of the facts, might not. Secondly, to the extent that people have focused on Malakhov's situation, his contract, the cap requirements, the over-35 rule, New Jersey still had to part with a first-round draft pick to deal with this situation. So in terms of the issues that various rules were intended to deal with under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we think the consequences here were consistent with those rules.

Q. Steve, any special emphasis that we should start to watch for among the officials tomorrow night? Bill, do you anticipate everyone will be under the cap? If they don't make it, what happens? Do they forfeit games?

STEPHEN WALKOM: I think what you're going to see tomorrow night is much of the same from the continuation of last year. Our guys are excited and focused on the standard of enforcement coming off training camp. We understand that we're going to be expected as a team to be even more consistent, to be even better than last year. But at any point in the game, whatever the score is in the game, our guys, if they see a penalty, we are going to expect them to react to it.

I think what you're going to see and we're hoping for is conformity from the players, recognizing that they will be called for a foul if, in fact, they commit it. That doesn't mean that players won't play on the edge and that they won't be penalized when they cross over and tug or pull or poke or hook a player.

I think another area that you'll see this year is that if a player is pulled or tugged and he decides to embellish the foul, our guys have been instructed to penalize the embellishment as well. Further, we're hoping for some conformity in this area: that the players recognize that they don't have to embellish. That our guys will react to the foul when they see it. They can stay on their feet. They don't need to embellish. They don't need to dive for the officials on the ice to call a penalty game in and game out.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Before Bill answers, I want to add to one thing that Stephen said. I fully understood and accepted, for obvious reasons, all of the skepticism about our willingness, our ability, our commitment to maintain the standard last season. It seemed like we were defending that position every step of the way, from the post-Olympic stretch in the regular season to the playoffs.

While that skepticism may have been warranted last season, I think as we look back on last season, maybe it's time to cut the officiating department and our officials a little slack. You know, if they start to slip, call them out on it because we won't tolerate it, so you're not going to see them slip. But I think the skepticism should be put in the closet as part of last year and we should look forward to simply maintaining what we know is great for the game.

BILL DALY: The process of kind of cap compliance is really no different than the process of rule compliance every year. A club will submit its opening-day roster. If it's in violation, not just of the cap, but of any League rule, it's bounced back to them immediately. They have an obligation to cure it. Obviously, if they don't take curative action, we will start making curative action for them, giving them their options in terms of making curative action. There's no possibility you ever get to a situation where you get to opening night and a club is not in compliance with its cap.

Q. Colin, Frank was mentioning before the new rules of 17-minute intermissions, minimum delays after a goal is scored, this sort of thing. Is there a concern at all of taking some of the flow away from the game for the fans in the rink and the players because of longer pauses between action?

COLIN CAMPBELL: Yes, there is a concern. We're always concerned about the length of games. Three or four years ago I think our games were up to 2:30, 2:40. I don't think that's what the fans want to endure no matter how good the product is.

Over the years we've worked on a lot of things. The hurry-up faceoff/changes have really increased the flow of the game, along with the tag up off-side to reduce the number of off-side calls last year.

I don't know if that's the best thing for it. There's always a push and a pull for things. I'm not so sure that was the best hockey move to make. In the big picture, to keep the game flowing, I think it was something that was a feel-good thing for the fans to know that the game was going to flow.

We have to still tell stories to the fans at home during the game. In some regards we're moving too fast. The game was really flowing fast. I think you have to balance it out. We're conscious of that all the time. We're conscious of the game. Of course, we've added the shootouts. We've worked hard at making the shootouts flow quickly. How much can we flood the ice? How much can we scrape? How much can we make the fans and players sit there and wait for a scrape? We've gone through all that. The flow of the game is important from not only the respect of the fans watching it at home and in the arena, but also the players playing the game, to keep them in the game.

The NHL public relations office also held a media conference call with NHL broadcasters Eddie Olczyk from NBC, Harry Neale from CBC, Pierre McGuire from TSN, Judd Sirott from HD Net, and Dave Reid from the NHL Network in Canada.

A transcript of the questions asked:

JAMEY HORAN: Before we open up for questions, I would just ask each of the individuals to give a brief rundown of their first game, a quick analysis before we open up for questions. We'll start with Eddie Olczyk.

ED OLCZYK: Well, tomorrow night in Carolina, certainly is going to be exciting for the raising of the Stanley Cup banner in Carolina. I think first and foremost, that is the focal point of tomorrow night's game, and going back to last year against the Buffalo Sabres and the great series they had.

