He may not be a household name just yet, but San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Irwin may work his way into your mental NHL player directory yet. Now in his second NHL season, the 26 year old British Columbian is continuing a trend from his amateur career that has seen his point totals, ice-time, and contributions to his team’s success dynamically increase every year.
Irwin spoke with me at length about his long road to the NHL and what he’ll have to do to stay there, the tough decisions he was required to make and small window of opportunity he had to live out his dream, past teammates that helped get him where he is now, current ones that help make him better, what the San Jose Sharks will have to do to win their first Stanley Cup, what it takes to be consistently inserted into a lineup full of Olympians, All-Stars, and Stanley Cup champions, and more.
Larry Fisher from the Kelowna Daily Courier called in for episode 13 to debrief all the action from the 2014 NHL trade deadline. We talked Martin St. Louis for Ryan Callahan, Roberto Luongo to Florida, Gaborik to LA, Ryan Miller to Buffalo, Jaroslav Halak all over the place, Vanek’s path to Montreal, Edmonton’s moves of Hemsky and Bryzgalov, the non-moves of Brodeur and Kesler, and we both pick our winners of the day.
In episode 12 of XP PSP, Justin Bourne from The Score dropped by to debrief the Sochi 2014 Olympic hockey tournament with me, and discuss it’s implications on the NHL moving forward. We talked about Canada’s route to gold, USA’s fall from grace, Backstrom’s Olympic suspension, how it affected Sweden’s outcome and why team doctors weren’t regulating his intake better, whether Canada’s win justifies all the heavily critcised roster adjustments the coaching staff made, who steps into Steve Yzerman’s role next Olympics, who Canada would send if the NHL chose not to participate in the 2018 Olympics, what the alternative to the Olympics as a best-on-best tournament would be, how John Tavares’ Olympic injury affects the decision for the NHL to return or not, how it affects the Islanders going forward this season, how Olympic performances affect NHL players finishing their NHL season, and more.
With the puck about to drop on the final 2 games of the 2014 NHL Stadium Series, TiqIQ.com has passed along some interesting data on average secondary market ticket prices for the March 1st Blackhawks/Penguins game in Chicago at Soldier Field. If you were planning on attending, but haven’t bought a ticket yet, here’s what you should expect to have to shell out:
-Current average ticket price for Saturday’s game: $230.77 (down 18% this week and 67% since its peak on 9/23/13)
-Cheapest ticket currently listed: $91 (originally $139), Section 432
-Most expensive ticket currently listed: $845 (originally $325), Section 308
All I know is, if I’m gonna cough up $825 to sit in a seat in the farthest section away from the ice in the stadium, my seat better come with an open mini bar, and the NHL Network installed into the back of the seat in front of me.
Comparatively, here are the average prices for the previous four Stadium Series games of 2014, as well as the upcoming Heritage Classic, ranked from most expensive to least:
-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Devils – $244 ($89)
-Yankee Stadium – Rangers/Islanders – $206 ($43)
-Winter Classic – Red Wings/Maple Leafs – $156 ($57)
-Dodger Stadium – Kings/Ducks – $199 ($117)
-Heritage Classic – Canucks/Senators – $182 ($74)
Speaking of buying things hockey related, I know a t-shirt worthy catchphrase when I hear one, and thusly I put one on one. After TJ Oshie’s unfathomable shootout performance against Russia, “TJ Sochi” was one of the best nicknames to emerge from the Sochi 2014 Olympics, so here’s what I did with it:
Visit my Etsy store and make this shirt yours before everyone forgets about that fateful night in Sochi! It may even help to cover the American shame of losing the bronze medal game 5-0 and finishing fourth, after posting a video like this:
We call ourselves the best in the world at this sport but, the truth is, Canada is ranked two places outside of a bronze medal in the world. Fifth place, that is.
As Canada only rounds out the top five in IIHF World Rankings with 2,940 points, an Olympic gold medal would give them an additional 1,200, and vault them to the head of the class with 4,140. That point injection would leapfrog them well past Sweden (first – 3,105), Finland (second – 3,065), Russia (third – 3,040) and the Czech Republic (fourth – 2,975), and reassert Canada’s hockey dominance — not only in the Olympic tournament, but on the world stage.
