Interview with Toronto Star deputy sports editor Chris Young

Toronto Star deputy sports editor and former JABS blogger Chris Young was kind enough to answer a few questions on sports journalism, blogs, NHL television broadcasts, and the quote machine that was Charles Oakley.

[Q] First, how long have you been working in journalism, and how long have you been with the Toronto Star?

[CY] I have been in journalism since 1979, and been at the Star since 1989 – although that is a bit misleading. I was also at the Star from 1983 to ’85 as a part-timer while I went to school. The current post I’m in, since the beginning of the new year, is assistant to sports editor Mike Simpson. Mike is the brain, and I am the guts – I put together the daily schedule, figure out who is doing what, and offer ideas and structure. Then we meet at 5pm and tear it apart, depending on how much space we have. And lately, that has been a battle. Unlike the web, we can't go on as long as we want. It is finite.

[Q] General question, the newspaper industry has been going through a very turbulent time. What are your thoughts on where the newspaper business is at, and how it will affect coverage of the NHL? What are some of the things newspapers or sports departments are getting right?

[CY] The newspaper business is really at a crossroads. The physical newspaper model no longer applies, either in terms of people's day-to-day lives, it is still there, but less and less in terms of time given to it, or more importantly, as a business. So advertising is down, circulation has flatlined, and the concentration of newspaper ownership has become more pronounced. The sooner we become web brands instead of print brands, the better chance we will have of surviving. But adaptation is a hard go.

As far as the NHL, well, you have seen, read, and blogged on how coverage has been cut back at major U.S. papers. At the Star, hockey and the Leafs remain number 1, even as our space is cut back due to some of the factors I mentioned above. That has not changed. I often think that if the shrinkage continues, we will end up with a two-page section, and it would be all Leafs. That is the way it is here. Montreal is the same, as it is in probably every Canadian NHL city.

[Q] I was a regular reader of your blog, Just Another Blog on Sports. What was your favorite post on JABS, and what received the most response negative or positive?

[CY] I liked the stuff I did live from the World Cup, because I was also writing columns for the print edition. It was fascinating, personally, to flip from the blog voice to the column-writing voice. It is all storytelling, only the platform changes. I wrote a column for a long time (1995-2002), but got tired of it and asked out. I liken it to being on a stage in a darkened auditorium, you can't see the audience, but you feel them. Doing a blog is more like inviting people into your living room for a chat. It is intimate and personal, and your own biases are much more transparent, or they should be.

As for negative and positive, well, I got both. When news breaks, and you offer up instant analysis, there is nothing like it. Driving back to Frankfurt from the Italy-Australia game and putting up a quick blog post en route on the controversial penalty, I thought it was a penalty but it was a very close call, it was mesmerizing to sit there and literally watch the comments come back. Even if blogs are not the most important and powerful in the collective sense, this was a rare moment where a single blog generated instant response. Negative and positive.

And thanks for reading JABS. It was a lot of fun to do. I wouldd like to go back there some day. I figure the name is mine to revive, and it is in the back of my mind to do just that.

[Q] What are your thoughts on blogs and the NHL? Is there another one in the works for the Star to go along with the one by Damien Cox? It seems Toronto lacks a general hockey blog that covers all of the local teams, not just the Maple Leafs. Atlanta is a team that covers everything hockey related in their market, and it seems to have had an effect with their audience. They just recently hosted a blogger night, inviting several local bloggers to cover the team.

[CY] The NHL is pretty well-covered by blogs, more and more, and with Dave Stubbs' Montreal Gazette blog, Habs Inside-Out, I think you are seeing more and more the mainstream media (I do hate that phrase almost as much as the MSM shorthand it usually gets) can produce good blogs.

I love Eric McErlain and James Mirtle. I think Alanah and Jes out west, and Tom Benjamin, really do good blogs. I am missing some, but I think the point is made. The NHL blogosphere is pretty good, and perhaps that is partly due to those U.S. markets we talked about opting out of coverage. Where there is a vacuum, something is sure to follow.

I did not know that about Atlanta, great idea. I am going to steal that. JABS was actually preceded at the Star site by The Hockey Page, which was envisioned to be a general hockey blog, and was for a while. It proved to be too hard to keep both going when JABS started up. The Hockey Page was supposed to be a group blog, but the problem was getting a group within the newsroom. Spencer Walsh and I ran it for a while, but it simply ran out of steam. You are right. There is a void here in Toronto, and for a place that fancies itself as the hockey center of the universe, that is a big hole.

[Q] After repeated urgings on your blog, I have been studying up on Don Carman's 37 stock answers to baseball reporter's questions. I think if you are going to talk about baseball in the Bay Area, you have to include a Barry Bonds-ism for #38 (no comment). Describe the problems reporters have when trying to pull interesting, informative or inflamatory quotes out of a hockey locker room.

[CY] I have done enough of it to conclude with some authority that nothing is more overrated and overdone than the locker-room quote. I consider myself pretty normal, though, and I never went into a locker room looking for an "inflammatory quote". Just something interesting. It rarely happens, and the higher you get up the pro sports food chain, the more pronounced that becomes.

Example: I covered the Dallas-Colorado western final In 1999, and having been in Toronto I had grown used to monosyllabic answers to ordinary questions that you had to wait around for nearly an hour to be granted the privilege of an audience. But in Dallas, a fledgling market at the time, players were PROVIDED TO ME on my request, at the media hotel. Even the Avalanche, with some success under their belt, were not quite so accommodating, relatively speaking, they were haughty. The whole issue of availability of players and coaches has become so tightly managed, and media savvy and spin control is so common that the ace in the hole of the accredited media, the access, is vastly overrated.

[Q] Who was the best quote in Toronto?

[CY] Charles Oakley. "Pimpin' ain't easy. Ho's gotta work."

Best quote machine. Ever. Oak was honest, and incomprehensible. The best combination if you are writing a column.

[Q] I am not sure about Canada, but here in the U.S. when non-hockey reporters cover the NHL they almost exclusively focus on television ratings. Two questions. One, why can't television networks get the experience of sitting in the front row up against the glass to translate onto a television broadcast? And two, what can American networks learn about broadcasting the game from Canadian ones?

[CY] The one thing that struck me, going from being a sports fan to being a sports reporter, was how different it was seeing the games with my own eyes, instead of through the filters of TV. I don't know how you relate that. It is much rawer live, much more real. I think it is impossible to convey that. A sport like football looks so controlled and rational on TV, up close, on the sideline, it is complete chaos. So I think looking at HD as a solution to the NHL's TV ratings predicament in the States is a bit of a chimera. It is like that line about jazz, either you get it or you don't. Here in Canada, where we become accustomed to ice at a very young age, we get it.

As for the second question, if I was an American network truly interested in putting a good product on TV, I would do what America has always done, buy the best. Just buy HNIC's best cameramen. Sadly, though, I do not think it would make a bit of difference to those ratings.

[Q] The Toronto Star recently published a feature on Toronto Maple Leafs team photographer Graig Abel, what was your favorite photo?

[CY] When I was a kid, up on my wall, I clipped out a shot of Mike Walton scoring his third goal of the game against Eddie Johnston of the Bruins. I still remember it. Walton on one knee, Johnston down. So that has gotta be the favorite, along with Dryden leaning on his stick.

[Q] What are the latest trade rumors coming out of Toronto, where most of them seem to originate?

[CY] I pay no attention to trade rumours, they are the empty calories of sports coverage. Easy to make up, instantly digestible, no nutritional value at all. The trades that get made are the ones you hardly hear of. My own take, as I have said before, access is overrated.

Challenging questions was the phrase I was aiming for. Many thanks go out to Chris Young for taking the time to answer questions after a long day at work.

After writing this post on the declining NHL coverage by the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times, I wanted to try to follow up with a few different sports departments and focus on the positives. With the Washington Post and the New York Times, the coverage of the NHL has improved dramatically.

Blog photo/audio YouTube highlight video

This is not a glamorous audio/photo gallery, just a proof of concept idea using photos and audio from Tuesday's Sharks-Stars game and outputting them to YouTube.

These digital photos were taken from the press box, and the audio was taken from the press box and the locker room. Sound was edited with Sound Forge, photos were batch edited with Adobe Photoshop, and transitions were added in Windows Movie Maker.

A microphone would improve sound quality, and a mini-videocam would make it easy to drop in video. A Mercury News photographer a few weeks ago mentioned what software they use to create multimedia clips, which I forgot, but this lo-fi option works well too.

[Update] I recently pointed a host who is interested in starting a new hockey radio show to the audio archive at thehockey.net. Peter Steen interviewed upwards of 400 players over a 4 year span, with an affable and informative style.

Dallas Stars tie game with 2.2 seconds left in regulation, then dispatch Sharks in shootout

San Jose Sharks Marc Edouard Vlasic
Joe Pavelski

The Sharks 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion on Tuesday night was troubling. It can be put into context as 1 game out of 82, learn from your mistakes and move on. Or this loss can be taken as a symbol of problems that have plagued this team going back to brutal playoff series losses to Calgary and Edmonton.

A belated mid-season progress report:

In the mid-season progress report that I failed to write, I was going to point to the columns written at the halfway point by David Pollak of the Mercury News, and Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle. Both mentioned pre-season moves to address problems with penalty killing and faceoffs, and in both areas the Sharks have improved. But the Sharks are still lacking something that is harder to define, intangibles.

The entire 2006-07 regular season for San Jose is a prelude to the playoffs. Have the Sharks fixed the problems that lead to 4 straight losses to Edmonton in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2006, or the 3 straight home losses to Calgary in the Western Conference Finals in 2004? In both series, the Sharks were outworked and outhustled by argueably less talented teams.

What the Sharks lacked was not another veteran defenseman, or a sniper acquired at the deadline. What they lacked was leadership at the top, and a desire to do whatever it takes to win up and down the lineup. Dwayne Roloson, irritating as he was, battled with the refs after every stoppage of play trying to gain an advantage, hacked and chopped players in front of the net, and flopped to draw penalties. Ville Nieminen and Marcus Nilson physically abused the Sharks for Calgary, and it was late addition Jason Marshall who finally stepped up and addressed the problem.

It may be arbitrary to pick a random game out of the regular season and give it more significance than it actually has, but the Dallas Stars are the team directly behind the Sharks in the division. Dallas also knocked San Jose out of the playoffs in 1998 and 2000. The Sharks folded on Tuesday night, and it was obvious to anyone who watched the game. This lineup needs to play with more passion and intensity on a nightly basis in order to be successful when it matters most.

Remaining games against Anaheim, Detroit, Dallas, and Nashville are heretofore going to be treated by this blog as playoff games. Performances on the ice are going to be judged accordingly.

Fans in the Bay Area may not have a long history or association with the sport, but they have strongly supported this team through good and bad times, and they deserve nothing less than a National Hockey League championship. Right now this does not look like a championship team. Whether or not this can be fixed in the dressing room, or fixed at the trade deadline remains to be seen.

Stars beat Sharks in SO, Modano returns - Yahoo.

With a stirring comeback followed by a postgame soccer match, the Dallas Stars made the most of the rare chance to savor a road victory at the Shark Tank. Philippe Boucher scored the tying goal with 2.2 seconds left, and Mike Ribeiro added the winning shootout goal to his regulation score in the Stars' 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.

Most visiting teams bolt from the San Jose locker room after games to get their chartered flights off the ground before a local curfew goes into effect, but the Stars will face the Sharks again on Thursday night. That meant a few players could indulge in soccer, complete with a small ball and goal, in a tunnel beneath the arena.


Sharks struggling to provide goal support in front of Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov

The San Jose Sharks are struggling to provide goal support in front of netminder Evgeni Nabokov (12-11-0, .916SV%, 2.21GAA, 3SO) this season. In 25 starts, Nabokov has allowed 51 goals against, and received only 49 goals for in return (1.96 goals per game average). Twice when pulled for Vesa Toskala, the Sharks came from behind to defeat Detroit 9-4, and Phoenix 2-1.

Under Vesa Toskala (21-6-0, .916SV%, 2.21GAA, 3SO), San Jose is a different team. They have scored 95 goals in 25 starts (3.8 goals per game), and 11 goals in 3 relief appearances (3.6 goals per game average). The situation played itself out again during a 2-game road trip to Canada over the weekend. On Saturday, the Sharks rolled over Edmonton 5-1, without so much as a single goaltender interference penalty or a thrown goalie mask by Dwayne Roloson.

Then it was time for Nabokov's start on Sunday. S.J. dominated the first two periods against Vancouver. Joe Pavelksi put the Sharks on the board, and the Sharks were outshooting the Cancucks 34-18 after two periods. Then Vancouver took the lead on 2 goals in the second, and played a prevent offense in front of Luongo to pick up the win. The top ranked Vancouver penalty kill kept the top ranked San Jose power play scoreless on 5 opportunities. Roberto Luongo's spectacular 38 save effort closed out another disappointing offensive performance in front of Evgeni Nabokov.

Sharks watch Canucks skate by, despite many shots San Jose can not get the goals to win - San Jose Mercury News.

In the Sharks' three most recent defeats, Nabokov has been tagged with the tough-luck loss. "He was fine," Wilson said of Nabokov. "What could he do?"

There is little more Nabokov can do except to try to pitch a shutout with each consecutive start. Welcome to the world of Martin Brodeur.

[Update] Sharks Downed By Canucks, 3-1 - SJsharks.com.

Another notable performance on Sunday night was turned in by Goc’s linemate Thomas Plihal. Appearing in just his second career NHL game, Plihal showed his nose for the net, his ability to work hard in the corners and his ability to play the cycling game. Plihal’s 7:47 of ice time included a game-high seven shots, a double shift late in the third period and a wrap-around attempt that nearly tied the game with under four minutes to go.

Trade rumors heat up in Southern California, Kings trade Conroy, Ducks eye Forsberg

Peter Forsberg

Sitting in last place in the Western Conference with only 30 games remaining, the Los Angeles Kings pulled the trigger on a Craig Conroy for Jamie Lundmark trade with the Calgary Flames on Monday.

The Flames acquired a first line center who has only scored 5 goals and 11 assists in 52 games played for the Kings. Los Angeles received center Jamie Lundmark in return (0G, 4A, 39GP), a 2007 fourth round draft pick, and a 2008 second round draft pick. General Manager Dean Lombardi massaged more room under the salary cap (Conroy was scheduled to make $2.8 million next year), and now has more ammunition to build his team through the draft.

