On the morning of Game 4 last Friday, Boston Bruins defenseman
Ward talked about playing against
"Unless we can crank up the necessary level of emotional involvement," Ward continued, "Well ...
That should no longer be a problem.
Curiously, Walker was not suspended although he was fined $2,500. According to NHL rules, the instigator, fighting and game misconduct penalties he richly earned with 2:47 left in a one-sided game should have resulted in an automatic suspension plus a $10,000 fine for coach
At least the shameful "sucker punch" -- an apt enough description even though Ward could see it coming -- raised the temperature on a series that finally had gathered the requisite heat.
Following their sleepwalk in Game 4 hours after Ward's musing about emotional investment, the Bruins, facing elimination, at last looked like the team that had freight-trained its way through its first five playoff games. Captain
There is no guarantee the Bruins can replicate the energy Tuesday but any excuse for not despising the erstwhile nice guys from Carolina in Game 6 is long gone.
For a guy stuck with the "C" by a general manager who was too clever by half, Vancouver Canucks goalie
Undermined by undisciplined penalties and an imploding defense, Luongo still was below average for any NHL starting goalie, let alone a man who has earned the reputation as the best puck-stopper, if not best overall goalie, in hockey.
Luongo gave up seven goals to the Blackhawks in a decisive 7-5 loss in Game 6 on Monday, two more than he allowed the St. Louis Blues in four games in their first-round series. In three of their four losses to the energetic and formidable Blackhawks, the Canucks coughed up leads in the third period. This might indeed be the biggest post-lockout improvement in the NHL -- late leads are no longer locks, not with the willingness of referees to call penalties -- but stouter goaltending might have averted disaster for a city that is second only to Montreal in its visceral passion for its hockey team.
After the season-ending defeat in Chicago, Luongo, who spoke because that is what captains are supposed to do, was nearly inconsolable.
In an apparent effort to flatter Luongo and differentiate the Canucks from 29 other teams, GM
With Luongo's disappointing play, suddenly Canada's rock-solid goaltending for the 2010 Olympics is an open-ended question. The two most logical candidates for the No. 1 job, Luongo and Brodeur, both had playoff meltdowns. (And other than getting Canada into the 2004 World Cup final with some splendid work in place of an injured Brodeur in the semifinal, Luongo does not have a hefty pro portfolio of victories in critical games.) Carolina's
Russia's 2-1 win over Canada in the final of the 2009 World Championship on Sunday, their second straight over the Canadians, was a splendid hors' d'oeuvre for the main course next February in Vancouver. Russia-Canada would be a dream Olympic gold-medal match game, a fitting finale if this is the last time that NHL players participate in the Games.
While the United States occasionally flares as Canada's leading hockey rival, the memories of the 1972 Summit Series are embedded in Canada's hockey DNA. That won't change. And with the prospect of a best-on-best that includes Ovechkin, Crosby,
But as the two nations enter Vancouver as co-favorites, remember there have been six different teams in the three Olympic finals that have involved NHL players. In Turin, Russia knocked out Canada, 2-0, in the quarters but was blanked by Finland in the semis.
For those who wondered why Nashville contract jumper
For all his persuasive charms and public relations panache in Canada -- pushing the prospective of a seventh Canadian NHL team is preaching to the choir --
The marriage should be a good one: Balsillie, who failed in earlier bids to buy Pittsburgh and Nashville because of the relocation issue, is a wealthy man who likes hockey. (As for the unpleasantness this year with the Ontario Securities Commission over some backdated stock options, which resulted in a hefty fine and his having to leave the board of Research In Motion for at least 12 months ... well, given the business history of some NHL owners, he should fit right in.)
There is, of course, a principle of business that says an entrepreneur should put his franchise in a locale where there are actual customers. A McDonald's wants to be on a street with traffic, no? And there is some reason to believe Phoenix has too many hockey vegetarians for the Coyotes to ever succeed. The problem with that common assumption is it has yet to be proved definitively.
When the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996, they played downtown in America West, a basketball venue. The Coyotes didn't move to Glendale until 2003, essentially blowing up their season-ticket base and obliging most fans to drive almost an hour to games. In other words, six years ago the Coyotes essentially became an expansion team, thanks to the $180 million largesse the ambitious suburb poured into building an arena. They might never succeed in their current location, but until they ice a winning team -- and GM
The other conceit is that Hamilton/Southern Ontario will be a slam-dunk success. With a hockey-crazed population of nine million in the surrounding area, this seems likely. But back up a minute.
Hamilton, an old steel city, is not Shangri-la and the 24-year-old Copps Coliseum is not state-of-the art. (As one member Board of Governor told On the Fly a few years ago, "I can't put
And we're not just talking about any territorial indemnification that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment might be entitled to, either. Despite the on-ice fecklessness, there is a deep-rooted attachment to the blue and white. As appealing an alternative as a second NHL team might appear to Ontarians who probably would elect Balsillie Prime Minister tomorrow -- lower ticket prices, perhaps, and maybe better hockey -- the Hamilton Steelers would be simply that: eternally the second team. (Like the New York area, there might be three teams, but only one -- the Rangers -- is a business bonanza.)
The Steelers would have a more serious impact on the cross-border Buffalo Sabres, which draw a fifth of their crowds from southern Ontario and are more vulnerable than the flush Maple Leafs.
The bankruptcy case continues May 19, a story that will elbow the playoffs out of the spotlight as long as it drags on.