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This interview with Wade Redden posted to The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on January 23, 2013. Redden was just about to return to the NHL after being bought out by the New York Rangers and signed by the St. Louis Blues. The move essentially rescued him from AHL purgatory, where he seemed to have been banished to. Redden went on to play 23 games (including tallying his 1,000th NHL game) for the Blues and recorded 5 points, before being dealt to the Boston Bruins the same season for a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2014. The Beantown stop reunited Redden with his old Ottawa (and some say best) defense partner, Zdeno Chara. It was almost a storybook ending for Redden, as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup final, but were bested by the Chicago Blackhawks, who spoiled his chance to have his name engraved on hockey’s richest prize.
Redden did not sign an NHL contract with any club the following season, and announced his retirement in January of 2014.
Posted by Dave Cunning under Interviews on Jan 23, 2013
Many NHL pundits and fans assumed they had seen the last of Wade Redden in the NHL, after the New York Rangers swept his $6.5 million cap hit under the rug by reassigning him to their AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale from 2010 to 2012.
But those critics were proved wrong after the Rangers cashed in one of their freshly CBA-approved accelerated compliance buyouts earlier this month, and used it to sever ties with Redden and the remaining two seasons of his six year deal with them. It posted him as an available, unrestricted free agent – something that the St. Louis Blues were quick to capitalize on the day after Redden hit the market.
The 35 year old veteran of 13 NHL seasons signed a one year deal with the Blues on January 20th for $800,000 plus another $200K in performance bonuses. That’s $4 million less than what he would have made with New York this year; though he will still earn a pro-rated $3.341 million for 2012-13, and just a little less than that for 2013-14 from the Rangers.
Redden passed a physical, dealt with immigration, and suddenly found himself to be an NHL player once again faster than you can say John Tortorella.
Redden has been skating with St. Louis in the interim, and accompanied them on their recent road trip through Nashville and Chicago. He is slated to resume NHL blue line patrol as early as Thursday, when the Blues take on the Predators at home.
In the meantime, Redden took a few minutes out to chat with me. Here’s what he had to say on his new contract, his time with the Rangers, and everything in between.
So you’ve passed your physical and signed your contract, how does it feel to officially be a member of the St. Louis Blues?
Redden: “It’s great. It’s a very exciting time. Last week was a whirlwind. It all happened pretty quick. But I’ve been here for a few days now, and have got to be around everyone and get on the ice with the whole team. I haven’t been on the ice with a group like this for a while. It’s great. I felt good out there. I’ve was on with the [Kelowna] Rockets before, and obviously they’re a great team and all that, but it’s great to get on the ice with this group of guys. We’ve got a great team here with a lot of great young guys. I’m excited to get rolling, and about the chance I have here.”
You hadn’t been playing for anyone else this year until now, but as you mentioned, you were skating with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets just prior to coming to St. Louis; what else did you do to keep in shape during the lockout? Do you think what you did was enough to keep you playing at the NHL pace, especially since you’ve been removed from NHL action for two seasons?
Redden: “Yeah, definitely it was. There was a group of NHL guys through the whole lockout inKelowna that I skated with. We pushed ourselves pretty good. We kept busy, kept on the ice, and kept training. Obviously it’s a bit of an adjustment anytime you are away for that long, but I’ll get worked back into it pretty quick here, and I should be good to go.”
You’ll be playing under Ken Hitchcock, a Jack Adams Trophy and Stanley Cup winning coach, on a team that many feel is poised to win their first ever Stanley Cup – what are your thoughts on being a part of such a strongly positioned team upon your NHL return?
Redden: “It’s very exciting. The organization here has built a great team. The young guys here have been around a while, and they’re just starting to come into their own and find out what kind of team they are – and they’re a good team. I’m going to try to mix in and add what I can bring, and help the team to do as good as it can.”
You’re one of the oldest guys on this roster – what kind of role do you feel you have as a veteran on this team?
Redden: “I’ve got experience, and I’ve played a lot of games, but I think they just want me to come and play the way I usually play – try to be steady and make good plays. We’ve got a lot of talent up front, and to just try to get the puck to them and let them create things like they can. Just try to be solid, play a good all-around game, and help the team win that way. That’s what they’re expecting from me.”
A lot of people may have thought or assumed that they wouldn’t see Wade Redden in the NHL again after you were reassigned to Connecticut from 2010-12; did you think you would get another chance in the NHL while you were down there?
Redden: “I always felt that I went down there with a purpose. I obviously wasn’t happy about the demotion or getting sent there. And I played in this league for a long time, so I knew I could play. Obviously there were different circumstances that affected my reason for being there. I went down there, worked hard, played hard, tried to be a good teammate, and did all the things I usually do. I always felt like if I did those things, it’d be my best chance to get back. I’m happy and fortunate to have found another chance.”
Did you ever consider retiring while you were playing in the AHL? You’ve played in 994 games in 13 NHL seasons, tallied 450 points thus far, played for Canada 7 times – a very respectable career, and very respectable statistics to leave on. If you didn’t, why did you decide to keep at it?
Redden: “Yeah, I’ve played in a lot of games, but I didn’t feel good about finishing that way, that’s for sure. My time inNew York wasn’t great. I knew I could do better, and I wanted to prove that, not only to myself, but to other people too. I don’t want to rest on what I’ve done thus far. I think there are still good things to happen. I want to keep having fun, keep playing, and you never know – a lot of good things are available if you keep going. You never know what’s going to happen.”
In your opinion, what went wrong in New York? You were so successful in your early years with Ottawa, but you just didn’t seem to gel with the Rangers.
Redden: “I went in there on a big contract. I think maybe making that money there and being the player I am… I felt like the first little while, things were going pretty good, and then they kind of fell off. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and like I should have been doing more. Once I started feeling that way, I think I just got away from the things that made me successful. Things just kind of snowballed from there. It wasn’t a good fit from early on, and they made a decision to make changes. I lived with that. It wasn’t a good fit, things didn’t work out, and I’ve moved on. I’m done there now, and am happy to have moved on.”
Sean Avery was in a comparable situation playing in Connecticut after being sent down from the Rangers while you were there; did you ever have any discussions with him about the similar scenarios you found yourselves in?
Redden: “Not really, no. We were both there – kind of buried down there – but our situations were a little different. We never really got into it too much. We were both just trying to make the most of it.”
Do you feel like you have something to prove this year in the NHL? Perhaps to prove the New York Rangers wrong for what they did with you, or something else – or do you just look at this season like business as usual?
Redden: “Yeah, I’m excited. Life goes on. Everyone’s focused on what they’ve got to do. I’ve just got to do what I do best. Yeah, I’ve got pride and I want to do well. But at the same time I’ve got to stay within myself and play the way I can play, do what I can do, and everything will work out just fine.”
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This interview with Mike Danton posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on October 4th, 2012. Danton had just been denied a visa to enter the UK to play, but fortunately was able to catch on in Sweden a short time later, before moving on to Slovakia in the same season. While a return to North American pro hockey doesn’t seem likely, European leagues are glad to retain the former NHLer — Danton has also suited up for teams in Kazakhstan, Hungary, and Poland since this interview.
