Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Gretzky All Class

from Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune,

Wayne Gretzky is one of the classiest men I have met. If there is a superstar in sports I could nominate as a decent, humble, standup guy, it is he. I don't normally go boohoo for individuals of his stature when things go wrong, but let me take a minute here to review for you what has been going on in Gretzky's life of late. ...Gretzky sounds devastated and confused. He was scheduled to leave for Turin with the Team Canada hockey delegation, but suddenly, if you'll pardon the expression, all bets are off. Typically, he refused to duck for cover or hide.
read on added 1:27pm, from Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated,
With the fallout from Rick Tocchet's alleged involvement in a gambling ring cascading upon him, Wayne Gretzky -- who rarely took a misstep on the ice -- should seek cover. He could be making the worst move of his storied career if he gets on an airplane for Turin.
more added 3:24pm, from Kara Yorio of the Sporting News,
If he's lucky, Gretzky will do the right thing and step down before Bettman has to say anything. Gretzky must say that, while he didn't place any bets and while he doesn't believe Tocchet or Janet bet on hockey, he cannot compromise the league in this way until the investigation has been completed. This is not an admission of any guilt other than by association and the guilt of tarnishing the league's image by that association.
more

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What’s Up With The Blues?

from Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

It could be so much worse for the Blues. The team could have packed it in, just as the Lauries packed it in as owners. The Blues could have written off the rest of the season. Knowing that most of the veteran players are being offered around the league, they could have quit exerting themselves. They had every excuse to bail. We would have understood. But they keep playing hard and, against all odds, they have actually started winning games again. So what’s going on here?
more

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Talking Changes

from Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun,

For the most part, the National Hockey League's game is where the general managers want it to be. But that doesn't mean that it's perfect. Far from it. Radical changes were introduced to start the season and need some fine-tuning. Other matters had been allowed to slide while the league devoted itself to economic issues. They, too, need attention.
read on...looks like new uniforms are a lock, plus more exhibition games...

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Every Game Is A ‘Must’ One

from the Edmonton Sun,

Since when do stretch drives begin in mid-February? The NHL season is barely past the halfway mark and the tension is already turning stomachs into knots and coaches into nervous wrecks. With must-win game after must-win game on the schedule and barely a gasp of breathing room in the standings, it's like everyone's in the middle of a three-month playoff series.
continued

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Other Athletes Would Not Do This

from Reuters via Yahoo,

Even before their Olympic experience begins, the National Hockey League players will have endured a journey many coaches in such Summer Games sports as soccer, basketball and baseball would call "Mission Impossible!" In less than four days' span, the more than 150 NHL Olympians will have played a weekend league game, flown to Europe, donned national colours and performed in the first round of the Olympic tournament due to start on Wednesday.
read on

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Team USA Up For The Challenge

from the Philadelphia Inquirer,

Don Waddell sits at his desk mulling over what people are saying about Team USA's chances of doing anything more than just showing up at the Turin Olympics. And the general manager of the American team is not happy. "It always gives you a little pride to say, 'We're going to stick it to everybody,' " Waddell said. "But nobody is picking us to finish in the top anywhere. I heard today seventh or eighth.
continued

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Time To Speak Up

from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,

It is inconceivable that Wayne Gretzky has engaged in nefarious behavior. But it is incumbent upon Janet Gretzky to come forward and explain her connection - if any - to this alleged Tocchet operation, for the longer she remains silent, the longer hockey's shining star is exposed to speculation. I know them both; he much better than she. I know how painful this is for them, separately and as a couple. But they must face it, individually and collectively, and the sooner the better, for themselves and for the sport, and for others who are being tarred with guilt by association. ...The people out there know who they are. I am urging them to come forward, to say what they did, before a steady drip, drip, drip of leaks evolves into a season of torture for the league.
more (reg. req.)...including a Jagr comment... from the Star-Ledger,
State wiretaps in the unfolding NHL betting scandal caught Wayne Gretzky discussing the multimillion-dollar gambling operation run by his friend Rick Tocchet before the ring was dismantled Monday, according to law enforcement sources. There is no evidence Gretzky made any bets, the sources said, but the secretly recorded phone calls show the hockey hall-of-famer knew about the gambling ring, and investigators are looking into whether he placed any wagers through his wife, Janet Jones.
read on from the Ottawa Sun,
At a time when the focus should be on all that's great and good about this game, which will be on display next week at the Olympics in Italy, it is instead on the biggest bad news to hit this league in years. The talk is about which players were laying bets and the talk will continue until the next bomb hits, when the authorities name names. The other skate is yet to drop. It's only going to get worse from here for the NHL.
more from Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun via the Ottawa Sun,
Wayne Gretzky always has put the interests of Canadian hockey ahead of his own -- and now, more than ever, he should make the difficult decision and do it once again. He should stay home rather than accompany Team Canada to the Olympics. For the good of his beloved Team Canada. For the good of the Olympic Games. For the good of his well-protected name.
read on from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Here's what we love about hockey players. They are for the most part selfless. They believe in the celebration of the group over individual glory. They believe in individual sacrifice for a common goal. They believe fervently in the team. If ever the game needed those qualities to reveal themselves it is now.
continued update 4:50am, from Sherry Ross of the NY Daily News,
Gretzky was the gold standard for pro athletes, a once-in-a-lifetime performer blessed with grace and class, with never a whiff of misconduct attached to any part of his private life. Until now. With the allegations that his wife, Janet Jones, is involved in betting with an illegal sports operation financed in part by one of Gretzky's co-workers, former NHL player Rick Tocchet, Gretzky's good name has been slimed, and knowingly or not, he takes the NHL down with him.
more

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Wirtz Admits Mistake

from the Chicago Tribune,

Bill Wirtz was unwilling to comment on the NHL's betting scandal Wednesday, but the Blackhawks' owner had a lot to say about his team's disappointing season, admitting "we made mistakes on our free-agent signings because we didn't think the game would change that much with the new rules." "We signed the free agents, and then we had the rule changes," Wirtz said. "With the red line out, that has changed the game. Speed is the greatest requirement. "The defensemen like Cullimore and Aucoin were great for clearing out the front of the net. Now, if you [breathe] on somebody, it's an obstruction call. You have to be very fleet of foot, and you have to hit."
read on

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Pens Threaten Law Suit

from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Penguins forwards Mark Recchi and John LeClair aren't just claiming they have no connection with the gambling investigation that has rocked the NHL the past two days, they have retained a lawyer to confront -- and possibly sue -- media outlets presenting information claiming they were involved. Attorney Bob Del Greco said last night that a Philadelphia TV station, WPVI, the Delaware County Times newspaper and ESPN all have been contacted about stories they published or aired linking Recchi and LeClair to the investigation. WPVI issued a retraction and apology, he said, while the newspaper removed the information in question from its Web site at his behest. "I need to be perfectly clear on this issue," Del Greco said. "Mark Recchi and John LeClair categorically deny any wrongdoing and are outraged that their names have been associated with the 'Operation Slap Shot' investigation.
more

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O’Ree All-Star Weekend Canceled

from Black America Web,

The labor lockout that forced the National Hockey League to shut down last season is over, but some young aspiring black ice hockey players are still feeling its bitter affects. For the second straight season, the league has cancelled its Willie O’Ree All-Star Weekend, an annual event that showcases talents of players from some of the nation’s minority youth hockey programs in a game named in honor of the man who broke the NHL’s color barrier nearly 48 years ago. The weekend, hosted in a NHL city, was canceled last year because of the lockout. League officials said it’s postponed this season for lack of corporate sponsorship.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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