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Hockey

Crosby can look to Bergeron for inspiration

If Sidney Crosby, left, is seeking inspiration as he tries to fully recover from a concussion, his current situation was once the reality of Team Canada teammate Patrice Bergeron, right.

Source: CBC Sports    Written By: Elliotte Friedman

About a month ago, I ran into one of the Vancouver Canucks at a golf tournament. As much as we both tried to avoid it, the Stanley Cup Final ultimately came up in the conversation.

One of his comments: “Obviously, Tim Thomas was great. But Patrice Bergeron also killed us.”

Think about that when you’re considering Sidney Crosby’s future.

The Penguins released an injury update late Wednesday indicating Crosby continues “to visit leading specialists” and that he started having headaches “when he got to 90 per cent exertion in his workouts” this summer.

It doesn’t sound great. But it didn’t look good for Bergeron, either.

On New Year’s Eve 2009 – about 24 hours before the Boston Bruins were to play the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park – Bergeron walked by as I was talking to Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman.

“What a story he is,” Wideman said, looking at his teammate.

Bergeron was en route to his first concussion-free season in three years. He missed 72 games in 2007-08 and 15 more in 2008-09 due to this increasingly serious scourge on the game (Tim Wharnsby wrote more about Bergeron’s battle here).

I don’t have the exact quotes anymore, but Wideman told a story about showing up on an off-day for treatment during that first Bergeron injury. The room was dark and quiet. When he did see a trainer, all talk was at a whisper. Wideman wondered why there was no light, no music, no normal conversation.

Bergeron was there. And he couldn’t handle any of it. He was 22 and there was serious concern about his future.

But he recovered to play 73 games in 2009-10 and 80 last season. He added 20 points in 23 playoff games, including two goals in Game 7 – the first being the Stanley Cup winner. (The best news was that Bergeron made a quick recoveryfrom a concussion suffered during the series sweep over Philadelphia. He missed two games).

The point is, as Crosby’s agent, Pat Brisson, said on the Penguins’ website: “There is not a finite recovery” time when it comes to concussions. The 24/7 news cycle lacks patience. We want our answers and we want them now. Bergeron is proof, though, that, even if Crosby misses the beginning of this season, he can make a successful return.

The honest truth is that it makes zero sense for Crosby to make any firm declaration about his future. There’ve been a lot of declarations to retire, some public (doctors, columnists), some undoubtedly private (family, whose vote should matter most after his own).

What Crosby has, though, is time. He just turned 24. Even if he had to take the year off, a full recovery could mean another decade (at least) of high-level play. And you have to believe he will do anything possible to try and come back.

The best description of Crosby came from former teammate Rob Scuderi, who described him as a “superstar with the work ethic of a fourth-liner.” He’s so competitive and loves the game so much, it’s hard to see him walking away at such a young age without exhausting every option.

The idea he’s got nothing left to accomplish? The best don’t believe that. Just ask Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or Nicklas Lidstrom.

Bergeron won gold medals with Crosby at the 2005 world juniors and 2010 Olympics. No doubt they’ve talked. No doubt Crosby knows everything Bergeron went through and how hard it is to recover.

But it can be done. And with Wednesday’s brief announcement, Crosby let everyone know he’s going to make the smart play – taking all the time he needs.


Rick Rypien and the crisis of faith on hockey fighting

Source: Puck Daddy Written By: Greg Wyshynski

Winnipeg Jets forward Rick Rypien has been found dead in his Alberta home. 15/8/2011

Rick Rypien’s(notes) death on Monday marked the second time this year someone has arrived at the home of a young NHL player who fought his way into the profession — literally and figuratively — to find that player had suddenly died.

Being that we’re hockey fans, the third reaction to these stories, following shock and bereavement, is inevitably defensiveness.

Down Goes Brown probably spoke for the masses when he wrote:

We expect that criticism of the more physical elements of the game, and their debilitating effects, because we know it’ll arrive from outsiders who crack their knuckles over their keyboards when there’s an opportunity to paint hockey as barbaric. The basketball columnists who think the NHL “should be more like the Olympics.” Those guys.

But what we’re seeing with more frequency are completely reasonable people within the hockey community openly questioning how fighting and physical play affect guys like Rick Rypien that are battling their down demons. These aren’t questions from the accepted pacifists in the community like Adam Proteau of The Hockey News, but from people who essentially state the following:

‘I like fighting. I just don’t know if I can stomach it any longer.’