Canada needs those 1,200 points because, quite frankly, they only send their national best to compete as an intact unit against the world every four years. The IIHF’s other major measuring stick in international competition and rankings is the World Championships. It’s a well-known fact that NHL content is limited every year at that tournament, with the showdown conflicting with Stanley Cup playoff scheduling every year. Many players who are invited to play in the World Championships after their NHL team either does not make the playoffs or is eliminated early from them still opt not to attend, opting to stay home to either heal injuries, or just because they know the tournament does not truly reflect any participating country’s full capacity. While that is entirely their prerogative, it also means Canada misses out on 1,200 points every year, instead of just quadrennially. When the 2014 World Championships are hosted by Belarus from May 9-25 – only three months removed from the Olympic tournament – you can bet that the rosters will again be compromised, and the results will be contentious at best. But though that affects all competing teams, it generally means Canada does not win, and thus plummets further down the ranking ladder.
One intriguing scenario would be for Canada to win both the Olympic and World Championship tournaments, and induce a 2,400-point swing on their standing status. An extraordinary possibility, albeit an unlikely one. The last time the Olympics were held and Canada won the men’s hockey tournament, the only player to reprise his role as a Canadian representative at the 2010 World Championships was Corey Perry. Canada did not medal that year. Further, they have not medaled at the tournament since 2009, nor won since 2007. They did, however, pull off a dual Olympic and World Championship once — 20 years ago in 1994.
Further, both tournaments are held on internationally-sized ice this year. While Canada’s winning percentage on North American-sized ice is impeccable, it would be generous to say they traditionally struggle on the bigger sheet. In fact, Canada has not won an Olympic gold medal in men’s ice hockey outside of North America since 1952, when they struck gold in Oslo, Norway.
While every NHL player transitioning from the smaller sheet is on the same learning curve when it comes to adjusting to the additional 15 feet of rink width, it will be the European club-based players from the KHL and Elite Leagues that will have the advantage over the their visiting teammates and opponents. The question will be whether that factor will be advantageous enough to those already familiar, or whether a week of practice prior to games is enough time to adjust and catch up.
Russia is not projected to win, but a team nearly full of KHL players used to big ice — and competing in their home country — may do better than people expect.
And further still, from Hockey Canada’s standpoint, it would be a crushing blow for Canada’s international rankings for the NHL not to send its players back to the Olympics in 2018. Their world seeding would suffer tremendously after likely dropping their best chance at a quadrennial point spike, while instead likely being represented by amateur players.
So considering that Canada needs to win in order to prove that: 1) 2010 was no fluke; 2) they’re better than fifth; and 3) they can indeed win on big ice, I am picking Canada to win gold.
If we really want to walk around calling ourselves the best hockey nation in the world, and if we want it to actually be true, we have to do more than just want to win — we have to win. That’s a game-changer.
Additionally, silver to Sweden and bronze to Russia. The Swedes are just too good to ignore, and Russia’s home-ice advantage and desire to win at home should not be overlooked.
Dave Cunning is a freelance writer from Kelowna, B.C., Canada, currently residing in Jeju, South Korea. Read his blog: http://davecunning.wordpress.com, follow him on Twitter @davecunning and listen to his podcast: http://xppsp.podbean.com.
Two new episodes of XP PSP to update you on:
In episode 11, Sachin and Harold return for panel discussion on the Superbowl, cast their Superbowl predictions, discuss how to choose a team to cheer for if you don’t have one in your hometown and whether geography or national pride should play into your decision; Harold says the CFL isn’t real football and discusses why he turned down an opportunity to play in the league; Sachin plays the race card concerning the Richard Sherman issue and rips Erin Andrews; and we all decide whether we’d let our kids play hockey or football knowing how what we now do about injuries, and how prevalent the risks of concussions and other injuries now are in sports.
In episode 6, I went 1-on-1 with 19 year NHL veteran Bernie Nicholls to talk all things LA Kings, their current slump and how he’d cure it, where he keeps his Stanley Cup ring, why he declines his invites to the New Jersey Devils’ alumni game every year, who should be allowed to touch the Stanley Cup, and a whole bunch more.
Feel free to email the show at email@example.com with any comments, guest requests, or discussion topic suggestions!
In episode 10, I went one-on-one with Toronto Maple Leafs/Marlies forward, Troy Bodie. A veteran of 4 NHL seasons, Bodie spoke at length about playing for Randy Carlyle, the HBO 24/7 series, fighting in hockey, being a bubble guy, outdoor games, Miley Cyrus tunes, and more. Have a read and/or listen, and give it a share too!
The speculation is over. Hockey Canada officially named their Olympic men’s hockey team roster on January 7th. Here are the men defending Canada’s 2010 gold medal:
Jamie Benn,Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Matt Duchene, Ryan Getzlaf, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrick Sharp, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Toews
Jay Bouwmeester, Drew Doughty, Dan Hamhuis, Duncan Keith, Alex Pietrangelo, PK Subban, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Shea Weber
Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, Mike Smith
What do you think? Did they get it right? Who would you have added or deleted?
