[NHL] Ice This!

This wasn’t a dare. This was a challenge.

For those of you who know that goofy guy that does NASCAR columns here at the Pulse, you know pretty much where this bad boy will be going. For those of you that do not patron Speed Addicts, consider this your formal introduction to the “Host with the Most“. I’m Steve Price, the aforementioned “Speed Addict”, and I’ve been writing for this bastion of sports, manliness, and Tal Aulbrook’s exclamation points since February. We’ve had our good days, and we’ve had our bad days, but there has never been a boring day here at Inside Pulse.

Almost every major sport has been, or is currently being covered by the incredible staffers here in the Sports Zone – Football, Baseball, Basketball Cricket… Even paintball! Hockey is no exception. So why am I, a NASCAR guy, covering the NHL when we already have NHL columnists? Well, for starters, I’ve got the world’s biggest ego when it comes to writing, and when Inside Pulse Sport’s resident deity Slayer gave the okay, I figured I’d do a little ego-stroking and get into the NHL. I’m a big fan of hockey (though not as big a fan as our guest interviewee), with my loyalties split between the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes, if only to give love to the home team up in Raleigh. But more importantly, I write about NASCAR all the time. We need breaks from Hell too, folks. So please people, cut me some slack and pass the maple syrup, because we’re going where real men take it to the ice. It’s too damn hot around here, so let’s cool it off a little bit, shall we?

We’re also going to play a little game today, as well. You, the reader, are going to be placed inside an NHL game. Just for kicks, okay? So, in the immortal words of Mike Myers…

Game On!

First Period

The crowd is on their feet, pinning their every hope on your strength, ability, and desire to win. The opposing team looks weak, and you are mighty. This is no challenge to you. Bring on the pain!

NHL 101 – Terminology, Game Structure, and Teams
The following section is basically geared towards newer fans, or prospective fans who have become interested in the game following the controversial player lockout. While this section is far from being a complete readout on the game itself, it may contain some useful information that could help better your understanding and enjoyment of the game.

Terminology
There are various terms used in hockey that may lead to some misunderstandings for those of you who are unfamiliar with the game itself. Various rules, penalties, and general terms dealing with the sport and its participants are important pieces of information for a new fan to have, especially when you begin to wonder what “icing” is, and why it stops play so often.

Goaltender – The goaltender, or “goalie” is the most recognizable figure on the ice during a game. With larger pads and a unique face mask, this player is charged with defending his team’s net from opposing players who will attempt to score goals off him. Goaltenders can also help clear pucks from behind the goal line and act like an extra defensemen on the ice at points. However, rule changes in the new CBA have limited the goalie’s ability to perform extra-curricular activities.

Defensemen – The defensive line of a hockey team is comprised of two defensemen who are charged with assisting the goalie in protecting their zone. Defensemen attempt to prevent opposing players from taking shots on goal, and are the most valuable teammates a goalie can have. Defensemen are prevalent in their own zone.

(The following three positions are known as “forwards” or the “forward/attacking line”.)

Right/Left Wing – Right and Left Wings are members of the forward line that flank center ice (on the right or left side, respectively) and are crucial members of the offense of a team. Wings are most useful assisting the center in handling the puck.

Center – Also known as the “center forward”, centers are the most crucial players amongst the forwards. They often handle the face-offs, control the puck and generally lead the offensive attack. Without a center, a hockey team will be hard-pressed to compete.

Breakaway – Breakaways entail a one-on-one between an attacker and the goalie, where the defensemen are caught behind the play. Breakaways are normally the result of opposing players being caught out of position.

Carom – A term used to describe a puck’s rebound off an object, usually the boards surrounding the playing surface.

Checking – Checking is a form of contact during a game where a player will use his hip or shoulder to halt the progress of the puck-handler, or the last immediate player to handle the puck. If he uses his stick, it is called stick checking. The caveat is that a player can only check an opposing player if he has the puck, or was the last immediate player to touch it, because a check on a player without the puck constitutes a penalty called “charging”.

Forechecking – Forechecking is done usually by forwards, and involves checking an opposing player who has the puck in his team’s defensive zone. It’s designed to help keep the puck in your opponent’s defensive zone.

Hat Trick – The hat trick is a term used to describe a player who has scored three goals in one game.

High Sticking – High Sticking is a minor penalty that occurs when a player carries his stick above the standard height (usually above an opposing player’s shoulders) and uses the stick to hit or malice an opponent. A major penalty is assessed if the player hit is injured.

Icing – Though the logistics of this rule have changed with the new Collective Bargaining agreement, “icing the puck” consists of a player shooting/deflecting the puck from his own zone into the opposing zone, crossing the goal line. Under this scenario, play would be stopped, and the team in violation of this rule would be forced to face-off inside their zone.

Neutral Zone – A hockey rink is divided into three zones, from the perspective of a given player: the attacking zone, the defending zone, and the neutral zone. The attacking zone is marked by a blue line furthest away from his team’s net; the parallel blue line on his side of the ice closest to his net marks the defending zone. In between these two blue lines lie the neutral zone, which has been used in the

Offsides – This penalty has been considerably changed under the new rules stemming from the CBA, but for our purposes, offsides is called when an attacking player crosses his opponent’s blue line before the puck crosses into the attacking zone. Also, in years past, a player who passed the puck from his defensive zone across the red line (i.e. two-line pass) would also be whistled for offsides. This rule has since been abolished.

