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Giving Bettman Credit

27 Dec

reposted from The Sporting News – written by Jesse Spector

and I totally agree.  Most people are too short sighted (or too angry) to see what is actually happening.  They just want to blame one person and shoot their venom toward the commish.  Idiots.  Do you tell your 30 bosses how to run their company or do they tell you?  Exactly.

 

Gary Bettman hasn’t had many reasons to smile lately, but he got one on Thursday, when the United States opened its campaign at the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia, with an 8-0 romp over Germany.

The NHL commissioner gets to feel a sense of pride not only because he is American, but because Team USA shows why Bettman is right to stick with a methodology that garners him an unfair amount of criticism. It isn’t about his handling of labor negotiations with the NHLPA — don’t worry, that’s still a mess — but about his larger-scale stewardship of the league.

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Earlier this month, Time magazine became the latest outlet to skewer Bettman with an argument that shows even less forward thinking than shutting down a $3.3 billion industry over a desire for a few extra millions.

“There’s a strong argument to be made that there are too many NHL teams, or at least too many in places where ice hockey is not exactly a native sport, i.e., the American South,” Gary Belsky wrote in a Dec. 19 article. “This is the fault of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, long a champion of NHL expansion. But hockey in the U.S. is not a national sport … and not enough fans in the American Southwest and Southeast are as enthusiastic about hockey as they are about football, baseball, and basketball.”

The support for this argument is that the Atlanta Thrashers’ franchise value skyrocketed as soon as they became the Winnipeg Jets. Of course it did — the Thrashers were a miserably-run organization that, in 11 seasons win Atlanta, won zero playoff games. There might as well have never been a team there in the first place. How many kids in Georgia in the 2000s grew up with dreams of being the next Ilya Kovalchuk or Slava Kozlov as they headed to the golf course April after dreary April?

Non-traditional markets don’t become successful overnight, nor do they gain prominence in their communities simply by showing up. Tradition takes time to build, and it takes hard work to establish a sports franchise as part of the community. Pennsylvania did not get NHL hockey until the Flyers and Penguins joined the league as expansion teams in 1967. While Philadelphia was a quick success story, with Stanley Cup victories in 1974 and 1975, Pittsburgh had to wait until 1991 to win a Cup, and even after that, there was a time when the Penguins’ future in western Pennsylvania was in doubt.

Now, the Penguins and Flyers, formerly teams in non-traditional markets, are among the NHL’s most successful clubs, and Pennsylvania is becoming a more common source of NHL talent. Of the 28 players in league history listed on hockey-reference.com as being born in the Keystone State, 19 were born after the NHL’s 1967 expansion, including 16 who were born after 1980 and thus grew up with the Flyers-Penguins rivalry on full blast. Youth participation in hockey rises every year in the state, and the hockey culture becomes more and more ingrained.

The success of the Flyers and Penguins is such that on Thursday, the on-ice rivals announced that they are banding together to send “Team Pennsylvania” to compete in the 2013 Brick International Super Novice Tournament in Edmonton, a competition for 10-year-old players.

“The state of Pennsylvania … has become a hotbed for incredibly talented hockey players,” Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko said in a statement. “We are excited to be working with the Penguins to have the Keystone State proudly represented at the upcoming Brick Tournament in Edmonton. We hope to showcase some of our region’s aspiring players to the youth hockey world.”

Think about that, then take a look at the box score from United States 8, Germany 0. The Americans had eight goals from eight players, and those players were born in six different states: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Now, take a look at the most famous Team USA there ever was, the 1980 Olympic team. The entire roster was composed of players from four states: Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The new geographic diversity of Team USA is not only because star defenseman Seth Jones’ father Popeye was playing for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks when he had a son. There had to be something that drew the young Jones to hockey, and in fact, he became a fan of the Colorado Avalanche while his father was playing for the Denver Nuggets. The Avalanche, of course, arrived in Denver under Bettman’s watch, and it was smart to put a team there even though the Colorado Rockies had previously failed, and moved to New Jersey to become the Devils.

It’s also not a fluke that this particular group of young American players is from different places. The U.S. national Under-17 team’s roster features players whose previous squads include the Boston Junior Bruins, Carolina Junior Hurricanes, Los Angeles Junior Kings, and Washington Little Caps. The Under-18 team has as many players from California (two) as it does from Massachusetts.

This is only the beginning. More American kids than ever are growing up with hockey in their lives, which means that more American kids than ever are seeing hockey as a sport worth playing. That’s because Bettman was willing to go to places where hockey had not gone before, and has been willing to stick with those franchises. It won’t work everywhere, as the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons, and Kansas City Scouts can attest, but the only way to turn non-traditional markets into traditional markets is to — surprise! — let tradition develop.

Of course, the only way to do that is to actually play games and be part of the culture, so Bettman’s smile from watching Thursday’s game should only be a quick one. The lockout is still a disaster for everyone involved.

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We Have A Series

22 May

We really do.  I predicted this series would go 7 games and nothing has happened to make me think otherwise.

These two teams don’t like each other.  These two cities don’t like each other.

The following video gives you a great feel for it.  Warning there is a movie preview at the beginning but you can skip it after 3 seconds.  It is a James Bond preview so not the worst thing in the world.  But in the video, at about the 1 minute mark, you see the hit Rupp makes (I’m not so sure it’s a penalty) and then the subsequent hit he makes on Brodeur.  Then you see all the players react and even better you see the two coaches yelling at each other.

As a player you want to see your coach emotionally engaged.  Especially when, as a player, your emotions are running on overdrive.

Great stuff.  I saw some of the players being interviewed after the game.  They all basically said the same thing but I think Ilya Kovalchuk said it best when he said “this is not chess, this is a mans game”.  You’re God Damn Right!  This is why we love it.  We don’t want to see anyone get hurt.  We don’t want to see the Raffi Torres Goonery, but we do want to see these guys pushing and shoving and jawing at each other.  That we like.  Not Torres.

Speaking of that series, Game 5 is tonight between the Coyotes and the Kings.  Let’s go Kings!

Great picture on yahoo, they show a LA broadcaster discussing how 3 LA teams are in the playoffs.  In the background they show the Lakers and Clippers logo’s along with a Sacramento Kings logo as the third team.  Hey Moron it’s the LA Kings that’s in the playoffs not the basketball team that plays in Sacramento.  How clueless are those idiots?  Newsflash LA, there is a professional hockey team that plays there and they are playing quite well.

During the last series I went to the LA Times, which has many many Pulitzer prizes, and they had nothing on the Kings sweeping the Blues.  I had to do a search in the newspaper to find anything.  Nothing on the main page and nothing on the main sports page.  Come on guys.

I know a couple of guys out in LA and they are huge hockey fans.  But they are the minority out there.  However I did read that prime seats for Kings games are going for twice as much as tickets for either basketball series.  How about that?

TTS
PS – sorry about the delay in posting, I had an out-of-town guest followed by a bachelor party which knocked me on my ass for a couple of days.  Apparently I’m now too old for a heroic intake of alcohol.  Sucks getting old.

Also WTF happened in the World Championships?  First Canada chokes and then USA says – Hey that looks like a pretty good idea let me try.  They choked with 8 seconds left!  Congrats to Russia on the win and to Slovakia as the runner-up.  Looks like at the Sochi Olympics USA and Canada will be in different pools.  If the NHL even participates in the olympics this go around.

Hockey World Championships – USA takes defending champs down at home 5-0

13 May

HELSINKI – Team USA players gave their mothers a nice Mother’s Day present in a form of a 5-0 win over Finland.

Max Pacioretty scored one and added an assist, Jimmy Howard made 18 saves en route to a shutout.

“We didn’t expect the score to be like that, but I don’t think it was indicative of the game. We took a few penalties and gave them some life to get back in it, but our penalty kill was huge,” said Bobby Ryan who scored the last goal of the game.

“We knew that they were a fast and hard working team, but we just couldn’t match that,” said Mika Pyörälä.

In the game against Canada, Finland started very strong, and the home crowd expected a similar start to the game tonight. They got disappointed when the U.S. took control of the game, and opened scoring at 16:19.