As of Tuesday morning, the motivations behind Rypien’s death aren’t known. But the fact he passed away after playing a role in the NHL that as seen its share of tragedies is enough to influence that sentiment.

In light of the deaths of Rypien, Derek Boogaard(notes), Bob Probert and others, do you find yourself wondering the same thing?

Chemmy, a writer for Toronto Maple Leafs blogs Pension Plan Puppets and The Leafs Nation, penned a post on Monday night titled “I’m Done With Fighting”:

“Symptoms of CTE include depression and suicidal tendencies. We don’t know anything about Rick Rypien’s death today but if anybody wants to place a cash bet that it wasn’t suicide and he didn’t have CTE I’m willing to give you good odds. Ultimately we, the fans who pay for tickets and cheer for fights, are responsible for the men who sacrifice their brains for our entertainment.

“This isn’t intended to be a sanctimonious lecture on the evils of fighting because I stood up for every fight I ever saw in a hockey rink.

“I don’t think people who like fights are troglodytes because when I woke up this morning I was a fan of hockey fights. Speaking as someone who’s had some serious brain trauma though the stories of Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert and others have been on my bruised mind for a while. I like watching fights and I like it when players fight but I just don’t think I can support it anymore so count me out.”

Peter Raaymakers of the Ottawa Senators blog Silver Seven penned an eerily timely post called “The Human Toll of Fighting” that published the morning before Rypien’s death. The case against the quasi-legality of fighting included the physical toll and the use of drugs to help with pain or anxiety; as for what the NHL should do:

“If others, like me, come to the conclusion that a couple minutes of hockey fights simply isn’t worth it, then we need to look at what we can do about reducing the frequency of fighting in the league, and reducing the number of players who join the league strictly as enforcers. The first and most obvious step is harsher penalties for fights.

“Although the Olympics and US College hockey are vastly different from NHL hockey, play at those levels is evidence that if strict penalties are placed on fighting, fighting will decline. Were the NHL to make the penalty for fighting a five-minute major plus a game misconduct, staged fights–which even the most ardent supporter of fighting would likely agree are meaningless and unnecessary–should decrease.

“Add the caveat that, should the fight happen in the final 10 minutes of the game, that ejection carries forward to the next game, and say (for good measure) that they team can’t dress anyone in your place if you fight and we’re making progress at eliminating most of the fights we see in the NHL today.”

Here’s where we are as a hockey community in 2011:

For several years, news about brain injuries and concussions has gone from a necessary evil for professional hockey players to what’s considered an epidemic. Calls for player responsibility and respect were ineffective; so the NHL had to step in and ban blindside hits before further banning pretty much any non-incidental contact with the head.

This is because high-priced assets and gate attractions like Sidney Crosby(notes) and Marc Savard(notes) were suddenly being sidelined with concussions. It was affecting hockey’s bottom line.

Meanwhile, on another bottom line, fighters were still beating the hell out of each other.

The concern for one class of players over another made for a rather uncomfortable situation for the NHL and for fans: How can one passionately call for the League to create rules that protect stars from brain damage while allowing two guys to bare-knuckle punch each other’s skulls with negligible penalties?

We’ve reached a crisis of faith for some fans that have admittedly enjoyed fights for the entirety of their hockey lives, but who now are having second thoughts.

But for other fans — and I count myself among them — the brain injury epidemic is a product of an inherently violent game.

I’ll never apologize for being pro-fighting. It’s the game I grew up with, and I’ve always felt that players enter the NHL accepting that it’s part of the gig. In some cases, players would have never made the show without fighting. It can be said that Rypien was one of those players.

As Jeff Marek wrote on Sportsnet, Rick Rypien “was a troubled person.” Every sport has them. It’s just that the more physical sports seem to have them end up dead. The NFL has had suicides of current and former players. Boxing had four of them in the span of a year. Try watching a professional wrestling pay-per-view from the last 20 years without seeing a wrestler who’s died tragically since then.

Banning fighting is seen as an easy fix because its detractors see it as superfluous: Red meat tossed to bloodthirsty fans, as much a gate attraction as Alex Ovechkin(notes). They see it as a macabre form of entertainment rather than having a “place in the game” as so many pro-fighting pundits can reasonably argue.

If the NHL banned fighting tomorrow, would another player ever take a painkiller? Or a sleeping pill? Or both? Would another NHL player drink a bit much to calm his nerves while popping a pill? Would another NHL succumb to depression given the agony and ecstasy of his profession and the excruciating time away from family that comes with the gig?