Penalties – In hockey, penalties serve the same function as in any other sport: to preserve the rules and integrity of the game. There are six forms of penalties that can be dealt out during a game: minor penalties, major penalties, and bench, misconduct, match, and goaltender penalties. For our purposes, the two most important penalty forms are minor and major penalties. Minor penalties result in two minute “power plays”, where one team is short-handed (five players against four). If a goal is scored on the short-handed team during the power play, the penalty is over. Minors include roughing, slashing, kneeing, hooking, high sticking, holding, elbowing and charging.

Major penalties are obviously more serious infractions that lead to five minute penalty sessions for the offending team. Unlike a minor penalty, goals scored during power plays will not end the penalty. Fighting is the most prevalent major penalty, though forms of slashing and charging can be considered a major penalty if the infractions lead to the injury of a player.

Power Play – A power play involves a situation following a penalty where one team has five players (i.e. full force) on the ice, and the opposing team only has four, goaltenders excluded. Five-on-Four situations make it easier for the team at full force to score a goal, and so this team is said to have the advantage. For a short-handed team, icing penalties are waved off during a power play.

“Pulling the Goalie” – When a team “pulls the goalie”; it means that the goaltender has come off the ice in order for a team to field an extra man on the ice. The only sane time that a goalie is pulled from the game is near the end of regulation, when the team in question is trailing by at least one goal and is in need of an extra forward on the ice.

Ragging – Usually used by a short-handed team, this term is used to describe a team’s retaining possession of the puck by using good stick handling.

Roughing – Roughing is a less severe penalty that is a substitute for fighting. When contact between two players escalate into bumping or shoving, a minor penalty called roughing is assessed. If the two players drop their sticks and gloves, roughing becomes the more serious major penalty “fighting”.

Save – A “save” indicates that a goaltender has successfully blocked a shot on the goal from an opposing player. The more saves a goaltender has, the better his skills are (and the weaker his defensive line tends to be).

Scramble – A scramble is defined as a situation where multiple players from both teams fight for control of the “loose” puck.

Short Handed – The result of a penalty, a team that is “short-handed” is forced to play with only four players, the goalie included. This means that there are three men on the ice to defend against the four men from the opposing team.

Slap Shot – A slap shot is a form of a shot on goal where a player uses a strong backswing motion to generate excessive power in the shot. The shot itself can be clocked at over 100 MPH, but accuracy is compromised for speed and velocity.

Slashing – Slashing is a less severe penalty, vaguely derived from spearing. If a player uses his stick to hit an opposing player outside of the standard stick/body check, then he is whistled for slashing. Like with high-sticking, if an injury results from the infraction, then a major penalty and a game misconduct are assessed.

Spearing – Spearing is the most serious infraction that a player can commit. This penalty, a major penalty at that, involves a player using the point of his stick to jab an opposing player. Whether or not said player makes contact is redundant; the penalty is called every time, and automatically results in a game misconduct call.

Sweep Check – Not to be confused with a body check, sweep checking defines a play where a player kneels close to the ice, and uses his stick (turning it flat with the ice) to sweep the puck away from an opposing player.

Wrist Shot – Contrary to the “slap shot”, a wrist shot involves little if any backswing, instead using the muscles in the wrist and forearms to flick the puck towards the goal. Though the speed of the shot is slower, the accuracy is much improved over a slap shot, and is normally used in close proximity to the goal.

Zamboni – A large machine used to clean the ice during intermissions.

And finally, for those of you that live far south of the Mason-Dixon Line…

Puck – The puck is a small, black cylindrical object that is the focal game piece of hockey. The puck is the only main scoring device in a major North American sport that is not a ball, and does not directly contain the trace of the sport in which it is used (sometimes, you may hear someone insert “hockey” before the puck, but most fans and players refer to it simply as the puck).

Basic Game Structure
Hockey is for all intensive purposes the fastest-paced game in North America, if not the world. At the very least, it’s the fastest game on ice. The basic format of the game calls for six players from each team on the ice at any given time: two defensemen (comprising the defensive line), a right wing, a left wing, and a center (comprising the forward line, or forwards), and a goaltender. Each player has unique responsibility while on the ice, ranging from defending your zone (defensemen) to handling the puck in the attacking zone (center). The point of the game is to score more points (called goals) than your opponents in order to win. Within the context of the rules, players are allowed to use a variety of methods to keep this from happening.

Hockey, for those of you not familiar, is played on an ice surface called a rink. On the surface of this “hockey rink” are important markings that denote rules vital to the success and integrity of the game, as it was meant to be played. The basic layout consists of a rounded rectangle surface, 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. In the center of this surface is a large circle (often referred to as “center ice”) that has a diameter of 30 feet. This position is used for the face off to start play at the beginning of the game and after stoppages from goals. As mentioned earlier, the rink is divided into three zones; an attacking zone, a neutral zone, and a defending zone. These individual zones are demarked by three lines on the ice. At 100 feet, a red line twelve inches in length is used to note the center of the rink (and in years past, to assist in offsides penalties). This red line is flanked on either side by a twelve inch blue line, both of which are spaced apart in order to cover fifty feet of the playing surface. This zone is called the “neutral zone”, in that it separates the two teams’ respective zones. Past the blue lines on either side of the rink, a 64 foot wide area is marked, including two 30 foot diameter circles (used also for face-offs) and the net itself. For the team that is attempting to score on this net, this zone is called the “attacking zone”. For the team that is defending this zone, it is therefore dubbed that team’s “defending zone”. These zones are reversed on the opposite end of the ice.