Lombardi historically builds from the goal out, and already has brought the volatile Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson into the fold. The goaltending situation has been nothing short of disastrous for the Kings. Injuries to starters Dan Cloutier and Mathieu Garon, and a harsh learning curve for Barry Brust and Yutaka Fukufuji lead to a contract offer for 40-year-old goaltender Sean Burke.

Jason LaBarbera has excelled for the Kings AHL affiliate in Manchester, but because of the new waiver policy he can not be called up without each NHL team having a chance to sign him. The Kings would also been on the hook for half of his salary if he was selected.

Conroy trade could be first of many Kings moves - LA Times.

"There are buyers and sellers and it is safe to say our situation is that of a seller," General Manager Dean Lombardi said. "You have to do the best you can at getting something for the future and getting under the [salary] cap."

Monday's trade did both, he said. The prize was draft picks, particularly the second-round pick in 2008. Conroy would have made $2.8 million next season, the final year of the four-year, $12.6-million deal he signed just before the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

LaBarbera's learning in limbo, NHL's new waiver ruling has Kings prospect toiling in the minor leagues - Toronto Star.

Ducks monitor Forsberg - LA Times.

The Ducks are one of several teams that have had contact with the Philadelphia Flyers about acquiring center Peter Forsberg if the Flyers decide to put him on the block before the Feb. 27 trade deadline...

General Manager Brian Burke would not comment on the possibility of acquiring the center.

"I'm not going to address specific players that belong to other organizations," he said Monday. Forsberg, a former league most valuable player and rookie of the year, is in the final year of his contract and has a no-trade clause. It isn't clear which team, if any, he would approve. He can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The 2007 NHL trade deadline lands on Tuesday, February 27 at noon (PT).


Hockey Night in Latvia

Latvia IIHF World Championships
Latvia IIHF World Championships
Latvia IIHF World Championships
Latvia IIHF World Championships

I would like to thank Jenik Bohac for contributing a few photos from the 2006 IIHF World Championship tournament held last year in Latvia. Jenik has also photographed hockey at the Olympics, and hockey tournaments in Italy and Austria.

The Swedish national team defeated the Czech Republic 4-0 to sweep both the World Championship and the Olympic Gold Medal in the same year. I have no explanation for the prevalence of chipmunks on the ice, but it makes for a good Monday morning laugh.

There will be a feature added shortly to the left sidebar that will make it easier for fans to send hockey photos to this blog from North America, or from anywhere around the globe. Including a send-from-cellphone option.

[Update] Bonus photo of a hockey superstar who shall remain nameless here.

[Update2] Swedish Supremacy: Tre Kronor beats Czechs for historic 2006 gold - IIWC.com. Thanks to Lisa for the correction.

This week in Hockey

Versus NHL

This week on Versus, the Bruins face the New York Rangers in an Original Six matchup Monday at 4PM, and the NHL leading Nashville Predators face the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday at 5PM.

This week Yahoo will stream Phoenix at Anaheim on Wednesday, New Jersey at Philadelphia on Thursday, and a Washington-Pittsburgh Ovechkin-Crosby rematch on Saturday. Comcast will stream Toronto at the New York Rangers Wednesday at 4:30PM. A full Comcast Hockey Live schedule is available online.

Bookmark hockeywebcasts.com for a list of hockey games streamed online for free from the NHL, AHL, ECHL, QMJHL, OHL, WHL, NCAA, CIS, USHL, and DEL.

[Update] Bill Clement, Brett Hull, and Ray Ferraro recap the NHL Game of the Week - NBCsports.com (video link).

Credentialing bloggers for the NHL

There has been a lot of debate over the weekend between the mainstream media and bloggers over credentialing blogs for NHL games. It was spurred in part by a post on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Thrashers Blog, where Craig Custance reported that Eklund represented the blogging community in a meeting with the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

A number of problems have been raised about the anonymous and non-sourced reporting posted by Eklund on hockeybuzz.com, which now includes posts and articles from fans and several members of the PHWA.

The only thing I can offer is to reprint this e-zine article on LCS Hockey editor Mike Secosky from 1996. This is a glimpse of one of the first online hockey publications, how it tried to transition from print to the web, and ultimately how it went out of business after a prolonged lack of cooperation with the NHL.

Slap-Shots in CyberSpace, Editor Mike Secosky explains how the hockey magazine that choked in print became the Internet's fighting chicken.
by Jessica Strelitz

Le coq sportif, in French, means the fighting chicken. "Le Coq Sportif" is also the unlikely name of a hockey Internet magazine site recently inducted into the Web Platinum Club 100 as one of the top 100 sites on the Internet. A site that had over 20,000 hits a day mid- way through the National Hockey League season last year, is actually maintained by a group of four college students at Penn State. In 1994, the four founding fathers crashed the 1994 NHL draft and were told they were too young for press credentials. Today they boast correspondents in every major league hockey city and they all have press passes.

In the beginning there weren't big plans for "Le Coq Sportif-Guide to Hockey"(LCS). Intentions were to work on it for a season or two and then quit. Now there is potential for long life. As one of the top five percent of Web sites on the Internet, it was recently given the prestigious honor of a Yahoo Sunglasses award. LCS attracts you with daily updated statistics and trade news then scores with humorous and informative writing. The latest issue has a review of a new album of hockey songs released by a band called the Hanson Brothers, named after the famous "Slapshot" goons. LCS is in direct competition with "The Hockey News", the print hockey magazine with the widest North American circulation. Why tackle an icon? But can bring laughter to a sport where there is more cheering for blood than scoring? I went to the one with the answers; the man who maintains the "LCS" email, Mike Secosky. As the self proclaimed Computer Boy of "Le Coq", Secosky is the man who put "Le Coq Sportif" on-line.

His love for hockey began early. He has played street hockey since 1987, and in 1989 when Dek hockey (organized street hockey) became popular, his street hockey friends decided to form a team. The next season, the Greensburg, PA native watched Mario Lemiuex lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first of two consecutive Stanley Cup national titles. This iced his desires. He tried out for his high school's ice hockey team that year.

"In three years of ice hockey, I never made it off of the JV squad. I wasn't that bad, but being 5'4" doesn't impress the coach. But I had a good time and continued to play street or Dek hockey every day. As a result I didn't do much school work. Hockey was a better time." And it continues to be today.

When Secosky realized that his workload wasn't going to be too heavy at college, he began looking things to satisfy his other interests. He turned to what he knew best. Hockey.

"We started LCS during my second year at college. It was during the summer when we didn't have much to do, so we thought why not start our own hockey publication? We didn't like "The Hockey News" and that was the only source of hockey information at the time. We needed something more entertaining, like a TV comedy with sports."

Secosky thought "The Hockey News" was becoming stale in the mid eighties. The cheap pictures, grainy newsprint and overpriced subscripion rates were only the beginning. "Our editor cancelled his subscription because he was sick of getting his trade news two weeks late. "THN" is out-dated by the time you get it, whereas electronic media allows up-to- the-minute inclusion of information. That happens in print as well, but then you have to wait for a week for printing and distribution. We are information on demand."

But, like "The Hockey News" is today, originally "Le Coq" was a printed journal. But people were unwilling to pay eight dollars a year for 25 issues of LCS in print. Without paid subscriptions it cost too much to print and distribute the 30 page journal. So, instead of paying for paper and distribution, they went electronic.

"It was my idea to publish on-line. At first we would compile the information and distribute it via email. But the mailing got too large." The first web browsers were developed in the early 90's, and when the technology came to Penn State , Secosky decided to try and put "LCS" on the World Wide Web. "After surfing the Web for a while, you get an idea of what works and what doesn't. It also helps to be creative."

Mike had no experience in electronic media when he started. As he progressed, he learned about writing, editing and on-line publishing. Secosky developed the magazine-type format after learning the HTML (web-page code) necessary for publishing through practice.

"We publish new issues on Tuesday afternoon or evening, and work on the new issue begins the Sunday before. On Sunday, I layout the HTML and graphics for the entire issue. After that I spend the remainder of the night writing. " Remainder of the night? The man doesn't sleep.

Secosky wants to create a niche. "THN" has become the hockey lover's TV Guide. But it has never seen any serious competition. Now, with the introduction of flashy expansion teams and national game coverage on Sunday afternoons on the Fox network, the NHL is more commercial. ESPN and "Sports Illustrated" both introduced all-NHL issues this fall. Secosky thinks that "LCS" can compete with these smart magazines.

"Of course, there is something about a print magazine that people like. Maybe it's the ownership of that stack of paper, something physical to hold for a few bucks. That's what we're used to, we grew up with printed magazines. I think as society becomes more accustomed to it, and a new generation is raised with it, electronic media will become the norm. On-line publications will be the publishing medium of the future."

He continued, "Short attentions spans, like those of our audience, do tend to favor electronic formats. With the Web you can be reading about hockey and then the next second visit another site with information on the newest PEZ dispensers." The magazine is a labor of love. The fact that it has not turned a profit yet does not surprise Secosky. He isn't complaining. He's looking to the future. "Basically, I am crazy enough and dedicated enough to stick with "LCS" despite no financial gain. Right now, on-line advertising is not yet a way to make money. There is not a single site on the Web that profits from it, not even sites like Yahoo. They mainly break even. I'm working towards financial success. I'd like to make "LCS" a career and am taking steps to get there.

In fact, starting this season the magazine will be the hockey news source for America On-Line. It means a greater work load, but will provide us with a considerable stream of revenue." Secosky will be spending extra time at Penn State to finish his degree in chemical engineering. But that's not where he'll stop. Secosky has discovered in his time of greatest learning, exactly what makes life wonderful; doing what you love.

"I could sleep more, or at all, but then I wouldn't get anything done. My parents think I'm crazy for doing so much work. Maybe I am. But I'm having so much fun with it. Hockey is the greatest game in the world. And the magazine doesn't effect my grades. Well, don't ask my parents about that."

LCS emerged from the ashes recently with Version 3.0. A few of the lighter moments from the LCS archives can be found in this post.

What the league lost by not working with LCS and a number of sites like them, they can gain by working with the best of the current blogs. Traffic, link or advertising requirements should be secondary. What should be most important is finding bloggers who deliver accurate and honest information, or reasoned analysis, and convey a passion for the sport to their audience. Then teams should be able to decide for themselves whether or not credentialing a blog would work for their organization.

The first time this blog gained media access to an NHL game in 2001, there was a short game recap, 6 photos (including a blurry picture of the game winning goal), and a post-game interview transcript with Jeff Friesen posted on this site as a result. Friesen talked to reporters about his first game on the visitors bench at HP Pavilion, how he was crushed after learning of his trade from San Jose to Anaheim, and how he had hoped to finish his career in one city. Friesen made no attempt to hide his emotions when speaking with reporters, and he squashed a question asking if he could return as a free agent.

It was one of the most powerful locker room moments I have witnessed, and it made for a good blog post. A year later when posting a photo of an Anaheim "Mighty" Ducks game winning goal, it had to be taken from the stands.

[Update] Hockey Night in San Jose, Third period Sharks comeback sinks Anaheim 4-3 - Sharkspage.

[Update2] Canadian La Presse newspaper features two articles on hockey blogs - Sharkspage.

[Update3] Midweek All-Star Game in Dallas has 76% drop in viewership from '04 - USA Today.


Hockey Notes - January 24th

NHL Allstar Game Texas Motor Speedway

- As part of the 2007 NHL Allstar Game festivities, Marian Hossa (Atlanta Thrashers), Martin Havlat (Chicago Blackhawks), Jonathan Cheechoo (San Jose Sharks), Matt Carle (San Jose Sharks), and Brian Campbell (Buffalo Sabres) posed for a picture and took a few laps at Texas Motor Speedway on Tuesday. Thanks to Paul Kukla for the link.

- NHL stars to get speed thrills on track - USA Today.

San Jose Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo says his speeding is limited to sheets of ice. "I think the fastest I've gone in a car is 90 mph," said Cheechoo, a first-time All-Star. "I'm too scared to get above that."

He won't get a choice Tuesday as he and a half-dozen other NHL players will get stock car rides on Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, site of two NASCAR Nextel Cup races annually.

Versus NHL Allstar Game

The NHL Allstar Game coverage starts today on Versus at 5PM. From 2:30-3:30 PM, NHL.com will stream an All-Star Pre-Game video show. NHL.com will also stream live audio during the game.

- Thornton, Cheechoo and Marleau Check In From Dallas - SJsharks.com.

[Q] On flying under the media radar for most of his career but getting All-Star recognition:

[PM] "It helps knowing that the MVP and the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy winner play on your team. They bring the attention and they deserve it. And being around that, the spotlight naturally falls on the rest of the team."

Patrick Marleau was featured front and center in a post on deadspin.com. The Drudge of sports gossip also linked to an excellent blog post by Jennifer Bowman, Why the Allstar Festivities Don't Excite Me.

- Mark Stepneski of Andrew's Starspage attended the NHL Skills Competition, and posted his thoughts online.

The NHL All-Star Game suffers because of a lot of the elements that make the sport great - intensity, physical play - are non-factors at the All-Star Game.

Still, the collection of players on hand and the others connected with the sport is always impressive and that's what makes it neat. I think that is what people have been enjoying this week and that's great. I think for people in the host city it's a special event. For people watching from the outside or on TV, it is going to be totally different.

That said, you'd like to see the events have some value. There wasn't much in the YoungStars Game. Was it just me or was the YoungStars game lacking in pace. I wasn't expecting a lot with it being an all-star type exhibition, but it was close to awful early on in the game. It didn't improve much as time moved on.

The skills competition prior to the 1997 Allstar Game in San Jose had a little more jump on the ice, but Dallas layed out a red carpet entrance for the Allstar Game and gave media and fans the biggest buildup the event has seen in awhile.

The East beat the West 8-7 Tuesday during the Youngstars game. A commentator on the bench noted that the players were skating 3/4 speed, unfortunately it was more like 1/2 speed. Broomball on ice would have been a little more entertaining. Evgeni Malkin spent two sequences not even skating back to his defensive zone, camping at the opponent's blueline instead.

Kari Lehtonen was not just hung out to dry on one play, he was dismantled on a 3-on-0. The first forward deked and made a move to his right, but dished the puck across the crease to an open forward. Lehtonen made the save only to have it bounce to the right for a third player to convert. Defense was more of a euphemism than a practice. Sharks defenseman Matt Carle scored two goals in the third period.

The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference 15-11 in the All-Star skills competition. Columbus forward Rick Nash won the puck relay event, Marian Hossa and Eric Staal tied for the shooting accuracy hitting 4 targets in 5 attempts, Zdeno Chara took home the hardest shot registering 100.4MPH (the East averaged 94.15MPH, the West 92.3MPH).