To say the physical toll of fighting doesn’t exacerbate the problems for a hockey player is a head-in-the-sand position. But to say fighting is at the heart of these problems is also naive.

I still feel we’re in the treatment phase of these issues, and the NHL and the NHLPA need to really examine how they go about educating players about their treatment options.

But the more tragedies we witness, the more science tells us about CTE and other brain damage, the more likely it is that the NHL will stop waiting for the culture to change and legislate most forms of fighting-for-show out of the game. Even if many of us feel it will fundamentally change the product.


The unfiltered truth about hockey players

Source: Puck Daddy

Written By: Justin Bourne

 

I’m coming off five days at the fourth annual Hockey Greats Fantasy Camp in Kelowna, BC, an event hosted by my dad. He pulled together a dozen ex-NHL beauties whose verbal filters pretty much went the way of tube skates (which one of our guests happened to be wearing by the way, Bauer Black Panthers).

Which is to say, most have long since been discarded.

What we got was pure, honest, hockey player goodness. After spending four days listening to these guys and our guests  — some of whom hadn’t skated in the past decade – it was easy to draw a conclusion: within some boundary of reason, the general personality of hockey players is similar everywhere, at every level. Everyone is just able to click, like owning a pair of skates is somehow the only move in our club’s secret handshake.

If you played minor hockey, rec hockey, road or roller hockey, you know exactly what I’m talking about. “Hockey” is a tribal dialect.

While there are exceptions to every rule, I think the collective personality of hockey player looks something like this:

The hockey player is a social animal. Hockey isn’t a game that can be played well by hesitant people. On-ice decisions have to be made too quickly to spend much time calculating odds, which means that the people who stick with the game are usually pretty sharp people. And a whole bunch of pretty sharp people can be a lot of fun — because of that, it’s never too hard to find a friend in a dressing room.

The hockey player revels in verbal abuse, and understands that the dressing room is not a place for sensitive folks. You really do end up caring for your teammates (and everybody knows it), but for some reason showing that is frowned upon. So, a surplus of good-natured abuse can always be found in its place.

That dressing room constant means, of course, that the hockey player spends the majority of his time trying to make his buddies laugh (which is why we all love our boy Down Goes Brown so much). Our fantasy camp was a constant parade of attempted one-upsmanship in this regard.

After our final charity game, a man came around looking for autographs. Dude was a little off … I’m not sure in what way. I wasn’t sure who he was there with or how he got in, so I started asking around. Apparently he had an announcement to make and a donation to give, so we let him stay. Problem was, he kept pestering our guys (at one point he even went into the shower to get Clark Gillies autograph), but … I wasn’t about to kick out a donor. About 45 minutes later, he called for everyone’s attention to announce his contribution … then Greg Adams removed the teeth, glasses, hair and all. It brought the house down.

And these are 40-60 year old men having fun like this.

Once a hockey player, always a hockey player.

But even with all these traits, the best thing to come from hockey culture is clear: We all understand that no player is bigger than the game, and that message permeates most of our personalities to the core.

I can’t speak to the stars of other sports, but the majority of ours have somehow managed to stay level-headed and respectable. Our game’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby(notes), is infuriatingly humble. If you try to pull some prima-donna B.S. at any level, you’ll find that your teammates almost act like the body’s immune system and try to weed you out (whether that’s a conscious move or not). We have very little time for excessive celebration and hot-doggery, which carries over to our personalities off the ice.

As in all walks of life, you can find A-holes in our sport too — no sport is an exception to that rule. But the more time you spend with teammates, hockey buddies from the past, and kids on the way up, you realize how much we all have in common.

Wherever you travel, whatever the age difference, for some reason you can always pin down a person who plays hockey pretty quickly.

Few people are able to shape the game, but the game was able to shape many of us.


Red Wings’ Chris Osgood retires after 17 seasons in the NHL

Source: TSN

Chris Osgood’s long and winding road in the NHL has finally come to an end.

The 38-year-old keeper announced his retirement from hockey in Detroit Tuesday morning, bringing an end to his 17-year playing career. He moves on to a new job within the Red Wings organization.

The Peace River, Alberta-native won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, who originally drafted Osgood in the third round, 54th overall, in 1991. He suited up for 744 NHL games in his career, spending two stints with the Wings, as well as playing for the Blues and Islanders.