I think from that aspect of it, the excitement level to kick off the season is something real special. You look at the changes that have gone on because of the new NHL with contractual situations, players moving in and out, and both of these teams made a lot of changes from last year.

Whether it was the run to players from -- well, Mark Recchi and Doug Weight moving on or having to make moves, going to arbitration with Dumont, and walking away, losing McKee, Grier.

Both of these teams have made changes. You'll still see the foundation of both these teams tomorrow, and to see if Carolina can continue on and regain -- continue to start the season where they left off.

It's going to be a great night. We're looking forward to being a part of it. But I think the key factor is to be a part of the raising of the banner and enjoying that moment, because it was a great Eastern Conference final and also Stanley Cup final.

JAMEY HORAN: Thanks, Eddie. Harry, how about your first game on CBC?

HARRY NEALE: We're doing the Toronto at Ottawa game. It will be the second game of the season for both those teams, as they play tomorrow night in Toronto. Last year Ottawa dominated the eight-game series between the two teams. They played three times during the pre-season. Ottawa won two of them. Ottawa trying to get along without Chara and Havlat, although Havlat didn't play a lot last year. But they looked pretty strong to me in the three pre-season games I did. They've got good balance. They're going to score some goals. I think their defense is going to be fine.

I guess the question mark is -- although I don't know how big a question mark Gerber is after the season he had last year at Carolina.

For the Leafs, they have some injuries to start with. They didn't win any of their last three pre-season games. The last two against Detroit they played pretty close to the lineup they're going to use tomorrow night and Thursday in Ottawa.

It's always an interesting game when Toronto plays Ottawa because they played each other three times in the playoffs. Ottawa dominates the league games, Toronto wins the playoffs series. That's the way it's gone anyways.

I'm looking forward to a high-tempo game with some physical play. I know in Ottawa there's a reasonable number of Leaf fans that make it a noisy rink and always adds to the atmosphere.

JAMEY HORAN: Thanks, Harry. Pierre, TSN's coverage?

PIERRE McGUIRE: TSN will open up tomorrow night with Ottawa at Toronto. Gordon Miller and I will be working that game. Our late game will be Dallas at Colorado. That's a rematch of last year's first round playoff series where Colorado won 4-1, mostly because of Jose Theodore standing on his head.

Colorado is a team that's in flux. In consecutive years now they've lost Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, and Rob Blake. They need some of their younger players to step up like Wojtek Wolski, who last year in the Ontario Hockey League ha d 46 goals in 52 games. They also are going to need Marek Svatos, who had a phenomenal year before being injured: 32 goals in 61 games to really step up.

But the biggest question mark for the Colorado Avalanche, are they going to be able to get enough offense from players like Joe Sakic, and is Milan Hejduk going to be able to return to form? And can Joel Quenneville squeeze a lot out of a defense that has lost Rob Blake and Adam Foote in consecutive years.

As far as the Dallas Stars go, they quietly have two of the most under-appreciated players in the league in Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtenin. And everybody knows how great offensively Mike Modano is. Again, a resurgent Mike Modano is critically important for Dallas.

The big thing that Doug Armstrong did is he brought a little bit of size in in the off-season with Eric Lindros. If he can stay healthy and pain-free, as Harry can attest to last year in Toronto, when he was pain-free and healthy, he was a very effective scorer.

They need Lindros to step up. They've just acquired Mike Ribeiro from Montreal. I believe that Ribeiro will be better in Dallas, especially surrounded by bigger physical players like Brenden Morrow and Eric Lindros than he was in Montréal. So this is going to be a tremendous showdown.

Harry, you'll appreciate this being a former coach of the Whalers, as I was, a showdown between former Whalers. You've got on the Colorado bench Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett, former players in Hartford. It will be great.

JAMEY HORAN: Thanks a lot, Pierre.

Judd Sirott, HD Net. Do you want to talk about your first match-up?

JUDD SIROTT: We're going to be in Pittsburgh for an interstate rivalry. It's going to be the Flyers and the Penguins. Should be a great match-up. Peter Forsberg is back and healthy, and he makes all the difference when he's in the line for that team.

Philadelphia will sport a good top six in their forwards. On the back end, Derien Hatcher, Ken Hitchcock says, is back on his game. He's lost some weight and is looking for a resurgent season.

Antero Nittymaki is going to be out of the lineup, but they think a healthy Robert Esche can reestablish himself as the No. 1 goalie for Pittsburgh. Pardon me, for Philadelphia.

In Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby is in even better shape than he was last year. He is determined not to let the sophomore slump affect him whatsoever. The one downside is that we were hoping to see Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup. But with Malkin out of the lineup due to the bad shoulder, they're not expecting to see him here for a couple more weeks, although they haven't put a time table on it. He is skating with the team, but not going through any contact.