Anaheim's Andy McDonald took home the fastest skater award with a lap of 14.03, but along with a few other players he appeared to stop the clock early by leading with his stick at the finish line. Patrick Marleau's 14.08 looked faster. ESPN said that Marleau jumped the gun on the start. Stop the presses, a controversy. Someone call Terrell Owens for clarification.

Blogs from/on the All-Star Game: Dallas Morning News, CBS Sportsline, ESPN, NHL.com, CBC, and the Globe and Mail to name a few.

- The Dallas Stars have always had one of the best photo galleries in the NHL. Their photographer has galleries up from the All-Star game, and pre-game activities.

- Speaking of photographers, not hockey-related but ice skating related, the first ariel photo of Lasker Rink in Central Park in this article on Vincent Laforet is amazing.

- In an interview with Dallas blogger and 97.5 KLAK radio personality Stephanie Peete last year, she talked about the Stars turnaround, discussed Bill Guerin's offensive struggles, and gave an update on Mike Modano's injury among a few other topics. If I find more from her on the All-Star Game, I will post it.

- The NHL Teams Up With Leary Firefighters Foundation - Joe Dumas at Offwing.

- Bay Area firefighters and police take to the HP Pavilion ice, hockey tournament helps charities - SJ Mercury News.

- The USA Today released its major expose on the slimmer, more technologically advanced uniforms last week. To quote Saturday Night Live, "I have strong feelings of ambivalence towards that, some of which do not border on the negative". Make sure fans know you can fit the new uniforms over layers of clothing, or sales are going to plummet.

As always, Paul Lukas of Uniwatch has the complete breakdown.

Bottom line: Use whatever style of jerseys you want. Wear white at home for the entire season, or switch to home whites halfway through the season like the ECHL. The variety of colors from opposing teams, the improved visibility in person (especially through the netting), and the improved visibility on tv should make this a no-brainer.

- Old guard takes the spotlight in NHL All-Star Game won by West - San Jose Mercury News.

It was supposed to be Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin's moment in the all-star limelight...

Meanwhile, 33-year-old Brian Rolston of Minnesota and 35-year-old Yanic Perreault of Phoenix had two goals apiece and Colorado's Joe Sakic, age 37, had four assists for the Western Conference.

One of the best parts of the event was the Versus in-game microphone on Dallas goaltender Marty Turco. He kept his commentary going even as players were breaking in on him from the blueline. Some of the highlights: "We have the puck, hopefully we can do that for 20 minutes", "Look at Joe (Thornton), YOU'RE SICK BUDDY", Marian Hossa lifts the puck up over the pads of Turco... "should have had that one", "don't let anyone know, but I am out of shape". Thought I also heard an "excuse me while I make this save", but I could be mistaken.

- Take a look at the local news links at the San Jose Sharks team page on Sports Illustrated. Sharkspage and Don't Feed the Sharks are included (DFTS's Max now writes here). Thefeeder.com and Sharks Hockey Odyssey (who contribute to the Feeder) were also listed.

For the Kings, SI links to the Battle of California, LetsgoKings, Online Kingdom, and LA Kings News. For the Ducks, SI links to All Ducks (great link), Battle of California, Anahiem Duck Fan, Unofficial Ducks Blog.

It appears Fan Nation was used to put these links together.

- Blogger outages delayed this post. This blog was upgraded to the new Blogger after 1100+ posts, did not help with stability apparently.

[Update] If you live in Anaheim and follow the NHL, do not click on this Youtube video. If you live in Northern California and follow the NHL, feel free to pass it around.

[Update2] Mike Chen disscusses the NHL's television ratings on his blog, and breaks down the decline across the board for sports programming: NBA All-Star Game ratings dropped 16% over 5 years, NBA Finals dropped 30%. The MLB All-Star Game dropped 26% over 5 years, the World Series 30%.

To my knowledge, even NASCAR, the Tour de France, and boxing has seen ratings drop. The NFL seems to be one of the lone bright spots, with a solid ratings increase. Sports need to compete with video games, mp3 players, and online video for the attention span of a younger audience.

There is a real simple answer for the NHL. Put your best foot forward and hope the game can sell itself.

[Update3] Youtube video highlights of the 55th NHL All-Star Game are available here.


Minnesota Remains Atop USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Minnesota Remains Atop USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-Ups:

Wednesday, Jan. 24
No. 6 Boston Univeristy @ No. 14 Boston College

Friday, Jan. 26
No. 14 Boston College @ No. 6 Boston University
No. 9 Miami (Ohio) @ No. 3 Notre Dame
No. 4 St. Cloud State @ No. 5 Denver
No. 15 North Dakota @ No. 1 Minnesota

Saturday, Jan. 27
No. 9 Miami (Ohio) @ No. 3 Notre Dame
No. 4 St. Cloud State @ No. 5 Denver
No. 15 North Dakota @ No. 1 Minnesota

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The University of Minnesota held tight to the No. 1 spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll for the ninth-straight week. The Golden Gophers received 509 points and all but one of the 34 first-place votes after a weekend split with then No. 4 University of Denver.

The University of New Hampshire (471) and the University of Notre Dame (418) also remained in position, coming in a Nos. 2 and 3 for the second-straight week. Meanwhile, St. Cloud State University (414) rejoined the top five at No. 4 and Denver (374) dropped one spot to No. 5. Michigan State University made the biggest gain of the week, moving up three spots to No. 8. The University of North Dakota jumped back into the rankings at No. 15 following a four-week hiatus.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #15

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

1. U. of Minnesota, 509 (33), 1, 21-3-3, 15
2. U. of New Hampshire, 471 (1), 2, 18-4-1, 15
3. U. of Notre Dame, 418, 3, 20-5-1, 12
4. St. Cloud State U., 414, 6, 16-4-4, 10
5. U. of Denver, 374, 4, 18-8-2, 14
6. Boston U., 317, 8, 12-4-6, 15
7. U. of Maine, 314, 5, 15-6-2, 15
8. Michigan State U., 259, 11, 16-8-1, 15
9. Miami (Ohio) U., 252, 9, 18-8-2, 15
10. Clarkson U., 177, 10, 14-6-3, 9
11. U. of Michigan, 166, 13, 17-9-0, 15
12. U. of Vermont, 162, 14, 14-8-2, 7
13. Colorado College, 105, 12, 14-9-1, 8
14. Boston College, 99, 7, 12-8-1, 15
15. U. of North Dakota, 24, NR, 13-11-2, 11

Others receiving votes: Niagara University, 16; Cornell University, 1; Quinnipiac University, 1; Sacred Heart University, 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.

[Update] Vermont captain (Torrey Mitchell) comes of age - Boston Herald.

Mitchell, a fourth-round selection (126th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in the 2004 NHL draft, has compiled 31 goals and 63 assists for 94 points in 98 career games.

He is on pace to become the 40th player in University of Vermont history to reach 100 career points and has an outside chance to make it 100 points in 100 games.

[Update2] Change Of Pace, David Rohlfs Boosts Michigan With Leadership By Example - U.S. College Hockey Online.

Unaccustomed to chasing first place, Michigan sits at No. 4 in the CCHA standings, six points behind first-place Notre Dame and a point behind archrival Michigan State, with Lake Superior and Ohio State knocking on the door.

Then there's the Wolverine goaltending, struggling to hit .900 while the Michigan offense is tied for third-best in the nation. And sophomores Andrew Cogliano and Jack Johnson just returned from the IIHF World Junior Championship bearing bronze medals for Team USA.

So what's the most interesting thing about Michigan hockey this season? Says head coach Red Berenson, "Right now, David Rohlfs is our best story."

[Update3] Hobey Tracker - Inside College Hockey.


Manny Legace and the Blues blank San Jose 1-0

San Jose Sharks St Louis Blues
Curtis Brown
Evgeni Nabokov
SSt Louis Blues Boston Bruinds

St Louis came into HP Pavilion and played a solid road game, extended their road winning streak to 3, and held the league's best power play scoreless on 3 opportunities. The Sharks outshot the Blues 31-13, but after the first both teams appeared to be waiting for the other to make a mistake.

Bill Guerin sparked the 1-0 win late in the second period by circling behind the net and backhanding a shot past Evgeni Nabokov while there was traffic in front of the crease.

Manny Legace made 31 saves on all 31 shots he faced, to earn his 16th win of the season for the St Louis Blues. Evgeni Nabokov made 12 saves on 13 shots, as the Sharks head into a 5-game layoff for the NHL Allstar game.

More from the post game press conferences:

Sharks head coach Ron Wilson on the St Louis 1-0 win, "They played great. Nabi made a mistake on the goal from behind the goal line. We just didn't score. We didn't get our shots off on the second opportunity to cover the bottom half of the net. It's obviously one of the main reasons they bounced back, besides the coaching change. They played really well and that was evidence tonight."

"I'm disappointed about tonight. You want to go into the break with a win and we could have gotten within 2 points (of Anaheim). When you've got a couple of tough road games, you don't want to start something negative. But all in all I am please where we are."

"We don't have a thing to work on over the break because it's mandatory and we don't practice until next Thursday... It's rest time."

St Louis Blues head coach Andy Murray discussed the win, "It means we got 46 points, and we got a tough game next Friday night against Detroit... our guys are feeling good about themselves. It was great to finish this game off tonight against certainly one of the hottest teams in the league."

"Any time you can come into California and get six points it's something special against the caliber of teams they have out here in the Pacific."

"Manny (Legace) is playing the way I saw him play all last year with the Detroit Red Wings when he had one of the best records in the NHL. Usually when you win in this league your goalie is if not your best player, certainly up there, and he was tonight."

[Update] Blues close trip with big victory - St Louis Post-Dispatch.

[Update2] Sharks Bageled - SF Chronicle.

[Update3] Sharks have no answer for Blues goalie Legace - SJ Mercury News.

Manny Legace foiled the Sharks on a night the Blues were outshot 31-13. Legace got some help from Keith Tkachuk, who backed him up to prevent Patrick Marleau from scoring in the final minute.


Ratings out for NHL on NBC "game of the week" debut, Versus weekday broadcast

empty rink lockout

Earlier this week the Globe and Mail's William Houston reported the opening night ratings for NHL on NBC's "game of the week", featuring the debut of analyst Brett Hull, and the weekly ratings for hockey on Versus.

Viewer numbers give the NHL reason to worry - Globe and Mail.

The National Hockey League season is past the halfway point, but television is still back at the starting gate looking for an audience. NBC's first telecast of the season earned a 1.1 rating (percentage of U.S. households tuned in), a drop of 20 per cent from the opener a year ago.

U.S. regional audiences are down by about 25 per cent. National viewership on Versus, the U.S. cable channel, is up 3 per cent. But the average audience of 195,476 on Versus is about half of what ESPN2 used to pull in.

The numbers for NBC were respectable given the fact that it went up against the NFL playoffs and Hockey Day in Canada, which drew a number of American Center Ice viewers. Brett Hull made a splash with his intermission commentary, and the LA-STL game saw the first ever appearance by a Japanese-born player, Yutaka Fukufuji.

The promotion for NBC's "game of the week" was slick, with a Youtube-inspired promo and a 30 minute pre-game webcast streamed online. A live studio audience surrounding the rink at Rockefeller Center was cancelled at the last minute due to weather conditions. NBC is adding a lot of bells and whistles to its broadcast, but it needs to get fans to dial in.

The fact that the Versus broadcast is up 3 per cent should also be seen as a positive, considering that ESPN's numbers are not what they were in the past. But the lack of viewership is a problem. ESPN's TGIF roundup recently lauded the NHL's new advertising campaign, and complimented the league for promoting itself on a non-tradional medium.

More interesting is to see the interest in the ads in a nontraditional medium like YouTube, where the ads have been doing bang-up business. According to NHL creative director Kathy Drew, the new Ovechkin spot, featuring Capitals owner Ted Leonsis trying to help Ovechkin get a bag of chips out of a vending machine, recorded 36,000 hits after its recent release on YouTube. The outtakes of the filming, also available online, drew 35,000. Other spots, like Thornton's struggle to butter toast (been there, done that), has registered 128,000 hits and the Richards-Lecavalier video game competition drew 80,000. Beyond that, many of the viewers were taking the commercials and sending them to other Internet users (presumably their friends), Drew said.

Kathy Drew then said, "There's no Neilsen ratings for YouTube".

It is getting to the point where Versus needs to take some drastic steps. A note a few weeks back in TV Guide said network studios are counting internet broadcasts in their ratings for network television shows. Most of the online streaming on Yahoo and Comcast are regional Fox games, but counting internet streams from Versus could easily push their viewership over 200,000. Not sure of the specifics, but I believe other stations have rebroadcast a live event at night and combined the viewership of both broadcasts.

William Houston went on to detail the dip in ratings for games on CBC and TSN in Canada, a worrisome fact given it was one of the biggest bright spots last season. Hockey News columnist and Globe and Mail blogger Adam Proteau believes that the changes to the game made by the NHL did not go far enough. Defense-first systems and a lack of personality have hurt the product the networks are trying to sell.

Frankness would help NHL's woes - Globe and Mail blog.

And while it's true reporters want stories, we'll settle for less. We'll settle for players fans can relate to. We'll settle for insight that doesn't roll off an assembly line. We'll settle for players and coaches whose eyes don't immediately shift into overglaze mode once cameras and microphones are in their presence.

In one sense, it's hard to blame coaches for employing systems most likely to keep them employed. But where is the coaching fraternity’s Brendan Shanahan? Where's the man willing to stand up and be brave enough to admit he and his colleagues haven't and aren't giving fans what they pay to see? Where’s the coach who asks how the dreaded trap can be outlawed, once and forever?

Shanahan and the players deserve much appreciation for attempting to turn the game in the proper direction. But until they convince or force coaches to join their crusade, all they'll be doing is attempting. And the NHL will continue its polite, harmless, "professional" slide into irrelevance.

Adam Proteau's comments above are harsh, but at times it feels as if the NHL needs to fight for relevance on a nightly basis. The players, coaches, and teams in the league need to acknowledge this, make some changes, and stop expecting media coverage and sold out arenas to come to them.

[Update] Versus brings back Rail Cam for 2007 NHL Allstar game at American Airlines Center in Dallas - Versus.com.

[Update2] Sportscenter, ESPNews, and former NHL2nite host John Buccigross has done more to promote hockey than almost any other in the U.S.

