Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Emphasis On Skating

from Slam,

"If you can't skate, you can't play in the National Hockey League." This simple and seemingly logical verdict was expressed yesterday by the NHL's "hanging judge", Colin Campbell. The 2005-06 NHL season gets underway Wednesday, following a one-year hiatus. I spoke to the NHL's executive vice-president and director of Hockey Operations about a variety of topics. mainly, however, about the effect of the new rules which, in some quarters, may turn a club upside down. Most of all, though, I wanted to know if the new rules about hooking and obstruction will be enforced all the way to the end of the playoffs. "Everybody wanted the new rules," Campbell said. "The test about how the rules will be enforced will come when the regular season begins. The real test will come in March. The real, real test will come in the playoffs when there will be a 5-on-4 situation and the referee's next call could make it a 5-on-3.

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Visor Or Not

from the Montreal Gazette via the Edmonton Journal,

The odds are good that at least one National Hockey League player will suffer a serious eye injury during the upcoming season. It's hard to believe, but many NHLers still refuse to wear a visor, even in today's game with bigger players using one-piece composite sticks to shoot the puck harder than ever before, making it almost impossible to get out of the way of a high, rising shot. Visors were back in the news last week after Phoenix Coyotes defenceman Denis Gauthier flattened Los Angeles Kings' Jeremy Roenick with a clean bodycheck during a pre-season game Sept. 25. It resulted in Roenick suffering the 11th documented concussion of his career. Two days later, Roenick's teammate, Sean Avery, sounded a lot like hockey commentator Don Cherry with his comments made to TSN: "I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not backing anything up. I'd think if a guy like Brett Hull was coming up the middle, somebody probably wouldn't have stepped up and hit him. But like I said, (it was) a typical move from a guy wearing a visor that certainly doesn't like to get scratched at all."

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Preview Of The NHL

Bob Duff of NBC Sports (and the Windsor Star), breaks down all the teams in a season preview. Nice to see that NBC has taken some responsibility to cover the NHL.

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Attracting New Fans

from the Star-Ledger,

Kevin Weekes wears a mask, but he's not trying to hide anything. The Rangers' new No. 1 goaltender is a black man, and a proud one, at that. And he would love to see a few more black men inside Madison Square Garden when the Rangers return to action after missing last season because of the NHL lockout. "Is Spike Lee only restricted to going to MSG when the Knicks are playing?" Weekes asked recently at the Rangers' Greenburgh, N.Y., practice rink. "I want to see him down on the glass, banging on the glass when we play, too. And he doesn't have to only cheer for me. I want to see him cheer for (Jaromir) Jagr. I want to see him cheer for any of my teammates. Let him cheer for the other goalie. Let him cheer for whoever he wants. Why can't Chris Rock come? Why can't Jay-Z come?"

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Players Starting To Get It

from Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun,

Slowly but surely, the National Hockey League's players appear to be getting accustomed to the game's new philosophy. They're not fully there yet, and that's why the level of scoring has yet to rise appreciably. In a performance that is fairly typical of the pre-season, the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings hooked up in a 4-1 affair to close out the pre-season last night, with the Leafs getting the edge over the Wings for the second night in succession. At the moment, dealing with the new rules is taking precedence over actually using the new rules, and as a result, the free-flowing game has not resulted in a scoring increase. But more and more, the players are starting to feel comfortable with the new philosophy and they're starting to learn what they can do. For one thing, they're going to the net more. In the old NHL, that area was sacred territory and trespassing was definitely a threat to good health. But now, the larger players, like the Leafs' Nik Antropov, can plant themselves in that area and give the defenders a problem.

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Good, Bad & Ugly

from Larry Brooks of the NY Post,

The ugly ideas include adoption of the shootout, which trivializes the sport; the commitment to use tight, form-fitting uniforms that everyone but everyone who's worn them or seen them up close despises, in the 2006 Olympics and then for the 2006-07 season; and the new, "My NHL" ad campaign that is at best, a turnoff, and at worst, offensive. The ugly concepts include the suggestion that the NHLPA should just go along with the hiring of Ted Saskin without a full review of the CBA debacle. The ugliest free-agent signing was the Rangers' addition of Marek Malik for three years at $2.5M per. The ugliest situations will take place in Detroit, where the marquee Red Wings will capsize; in Toronto, where the marquee Maple Leafs will be very bad; in Colorado, where the fans will have to begin to settle for less. The ugly teams will include the Rangers; the Caps, who have given up; the Hurricanes; and the Blues.

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For The Love Of The Game

from Terry Frei of the Denver Post,

In the Hockey Hall of Fame's Great Hall, Joe Buxton of Belleville, Ontario, squinted at the Stanley Cup. Nearby, a young Hall employee watched closely. If asked, he would have stepped behind the Polaroid camera to snap a picture of Buxton with the trophy for $10. If Buxton attempted to imitate Ray Bourque and triumphantly lift the Cup, the employee likely would have turned as combative as any NHL enforcer. Visits to Toronto, Tampa and Los Angeles during the NHL exhibition season produce glimpses of North American passion for the sport. After more than a year of NHL darkness, this much we know: Reconciliation and reconnection with fans such as Joe Buxton are the goals.

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Players Must Adjust To Calls

from the Ottawa Sun,

Have you seen many penalties called in the preseason so far? Welcome to the NHL's latest dose of bad medicine -- you may not like it, but it's the only way the patient is going to get well. The real deal begins in only three days, but the law has been laid down throughout the league. Clutching, grabbing, and any other game-muddying variety of obstruction penalties are being called without hesitation. Ottawa's tilt in Buffalo on Wednesday featured the undisciplined elements of the Oakland Raiders, combined with the stop-start nature of a run-of-the-mill NBA game. In other words, it didn't qualify as Must See TV. Twenty-six penalties in total -- 13 awarded to each team. A teenager driving a stick shift has a smoother progression than this. Bad medicine becomes more bearable as time goes on, and in the case of multiple penalty calls, it appears we are on our final dose. Give credit to the NHL for finally tending to the health of its league.

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Panthers Have Not Created A Buzz

from the Sun-Sentinel,

I don't want to say this with my first step back on the ice. I really don't. Do I have to write how the Panthers already have blown it? How they've created absolutely no buzz around this team's return? Couldn't I just write something poetic about hockey coming back after a year away ("It comes back on little cat paws ...") or an uplifting piece about the pulse around this franchise ("Everything's different with the big addition of ...")? But that's just it. There are no marquee additions on this roster. There is so little different. After a fantasy-style draft for the league, the Panthers' identity remains Roberto Luongo. This isn't to say there aren't other capable players. It's to say they made no splash to make South Florida notice them again.

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Hockey An Afterthought In D.C.

from the Philadelphia Inquirer via the Mercury News,

It's a tale of two cities: Pittsburgh and Washington. Both are struggling hockey markets with indirect competition and economic circumstances that make the game a tough sell. And both have won the draft lottery in the last two years, gaining the No. 1 overall picks. Pittsburgh chose Sid "The Kid" Crosby this summer. Washington chose Alexander Ovechkin two summers ago. There the similarities end. In Pittsburgh, Crosby's impact was immediate. The second the Penguins got Crosby, the phone lines at their box office were jammed. The club nearly sold out its season in advance. In Washington, which has a diverse audience that stretches beyond political, socioeconomic and multicultural boundaries, hockey is an afterthought. So when the Caps got Ovechkin, it hardly registered a blip on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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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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