Still, there's another outstanding center on the roster in Jordan Staal. This team will have a good set of forwards on defense. They feel like they've added a little bit more with Mark Eaton. I don't know if it's enough.

In goal, that will be the big question mark: Will Marc-Andre Fleury be the No. 1 guy. There's been all sorts of talk. He has not had a very good pre-season. It could be Jocelyn Thibault who starts on opening night.

JAMEY HORAN: Last and certainly not least, Dave Reid, NHL Network in Canada. You guys have the Islanders at Anaheim. Talk about that match-up.

DAVE REID: The NHL Network is broadcasting a minimum of 34 games this year. First time we've done that. This is going to be our first game, Anaheim at 10:00 start. Of course, everybody is anxious to see if Niedermayer or Chris Pronger are going to get off the ice for Anaheim. They're going to have fantastic defense goaltending, solid. The time of the year, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have to set up as young players after an up-and-down first season, and of course see if Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald can bring back the magic from last year. So Anaheim, high expectations, and we're quite happy to start with them on the network.

New York Islanders, this is an out-of-conference game, so it's not going to be the huge rivalry that you're going to see with the interdivisional games. But the Islanders have got lots to prove. Rick DiPietro has lots to prove with his new contract, as well as Ted Nolan back in the NHL to see if he can get the likes of Alexei Yashin to pull his weight. Guys like Viktor Kozlov come along also to see how Brendan Witt is going to fit in, and Tom Poti on defense to see if they can shore up the defense.

We're quite excited to be able to show 34 games. We're very excited to start with the Islanders and Anaheim.

JAMEY HORAN: Great. Thanks a lot, gentlemen. Those are great reviews. We'll open it up for questions now.

Q. Pierre and Ed, could you take a look at the Central Division race this year, specifically if you think there's any chance that Nashville might topple Detroit in the race for first place there.

ED OLCZYK: I believe that this division this year, the central, has the opportunity to be determined from first to fifth probably in maybe a 12-point range. I think this division is going to be very, very close. I don't think there's going to be a runaway in this division.

I think that St. Louis, Chicago, and Columbus have all improved. I think Nashville has improved. The biggest fly in the ointment for me in Detroit is Dominik Hasek going back to Detroit. In my opinion, they've danced that song before. I don't know if that magic is going to be rekindled, and if Dominik Hasek can stay healthy for a long period of time.

There's no reason why the Nashville Predators can't overtake the Detroit Red Wings, but I really feel this division is going to be very close from start to finish.

PIERRE McGUIRE: I think this is probably the most improved division. That being said, I do think Nashville can catch Detroit. The major reason why, is Tomas Volkoun's health. If is as healthy as reports are, then he is going to be tremendous. I think he'll out goaltend Dominik Hasek or Chris Osgood or even Jimmy Howard, who is the third goaltender for Detroit who is playing in Grand Rapids in the American League right now.

But it's all about the defense for Nashville. A young player like Shea Weber made a huge impact. Getting Danny Hamhuis signed to a long-term deal is gigantic. Kimmo Timonen and Marek Zidlicky are two of the better puck-moving defensemen in the league. They're not going to spend a lot of time in their own zone. They're developing young players like Kevin Klein and Ryan Suter. It's a tremendous story down there.

The addition of Jason Arnott should help their 10th rated power-play. It's got to be in the top five if they're going to be ahead of Detroit, because Detroit has the top power-play in the league and probably will be back there again.

So it's critical for their power-play to improve from 10 into the top five. Their penalty killing can't slip out of the top five. If they're able to do those two things and keep their key players healthy, like a lot of teams, I think they'll pass Detroit.

But Chicago has improved. Columbus is going to be a lot better, especially if Nash stays well. And Zherdev is as competitive as he was a year ago. The addition of Carter is huge. That is a very, very dangerous division.

Q. John, on the increased times. The commercial time-outs are going to be two minutes now?

JOHN SHANNON: Yeah. What we've tried to do -- and this probably affects the network people probably less than the regional people, because most of the network contracts have always called for that kind of time.

But what we're trying to do is with the hurry up game, games that are running 2 hours 10, 2 hours and 11 minutes, we have to start developing the opportunity to grow the profiles of the players.

What we've been able to put in place with the great cooperation of Hockey Operations, and as a request from our rights holders across the board, is two minutes of commercials, but only 90 seconds of actual commercial time which will allow for nine opportunities per game to tell stories.

And then in the inter missions, we've done across the board for the 1284 games, 17-minute intermissions, which again will allow the broadcasters at both the national and regional level to be able to produce features and better content to profile the players.