Last week Buccigross discussed in an excellent ESPN column whether fighting should be a part of the NHL, the week before that he interviewed Vote for Rory campaign catalyst Steve Schmid, the week before that Buccigross penned a negative but informed critique of Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix organization (as I did on this blog here).

Buccigross has been bringing passion to the game on two fronts, on the air and online, with a third coming in book form in a few weeks. He even answered a few questions in an interview with this blog shortly before the NHL failed to drop the puck for a season in 2004.

In his latest column, Buccigross discussed the NHL's media distribution: My top pros, cons and MVP candidates.

[Q] What's wrong (with the NHL)?

1. Media distribution in the United States. The NFL is on three over-the-air stations and two cable networks. The NBA is on cable powerhouses TNT and ESPN and on over-the-air ABC. Baseball is on Fox and ESPN, and starting this season, TBS will air national games (not just the Braves). NASCAR has multiple carriers and a daily highlight show as well. With David Beckham's arrival and ESPN's involvement, MLS is something the NHL has to look at. The two leagues play in opposite seasons. And while the NHL is light years ahead of MLS in legitimacy, level of play and history, this is something to keep an eye on. Since the lockout, the NHL has lost its presence on television and radio and in newspapers and magazines. As a result, the health of hockey in the United States is not strong right now, making it difficult to cultivate new fans.

I covered the last game and last goal of the Earthquakes in San Jose before they moved to Houston and won a MLS Championship, so that is a sore topic.

A big component of Buccigross's problem with the media distribution is the lack of NHL games on ESPN. The problem for the league and its fans was not just ESPN declining to renew its $60 million option for the NHL, the problem was that several ESPN executives took shots at the league and its fans in the process. The unceremonious cancellation of NHL2nite to make room for fluff Mark Shapiro programming was also a reversal for a network that had solidly supported the league for 20 years.

The NHL has not lost its presence on television, but it has taken a big hit with the loss of games on ESPN and ESPN2. The problem is the demand for exclusivity. Versus and NBC cross promote each others games, but they could do more. If I am NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, before granting Al Iafrate immediate entry into the HHOF, I convince Versus and NBC that it is in their best interest to allow ESPN to air games next season. Give ESPN/ESPN2 the right to air an off night game, with the express condition that they have to cross-promote Vs and NBC games.

This would give the NHL a 3-channel lineup somewhat similar to the one Buccigross references with the NFL. Fox regional broadcasts will also get a continued boost from Yahoo and Comcast streaming. The only hole is a nightly 30-minute highlight show covering hockey.

[Update3] Boost in hockey video streaming mirrors boom in emerging video technologies - Sharkspage.

[Update4] Mike Heika interviewed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for the Dallas Morning News prior to this weeks Allstar Game in Dallas.

[MH] Are you concerned at all about TV ratings overall for the league, or is there a plan in place to improve them?

[GB] The answer is we're working very hard with our partners. Both of our partners tell us not to be concerned, that these things take time. We're committed to doing the right things over the long haul and we're confident over time our ratings will grow.

[MH] With Versus, have you seen the advantages that you wanted as far as getting more actual time for a broadcast or dedication to the sport?

[GB] Absolutely. They have honored and exceeded their commitments to focus on hockey. If you think back to last year's playoffs, every night there were doubleheaders, hockey-related programming, hockey features, hockey updates during the intermissions and between games, postgame shows instead of going to a sports summary show of all sports. They gave us more of the touch and feel of the game. They have been absolutely terrific in covering and promoting hockey. And we knew that they would. And we gave up some distribution in the short term in order to get this better treatment. And they've grown by more than 7 million homes in the year that we've been on them. And they anticipate continuing to grow.

Mike Heika and Gary Jacobsen cover much more with Gary Bettman in the interview including how the NHL's ratings compare to other leagues, how ticket prices have affected attendance, was the lockout worth it, whether the Marc Cuban ownership rumors in Pittsburgh had any validity, and if the changes made to the NHL have had any negative impact.


In the Crease documentary follows Californian youth hockey team, with commentary by 15 NHL players

In the Crease hockey movie


In the Crease is a 90 minute documentary film that followed the California Wave Bantam AAA hockey team from a Pacific District Regional Championship in California, to a National Tournament in Bensenville, Illinois. Along the way the crew filmed every practice, game, and locker room experience, in addition to home scenes that represent the players and parents dedication to youth hockey.

The filmmakers Matt Gannon and Michael Sarner approached 15 NHL stars to provide commentary on their personal experiences growing up with the game. Brendan Shanahan, Scott Gomez, Jeremey Roenick, and Darrian Hatcher discussed what it takes to succeed and how hockey was more than a game to them, it was a way of life.

youth hockey documentary movie

Media coverage of this movie has been extensive. Helene Elliot wrote a moving tribute for the Los Angeles Times, Movie should increase interest in youth hockey, Eric McErlain gave it two vigorous thumbs up for NBC Sports, and USA Hockey magazine extolled readers to Catch a Wave. Evan Grossman reviewed the movie for NHL.com, and noted the Californians in or soon to be in the NHL (Noah Clark - LaVerne, Ryan Hollweg - Downie, Brooks Orpik - San Francisco, and Scott Parker - Hanford). 2003 and 2005 draft picks Brett Sterling (Los Angeles) and Mitch Wahl (Seal Beach) play in the AHL and WHL respectively.

The movie has also been popular with hockey blogs, with the Atlanta Thrashers Blueland blog and Behind the Jersey interviewing producers Matt Gannon and Michael Sarner. American Hockey Fan also gave it a positive review.

The Blueland Blog asked Matt Gannon why they followed the Southern California-based Wave Bantam hockey team:

[BB] Why did you choose to follow The Wave, and what does the success of The Wave and The Thunder mean for hockey in so-called non-traditional markets?

[Matt Gannon] For teams from non-traditional areas like California and the Southeast to make it to Nationals is a huge accomplishment. One of the main reasons I chose to follow the California Wave was to show that hockey is growing in these areas, great players are being produced, and these regions are the future of hockey. Gretzky brought hockey to California and changed the game. Now, Kovalchuk and Hossa are going to do the same thing for the Southeast.

Christy Hammond of Behind the Jersey asked Michael Sarner how difficult it was to get NHL players to comment about their youth hockey experiences:

What were the NHL players reactions to this documentary or at least the concept of it? Did you have a hard time getting any of these players to take part?

NHL players are hands down the coolest, most down to earth and approachable athletes in all of sports. It was so easy to get them to sit down and talk to us. At the same time, I think it was refreshing for the players to talk about their childhood memories playing the game - before it became a job, before contract talks, free agency and revenue sharing. And they were so generous with their time. When we arrived at Mathieu Schneider’s home in Manhattan Beach, the house was empty. He has kids, so we thought his wife had taken them out so it would be quiet for the interview but then he tells us that his wife just gave birth the night before and was in the hospital. He came home just to keep the appointment! I mean how cool is that!

Visit the official website at inthecreasemovie.com for more information. The full movie trailer is available here. Another excerpt of Scott Gomez talking with youth hockey players can be found here.

This blog attempts to cover a number of NHL, ECHL, and college teams in California, but occasionally a parent or a player invite us to a youth game. A mini tradition is to cover a youth hockey tournament and minor league baseball game in San Jose on Labor Day. The freezing chill of the Logitech Ice Center across the parking lot to the blazing heat of a SJ Giants Class-A baseball game is a shock to the system. The Labor Day post from 2006 is available here, the post from 2005 is available here (assist by Jes Golbez with the Tour of SF cycling photos).

[Update] Risto Pakarinen discusses his favorite hockey movies on his blog at NHL.com. Last year I was sent a copy of the 2005 film Hockey Mom, but I did not get to see it until Christmas. One could call it a Slap Shot movie for women's hockey, but it is more of hockey movie for the independent film channel. I watched it with zero expectations and was pleasantly surprised.

[Update2] The Hockey News proclaims the rise of California - Sharkspage.

[Update3] An email from James Mirtle:

Another California kid for your list -- Ray Macias, who I watched play in Kamloops. An absolutely unbelievable skater. He's one of the top scoring defenceman in junior hockey this season and should be in the AHL next year.

Ray Macias has 17 goals and 31 assists in 45 games played for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL (tied for 18th overall). Macias, the 6-1 defenseman from Long Beach, is joined by another Californian defenseman on the Kamloops roster. WHL rookie Kevin Kraus hails from Garden Grove, CA.

Ray Macias was the Colorado Avalanche's 124th overall selection in 2005. Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief projected Macias to be a finesse puck-moving defenseman who should develop into a threat on the power play.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Nabokov stellar in Sharks 3-1 win over Colorado

Evgeni Nabokov
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj
Evgeni Nabokov

The San Jose Sharks improved their league best power play to 26.5% Evgeni Nabokov posted a solid 26 save effort, and the Sharks improved their league best power play (26.5%) with 3 PP goals en route to a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

Ryan Clowe sparked the action early, with a freight train check against defenseman Karlis Skrastins early in the first period. Ian Laperriere immediately dropped the gloves with Clowe to stand up for his teammate, and lost a decision to the much bigger forward. Laperriere leads the NHL with 12 fighting major penalties. In his last 6 games, Clowe has 8 goals and 1 assist (+6).

The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 21-10 in the first period, and logged a season high 42 for the game. San Jose converted 3 of 5 power plays, and Evgeni Nabokov [12-9-0, .915SV%, 2.33GAA] broke a rough streak of 4 straight losses to earn his 12 win of the season.

Video highlights are available on Versus and Youtube, including a Peter Budaj pad stack to rob Patrick Marleau in the first period.

Post-game press conference highlights:

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson commented on the game, "We came out hard and our power play was cooking tonight. We have had some great nights on the power play, but tonight was phenomenal. We moved the puck really well."

Wilson also mentioned the 8-0 blowout loss to Phoenix last week, "That was what our team needed, it was a wake up call. We are a team that is maturing, as long as you keep improving good things will happen."

Colorado Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville discussed the Sharks power play, "They could have scored several other (goals), the score could have been real ugly."

Quenneville also praised the Sharks play to open the game, "Their top guys were really good. We were awful and they were great. I didn't think we were ready to play tonight. We got better as the game went on, and in the last two periods we were a different hockey club. The first period we have got to be... technically we were doing everything off the cuff, no energy, but that's as good as I have seen anyone play in the first period too... that top line can be a handful as the league saw last year, and I think they are real dangerous right now."

A few quotes from the Versus broadcast of the game with announcers John Ahlers and John Vanbiesbrouck:

- "The Sharks power play is unstoppable because if you collapse down low they send it to Ehrhoff at the point for a bomb."

- Marleau scores a second power play goal in front of the creae, "I hate to say it, but this is an Avalanche, and it is going in the wrong direction."

- The Versus studio notes that Avalanche defenseman Patrice Brisebois (back), Jordan Leopold (groin), and John-Michael Liles (broken foot) are out with injuries. Defenseman Ossi Vaananen left the bench early in the first period, and recent callup Kyle Cumiskey just limped off the ice after blocking a shot.

- Matt Carle was sent down to Worcester of the AHL for 10 days. Head coach Ron Wilson told him to stop thinking and just play the game.

- Bob Harwood interviewed Sharks captain Patrick Marleau at intermission, "[Q] Everyone thinks this world class power play is razzle dazzle, but it is really anything but. [Marleau] It is get guys in front of the net so goalies can't see the puck, and bang away at the rebounds".

- "We are a team that believes our own press clippings at times", Sharks assistant coach Tim Hunter.

- Ron Wilson said rookie defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic could be one of the best defensive players in the Western Conference. Patrick Roy agreed, repeatedly calling the Sharks after training camp asking if Vlasic would return to his junior team this season.

- After Laperriere's fight with Clowe, "One of the best noses in the league. A face only a fist could love".

There were a few glitches in the Versus broadcast, with the ice coming across green at the start of the broadcast, and later blue before it evened out. The broadcast was also heavy on anecdotes and stories, which rubbed a few fans the wrong way, but all-in-all I thought it was good coverage of two of the best offensive teams in the league.

I did not get to meet any of the Versus crew at the game, but I did talk to the Avalanche team photographer. You can take a look at his home and road game photos here. Colorado has not recovered from the huge snowstorms in late December and early January, instead it has hovered around zero degrees. On Decemeber 21st, an Avalanche-Flames game in Colorado was cancelled due to blizzard conditions.

[Update] Hull of a Debut on NBC - thefourthperiod.com.

Hull went on to mercilessly mock increasing the size of the nets ("One of the dumbest ideas I've heard in a long time," he said); held up goalie equipment, calling for it to be streamlined and specifically calling the catching glove "a cheater"; claimed that in order for Penguins Coach Michel Therrien to keep his job that he needs to play Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin "until they drop"; chose Crosby over Ovechkin to start a franchise because he's a "North American kid, with all the personality and good looks and charm to start a franchise with marketing"; said Roberto Luongo is the best goalie in the league, and guaranteed that Marty Brodeur had faced less than 20 shots per game through his career; and mocked Buffalo's uniforms before claiming his infamous "in the crease" goal to win the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals was legal because he has a ring to prove it.

It was quite an afternoon.

Jamie Fitzpatrick also comments on Hull's broadcast debut, Hockey's Charles Barkley? Not Exactly. Some analysts try to mix it up to add color to the game. Brett Hull can create a controversy, add gas to the fire, and admire the smoking wreckage with a single statement.

Five years ago there was a rumor that Brett Hull might come to San Jose, and one can only imagine how the market would be different if that happened. Hull retired as the third overall leading goal scorer in the NHL's 90 year history.

At the time of his retirment, I commented, "someone get him a microphone and a blazer." Thanks for hooking him up NBC.

[Update2] Sharks Send Avalanche Packing, Marleau has goal and two assists in 3-1 victory - SF Chronicle.

San Jose came out blistering in the first period Monday night, scoring twice on a whopping 21 shots on goal, and rolled to a 3-1 victory against the overmatched Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion.

"That's probably our best, or at least close to our best, period of the year," said Joe Thornton, one of three San Jose skaters to enjoy a multi-point game.

[Update3] Colorado tries in vain to keep Sharks down - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] Comcast Web Streams Of NHL Games Now Free - Offwing.com.

The Comcast.net Hockey Live page is available here, the Comcast streaming schedule is available here. Also take a look at Eric McErlain's latest article on NBC Sports, If it's good enough for Canada.

[Note] This post was delayed with (server 500) problems from Blogger. Also of note, spammers took down the email form on this website. Contact email addresses have been added instead. Ten NHL photo galleries have also been added to the photo links webpage, more photography links will be added soon.