He would serve as the starter for two of his three Cup wins, in 1998 and 2008 and served as Mike Vernon‘s back-up on Detroit’s 1997 Cup-winning team. He also took the Wings to Game Seven of the 2008 Cup finals, where they would lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A two-time Jennings Trophy winner, Osgood would share the award with Mike Vernon in 1996 and Dominik Hasek in 2008.

Osgood’s numbers rank amongst the all-time leaders amongst NHL goalies, despite fighting for a starting job for portions of his career.

Still, the numbers piled up. He ranks amongst the all-time leaders in regular-season wins (401, 10th all-time), shutouts (50, tied for 24th), goals-against average (2.49, 24th).

In the playoffs, his numbers were even better, his 74 playoff wins are good for eighth all-time and his 16 playoff shutouts trail only Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Curtis Joseph.

Osgood is also one of only five goalies to have scored a goal in an NHL game by actually firing the puck into the opponent’s net, doing so against Hartford on March 6, 1996.

His playoff success, of course, make Chris Osgood a curious case for the Hall of Fame.

He had three Stanley Cups, a 2.09 career playoff GAA and a 74-49 record. He was as steady as they come and one of the best postseason goalies of his generation.

Combine that with 401 wins, putting him No. 10 all-time in the regular season, and it’s going to be an interesting call for the Hall.

Consider every goalie ahead of him on that list is in the Hall save for Curtis Joseph(notes).

What Osgood is, we think, is the Glenn Anderson of goaltenders. Tremendous postseason success, both as a driving force and as a passenger for Cup teams, and playoff stats that are among the best in NHL history. Their regular-season numbers are well above average and Osgood’s win total puts him on another level among goaltenders. Both benefitted from playing with elite talent.

Was Glenn Anderson ever the best player in his team? No, and neither was Osgood. Was Glenn Anderson ever one of the five best players in the NHL? No, and neither was Osgood. Did Glenn Anderson ever win a major individual award? No, and neither did Chris Osgood.

They both fail the “eyeball” test, yet both have the numeric and championship-level impact that charms HOF voters.

Which is to say that both players were really, really, really good … just not immortal.


Brain cancer survivor asks Stanley Cup for a date

Source: Puck Daddy

Written by: Greg Wyshynski

If Internet video pleas can convince Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake to attend the Marine Corps Ball this November — both having accepted invitations from members of the Armed Forces — there’s really no telling what other dates it can set.

So David McGrath decided to take a bold step ask out another celebrity via YouTube … the Stanley Cup.

McGrath says he’s a huge Boston Bruins fan and a brain cancer survivor. He’s also the night manager at the Hope Lodge in Worcester, Mass., which offers free lodging and support for cancer patients traveling to Massachusetts for ongoing treatment.

As you can see, his plea is simple: He’s going to skate and play hockey for 24 hours beginning on July 30 in an event called Skating For Hope, and is asking the Stanley Cup to attend the event as his date.

(And what a date it would make: Beautiful, coveted, well-maintained and willing to hold your beer for you.)

If Stanley can’t make the date because it already has plans with Gregory Campbell(notes) and Tyler Seguin(notes) during the skate-a-thon, then McGrath hopes it can find its way to Hope Lodge at some point.

Check out more from The Post Game. Calculated attempt at drumming up interest for a charity event? Of course.

Inventive plea from a die-hard Bruins fan that wants to bring some Stanley Cup magic to cancer patients? Undeniably. Nicely done, sir.


Goal of the year candidate from Israeli hockey star

Source: Puck Daddy

Written By: Sean Leahy

Chances are you’ve probably never watched a game from the IIHF’s Division III championships, so the probability of you ever hearing the name Eliezer Sherbatov is slim, unless you’re a devout follower of the Israeli national hockey team or the Montreal Juniors or Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL.

During the D-III championships in April in South Africa, Sherbatov had a six-point game against Greece and delivered what would have been a highlight-reel goal around the world had the tournament been on many more people’s radars … and also not been finally uploaded to YouTube last weekend.

Via a retweet from Paul Bissonnette and CBS’s Eye on Hockey blog, here’s what’s arguably a top-five “Goal of the Year” candidate:

Sherbatov was the star at the tournament leading Israel to the gold medal with 14 goals and 26 points in four games. When you beat teams like Greece 26-2, that’ll help pad your stats. (The Greeks also lost 20-0 to Luxembourg and allowed 79 goals in four games. Mongolia withdrew from the tournament giving each team an automatic 5-0 victory.)


Winter Olympics 2018: Your South Korean hockey F.A.Q.