The goaltender, who is charged with protecting his team’s net, operates inside a zone on the ice known as “the Crease”. The Crease is a protective area in which the goalie normally stands while blocking shots (denoted as a blue zone directly in front of the net). Opposing players are not allowed to take shots from inside this blue area, and are forbidden from checking the goalie in any way. Goaltenders are also able to handle the puck behind the net, but only in a limited area thanks to the 2005-2006 Rules Changes. Their area for handling the puck behind the goal line is now restricted to a trapezoidal design immediately behind the net. The goal line itself is marked on both sides of the ice, and runs vertically from one side of the ice to another. The line marks the end of the attacking zone, and also creates eleven feet of playing space that runs behind the net. In between “the pipes”, a puck that crosses this goal line into the net legally constitutes a goal.

A hockey game is divided into three 20:00 minute periods, with intermissions between the first/second and second/third periods. If the two teams in a game are tied after the end of third period (i.e. regulation), then a 5:00 minute “sudden death” overtime period is initiated, where the first team to score a goal will win. In years past, the end of the 5:00 minute overtime without a goal scored would end the game in a tie. Now, at the conclusion of a scoreless overtime, the two teams will move into a “shootout”. A shootout involves five players from each team taking turns going one-on-one with a goalie. The most goals scored in a shootout by a team earns that team a victory. If the two teams are tied after this, then the game proceeds into a sudden death shootout format. The first team to score a goal, wins.

The origins of the sport are not precisely known, though most would agree that the game was derived from customary games in Northern Europe several centuries ago. While various European countries formed their own variations of the game that would evolve into hockey, the more modern version of the game was played in (you guessed it) Canada in the 19th Century. British soldiers in Nova Scotia (Canada was still a colony of England at this time, remember) are said to have organized the first hockey games on iced ponds. Across Canada, organized hockey leagues began to spring up. With the sport booming in Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, the English Governor General of Canada, created a large silver trophy to be awarded to the best team amongst the scores of team throughout the colony. Today, this trophy survives as the Stanley Cup.

Even though hockey was bred in Canada, its professional roots did not begin there. In fact, they began right here in the United States. The first professional league, the ill-fated International Pro Hockey League, was founded in Michigan in 1904, but folded just three years later. However, two more leagues would pop up shortly thereafter – the Pacific Coast League and the National Hockey Association – and would help establish a permanent foothold for professional hockey. The two leagues would actually begin competing in 1914 in an arranged “championship” series, with the winner being awarded the Stanley Cup. World War I ended this relationship, and hockey came to a halt a short time later. It was only a temporary hiatus however, as five teams would become the focal point of a new league. The Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Arenas, the Quebec Bulldogs, and the Montreal Wanderers and Canadiens would all become the flagship teams for the brand new National Hockey League, or NHL, which survives to this day as the predominant hockey organization in North America, if not the world.

The National Hockey League continues to award their championship teams the Stanley Cup as in years past, with the most successful franchise in the NHL remaining the Montreal Canadiens. The league has also seen other successful dynasties, including the great Boston Bruins teams, the Red Wings of the 1990s, and the early 1980s version of the Edmonton Oilers, sporting the greatest player in the history of hockey, Wayne Gretzky. The NHL has endured its share of pain as well, however. No other major sporting league in North America has undergone as many work stoppages as the NHL has. This past year alone, the Stanley Cup was not awarded to a team, marking the first time in many years that this has happened. And, to this day, the NHL is the only professional sports league in North America that has canceled its playoffs due to a natural disaster. The NHL lost the Stanley Cup playoffs in the 1918-1919 Season due to the Influenza Epidemic that killed millions following the end of World War I.

Teams
The following are a list of teams (denoted by conference) that currently operate in the National Hockey League.

Eastern Conference
Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals

Western Conference
Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks

NHL Primer – Notable Changes from the CBA
Except for those of you living either under a rock or in Idaho for the past two years, most of you know that the 2004-2005 NHL Season was lost due to the lockout. Due to the failure of both the players union and the NHL to come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, or “CBA”, all of last year was effectively wiped out, and Hockey as we know it went scrambling behind doors, hammering out new ideas, rules changes, and rink layouts. Today, the NHL is a bit… different from what it was before (the new “silver logo” not withstanding, of course).

Now then, aside from the details of the new CBA that deals with the players directly (i.e. Salary Cap, Contracts, etc.), the NHL also initiated new policies dealing with the structure of the game itself. The Neutral Zone has been reduced from fifty-four feet down to fifty, though blue lines and center lines will remain at twelve inches in width. The goalie position has also undergone a facelift of sorts. The sizes of pads that goaltenders wear are noticeably larger than that of their predecessors. Leg pad size has been reduced to eleven inches (down from twelve) in an attempt to open up more room down low for shooters. Even more important is the limitations now put on the goaltender as it pertains to handling the puck. In years past, the goaltender has been able to handle the puck without the fear of being checked. Goalies could hand off to teammates and control the puck anywhere behind the goal line. Now, however, the NHL has restricted the goaltender from handling the puck outside of the crease, with the exception of a trapezoidal area directly behind the net. This effectively removes the goaltender from becoming an extra defenseman on the ice, and will allow attackers a better chance to retrieve pucks that careen off the boards. Goaltenders will be called for delay of game if they handle the puck outside of their designated area. In addition, goaltenders are no longer allowed to “freeze” the puck unnecessarily (i.e. stopping play). This also constitutes a delay of game penalty.

A favorite of many, including the upcoming interviewee, is the legalization of two-line passing. Two-line passing is already a facet of the NCAA and the international game, so it was only a matter of time before the rule change was made. For the uninitiated, two-line passing is the technical term for “long passes”, i.e. passing the puck from a defensive zone across center ice to the opposing blue line. This essentially destroys the “neutral zone trap”, which is most likely the red-headed step child of Satan. The neutral zone trap, used prolifically by the New Jersey Devils, effectively destroys the offensive flow of the game by doing exactly what the name indicates. Teams have developed semi-effective strategies at defeating the trap, but with the abolishment of the red line’s passing implications, the neutral zone trap has all but been destroyed. Two-line passing is supposed to open up the offensive game by setting the table for breakaways and a more faster-paced game. The only downside is the risk of a more conservative game, according to players from various international leagues. They argue that forechecking is rarely utilized, and defenders are spread throughout the neutral zone. Many long pass attempts could be whistled for icing, they insist.