Q. The commercial intermissions were 15 minutes in the past?

JOHN SHANNON: It depended. Again, on the regional basis, whether it's Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, or Montréal, on a regional basis they were 15 minutes. On a Saturday night with CBC or TSN, they were 17.

So what we've done is we've tried to make it a level playing field for everybody so that -- we have to realize that over a thousand of our games, with all due respect to the networks, a thousand of our games and our entry point to the games for many viewers is through our local shows. We have to start giving our local shows an opportunity to grow the players and tell better stories.

Q. So the national broadcasters had a 17-minute intermission?

JOHN SHANNON: For the most part, yeah. They did even way back when the dinosaurs ruled the world and I was running Hockey Night.

Q. The 40-second delay after a goal is scored, what has the situation been? JOHN SHANNON: It's funny. We actually did it as a trial run last year during the playoffs with the 40 seconds. Got little or no criticism or feedback from the teams or the people in the arena. Again, part of our process was to put it in place. The whole concept, you want to be able to explain why. Allowing people like Eddie and Harry and Pierre and Dave to explain why a goal was scored after the goal went in the net, it really makes some sense without having to worry whether we're in too much of a hurry up situation to drop the puck.

This was a great compromise. Broadcasters have the right to drop the puck before 40 if they've done their replays. We created a maximum of 40 seconds again to allow the broadcasters to explain why and who scored the goal.

Q. I thought somebody earlier today said it was a minimum of 40 seconds. JOHN SHANNON: Trust me, the negotiations were hard and heavy. The word is "maximum."

Q. Last year, approximately how many seconds was there between the goal being scored and the puck dropping?

JOHN SHANNON: You mean during the regular season?

Q. Yes.

JOHN SHANNON: It was probably between 33 and 38. We're not hedging too much. Again, if it allows us to get a third replay, a better close-up in, allows the viewers to understand the game a bit better, it's well worth it.

Q. Pierre, could you address the off-season moves made by the Blues, Martin Rucinsky, Bill Guerin, Manny Legace, and what's a realistic improvement for them this upcoming season?

PIERRE McGUIRE: They've improved tremendously. I'm not sure that's going to be good enough. They're a team that is going to have to hope that Keith Tkachuk can maintain that healthy attitude that he's had all camp long. I know John Davidson has been raving about his condition and also his commitment level.

You know, Legace is going to have to be as good or better than he was at different times in Detroit. But the problem is it's a different team. I love the addition of Jay McKee, but I'm a little concerned going into the season with his injury. But I think by and large, John has done a real nice job there, along with Larry, in adding people that will make their franchise better going forward.

What people don't really talk about are some of the young players, like Stempniak, who is going be to have a real good year again. I like the fact they have a kid, TJ Oshie who is coming along who is a tremendous player drafted by Teddy Hamson. So St. Louis is still one of those teams searching for an identity. It's going to be a while before they bail themselves out, but they'll be far more competitive than they were a year ago.

Q. I talked to Dallas Drake yesterday. He said the fact that they brought players in who have been around the block, like Rucinsky and a Guerin, that maybe they'll be able to compete sooner.

PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I would agree with Dallas on that. Martin was tremendous last year in New York, Martin Rucinsky. He was tremendous.

Obviously Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk go a long way back. Drake would be familiar with Dougie, as well. Eddie was talking about him leaving Carolina. He's right about that. I mean, there's some voids in Carolina because of the departure of guys like Waite and Recchi, and maybe Doug can bring some of that Stanley Cup experience over there.

But it's going to come down to how healthy can they stay on defense. It's a huge issue with that team. Because, you know, some of their better guys, like Brewer and McKee have been hurt before. So they've got to stay healthy back there, and Legace is going to have to be, as I said, as good or better than he was in Detroit.

JAMEY HORAN: I want to thank everyone for participating.


Opening night NHL double-header on Versus TV

NHL opening night on Versus

The NHL kicks off a new season tonight on Versus (formerly OLN) with a double header between a talented Buffalo Sabres squad and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes. The Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche face off in a Western Conference matchup at 7PM (pt).

The Toronto Star's Chris Young brought back the Blogger NHL roundtable for a second turn on his JABS blog. In a three part series (part1, part2, part3), Tom Luongo of Sabre Rattling, Lyle Richardson of Fox Sports and Spectors Hockey, Chris McMurtry of Hockey Country, and Globe and Mail staffer James Mirtle break down the NHL, with a focus on the Northeast Division. The consensus is that the Northeast is a two-team race between Ottawa and Buffalo.

For a tour around the league from a West Coast perspective, start with Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle, peruse the predictions of Victor Chi at the San Jose Mercury News, preview the Western Conference with Eric Stevens of the Los Angeles Times, or take note of Mike Heika's ominous writeup of Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars.

NHL game predictor - globesports.com.

Sagarin NHL ratings - USAtoday.com.

Art Ross, Hart, Maurice Richard, and Hobey Baker Trophies on display in San Jose

Joe Thornton - 2006 Hart and Art Ross Trophies

The Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, Maurice Richard Trophy, and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award will make appearances Thursday at the HP Pavilion concourse prior to the opening night home game against St Louis. The trophies will then be on display at the Sharks Foundation Autograph session Friday from 6-7:30PM. After that, they can be viewed at Stanley's restaurant and bar at Logitech Ice until 9PM.

More history on the award trophies is available from the NHL here. Jonathan Cheechoo's NHL video ad is available here. A "frozen moment" of the Sharks skating out of the Shark head was also posted on NHL.com here.


Sharks announce opening night roster

Marc-Edouard Vlasic

The San Jose Sharks announced their 2006-07 opening night roster earlier today:

3 - Doug Murray
4 - Kyle McLaren
5 - Rob Davison
6 - Josh Gorges
7 - Mark Bell
9 - Milan Michalek
10 - Christian Ehrhoff
11 - Marcel Goc
12 - Patrick Marleau
14 - Jonathan Cheechoo
15 - Ville Nieminen
16 - Mark Smith
18 - Matthew Carle
19 - Joe Thornton
20 - Evgeni Nabokov
22 - Scott Hannan
25 - Mike Grier
26 - Steve Bernier
27 - Scott Parker
34 - Patrick Rissmiller
35 - Vesa Toskala
37 - Curtis Brown
44 - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

29 - Ryane Clowe

Taylor Dakers (Kootenay) and Devin Setoguchi (Saskatoon) were assigned to their junior teams. Grant Stevenson was assigned to the AHL Worcester Sharks. Ryane Clowe was placed on the injured reserve.

Forward lines for opening night should be: Bell-Thornton-Cheechoo, Michalek-Marleau-Bernier, Nieminen-Brown-Grier, and Parker-Goc-Smith-Rissmiller. Defensive pairings will be posted after the first game, although Marc-Edouard Vlasic impressed enough during the rookie tournament, training camp and preseason to be one of 8 defenseman to make the roster (Hannan, McLaren, Ehrhoff, Carle, Gorges, Davison, Murray, Vlasic).

Matt Carle's Younger Brother David Impressing NHL Scouts

A preview of Matt Carle's younger brother David from a Mid-Western Elite League exhibition last week.

The Mid-Western Elite League is a great place for elite high school players from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota to develop their games over the summer. It has become a must-see event for scouts of all levels to evaluate the best high school players in the region. I was on assignment at the Kohl Center in Madison Wisconsin to check out the games last weekend. Looking around the rink I saw Mike Eaves of the Wisconsin Badgers, assistant coaches from North Dakota and Minnesota. I also saw two NHL scouts from the Washington Capitals, and the Ottawa Senators.

The Elite League was hosting a guest team for the weekend, the Shattuck St. Mary's Prep Boys. Among those on the team was the younger brother of San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle. David Carle is a 16-year old defenseman who recently played for Team USA at the U-18 World Championships. The younger Carle is not eligible until the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. My initial impression was that the Sharks should keep their eyes on the younger Carle.

It was easy to spot who Matt Carle's younger sibling was. David plays a similar style and shares the wide legged stride while keeping his chest upright, much like his older brother. David Carle's strengths are his vision, hockey sense, and puck movement. He is a swift skater, but lacks a powerful top end gear. Matt Carle learned to compensate for that with his extraordinary anticipation, although that part of his game did not blossom until his sophomore season at Denver. That was the year he truly emerged as a elite NHL prospect.

David Carle's build is similar to Matt's. He is listed at 5-10 180, but I expect him to play in the NHL around 6-0, 200 pounds. It is arguable at this stage whether David is better defensively than Matt. He is not as reckless offensively, even though he will jump in at times. David Carle is not caught up the ice as often. He also maintains one-on-one positioning with his man in his own zone, and overall just seems more instinctive defensively.

David Carle is skilled offensively but not at the level of his older brother. He does show potential. Carle's crisp passes on the outlet, and composure off the puck are exceptional qualities for a defenseman to have. He skates the puck up the ice with his head up and is calm with possession. Much like his older brother, David has a high panic threshold and makes solid decisions under pressure. Overall, David Carle is a superb two-way defenseman who excels at moving the puck.