Source: Puck Daddy

Written By: Greg Wyshynski

As you may have heard, PyeongChang is the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics, marking the first time the Winter Games will be played in South Korea. Chris Chase of Fourth Place Medal says it was the easy and correct call for the IOC.

What it also means: That South Korea’s men’s national ice hockey team will make its Olympic debut in 2018. Unless it qualifies for the 2014 Games in Sochi, of course. Seeing that they’re currently ranked No. 31 in the world … well, we’ll see you in 2018, sirs.

Obviously, this is exciting news for the growth of hockey in Asian markets and internationally. It’s also news that hockey’s superpowers have a new enemy to worry about in seven years.

What do we really know about South Korean ice hockey? A handy F.A.Q.:

Q. How many people play ice hockey in South Korea?

According to the IIHF’s Global Survey of Players and Rinks, Korea had 1,607 licensed ice hockey players (124 female) in 2009-2010. As Ted Starkey of the Washington Times notes, this is “slightly less than the number of hockey players in Kentucky.”

Q. What has been South Korea’s impact on the NHL?

There have been two South Korean-born players in the NHL. Jim Paek was the first; a defenseman who played from 1990-91 to 1994-95 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators. He’s the first and only South Korean to get his name on the Stanley Cup. Which means there are more South Koreans on the Stanley Cup than guys named Mike Gartner.

Paek once wrestled Rob Ray:

We believe there’s a statue in Seoul dedicated to this moment.

The second South Korean-born player in the NHL was Richard Park(notes), who played from 1995-96 through 2009-10 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders. His name translated as “Mike Sillinger.”

He played for Genève-Servette HC last season at age 35, meaning he’ll only be 42 when the Olympics are held.

Meaning hello, Capt. Park.

Q. Do they have, like, a South Korean NHL?

Ah, you’re asking about the Asia League Ice Hockey (ALH) which Wikipedia can tell you all about here. It includes Korean, Japanese and Chinese teams. It’s also seen a fair share of NHL talent over the years, including Esa Tikkanen and Claude Lemieux(notes), so evidently they have an [expletive] allotment for each franchise.

Q. They’re ranked 31st in the world, which doesn’t sound very good. Which nations are they better than?

It’s better just to show you:

As you can see, they’re much better at hockey than Mexico, which we hear is a collection of unemployed luchadores; Greece, which just sold all of its hockey gear so the government can operate for an another three hours; and the United Arab Emirates, which doesn’t actually have ice.

Q. OK, so how have they fared in IIHF championship play?

They’ve made 26 appearances in world championships tournaments, with their best result a 23rd place finish in 1989. They’ve bounced between Division II and Division I hockey since 2000.

From the IIHF: “Last season, the Korean men’s team played in the Division I Championship in Hungary where they defeated the Netherlands 6-3 and lost to Hungary (6-3), Italy (6-0) and to Spain (3-2 in overtime).”

Their all-time international hockey record is 65-115-14. If they were an NHL team, they’d have been relocated to Seattle by now

Q. How have they fared against some of their geographic rivals?

According to Wikipedia, through June 2009 South Korea was 3-14-2 against China, having scored 38 goals and given up 119. They are 0-15-1 against Japan, scoring 23 goals and giving up 150. They are 5-6-1 against North Korea. But they were 1-0-0 against Chinese Taipei, beating them 24-0. And they are 3-0 against Hong Kong, outscoring them 79-1. What’s Korean for “They own that ass”?

Q. OK, but what about hockey superpowers?

According to those records, they’ve never played Canada, Russia, the U.S., Sweden, Finland or the Czechs in international play. They have played Norway, losing 11-1. They’re also 0-7 against Kazakhstan, with a goal differential of minus-54.

Q. Will the NHL go to PyeongChang?

That all depends on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s expected they’ll play in Sochi in 2014, not only because of the league’s Russian presence but because their broadcast partner NBC has the rights. The NBC factor will be in play for 2018 as well; lord knows they’ll want the NHL there again to help offset some of the projected losses.

Q. What does Gary Bettman think of South Korea?

Bettman has always been an advocate for growing hockey in non-traditional Southern markets.

Q. If the NHL does go to PyeongChang and Canada plays South Korea, what’s the final score?

162-0.

Q. If the NHL does not go to PyeongChang and Canada plays South Korea, what’s the final score?

162-1.

Q. Finally, what’s the best suggestion for South Korea’s ice hockey program in the next seven years?

We’ll let Chris Peters take it from here: