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Tasca's Take

Bird-Brained Idea

Ridiculous promotions are a staple of minor league hockey, but this one may take the cake.

On Friday night, the marketing staff for the Bakersfield Condors decided it would be a good idea to bring a live condor to center ice for a pre-game ceremony following the national anthem.  Not surprisingly, hilarity ensues:

 

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A Game of Risk

It's been a rough couple of months for Canadiens prospect Blake Geoffrion.

While playing for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs back in November, Geoffrion suffered a devastating head injury after being hit by Syracuse Crunch defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote.  The check was clean, but Geoffrion's head struck Cote's skate as he fell to the ice.  The former Hobey Baker Award winner went into convulsions after being taken to a Montreal hospital.  He eventually had a piece of his skull removed and replaced by a metal plate.

 

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Heads Up

We've always known that hockey players are the toughest in all of sport.  Now the game's broadcasters are proving their mettle.  MSG Network's John Gionnone is the victim:

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Gallant Hits Paydirt

One of the toughest hockey players to lace up the skates in recent years has been rewarded:

How much do the New York Islanders value the traditional "enforcer" role?

That's a question whose answer got another new wrinkle after the club announced today that they've signed Bridgeport Sound Tiger winger Brett Gallant to an NHL contract....

Gallant is 24 and in his fourth pro season, so his deal is under the NHL's Entry Level Contract rules, but at his age it's only a one-year deal. The Connecticut Post's Sound Tigers beat writer Michael Fornabaio's immediate reaction: "Well-deserved."

Well-deserved, is right.  For the past two years, Gallant has gone toe-to-toe with every tough guy in the AHL.  Listed at six-feet, 185 pounds, the Summerside native isn't as big as your typical heavyweight slugger.  But anyone who follows pro hockey knows that Gallant can chuck the knuckles with the best of them.  His tilts with former Islander Joel Rechlicz are the stuff of legend. 

 

 

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Life on the Bus

Chris Gigley writes a great piece today about life on the bus in the minor leagues.  He spoke with Syracuse Crunch equipment manager J.W. Aiken, who recalls a dicey bus ride two years ago during his time with the Norfolk Admirals:

The Admirals were on their way home from Manchester, N.H., when the team bus stalled out in a snowstorm on a particularly steep section of the highway. Which highway, Aiken can’t remember. You tend to forget details when the snow is piling up and a long line of angry drivers is behind you.

“I heard the total snowfall for where we were was 20 inches,” Aiken recalls. “It was huge. We were stuck there for six hours, and no one could get around us.”

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Old Time Hockey

It didn't involve the Oilers, but there was a beauty of a line brawl tonight in Edmonton:

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Tough Choices

An editorialist in the Globe and Mail claims Colton Orr shouldn't be fighting anymore:

Some say it should be Mr. Orr’s choice; after all, he is earning roughly $1-million a season. But each time he fights, he makes the fans complicit in the risks to his health. They can’t help but cheer, and by cheering, they become participants in what we may one day look back on as a tragedy.

And then we will ask – why was he permitted, after all those fights and such a serious concussion, to continue playing? Why did no one intervene to protect him?

Orr's response to the editorial wasn't surprising:

“I don’t want to comment, I don’t have to go through this again,” Orr said after the morning skate. “I was (cleared by doctors), I’m confident and I feel fine.”

Colton Orr deserves a lot of credit.  Despite missing virtually two full years of pro hockey because of lingering concussion problems, he managed to earn a spot in Toronto's lineup this season.  Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis even pointed out that Orr was one of the team's most fit players during training camp. 

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Patience Required

Despite leading the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in scoring for the first half of the AHL season, Islander prospect Nino Niederreiter wasn't invited to the team's training camp two weeks ago.   Kevin Schultz suspects Isles general manager Garth Snow may not have spoken with Niederreiter about why he was snubbed, prompting the Swiss forward to request a trade:

If I’m a manager of any business, hockey or otherwise, I want to make sure my employees understand why I make difficult decisions. Especially if those decisions will impact them negatively. If I’m the manager of a hockey club and decide to leave some of the top minor league players off the training camp roster, I’m failing at my job if I don’t explain to them why. Explain that there is a plan, we’re going to take things slow, and now isn’t the right time (or whatever the reasons). That way, when the news comes down it’s not a shocker. It may not be what they want to hear, but it could likely result in a closed-door discussion instead of a trade demand and public gossip.

Schultz has a point, but here's the problem.  If Snow indeed had not told Niederreiter why he wasn't being invited to training camp, all the youngster had to do was ask his agent to pose that very question to Islander management.  If Niederreiter had concerns about his future with the club, the confusion could've been alleviated rather quickly by his initiating a conversation with the appropriate parties. 

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The Icing Conundrum

Jonathan Willis talks about why he thinks the NHL should adopt a hybrid icing rule:

The difference between hybrid icing and regular icing is a small one. The only change is that under the hybrid rule, in situations where it is apparent by the defensive zone faceoff dots that a player from the team that iced the puck will not arrive quickly enough to nullify the icing, an icing call is assumed and the linesman blows the play dead.

It sounds like a small shift, but it is a substantive one. Under the new rule, when two players are racing for the puck, if the guy trying to nullify the icing can’t catch up the play ends; this prevents the skater who can’t catch up from slamming into the guy who reaches the puck first at the end boards. It also prevents the player who would reach the puck first from crashing into the boards at full speed in his haste to gain an advantage for his team.

The AHL experimented with hybrid icing during the first half of the season.  Interestingly enough, league officials decided to ditch the concept once the lockout ended so players recalled to and sent down from the NHL could play under the same set of rules.

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Crossing the Line

It looks like Penguins prospect Keven Veilleux has some explaining to do:

Winger Keven Veilleux has been suspended indefinitely by the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers for allegedly using a racial slur during a game against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

Veilleux is accused of using the slur during an altercation with South Carolina defenseman Scooter Vaughan, who is black. Veilleux and Vaughan fought two times during the game.

Nobody knows what Veilleux said, but apparently it was pretty bad.  So bad, in fact, that the ECHL is conducting an official investigation, and Veilleux has been asked to offer a public apology:

(Nailers alternate governor Tim) Roberts said he spoke with Vaughan, who played 20 games with Wheeling last year and was with the team during training camp. Vaughan said ''It's not the first time and it won't be the last, but it was the worst,'' according to Roberts.

It's a horrible story, and Veilleux's going to have to pay the piper.  Not surprisingly, when Tim Roberts spoke with Veilleux after the incident, the burly winger was extremely remorseful.  Nevertheless, the Penguins organization had no choice but to issue an immediate suspension.  Veilleux has to be held accountable for what was clearly an unacceptable remark.

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.

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