The audio of this interview can be heard here:
Posted by Dave Cunning under Interviews on Oct 04, 2012
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no one in the game of hockey has a stigma around them the way that Mike Danton does. Now trying to resume his professional hockey career in Europe, the ex-NHLer and ex-con deals with all sorts of prejudice and ignorance directed towards him on a daily basis – not to mention all the life roadblocks that a convicted felon could expect on the outside, because of his nearly decade-old crime – despite serving his sentence.
In our interview, Mike talked very candidly and at length about everything from hockey, his time in jail, how he’s turned his life around for the better, his thoughts on other ex-con pro athletes, his feelings on being denied entry to the UK to play, his family, and what the future holds for him. Without a doubt, the responses that he gives will at least make you reconsider the opinion you’ve come to form about him. Enjoy.
So you’ve now been denied a visa to play hockey in the UK twice, and consequently, you won’t be playing for the Coventry Blaze in the EIHL this year. What’s going through your mind right now?
“I was pretty bummed out about being turned down a second time. When they denied me the first time, the reason for they gave was that I wasn’t rehabilitated from my crime. They have an immigration law that states if you’ve done over twelve months in prison, you’re excluded from rehabilitation, and in order for you to enter their country, your sentence has to be spent or expired as an ex-convict. Because I spent longer than twelve months in jail, I’m excluded from rehabilitation, and because of that, my sentence can’t be spent or expired. So that’s why they denied me.
The second time we applied, I got fifteen reference letters from RCMP officers, local Halifax police officers, detectives, an assistant coach in the NHL, the president of the university I attended that coincidentally was born in London, England who has double-majors and doctorate degrees. My parole officer even wrote a reference letter on my behalf, and also submitted her criminal findings regarding my case – which said I was in the lowest percentile likely to re-offend, that I was in the lowest percentile to be a danger to society; spoke about my community involvement, and how greatly I’ve turned my life around.
Because they rejected me on the basis of believing I wasn’t rehabilitated, the second time around we attempted to illustrate to them that I am rehabilitated from my crimes, and that I wasn’t just coming over there to play hockey. There were a lot more plans than just hockey for me coming toCoventry.Coventry is renowned for their community based programs, and I was going to be a big part of that while there. I work closely with Joe Drexler of “Be The Game” and his “Ignite Change” program, and I was going to be an ambassador in theUK for that – that was a huge thing we had worked out.
For the second application, we brought all these reference letters, and the plans that were other than hockey – sure, I was going there to play hockey and make a living for my family – but I was also going to spread my knowledge, the words that I have to share about the mistakes I’ve made and what it takes to get past them and be productive in life, and about making the best of second chances. We put all that on paper, the lawyers and members from the team looked at the package, as well as people in Canada, and they all said it’d be a disgrace if I got denied again, because there was no way someone could look at that package and think I wasn’t rehabilitated. I put together a three-page letter myself, detailing my life, admitting to my crimes and accepting responsibility for them, but saying those things happened nine years ago, and I was 23 years old at the time. I’ve got a family of my own now, I’m an honor student, working towards a double major degree and at the top of the grade in all my classes, and I’ve changed my life around. I missed six years of hockey, but I still want to play professionally.
When I got my second denial, it was for the same reasons. They said they looked over all my information and reference letters, noted that I have a family of my own now, but however, I did spend more than twelve months in jail, and they don’t think I’m rehabilitated from my crime. To read something like that is not only heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, at the same time it says that not only am I excluded from rehabilitation, but that all these police officers, my parole officer, the National Parole Board of Canada, my school’s president, an assistant coach in the NHL, and everyone else that wrote reference letters have no idea what they’re talking about. They basically said that the Parole Board let you out, and agreed that you’re in the lowest percentile to reoffend or to be a menace to society, but they have no idea what they’re talking about, and we think we know better because we looked at your file. It’s really tough to swallow.
This is a team I’ve been talking about for the last four months, and I’ve been getting updates through the summer on signings, practices, team emails, and it’s been gut-wrenching. I’ve been talking to the guys on the team since the beginning of the season, and they’ve been texting me when they go out, and it gave me a really good feeling about how close knit that team is. It was hard to tell them I won’t be coming. They all ask what they can do to help. We’re trying to figure out if there’s anything we can do legally, or if we can appeal, but if not, I’ve got to figure out something else to do.”
You’ve already played abroad in Sweden and Austria without any of these immigration hassles – why not just go play in a country that doesn’t put up these roadblocks in front of you?
“I was in nine countries last year – Slovenia, Norway, Switzerland, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Czech Republic, Sweden, and Austria – the reason why I chose the UK, and Coventry in particular, was when our baby came into our lives, a lot of things changed. We really liked Sweden when we were over there last year and a lot of people speak English there – the Czech Republic was the complete opposite though. We’d go grocery shopping and it’d take two or three hours because we had to translate everything. It was really difficult to get a normal life going in that environment. The fans and the organization were great, but it was difficult for us to live there. Having a newborn and going to a country like that – if something were to happen to the baby and we had to go to the doctor, you have to hope they spoke English. We made a decision in the summer that wherever we end up going, we’d like it to be an English speaking country that has similar customs, culture, and food that we’re used to, just because it’s the first year that either of us have had a kid. We just wanted it to go as smoothly as possible. I chose Coventry because of the relationship and rapport I’d built with the members of the team. They sold me on what they wanted from their team. They play a hard-nosed style, don’t give up, work hard, and that description has me written all over it. They said I am the exact type of player they wanted on their team. I said ok. I gave up on a lot of other opportunities to make significantly more money than in the UK. The UK really isn’t known for paying outrageous salaries, but rather offering university packages and well as their familiar customs and culture. A lot of North American guys head over there because of the familiarity to their own food, customs and culture. The other factor involved was the community programs that I’d be able to be a part of, and to help out the youth, minor hockey, and that sort of stuff, like I did in Sweden. That’s always been a big part of my career after I came out of prison and wanted to play pro hockey again.”
So what’s the next step for you? Is there time to find a different European team to sign with? Can you play another year of University hockey?
“I’m not eligible for University hockey anymore. For every year of pro you play, you lose a year of eligibility, and you only get five total. By me playing pro last year, I lost my last year of eligibility. I could play senior hockey in Canada in either Newfoundland or Quebec. My agent and I have been contacted by some countries that are willing to bring me in to play though. I’ve been in talks with teams in three different countries.Coventry’s had to sign another guy to fill my spot since I got denied again. I’m going to be playing somewhere, it’s just a question of where. The countries I’m considering right now are Sweden,Germany, and Poland.”
Who’s your agent these days?
“Mike Bernier. He used to be part of “The Hockey Group”, and now he’s branched off on his own. He’s a hard worker. He’s never lied to me. He’s always been straight-up and honest. He told me last year that if I came with him, he’d find me a team, and he did. At that time, I hadn’t played pro in a while, so the things I was looking for were difficult to get. Statistically speaking, I played really well last year – it’s late in teams’ recruiting process now, but he’s still come up with a handful of teams that are looking for players like me.”
