Considering the number of stars in NHL coming from Eastern Europe, it is no secret that the National Hockey League has a strong force of support based in Russia and Eastern Europe. Thus this past week saw the NHL signing a multi-year deal with one of Europe’s largest internet providers, Yandex. Yandex will be responsible for streaming all of the regular NHL season games as well as the Stanley Playoff free in Russia. The deal is becoming active in the 2019-20 season which kicks off on the 2nd of October.
Leonid Savkov, chief commercial officer at Yandex, was happy to announce this partnership with one of the world’s most significant sports leagues. They are looking forward to working with the NHL to make the games much more accessible to all in Russia and be able to connect the fans with their teams and favourite players. This deal also serves as a brilliant opportunity through which advertising companies will now be able to reach millions of fans watching their favourite hockey teams play.
The NHL is as excited about this deal becoming a reality. David Proper, the executive vice president of international and media strategy for the NHL, said that they consider this deal as a game-changer. Yandex is one of the greatest leaders in the industry in Russia and therefore serves as a brilliant platform to venture into this new market. Both parties are going into the new partnership with full force to be able to deliver engaging content to fans, while they are hoping to be able to reach a wider audience and to expand the interest of the sport.
Live Streaming and Commentary
With the brilliant platform which Yandex offers, viewers will be able to follow the live-action as it happens. They will also be able to react to what happens, to utilize live commentary and emojis. After live streaming, the highlights of each game would be available on watch on-demand. NHL fans will also be able to subscribe to a service which offers notification of when competitions are due to begin. Many Russian stars are returning to the ice for the 2019 season, including some previous Stanley Cup champions. These include Ivan Barbashev, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov.
For the first time in the history of the National Hockey League, Russian fans will now be able to have unlimited access to all the action of which so many Russian players have been part of for a very long time already. This is something that they have been waiting for, and the impact which it will have through gained interest from those who haven’t been exposed much to the sport in the past will be tremendously advantageous for the Hockey League in future.
During early August the NHL visited Martha’s Vineyard to bring the game of hockey to the OB Boogie. This is considered as on the most significant yearly events where black families gather. Some of these children are very familiar with basketball and football but have never held a hockey stick in their hands.
Amidst pouring rain, hundreds of families still showed up inside the tent set at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The reason for their excitement was meeting the National Hockey League’s first black player, Willie O’Ree. The event also allowed children to try their hand at the sport with stickhandling and shooting stations. The NHL brought the incident to the island to introduce the competition to people who have historically been excluded from the game. This is done in cohesion with a drive to expand the interest in the sports league. According to the vice president of the Industry Growth Fund Initiatives at the NHL, Rob Knesaurek, the NHL wants to show people that the league isn’t only inclusive, but also welcoming to new members and interest.
Knesaurek was a former forward involved in Canadian collegiate hockey as well as playing in the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons. He said that hockey should be considered as an open opportunity for all. The sport needs to be diversified, and all are welcome regardless of your background.
The History of the Boogie
According to one of the Boogie organizers, Lori Hall Armstrong, the NHL helped to introduce these kids to the possibility that there are other sports than just the major leagues with which they are familiar with, which offers both player and fan possibilities. The Boogie started six years ago. The event began when parents of New Jersey and New York connected through sororities and colleges to organize a game filled with activities focusing on children. From there on, it grew into being one of the most significant annual events focusing on the well-being of children.
The Crowd at Martha’s Vineyard
The crowd attending this even at Martha’s Vineyard is characterized as predominantly black people from the East Coast to the West Coast and who are in general not only successful but also affluent. They are a crowd who might find a keen interest in the game of hockey and have probably not been exposed much to it in the past. The event was unique in many ways, and all thoroughly enjoyed the fact that it offered some hands-on experience in the game.
These kind of events are brilliant to attract new interest in the sport. I’ve commented that he could see some real talent within some of these kids. Without opportunities where they can try their hand at it, they will never be able to develop their skills. Hence it is vital to find not only support for the sport but also the talent which is lying dormant until discovered.
It was thanks to the performance of Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars goalie that they were able to make the playoffs for last season’s Stanley Cup. Bishop has been the star of the clash, being a Vezina Trophy finalist. Thanks to him, the second-fewest goals in NHL history was scored. Putting them with 200 goals, only behind the New York Islanders’ 191. This is, however, no way to enter a new season and the Dallas Stars need to answer three questions to perform better next time.
How to increase their goal scoring?
The Stars need to improve on their goal-scoring ability. They ranked third from the bottom of the NHL list of goals scored. A position held in a tie with the Arizona Coyotes at 209 goals. Dallas coach, Jim Montgomery admitted to this. He stated that they are aware of the fact that this area in their play needs some significant improvement. He is hopeful that this is however already improving during their last few games. The signing of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry was done to give this upward trend further momentum. Pavelski scored 38 goals for the San Jose Sharks during the previous season, and Perry made it to 30 goals six times already during his NHL career. The hope is placed on their shoulders to up the Dallas Stars goals.
Will Roope Hintz Fill Up Some Bigger Shoes?
With Mats Zuccarello leaving the Stars for Minnesota Wild and Jason Spezza moving on to Toronto Maple Leafs, Hintz has bigger shoes to fill as forward. The 22-year old joined the Stars late and during his time there managed to get 11 points from 14 games during his time in the second line. Will he be able to step up and fill the gap which Zuccarello and Spezza left?
How Be Will The Lines Structured?
More depth is required to up the scoring on the Dallas side. This might mean that Montgomery will have to break up the magic between Seguin, Benn and Radulov as he did during certain times in the previous season. He might have to put Pavelski in that line, but will he be able to perform like a top forward? Montgomery might structure Radulov, Benn and Pavelski together and then place Seguin in front with Perry and Hintz and hope there will be a new and better bond of chemistry between these lines.
The lines are all dependant on who is playing and who not. Mixing up the tracks is a brilliant opportunity to give all a chance to perform and show what they are capable of. In the end, the Dallas Stars would need to find the best combinations which bring them the magic in-depth, which they need to up their performance.
Alex Ovechkin’s 34th birthday is around the corner, and his contract with Washington Capitals are expiring at the end of the 2020-21 National Hockey League season. These two factors are contributing to rumours that he might be retiring shortly, but Ovechkin is adamant that he is not ready to discuss his retirement just yet. He would, for now much instead focus on the time left at the Capitals and making that count for the team.
His Health a Determining Factor
An interview ignited all the rumours regarding his future in early August with the Russian news agency TASS news. Ovechkin stated during the meeting that he had two more years left on his contract and what would happen after that would depend on the state of his health. The captain of the Capitals gave his response from Beijing on the topic stating that the future will be discussed in about two years when his contract expires. He was in China where he is currently promoting the game, as an ambassador to the sport.
A Great Career of Brilliant Hockey
Ovechkin was the No. 1 pick during the NHL Draft in 2004. He is the 13th player in history to achieve 658 goals from 1 084 games. This season, if he has been able to secure 42 goals, he would become one of only eight players to obtain 700 goals in NHL. There was a time when Ovechkin stated that the all-time Gretzky goal record of 894 goals would never be broken, but now it seems that is precisely what he has his eye set on. Not only a dream but something which genuinely looks like a possibility now.
Even though he is playing in his 15th NHL season, he remains to keep in good shape and states that his health is excellent as well. Last season he was able to bring in 51 goals, making it the eighth season on his career where he exceeded the 50 goals per season benchmark.
Committed and Motivated
The fact that Ovechkin can maintain such a long NHL career is attributed to his offseason training. He remains focused and fit with practice sessions, even with his busy schedule. Even now, during his stay in China, he took Pavel Burlachenko, his trainer, along to keep him in shape.
He mentioned that it is difficult to find the time to train between being involved in hockey clinics and coaching and doing some sightseeing, but it had to be done, so they made a plan to accommodate practice within the schedule. He also states that at his age, he can’t cut done on the importance which training has in his career. Even though he scored more than 50 goals per season for three seasons in a row, he had a dip in his performance during the 2016-17 season. For now, it seems that fans can remain calm. Ovechkin is doing all he can to stay not only valid but truly great in NHL.
As with most sports on an international level, the calls for equal pay, opportunities and resources between men and women’s sports are also present in the National Hockey League. Their plea resulted in 200 women’s hockey players standing together in May with the threat that they won’t play in any professional league again in North America unless they receive the funding and resources required by professional hockey.
Some great names in the sport back the movement to gain equality. They are Hilary Knight and Shannon Szabados, both Olympians. These women are placing their careers on the line and are fully aware that by joining the movement, they stand the chance of never playing professionally again. One of these women willing to risk it all is Katie McGovern, playing for Scottsdale.
McGovern is a graduate from Duluth, Minnesota. She was signed for the 2018-19 season with the Minnesota Whitecaps, and during this season she played 16 games. In her position as second-line centre, she managed six goals and achieved 11 points. This was the first year that the Minnesota Whitecaps were playing in the National Women’s Hockey League and they were able to lift the Isobel Cup. The joyous moment was short-lived since not long after winning, the movement was started to improve the league for younger generations of women to come. Their plan of action is to stay out of play for the coming season. The risk for the players is rooted in the fact that NHL contracts are awarded on a per-year basis. Hence many players had to decide whether they will join the movement or return to play.
The National Women’s Hockey League
During 2015-16 the league debuted. The first expansion which followed was when the Whitecaps were included, only in 2018. Further extensions were due to include Montreal and Toronto as well, but since the movement started, these plans are cancelled. When the league became aware of the movement’s announcements, it offered the ladies many allowances which included larger salaries. The players denied their offer and stated that the concerns which they have with the league are rooted deeper than only wages. According to McGovern, the female players also have an interest that the league doesn’t treat them like professional players. As professional players, one would expect that they would receive the necessary resources during the tournament. They had no pregame meals, skate laces or tape. The teams also had to take later flights to save on cost. They had no bus to transport the group and hence had to spend hours on airports and to wait for shuttles. Due to sponsorship, the Whitecaps had a trainer, but the other NWHL teams couldn’t afford a trainer either.
These are the concerns which the movement wants to rectify. They want to create a better future for younger females dedicated to promoting women’s hockey and whether they will be able to find an agreement with the league before it is too late, will still have to be revealed.
During his fruitful career of 15 seasons, Chris Kunitz held the Stanley Cup four times. Now he announced his retirement from playing and has been hired to assist with player development by the Chicago Blackhawks.
A Successful Professional Career
In 2003 Kunitz was undrafted and then signed with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim as a free agent. At that stage, he had 619 points from 268 goals and 351 assists. He played 1 022 games in National Hockey League for various teams. These included the Ducks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Chicago Blackhawks. During his career, he won 96 points from 27 goals and 66 assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was part of the Stanley Cup Winning teams during his career at the Ducks in 2007 as well as with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, 2016 and also 2017. During last season Kunitz played 56 games for the Blackhawks ending up with 10 points from five goals and five assists. Except for the four Stanley Cups, Kunitz also received an Olympic Gold Medal playing for Canada in 2014. During the shortened lockout season of 2013, Kunitz was named for the All-Star team. He also finished 16th that year in the Hart voting and 14th in Selke voting. During 2017 he scored his most important goal during double-overtime during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. With this goal, he sent the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final. It was then when they defeated the Nashville Predators during six games.
The New Role
Head Coach for the Blackhawks, Jeremy Colliton, expressed his excitement to have Kunitz moving into his new career at the team. Not only does he feel that Kunitz is an extremely professional player, but also a valuable contribution in different regards. Colliton realized Kunitz’s potential to assist other younger players into growing into stars while coaching him in the previous season. He stood out as an asset in possible resource development of the team. He is looking forward to the contribution which Kunitz will be able to make to the lives of the players of Rockford.
Kunitz made use of his retirement announcement to express his gratitude for being fortunate enough to have such a great career. He also expressed his gratefulness towards the four great teams which taught him so much about professionalism in the game and the professional league. He felt that they didn’t only extend themselves to him, but also his children. He also mentioned the many coaches, trainers and managers whose work always exemplified the possibilities of the teams they were involved with. His fellow teammates were also mentioned. Kunitz started as a youngster in the league, but his teammates helped him grow into a player which he always dreamt of becoming. Through wisdom, humour and hard work, many friendships were formed.
In 2014, Mike Gillis was fired from the Vancouver Canucks. After many years of involvement in the sport as a former player, coach, executive agent and the lifelong student he considers himself to be, he took a five-year sabbatical from the game. This trained lawyer took it upon himself to study the success of other sports teams. He wanted to find out how they create cultures of winning and how they operated successfully, and now he is back with all his knowledge to share. In his successful career, Gillis was awarded GM of the Year in 2011; he also managed to build the winning teams of two Presidents’ Trophies. He made it clear that he is not interested in becoming a GM again.
A Journey to Expand Horizons
It seems that during this sabbatical, no trouble or effort was too much for Gillis to obtain his goal of getting as much knowledge as possible. This means that he travelled the globe to learn as much as possible. Gillis spent some time in Oregon at the Nike Sport Research Lab to learn more about cognitive awareness. He went off to Switzerland and the Campus BioTech, at the University of Michigan he participated in a business school, and he studied how KHL teams develop their players. He went to Spain, Australia and China and never stopped to research how other organizations in different cultures run their organizations successfully.
The Knowledge Obtained
The main lesson learned from his travels can be taken as the importance which other successful and modern teams put on their training environment, on a day-to-day basis. They follow a much more holistic approach towards the players and every moment is seen as crucial as part of the training, from the arrival of the player until the player departs again.
Another suggestion which Gillis feels can bring significant change within the leagues is how front offices are run. He thinks that the organizational structures need to change, and one of the ways this can be done would be through changing the workflow. Gillis is convinced that a GM has too much on his plate and shouldn’t have to oversee the entire operations department. If more people can share in the responsibility, it would ensure that GM’s don’t get worn out and then when they are tired, make poor decisions.
Another suggestion is to employ four assistants to the GM. This is much based on the models of many English elite soccer clubs. Having this structure allows for a group of people to be able to influence the club and not only having the entire responsibility rest on one person alone.
Gillis also made suggestions around the time of day when practice times are scheduled and so much more. He is very keen on sharing his knowledge and expertise, and it would be exciting to see what the future holds.
NHL is slowly approaching the 2019-20 season. With some significant contracts signed and sealed. New players are ready for the ice; there is also a fair share of bad deals which must be resolved. In NHL it isn’t as easy to get rid of a bad contract as in some of the other Major Leagues. You can’t hide them, and you can’t trade them unless you find a manager willing to take your mistakes on. With a hard cap salary, it will most probably cost you more than what you would like. So who are some of this season’s bad contracts?
Ryan Kesler for the Anaheim Ducks
With their focus set on winning the Stanley Cup, they probably knew the results of this deal working out well aren’t great, yet that wasn’t as important as the Cup at that time. The Ducks didn’t win the Cup, and they also realized that their enthusiasm regarding Kesler was overrated. During his first season, it still went well with him getting 58 points. From there though it took a nosedive to a mere 8 points during the 2018-19 season. Signed in on a $6.875 million contract, this one is going to cost them even more than just money. The assumption is that Kesler will probably not play this season and that the Ducks will give him a long term reservation on the injury bench.
Kyle Okposo at the Buffalo Sabres
NHL free agents signed deals all over during the 2016 summer. Very few of them turned out to be great. This was a lesson which the Buffalo Sabres also had to learn. They had hope for Kyle Okposo when signing him on, but they were wrong. During his first year, he did relatively spoken not so bad, with 65 games and bringing in 45 points. Then he went onto a gradual decline until reaching a low of only 29 points from 78 games. In his defence, Okposo did suffer some injuries which probably negatively affected his match. One of these had him hospitalized with signs of having a concussion. Currently, though, he is earning the salary and yet not delivering in return. His playing time also got dramatically cut, yet he is signed at a $6 million cap.
James Neal for the Calgary Flames
Last on this list, which can continue for many more pages, is the hope of the Flames which got extinguished. Neal had all the promise of being a great scorer when signed on. That was precisely what the Flames needed to fix a scoring issue. Even though Neal never scored less than 20 goals in one season before the Flames, he only managed to get out seven goals during the 2018-19 season with a mere 19 points. Maybe a bad year for Neal or maybe age catching up rudely, yet he is not contributing much to the Flames and their score concerns. Signed at a $5.75 million cap for four years, one can only hope for improvement.
Every sport has its highlights and moments of glory, but often delivering a balance to this, is a fair share of moments which just shocked the world. These are some of those shocking moments in National Hockey League history.
The Shame of Alan Eagleson
Going from a Hockey Hall of Fame to prison. Alan Eagleson is the name of NHL Players’ Association’s first director. He was a man with significant influence in the league and brought many superstars into the limelight. Names like Darryl Sittler and Bobby Orr were all from Eagleson’s camp. The success of the Summit Series in 1972 was much due to having him as a chief promoter. But Eagleson was greedy and skimmed from sponsorships and stole from both players and clients. After pleading guilty, he was sent to 18 months in prison, kicked from the Hall of Fame as well as the bar as a lawyer.
An Internal Gambling Ring
Right before the 2006 Winter Olympics, a scandal broke loose when police arrived to investigate a gambling ring within the league. It was during the period when Wayne Gretzky still stood serving Team Canada in his position as executive director. The main suspects were none other than Gretzky’s wife, Janet Jones and Rick Tocchet, serving under Gretzky as a coach. Jones got away with no charges ever laid against her. Tocchet was not so lucky. He ended up pleading guilty on charges of conspiracy.
Sometimes aggression gets the upper hand during the heat of the game. During a match riddled with assault in March 2004, Todd Bertuzzi lost control. One punch landed him into controversy and took Steve Moore, playing for Colorado, out of the game forever. Moore ended up with some broken vertebrae and a severe concussion. Moore claimed damages after a guilty plea from Bertuzzi. Finally, the two could settle the matter ten years later in 2014.
Anger at a Different Level
It is 2004, and the Stanley Cup playoffs were just over, and the St. Louis Blues didn’t make it. This was, however, only the start of controversy for the team. Days after the playoffs Mike Danton got arrested. The charge against him was for hiring a hitman. His target was David Frost, his then-agent. Danton served five years in a US prison before being transferred to Canada for another six months before his parole. Later on, the world saw him returning to the ice at Saint Mary’s University. Then in 2010, he played in the national championship for the Huskies.
Taking on the Crowd
Sometimes the aggression runs over towards the spectators. This is what a New York fan learned during a match between the Rangers and the Bruins in 1979 after hanging over the glass and hitting a Bruins player with a program. This caused the already rowdy players to sort out the spectator in the crowd. It was when Mike Milbury whacked the man with his shoe, that police was called in to calm the crowd down. Leading to Milbury and some teammates being suspended.
The Dallas Stars do not have a high season behind them. They had heavy blows from injuries suffered during the season and are hoping to regain new depth with signing contracts with veteran players.
Perry just signed a one-year contract to the value of $1.5 million. This contract is weighing heavy towards a bonus side with the amount of $1.75 million being paid as bonus money should Perry perform according to expectations. This is because Perry himself didn’t have a high season after returning too soon after surgery to his knee due to an injury and thus he only had ten goals from 31 matches. Perry is also not the most influential hockey player in the history of NHL, but the Stars do consider him to be a low-risk addition to strengthen their lineup. The Stars management is expecting that Perry will be able to bounce back to his former glory of being a scorer of 50 goals. Depending on Stars coach, Jim Montgomery’s combination choices for the forward group, Perry will slide in between Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski.
Since 2003, Perry knew no other NHL home except the Ducks where he has been at since they initially drafted him. Perry also stated that there is nothing wrong between him and his old team and was, in fact, grateful for the opportunities he had there from playing NHL to bringing the Stanley Cup to Florida. They did decide to let him go when his performance was going down, and they bought him out of his last two years of his contract valued at $17.5 million. That way, they felt that they could give both him and the team a better chance to succeed. Now being in the Stars again is a promising turn of events and joining this developing team, was a natural choice for Perry to make.
The future which Montgomery has planned for Sekera is still slightly uncertain. He is a left-handed defenseman and former Edmonton Oiler forward and now being third on the Stars depth chart, with Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell exceeding him. Montgomery does feel stronger with having between seven and eight defensemen from NHL on his team. The uncertainty remaining about Johns and whether he will be returning, lead to stocking up on defensemen by James Nill. Therefore except for the signing of Sekera, Taylor Fedun and Roman Polak were also re-signed. Sekera is also signed to a $1.5 million contract, and the possibility of bonus payouts based on the number of games played as well as postseason performance. This amount for his bonus payouts is set at $500 000. Sekera is also coming from a buyout background, and therefore he got the same kind of deal as Perry, having to prove what can be delivered to earn.
These two players signed indeed a low-risk deal with which the Dallas Stars can either earn excellent delivery or lose out with a minimal price to pay.