Mikko Mäenpää went to the corner to stop the puck after a faceoff in the Finnish zone. The puck hit Max Pacioretty who flipped it towards the net mid-air. Lehtonen made the initial save but Pacioretty was all alone in front the net and could take the rebound and backhand it in to give the Americans 1-0 lead in the game at 16:19.

It was Pacioretty’s second goal and ninth point in the tournament.

It was Team USA that had control of the game in the second period as well. Finland killed off two penalties, but at 15:33 Kyle Palmieri made it a two-goal game.

Cam Atkinson got the puck behind the net, and Palmieri open in front of the net. He made a quick move from forehand to backhand and beat Lehtonen on the stick side. It was his first goal of the tournament.

“It was a pretty physical game. Playing in front of their home fans, we knew it would be emotional, but we didn’t lose our focus. No matter what they threw at us, we had an answer,” Palmieri said.

And if Finland wanted to get back into the game, they shouldn’t have take penalties, but unfortunately for the home crowd, they did. Mikael Granlund took a slashing penalty for breaking Bobby Ryan’s stick at 37:24. Just 32 seconds later, the puck was in Finland’s net.

“We weren’t ready to play tonight. We have to analyze this, and move forward. We took too many penalties, too. They were good but not the score doesn’t really reflect the game,” said Finnish defenceman Janne Niskala.

Pacioretty played the puck to Jack Johnson on the point. Johnson was about to take a slapshot but instead, passed the puck to Justin Faulk who slapped in his fourth of the tournament from the top of the left faceoff circle to make it 3-0 with 2:04 remaining in the second period.

“We wanted to focus on getting pucks deep and making it a nightmare for their defencemen going back. They hadn’t been hit a lot. Outside of the Canada game, they haven’t seen physicality,” Ryan said.

With 20 minutes to go, Finland came back to the third period determined to claw its way back into the game. However, Chris Butler’s wrist shot from the blueline found its way through traffic and to the back of Finland’s net just 2:12 into the period, letting the air out of Finland’s tires.

Bobby Ryan got his third of the tournament 1:56 after Butler’s goal when Craig Smith found him completely uncovered in front of the net. Lehtonen didn’t have a chance and Ryan made it 5-0 at 4:08 into the second period.

Anssi Salmela received a game penalty for boarding when he pushed Goligoski into the boards at 15:03, but Finland killed off the five-minute penalty. Goligoski left the ice on his own.

Finland was forced to make a goalie change with eight minutes remaining when Kari Lehtonen injured himself when an American player fell and took Lehtonen down with him.

Team USA passed Finland in the standings, but the teams are likely to meet again soon, in the quarter-final.

“We’ll probably play these guys in four days, so it’s nice to know we can win,” said Ryan.

Hockey World Championships

11 May

From the A.P.

HELSINKI — Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes scored four minutes into overtime for his second goal of the game Friday, sending the United States to a 3-2 victory over Kazakhstan at hockey’s world championships.

In Group H, Canada beat defending champion Finland 5-3 in its toughest game yet at the tournament.

The Americans were coming off Thursday’s 5-3 victory over Belarus and improved to 3-1-1 in Group A.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown opened the scoring 4:12 into the second period. Kazakhstan’s Konstantin Pushkaryov tied it four minutes later on a power play.

Faulk scored his first goal 4:58 into the third period to make it 2-1, with Talgat Zhailauov evening the score 11 minutes later.

Canada twice overcame two-goal deficits in improving its record to 4-0-1 and taking over first place in Group H.

The winning goal came from Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets a little more than six minutes into the third period. He took a pass from linemate Corey Perry of Anaheim and beat Kari Lehtonen with a quick shot. Alex Burrows of Vancouver, John Tavares of the New York Islanders, Jeff Skinner of Carolina and Jordan Eberle of Edmonton also scored for Canada.

Antti Pihlstrom, Mikko Koivu of Minnesota and Jussi Jokinen of Carolina had goals for Finland (4-1-0).

Seriously having to go to OT to beat Kazakhstan?

