Kukla's Korner

The Makings Of A Superstar

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the St. Peterburg Times,

He doesn't look any different. Same hair. Same face. Same broad shoulders and thick legs. He hasn't gotten any taller or more handsome. He still talks about himself the same - long silences, humble shrugs, a smile that's awkward, not arrogant. Yet there's a feeling that Lighting center Vinny Lecavalier has changed. Maybe the word is transformed. Or evolved. Yes, that's it. Evolved. That the kid who struggled to kick-start his career, that the kid who felt the undue pressure of being called the "Michael Jordan of hockey" before he even played a game, that the rebel who played the oil to coach John Tortorella's water is stepping up to a higher plain. Superstar.

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Commitment & Professionalism

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Palm Beach Post,

Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Roberts began their hockey careers as birds. Nieuwendyk was an Owl. Roberts was a Wren. "We were little kids, 5 years old, playing in the same league" in Whitby, Ontario, Nieuwendyk said. "Every team was named after birds," Roberts said. More than three decades later, Nieuwendyk and Roberts have evolved into snowbirds. As the Panthers' first two post-lockout free-agent signees, they flocked to Florida for the winter, bringing shared leadership skills and complementary playing styles. Panthers coach Jacques Martin, who had Roberts in junior hockey and Nieuwendyk in the Olympics, talks about the "commitment" and "professionalism" they bring. Nieuwendyk and Roberts, both 39, talk about the intelligence and teaching ability of Martin and his staff. "If everybody buys into the system and is disciplined, then that's going to give us much more chance of winning some hockey games," Roberts said.

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Gimmick

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,

The pulled groin suffered by Phoenix goaltender Brian Boucher Friday night on the first shot of the opening exhibition's post-game exhibition shootout is a vivid reminder of why the players need a strong union looking out for their own interests. Yes, there's risk in hockey, but a meaningless post-game skills display isn't hockey. It's distressing and depressing that the NHL hierarchy would choose to promote and feature a gimmick — and make no mistake, that's what the shootout is — as the primary focus of the league's return to the ice. The people running the league don't have enough faith or belief in the game to allow it to stand on its own as an entertainment vehicle, not even with all the rules changes that have been implemented for this season. Rather, the geniuses on Sixth Avenue — or the ones in their marketing and advertising agencies, who knows? — decided that the fans would be provided with "a special preview" of the shootout following every single exhibition game, regardless of the score after 60 or 65 minutes.

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Hull Says Colin Campbell Should Be Replaced

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Arizona Republic,

When he arrived at the Xcel Energy Center for the Coyotes' preseason game with the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, Brett Hull was unshaven, bleary-eyed and sipping a cup of coffee, thanks to a 5 a.m. arrival in the Twin Cities. Hull struggled in his first game, shooting only once and losing Pierre-Marc Bouchard after he skated to the bench when the Coyotes iced the puck. A new rule prohibits teams from changing lines during icing. An official pulled Hull back on the ice, but he couldn't chase Bouchard down and watched the 21-year-old one-time a pass for Minnesota's second goal. He spent the TV timeout following the goal on his hands and knees. Hull lashed out at NHL Executive Vice President Colin Campbell when asked about him before the game, saying, "the league needs to get guys like him out and bring in people who have positive attitudes."

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Babcock Wants #1 Goaltender

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from Mlive,

For the first time in nine years, the Detroit Red Wings head into the preseason with an open competition for their No. 1 goaltending job. It figures to be the most closely watched position battle over the next two weeks, and it begins Monday, when the Wings open their nine-game exhibition schedule against Tampa Bay at Joe Louis Arena. Chris Osgood is the odds-on favorite to reclaim the job he lost when the Wings acquired Dominik Hasek in the summer of 2001 and Osgood left the club. But the Wings will give quintessential backup Manny Legace an equal opportunity to realize his long-time goal of being No. 1.

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Standing Ovation Greets Players Return

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the L.A. Daily News,

The Kings opened their preseason schedule Saturday night, but the result of the game the Kings beat the Mighty Ducks, 4-2 was secondary to the day's real objective: winning back the hearts of their fans. To that end, the Kings gave away every ticket to the game, and some players spent the morning shaking hands with and signing autographs for fans who lined up at Staples Center to buy regular-season tickets. The Kings seem to be immune to the concern that fans, angered by a 10-month lockout that resulted in the cancellation of last season, wouldn't return. The Kings announced a 92-percent renewal rate by their season-ticket holders, which they say is the highest in the 10 years of the current ownership.

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Confusion Reigns

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Toronto Star,

At times the Maple Leafs' Blue and White intrasquad exhibition yesterday seemed more lab experiment than hockey game. The players, sometimes befuddled as they adapt to the NHL's latest crackdown on obstruction, would engage the referees in post-whistle chats trying to understand why they were headed to the penalty box; much like a student buttonholing a teacher after class for extra instruction. "Everyone watching the game is a little confused but I think it's even more confusing for the players," said defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, who took two early minors, both of which could be categorized as phantom calls. "We've got two or three weeks of exhibitions to get used to it. It's going to take a lot of time to adjust."

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Will The Penguins Move

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Herald Standard,

Twenty years ago Mario Lemieux was going to be the next Wayne Gretzky. Now he's threatening to become the next Art Modell. Modell was the owner who moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996 when Cleveland was slow to deliver the new stadium he said was necessary for economic survival. Lemieux last week reiterated his matter-of-fact promise that the Pittsburgh Penguins are as good as gone in 2007 if a new arena isn't being constructed. "As I've said, in 2007, we're free to go and we'll just have to do what's best for the business," Lemieux said.

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Talking Shootout

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the Courier Post,

Mark my words. By the end of the 2005-06 hockey season, somebody is going to want to wring the necks of the NHL rules committee members who decided that tie games should be decided by an overtime shootout. It won't be in November or February, and it won't be the fans, who will put a firm stamp of approval on the excitement of shootouts. But when a team's chances of making the playoffs are doused by the flick of an opponent's wrists in mid-April, some coach or player is going to blast the NHL for taking a team sport and turning it into a skills competition.

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Free Tickets Tonight

Blog: KK Hockey By Paul

from the News & Observer,

On any given night, the most expensive tickets available to see the Carolina Hurricanes cost more than $100. This afternoon, they're a little cheaper: free. As a post-lockout gesture to their fans, the Hurricanes are taking the unusual move of giving away every ticket for this afternoon's exhibition game against the Florida Panthers at the RBC Center. Fans who have season tickets -- full or mini-plan -- already have been issued tickets for their normal seats. This game is free for them, as was Friday's exhibition opener. Tickets for the rest of the 18,730 seats will be handed out by Carolina ticket representatives outside the RBC Center beginning at 10 a.m. during the Caniac Carnival, the team's annual outdoor festival of games and hockey-related activities.

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