Coventry named you an assistant captain without you even being there. With your NHL background, OHL championship, CIS championship, and everything else to your name, you’ve built up a rather high billing for yourself. Is the pressure from teams and yourself to perform up to expectations difficult to live up to, or is it something that you thrive on?
“I’ve been asked that question a lot. How I answer it is – and I’m going to try an answer as humbly as possible, I’m the furthest thing from being cocky; I could use a boost in confidence once in a while actually – I think players like me are extremely hard to come by. Obviously I’m not the most skilled player in the world. In my last year of junior hockey, I had over 80 points and more than 200 penalty minutes. I led the playoffs in scoring, and still had over 100 PIM’s. I’m a guy that brings everything to the table. I’m not a guy that’s going to come down on a 2 on 1, or 1 on 1 and toe-drag, flip it through someone’s stick and skates and then roof it top shelf, but I’m going to find a way to get around that guy and put the puck in the net. I may have to flick it up in the air and run the goalie through the net, but it’s going to count regardless. It’s happened before, where the puck’s gone in, the goalie got run, it counts, and I got a penalty. Coaches have always told to me to put the puck in my [expletive] teeth, run through the net; and i’ll find a way to score. That’s just the way I’ve always been.
I have an extremely large amount of heart and determination. I don’t agree with what Dany Heatley and Michael Vick did, but you have to look at what they did afterwards. The fact that those guys come back, and get back into professional sports again says something about their character. For me to miss six years of hockey and still manage to come back and win a national championship, and then return to professional hockey a year later – that’s something I’m proud of. With a lot of inexperienced, local guys as well as guys who have played pro hockey at some level but don’t have the NHL experience that I have, Coventry knew I that I was a guy that all the guys on their team were going to look up to. I’m not afraid to break sticks in the room, call guys out, tell them they’re [expletive] [expletive], and to get their head out of their [expletive]. You need guys like that on a team. Those are the types of guys that other players look up to and say, ‘hey, this guy can lead our team.’”
You got denied entry into the UK again seemingly based only on objective reasoning. You’re constantly dealing with people with prejudice against you – whether it be in legal situations, on Twitter, or elsewhere – yet, you’re extremely active in defending yourself on all those platforms against those who only see you as a criminal and don’t know anything else about you or about anything you’ve done since your release three years ago. It seems to be never-ending and it’s got to be exhausting – how do you handle it, and why do you bother?
“It’s humorous. It’s entertaining to me. Some people go to hockey games to be entertained; I go on Twitter and read the ignorant things people say. I sit there and I laugh. I’ll retweet things that are funny, but when they say things like, ‘He went to prison, bend over…’ and other stuff like that, I block those people. There’s a difference between humor and being disgusting. I don’t need my kid to be reading that in a few years. People like that are useless. They’re scum. A lot of the negative comments are from people in Cardiff, Coventry’s biggest rival. If I had signed with Cardiff, the majority of the chirping would probably come from people in Coventry. People are entitled to their opinion, but you hit the nail on the head, they don’t know the situation. It’s just like my first day at university; I had people triple-looking me – forget double-looking, triple-looking me – whispering, ‘that’s the guy that tried to kill somebody…’, and three weeks later, that same person would be sitting with me in the library sharing laughs, pulling pranks, and then saying, ‘Aw man, you’re great! I thought you were going to be this big mean monster guy…’ People have no idea what I’m like. They look at my mugshot that looks like I’ve got a big chew in the side of my mouth, and they see the word murderer, and they say ‘this guy can’t come in. He’s a criminal…’ and that’s their opinion and they’re free to voice it. I really don’t care. The difference in me now is that nine years ago, I would have had to listen to all these chirps and tweets, and I would have wanted to punch them all in the face, cause problems, and be completely irrational and immature about the situation. Now I laugh at it. Usually when someone says something, I’ll get in there and chirp them back about their grammar and say, ‘well if you’re going to say that, at least spell it properly’, or tell them to at least make it seem like their comment could be pronounced properly. All in all, it’s just fun. It’s entertaining to have a guys think that they get under my skin by chirping me about prison, even though I’ve heard that stuff for ten years now. There’s not one prison joke out there that I haven’t heard. The easiest way to shut them up is to talk about the NHL, and they can’t say anything. They’ve never done that, I have. One guy that chirps me is an EIHL player who has played five or six games and has the same amount of goals as me [that’s 0, Mike hasn’t played a game for Coventry]. I’m not going to waste my time with guys that I have absolutely no respect for, because of the way they conduct themselves on Twitter. You don’t go back and forth with fans and tell them they’re fat and ugly – those are the people that pay your salary. You have to have some respect for the game. When I went to jail, there was no Facebook or Twitter. When I got out of jail and was in university, it took me a few months before I got into social media. Now I find Twitter so entertaining. I love going on my page and watching everything people say to me. I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s just entertaining.”
What internet related amenities were available to you in prison? Can people tweet from prison?
No, there’s child molesters and sex criminals in there, and they don’t want them getting on the internet for obvious reasons. From what I understand, in theUSfederal system you can email people now, but that’s the only thing you can do, and the emails are monitored. They get an email account through the prison that costs them money to send emails. In the US system, I had access to cable TV and movies, but nothing that was R rated, contained nudity, or had anything in it that would get our, um, “adrenaline” up, I guess you could say. They try to maintain proper protocol for prison fights and things like that. InCanada, it was a little more lax – we could have video game systems in there, but without online access. The States’ system was a lot worse thanCanada’s.”
And you managed to study towards your university degree while you were in there too, right? And how close are you towards your degree now? What are you going to do when you finish it?
Yeah, it was kind of difficult though – I only got through two courses. They moved me around quite often, and they really screw with your mail in jail, so it’s tough to get things sent to you. But I did manage to transfer those credits towards my degree. Last year I took a full course load online, and I’m doing the same this year. At the end of this year, I should only have four or five courses left. If I went really hard, I could get done by the end of the summer, but I’ll probably do it over a year. I’ll have a double major in psychology and criminology. I do really well in school. The only reason I added criminology in was that psychology was coming to me fairly easily and I wanted a challenge, so I added another major.
I don’t know what I’m going to be – I’d like to play hockey as long as I can, and I don’t want to call it quits yet, but I’ve been thinking about becoming a university professor. I like the social aspect and I like teaching people. Something like sports psychology, maybe. Coaching has crossed my mind. You see a lot of athletes go to university and they end up teaching English, or become PE teachers or something like that. A lot of athletes are very vocal and very social. They’re used to being in the spotlight, being around 20 or 30 guys every day that chirp each other and still get along, having a frat-like relationship with them. Whether you teach youngsters, teenagers, or university kids, there’s that element of social activity that can remain with you through all your years and levels of sports. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go down that road in the future.”
When you look at Mike Tyson – who went to jail before you did, and resumed his career after being released – and you think about your perception of him at that point in time not having gone to jail yet yourself; and then you look at Michael Vick – who went to jail and was released right around the same time you also did and were – what is your perception of those guys as they resumed their athletic careers, has it changed since going through the same experience they did yourself, and do you have a level of empathy for them?