The US didn’t exactly blow out Belarus either.  How did this team beat Canada?  They face a real tough test against defending champs – Finland on Sunday morning.  The game will be shown on NBCSports at 9:00 am Central time.

They also face Switzerland on Tuesday.

Canada has a much easier road in the final two games playing against Kazakhstan on Saturday and Belarus on Tuesday.

More on USA’s win.

HELSINKI – There hadn’t been any upsets in this year’s tournament, not until today’s game between Team USA and Kazakhstan. The Americans managed to take the win, but it took them 64 minutes and 38 seconds to do it.

Justin Faulk scored two, including the OT winner for Team USA. Vitali Kolesnik made 47 saves for Kazakhstan.

“You have to tip your hat to [Kolesnik], he played an amazing game,” said Team USA goaltender Richard Bachman.

“We did everything we wanted, but we just couldn’t score. Their goalie played well, but we were giving him the easy saves a lot of the time,” said Team USA captain Jack Johnson.

The last time these two teams met, in May 2010, Team USA beat Kazakhstan 10-0. It was the first game of the relegation round. This year, Team USA is still in the hunt for the top seed in the Helsinki group, while Kazakhstan was in a desperate need for points, should they want to return to the World Championship in the Nordics next season.

“Everybody did a great job and we feel that we can take points, we can win. We start to believe that we can do it, and today we did it, we got a point,” said Kazakhstan’s Konstantin Pushkaryov.

“We’ve played just exhibition games the past month and a half. We need to play more international games against good teams. We weren’t really ready for teams like Switzerland and France, who skate a lot and play the puck deep because the KHL is more of passing game,” he added.

The Americans outshot Kazakhstan 16-6 in the first period, but Vitali Kolesnik, and his supporting cast of shot-blocking skaters, held their own and kept the U.S. off the scoreboard. Kazakhstan had one good scoring chance but Bachman, making his first start of the tournament, couldn’t be beat.

In the second period, Kazakhstan truly gave the U.S. a scare, with two breakaways within minutes from each other. In the first one, Justin Faulk stumbled in the neutral zone which gave Konstantin Romanov an excellent scoring chance. Bachman came out of the net and made a save, but the rebound ended in a Kazakh stick, but then it was Faulk who stopped the puck from entering the American goal.

In his next shift Romanov, again on a breakaway, fired a slapshot from the slot but he missed the net.

Just when Scott Gordon started to look a little troubled behind the American bench, J.T. Brown chased down a puck that Justin Abdelkader had chipped out of the zone, drove to the net and fired an excellent wrist shot that beat Kolesnik high on his glove side, at 16:35 into the second period.

Two minutes later, U.S. captain Jack Johnson received a charging penalty. Kazakhstan’s power play worked, and worked beautifully.

Pushkaryov found first Talgat Zhailauov behind the American net. He carried the puck to the other side and sent the puck to Dmitri Upper on the point. Upper cycled the puck back to Pushkaryov who waited, very patiently, for the U.S. box to give him the space he needed to send a perfect pass back to Zhailauov, who one-timed the puck past Bachman to tie the game with 1:43 remaining in the second period.

About five minutes into the third period Alex Goligoski sent a short D-to-D pass to Faulk, who finished his end-to-end rush in a wrist shot from the top of the circle, beating Kolesnik on his glove side to give Team USA a 2-1 lead in the game at 4:58.

“In the second intermission we talked about shooting the puck higher, and I thought we did a good job of that,” Johnson said.

And then, boom, with 4:06 remaining in the game, Zhailauov got the puck in the neutral zone, and simply left the American defencemen behind him. He got Bachman to hit the ice and slammed the puck in, to tie the game, 2-2, which was also the score at the end of regulation time.

The extra time was Team USA’s, and with 22 seconds remaining, Max Pacioretty drove towards the net, and flipped the puck to Faulk, who just snapped it in to win the game for the U.S., 3-2.

“To be honest, I didn’t think Max saw me come in, and then when he made the pass, I didn’t think it would get through. But I just let it go right away and it was lucky enough to go in. We’ll take the two points and move on,” Faulk said.

from – RISTO PAKARINEN

TTS