SJSU Spartans come from behind twice in 8-2 win over Northridge

San Jose State Spartans hockey
California State Northridge hockey

San Jose State came from behind twice and scored 7 unanswered goals in an 8-2 win over Cal State Northridge on Saturday night. SJSU killed two 5-on-3 penalties, and converted 5 of 14 power players in a penalty heavy affair.

Sean Scarbrough scored short handed to jump start the offensive barrage, which included 5 goals in the third period. Goaltender Matt Pamidi made 19 saves on 21 shots to earn the win. SJSU earned a 9-3 win over Northridge on Friday night.

A full recap is available from SJSUhockey.net. Photos from the game: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

[Update] Cost is high for SJSU Ice Hockey Club players - Julia Cooper for the Spartan Daily.

The San Jose State University Ice Hockey Club is in the middle of a winning season, but as a club sport, getting the same recognition as sports in the athletics department has been a challenge.

An even greater challenge may be that because ice hockey is a club sport, each member of the hockey team must pay $2,900 to play this season.


Hockey Notes - January 13th


- NBC begins its second season broadcasting the NHL with a new "game of the week" showcase.

Prior to the airing one of three regional games at 11AM Saturday (BOS-NYR, PIT-PHI, LA-STL), NBC will air a 30 minute pre-game webcast live on NBCsports.com. NBC also increased its season coverage to 9 weekend games this year, and will introduce Brett Hull as an analyst for today's broadcast.

- Called off January 13th because of inclement weather, but in the future NHL on NBC will encourage fans to attend their telecast of NHL games live from 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. Brett Hull, Ray Ferraro and Bill Clement will host a live pre-game show and intermission reports from the "30 Rock" ice skating rink, and big screen televisions have been added so fans can watch the games.

- The highlight intensive NBC promo above seems heavily influenced by this fan YouTube clip of Alexander Ovechkin highlights. The Ovechkin "boom" video has received 145,065 views to date, many more considering it has been posted on multiple sites under numerous accounts.

- Today is Hockey Day in Canada with three games featuring all six Canadian NHL teams (Montreal vs. Ottawa, 11AM; Vancouver vs. Toronto, 4PM; Edmonton vs. Calgary, 7PM). Visit the official CBC website for Hockey Day in Canada, or broadband.TSN.ca for video reports from across Canada.

In the U.S. the games will be available via In Demand on Center Ice, which has a free preview underway from January 8-14th.

- Canucks and Beyond is liveblogging HDIC. HabsinsideandOut has a game day preview of the Canadiens at Senators game, and lately they have been posting a number of excellent game photos (gallery1, gallery2) from the Montreal Gazette on their blog.

- Gretzky warns Coyotes of Sharks - Arizona Republic.

We need to re-energize ourselves here because we're playing a team that's really pissed off at us," Gretzky said. "We've beaten them twice, including 8-0 (on Dec. 30), and they're not happy about it. That team will be coming in here flying, so we better be ready for the drop of the puck.

- Sharks Return to the Valley One Fan's Perspective.

- Note from the NBC broadcast, AHL callup Yutaka Fukufuji will start for the Los Angeles Kings in the third period against the St Louis Blues. The score is 5-4 St Louis. Fukufuji will become the first Japanese-born player to play in the NHL.

Much more on Fukufuji is available here. The three times I have seen Fukufuji live there were between 5-10 members of the Japanese media following his every move. They are going to go crazy after this game.

- The NHL Allstar staring lineup was announced last week, and 2 Sharks made the cut for the Western Conference roster. Joe Thornton lead the West with 663,931 votes to earn his 4th allstar appearance. Jonathan Cheechoo registered 444,885 votes, and will make his first allstar game appearance.

Joe Sakic, Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Niedermayer and Roberto Luongo round out the Western Conference roster. Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Briere, Sidney Crosby, Sheldon Souray, Brian Campbell, and Ryan Miller will start for the East.

Write-in candidate Rory Fitzpatrick missed a starting selection as a Western Conference defenseman by 22,892 votes.

- A press release from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - The National Hockey League announced today that Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau has been added to the 2007 Western Conference NHL All-Star Team and that Sharks defenseman Matt Carle has been chosen to play in the NHL YoungStars Game, presented by Upper Deck.

Both games will take place at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX, with the YoungStars Game scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 4:30 p.m. PST and the 2007 NHL All-Star Game set for 5 p.m. PST on Wed., Jan. 24. Both will be televised nationally on Versus.

- Patrick Marleau became the San Jose Sharks alltime franchise leading goal scorer with 207 after a first period tally against Los Angeles on Thursday night.

- The San Jose State Spartans face off against Cal-State Northridge in the second game of a 2-game homestand tonight at 7:00PM at Logitech Ice.

- Thoughts on the NBC broadcast - Mike Chen.

The much ballyhooed debut of Brett Hull was a total success. Hull's brashness came through right away, and it injected some life into Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro who is usually duller than Jacque Lemaire power play. Some highlights of Hull's comments:

On Jarko Ruutu: "Here's a typical play by a typical player in the NHL. Jarko Ruutu refuses to drop his gloves...he's got one goal in 40 games. It's players like that we have to weed out of the league."

On making the nets bigger: "That's one of the dumbest ideas I've heard in an awful long time."

On Evgeni Malkin and Crosby: "They're not playing nearly enough...the more I played, the better I got."

On Paul Mara: "Not one of the toughest guys I've ever played with...or against."

On Jaromir Jagr: "(Mara) sticks Jags like I wish I would have done a few times."

On Martin Brodeur: "I guarantee he's averaged less than 20 shots (against) a game in his whole career."

On the Buffalo Sabres: "(I'm) not really popular in Buffalo, no. And I don't like their uniforms either."

[Update] The official Canucks blog posted a period-by-period recap of Saturday's 6-1 win over Toronto. The Calgary Flames also downed the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in a Battle of Alberta matchup.

[Update2] Marleau's fight inspires Sharks - San Jose Mercury News.

The Sharks were so serious about atoning for the humiliation they suffered here two weeks ago that captain Patrick Marleau earned his first fighting major in more than four years to fire up his mates.

Marleau scuffled with Keith Ballard six minutes into the Sharks' 4-1 victory over Phoenix on Saturday.

"How can that not lift your team?" said Ryane Clowe, who scored exactly two minutes after the fight. "Patty is obviously the leader and we wanted this game, no doubt about it. Patty wanted to step up and show the guys he didn't want to lose this one."

[Update3] THUNDER 6, CONDORS 1; Bears, hats, pucks fly at Thunder game - Stockton Record.


World Junior Championship prospect review

WJC Peter Mueller

A prospect review from the 2006-07 World Junior Championships:

Leksand Sweden was home to the 2006-2007 World Junior Championships where the most talented u20 hockey players in the world came together to compete for their countries on an international stage. The tournament was officiated quite well this year, which was a surprise as officiating has been a concern in the past. Canada beat Russia 4-2 to win the gold medal, but the most electric game of the tournament was between USA and Canada in the semifinal round.

USA held a 1-0 lead until mid-way through the third period when Canada finally tied the game to send it to overtime. USA had a powerplay but was not able to convert despite peppering Carey Price with 11 shots. The game was still tied and went to an OT shootout.

Both goaltenders struggled to make saves as the shootout went 7 rounds before Jonathan Toews scored for the third time to win the game and eliminate the Americans. It was a game that all hockey fans should have watched.

F Patrick Kane, USA (07) - No other draft eligible player has seen their stock rise as much as Patrick Kane's during the tournament. Kane reminds me in a lot of ways of the Edmonton Oilers star Ales Hemsky. Kane might be small, but he is sturdy on his feet and extremely slippery. Kane has the best hands of any player eligible for the 2007 draft and handles the puck like it's on a string. Add that to his elite offensive imagination, and you have a potential goto offensive wizard in the NHL. Kane is an equally dangerous play maker and finisher, as he can thread the needle with a creative pass or quickly release a hard wrist shot with precision accuracy. The power play is where he is at his best as Kane is absolutely deadly in open ice. Kane succeeds at taking the puck from the boards to the slot where he can make the opposition miss with his top notch one-on-one ability. He is a highlight reel type player and is not afraid to attack the net. Should be a lock to go in the top 5 as he also leads the OHL in scoring, and will challenge for the 1st overall selection.

F Billy Sweatt, USA (07) - Sweatt should be around when the Sharks use one of their two 1st round selections in the 2007 draft. Sweatt's the kind of player that should get a lot of attention. He is one of the best skaters available in the draft, and he has a dynamic stride that produces amazing speed. What is best about his game is that he knows how to use that speed to break down the opposition's defense. He is fully capable of skating the puck up the ice on his own through the neutral zone. Sweatt also has plucky hockey sense, and is a very strong two way player with a knack for killing penalties. He in a lot of ways reminds me of a Marco Sturm, a player who is a lock to be a third liner but is fully capable of developing into a fine second line forward. All he lacks is the ability to finish. Sweatt creates a lot of offensive chances, but the imagination and top end hand skill isn't there to always finish them.

F James Van Riemsdyk, USA (07) - His ice time was limited which lead to a lack of minutes at the WJC. Van Riemsdyk is blessed with a power forward's build and that allows him to be very effective along the boards or in traffic. His puck protection is superb as he uses his strong upper body and hands to give the opposition defenders headaches. James moves the puck instinctively, and has the ability to finish in the NHL. Van Riemsdyk has a pro's release with a booming slapshot that he needs to utilize more often. Skating is the big issue as his foot speed is lacking. It hinders both his first step, quickness, and top gear. Physically I would like to see him use his size more and develop an edge to round out his power forward game. That said, he handles himself more than adequately in the trenches.

F Trevor Lewis, USA (LA) - The Kings should be happy with how his season has progressed in the OHL with the Owen Sound attack, however he disappointed at the WJC's. Lewis displayed very good speed, his skating is already NHL ready, and his hands are soft. The vision is there and he is a fine play maker. Lewis has struggled to take control of a game. He can skate the puck up ice almost at will at this level, but he struggles to make that one last instinctive play to generate a scoring chance. Looks like a second line type player, but with a question mark.

F Kyle Okposo, USA (NYI)- Talk about a bull in a china shop. Okposo in a lot of ways looks like the next Jarome Iginla. He is a powerful skater with a powerful frame. His puck protection is great, and his hands are soft. He can dangle the puck around the opposition. Okposo was statistically quiet at the tournament, but his overall game left many impressed, myself included. Okposo's shot is something else, it is pro caliber already.

D Erik Johnson, USA (STL) - Johnson was hit and miss all tournament. On one hand you have to love his proactive, take charge game where his athleticism can dominate on its own. On the other hand he is still prone to brain cramps and will carelessly turn the puck over up the middle of the ice. He is physically aggressive and his skating is absolutely exceptional for a player of his size. Johnson can skate the puck up the ice all on his own as he exercises his tremendous speed and hand skill. E.J.'s slap shot is one of the most powerful of anyone outside the NHL, and his wrist shot is equally dangerous. Still, Johnson is prone to the inopportune turnover. He can get caught out of position defensively, and his vision along with decision making is questionable. At times, he turns the puck over when breaking the puck out of his zone with an outlet pass, or while quarterbacking the power play.

E.J. progressed nicely later in the tournament and he came through for the U.S. in the biggest games. He improved with the pressure of the bigger games. Although Johnson will be remembered for missing an open net to send his team to the gold medal game when USA was tied with Canada at 1-1. USA was on the power play in overtime, and instead of one-timing a shot Johnson took too long to get the puck off his stick. He gave Carey Price too much time, and let him set up for the shot. Johnson's a player who can dominate with his athleticism alone. Tons of upside, but it is a good thing he is not in the NHL this year, as his confidence is not where it needs to be.

D Jack Johnson, USA (LA) - Jack Johnson was publicly ridiculed by TSN announcer Pierre McGuire during the tournament, and rightful so at times. Johnson pinched in needlessly, which has lead to odd man rushes in the other direction. He took bone headed penalties time and time again, which cost his team. Johnson is a strong skater with a powerful stride, and his hands are capable of moves that most skilled forwards can not make. Jack Johnson's a dynamic shooting threat from the point with a heavy wrist shot and a quick release. He also possesses a solid slapshot.

Jack Johnson does not shoot the puck for tips or deflections, he shoots to score. Johnson plays with a mean streak which I love, but he needs to tone it down and not take careless penalties. He has a bad habit of making hits to the head. His decision making and hockey sense are question marks at this stage of his development. That said, I love his competitive spirit and Johnson showed he can be counted on in the big game. He shined against Sweden and Canada where he played with noticeable vigor. Johnson excelled in the shootout where his release put the goaltender at a serious disadvantage.

F Phillip Gogulla, GER (BUF)- The German power forward has come a long way since I last saw him at the U-18's 2 years ago. His skating has greatly progressed. Gogulla's first step quickness has went from a weakness to a strength, and his top gear is benefiting as a result. Limited as a set up man, Gogulla is more of a finisher as he learns to use his size more to his advantage. The task of performing in North America will not be a difficult one as his game is more suited for that style of play rather than on open ice. Probally a third or fourth liner in the NHL.

F Felix Schutz, GER (BUF) - The top prospect from Germany in a few years, Schutz is a savvy centerman capable of doing a little bit of everything. His mature game projects well to the NHL as he's got the speed, hockey sense, hand skill, and balance to stay on his feet in the pro game. His clever play making skills and subtle stick handling moves really stood out over the course of the tournament. Schutz is also the first guy in on the forecheck and back defensively, he will play in the NHL on a third line.

F David Skokan, SLV (07) - Started the season ranked as high as 10th overall by the Red Line Report, Skokan teases with his raw tools, but leaves you believing he could do so much more with his ability. He's a tall kid with a well stocked frame and a powerful skating stride that forces scouts to take notice. His hands are soft and he was throwing his body around on the forecheck. However, Skokan lacked an intangible to put it all together and finish. Expect him to go in the second round. He is an enigma similar to the Sharks selection of Lukas Kaspar.

D Jaraj Valach, SLV (07) - Another 6-7 defenseman from Slovakia, and Valach has been solid in the WHL this season for Tri-City. He is not your typical towering defenseman as his game shines offensively, and crumbles defensively. Valach sees the ice well and distributes crisp, tape-to-tape passes. His shot from the point is heavy, and he can get it through traffic. All of that adds up to him being a true asset to the power play. Defensively it is a mixed bag. Valach struggles in open ice. He doesn't take the proper angles to his man, which allows him to get beat quite easily one on one.

