Much of the sports talk in New York City in recent days has been on a lucrative, long-term contract and what it will mean to the team in ensuing seasons.
And no, the talk isn't about the reported seven year, $59.5 million deal Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is getting from the Rangers. No, this signing is going way under the radar because the Yankees signed former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury to one of their typical big-bucks deal.
Heck, the Lundqvist deal is even being pretty much ignored because the two equally crummy NBA teams were facing one another Thursday night.
But in reality, this may well be the biggest of the stories currently competing for space on the back of the city's tabloids. Why? Because if the Rangers are to win a Stanley Cup in the forseeable future, Lundqvist will have to take a starring role.
Over the past couple weeks, I have been putting together a tome on how fighting in the NHL is slowly, but surely becoming extinct and will soon die a natural death thanks to a number of factors, but mostly to disinterest more than anything else.
But then Ken Dryden came along in the Globe and Mail and that was that. Dryden, he of the Hall of Fame career and legal pedigree made my points so much linine for the bird cage. After all, when you can listen to Ken Dryden, whose epic "The Game" remains one of the standards of writing on sports -- as opposed to sports writing -- then I gladly step away and highlight some of his well founded opinions on why fightning is done.
His opinions, in responside to those of Bobby Orr in his new book, are sure to be picked apart on pre-game shows across North America, but you can be sure, Dryden's way is coming to a rink near you.
Three games and six days.
That's all the time Peter Laviolette got with the Philadelphia Flyers before being dismissed Monday morning, thus becoming the first coaching casualty of the 2013-14 season.
But in reality, you can't look at the decision as either hasty or rash. We all are aware that the rejiggered division alignment was going to make things stickier in the Eastern Conference, what with the Red Wings joining the mix for the eight playoff berths. So, for a team like the Flyers, one that disappointed in a big way during the truncated 2013 season and then went out and added Vinny Lecavalier and Mark Streit, the expectations were there in plain sight.
“I am never surprised by anything that happens in this game today.”
Lou Lamoriello sure got that right Thursday while participating in an unanticipated conference call with media memebers after the shocking news that Ilya Kovalchuk had bolted for Russia.
But as Lamoriello said, we can't really be surprised anymore, can we? Especially in this case when Kovalchuk's money grab made LeBron James' "Decision" pale in comparison.
Remember all the vitriol when James, who was a free agent at the time, held court with NBA teams looking to sign him and then held a tacky announcement show on ESPN? Sure, you can blame James and his group of advisors for lacking marketing savvy, but James wasn't bolting on a valid contract that had more than a decade to run.
"The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me,” Kovalchuk said in a statement that reeks of hogwash.
You know there won't be a press conference in North America because he would have to answer some pretty hard questions.
That's the question the pulses through the minds of New Jersey Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello and a legion of Devils fans after Thursday's shocking news that Ilya Kovalchuk had heeded the call of Mother Russia and returned home to a life of fulfillment in the Kontinental Hockey League.
So Kovalchuk has instantly become yesterday's news, a bittersweet chapter in team history where his precise shots and great speed are coupled with a lost first round draft pick and thoughts of what might have been.
Amidst reports of more financial turmoil surrounding the New Jersey Devils, Lou Lamoriello sent a clarion call Sunday at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with the trade that brought goalie Cory Schneider -- and his two-year contract worth approximately $8 million -- to the Devils.
“I’m not going to get into anything that has to do with our organization, but if you notice what we did today, I think that’s an indication that we’re pushing forward and we’ll be announcing some of our free-agent signings in the very near future.”
Sure sounds like the Devils are open for business, as Lamoriello made quite the splash at his own draft party, treating his fans to a double-barrel solution to questions about the team's goaltending. The answer being Schneider, both in the present and future.
Couple of thoughts on things now that the lawyers are packing their rhetoric and hopefully going home for a very long time.
Players: Please don't apologize. Just play. Hard. Every night. That's what the fans who are still paying top dollar want, expect and most importantly deserve after this fiasco.
Coaches: Please don't apologize. Rather, use you energy and smarts to come up with styles of play that take advantage of the talents on your rosters and make the game as wildly entertaining as possible. Let's not coach to the smallest common denominator and churn out crummy gameplans designs to slow and obstruct and take away the elements that make hockey a great sport. This is what the fans deserve after months of watching lawyers speak for the sport.
There is so much to talk about after the start of another frenzied free-agency signing period. But first things first.
As in talking about the imporant stuff first.
Send some prayers, best wishes and positive karma Brett MacLean’s way. His was the most shocking hockey story of the past week or so. You would never imagine a 23-year-old pro athlete experiencing a “cardiac emergency” as MacLean did last Monday night while playing hockey. But these things do occur to young athletes with often tragic results.
As someone who is one-year-plus recovery from a heart attack, let me tell you it is no fun and a scary, scary time. But unlike MacLean, I’m an old guy, so it is more expected in my demographic neighborhood. But a 23-year-old athlete? Makes me shudder.
But there is good news. MacLean is said to be improving.
The feeling was akin to seeing you favorite team overachieve throughout the playoffs and then the hopes are dashed in overtime.
There is shock. There is disbelief. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness.
But then the first pair of hands begin to clap, and slowly, but surely, the scattered slaps are joined by more and more, building into a crescendo that roars like a freight train.
That’s how we will eventually look back at Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement announcement. We all knew it was coming. It was inevitable. After all, you can’t play hockey forever, although if there was any one player who might have pulled it off, it was Lidstrom.
Lidstrom’s decision to retire is a gut punch to Red Wings fans everywhere. I mean the man played the highest caliber of hockey for twenty years ... 20 years! It is truly mindboggling. The stats are mindboggling—264 goals, 878 assists, 1,142 points, 263 playoff games, 1,564 regular-season games. But the statistics are mere numbers when you consider the man called “The Perfect Human.”
The news out of Detroit that Nicklas Lidstrom had retired from the NHL Thursday after 20 season had an impact in New Jersey, where the New Jersey Devils’ contingent of Swedish players, rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder and goalie Johan Hedberg, all shared fond memories of the wondrous defenseman.
“He’s been an icon in Sweden for so long,” Tallinder said. “I mean, two decades is a long time playing in the best league in the world. The things he has accomplished are remarkable. In my eyes, he’s the best Swedish player we’ve had over here. No offense to (Peter) Forsberg and (Mats) Sundin. Just with four Stanley Cups, seven Norris Trophies, that says it all, I think.
“For me growing up, he wasn’t my biggest idol because I was a little bit too young,” Tallinder laughed. “But once he started to make it in this league, I mean, who doesn’t look up to him? He’s an icon. Everybody wants to be like him, play like him. Offensively, defensively, you name it, he does it all.
“First time I played against him? ... I can’t remember that, but we were probably playing Detroit and we were probably—how do you say—getting killed by them. But just watching him play, you would describe it once, it’s like a symphony.”
About Iced Coffey
Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.