My personal favorite is the restriction placed on teams that ice the puck. If a team is whistled for icing, they are not allowed to change players before the ensuing face-off. This should help abolish intentional icing calls, because players who intentionally ice the puck to break the momentum of an opponent will now be discouraged to do so, since they’ll be unable to get fresh legs onto the ice. Next to the neutral zone trap, icing probably detracts from the value of the game more than anything else. This should help ease the amount of whistles that stop play, though the NHL can do better.

Structurally, the game’s most controversial change resides in the new overtime format. After sixty minutes (three full periods of play), a game that has ended in a tie will move to a five minute, four-on-four overtime format. If a goal is not scored in this first overtime, the controversial shootout will be implemented. Three men from each team are selected to take turns going one-on-one with the opposing goaltender. The highest goal total from the shootout will secure the victory. If no winner is evident after the initial shootout, the two teams will enter “sudden death”. The first goal scored during this sudden death period will win. Also, another added rule change is the reinstatement of the “tag up offsides” rule.

News Around the League
News coming out of the NHL these days can pretty much be divided into two distinctive categories – fallout from the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and everything that has happened since. I know we keep harping on it, but the entire CBA/Lockout ordeal is one of the most important stories in all of sports over the past year, let alone hockey in general. The entire negotiating period was something in itself, to be honest. If we all weren’t feeling worried about the state of the NHL after Ruslan Fedotenko scored the eventual game-winning, Stanley Cup clenching goal off Calgary’s Kiprusoff in the 2nd Period, it was brought home after Nikoilai Khabibulin blocked Steve Montador’s desperate slap shot with seconds left, effectively bringing the 2003-2004 NHL Season (and hockey as we knew it) to a close. There was a sense of resignation in the voice of the commentators, so much so that I think we all knew we would be watching our last hockey game for awhile.

What followed afterwards was a complete breakdown of relations between the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHLPA’s Bob Goodenhow. The public level of distaste for the stalled negotiations reached levels not seen since the 1994 MLB Strike, and many analysts began fearing a lockout… and on September 15th, 2004, that fear became a reality. With the negotiations at an impasse (this after marathon sessions just days before), Bettman announced that league owners had voted to lockout the players, effectively canceling the start to the NHL season. Tempers ran high, and as the original start date for the new season came and passed, focus shifted towards working out a new CBA. Things had to get better from here, we thought.

Well, things weren’t much better by February 16th, 2005, either. It shouldn’t have been a bleak day. To be honest, there seemed to be a fighting chance that February 16th would actually turn into the day we’d been waiting for since September. Earlier on in the week, emergency negotiations were taking place all around the NHL world it seemed, but to no avail. Bettman officially cancelled the NHL season, and aside from a brief glimmer of hope with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky stepping in at the very end, hockey was gone.

Believe it or not, things got worse before they improved. Bettman threatened to use replacement players if necessary to start the 2005-2006 Season on time, because losing any part of a second season would destroy what was left of the NHL. Goodenhow and Bettman actually recanted that notion, which sent more chills up and down us. ESPN finalized the salt placement in our wounds by dropping the NHL from its television schedule on May 27th, 2005. Only after losing the season, having no TV contract left and non-existent public support did the NHL have the NHLPA effectively forced into the submission. Rapid-fire negotiations in June and July produced a contingency for a salary cap formula, and on July 13th, both sides announced that they had finalized a new deal to save the 2005-2006 Season. After a few last-minute scares, the NHL Board of Governors ratified the new Collective Bargaining Agreement on July 22nd, 2005.

The Lockout was no more.

That brings us to today. The NHL has returned to normalcy somewhat, with the 2005 Draft taking place a month ago in Ottawa. Sidney Crosby shocked absolutely no one by going #1 overall, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Bobby Ryan packed his bags for Anaheim, while the sensational Jack Johnson went #3 to Carolina. Bob Goodenhow is no more with the NHL Players Association, and some believe that Gary Bettman, the first and only commissioner the NHL has ever known, is on borrowed time. This is what has transpired in the wake of the Tampa Bay Lightning shocking the hockey world. Now, we begin our march to May, and the presentation of Lord Stanley’s Cup to one team who will do wonders to the psyche of a fan base grown too sour to welcome the NHL back to its once prominent stand in the realm of public opinion.

For more coverage of the following news stories, plus additional headlines, visit NHL.com and ESPN.com for more.

Thrashers trade Heatley, Build Towards a Championship
Dany Heatley, the former Atlanta Thrasher who was at the center of a tragic and devastating nightmare in 2003 involving his serious injury and the death of teammate Dan Snyder in a car accident, is just that: a former Atlanta Thrasher.


Heatley was traded on August 23rd to the Ottawa Senators. In exchange, Atlanta received two valuable pieces to their playoff hopes in the form of right winger Marian Hossa and defenseman Greg de Vries. For Heatley, it was a needed change after the months and months of being reminded of the terrible accident that nearly took his life, along with a teammate and friend’s. “Requesting a change of environment was an extremely difficult decision… After a tremendous amount of reflection and numerous conversations with my family, it made the most sense to seek a change.”