I would not be surprised to see David go the USHL route next year, as Matt Carle did with the Omaha Lancers for his draft year. If this is the case, David Carle may draft higher than his brother, who was taken in the second round by the Sharks in 2003. David can be thankful of his pedigree much in the same way as Jordan and Marc Staal have to be appreciative of what Eric Staal accomplished to pave the way for them. David Carle is almost a lock to follow his brothers foot steps to the University of Denver in the fall of 2008.

The scout who was in attendance from the Washington Capitals shared an interesting nugget of information on David's draft status with me as long as I kept his name anonymous. "He looks just like his brother did at this age. A lot of teams missed out on Matt back in 2003 when a lot of scouts were a bit surprised by the pick at the time. But I don't expect David to slip through the cracks, most scouts agree at this point he looks like a first round talent and he will most definitely benefit from his older brothers success."

Watching David Carle play at this stage in his hockey career reminded me a lot of when I saw Matt Carle play for the USNTDP U-17 team at the NAHL showcase in 2002. Both players possesses the natural feel and sense for the game that can not be taught. Both have exceptional hands for young defenseman. I expect David Carle to follow in the footsteps of his older brother and emerge as a highly regarded prospect in the very near future. The Sharks would be wise to draft him when they get a chance in the summer of 2008. A pair of Carle's on the blueline would be a strength for any top six defensive rotation in the NHL in a few years.

[Update] NHL Preview: It's looking like Sharks vs. Ducks - San Francisco Chronicle.

[Update2] From penalty box to broadcast booth, Marty McSorely reborn as Sharks Analyst - San Jose Mercury News.


Boston College #1 in preseason USA Today/USA Men's College Hockey Poll

The preseason USA Today/USA College Hockey Poll was released today:

Boston College Selected as Preseason No. 1 in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups

Friday, Oct. 6
No. 11 Maine @ No. 2 Minnesota
No. 9 Denver @ No. 8 Miami

Saturday, Oct. 7
No. 9 Denver/No. 8 Miami
vs. No. 14 Colgate

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Following its sixth appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four in nine years, Boston College will enter the 2006-07 season with a preseason No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. The Eagles collected 478 points and 19-of-34 first-place votes to top the chart.

Last season, Boston College was one of seven teams to remain on the poll throughout the year. The Eagles finished as national runner-up after falling to the University of Wisconsin in the national title game.

Ranking just below Boston College on the poll is the University of Minnesota with 438 points and two first-place votes. Defending national champion Wisconsin placed third on the poll with 430 points and 11 first-place votes. Michigan State University (387) and Boston University (356) rounded out the top five.

The 2006-07 regular season begins this weekend with eight of the top-ten teams in action. Highlighting the weekend will be the Ice Breaker Tournament in Oxford, Ohio, where No. 8 Miami, No. 9 Denver and No. 14 Colgate will be participating in round-robin play.

NOTES: The Western Collegiate Hockey Association leads all conferences with five teams on the poll. The Hockey East Association has four teams, while both the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League has three teams on the poll... A total of 28 teams received votes.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #1 (Preseason)

(first-place votes in parentheses, 2005-06 Final Ranking, 2005-06 Final Record)

1. Boston College, 478 (19), 2, 26-13-3
2. U. of Minnesota, 438 (2), 8, 27-9-5
3. U. of Wisconsin, 430 (11), 1, 30-10-3
4. Michigan State U., 387, 6, 25-12-8
5. Boston U., 367 (2), 5, 26-10-4
6. U. of Michigan, 349, 12, 21-15-5
7. U. of North Dakota, 332, 3, 29-16-1
8. Miami (Ohio) U., 272, 9, 26-9-4
9. U. of Denver, 226, NR, 21-15-3
10. U. of New Hampshire, 162, 13, 20-13-7
11. U. of Maine, 140, 4, 28-12-2
12. Harvard U., 110, 10, 21-12-2
13. Colorado College, 77, 11, 24-16-2
14. Colgate U., 73, NR, 20-13-6
15. Cornell U., 55, 7, 22-9-4

Others receiving votes: The Ohio State University, 51; St. Cloud State University, 35; Dartmouth College, 15; Bemidji State University, 12; University of Minnesota Duluth, 12; University of Nebraska Omaha, 12; Northern Michigan University, 12; Mercyhurst College, 11; Clarkson University, 7; Providence College, 7; University of Vermont, 4; Ferris State University, 4; Holy Cross, 2.