“Gosh, you’re crossing up my morals and pulling my heartstrings here. Because of my personal experiences, and my personal life and childhood, I have a very big problem with people that commit sexual crimes against children and women. It’s really hard for me to look past those things and say they deserve a second chance. However, because of my situation, I have to say that I’m a believer in second chances. I think the way Tyson handled his situation illustrated that he wasn’t capable of being rehabilitated. I don’t know him personally, but the role he portrays and the way he handles himself is a characterization of a nut-job. He didn’t seem like he had a lot of remorse, even when he stated that he did. You could read the bull[expletive] all over his face.
In regards to Michael Vick, I don’t think anyone will ever know for sure what degree his involvement was in the dog fighting ring, but still, he was involved and he went to jail. Both crimes are different – I’m sure I’ll have PETA calling me after this – but at the same time, I’ve got nothing but respect for how Vick has handled himself. He’s come out and accepted responsibility, made donations and done charity work to try and right his wrongs. The way he’s conducted himself – I follow him on Twitter, and if you follow his tweets, well… he’s no Jose Canseco, let’s say. Everything’s about his religion, family, football, and he’s very respectful about it. I think that he’s somebody that made a wrong decision in his life, has turned around for the better, and is prospering. He’s playing the game that he loves, making a boatload of money, and I have no problems with that.
The problem that I have though, it that he’s been able to continue playing the game he loves at its highest level and I haven’t been. I can’t go to Asia, theUK, theUS… I couldn’t even go watch my favorite baseball team play in the World Series last year because I committed a crime nine years ago. If my son plays in a hockey tournament inDetroitsomeday, I can’t go there and watch him because I made a mistake, and at that time my crime will have been 14 or 15 years prior. Don’t get me wrong – I broke the law, and what I did was illegal; however, I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been punished. I’ve lost a lot of money. I’ve lost the opportunity to make a lot of money. I lost six years of my life, away from my family and friends, and a lot of things I enjoyed on a daily basis. Those are things I’m never going to be able to get back. I think my punishment is enough. I’m not going around to bars and getting in fights, or putting bounties on people’s heads, or getting drunk and raping girls, or selling and doing drugs. I have a family, I’ve gone to university, I’m working towards a double major degree and trying to play professional hockey.
What I say is, where’s my break? Vick, Tyson, and Heatley all got breaks, where’s my break? Is it that I’m still allowed to play hockey in Sweden’s third league or an elite league in Austria? It’s not in the AHL, or the NHL. I’m going to have to make a decision in a couple of years as to whether I want my son growing up in Europe following me around from country to country, and if I don’t want that, I’m going to have to quit hockey, and do something else. I don’t want to quit hockey. I’ve got lots of playing time left.
I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys that have made mistakes in their life and have come back to their sport, like Vick. I’m not so respectful of Tyson because of the way he handled himself. But if people can look past Mike Tyson and his issues, how can they not look past mine? Legitimately, I didn’t kill anybody. If that had been carried out, yes, I understand the ramifications; however, that’s a hypothetical situation. You can’t imprison or punish somebody for situations that didn’t happen. Vick did what he did, Tyson did what he did, Heatley did what he did, I did what I did. I didn’t kill anybody, and I didn’t rape anybody. I’m sure you can catch my point.”
You’ve mentioned your family a few times. It’s tough to find any information on them – tell me a little bit about them; how old is your son?
“He’s six weeks old. My family’s kept private for a reason. I’ve had some issues in my past with my own family, so I like to keep my personal life somewhat personal so certain information doesn’t get out.”
Details of your criminal situation have always been hazy. What is your current status as far as being an ex-convict? Are you still on parole, or are you totally free and clear now?
“I was arrested on April 16, 2004. I received my full parole from the National Parole Board of Canada on September 11, 2009. They took a couple weeks, and then I was released from prison inCanadaon September 28, 2009, after 65 months in prison. 22 of those months were in solitary confinement. After that, I was on parole until January 21, 2011. While on parole for a little more than a year, and had to abstain from alcohol and drugs, and do urine tests – I don’t do drugs anyway, but that was just a standard stipulation. When we won the CIS championship at St. Mary’s, all the boys were drinking champagne out of the Cup, and I had to drink a sparkling water. It was kind of a bummer. I wasn’t allowed to travel anywhere without a travel permit. If I wanted to go to my girlfriend’s cottage for the weekend, I’d have to have a representative from the Canadian Parole Board visit the cottage first, interview her parents, and then supervise me while there. January 21 came along, and I’ve been a free man ever since. I have nobody to report to, just like before I ever went to prison. I’m absolutely not on parole one bit.”
While you were on parole, you weren’t allowed any contact with your father or David Frost, two guys at the center of speculation within your crime – now that you’re not bound by parole terms, have you had any contact with them?
“Legally I can’t even talk about that because there are a few things that are still out there. But they will be addressed in the future, for sure.”
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My 2012 interview with St. Louis Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on September 19, just prior to the NHL and NHLPA coming to terms with each other to stop hockey’s latest work stoppage. Since we spoke, the St. Louis Blues have twice finished 2nd in the Central Division, and in the Western Conference top 4 two times as well, but found themselves bounced from the playoffs in the first round on both attempts.
On a brighter note, “Hitch” was named assistant coach for Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he and the team won gold. He also rose to 8th all-time in coaching wins (2nd amongst active coaches) shortly after he collected his 600th NHL win — one of only 11 NHL coaches to do so.
Posted by Dave Cunning under Biography, Interviews, Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues on Sep 19, 2012
While the NHL lockout rolls on, fans may forget there is a group of personnel that is not aligned with either the NHLPA or team owners in CBA negotiations, yet is directly affected by the league’s labor stall – NHL coaches.
Nearly a year after taking over as head coach of the St. Louis Blues, guiding his team to a second round playoff appearance, and winning the Jack Adams Award for the NHL’s Coach of the Year, Ken Hitchcock is just as busy preparing for a season with an unknown start date as he would be if it were already underway.
I had a chance to interview Hitchcock and he gave me his thoughts on his coaching philosophy, on replacing Davis Payne in St. Louis during last season, and other topics.
Hitchcock on evaluating his team during training camp:
“When you start your training camp, you know within three or four players what your team’s going to be like. You’re not working from a base of 60 players, you’re working from a base of 30 players — you’re trying to educate all 60 that attend, but you know the 30 that are going to try out for the 22 or 23 spots. Every coach visualizes what his lines will look like, and what his team will look like; you already know them in your mind, so those are the players you observe. We watch them whether they are already in St. Louis, or in junior, the American Hockey League, Europe – they could be anywhere – those few are the guys we keep our eye on.”
On what role he plays in scouting for the Blues:
“I stay out of it. There are other people who have that duty, and we stay in our own area of expertise. Everyone else has a job to do – our scouts have their own responsibilities, and ours as coaches don’t include scouting. Other people do that and do it well. All we would do is get in the way.”
On the fact that he is still learning as a coach:
“I have a thirst to learn, and to be part of a team – whether it’s as the head coach, assistant, associate, consultant, or whatever – I love being part of a team. I find great joy in being a small part of something pretty big, and having to work together. My thirst for knowledge leads me to try and find out why teams in all kinds of activities – in sports, business, or whatever – are successful. I want to learn that stuff. Part of that is the technical package –the systems of play and everything, but a big part of it is the synergy or the chemistry that goes on with your hockey club. I want to learn why certain people are successful, why they continue to succeed, and what they’ve learned. I know I don’t have all the answers, and I know I don’t have all the experiences, so I seek them out instead. I enjoy the journey of seeking out information and other people’s opinions, and watching other people perform.”
“Talking with my peers and watching how my peers practice and play feeds the hunger for learning that I have. I talk with other coaches all the time. As long as you’re in that constant learning path, you stay fresh, you stay energized, and you stay current. The minute you get satisfied, or the minute you lose your flexibility and feel like you don’t have to learn, in our business, I think that’s when you become very stagnant. If you stand still, the game starts to go by you.”
On coming in and replacing the previous coach (Davis Payne):
“Over time, you learn what sells to your players and what doesn’t. One of the things that experience tells you is that when you’re in a critical situation, or one where there’s a lot of anxiousness and anxiety, you find out that less is more – that less information and keeping it simple becomes more effective over time. The other aspect is – and I don’t want to call it luck – but when there’s a change, your players need to see instant success for them to buy in. We simplified, and in the four games we played in the first eight days we had wins over Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and an overtime loss. Because of that immediate success, the buy-in became a lot easier and more black and white for the players. Every new coach that comes in sells a new program, and if there’s no success early, the buy-in takes longer.”
“When you look at the history of coaching, usually what happened when a coach had success is his players bought in, starting with the leaders. When the leaders buy in, the rest of the players have no choice but to come along. When you have great leadership, and you have cooperative leadership with the staff, you usually have a very successful team. What happens to a lot of coaches is their leadership changes – through trades, retirement, or whatever – that’s when you reach a crisis stage. Your team’s chemistry starts to change, the way of doing business changes, and a transition phase begins. Coaches get fired in that transition phase. Trying to create new synergy and new energy while going through a leadership change and missing a bunch of guys because of it is hard to do. You win in the National Hockey League because a team’s leaders follow their coach, and the players follow the leaders. When there’s a vacuum effect taking place, that’s when it gets chaotic.”
On what happened with Bruce Boudreau in Washington:
“He’s a good coach. Sometimes there are certain horses for certain riders. Sometimes good coaches don’t fit with the personnel that’s on the team, and sometimes they fit perfect. Once you’re a good coach, you don’t all of a sudden become a bad coach. Sometimes change is good for both parties – the players and the coach. It doesn’t mean it’s a matter of bad people, it just means a fresh approach might work better. You can find other ways to do it than changing the coach, and usually if a guy’s a good coach, that option is a last resort.”
What he thinks of the level of play in hockey today:
“This is an unbelievable time to be a hockey fan – this is the highest skill level I’ve ever seen and worked with. Everybody’s a good skater, the knowledge on the players that come from junior and college is at a high level, so they’re able to adapt much quicker. The whole game is at an incredible level. I don’t care how many goals get scored, it’s all about the intensity level and the execution – this is as high as I’ve ever seen it in my life.”
His opinion on the Kings who defeated the Blues in the second round of the Western conference playoffs:
“Nothing they did surprised anybody. The division they played in was incredible — really high end teams. Just getting points out of their own division was a struggle. When they made their personnel changes with about 25 games left in the season, they became big and fast. Anybody who played them in the last 20 games knew exactly how good they were. We played them twice, and we left both games going ‘Oh my god, are they ever a good team’. Nothing they did in the playoffs was surprising.”
On the stress of coaching and how it affects you:
“Coaching requires a lot of focus, a lot of energy, and a lot of work. There’s a tremendous amount of stress on coaches, especially in our sport because there’s so many teams that can win the Stanley Cup. Quite frankly, sometimes coaches lose their energy, get frustrated, or they get critical or cynical because of the stress, the demand, and the combination of everything. Sometimes, the energy level that was there at the start isn’t there at the end. Teams decide to make changes to create a higher energy level. We all think that we should coach forever, and we all think that we should never get fired, but we don’t see the things that other people see. We don’t see the read that players have of our body language, or the little things that ownership or management see.”
On his energy level when he coached in Dallas and Columbus:
“When I got the job in Dallas, I thought that would be my first and last job. I thought I was going to coach there forever. I never thought I’d be let go in a million years. But I did. And as disappointed as I was getting let go in Columbus, the year and a half I had off gave me energy for the next five or six years. It gave me a freshness, an energy, and an enthusiasm that is necessary to coach in the NHL. As a coach, you’ve got to look in the mirror – it’s a hard look, but you have to if you want to stay current.”
On the transient nature of coaching in the NHL:
“In this business, you learn not to hang pictures. We love St. Louis and I hope I stay here forever, but you come to understand that you’re in a transient situation, and that’s just the way it is. That’s the nature of our business, and we’ve gone about living that life. I’ve got great energy right now, but the moment my energy drops, I’ll be the first guy to knock on the General Manager’s door. But the way I feel now, I feel like I could coach a long time. The players have given me faith and hope, and that’s really rejuvenated me. The players have really created an enthusiasm for me, and I can hardly wait for the season to get going. I’m going to get every ounce out of this team and myself.”
This 2012 interview with Pat Quinn posted to The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on February 13th of that year. A former NHL coach to four teams and defenceman to three, Quinn made it clear in our conversation that he wanted to coach in the NHL again. While this hasn’t happened quite yet he has been busy since we talked — Quinn received the Order of Canada later that year, became the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013 (and assumably had a hand in Pat Burns finally receive induction into the Hall), and was inducted into the Vancouver Canucks’ Ring of Honor in 2014.
Posted by Dave Cunning under Interviews on Feb 13, 2012
When you’ve been named the NHL’s Coach of the Year twice, won an Olympic gold medal, the World Cup of Hockey, two gold medals with Canada’s junior program, and guided multiple NHL clubs to their best seasons in modern history, having your team finish dead last in the NHL during the final season of your coaching career doesn’t seem to add up. Yet, this is what happened the last time Pat Quinn was seen behind the bench as the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach.
“We had some young kids that that were first round picks, but quite frankly I wasn’t sure that they were first round picks,” said Quinn of the Oilers. “I knew it wasn’t a good team when I took the job, but I took it with a plan to help them be better. That’s what I do. I’ve taken over teams that weren’t very good, and after a few years you get them better. I thought that was going to be what happened in Edmonton, but after the first year they decided to make a change. I’m not sure why, you’d have to ask them. I wasn’t ready for it. I wanted to complete the job that I was hired to do there. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Some may make the case that Quinn and his coaching style/techniques were too “old-school” for players of the “New” NHL. At age 60, the St.Louis Blues’ current head coach Ken Hitchcock is a relatively good comparison piece for the 69 year-old Quinn, age and experience-wise. Hitchcock is currently behind an NHL bench for a sixteenth season, while Quinn was relieved after his twentieth. Both have coached over 1000 games in the NHL, and both have the grey hair to prove it. While Hitchcock may not have the Jack Adams Trophies and international success that Quinn acquired, he’s found a way to guide the St. Louis Blues to a 23-5-0-6 record, and place them third overall in the NHL since taking over – an accomplishment Quinn was not able to attain with this new generation of hockey player when he took over the Edmonton Oilers in 2009 and finished in the basement. Clearly it is possible for an older coach to get through to the new generation, and be successful.
“He took over a more mature team that was ready to win,” Quinn contended. “The Edmonton team wasn’t ready to win. He took over a much more mature team that has been in the playoffs several times in the last few years. He’s a coach that’s prepared, just like I am. Your circumstances often dictate a lot of things, and he stepped into a good spot. Hitch is a good coach — he was ready to help these guys, and they were ready to have a different voice in there. Clearly they’re responding well. I relate well with the young kids. I had Eberle, I had Hall. I had those kids. I can speak the language of hockey. The age group doesn’t matter.”
To be fair, Quinn has had success with teams comprised of young players – he guided Team Canada’s Under-18 team to a gold medal in 2008, and their Under-20 team to gold in 2009.
“I must admit, some of the best thrills I’ve had came from being around the kids the past few years.” recollected Quinn.
Quinn clearly still has a passion for the game of hockey, and to be involved in it – ideally as a coach. Unfortunately for now, it doesn’t appear any clubs are reaching out to acquire his services.
“I’ve got a void in there I’d like to fill,” Quinn admitted. “This life of mine has been all hockey for a long, long time, so when you’re not doing it anymore there’s a void there. I haven’t figured out how to fill it up yet, but I will. I’ve had a wonderful ride in this game. It’s given me so many thrills from the time I was a youngster. I’m lucky to be around it. [As far as NHL coaching offers]No, nothing. I think my ship has left the harbor.”
Quinn’s most recent coaching duties were played out at the 2012 CHL/NHL Prospects Game in Kelowna, BC on February 1st. Quinn, alongside Vancouver Giants’ head coach Don Hay, led Team Orr to victory over Team Cherry 2-1. Interesting that Quinn was chosen to head Team Orr, considering the speculatively dirty hit he delivered to Orr in 1969 that ignited a brawl between the Leafs and Bruins. Water under the bridge, I suppose. Quinn also serves as a co-chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
Well it’s getting on in the 2014 NHL playoffs, and it’s about time to dust of the old Double Championship Challenge for it’s second quadrennial go-round. If this seems Greek to you, click here to catch up on what the 1st Quadrennial Double Championship Challenge was all about. You may recall Rich Abney walked away with a championship t-shirt and four years of bragging rights in 2010 after picking the Chicago Blackhawks’ Canadian Olympic team members to win gold and the Stanley Cup in the same season.
So let’s have at it — cast your votes on who will win this quadrennial’s crown as outright best in the world.
Here’s who’s left:
Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp — Chicago Blackhawks [note: Keith & Toews can repeat as back-to-back DCC champs]
Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter — Los Angeles Kings
Martin St-Louis, Rick Nash — New York Rangers
Carey Price, P.K. Subban — Montreal Canadiens
Here’s who’s eliminated:
Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Patrick Marleau — San Jose Sharks
Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz — Pittsburgh Penguins
Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Pietrangelo — St. Louis Blues
Ryan Getzlaf , Corey Perry — Anaheim Ducks
Matt Duchene — Colorado Avalanche
Jamie Benn — Dallas Stars
Patrice Bergeron — Boston Bruins
Here’s who did not qualify:
Roberto Luongo — Vancouver Canucks
Mike Smith — Phoenix Coyotes
Shea Weber — Nashville Predators
John Tavares — New York Islanders
And unlike 2010 when Corey Perry joined Canada’s World Championship roster after winning Olympic gold in Vancouver, there are no players or staff that are representing Canada twice in the same season this time around.
Who’s your pick? Leave a comment to let us know! Choose correctly and you’ll be eligible to win an exclusive prize from Serenity Now…The SDC Blogs.
Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post with your name, your pick, and where you’re from. One vote only — no do-overs. Those who select correctly will be entered into a draw for the grand prize. Good luck!
Hi folks! This is the video podcast (written version here: http://bit.ly/VzOpWb on The Score’s Backhand Shelf) of my September 2012 interview with former NHLer and ex-con, Mike Danton.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no one in the game of hockey has a stigma around them the way that Mike Danton does. Now trying to resume his professional hockey career in Europe, the ex-NHLer and ex-con deals with all sorts of prejudice and ignorance directed towards him on a daily basis — not to mention all the life roadblocks that a convicted felon could expect on the outside, because of his nearly decade-old crime — despite serving his sentence.
In our interview, Mike talked very candidly and at length about everything from hockey, his time in jail, how he’s turned his life around for the better, his thoughts on other ex-con pro athletes, his feelings on being denied entry to the UK to play, his family, and what the future holds for him. Without a doubt, the responses that he gives will at least make you reconsider the opinion you’ve come to form about him.
After tough season, Paddock sets sights on Europe
FRIDAY, 22 JUNE 2012 02:00 DAVE CUNNING
Had things played out a little differently this past season, a former Kelowna Rocket could have had his name on the Stanley Cup this year.
Unfortunately for Cam Paddock, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Two years prior, he had appeared in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues, until being sent back to the AHL. This past season, it seemed Paddock had been given his second chance in the NHL.
Looks can be deceiving though, and the deal turned out to be too good to be true – L.A. released him two days later, and reassigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
“They basically offered me the contract and cut me at the same time,” said Paddock. “I came back to Vancouver and mulled the offer over at home before I signed it.
“I jumped in my car and drove 52 hours out to Manchester the next day.”
After a strong showing at L.A.’s training camp, and a contract offer from them, Paddock felt he was lined up for a season ripe with opportunity with the Kings’ affiliate.
However, Paddock’s hope slowly dwindled. After scoring two goals, three assists for five points with 44 penalty minutes and a minus-10 rating in 39 games, Paddock seemed to be a fixture on the team’s fourth line.
“I thought that I had a really good training camp,” said Paddock, 29. “I was told certain things by L.A., got sent to Manchester and then had their coach looking at me like I was playing with the wrong-handed stick.
“I assumed I was going to be the same third-line centre that I had been the past four years that I’d played in the league, but it didn’t work out that way. The coaches were feeding me the ‘work hard and you’ll get your opportunity’ rhetoric you get told when you’re a 21-year-old starting out in pro hockey, and playing me on the fourth line. I haven’t done that in five years. It was discouraging. I already know how to work hard, and what kind of player I am.”
“On some teams, you can do no wrong in the eyes of the coach. On other teams, it seems you can do no right,” continued Paddock. “It was the latter in Manchester for me. That’s just how it goes sometimes. It was a weird year.”
Playing with the Monarchs did, however, offer him the chance to play with Dwight King (his older brother D.J. played with Paddock in Kelowna), Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan and Andrei Loktionov – all whom were recalled by L.A. and were contributors to the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory.
“They were all very good players with a ton of NHL ability,” Paddock said. “Dwight’s a really good guy and probably an even better hockey player. Loktionov and Voynov are both super-skilled. Slava’s nickname was Slava-bomb because his slapshot is about as hard as they come. Jordan is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen in the AHL. I was happy to see them all get a chance to go up there, and do as well as they did.”
As good as they are, though, none of them are household names on the Kings’ roster. In fact, one could make the case that other Monarchs could have done as good of a job as those call-ups had they got the call instead.
“Sometimes it comes down to whether you had a good week, or if a certain person saw you play a good game somewhere,” Paddock said. “Those guys are their young draft picks that they are developing. They deserve it, they work hard.
“But as far as them getting a chance instead of me, it’s a pretty fine line when you get down to it. In a lot of cases, it’s youth and size more than anything, I’d say.”
Perhaps if Darryl Sutter, who replaced Terry Murray as L.A.’s head coach back in December, had seen Paddock in training camp, things might have worked out differently.
“I thought about that when he got the job,” said Paddock. “I don’t know if it would have really made a difference, but the Sutter brothers are from Western Canada, and I know Darryl had seen me play when he was with Calgary and I was with St. Louis. I’d like to think that maybe it would have helped me out. But in saying that, he had only come to L.A. in a coaching role rather than a managerial one.
“The best-case scenario for me with Sutter would have been him putting a bug in someone’s ear about me when I was down the depth chart in Manchester and not playing. I’m sure he had enough to worry about in L.A. and wouldn’t have been too concerned.
“It definitely worked out good for Colin Fraser, though, who played for Brent Sutter in Red Deer. When Darryl got there, he knew exactly what kind of player he was and he trusted him. Colin is a good player – I played against him all over and I respect him -Â but to be candid, I think he’s six of one and I’m half a dozen of the other.”
On Jan. 26th, Kings president Dean Lombardi released a statement saying Paddock’s contract had been terminated – freeing him to return to play in Germany’s DEL.
In 13 games with the Augsburger Panther, Paddock recorded three goals, five assists for eight points, plus 20 PIMs and a plus-five rating.
“For my career, I had to make a move,” Paddock said. “Going back to Europe became the best option for me. It sucks to say, but as far as the NHL goes, with as disappointing as the year was this year, I’m done with it.
“To have the experience I had in Manchester, you realize the team really has nothing invested in you. I’m happy I got my 16 NHL games in, but now I’m looking forward to playing more years in Europe. It’s a cool lifestyle, it’s a different culture and there’s opportunity to climb the ranks over there instead.
“I really liked Augsburger’s coach. He was a very honest guy that told me exactly what I was there to do and didn’t make any promises he didn’t keep. I got along with him well. I really liked the fans, and we had a good group of guys on the team. It will be a lot of fun going back to that, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Before signing his next overseas contract, Paddock will have to wait until the NHL’s CBA is worked out – the result of which will determine whether an import spot will be available for him, rather than a North American orphan looking for a European team. It’ll give him more time to ponder his future.
“If I could play for another five or six years, I’d be happy,” Paddock said. “But it has to make sense. I feel really good, I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, and I still really like playing and being around the guys. Playing the game’s still fun for me, and that’s the main thing.”
Follow Cam Paddock on Twitter: Follow @CPads18
[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on May 2, 2012]
A puck bucket full of hockey thoughts to tee up….
Four of the eight teams remaining in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs have direct ties to Wayne Gretzky – The Great One played 18 games with the St. Louis Blues in 1996, 234 games with the New York Rangers from 1996 – 1999, coached 4 seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes from 2005 – 2009, and played 539 games with the LA Kings from 1988-1996, captaining them to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history. Had the Edmonton Oilers not been laughingly awful yet again this past season and lived up to hype and expectations, this could have been an all-Gretzky playoffs. Gretzky was known to have been vocal about wanting to win just one more Stanley Cup before he finished his career – is it that far-fetched to think that if one of those teams manages to win the Cup this year (there’s currently a 50% chance of that happening), Wayne might find a way to sneak on the ice and hoist the grail one last time?
Speaking of the Los Angeles Kings, they’re beginning to draw a lot of similarities to the underdog 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens – both entered the playoffs as the eighth seed of their conference, both eliminated the President’s Trophy winner of that season in the first round (Montreal beat Washington, Los Angeles ousted Vancouver), and both had/are having unexpected success in the second round (Montreal eliminating Pittsburgh, LA currently mauling St. Louis). The main difference though, is that it took Montreal 7 games to win both of those series – it only took the Kings 5 in the first round, and they are in the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead now. Of course, Montreal was beat in the third round, and LA’s playoff fate is not yet written. Los Angeles’ main criticism heading into this year’s playoffs was their inability to score – coming off a series sweep over St. Louis most recently, and with three players in the NHL’s top 25 playoff scorers (Brown, Kopitar, Richards), that ailment seems to be cured. Their goaltender remains a standout, and they’re shown their toughness is not an issue either, mixing it up frequently in both series. While both the Habs and Kings teams look similar, LA looks to be well on their way to faring far better.
A moment of discussion about a frame from game 2 of the Rangers/Capitals series…. The score was 3-1 Rangers with roughly 8 minutes to play in game 2, at which point Washington took a Too Many Men penalty. Caps’ coach Dale Hunter elected to have Alex Ovechkin serve that penalty. The announcer was quick to point out that Ovie’s serving of the penalty was a strategic move in hopes of springing him on a breakaway at the conclusion of the infraction, which is all well and good. My counterpoint to that is that on every team and every level I’ve played on, the player that generally went over to serve a bench minor penalty was an “expendable” player – maybe a fourth line or injured player, or just someone who wasn’t getting a lot of ice time for whatever reason that game, and it certainly wasn’t by any means because our coach had a strong confidence in their breakaway ability. So from that standpoint, it looks like Ovechkin may simply have been chosen for removal from participation in the game for 2 minutes when their team needed 2 goals really badly in a short amount of time if they hoped to win the game.
The chance of that breakaway opportunity actually occurring is relatively slim and more of a crapshoot; a hail mary play that is too low percentage to gamble on when the puck could just as likely be in a precarious scoring chance against Washington when the penalty expires. It seems like a positive spin a coach might pose to a psychologically fragile player that needs positive reinforcement to perform well so they don’t conclude that they are the team’s expendable player while sitting alone for two minutes or less. By the strategic logic, Hunter should have put Matt Hendricks, Washington’s shootout goal leader through the regular season, in the box for the opportunity at an uncontested run to the net.
It’s not like Hunter is afraid to clip Ovie’s wings if he’s not performing either– Ovechkin played 21 minutes in game 2 and was a -1 in the loss, while in game 3 he only saw 13 minutes of play (the least he’s ever played in a single playoff game), and scored the game winning goal. So the query point I want to raise is this: do you think Ovechkin serving that bench minor penalty was a strategic move for a chance at a scoring chance, or was it a knock towards his expendability and/or need to improve from coach Dale Hunter?
Further, the Caps should maybe consider making Ovechkin a dman if he’s only going to score from the point now.