Dany Heatley is kind of like the opposite version of Todd Bertuzzi, in that Heatley was the source of a controversy that would bring on serious repercussions (he plead guilty to second-degree vehicular manslaughter in court, and was sentenced to community service). The difference, aside from the extenuating circumstances, is that Heatley found a lot of support from the fans of Atlanta and the Thrashers organization. Though Heatley was in and out of Atlanta following the incident, the city gave him the support that he needed. Contrast this with Todd Bertuzzi, who got rightfully crucified for his actions. Whatever may result of the once-bright career, here’s to hoping that Dany Heatley can rebuild in Ottawa and resume being one of the better NHL players out there.

[Credit: NHL.com]

Todd Bertuzzi Reinstated
From that, to this. It was announced several weeks ago that the aforementioned Todd Bertuzzi would be reinstated into the NHL after missing the end of the regular season and the playoffs in 2004, and the entire lockout (unlike other NHL players, Bertuzzi was not permitted to play in the World Cup). Bertuzzi, who sucker-punched the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore during a regular season contest on March 8th, 2004, effectively ended Moore’s playing career for the foreseeable future, and raised a huge PR controversy in the process. Many people began to wonder if Bertuzzi should have been allowed to return at all, or at least until Moore made his return as well.

Personally, Bettman can ill-afford another scandal in the wake of the lockout. The Bertuzzi incident is not an example of hockey gone wrong; it’s an example of the insufficient justice in the American sports landscape nowadays. Players that shouldn’t be back, like Bertuzzi, are invited back in, and suspensions that are not even adequate in the first place (such as Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers’ suspension) are reduced by an arbitrator. It seems as if the only commissioner in American sports right now that actually follows through on his punishment promises is David Stern. Maybe Bettman and Stern can switch gigs for awhile, because Bertuzzi would be looking for work elsewhere in Vancouver before you could say Ottawa.

Carlyle In as New Mighty Ducks Head Coach
Former James Norris Memorial Trophy winner Randy Carlyle is leaving the Moose to become a duck. And a Mighty Duck at that. The former forward, who has spent most of his coaching career at the helm of the AHL Manitoba Moose franchise (along with a two year stint as an assistant in Washington), was announced two weeks ago as the new head coach of the Might Ducks of Anaheim.

Anaheim’s hockey team set a lofty standard for itself during the 2002-2003 season, where it made a surprising run at the Stanley Cup (before being shut down by New Jersey at the Meadowlands). In 2004, things fell apart for the Mighty Ducks, and Carlyle will now be given the task of taking the talent available and molding it into a winning formula. We’ll see if Carlyle can transport his moderate success in Winnipeg to Southern California.

NHL on OLN, and ‘Canes Coach to Head Team U.S.A. in 2006 Olympics
With the failure to keep their contract with ESPN, the National Hockey League announced recently that the 2005-2006 television rights had been awarded to OLN, who produced a $300 Million package that landed them the rights to the upcoming NHL season. OLN, the Outdoor Life Network, is most notable for broadcasting coverage of “Le Tour de France” every summer. The network, which is owned by the cable group Comcast, is looking to bolster its lineup and mark itself as a serious sports network alternative.

The NHL also announced recently, in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that Peter Laviolette, the head coach for the former Eastern Conference Champion Carolina Hurricanes will assume the role of head coach for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team next year at the Winter Olympics in Italy. The announcement, virtually unheralded by the media, will likely make its rounds through the Carolinas once the season begins. Until then, congratulations to Laviolette, who will not only look to rebuild a directionless Carolina franchise, but return the United States to prominence on the ice. If you have doubts that it can be done, go talk to Mike Eruzione or Phil Verchotta and see what they think about “miracles”.

Second Period!

The adrenaline that made you invincible before has worn off, and you’re beginning to feel the scars of battle. The other team has you beaten by a goal, and are ready to break your spirit. You look towards the blue line, not a defender in sight. Take your shot… and brace yourself for the freight train that’s coming right at your grill.

2005 NHL Season Preview
Pittsburgh had themselves a huge draft, picking up a wingman, Michael Gergen and some kid… Crosby was his name?

Right, Sidney Crosby! The kid will have some lofty standards to live up to, if he truly is the next coming of Wayne Gretzky (who we’ll touch on in a bit). Mario Lemieux will do wonders to help Crosby pick up the aspects that he doesn’t already possess, and along with the signing of defenseman Lyle Odelein, Pittsburgh will rebound into a possible playoff berth. Philadelphia wanted to make a bit of noise from the other side of Pennsylvania, and did so by expending the controversial Jeremy Roenick (they shipped him to Los Angeles with a draft pick for future considerations). Next, the Flyers turned to center Peter Forsberg, who they signed as a free agent from Colorado. With the additions of Mike Rathje and Derian Hatcher to their defensive line, Philadelphia may be prepared to step up in the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay, unbeknownst to many it seems, is technically the defending Stanley Cup Champions, what with the lockout and all. The Lightning are fairly secure in their place in the East, thanks to a rock-solid core of talent, highlighted by Martin St. Louis and the excellent goal tending of Nikoilai Khabibulin. Tampa Bay also signed Rob DiMaio out of the Dallas organization to help bolster the depth of their forward line. For the ‘Canes of Carolina, a lot of their hopes are pinned on the ability of one Jack Johnson, their first round draft pick in this year’s draft. Johnson, who may be the best all-around player in the draft, will be saddled with free agent pick ups Cory Stillman and Oleg Tverdovsky from Russia. The loss of Jeff O’ Neill to Toronto was a tough loss, however. The Bruins, after losing defenseman Sergei Gonchar to the Penguins, signed free agent Brian Leetch out of Toronto to help fill the void. Sergei Samsonov is poised to have a major season at left wing.