The preseason Women's College Hockey Poll released on September 26th saw Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Minnesota take the top three spots. Full rankings for the Men are released every Monday and will be published on this blog. Full rankings for the Women are released every Tuesday and a link to the poll on USAhockey.com will be posted.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Fresh off its first national championship in school history, the University of Wisconsin today earned the top spot on the preseason USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women’s College Hockey Poll. The Badgers accumulated 189 points to top the University of New Hampshire (145) and last season’s national runner-up University of Minnesota (140).

Wisconsin earned all but one of the first-place votes in the preseason poll, with No. 4 Dartmouth College receiving the other. Last year's preseason No. 1 selection, St. Lawrence University, rounded out the top five.

[Update] Thirteen former Wolverines competing for NHL jobs - Mgoblue.com.

Korolyuk Chekhov Vityaz photo

Alexander Korolyuk Chekhov Vityaz

Photo of left wing Alexander Korolyuk with Chekhov Vityaz of the Russian Super League. Thanks to IAF for the link.


Sharks trade Korolyuk and Fahey to Devils for retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov and a conditional 1st round pick

Sharks trade Korolyuk and Fahey for Malakhov

A press release from the San Jose Sharks.

Sharks acquire conditional first round selection and Vladimir Malakhov from New Jersey for Jim Fahey and Alexander Korolyuk

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has acquired a conditional first round selection in the NHL Entry Draft and defenseman Vladimir Malakhov in exchange for defenseman Jim Fahey and right wing Alexander Korolyuk.

Malakhov, 38, has recorded 346 career regular season points (86-260=346) in 712 career NHL games played. In 75 career playoff games, he has recorded 27 points (8-19=27) and 64 penalty minutes. The 13-year veteran has played for the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

The six-foot-four, 230-pound native of Sverdlovsk, Russia was selected by the New York Islanders in the tenth round (191st overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.

Fahey, 27, appeared in 79 career games in three seasons for the Sharks, recording 24 points (1-23=24). The Playstation "Sharks Rookie of the Year" in 2003 appeared in two career playoff games and did not record a point.

The six-foot, 200-pound native of Boston, Massachusetts was selected by San Jose in the eighth round (212th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

Korolyuk, 30, recorded 142 points (62-80=142) in 296 regular season games in six seasons with the Sharks. Appearing in 34 playoff games for the Sharks, he has spent the last three seasons playing in Russia splitting his time between Voskresensk Khimik and Chekhov Vityaz.

The five-foot-nine, 190-pound native of Moscow, Russia was selected by San Jose in the sixth round (141st overall) of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft.

"Acquiring an extra first round selection in the NHL Entry Draft puts our organization in a position of strength," stated Wilson. "We also would like to thank both Jim and Alexander for their contributions here and wish them the best of luck in the future."

Fox Sports details the pressure New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello faced in order bring the team in under the $44 million NHL salary cap: Devils trade Malakhov, pick to Sharks.

TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) - The New Jersey Devils made a major move to get under the NHL salary cap on Sunday by sending suspended defenseman Vladimir Malakhov and a conditional first-round draft pick to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Jim Fahey and the rights to left wing Alexander Korolyuk.

The deal will save the Devils $3.6 million on their cap — Malakhov's salary — and it probably won't cost New Jersey much because Korolyuk will play in Russia again this season and Fahey might not make the roster. With the NHL season scheduled to open this week, Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello has been desperate to make some moves to get under the NHL's $44 million salary cap.

Alexander Korolyuk

Enigmatic left wing Alexander Korolyuk (5-9, 190 pounds) may be the unknown quantity in this trade. Prior to the start of the season, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson told KGO's Ronn Owens:

Alex has decided to stay and play in Russia another season. We wish him all the best. We made some changes to our lineup, bringing in Mark Bell, Mike Grier and Curtis Brown that right now if Alex decided to change his mind, I am not sure we would have room for him on our team, even though he is as good a player as he is. We decided to go in a different direction.

Korolyuk has left the Sharks twice to play in Russia. After his return from Russia in 2003-04, Korolyuk assumed a role on the penalty kill and on the second power play unit. He was labeled twice by coach Ron Wilson as the best player on the ice a first round playoff series win over St Louis. In 2005, even Korolyuk's agent Brian Lawton had trouble getting in touch with his client prior to the start of the season. His status was unknown for some time.

In 2002, Korolyuk was a member of the successful Doghouse Line along with Teemu Selanne and Patrick Marleau.