The 2012 World Hockey Championships are nearly underway in Finland/Sweden, and the world’s “best” will be competing to improve their world rankings – Canada currently sits at fifth in the world, and will be looking to improve on that seeding with a decent roster, but one that does not include names like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Roberto Luongo, Joe Thornton, and many other big name players that are available, but have elected not to compete for reasons of varying legitimacy. With many national rosters in the same boat, is it even fair to place as much value on this tournament as there is? Is there no way that this tournament can be played out at a different time of year where all of the world’s best hockey players can compete against each other to determine the world’s best? Or is it possible that the world’s best hockey players simply aren’t taking the tournament seriously enough when they should be jumping at the chance to wear their county’s colors on the international stage?
by Peter Nygaard (follow him on Twitter)
St. Louis Blues (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (7)
- The Issues:
- Pro-Choice — Generally speaking, having a goalie controversy entering the playoffs can be an easy way for a team to punch a one-way ticket to the nearest golf course. But when you have the kind of problems the St. Louis Blues have in net… life is good. The Blues enter the postseason with a timeshare in the crease, split between the NHL’s goals-against average leader, Brian Elliott, and No. 4 in that same category, Jaroslav Halak. Halak, best known for his impressive playoff debut with the Canadiens in 2010, earned the majority of the starts, but Elliott finished the season on a stronger note, posting three straight shutouts to bring his season total to 9. Together, the two ran away with the William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest team GAA. But in the playoffs, presumably only one will get the chance to play. According to reports, Halak will start Game 1, but if he starts to struggle, coach Ken Hitchcock won’t hesitate to pull the plug. Elliott has not been to the playoffs since he also made his debut in 2010, getting shelled in three games against the Penguins before giving way to Pascal Leclaire.
- Experience (Or lack thereof) — The biggest question St. Louis has faced all year is “Who exactly are these guys?” The Blues have positioned themselves just outside of the playoff bubble in recent years, but few anticipated how quickly they would rise to the Western Conference elite. Hitchcock has managed his share of high-profile campaigns, but he has not yet been able to re-capture the magic he had in Dallas. Perhaps last year’s loss to the Boston Bruins was a wakeup call to the Western Conference that the old guard is no longer going to get it done. The Blues may not have much experience outside of veteran Cup-winners Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, but they do have a lot of young talent and depth. Combine that with hope, and maybe… just maybe, change is on the horizon.
- Political Dirt:
- America is never going to elect the St. Louis Blues without seeing a few birth certificates first. This “T.J. Oshie” doesn’t sound like he was born in America… and how can we be sure that “Andy McDonald” even exists?
- Campaign Promises:
- If elected, the Blues promise to never miss the playoffs again. One thing that few remember was lost during the canceled season was St. Louis’ streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances. When the NHL returned to action, the Blues missed the postseason for the first time since Jimmy Carter was in office. After only one appearance in the last six years, this season may mark the beginning of a new streak.
- The Issues:
- Flip-Flopping — The Sharks have been considered Cup contenders for the last four years but have heretofore disappointed. This year, they looked like they were going to finish on the outside looking in before making a late push for the playoffs. After years of serving as the disappointing juggernaut in the West, the Sharks are now trying to convince us that they’re plucky underdogs just because it’s a more advantageous position come election time.
- Joe the Plumber — San Jose boasts a pair of not-so-average Joes in team captain Joe Thornton and rising star Joe Pavelski. Thornton quieted many of his critics in last year’s playoffs, tallying 17 points in 18 games and leading the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals. Conversely, Pavelski established a big game reputation in the 2010 playoffs but was nowhere to be found last year. If the two can put it together in the same year, the Sharks will be a dangerous squad.
- Political Dirt:
- The Sharks and Blues met four times during the regular season, and St. Louis won all of them. San Jose couldn’t beat the Blues even once in four tries. How are they going to take four out of seven
- Campaign Promises:
- If elected, the Sharks promise to deliver the unpredictability that makes playoff hockey so great. The Sharks have the talent and experience to go all the way. That hasn’t stopped them from tripping over their own skates in the past. This year presents an interesting conundrum. Will a stint as the underdog be what finally puts the scent of blood in the water, or are the Sharks simply slipping?
Vote For: San Jose Sharks in 6
My goodness, Canada obliterated Russia. Canada lives to fight another day, and Sid wins the latest chapter of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin showdown (actually, they both had zero points in the game, but Sid wins by default with the team win; also Ovechkin was invisible throughout the whole game). I hate to say it’s typical of Russia, but since the loss, the Russians have been skewering Canada in the media (no offence to any of the nice Russian people I know). All the people who thought that the loss to the US might have been the “inspiration” Canada needed to get things back on track may just have been onto something.
My most common thought through that game was MAN I FREAKING LOVE TEAM CANADA. I had a long term relationship with the LA Kings during the Gretzky era, had cups of coffee with the Blues, Rangers, and most recently, I’d been warming up to the Coyotes and Leafs. But all in all, Team Canada is my favourite hockey team of all time. I absolutely love it when they win, and I nearly lose my mind when they lose. All the whining about how American NHL teams are all comprised of Canadians, and when those teams win Cups, it’s really Canada winning, sort of; well this is actually all those Canadian players all together on one team, and all NHL season gripes, grudges, and affiliations are off. I’ve even come to realize that I really like the new sport neutral Team Canada logo designed for the Olympics.
I really have come to think that the Olympic tournament is the premier
international hockey competition as well. As opposed to the World Championships, you have EVERY country’s best players representing their flag; not the small percentage of NHL players who aren’t in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year. Also, the players are in peak mid-season conditioning; whereas WC players may be “mailing in” their efforts after knowing they’re not going to win the Stanley Cup. The World Cup/Canada Cup is cool too, but it has no frequency to it; only being contested every 7-8 years. It would be better if the Olympics didn’t have single elimination games, and best-of series’ instead. I wish there was a way to have every country play every country at least once, instead of the pool play, but I guess there really isn’t that kind of time. Maybe next NHL lockout, there could be a Global Hockey League, where we see countries compete in an NHL season format. How awesome would that be?
Now we face Slovakia, after what must be considered an upset after defeating defending gold medal champs, Sweden. So Sweden, you’re telling me a squad comprised of Zetterberg, Franzen, Alfredsson, both Sedin’s, Forsberg, Lidstrom, and others were not good enough to beat… wait, who does Slovakia have? Zdeno Chara? (ok they have the Hossa’s and Gaborik too, but come on, not nearly as deep as Sweden) This was the first legit upset of the tournament, in my opinion, but man were there a few close calls. The Swiss were a handful for Canada and the US, Belarus made it tough on Sweden, Latvia took a run at the Czechs, and even Norway almost edged out the Slovaks. Now by the math, Canada should roll over Slovakia, but hey, we said that about the US, didn’t we?
I think it’s great for hockey as a whole, but obviously not great for Canada. We’re no longer afforded the luxury of thinking we’re automatically the best in the world when it comes to international matchups (someone tell all the women’s teams besides Canada and the US to follow suit). We’ve known this since 2006 in Turin really, but people like to pretend as if those Olympics never happened; isn’t it odd that the only Olympics Canadians seem to “remember” in terms of hockey is 2002? Obviously our best showing, but you have to take the bad with the good and make adjustments if you’re going to remain king of the hill. Another thing that escapes Canadian hockey fans memories is that both Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo were our goalies in Turin as well. Luckily, we’ve already bested our placement from that time.
Go Canada GO!