The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim are likely to undergo an experimental season this year as new head coach Randy Carlyle attempts to get more speed out of his conservative squad. The Coyotes, meanwhile, are looking towards Shane Doan to follow up on his breakout 2003-2004 Season to help Phoenix compete in the west. With the veteran Brett Hull and new head coach Wayne Gretzky… yes, that Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix may be the surprise sleeper out west.

Calgary, though, remains the team to beat after a sensational performance in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. Jarome Iginla is quickly becoming one of the best players in all of hockey, and his leadership (along with Miikka Kiprusoff’s goaltending) will give Canada a shot at bringing the Cup back home. The Canucks will be dealing with a more negative storyline throughout the season, at least for the first half: the return of the controversial Todd Bertuzzi. Bertuzzi will be flanked by Canucks captain Markus Naslund this season, along with free agent signings Richard Park and Anson Carter at Right Wing.

Inside Pulse’s NHL Preseason Power Rankings
Eastern Conference

Northeast Division
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Boston Bruins
3. Ottawa Senators
4. Montreal Canadiens
5. Buffalo Sabres

Atlantic Division
1. Philadelphia Flyers
2. New Jersey Devils
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
4. New York Islanders
5. New York Rangers

Southeast Division
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Atlanta Thrashers
3. Carolina Hurricanes
4. Florida Panthers
5. Washington Capitals

Western Conference

Central Division
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Nashville Predators
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Chicago Blackhawks

Pacific Division
1. San Jose Sharks
2. Dallas Stars
3. Phoenix Coyotes
4. Los Angeles Kings
5. Anaheim Mighty Ducks

Northwest Division
1. Calgary Flames
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vancouver Canucks
4. Edmonton Oilers
5. Minnesota Wild

Preseason NHL Predictions
Everyone we saw and came to know in 2003-2004 have gotten a bit older, maybe a bit more experienced if they played internationally. On paper, Tampa Bay still looks very, very good, as does Philadelphia and surprisingly, Atlanta. Calgary and Colorado will probably fight for the Northwest Division right down to the wire, though I think Iginla gives Calgary the edge that they need to repeat as Western Conference Champions. It’s early, but I’ll say that Calgary vs. San Jose and Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia will be your Conference Finals, with Calgary vs. Tampa Bay as our repeat from 2003-2004. But do not sleep on the Philadelphia Flyers.

I think I just backtracked on an earlier prediction.

Third Period!

Time is running out, and you’re still down a goal. The weaklings you saw earlier are now giants among men, and every hit you take is crushing your team. The crowd is on the edge of its seat, you’re in the clear. Time is ticking, you don’t have time to think. Here comes the defensemen, it’s now or never… take the shot!

Blue Line / Red color=”red”> Line
This is similar to a new NASCAR feature that we’ll be debuting in Speed Addicts next weekend at Richmond. For now, though, we’ll use this bad boy as a test run for future uses. Leave your fears of the neutral zone trap behind, because it’s time to unveil Blue Line / Red Line! Here’s how it works: since we’re still a month away from the regular season, we’re going to play a little game of “What If”. We’re taking two players from the NHL (star defensemen, incredible goaltenders, rookies, etc.) and putting them to the test. The idea here is that we’ll take one relatively unknown player and peg him as the next red hot superstar (i.e. Red Line) and then one big name guy and peg him as the biggest let down of the upcoming season (i.e. Blue Line). Cold, ain’t it?

Shane Doan, Right Wing, Phoenix Coyotes
We mentioned Shane Doan earlier, but now we’re really going to get into the meat and potatoes. Ever since his peak years from 1999-2001, Doan has been continually improving himself after a few rough seasons here and there. Drafted 7th overall in 1995 by the Winnipeg Jets, Doan made the move to Phoenix in 1996, and has become a leader for the team. Doan is just one monster season away from becoming a big star in this league.

His numbers, especially for a team like Phoenix, are exceptional. With 27 goals and 41 assists in 79 games, Doan can become apart of the building blocks to a successful franchise in Phoenix, under the tutelage of Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull. Doan’s numbers will rise again this year, with an expected goal total of 35, with 46 assists in 77 games. His defensive skills will also continue to improve.

Martin St. Louis, Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
With 38 goals and 56 assists in 82 games played, not including the postseason, Martin St. Louis became one of the key components to the Tampa Bay title run in 2004. St. Louis, signed as a free agent by Calgary in the 1998-1999 Season, has become one of the most recognizable names in the NHL. A tremendous player, St. Louis has been compared to some of the best of this generation, and seems like one of the big names that the NHL has to market.

However, St. Louis has also been the benefactor of some great teammates. Tampa Bay was physically better than almost any other team all throughout the course of 2003 and into 2004. Their skill level, their athletic ability, and their leadership from veterans like Dave Andreychuk helped win them the Stanley Cup. Now, however, that team is starting to age a little more than before. Some of St. Louis’s teammates may not be as good as they were a season ago, pre-Lockout. Martin St. Louis’s numbers exploded beginning in 2002 and into 2003, right as Tampa Bay began its rise to prominence. If Tampa Bay loses a step or two, Martin St. Louis may not have a statistically bad year, but he will under-perform when compared to his previous efforts.

Voices from the Crowd – An Interview with NHL Fan Matt Savino
When I first arrived for my fall semester at Belmont Abbey, I ran into a host of characters, most of them too unique to begin to explain. But there were also a host of genuinely cool folks that helped make the “Abbey Experience” one to remember. One of those folks was Matt Savino. Matt, who looks like a badass and plays NHL 2K5 like a mercenary, was kind enough to take time out of his schedule for the following interview. I hope you enjoy it.

