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.
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!
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
In episode 4 of XP PSP we discuss:
-The demise of the LA Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Finals, and the Hawks/Bruins Cup Final from all angles.
-steps to take when choosing a new playoff team to cheer for when yours has been ousted.
-Superstitions of fans and athletes, and how they affect performance.
-The NBA Final between the Spurs and Heat.
In our third episode, we catch up on/discuss:
1) the first two rounds of NHL playoff eliminations, previewing conference finals, and catching up on the NBA playoffs, and our predictions across both sports.
2) 8th seeds running wild in the playoffs, and the legitimacy of an 8th seeds playoff threat across sports.
3) Which sport’s playoffs are the hardest to win.
4) The audacity of people calling close, low scoring playoff games boring.
5) cheering for players vs teams; former players becoming/succeeding as coaches (Roy, Gretzky), Tortorella benching Brad Richards, “contract years”….
….and plenty more.
Click here to listen: xppsp.podbean.com
Whoa, we made a second episode? Huh. How about that.
Well,in episode two, we discuss:
-The NHL playoffs; the demise of the Vancouver Canucks, and how to fix them.
-The differences between the regular season and the playoffs.
-The NBA playoffs; Jason Collins, and homosexuality in sports.
-Brittany Griner, and the prospect of women playing in the NBA, and other male dominated sports.
Click here to listen: xppsp.podbean.com
Fun little venture I’ve started up with some fellow sports-minded fellas here in Korea; We’ve started the Expat Pro Sports Podcast — XP PSP — and basically myself, Sachin Mahajan, Harold Dale, Jason Hiltz, Ryan Brown, and who knows who else will rotate in and out to chat about everything going on in the sports world for about 30 minutes at a time. For those expats out there who are missing their favorite multi-million dollar athletic competitions back home, we hope this scratches your itch just a little.
In our premier episode, we chatted about:
-The NHL playoffs, previewing a few of the first-round series.
-The NFL draft, Manti T’eo, and whether owners should touch the championship trophy first or not.
-The NBA playoffs, and whether the Miami Heat can be beaten.
-Why the Toronto Blue Jays are still bad.
-Whether coaches or management are to blame for a team with good players being bad.
-much, much more. Well, a little bit more.
Special thanks to the talented Ralph Hass of http://www.hasthevoice.com/ for providing our intro voice-over.
Enjoy the first episode! Leave a comment with some feedback, tell us if you like it, and what you’d like to hear in the future.
Click here to listen: xppsp.podbean.com
The 2014 NHL Winter Classic has been officially (re)announced, and so have the jerseys each team will wear for both the main event and the alumni game. Not everyone appears to be as enthusiastic about the choice for the New Year’s Eve alumni game’s uniforms as Gary Bettman does.
The jerseys for the real teams will wear on New Year’s Day are, on the other hand, phenomenal. The potential 100,000+ fans in attendance at Michigan Stadium will be far happier to see Toronto in these ones — both of Detroit’s look sharp.
Also announced was the return of HBO’s 24/7 series, this year following both the Leafs and Red Wings behind the scenes as a lead up to the Winter Classic game. I still would love to see HBO place this amount of cinematic drama on the Stanley Cup Final — which is far more important than the mid regular season game that the WC is — but my opinion continues to fall upon deaf ears. Either way, I love this show, and I’m glad HBO stayed on board post-lockout to put it back on the air.
Also reported (albeit not confirmed) by multiple sources was that an outdoor game (assumably the Winter Classic) in 2014 will be played — get this — in Los Angeles. You know, a place where people tired of being cold retreat to in order to escape the most necessary ingredients for outdoor ice hockey — cold and ice. It seems environmentally impossible, but Dodger Stadium is apparently getting a $100 million face-lift, so who knows what it’ll be capable of. Seems like an odd thing to lie about, but I’ll wait for confirmation from the NHL before I believe it. If it’s true, I sure am pumped for the LA Kings.
Reports also hint at the return of the Heritage Classic, to be played at a Canadian venue.
While all those games were be announced as happening, looks like the NHL’s Europe Premier games for 2013 have been dealt the opposite fate — reports say 2013-14’s version of the across the pond games are out, with much discussion to be had on the NHL’s future international presence.