Kukla's Korner Hockey
from rian Louis and Tony C. Dreibus of Bloomberg,
The Chicago Blackhawks four years ago were losing fans to the Chicago Wolves, a minor-league hockey team with cheaper tickets.
This season, the Hawks are the National Hockey League’s biggest draw. Team owner Rocky Wirtz is mining the world of Facebook and Twitter to keep it that way.
“People my age aren’t the ones you go after,” Wirtz, 57, said in an interview before heading to his seat, a padded folding chair amid the fans, for the playoff victory that sent his team to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1992.
“The question is how do you get the 20-year-olds?” he said. “We want to work more with social media than ever before. We want to recruit them to be fans for 30 more years.”
The Blackhawks, whose 49-year championship drought is the longest of any current hockey franchise, are schooling others on and off the ice this season as the NHL struggles to boost a fan base that remains the smallest of the four major professional sports.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
In what has been a riveting and consistently entertaining NHL postseason thus far, the oddest back story of all focuses on the respective starters in net. And how a series of here-to-fore lightly regarded goaltenders are facing each other, while the big names either missed the playoffs altogether or were quickly dispatched.
Of the 100 goaltenders listed by salary on stats website nhlnumbers.com, Niemi ranks 57th (at $827,000 U.S.) while Leighton is dead last (No. 100). Leighton’s price tag is $600,000, but because the Flyers grabbed him on waivers, they were responsible for just half.
Even in today’s inflated NHL salaries, both represent exceptional value.
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
With this year’s Stanley Cup final fairly oozing with possibility and potential, there’s a great deal of preening going on at NHL headquarters.
Ask them and they’ll tell you every indicator that matters is up, up, up and business is good, good, good.
So, in the tradition of not letting these folks get too big for their britches lest they order another lockout, we choose to ask an uncomfortable question.
Does anybody notice, or should anybody notice, that the team that will open this series on home ice skates out with the cultural equivalent of a cigar store Indian on their chests every night?
Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire, Mike “Doc” Emrick and Keith Jones took part in a tele-conference today.
Q. Just a question on the goaltending matchup. Long held belief you needed kind of a really good big-ticket goaltender, goaltending was so important. Ken Holland over the last couple of years says you don’t always need to spend a ton of money on your goaltending. I wanted to get your thoughts on this matchup, and is there a shift, maybe a shift in philosophy coming with goaltending?
DON CHERRY: Well, again, Leighton is my guy and everybody’s waiting for Niemi, whatever his name, to falter, and he hasn’t. So it’s really funny, two guys that they thought it’s their weak spot. Philadelphia has always had a weak spot. And everybody’s been saying about Chicago, they’ve got a good team; but their goaltender was suspect. Now here they are in the Finals.
I think it’s going to be which one falters. And boy it’s going to be something. Of course, you know what I think of Leighton.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think a big part of what’s allowed these goalies to prosper in the post season is the fact that both teams have unbelievable defensemen in front of them. Just to go to Don’s theory about what Ken Holland said.
The reason why Detroit can get by with Chris Osgood or, quote/unquote, no name goaltenders is the fact they had Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall, unbelievable depth on defense.
You’ve got the same thing happening with both these teams. While both goaltenders have had great post seasons, the truth of the matter is the defensive in front of them, and Don and Mike would appreciate this being former defensemen, those guys aren’t getting enough credit on both sides, the defense for both teams has really helped the goaltenders to survive.
from Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
It may not have the pizzazz of the Super Bowl’s now famous media day—we didn’t see the Cartoon Network working the room at the United Center on Thursday—but the NHL’s annual pre-Stanley Cup finals event has definitely evolved into a big day on the playoff calendar.
There is a bit of a carnival feel with the broadcasters and roving bands of journalists moving from table to table, and the players sporting their cool new hoodies. And there is never a shortage of anecdotes and stories to be told as the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers gear up for Game 1 on Saturday night.
The Chicago Blackhawk team physicians began diagnosing and treating vitamin D deficiency in all Blackhawk players about 18 months ago. Apparently, most players are on 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day. To confirm this assertion, simply ask the Blackhawk organization.
After many losing seasons, last year the Blackhawks came out of nowhere to get to the Western conference finals. This year the Blackhawks are playing even better.
According to my sources, improved athletic performance is only one of the benefits for the Blackhawk players. The other is a reduction in the number and severity of lower respiratory tract infections and a reduction in the number and severity of repetitive use injuries.
continue for more on vitamin D…
from Greg Wyshynski of PuckDaddy,
Don Cherry and Mike Milbury took part in an NHL media call today. Which meant Don Cherry and Mike Milbury were speaking extemporaneously. Which meant good things happened.
Like Cherry praising the Stanley Cup Finals matchup of the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers as being better for the NHL than “if Nashville had won, and some other team like that, like Columbus. They’d have probably committed suicide ... but this is a dream for the National Hockey League. They’re jumping for joy with Chicago.”
And like Cherry then saying, “I better keep quiet here cause I’ll get in trouble, but sometimes I wonder watching some of those penalties in the last game—and I’m only kiddin’ when I say this—but if I was San Jose I’d be sure scratchin’ my head.”
from Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times,
But the Hawks were trying kind of hard to ignore the favorite’s role Wednesday. If they could have put their fingers in their ears and hummed to drown out the talk, they would have.
‘‘It’s going to be tough,’’ defenseman Brian Campbell said of the Cup finals. ‘‘It’s not going to come easy for us.’‘
It’s no surprise the Hawks are trying to downplay the fact that Las Vegas is picking them to beat the Flyers. Most people don’t want to say they were born rich; most want to say they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.
But the Hawks are the deeper team. They played well most of the season. They’re better.
You won’t hear that from the Hawks, who aren’t prone to bouts of woofing and chest-thumping.
from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail,
On some levels, the teams are mirror images of one another.
Toews’s counterpart with the Flyers is Mike Richards, two players whose maturity level belie their relative youth; ’Hawks winger Patrick Kane’s is Jeff Carter, two skilled goal scorers and playmakers. There is accomplished secondary scoring (Daniel Brière, Simon Gagné for the Flyers, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp for the Blackhawks); there are big, imposing physical specimens (Pronger on the Flyers blueline, while the Blackhawks have one of the more unique players in the NHL in Dustin Byfuglien, a 257-pound net-front presence, who has scored four game-winners in these playoffs).
Philly has had a series of remarkable wins these past two months: First, to qualify for the playoffs in a shootout on the final day of the regular season, and second, to eliminate the Boston Bruins in seven games after being down 3-0.
from John Shannon of Sportsnet,
The Blackhawks playoff success has revitalized the franchise in the Second City. Obviously owner Rocky Wirtz has become a folk hero, with the team going to the final for the first time since 1992. Former GM Dale Tallon has received credit, as has Joel Quenneville and the Bowmans (Stan and Scotty), but for my money John McDonough has to be given his own due for what has happened with the Hawks.
McDonough was Wirtz’s first hire after taking over the team. He came from the Chicago Cubs, a franchise that has done an outstanding job selling the experience of Wrigley Field. McDonough has brought much of that experiential feel to the United Center. He started with mimicking the Cubs by creating a team convention in July. Then he partnered the club with the same radio and TV stations (WGN) as the Cubs, and he welcomed back some of the teams’ alumni.
more and other hockey topics too…
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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.
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