SA: Matt, how’s it going?
MS: Doing pretty good.

SA: I tell you what. Why don’t we start out by talking a little bit about yourself. What kind of work do you do revolving around hockey?
MS: While I’m in Charlotte, I only referee games. Back home in Atlanta, though, I played, coached, and refereed in several city leagues. I helped officiate in the Pee-Wee League that the city had set up.

SA: When did you first pick up the NHL?
MS: The 1995-1996 Season. I used to live in Denver, and that was the year that they made the Stanley Cup Finals.

SA: Who was… or is, rather, your favorite player?
MS: It was Adam Foote. Now, mostly Joe Sakic.

SA: Sakic, huh? What’s your favorite position to play?
MS: Center.

SA: And… in general?
MS: … Center.

SA: Right. Well, as you know, the NHL Lockout recently wiped out the whole NHL Season. Judging by all these Avalanche references in here, I assume you know about it. What are your feelings right now?
MS: I was pretty mad at first, and then my anger turned to frustration.

SA: How does this compare to work stoppages in other leagues, such as the 1994 Strike?
MS: Oh, this lockout was worse to the NHL than other lockouts were to other pro leagues, because of the smaller fan base we have.

SA: Do you think hockey will recover, though?
MS: Well, hockey has a really devoted, hardcore fan base. It will recover, but it will take some time.

SA: Right. Well, one positive sign around the league right now is the ticket sales. A lot of teams, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins are outpacing their 2003 ticket sales. What do you attribute this to?
MS: Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, and Sergei Gonchar.

SA: It’s funny you mentioned Crosby. Do you think he’ll live up to the hype?
MS: No. Playing in a junior league in Montreal is different from the NHL. He’s a great player, but I think Jack Johnson is the overall best player in this year’s draft. With the way he plays defense, Johnson could probably be a difference-maker this year at the earliest.

SA: Well, outside of Carolina making the Stanley Cup Finals again, who do you have making it all the way?
MS: I like Philadelphia since they added Forsberg in the East over Tampa Bay. In the west… I like Calgary, because they’re just an old school team that executes everything well. And Jarome Iginla is among the Top Five two-way players in the league.

SA: Alright. Now, there have been quite a few big trades over the last few weeks. What do you think is the biggest, or most important trade to date?
MS: The Heatley trade – Dany Heatley for Marian Hossa and defenseman Greg de Vries.

SA: Really? That kind of begs this question: with all that has happened to Dany Heatley over the past two years, do you think he should be back on the ice right now?
MS: Yeah, because his problems stem from an off-ice incident, not something that happened on it like Bertuzzi.

SA: What about Todd Bertuzzi? Should he be playing right now?
MS: No, that was a cheap shot and altercation on the ice. He shouldn’t play until (Steve) Moore plays.

SA: What pisses you off most in life?
MS: (Laughs) Traffic, Jaromir Jagr, and the damned Neutral Zone Trap.

SA: Alright, we’re going to do a little word association. I wont limit you to one word if you have more profound feelings. Ready?
MS: Let’s do it:

Patrick Roy: Greatest Goaltender/Winner ever.
Jeremy Roenick: Mouth.
Brett Hull: One-Timer.
Wayne Gretzky: The Great One.
Jaromir Jagr: Pansy.
Scotty Bowman: Red Wing.
Todd Bertuzzi: Coward.
Colorado Avalanche: Winners.
Detroit Red Wings: Great Rivals.
New Jersey Devils: “Their fault for the damn lockout”.
Martin St. Louis: Very good, but not a game breaker.
Jarome Iginla: Perfect hockey player, perfect captain.
Mario Lemieux: Good for the fan base.

SA: Well, I caught the Neutral Zone Trap comment, which begs the question: what do you think of the rules changes for the upcoming season?
MS: I really dislike the goalie being limited to handling the puck inside the trapezoid, though I do like touching up offsides and the two line passing, which eliminates that damned neutral zone trap.

SA: That damned neutral zone trap… what about fighting?
MS: I’ve been in fights as a player, and I’ve seen them as a fan. I think it keeps the games under control, actually. It keeps you (the player) accountable for your actions on the ice, and so it helps keep the stick work down. Besides, the fans love it.

SA: Yeah, I always love a good fight. Matt Savino, thanks for your time.
MS: No problem.

Special thanks to Matt Savino for his time and patience as I danced around the best questions I could make up on the fly. Matt plans on continuing his work as a referee, and doesn’t plan on giving up on hockey any time soon. If you would like to be a guest on “Voices from the Crowd”, send an email detailing why to PegasusX@InsidePulse.com!

Kings of the Ice: Top Five Goalies in NHL History
This is a segment that we’ll be using quite a bit beginning in November. For now, a brief description: of all the major North American sports, hockey’s history and lineage is the least well known here in the States. So, to help educate the less-knowledgeable fans here in the United States, we’re going to be taking a look at five of the greatest players, teams, dynasties, performances, etc. from hockey’s past, in an attempt to gain more insight into the love of the game that so many people share. For today, we’ll look at five of the most important goaltenders to ever skate on the ice, and why they left such an incredible mark on this game.

5. Terry Sawchuk (Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs)
Terry Sawchuk, also known as “Uke”, played in 971 regular season games over the course of a twenty-one year NHL Career. He logged over 57,000 minutes during his career, and came up big with some astounding numbers. His career win/loss/tie record stands at 447-330-172, which includes several Stanley Cup Championships with the Red Wings and Maple Leafs. He experienced his best seasons in the early fifties, when he consistently averaged a GAA right at 2.00. To this day, there have been few goalies that are as tough as Terry Sawchuk.

