- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports10 days ago
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — All he wanted to do was play hockey. By age two, Jack Eichel was walking around the house with a yellow mini-stick in his hand. By three, he had already started skating by pushing a crate around on the ice to maintain his balance.
When he was four, Eichel was told by minor hockey organizers in Chelmsford, Mass., that he was too young to join their program and would have to wait. He pestered his parents, Bob and Anne, to the point where they finally relented and had him enrolled across the state line in Nashua, N.H., where the rink was only three miles from their home.
“He was a pain in the neck,” said Bob, of Jack’s persistence. “We held him off for as long as possible.”
Having grown up in Melrose, Mass., a suburb of Boston, Bob Eichel was a huge fan of the Bruins. His favourite player – of course – was Bobby Orr. Putting Jack and his older sister Jessie in skates and passing on his love of the game was a no-brainer.
Bob would give Jack instructions such as “stretch your stride” and Jack would listen intently. It wasn’t uncommon to find Jack skating around in his little red snowsuit on one of the nearby ponds shooting pucks before school.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
BROSSARD, QUE — When Canada takes to the ice in Montreal on Boxing Day - some five months from now - the hopes of Canadian hockey fans will rest on the shoulders of teenage boys.
Tom Renney, the new president and chief executive officers of Hockey Canada, knows that pressure first hand. In 1999, he was a late replacement to coach the world junior team in Winnipeg after George Burnett resigned to take an NHL job.
Renney ended up settling for a silver medal after the team lost of Russia in overtime of the gold medal game. He believes the opportunity to play at home is one of the biggest advantages Canada will have with the crowd behind them in Montreal and Toronto.
“It’s great,” said Renney of being able to play at home. “It might be the best thing that happens to them in their careers in this point in time. The responsibility of winning at home is a lofty one, there’s no question about that, but boy, it can certainly develop some resiliency and resolve in finding a way (to win).
“I enjoyed it and I know our players did. They loved the responsibility of having to show up and perform.”
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Earlier this week at Team Canada’s camp in Montreal, Benoit Groulx raised some eyebrows when he said his team should take a page from the Finnish playbook for the 2015 world junior hockey championships.
Finland, the Canadian coach said, plays the hard, gritty, relentless hockey that wins gold medals. It’s the style of play Groulx wants Canada to rediscover when the tournament moves to home ice in Montreal and Toronto in December.
“I really feel they were copying us in the past,” Groulx said of the other under-20 nations. “The way Finland won the gold last year was the Canadian way. We have to go back to that. It’s exactly what has to start (at summer camp).”
“I think what Ben was saying is (the Finns) played our game better than we did,” said Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of hockey operations. “And I don’t even know if it’s our game – it’s the way that everyone should play if they want to win – that’s not the Canadian way, that’s the right way.”
Nevertheless, the Finns appreciate the compliment.
“That’s nice to hear,” said goaltender Juuse Saros, who backstopped the Young Lions to gold at the 2014 tournament in Malmo, Sweden.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports16 days ago
BROSSARD, QUE. — Over the course of his three-year Ontario Hockey League career, Ben Harpur has faced his share of talented forwards. Young NHL stars like Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov and Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk are a couple of names that come to mind.
The one that stands out the most, however, is Connor McDavid, Harpur’s teammate at Canada’s summer world junior camp.
“He’s one of the greatest skaters I’ve ever played against,” said the Guelph Storm defenceman. “When you’re in the corners, just his shiftiness, it’s hard to defend against him. It seems every time he touches the puck he’s making something happen, so it keeps you on your toes.”
At this point, you’d have to be cut off completely from the hockey world to have missed the comprehensive coverage of the teenager projected to be the game's next great player. McDavid is only 17, but has been profiled exhaustively since he was granted exceptional status by the OHL two years earlier to play with the Erie Otters against older kids. At 15, he became the youngest hockey player to sign a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Reebok and had been followed around by reporters from the New York Times.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports17 days ago
BROSSARD, QUE.— As far as head coach Benoit Groulx is concerned, pressure is a good thing. It’s nice he feels that way, because as the man in charge of righting the ship for Team Canada at the 2015 world junior championships – the heat is on.
“We’re in August and I think you’re the tenth person to ask me about the pressure in Canada,” said Groulx, with a smile.
The tournament, a favourite Christmas-time pastime for many Canadians, is back on home turf this year in both Toronto and Montreal, two cities with massive NHL fan bases. Canada has finished fourth at the tournament for two consecutive years – the first time since 1978-81 - and last won gold in 2009.
