Nicholas J. Cotsonika

  • It's complicated: Martin St-Louis returns to Tampa Bay for first time since split

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 hrs ago

    Cheer. Boo. Cheer and boo. If you root for the Lightning, do whatever you feel is right when Martin St-Louis returns to Tampa Bay with the New York Rangers on Wednesday night. It’s your team. It’s your former captain. He left, and now he's back, and he happens to be two points from 1,000. It’s complicated.

    Mixed emotions are OK. Intense emotions are OK.

    Emotion is what the St-Louis story is all about. It’s what drove him to success in Tampa Bay. It’s what drove him away. In the big picture, whether you cheer or boo or both, it’s great for hockey because you care.

    Brad Richards said it best in the Tampa Bay Times. He played for the Lightning from 2000-01 to 2007-08, winning the Stanley Cup with St-Louis in 2004. “When I got there,” he said, “fans wouldn’t have cared if somebody left.”

    St-Louis once was asked how he continued to play at a high level.

    “Obviously I’m getting older,” he said. “But I try to find a way …”

    Pause.

    “I don’t lose the edge.”

    Remember how St-Louis reached a high level in the first place. The man is 5-foot-8. He was never drafted. He had to prove he could play, and he did it with a fierce, independent will.

    That’s his edge.

  • No doubt about it, Preds goalie Pekka Rinne back on top of his game

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    He was supposed to be back a year ago, back from hip surgery, back to his old self. But then came an infection, another surgery, another rehab and the worst season of his NHL career. And then came something else, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist with a seven-year, $49 million contract.

    Doubt.

    “You come back, and in your own head, you think you’re going to be the same player that you’ve always been and you’re going to start where you left,” Pekka Rinne said. “When it doesn’t happen, it’s mentally pretty demanding.”

    Rinne is finally back now, for real. Among the reasons the Nashville Predators are off to one of the best starts in their history – new coach, new players, new up-tempo style, hot rookie, better 5-on-5 play – it’s important that they have a healthy, happy, elite goalie again. He entered Tuesday night tied for the lead in wins (13), second in goals-against average (1.92) and third in save percentage (.930).

    “He’s invaluable,” said Predators captain Shea Weber. “You see when he’s in the lineup how good we are.”

    There’s no question that psychologically Rinne is different than he was last year, too.

    The doubt, it seems, is gone.

  • The hockey world mourns Pat Quinn: 'He was a great man'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    Pat Quinn was a big man with a big presence and a big passion. He was a player, coach and executive. He was chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame. John Davidson, chairman of the selection committee, said the other day: “The ‘Big Irishman’ is a guy who loves the game so much that when he walks in, you know hockey’s in the room.”

    When Quinn wasn’t in the room last week, you knew something was wrong. Quinn would not miss a Hall of Fame induction if he could help it. Now we find out he has died at age 71 after a long illness, and we appreciate what else was big about him – his heart, his impact.

    Story after story is being told not just about the games he won, but the people he touched. Statement after statement is being released by institution after institution – the Hockey Hall of Fame, the National Hockey League, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs …

    “Deeply saddened,” said Jim Gregory, vice chairman of the Hall.

    “Heartfelt condolences,” said Gary Bettman, commissioner of the NHL.

    “Will never be forgotten,” said Marcel Aubut, president of the COC.

    “Sad day for our sport,” said Ed Snider, chairman of the Flyers.

  • Soviet legend Viktor Tikhonov, viewed as a hockey villain in the West, changed the game forever

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    Two years ago, while working on a project during the NHL lockout, I found myself waiting outside the dressing room at the CSKA Ice Palace, the old arena on Leningradsky Prospect in Moscow. On the wall: a black-and-white photo of legendary Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov. It was huge, floor to ceiling, larger than life.

    As I studied it, an old man walked past. I did a double-take.

    “Hey,” I asked an official, “is that Viktor Tikhonov?”

    “No interviews!”

    “OK. But is that him ?”

    “No interviews!”

    It was him.

    To the West, Tikhonov was always a mysterious figure – a villain, the enemy, even – because he coached the Soviet national team and the Central Red Army during the Cold War. He embodied everything about hockey under communism, forcing his players to train 11 months a year, restricting their freedoms.

    His mystery remained after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He didn’t speak English. He didn’t care to reveal secrets, anyway. Legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman once sat down and compared notes with Anatoli Tarasov, the father of Soviet hockey, Tikhonov’s predecessor. With Tikhonov? He got little more than hello.

    “Very private guy,” Bowman said Monday. “Every time I met him, he didn’t talk much.”

  • Three Periods: Maple Leafs need new approach more than new coach

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include the frustration of Leafs Nation and Brendan Shanahan’s approach as team president, plus notes on 3-on-3 overtime, the salary cap, Jack Johnson, Pascal Dupuis, Alex Hemsky and more.

    FIRST PERIOD: Maple Leafs need new approach more than a new coach

    Leafs Nation is frustrated, and should be. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the richest franchise in the NHL. Yet they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967. They haven’t made the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons, and when they did make it, they blew a three-goal lead late in Game 7, lost in overtime and fell in the first round.

    They have owners who compete head-to-head in their main businesses. They have a corporate boss headed out the door. They have a president who didn’t hire the general manager, a GM who didn’t hire the coach, a coach who didn’t hire his assistants. They have a roster that lacks a No. 1 center, a No. 1 defenseman and more.

    Coach Randy Carlyle was asked this week if the Leafs had found their identity yet.

    “No,” he said. “I just think we’re too erratic and we’re too inconsistent.”