Accomplishments:
4-Time Vezina Trophy Winner (1951-1952, 1952-1953, 1954-1955, 1964-1965)
14-Time NHL All Star
103 Career Shutouts (NHL Record)
Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee, 1971

4. Grant Fuhr (Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres)
Grant Fuhr, for all his accomplishments, will best be remembered as the goaltender that helped the Edmonton Oilers to a dynasty unlike any other in the early 1980s. With a fire and passion that defined him as a bonafide goaltending legend in the making, Fuhr overcame constant trades, scrutiny and the scars of time to become one of the all-time greats. Elected to the hall of fame in his first year of eligibility, Fuhr can boast a career that encompasses 400 wins, a slew of Stanley Cup wins, and a Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in league in 1988.

Accomplishments:
Won two Canada Cups (1984 & 1987)
Vezina Trophy Winner (1988) and Runner-Up, Hart Trophy (MVP)
Played in 76 Consecutive Games, 79 Overall in 1995-1996 (League Records)

3. Jacques Plante (Montreal Canadiens)
With 434 wins in 837 games, 82 shutouts and a GAA of 2.38, “Jake the Snake” was an important goaltender in the history of hockey, for different reasons. Most importantly, Plante was among the best the game had ever seen, getting the job done when it mattered most (he took home five consecutive Stanley Cup champions). Even more intriguing is the way he shaped the game; Jacques Plante is probably the most influential goaltender in NHL history. He not only helped usher in the idea of a goalie leaving the crease to handle the puck behind the net, but he also became the first goaltender to wear a mask. This after a player had intentionally hit him with the puck in the face. Jacques Plante was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1978, and remains one of the best goalies in history.

Accomplishments
7 Time Vezina Trophy Winner – (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1969)
5 Time Stanley Cup Champion – (1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960)
Hart Memorial Trophy Winner – (1962)

2. Dominik Hasek (Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings)
There have been few goaltenders in the history of this game that have been as great as Dominik Hasek. That he is still active makes him even more special. Although he has only scored one Stanley Cup to date (in 2002 against the Carolina Hurricanes), Hasek has set a precedent for himself that is unmatched amongst all other active goalies. Sitting now at 296 career wins, Hasek is perhaps the most decorated goaltender of all time, winning countless awards, most notably 2 Hart Memorial Trophies as the MVP of the NHL. Hasek is ice cold between the pipes, and will be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Accomplishments
George Vezina Trophy – 6 (1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
William M. Jennings Trophy – 2 (1994, 2001)
Lester B. Pearson Trophy – 2 (1997, 1998)
Hart Memorial Trophy – 2 (1997, 1998)

1. Patrick Roy (Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche)
Patrick Roy, like Dominik Hasek and Grant Fuhr, will be looked upon as the greatest goaltenders of our generation. For Roy, though, this isn’t enough. In a career that spanned 1,029 games (an NHL record), Patrick set these records, respectively: minutes played – 60,236; wins – 551; games played in playoffs – 247; minutes played in playoffs – 15,206; and playoff wins – 151. Roy was, and remains one of the most clutch goalkeepers in the history of hockey. His multiple championships with Montreal and his title with the Avalanche have helped define his legacy as one of the greats. With career stats that are sparkling, Patrick Roy is the best goaltender that hockey has ever known.

Accomplishments
400 Career Victories +
7 Time NHL All Star (1997-1998)
4 Time Jennings Trophy Winner (Fewest Goals Against: 1986-’87, 1987-1989, 1991-’92)
3 Time Vezina Trophy Winner (1988-1989, 1989-1990, 1991-1992)
3 Time Smythe Trophy Winner (Playoffs MVP: 1985-1986, 1992-1993)
Member, 1985-1986 NHL All Rookie Team
Only goaltender in NHL History to win 200 + games with two different teams.

Overtime!

The score is tied, and the pressure is incredible. The same look of exhaustion is painted on the face of your opponent; he stares you down. You take the puck. only a minute to go before the shootout. The crowd is pinning their every hope on your puck handling. You split the defenders, past center ice, their goalie hovering in the net like a monster. You’re out of time, two seconds away from a body check from Hell. You hold your breath, take your shot.

[NCAA] College Hockey Notes
Just a quick note from the NCAA: the nation’s top college hockey conference, Hockey East will be competing on NESN beginning this season. The New England Sports Network and the conference agreed to television rights for the upcoming season. Hockey East has been known as the premier college league in the United States, and if you look at the teams involved, you’ll know why. Boston College, Boston U, New Hampshire, Maine, UMass – Lowell, Northeastern, Providence, Massachusetts, and Merrimack all play in Hockey East. We’ll have more NCAA Hockey news as we move closer to the start of the season.

Pimping the Puck
Here’s Patrick to tell you what he really thinks about Katrina. On the Offense

And here’s Oli Porter, Patrick and myself acting all hip on IP Radio. IP Sports Radio

Eugene Tierney is back with more baseball goodness. Good for him. Riding the Pine

Pomazak makes the world a better place. Pancakes

Looks like Gauss is selling that pine tar again. Pine Tar for Sale

Hey, kids! It’s Matthew Michael! Heads Fallin’ Off

Game Over!
That’s it! The score is final; you won on a last second shot! Congratulations! Now go get ready for the NHL Season, starting on October 5th, 2005. Inside Pulse Sports will keep you covered on any late-breaking news stories from the NHL, and I’ll be back full time for more starting in November after the NASCAR season ends. Until then, this is the… Freezer Addict, wishing you a pleasant Labor Day.

Peace.