Valach does do a good job in tight where his size can take over. Skating is also a mixed bag, but going forward he is one of the best 6-7 skaters you will see. His pivot is rough and he can get caught flat footed going forwards to backwards. Valach's backward skating speed makes him look like he is on a treadmill. Second round type for my own liking, but a team who values size on the back end like Washington or Tampa might take him late in the first.

F Jaraj Mikus, SLV (MTL) - Mikus dazzled with his excellent hand skill and offensive creativity. That said, his skating is an issue as he stops moving his feet every time he makes a play, a troubling habit that he will need to fix if he wants to make the NHL.

G Carey Price, CAN (MTL) - I admit, the Carey Price bandwagon was one that I hesitated to jump on. Thanks to a near flawless performance for Canada at the tournament, I will be eating crow for dinner tonight. The key with Price is his confidence. I have seen him make a few saves early and he was almost unbeatable for the rest of the game. I have also seen him get scored on early and the goals just seem to pour in. His size, athleticism, and mechanics make him very difficult to beat, and his glove side is phenomenal. Those are the ingredients that make a stand out goaltender in the NHL. He does a fantastic job playing the puck. Price's patience with the shooter is really something else, He never makes the first move, and for a goaltender of his age not to go down too early is really saying something. His development since being drafted has been exceptional, and it all came together at the tournament.

F Steve Downie, CAN (PHI) - Talk about the next superpest in the NHL. Downie plays with more passion and fire in every game that I have seen than any other prospect I have seen. Coaches will love the consistent energy. Downie can finish, and his skating has improved steadily since his draft year. Downie's dirty antics are often over the top, but he seems to get away with it in the public eye because he plays for Canada. While an American born player like Jack Johnson or Peter Mueller is scrutinized for winking at the opposition bench, Downie gets away with putting his stick in the oppositions face behind the play. His near term outlook is probably as a third line type player. If you give him too much ice time, he will be in the box too often.

G Tuukka Rask, FIN (BOS) - Rask had his rough spots during the tournament, but he is still unquestionably the best goaltending prospect on the table right now. His athleticism and dexterity are second to none, and his reflexes are pro calibre. I love how aggressive he is challenging the shooter, and he can steal a game on his own. Rask is the type of goalie that can win you championships, and a goalie fans will pay to see live. A phenomenal talent that has been stuck goaltending bad teams internationally. This has hindered his stock over the years, but that will not matter once he is dominating at the NHL level.

G Jeff Frazee, USA (NJ) - You have to wake him up every so often, but when the big game is on the line, Frazee is the kind of goalie you want in your net. Mechanics are almost overly flawed, but it works for him. Frazee's reflexes are top notch and his unorthodox play reminds one of Dominik Hasek. Frazee was brilliant for U.S.A. in the final game against Sweden. He almost stole a win against Canada in the semis. His lateral movement to a right kick save that robbed Brian Little with was amazing. Frazee did not do so well in the shoot-out, but that should not damper his brilliant performance.

F Sam Gagner, CAN (07) - Gagner went from playing on the second line to only being used sparingly on the power play. He flashed his hand skill, and elite vision when creating a few nice plays with the man advantage. Overall, Gagner was a disappointment. He took too many penalties, and did not demonstrate many of the skills he has displayed earlier in the year. With the electric performance by his London teammate Patrick Kane, Gagner's stock slipped a bit.

D Karl Alzner, CAN (07) - Alzner is a big kid who will only add more muscle to his prodigious frame. His mobility is superb, as is his hockey sense and decision making. Alzner's puck movement endears him to scouts, and he should go quite high. Used sparingly at the tournament, but he did nothing but good things while on the ice.

F Peter Mueller, USA (PHO) - Mueller's skating has not improved at all since last season, and that is discouraging. However his hand skill is amazing, and he oozes offensive imagination. Mueller has a pro release with a heavy shot that he needs to use more. His vision and instinctive passing game make him a top notch play making center. Mueller will be in the NHL soon, as his defensive game and physical play are mature beyond his years. The large ice surface exposed his poor skating, but that can be improved. Mueller's shoot out moves were amazing, as he did four dekes in close before shooting on one play.

F Jonathan Toews, CAN (CHI) - All he did was reaffirm my thoughts from watching him four times this season with North Dakota. Toews has a Sakic-like mystique to his game. His two way play makes you think your are watching an established veteran. He saved Canada's gold medal hopes by back checking all the way down the ice past his own defenseman to intercept a pass that would have sent Pat Kane on a breakaway in OT. His shot is underrated by all, and hopefully the shoot out proved that. His release is fantastic and his accuracy along with the velocity have improved greatly since his draft year. While Toews is not an explosive skater, he is more than competent and he has a blossoming power game too. Should be the #1 center for the Blackhawks in the very near future.

F Alexei Cherepanov, RUS (07) - The crafty Russian saw his stock soar as he dominated the tournament, despite being one of the youngest players on the ice. Not your typical Russian style, Cherepanov is more of a set up man than a finisher. He is more of a savvy player than an explosive one. Cherepanov's a creative play maker who has exceptional vision and offensive imagination, and he can distribute the puck with the best of them. His skating lacks an explosive element, but he thinks the game and anticipates the play extremely well. Alexei needs to bulk up his fra, but that will come. It is likely that when he adds some muscle, his skating will also improve. His hands are soft, and he is a natural around the net. He did not strike me as a player who will go first overall, but Cherepanov will probably go in the top 10 as this tournament was just complimented an impressive season over in Russia.

F Jakub Voracek, CZE (07) - Voracek did not receive the ice time that was expected until the last game against Finland. In that game he came out with a commanding performance. Voracek had an adequate tournament, but he did not secure the first overall spot as well. His game will work in the NHL, as he reminds me a little of Anze Kopitar. Voracek is a reliable two way player with good speed, and his drives to the net are impressive. Those qualities as seen by the scouts mean that he should go very high in the upcoming NHL entry draft.

G Semen Varlamov, RUS (WAS) - With an outstanding performance for team Russia, Varlamov saw his stock soar over the course of the tournament. He is a hybrid goalie who relies on his superb athleticism and reflexes over positioning. Semen has swift lateral movement and his flexibility is phenomenal. Varlamov has a great glove. He will challenge the shooter at the appropriate time. Varlamov's someone that definitely moved up on my charts in terms of goaltending talent. He will be the next Russian goalie in the NHL. The only weakness seems to be his puck handling.

The Three B's, SWE - Berglund, Backstrom, and Bergfors where hyped to be three first round forwards that could carry Sweden to a gold medal. All three disappointed, as they struggled to live up to the hype and expectations. Berglund (STL) was enigmatic to say the least. When he played with aggressiveness he appeared to have goal scoring power forward potential, but those spurts were minimal and his play was often passive. Backstrom (WAS) was steady in all three zones but seemed to take too long to make up his mind with the puck, instead of being the instinctive play maker that he normally is. Bergfors (NJ) is one of the oldest players at the tournament, and has competed in the AHL for the past two seasons. You would never have guessed this after watching his poor performance in Sweden. It is likely that all three players put too much pressure on themselves, and in the end their nerves hindered their performance.

[Update] Scouts say Esposito top prospect, Hockey Day in Switzerland - Winnipeg Sun.

Angelo Esposito of the Quebec Remparts continues to impress NHL scouts.

The Montreal native is the top-ranked North American skater in the mid-season ranking of players eligible for the 2007 NHL entry draft. The list was released yesterday by the NHL Central Scouting Service.

The draft will be held June 23 in Columbus.

[Update2] 2007 Prospects: Alexei Cherepanov - Hockeys Future.

[Update3] 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, Team USA finishes with hard-earned and unforgettable bronze medal - USAhockey.com.


Sharks come up short 3-2 in measuring stick game against Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson
San Jose Sharks Edmonton Oilers

The Sharks faced off against last year's Western Conference semifinal opponent on Wednesday night, the Edmonton Oilers. After spotting Edmonton 3 goals in the first eleven and a half minutes of play, the Sharks answered with goals by Marcel Goc (PP) and Jonathan Cheechoo. The Oilers picked up points in their fifth straight game with a 3-2 win at HP Pavilion.

A loud sellout crowd of 17,496 was into the game, and very critical of the officiating. The refs called 10 penalties on San Jose, with the Oilers converting on 2 of 9 power play opportunities. San Jose earned their first attempt with a man advantage 17:45 into the second period. The Sharks finished 1-4.

Dwayne Roloson [18-15-4, .909SV%, 2.71GAA, 3SO] made 32 saves on 34 shots to earn his 18th win of the season, and first star of the game honors. Evgeni Nabokov [11-9-0, .913SV%, 2.740AA, 3SO] recovered after another poor start to finish with 13 saves on 16 shots. In his last two starts against Phoenix [8-0 los] and Detroit [9-3 win], Nabokov was pulled after allowing 3 goals early in the first period.

Plays of the game:

Starting lineups, Edmonton - Stoll, Pisani, Smyth, Hejda, Smith, Roloson. San Jose - Marleau, Thornton, Grier, Gorges, Hannan, Nabokov. The San Jose fans made a good effort attempt to sing O' Canada at the start of the game, but it tailed off a little in the later verses. Edmonton solved the problem of not knowing all the words last year in the playoffs by cheering the U.S. national anthem.

First period:
Jonathan Cheechoo takes a tripping penalty 1:08 into the first period. On the ensuing power play Marc-Andre Bergeron takes a pass off of the boards and rockets a slapshot one-timer up over the right should of Evgeni Nabokov. Little to no reaction from Evgeni means that he probably was screened on the play. Dwayne Roloson lost his stuck on a scrum in front of the crease. A rebound squibs in between Thornton's feet. He kicks the puck to his feet and is stuffed by the leg pads of Rolo. Stoll checks Thornton very hard on the play.

This is Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert's first game in the NHL. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron has 172 NHL games under his belt, Matt Greene 68, Jan Hejda 14, Mathieu Roy 3 (this is his first game of the season), and captain Jason Smith has 829. Without Smith and Bergeron, the Oilers have 85 career NHL games of experience between 4 defenseman. Edmonton's Ladislav Smid is out with a shoulder injury.

The Sharks blueine consisted of Scott Hannan (471 games), Kyle McLaren (626 games), Christian Ehrhoff (147 games), Josh Gorges (80 games), Doug Murray (49 games), and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (42 games). Without Hannan and McLaren, the Sharks spread 318 career NHL games between 4 blueliners. Defenseman Matt Carle (51 games) was recently sent down to the AHL Worcester Sharks.

Ryane Clowe, coming off of a hat trick against Columbus, drops the gloves against Matt Greene in the corner. Greene spends most of the tussle trying to gain position on Clowe, and he takes a beating in the process. Greene loses his helmet and takes several hard right hands to end the fight. Decision strongly in favor of Clowe.

Sharks have the jump in speed with the puck and physical play, but it is not represented on the score board. Mathieu Roy scores his first NHL goal in his first game of the season. Marty Reasoner ties up Curtis Brown on the faceoff as neither control the puck. A second effort by Reasoner draws the puck back to Roy on the point. Goal, 2-0 Edmonton.

Hard to get into a game when you keep sending players to the box. Doug Murray takes a holding penalty at 11:12. Another clean faceoff win by Bergeron. The puck glided 15 feet back to the point. Ales Hemsky set up Jarret Stoll with a cross ice pass for his 13th goal of the season. A point shot by Ehrhoff deflects wide. The rebound bounces out in front of the crease to the right of Roloson. The Sharks outnumber Edmonton 2-to-1, and Goc stuffs home a rebound. 3-1 Edmonton.

Second period:
Patrick Marleau takes a 4 minute high sticking penalty early in the second. Blood dripping from, it looks like Raffi Torres, makes for a pretty gruesome scoreboard replay. Sharks kill off the double minor. On the back end, Hannan-Vlasic, Gorges-McLaren, Hannan-Ehrhoff, Gorges-Mclaren, and Hannen-Ehrhoff are the defensive pairings. Brown-Grier alternate with Rissmiller and Goc up front. With the puck cleared up ice, Thornton and Cheechoo take the ice for the final 20 seconds.

Crowd is extremely angry at the officials. Brad Watson was one of the refs who allowed 2 Sharks goals on 1 power play against Columbus in their last home game. The fans have a little more invested in this game with 4 straight losses against Edmonton in the semifinal playoff series last year.

#34 Rissmiller laid out Bergeron at the Edmonton blueline. Along with a solid play on the penalty kill, he is one of the players of the game so far. According to the Sharks radio broadcast, San Jose is 13-22 on power plays in the last 3 games for 59.1%. Impressive stat. Matt Greene called for interference, the Sharks get their first power play of the game with under 3 minutes to play in the second period.

After one stop by Roloson, he tosses the puck to his stick and tries to clear it with a Happy Gilmore style running baseball swing. He almost takes out a Shark in the process. Shots are 21 to 9 after two periods, with most of Edmonton's coming on the man advantage.

Third period:
On the power play, Cheechoo gets the puck along the boards and sends it to Pavelski in front of the crease. Pavelski loses his footing and dives head first into Roloson and two Oilers. Cheechoo gathers the rebound and sends it up over the pile for his 14th goal of the season. Another scramble in front of the Edmonton crease, and San Jose tips the puck 3 inches over the top of the crossbar. It would be the best chance to tie the game in the third period. The Sharks pressured the Oilers outshooting them 13-7, but they could not get another puck by Rolson. Oilers earn a tough 3-2 road win.

[Update] The Green vs Clowe first period fight is up on Hockeyfights.com.


Hockey Night in San Jose, Sharks down Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2

Columbus Blue Jackets Fredrick Norrena
Columbus Blue Jackets San Jose Sharks
Sergei Federov

San Jose earned a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Sharks forward Ryane Clowe scored his first career hat trick as both teams combined for 7 power play goals. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff earned a Gordie Howe hat trick with an assist on Patrick Marleau's first period power play goal, a fighting major against Columbus defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, and a power play goal of his own in the second period.

The controversy for the evening began with coincidental minors to Ryane Clowe (roughing) and Manny Malhotra (slashing) at 2:39 of the first period. The penalties were not called at the same time, but they were assessed at the same stoppage of play. Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla then took a high sticking call 33 seconds later. Patrick Marleau scored 4-on-3 with 17 seconds left on the original penalties. Clowe was released from the box shortly after Manny Malhotra, instead of releasing Klesla first for 17 second of 4-on-4 play. Clowe then scored on the 5-on-4 which resulted in two power play goals from a single penalty.