    THIRD PERIOD: More notes from around the NHL

  • Despite cancer battle, it's business as usual for Senators GM Bryan Murray: 'We live our lives'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    TORONTO — The NHL’s general managers held their November meeting Tuesday at the league office in Toronto. They sat around a football-shaped table in alphabetical order by team. Off to one side, between the New York Rangers’ Glen Sather and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ron Hextall, was the Ottawa Senators’ Bryan Murray.

    He didn’t have to be there. His wife has been telling him he’s old enough to retire for four or five years now, and he will turn 72 on Dec. 5. But hockey has been his life, and he isn’t ready to retire yet even though he has cancer and it has reached Stage 4, the final stage. So he postponed chemotherapy by a day to discuss minutiae like the dry scrape before overtime.

    “We live our lives,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be involved as long as I have been. I go to the hospital. I see young people, young mothers and young children. And if I can’t be strong and brave, how can they be?”

    “I had the opportunity to sell the idea, if that’s the right word, that colonoscopies for all of us are important,” Murray said. “I thought the message could be and should be loud enough that it might affect some people and save some people.”

    He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

  • NHL scraps the dry scrape, makes goal review change at GM meetings

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 8 days ago

    TORONTO – The NHL has scrapped the dry scrape.

    In an effort to end more games in overtime – and avoid the shootout skills competition – the NHL ordered Zambonis to scrape the ice without laying water between the end of regulation and the start of OT this season. The idea was to improve ice quality, making it easier to pass, shoot and score. 

    Problem was, it was a buzzkill. Here were two teams in a tie game headed to overtime and … everyone … had … to … wait.

    The dry scrape took about five minutes on average but as long as 6 1/2 minutes in some cases, and the early returns didn’t show much effect in ending more games in OT. 

    So at their annual November meeting Tuesday, the NHL’s general managers decided to park the Zambonis. Crews will now shovel the ice between regulation and overtime the same way they do during TV timeouts.

    NHL executive Colin Campbell said there would not be a dry scrape before shootouts, the way there was in the past. Zambonis made only four passes in the middle of the ice then, and players still handled the puck wider than that lane without complaint. 

    Other key points from the GM meeting:

    “It didn’t really happen, but it happened,” Campbell said.

  • Four years after his passing, Pat Burns inducted into Hall of Fame: 'His name is here forever, and that’s important'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    TORONTO — The best way to honor a coach is to listen to him, to learn from him. So listen to the video clip they played of Pat Burns before his Hockey Hall of Fame induction on Monday night, learn from it. Thin, sick, dying of cancer, Burns stood at a lectern and said: “You don’t cry because it’s over. You’re happy because it happened.”

    This is a happy thing. This happened: Pat Burns went from police officer to hockey coach. He became the first three-time winner of the Jack Adams Award. He became a Stanley Cup champion and, finally, a Hall of Famer. Yes, it is sad he died at age 58 nearly four years ago. Yes, it is a shame he wasn’t inducted while he was still alive. But what would he say now?

    “At his first Hall of Fame induction opportunity, a lot of people were outraged he didn’t make it in,” said his son, Jason Burns, on stage Monday night. “A lot of people but him.”

    Jason remembered being nervous to bring up the news when the selection committee passed on his father in 2010. But Pat was not bitter. He did not blow up. He said it was an honor just to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

    Then he did what he always did. He coached.

    He was so much there …

    “No. No. No.”

  • Martin Brodeur still hoping for NHL chance, says 'not about ego or anything'

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Puck Daddy 9 days ago

    TORONTO – One day Martin Brodeur will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame as an honored member. He has won 688 regular-season games, more than any other goaltender. He has won four Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goaltender. He has won three Stanley Cups.

    But Monday night, Brodeur entered the Hall to support the late Pat Burns, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the Cup in 2003 and finally received his due. Told he would delay his own induction by a year if he returned to play this season, because players aren’t eligible until three years after retirement, Brodeur just laughed.

    “That’s all right,” Brodeur said. “It’s not a big deal.”

    Brodeur hasn’t given up. He still wants to play at age 42. He’s still willing to go to another team, even though he has spent his entire 21-season NHL career with the Devils. He’s skating three or four times a week, and he has set no deadline.

    “I’m here if somebody needs me,” Brodeur said. “I’m going to keep myself ready. Whatever happens, I don’t need to make a decision. I don’t want to cheat myself of any opportunities if it happens later on. I’m just taking it day by day.”

    What role is Brodeur willing to accept?

  • The legend of Dominik Hasek: From hockey heretic to the Hall of Fame

    Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    TORONTO — One day in January 2002, Dominik Hasek was in goal while the Detroit Red Wings practiced at the other end of the ice. He spent the dead time doing his visualization drills, flopping all over the crease, foiling imaginary foes, until Brendan Shanahan had a free moment and grabbed a puck.

    Four years before, Hasek had stoned Shanahan in a shootout at the Nagano Olympics, giving the Czech Republic a stunning 2-1 semifinal win over Canada. Now here they were again. They were in an empty arena with nothing at stake, but they were two all-time greats going head to head a month before the Salt Lake Olympics.

    Shanahan broke away …

    Save.

    Shanahan tried again …

    Save.

    Shanahan tried once more …

    Save.

    Finally, Shanahan had enough, and Hasek went back to battling his ghosts.

    “I enjoy to be competitive, not only in the game but also in the practice,” Hasek said the other day. “I really enjoy it.”

    This is the legend of the Dominator.

    Be it the biggest stage or backstage, Dominik Hasek was determined to stop the puck. He saw, practiced and played the game differently than any other goaltender, and he will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday night as the greatest of his era, if not all-time.