“I think the way we think and we approach that, it’s more about embracing the tournament and embracing the situation,” said Groulx. “We’re in our country – the top two cities, maybe – in the world to play hockey. The fans are going to be behind us and you know what, if you have pressure it’s because you have a chance to win. When people don’t expect you to win, you don’t have any pressure.”
- Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports29 days ago
It was a few weeks ago when Kyle Dubas was in Mexico – getting married – that he first heard from Brendan Shanahan. The president of the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to talk to him as Dubas, the GM of the Soo Greyhounds, had been identified as a bright young hockey mind.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dubas and his sharp hockey mind was hired as the Leafs’ new assistant general manager.
A lot of people in the hockey world have written, in print and on social media, about how this 28-year-old wunderkind embraced analytics to quickly turn around the fortunes of the Greyhounds. The team was in trouble when Dubas left his job as a player agent to go home and fix the OHL team his grandfather had once coached.
It’s a nice narrative for July, when there isn’t much in the way of hockey news.
The reality is rebuilding the Greyhounds was arduous and there were missteps for Dubas. It took three seasons just for them to get to the second round of the OHL playoffs. After his first year in Sault Ste. Marie, many fans wanted him fired. The team’s poor performance meant he had to fire head coach Mike Stapleton in 2012. The learning curve was not very forgiving.
Tom Renney is now the new face of hockey in Canada.
On Tuesday afternoon in Calgary, the former assistant coach of the Detroit Red Wings was named as the new president of Hockey Canada, replacing Bob Nicholson. Nicholson, who held the post since 1998, retired in May and became the new vice-president of the Oilers Entertainment Group.
Renney will have big shoes to fill as Nicholson has left Hockey Canada as one of the most successful and preeminent members of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
The challenges have already started.
“I was challenged just finding the office today,” said Renney, joking with reporters on a conference call.
“Our mandate is to make hockey the experience that it should be and at the end of the day that’s growing outstanding people that contribute to society… that’s a very broad brush, but I want to make sure everybody grows from the experience of hockey and that we do so by doing the right thing.”
When news broke on Monday that a second attempt was being made to unionize players in the Canadian Hockey League it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Despite the first failed endeavour back in the summer of 2012, it was only a matter of time before someone tried again.
There is money to be had in the CHL. The business of major junior hockey is now lucrative enough to make it ripe for lawyers and organizers who want a cut and for the team owners who want to keep making bank.
Do players need a formal union? Probably not. But what the CHL does need – and desperately – is a third party to arbitrate issues between agents and players and the leagues to make sure the best interests of these kids are being served.
Players already have people to advocate on their behalf in the form of agents. Like the management groups of the teams they play for – some are very good at their jobs and some aren’t. The idea of some young, timid 16-year-old being coerced into signing a contract in some Faustian bargain is naive.
It was two summers ago that the initial idea of unionizing players in the Canadian Hockey League was first discussed. The project was mishandled from the start by a group with unclear motives and certification of the roughly 1,400 players never got off the ground.
Jerry Dias is here to change that.
As president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, Dias is taking up the fight to create a union for CHLers.
“The facts are we are a reputable Canadian union and we’re determined,” said Dias in an interview with Yahoo Sports on Monday. “We’re not going to allow the high-priced lawyers that are employed by the league to push us around.”
But it's off to a rocky start.
The Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association (CHLPA) was the group that first tried to unionize players in 2012. The idea of a potential union was sound, but the group running it was not. The CHLPA was plagued by miscues and a number of their statements via social media were puzzling. They refused to name anyone behind the scenes involved with their board, until the CHLPA hired former NHLer Georges Laraque as their executive director.
- Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net1 mth ago
PHILADELPHIA— One year ago Daniel Walcott was sitting on his couch at home watching the NHL Draft and dreaming about the possibility that one day that could be him hearing his name called.
At the time, however, reality dictated that the dream was a stretch. The defenceman was playing for Lindenwood University close to St. Louis in the American Collegiate Hockey Association – a small college loop unaffiliated with the NCAA. He was playing against older, more mature players, but his talents went largely unnoticed.
“Playing there last year I watched the draft from my house,” said Walcott. “I thought maybe one day – next year is my last year. I thought maybe, possibly something would work out if I worked really hard and got seen.”
Sometimes all you need is one person to see you and believe in your talents. On Saturday, the New York Rangers called his name from the draft floor in the fifth round.
“Fortunately I was seen and the dream came true,” he said sporting a wide smile.