Columbus head coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters, "(I haven't seen that call) in all my years in hockey, nor in all my years in the league, especially since we argued it. We were told it was a new rule... The whole game was nothing but special teams anyway. That was the game."

Columbus Blue Jackets President and GM Doug MacLean expanded on the visitors radio broadcast during the first intermission:

[Q] Doug, period one is not the way you want to get started?

[DM] I am just really frustrated. I am sitting here watching them score the second goal on a power play where our guy should have been out of the box, and it was a blatant mistake by the minor official and referee. It is the most ridiculous thing I have seen in my life.

[Q] It is exactly what we were talking about here. When the goal was scored, Klesla should have come out of the box at that time, and it was not done so. It cost them a goal, no question about it.

[A] But it is common sense. One power play does not give you two goals. It's impossible. How the referees don't understand that on the ice, and the coaches. I am blown away by this.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the league acknowledged the missed call by referees Brad Watson and Craig Spada. NHL director of officials Stephen Walkom apologized to the Blue Jackets before the start of the second period, and to GM Doug MacLean by phone in the second period.

Sergei Fedorov (elbow) and Josh Gorges left the game after a collision in the first period. Rick Nash was a late scratch for Columbus with a back injury. Ryane Clowe's hat trick was signaled in the third by a hat hitting me from the upper deck. Six more hats banked off of the protective netting and dropped nearby shortly after, along with 3 beanies. No pictures of the hats on the ice, had to repeatedly feed two fans who had a little trouble getting them over the high end glass. They got all but one on the ice.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Official Error - Two for Elbowing.

Frankly? This is a rare and somewhat funky situation, but it's the kind of situation I expect should cause no -- zero, none -- confusion in the minds of the referees. that they got it wrong is incomprehensible to me. We're not talking about "well, the puck split in half, and half of the puck went in the net, is it a goal?" type problems, this is, to me, a purely straightforward rulebook interpretation -- and they botched it.

[Update] A Bolt of reality may strike more than just coach and GM if Tampa Bay doesn't turn its season around in near future - Ottawa Sun.

While it was reported in this space last week that Lightning GM Jay Feaster and coach John Tortorella are under immense pressure to get Tampa turned around, they aren't the only ones feeling the heat from ownership. Sources say if the Bolts (19-21-1-1) don't start winning soon, the team will likely begin dumping salary...

The Bolts, however, have identified the problem: Goaltending. Neither Marc Denis (acquired from Columbus for Frederik Modin) nor Johan Holmqvist have gotten the job done. The options are limited, but there's talk the Sharks are getting ready to move Vesa Toskala.

[Update2] Forsberg rumors remain - Prince of Pucks.

[Update3] Ryane Clowe has first career hat trick as Sharks beat Jackets 5-2 - NHL.com.

[Update4] The Sharks officially shut down their online messageboard today. They had been able to manage the occasional problem poster over the past few years, but an avalanche of commerical and inappropriate spam has effectively shut it down.

For alternative messageboards with moderators I would recommend TheFeeder.com, Hockey Future or Chompboard. A list of messageboards on this blog will be updated shortly.

It is possible to set up a messageboard or comment system where users collectively can filter out inappropriate material. Visit athleticsnation.com for one local example.

Minnesota Remains Unanimous No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey announced the latest collegiate hockey rankings:

Minnesota Remains Unanimous No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

This Week's Top-15 Match-Ups

Friday, Jan. 12
No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 15 Lake Superior State
No. 12 Boston University @ No. 2 Maine

Saturday, Jan. 13
No. 5 Notre Dame @ No. 15 Lake Superior State
No. 12 Boston University @ No. 2 Maine
No. 14 Cornell @ No. 9 Clarkson

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The University of Minnesota earned the No. 1 spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll for the seventh-straight week. The Golden Gophers received 510 points and all 34 first-place votes for the third-consecutive week.

The University of Maine garnered 464 points to claim the No. 2 spot, while the University of New Hampshire (444) grabbed the No. 3 position. St. Cloud State University (409) extended its winning streak to eight games and claimed the No. 4 spot, while the University of Notre Dame (379) rounded out the top five.

Clarkson University made the biggest jump on the poll, moving up six spots to the No. 9 position, while Lake Superior State University made its debut at No. 15.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #13

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

1. U. of Minnesota, 510 (34), 1, 19-1-3, 13
2. U. of Maine, 464, 5, 14-3-2, 13
3. U. of New Hampshire, 444, 2, 16-3-1, 13
4. St. Cloud State U., 409, 6, 14-3-3, 8
5. U. of Notre Dame, 379, 3, 17-4-1, 10
6. Miami (Ohio) U., 324, 4, 16-7-1, 13
T-7. U. of Denver, 268, T-10, 15-7-2, 12
T-7. Boston College, 268, 7, 10-6-1, 13
9. Clarkson U., 257, 15, 13-5-1, 7
10. Michigan State U., 177, 14, 12-8-1, 13
11. Colorado College, 158, 8, 13-8-1, 6
12. Boston U., 156, 9, 8-4-6, 13
13. U. of Michigan, 113, T-10, 13-8-0, 13
14. Cornell U., 62, 12, 9-5-1, 12
15. Lake Superior State U., 30, NR, 13-6-3, 1

Others receiving votes: Niagara University, 19; Bemidji State University, 16; Sacred Heart University, 10; University of Vermont, 10; Quinnipiac University, 4; University of North Dakota, 2.

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.

[Update] 2006-07 States of the Game, Our annual look at where college hockey players come from - Inside College Hockey.

- In each of our four States of the Game reports, more players have come from Minnesota than any other state. This year 214 college hockey players come from Minnesota, followed by Michigan (150), Massachusetts (124) and New York (103). Ninety-six of the 214 Minnesotans play in the WCHA.

- Massachusetts representation in Division I hockey has dropped 33 percent since our first States of the Game study, in 2002-03. The Bay State now accounts for 124 Division I players, down from 185 that year. This is the first year of our report in which Michigan had more players (150) than Massachusetts... - Count California and Missouri as the big recent gainers in production of college hockey talent. Each has 12 more players than it did in 2002-03; California has moved from 20 players to 32, while Missouri has gone from just seven players to 19.

That is a 64% increase in collegiate hockey players from the Golden State. If the Californian NHL and ECHL teams combined with local youth and adult athletic associations to promote street and inline hockey, in addition to ice hockey, that figure would skyrocket in the future. As it is, in-state youth participation in ice hockey is a very small percentage of overall youth athletics. The cost of equipment and ice time, and the lack of first hand exposure, is a large barrier to entry.


Hockey and Skating Magazine Dustin Penner photo

Hockey and Skating Magazine

Hockey and Skating Magazine used a photo from this blog for their January article on Anaheim rookie left wing Dustin Penner.

The hockey publication also covered the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team signing two Californians to play in 2007-08 (Kelly Nash and Olivia Jakiel), Team USA's selection of Californian Lance Dyer for the u-21 inline team, posted national rankings for 18AAA and 16AAA junior teams, and offered reports on the NHL, ECHL, and youth hockey.

The second page of the Dustin Penner article can be found here. You can subscribe to Hockey and Skating Magazine which covers hockey in California by calling 951-685-3794 or emailing lisa [at] hockeyandskating.com.


Sharks score 9 unanswered goals, obliterate Detroit Red Wings 9-4

San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings Joe Louis Arena

After the Detroit Red Wings jumped out to a 3 goal lead on Evgeni Nabokov in the first period, the San Jose Sharks swtiched goaltenders and answered with 9 goals by 7 different goal scorers. The 9-4 win leaves San Jose 1 point behind Detroit for fifth place in the Western Conference standings, and 8 points behind the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific division.

Left wing Mark Bell and Scott Parker were scratches for San Jose. Ryan Clowe returned to the lineup and added 2 goals, his first since November 28th at St. Louis. Pavel Datsyuk and Chris Chelios were scratches for the Detroit Red Wings. The veteran defenseman Chelios took an indefinite leave of absence to deal with the murder of two employees at Cheli's Chili Bar in Detroit.

Red Wings at San Jose highlights are available on Youtube here, in addition to Saves of the Week and Best Hits of December clips. TSN will archive today's World Junior Championships gold medal game between Canada and Russia after the fact here.

Key Plays of the Game:

Starting Lineups:
San Jose - Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Scott Hannan, Doug Murray, Evgeni Nabokov. Detroit - Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Johan Franzen, Danny Markov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dominik Hasek.

The Detroit Red Wings rolled into San Jose with an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games. Dominik Hasek was stellar in the month of December, posting a 10-1-0 record with a 1.59GAA, and a .940SV%. Hasek allowed one goal or fewer in 7 starts, with shutouts against Minnesota and Columbus.

The Sharks followed a turbulent 5-5 stretch after 9 of 10 games at home with an 8-0 blowout loss at Phoenix. San Jose rebounded with a 4-2 win at Dallas on New Years Eve, but a number of questions remained. Defenseman Matt Carle (22) and Steve Bernier (21) were demoted to Worcester of the AHL, and the Sharks were struggling to post two consecutive games with a solid 60 minute effort.

First period:
Marleau-Thornton-Grier takes the second shift for the Sharks. Adding Marleau's speed and Mike Grier to Thornton's line creates a number of matchup problems for Detroit offensively, but how will that line perform defensively? Winger Ryan Clowe takes his first shift in over a month for San Jose. Jiri Hudler puts Detroit on the board with an assist by Niklas Kronwall. Former Shark Josh Langfeld started the play in the neutral zone, and was in front of the net creating traffic for the goal.

The Red Wings blow through the neutral zone on the power play, and an uncontested point shot results in a Thomas Holmstrom goal. 2-0 Detroit. Another Sharks turnover, Goc loses the puck at center ice to Justin Williams. There is no one between Williams and Nabokov. Goal, 3-0 Detroit in just over 10 minutes of play. Evgeni Nabokov is pulled for Vesa Toskala. Radio broadcast notes this is the second straight game Nabokov has given up 3 goals in the first period.

A few minutes after pointing to a defensive lapse by defenseman Josh Gorges, he takes a pass of the boards by Thornton and wrists a point shot by Hasek. The play was under review to see if Grier tipped the puck in with a stick over the crossbar, but it went off of Hasek's stick. 3-1 Detroit.

Patrick Marleau and Kirk Maltby race for a puck at open ice near the Sharks blueline. Marleau used a burst of speed to clear the puck, but Maltby made it close. The Sharks finish the period with 2 huge point shots by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff is displaying a lot of confidence on the PP. The second point shot bounces off the shoulder of Hasek and trickles a few inches wide of the post.

Second period:
Jonathan Cheechoo takes a pass through the crease and wrists a puck up over Hasek. 3-2 Detroit, but the Sharks are starting to control play. Ryan Clowe hammers home a rebound in his first game back to tie the game at 3-3.

Detroit has a 5-on-3 to try to wrest control of this game back from the Sharks. The powerplay unit deserves mention; Henrik Zetterberg, Robert Lang, Mathieu Schneider, Nicklas Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom. 4 players who have made the Sharkspage allstar team in the past, and Holmstrom who would make the all-Madden team if he followed the NHL. A long breakout pass in the neutral zone results in a drop pass for a shot on Toskala. In the next sequence, Toskala slides across the crease to make a glove save up high. Pivotal moment of the game, but it is still tied 3-3.

Ehrhoff uncorks a bomb from the point. The shot a few inches off the ice sneaks inside the left post. Later in the period, Sharks rookie center Joe Pavelski was knocked down behind the net. He got to his feet, skated to the crease, and wrapped the puck around Hasek up high for a goal. 5-3 Sharks.

Third period:
At the start of the period, Wings backup goaltender Chris Osgood is having a long conversation with the fan seated in the stands next to him from his folding chair at the opposing players entrance. Hopefully he is scouting for information, because he may be in the game shortly.

Marleau takes a bad hooking penalty to give Detroit another power play. This PP unit consists of Lidstrom, Schneider, Cleary, Samuelsson, and Lang. Sharks kill the penalty. On an ensuing Sharks power play, Mike Grier fires another hard slap shot from the left faceoff dot. It blows by Hasek, who had very little reaction to the play. 6-3 Sharks.

Three insurance goals might be enough for most NHL teams, but Detroit is San Jose's arch-nemisis. San Jose is 13-37-7 against the Red Wings alltime, but for fans dating back to the Cow Palace years it seems a lot worse.

The Sharks have a 5-on-3 at 12:59, Draper and Markov are in the box for Detroit. Joe Thornton, last year's scoring leader and reigning NHL MVP, threaded a pass in close to Patrick Marleau at the side of the net. Tap-in goal, no chance for Hasek. 7-3 Sharks. Mike Grier adds his second power play goal of the period with assists by Patrick Marleau and Scott Hannan, 8-3 Sharks. Waiting for a goaltending change from Hasek to Osgood, but it doesn't look like it is going to happen. It does, looking at the Detroit bench and Osgood, it almost appears like he went in the game without being signaled.

Sharks fans are getting their moneys worth with "Go Home Red Wings" and "Os--gooood" chants. The 2-300 Wings fans and University of Michigan alumni in one upper deck section were taking it to San Jose pretty hard in the first period. After the final goal by Detroit defensmean Brett Lebda made it 9-4, a lone Red Wings jersey wearing fan stands up to cheer and draws mock applause from the nearby Sharks fans.

Victor Chi noted that the Sharks 6 power play goals was a franchise record, and that it had been almost 10 years since San Jose came from more than 3 goals behind for a win. Patrick Marleau's goal and 3 assists left him with every major franchise scoring record except for most goals. He needs one more to tie Owen Nolan at 206. The San Jose Mercury News also posted an audio slideshow of the game from Nhat V. Meyer here.

Another audio slidshow from Aric Crabb is available from Insidebayarea.com.

Sharks rebound to the nines, Seven players score in turnaround from eight-goal loss - SF Chronicle.

An email from Christy at Behindthejersey.com:

Ted Kulfan covered the game for the Detroit News and wrote: "There are bad nights, and then, during a long NHL season, there are utter embarrassments."

"I have no explanation for that" said Hasek of the Wings collapse. "I don't know what to say. I don't have any words for it. They outplayed us, but still, you give up nine goals, that's a lot for a game. We played very bad."

Helene St. James writes in the Detroit Free Press that the Wings were humbled beyond belief over Sharks meltdown.

"You get humbled beyond belief," coach Mike Babcock said... "Holy mackerel, After the second period, I thought it was like two games. They had their way with us, and we'd had our way with them early. The bottom line is, we couldn't keep it out. To me, after the first period, we didn't win any of the battles any more... We haven't played like that in I don't know how long."

[Update] Sharks Bell pleads not guilty to felony DUI charges - SF Chronicle.

[Update2] Bernier, Carle should help, San Jose prospects demoted to develop their games - Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

Steve Bernier and Matt Carle made their Sharks debuts last night with a most satisfactory result. Bernier had an assist and was plus-1 while Carle was pointless, but plus-1, in Worcester's 5-3 victory over the Springfield Falcons.

"Getting the point wasn’t important," said Bernier. "That's not what I'm down here to work on. Sometimes you get points and don't play a very good game, and sometimes your best game is one you don't get any points in at all."

[Update3] Negative props to Dallas Stars forward Patrik Stefan, who fell down while skating in for a tap-in empty net goal. The Edmonton Oilers turned the puck around, skated up ice, and scored the tying goal to send the game into overtime. Dallas ended up with the win, and one of the most embarassing highlights of the season.

Upon furthur review, look at how high the pucks bounces up off the ice before Stefan tries to take a shot. You can not blame Dallas ice for this one, the game was at Rexall Place in Edmonton.


WJC Semifinals Canada downs USA 2-1, goaltender duel ends in a 7-round overtime shootout

Team Canada faced off against Team USA in the semifinals of the IIHF u20 World Junior Championships Wednesday. With the heightened atmosphere of a bowl game, the Americans were looking to avenge a 6-3 loss to Canada in round robin play. Canada carried with it the hopes of an entire nation and the pressure that goes along with it.

Starting lineups:
Canada - Cogliano, Marchand, Downie, Staa, Parent, Price. USA - Lewis, Kane, Okposo, J. Johnson, Lawson, Frazee.

Carey Price stars as Terminator for Team Canada. At 6-2, 215 it is hard to imagine that he is not done growing. Price came into the game with a 4-0-0 record, 1.00GAA, and a .968SV%. Makes the difficult play look easy, and the easy play look effortless. Jeff Frazee comes into the game for Team USA with a 3-0-0 record, 1.96GAA, and a .931SV%. Frazee battles in net, and feeds off of the play of his teammates who block a lot of shots in front of him. He maximizes the surface area he puts in front of shooters whether standing up or going down to make a save.

First period:
Nice puck movement by USA on the first power play. Canada sucked in around Price. At the drop of the puck, defenseman Jack Johnson moved up to stand opposite Steve Downie. Downie is a volatile power forward to say the least. USA is going to try to get into his head. Downie ran Jack Johnson hard behind the net in one of the first shifts of the game.

One thing to notice about Frazee is the speed with which he goes down to block a shot and gets up to get back into the play. Kyle Okposo takes the puck wide around a defenseman and gets a clean shot on Price. Okposo has not been as visible in this tournament as the buildup would suggest. Darren Helm is a smaller sized forward for Team Canada, but he is explosive with every play on the ice. Helm picked the puck clean off of Erik Johnson short handed and broke in on Frazee for a solid scoring chance. Helm vs Erik Johnson will be a regular NHL matchup in the very near future.

Second period:
Helm makes a diving play to keep the puck in the USA zone with the man advantage. The result is a minute and a half of Canadian scoring chances on Frazee. At one point during a mad scramble, three American players dropped to the ice to block a shot. A hallmark of the team this tournament, it is evident how much this rivalry means to the players on the ice.

American captain Taylor Chorney gathers the puck at the left boards and fires a cross-ice pass to Nate Gerbe for a one-timer. Correction, the puck bounced off Staal's foot. 1-0 USA, assist by Erik Johnson. Brian Little is robbed by Frazee sliding across the crease to make a pad save. Frazee displaying excellent mobility. Save of the game.

Toews scored a goal and a penalty shot goal in the 6-3 Canadian win over USA in round robin play. Canada is counting on his performance in this game.

Third period:
Canada 0-7 heading into a power play in the third. USA takes another penalty, Canada has a 5-on-3 for 29 seconds. Luc Bourdon gathers the rebound off of a point shot and wrists it past Frazee. Canada now 1-8 on the PP, game tied 1-1.

USA's Peter Mueller is very difficult to knock off the puck. On one sequence, two players took multiple shots at him. Mueller was able to maintain control and thread a pass across the ice. As the minutes tick down, overtime is almost assured. For the WJC there is one 10 minute overtime period, and a 3-round shootout. The coaches can reuse players if the shootout is tied after 3 rounds.

Overtime period:
Sharkspage maxim - when pucks are not going into the net, sit on the goaltender and good things will happen. Gerbe takes that advice and runs over Price. It results in one of the best scoring chances of overtime. A Canada forward gets his stick up and bloodies American defenseman Jack Johnson. Power play Team USA, who is 1-4 on the man advantage this game.

One problem with Erik Johnson. Overtime in a semifinal WJC game, and he does not get within 15 feet of Carey Price with the puck. On a second rush into the Canadian zone, E.J. gets three consecutive shots stuffed by Price.

Shootout round:
Have to watch the highlight video above for a recap.

TSN has a video archive of the game online, and a Youtube user published highlights from the overtime shootout.

[Update] U.S. Falls in Heartbreaker to Canada in Semifinals of WJC; Canada Takes Victory in Seventh Round of Shootout - USA Hockey.

Pregame USA-Canada game notes are available here in PDF form.

[Update2] Day 7, SF: Canada plays Russia in U20 final - IIHF.com.

Detroit Red Wings retire Steve Yzerman's #19

Detroit Red Wings Joe Louis Arena
Steve Yzerman 19 jersey retirement Detroit

The Detroit Red Wings raised Steve Yzerman's #19 to the rafters prior to a 2-1 win over the league leading Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. Video of the ceremony from the Detroit Red Wings is available here and here.

Christy Hammond chronicled the event start to finish on her blog behindthejersey.com. She noted that CBC's Don Cherry and Ron MacLean were reporting from the Joe, that past greats Lindsay, Howe, Delvecchio, Probert, Hull, Brown, Konstantinov, Duchesne, Larionov, Kocur, and Murphy, and coaches Dave Lewis, Barry Smith, and Scotty Bowman were in attendance. Each was introduced by the master of ceremonies Darren Pang.

"He's not the kind of guy who wants a year-long goodbye. That's not Steve Yzerman. But, when I look at this guy, I think he's been one of the best players this game has ever seen. I really believe that when Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman were in their prime, they were the top three players in their time." - Detroit GM Ken Holland

The evening was a great tribute to a player who represented Detroit for 2 generations. Also worthy of a note was Yzerman's brief intermission interview during a USA-Canada round robin World Junior Championship match last week in Sweden. There was a brief shot of Yzerman sitting alone in the sparsely populated stands watching a very spirited game on the ice. When the TSN host came over for a brief interview, Yzerman could not wipe the smile off his face. Yzerman downplayed his upcoming jersey retirement ceremony, and mentioned saying a few words to Team Canada before they took the ice.

The photos above were taken by Christy's dad and used with permission. Another one of her dad's photos on this blog pictured Steve Yzerman in action against the Vancouver Canucks last January.

Tonight is University of Michigan alumni night for the San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings game at HP Pavilion. There is a pre-game indoor meetup past the Sharks store to the right at 6:15.

[Update] LCS Hockey also pointed to this excellent photo retrospective from Sports Illustrated. LCS's Michael Paul Dell published a book entitiled Honest John Churchfield.

[Update2] Sharks Ready For Detroit - SJsharks.com.

The Sharks spent their second consecutive day practicing at Logitech Ice on Wednesday, marking the first time in nearly two weeks that the team has had the opportunity for two consecutive days of practice. With the recent roster shake-up and an emotional two-game road trip fresh in the memory bank, the Sharks readied to hit the mid-way point of their season against the Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion on Thursday, January 4 at 7:30 p.m.

The Sharks enter the contest with momentum following their 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars. It was a statement game for Team Teal, who rebounded from an 8-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes just one night earlier. In fact, a great deal of soul searching was done on that trip from Phoenix to Dallas as the players addressed several issues that centered around preparing and focusing on the little details of the game.

[Update3] Honored Role; Steve Yzerman's number retired, Wings beat Ducks 2-1 - LetsgoWings.com.


San Jose Stealth NLL Lacrosse team open 2007 season Friday

San Jose Stealth NLL Lacrosse

The San Jose Stealth open the 2007 season at home Friday, January 5th against the Rochester Knighthawks. Dan Rusanowsky and a Stealth reserve player will call the game for the FSN Bay Area broadcast. The Stealth will also receive national coverage with the March 24th match-up against Portland aired on Versus. Games will also be streamed online via B2 Networks, and on the radio at KLIV 1590 AM.

The Stealth finish the regular season April 13th against the rival Colorado Mammoth.

Colossal trade as season nears, Doyle to San Jose, Benesch to Toronto highlight blockbuster deal - National Lacrosse League.

With opening night action just days away, a blockbuster trade has been announced that includes the 2005 NLL MVP and the 2006 first overall selection in the Entry Draft, and once again the San Jose Stealth are in the middle of it all. Today the Toronto Rock have traded Colin Doyle, Darren Halls and their first round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft to the Stealth, in exchange for Ryan Benesch, Kevin Fines, Chad Thompson and San Jose's first round selections in the 2008 and 2009 Entry Drafts.

The Stealth added some needed veteran scoring punch to their offense acquiring Colin Doyle. Doyle's resume includes; five championship rings, 2005 NLL season MVP honors, the 2005 Championship Game MVP honors, seven All-Pro selections, 2005 NLL points champion and numerous other player awards. The nine year veteran has played his entire career with the Rock and has totaled 685 points on 297 goals and 388 assists. In league history, the six-foot-three, 215 pound forward currently ranks fifth all-time in points, sixth all-time in goals and fifth all-time in assists.

This blog has made it all three of the Stealth's opening night home games. In that span San Jose is 2-1, with 33 goals for and 33 goals against.

The Stealth earned a 10-7 win over the arch-rival Colorado Mammoth to win the first home game of 2006. After downing the defending NLL champion Calgary 12-10 on the road, the Stealth lost 14-10 against the Calgary Roughnecks to open the 2005 season at home. The Stealth scored a last second game winning goal over Colorado win the 2004 home opener 13-12.

[Update] Stealth Announce 2007 TV Schedule - SJ Stealth.


Hockey Notes - World Junior Championships edition

The remaining tournament schedule for the 2007 IIHF u20 World Junior Championships in Sweden (all times EST):

Tuesday, January 2nd
10am Switzerland vs Slovakia
1:30pm USA vs Finland
1:30pm Sweden vs Czech Republic

Wednesday, January 3rd
10am Germany vs Belarus
10am Canada vs USA
1:30pm Russia vs Sweden

Thursday, January 4th
10am Slovakia vs Belarus
1:30pm Switzerland vs Germany
1:30pm Czech Republic vs Finland

Friday, January 5th
10am Bronze Medal Game
1:30pm Gold Medal Game
Source: TSN

Full Team Canada games and tournament highlights are being streamed on demand at the new broadband.tsn.ca website. For non-Canada streaming visit svt.se, but the text and commentary are in Swedish (USA vs Slovakia here, Sweden vs Germany here, Sweden vs Slovakia here). RDS Canada is also streaming the games live in French.

TSN's World Jrs website, and the official IIHF page are two of the best static news sources to follow the tournament online.

USA Hockey is providing a live audiocast of today's USA vs Finland game. Hockey Canada has game photos, and a lot of behind the scenes information. Worldjuniors2007.com is the official tournament website.

- World U20 Semifinals: USA takes on Canada, Sweden meets Russia in SF - IIHF.

Sweden qualified for its first World U20 semifinal since 2001 by defeating a disappointing Czech Republic team 5-1. Last time Sweden took part in a "final-four" was in Russia in 2001. Sweden will take on undefeated and impressive Team Russia in Leksand on Wednesday in the late game at 19.35.

- USA win power play fest to advance to semis - Eurohockey.net.

After ending up with two losses in as many games the USA has now won three in a row and are looking strong again. "We're now all on the same page. After our first two games, we had two days off and rested well and sticked to our plan. We learned to play as a team instead of individually" said captain Taylor Chorney.

The defenseman is looking forward to tomorrow's game against rivals Canada. "Everyone in the locker room was hoping on Canada. I'm sure we will give them a good game." Asked if tonight's game might have cost his team too much energy to show up big tomorrow Chorney was clear. "If you can't get up for this game, there must be something wrong."

- The two biggest Swedish newspapers, Aftonbladet and Expressen, are each running exclusive videos and photo galleries if you can navigate through their sports pages in Swedish. Marie Hallman also has a hockeyblogg for Expressen. On her blogroll is Niklas Wikegard who covers the WJC, Elitserien (Swedish Elite League) and the NHL.

- James Mirtle compiled a list of all NHL draft picks playing in the 2006 IIHF u20 World Junior Championships for the Globe on Hockey.

The Chicago Blackhawks (Daniel Bertram, Jonathan Toews, David Kuchejda, Igor Makarov, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jack Skille), New York Rangers (Marc Staal, Marc-Andre Cliche, Tom Pyatt, David Kvetonv, Artem Anisimov, Tomas Zaborsky), and St Louis Blues (Tomas Kana, Reto Berra, Patrik Berglund, Alexander Hellstrom, Jonas Junland, Erik Johnson) were tied for the NHL lead with 6 prospects participating. The current Hawks downed the current Blues 4-1 Tuesday night on Versus.

- Canadian Spengler Cup goaltender Justin Pogge was ejected after a fight during a 5-2 win over EHC Eisbaren Berlin this weekend. Stockton Thunder's Devan Dubnyk entered the game as Pogge's replacement. HC Davos eliminated Canada in the final with a 3-2 win on Sunday.

- Sportsnet announcer Paul Romanuk covers the 80th Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament in Davos, Switzerland on his 2006 Spengler Cup blog.

[Update] World Juniors Taking Center Ice - New York Times.

This is the time of year for international tournaments, none bigger than the world junior championship under way in Sweden. The annual event is a showcase for the world's best players age 20 and under. Although the tournament generates moderate interest in Europe and little in the United States, it is hugely popular in Canada, where it receives some of the highest television ratings of the year. That may be due in part to Canada's having won 12 titles since the tournament became an official International Ice Hockey Federation event in 1977, a total matched by Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union.

This year, 10 teams are competing. Canada, with its cast of stars from the junior leagues, is the favorite in Group A. So far, it has swept past Sweden, the United States and Germany. The defense corps is impressive, led by Luc Bourdon, a No. 1 draft choice of the Canucks, and Marc Staal, a Rangers No. 1.