Korolyuk is an offensive threat with the puck, able to stop and start on a dime. He added a hard nose tenacity to his game, where he would use his stick and his speed to challenge opponents minimizing the effect of his smaller stature. According to hockeydb.com, Korolyuk has a goal and an assist in three games played for Chekhov Vityaz of the Russian Super League this season. In 2005-06 Korolyuk scored 19 goals and 15 assists in 25 games for Vityaz. Wikipedia notes that Chekhov Vityaz won the Russian High League title in 2005, and was promoted to the top Russian division for the next season.

More from last season: Alexander Korolyuk please phone home.

Jim Fahey is a 6 foot, 205 pound defenseman from Boston, Massachusetts with a well rounded game and offensive upside. With the San Jose Sharks he faced a numbers game. He earned 13 power play assists to lead all Sharks defenseman in 2003, a figure that was 1st among all NHL rookies. Fahey never moved off the bubble for the 2004 and 2006 seasons. Josh Gorges, Rob Davison, Doug Murray and Jim Fahey competed for 2 available defensive positions, and Fahey could not deliver a consistent enough defensive game that would have earned him more starts. Fahey could earn a sixth defensive spot for the Devils, or he could return to the AHL where he was an assistant captain for the Cleveland Barons in 2004-05.

From the always ebullient blogger/newspaperman James Mirtle:

Now, we've seen all kinds of silliness under this new CBA, including a player retiring to become a GM and then still having to deal with his own salary under the cap, but what we haven't seen was a trade involving two players who have no intention of playing this season. Vladimir Malakhov has said his knees have reached the point of no return, and Alex Korolyuk is just as pleased as punch to be in Russia.

One's retired, the other's in Siberia.

So, discounting the players in the deal who could, essentially, just represent their allotments under the cap (with Malakhov being 'a lot' and Korolyuk being 'zilch'), what are we left with? A conditional first-round pick goes to the Sharks in exchange for Jim Fahey, a quality AHL defenceman if I ever saw one.

After months of pundits musing on what, exactly, wily old Lou Lamoriello was going to do, we finally have our answer: find the loophole. It was a costly loophole, but a loophole nonetheless.

And now it's only a matter of time before we see teams swap deceased players.

This will also foment a few weeks of hockey discussion from the Bay Area media and fans. With the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders circling the drain, and the Golden State Warriors plotting ways to be out of contention before the halfway mark, local media may take an interest and break down one of the favorite teams in the Western Conference.

[Update] Malakhov won't return - New Jersey Star Ledger.

Vladimir Malakhov's name is on the Devils' preseason roster and he has an entry in their training camp guide, but the retired defenseman claims he had no idea he was even invited to return to the club he left suddenly and unexpectedly last December.

Interviewed by the Russian newspaper Sport Express last week in Miami, Fla., Malakhov said he never had any intention of reporting to the Devils when training camp opened Sept. 14 and is happy to give up his $3.6 million salary this season rather than return to what he called "this whole New Jersey mess."

General manager Lou Lamoriello said he hoped Malakhov would be in camp, but the 38-year-old skater insists he was never asked.

"That's news to me," Malakhov told Igor Larin of Sport Express. "In any case, I have not received anything, and nobody from the team has called me in a long, long time. Everyone is looking for me on the ice in New Jersey, but in reality I am playing tennis in Miami at the present moment. The theory of my disappearance was conjured up by American journalists or by someone from the Devils."

[Update2] From Devil's Due on today's trade:

New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello dealt retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov-- or, to be more specific, the $3.6 million that he counts against the salary cap-- and a conditional first-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft in exchange for left wing Alexander Korolyuk and defenceman Jim Fahey from the San Jose Sharks (TSN).

From HockeyAnalysis.com, assuming that Korolyuk and Fahey are not signed (which they won't be), the Devils will be at $40.663 million, leaving them $3.337 million to pay Gionta, Hale, Martin, Clemmensen, and Rasmussen. Meanwhile, San Jose is still around $3.358 under their salary cap.

[Update3] Milan Michalek Leading NHL In Preseason Scoring - SJsharks.com.

[Update4] Tom Gulitti of the New Jersey Record has the view of the trade from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly:

There was some question as to whether Malakhov was eligible to be traded because he is not playing, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail Sunday that the league approved the trade because, "It was a broader deal with real hockey consideration involved on both sides." Daly also noted that there is "nothing that would preclude Malakhov coming back and playing for San Jose if he chooses to."

Thanks to Kukla's Korner for the link, and the pointer to the new NHL.com homepage.

[Update5] Victor Chi in the Mercury News added two points; Defenseman Jim Fahey had a chest injury in training camp, which kept him out of the preseason, and the condition of the 2007 or 2008 first round draft pick is whether or not the Devils make the playoffs this year.