If you’re looking for a great gift or stocking stuffer for a hockey fan on your Christmas list, or just a great collection of hockey stories for yourself, look no further than Stan Fischler’s latest book, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories.
Fischler, an Islanders, Rangers and Devils correspondent for MSG and veteran author of over 90 books, writes a wide spectrum of hockey stories in BTN – everything from the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2013 playoff collapse against the Boston Bruins, to puck tales that predate the NHL. There’s a story about how a game that went deep into overtime in the 1930’s was almost decided by coin toss – a crazy notion when you consider the discussion of the shootout and other game ending approaches these days. Today’s debate about preventing and managing concussions make the game’s stewards in the 1940′s look like primitive cave people – it sounds like it was commonplace for fights to spill into the stands and involve spectators, and sticks were regularly cracked over helmetless players’ heads. It makes for interesting commentary on where the game has evolved from when you read that teams used to only cost $75,000 and gunshots used to signal period ends, seasons used to last around 20 games, and the Art Ross Trophy winner would net 70 points in that short span.
As today’s hockey fans are aware, the NHLPA and NHL don’t always get along, but those of us affected by their disagreements may take solace in learning that the NHLPA has been a thorn in the side of NHL ownership since the 50′s. And as we are all reminded by Gary Bettman’s annual awarding of the Stanley Cup always being met by a deafening rebuttal of boos from fans in attendance, the NHL commissioner has not always been a fan favorite either. When Clarence Campbell was at the league’s helm, he had everything from insults, tear gas, and items from the produce section whipped at him by fans who did not agree with his suspension of Maurice Richard. Can you imagine Bettman having to make public appearances in riot gear?
Hockey players have always been known for their toughness, resilience, and overwhelming desire to keep playing the game. One of the best examples of this is included in the book. It depicts the story of Bill Chadwick, who lost sight in one eye from an injury but kept playing. He later injured his other eye too, and was forced to end his playing days. But he stayed in the game, becoming a referee, and then an announcer. Do you think they were having the visor discussion even then? The book also digs up interesting tidbits on player oddities, like how Jaromir Jagr runs the stairs of every arena he plays in, and how Gordie Howe was ambidextrous and gave goalies he faced double the grief in trying to stop him.
Fischler’s book gives us glimpses into the days when the NHL competed for fans and players with rival leagues like the WHA and the lesser known Eastern League. He tells us stories of when players were bought with, and arenas were built on, horse race winnings. It unveils stories of “Big” Bill Dwyer, a bootlegger in the 1920′s, who owned the New York Americans; and local rival New York Rangers coach Lester Patrick, who okayed the team publicist’s suggestion to modify to players names to Jewish and Italian last names to attract fans of those local minorities to Rangers games, and away from Americans games.
And if you thought the Winnipeg Jets had a tough travel schedule when they were still competing in the Eastern Conference, things won’t seem so bad when you read about the team from the Klondike that rode dogsleds to Ottawa to challenge for the Stanley Cup in 1905, only to get shelled 23-2 and see Frank McGee score 14 goals in a game against them.
It’s an enthralling and easy read – most of the stories are only 1-3 pages long, suitable for any age or level of reader, and any completion time frame. Any fan of hockey will be a fan of this book. You can find it a print or digital copy for around $20 on Amazon, Chapters, or your local bookstore.
Here’s the Press Release:
Stan Fischler’s latest hockey classic, Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories (Sports Publishing, November 2013) is a collection of short, zany (but true!) tales that have taken place over more than a half century of hockey-watching. An easy read for fans of all ages with photos to accompany the anecdotes, this book offers a unique perspective into the NHL from one of today’s most prolific hockey writers. Different from the typical NHL “game” stories, this book details everything, from the hilarious to the absurd.
Fischler details the time that:
• Bill Mosienko scored three goals in 21 seconds
• Rene Fernand Gauthier accepted a challenge to shoot the puck in the ocean
• Sam LoPresti faced 83 shots on goal in one game
• And 98 more unique stories!
So lace up your skates and hit the ice with Behind the Net, a comprehensive collection sure to entertain any hockey fan, regardless of team allegiances.
About the author:
Stan Fischler is a legend of sports broadcasting. He began his career as a publicist for the New York Rangers in 1954 and has been covering hockey in the over half a century since. The winner of five Emmy Awards, Fischler has worked in every medium from print to TV to Twitter. This “Hockey Maven” currently serves as the resident hockey expert for MSG and MSG Plus. He can be seen every week on MSG Hockey Night Live. He lives in New York City.
Contact the Publisher:
Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 W 36th Street, 11th Floor | New York, NY 10018
Ph:(212) 643-6816 x 226 | Fax: (212) 643-6819