Top Line: Lundqvist defends his view on Russian law; BizNasty wins; more links
By Allan Muir
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• Seems Henrik Lundqvist took offense to being characterized as silent on the issue of gay rights in Russia. He offered up a pair of tweets on the subject in response to a fan's criticism this morning. They translate as: "If you had done any kind of research, then you would know where I stand on the issue. To me, all people have equal rights. Similarly, they have the right to choose WHEN, WHERE and HOW to express their opinions." That's pretty much what I wrote on the subject yesterday. No one is under any obligation to take a stand on the discriminatory laws enacted ahead of the Sochi Olympics, but the spotlight fell on Lundqvist's silence because of his previous efforts on behalf of the You Can Play Project. Fair or not, he has to understand that people are going to expect some kind of moral consistency from him. And this is just the beginning, both for him and other NHLers with Olympic aspirations. The heat on this subject is only going to intensify as the Games approach, and the reputation of our sport as a comparably progressive bastion of thought is going to be put to the test. Probably best though not to focus on the silent and instead praise those who speak up.
• Paul Bissonette just offered up a graduate-level course on dealing with an internet troll. This is a whole lot of awesome.
• Following up on yesterday's story about a trio of University of Nebraska-Omaha hockey players involved in an ugly racial incident: the team announced last night that it booted two of the players from the squad and suspended the third indefinitely pending further investigation. Top marks to UNO officials for addressing this quickly and forcefully.
• Dave Nonis expects to sign Nazem Kadri and Cody Fransson before training camp starts next month, but he's going to have be get a little clever with the books to make it happen.
• It doesn't matter whether or not Roberto Luongo is happy, writes Jason Botchford. It all comes down to his level of motivation.
• New owner George Gosbee has a message for Phoenix Coyotes fans: Don't worry about that five-year out clause. Though it looks like a pre-planned escape route, Gosbee says it would take losses of at least $50 million to trigger the clause, "and that's not something I want to do."
• The Islanders are likely to call Nassau Coliseum home for the next two seasons. Developer Bruce Ratner also revealed the team's AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, could move into the building once it is vacated. That'll work out well. If any of the kids are injured, Rick DiPietro can show them the way to the press box.
• St. Louis Blues beat reporter Jeremy Rutherford staged a live chat yesterday and touched on key topics including the latest on the Alex Pietrangelo contract negotiations, expectations for Vladimir Tarasenko and the player he thinks will surprise in camp.
• Columbus fans can look forward to a televised first this season. This is great news, and one more step forward for a city that continues to prove itself a viable hockey market.
• Jimmy Howard shares his Olympic aspirations and says the three toughest jobs in Detroit are being the goalie for the Wings, the quarterback for the Lions and the closer for the Tigers. I'm guessing the guy overseeing the city's bankruptcy is crossing his arms and pouting right about now.
• David Staples writes that the Oilers are looking for more production from their third and fourth-line wingers. With a growing emphasis on top nine over top six, the pressure is on the third liners to start generating more chances than Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth managed last season.
• The death of QMJHL hopeful Jordan Boyd on the first day of training camp is bringing up the familiar questions about the extent of testing that should be required for young athletes. Considering the expense and the limitations of modern exams, it's unlikely anything will come of this tragedy beyond these few days of debate.
• There were honest-to-goodness hockey games played last night. Yeah, sure, it was exhibition, but when the QMJHL preseason starts, you know the NHL isn't far away. Liam Hynes earns my First Star of the evening with a two-goal, two-assist performance for Moncton in an 8-3 win over Chicoutimi.
• Can't get enough of the Alfie/Ottawa silliness? George Malik has had all he can stomach, but that doesn't stop him from offering up a grimly comprehensive look at the latest volleys.
• A minor bike spill suffered by former NHLer Ian Laperriere serves as a grim reminder of the long-lasting effects of concussions. I'd like to say it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who's had his teeth in Megan Fox's mouth, but here's hoping this latest round of symptoms fades quickly so he can get back to his triathlon dreams.
• If only every team has this kind of problem: The Winnipeg Jets have riled up a segment of their fan-base by imposing new restrictions on how tickets are sold. Essentially, if you're not on the team's official waiting list to buy season tickets, your chances to buy single-game seats just got a whole lot worse.
• Could this be the last season for Dallas play-by-play man Ralph Strangis? Contract talks with the team are ongoing, but the whispers suggest there's not much progress being made. Losing color man Daryl Reaugh would be a devastating blow to the broadcast, but the Stars have plenty of room to play hardball with Strangis. With all the other changes happening in Big D, a new voice in the booth wouldn't be that tough for most local fans to swallow.
• For $7 million, you can buy the home of Hall of Famer Pat Lafontaine, but that doesn't include his sweet outdoor rink. Seriously, how good is your life when you own a mini Zamboni? • It's not hockey, but Scott Feschuk always brings the funny.