Kukla's Korner

10 Years Ago: THN’s Top 50, #10

In the ten days before opening night (I’m not counting the Premier games in Europe, though I suppose those are technically opening night), I’ll be flashing back to a more innocent time thanks to my old stack of The Hockey News yearbooks. THN’s top 50 is always a matter of great debate, but it’s fun to see how things have changed. Ten years, after all, is a long time, and the ravages of time have knocked most of these players out of THN’s top 10. A few, however, continue to perform at a freak-of-nature peak level.

Today’s guy doesn’t, though. Ten years ago, the 1998-99 yearbook pegged Keith Tkachuk at #10.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: dany+heatley, keith+tkachuk, the+hockey+news

The Real Reason For European Games

With word that the NHL and NHLPA are looking to extend their “Premiere” series to include more teams, people are going to start talking about an “inevitable” European expansion. I don’t think that’s the case at all. In fact, I think you have to realize that for all practical purposes, having European teams is impossible until either Star Trek-like transporters are invented or supersonic commercial flight becomes a reality. The wear on a player’s body, along with the travel time, just aren’t feasible. Ask any North American player that’s played in the Russian leagues and they’ll tell you that a cross-continent flight from one end of Russia to the other is way worse than a charter plane from New York to LA—and that doesn’t even cross an ocean.

However, no one’s gonna argue the popularity of hockey or the recognition factor of the NHL in Europe. Just like American-born soccer players recognize European leagues as the place where the best competition goes, there’s a reason why the best European players wind up competing for the Stanley Cup rather than the Swiss Elite championship.

So, you can’t expand over there but you’ve got an entire continent of untapped revenue. What’s the happy medium?

(Cue Ted Dibiase’s Continue Reading »

Filed in: International Hockey, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: expansion, premier

Best Places To Customize Jerseys

Updated 9/28/08 with info on Sharks jerseys

Yesterday, I asked readers to leave comments about where they got letter/number customizations for their replica jerseys. The driving force behind this is the fact that many of us have gotten burned by buying customized replicas from NHL.com, as those jerseys have iron-on letters and numbers.

Fear not, fellow hockey fan. There are alternatives out there, though it might take a little patience. Here’s a compilation of what we found out yesterday:

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: jerseys

A Powerful Sith Gerber Will Be

If I could have my own goalie mask design, that’d mean that 1) I played goal instead of forward and 2) I had enough money to actually pay someone to design my mask. This may be old news to some, but Martin Gerber’s new Darth Vader mask delights my inner Star Wars fanboy to no end.

I’m guessing that Gerber’s mask has more to do with the Darth Gerber nickname (due to his black helmet from last season) than an unabashed love for all things in the Lucas universe. That being said, here are some other ways he could use the Force to make his gear waaaaaaaay cooler—and it might even make his game better.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: martin+gerber, star+wars

Where Did You Buy Your Customized Jersey?

With the season just a few weeks away, many fans are shopping for new jerseys, especially with third jerseys being announced. From my experience, if you buy a customized replica off NHL.com, the lettering and numbering is heat-transfered on, not stitched on. It looks cheap and feels flimsy, and they only provide true stitching when you plunk down $300 for an authentic jersey.

I’m a dedicated fan but that’s just not in my budget. However, I’ve heard fan chatter about other places providing actual stitched lettering and numbering even if you bought a replica jersey (the RBK Premiere).

Are you happy with your customized jersey? Help out myself and other fans by posting where you got it and how the lettering/numbering was in the comments.

Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: jerseys

Gretzky, Maloney, and One Fan’s Perspective

Just a quick follow up to this post, here’s a transcript of my email Q&A with Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky, GM Don Maloney, and Coyotes blogger Paul Becker of One Fan’s Perspective

Phoenix Coach Wayne Gretzky
Q: Once you got Ilya Bryzgalov, did you approach your team’s defensive
scheme differently?

A: “With the acquisition of Bryzgalov, we didn’t really change our defensive philosophy.  But his play certainly gave his teammates confidence to play at the best of their abilities.”

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: marketing, phoenix+coyotes, wayne+gretzky

Gretzky, Maloney Lead Coyotes Resurgence

(Note: This is the unedited version of my original column for FoxSports.com posted here. As you can see, they cut a bit for length purposes, but I’m posting the original here. Also, I will be posting a compiled Q&A with Gretzky, Maloney, and blogger Paul Becker either later today or tomorrow.)

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the Winnipeg/Phoenix franchise has had both jets and coyotes as their mascot. After all, the Winnipeg Jets flew down to Arizona, springing back to life – like a phoenix, of course – with Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk as ambassadors into an untapped marketplace. During that team, the franchise survived Keith Tkachuk’s contract demands, Brett Hull’s blink-and-you-miss-it tenure, an arena where part of the upper deck couldn’t see the whole ice, and a team logo that appeared to be half coyote and half Predator (the kind Schwarzenegger fought, not the Nashville kind).

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: don+maloney, phoenix+coyotes, wayne+gretzky

Seen Stamkos? No, Really, Seen Him?

I’m not sure what Tampa Bay puppetmasters Oren Koules and Len Barrie are thinking with their pushing of young Steven Stamkos (and I’m pretty sure this was their decision) but I wonder if it’s really worth it to put so much pressure on young Stamkos’s shoulders. Didn’t they learn anything when “Crazy” Art Williams dubbed his #1 pick the “Michael Jordan of hockey”? Pressure and expectation can crush a young player, as well as distort their perspectives on professionalism and ego.

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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: marketing, steven+stamkos, tampa+bay+lightning

Nothing Says Hockey Like British Mullets

While mullets and arena rock have their unfortunate associations with hockey, I’m still kinda puzzled by this whole “Kick Off The Season With Def Leppard!” thing the NHL put together. I’m all for reaching out to new audiences and demographics, but I’m trying to figure out the whole thought process. I’m thinking the meeting went something like this:

Gary Bettman: The NFL launched their season with a concert. We should do the same!

Bill Daly: Awesome! (Forms devil horns with fingers and head bangs for a few seconds) Who should we get?


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Filed in: NHL, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: marketing, music

Notes from Sharks Training Camp

Just a few quick notes from today’s training camp scrimmage:

-The notable names on each team consisted of the theoretical second line (Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo) in white and a hodge podge in black (Jeremy Roenick/Devin Setoguchi/Tomas Plihal, Mike Grier/Torrey Mitchell/Marcel Goc). Team white also had Jeff Friesen while team black was the public’s first look at Rob Blake.

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Filed in: San Jose Sharks, | Mike Chen's Hockey Blog | Permalink
  Tags: training+camp

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