Posts Tagged ‘NHL’


The Sochi winter Olympics have provided the hockey loving folk some great games, and for the NHL GM’s a stack of grey hairs as the injury ninja sweeps the games. So far, the losses (NHL only) have been as follows:

  • Henrik Zetterberg – Sweden/Red Wings: Left the games with a herniated disc and flew back to Detroit to be evaluated. Season potentially in jeopardy.
  • Aleksander Barkov – Finland/Florida Panthers: Injured his knee against Norway. Team Finland doctors said that it is unlikely that Barkov will need surgery for the injury, but is sidelined for 4-6 weeks. There’s roughly 8 weeks of the NHL season left for Barkov as Panthers are not going to make it to the play-offs.
  • Tomas Kopecky – Slovakia/Florida Panthers: Got hit in the head against Slovenia. No timeline for return has been announced.
  • Mats Zuccarello – Norway/New York Rangers: non-displaced fracture in his hand. No timeline for return has been announced.
  • John Tavares – Canada/ New York Islanders: Leg injury, no timeline for return announced. Edit: It was announced that Tavares would miss the remainder of the season after it was revealed that he sustained a torn MCL and a torn meniscus. He might avoid surgery, but should he need it he is ready for training camp for 2014-2015 season.

Those are just the players that are out of the games and potentially from their respective NHL club games. The list does not take into account small nagging injuries that players may have carried pre-Olympics. The Sochi Winter Olympics came at a time in the NHL season – and hockey season in general – that there is not a single player that is 100% healthy.

Zetterberg is possibly the biggest loss to his club team. The Red Wings’ captain is due to undergo exams if his back requires surgery straight away or if it is safe for him to carry on to the end of the season and potential play-offs. Tavares is another big loss as he is a huge part of the Islanders’ offense. Where Islanders have an uphill battle to get to the play-offs Tavares is a loss that will be felt in the line-up (depending on the severity of his injury).

The NHL and IIHF have a contract in place for the NHL to be part of these Olympics and then it is up for review. Could you imagine if some one like Sidney Crosby suffered an injury that would sideline him for a long time at the Olympics? Where some of the above players have been injured in ‘meaningless games’ (apart from Tavares), the NHL GM’s – specially those in Florida – will be tearing their hair out. A point on the frustration that the international competitions provide team executives, is when Barkov was injured and it was announced that he was out. He received a call from his GM, Dale Tallon, which was described as (Tallon being) frustrated. Barkov is one of the rising stars of a young Panthers roster and has struggled with injuries before and during the season (he underwent shoulder surgery before camp).

Similar concerns are always shared by GMs during the annual World Championships and many players are looking to go play for their national teams. At the end of a gruelling NHL season, every minor injury is examined and NHL medical staff is often reticent to let players go if there are signs of injuries. Sometimes, players’ desire to go and play for their countries is going to over ride the doctors. Alex Ovechkin, for example, played a few games for Russia in the 2013 World Championships with a broken foot. Speaks volumes of his toughness and desire to play, but I bet it caused some grief to GMGM.

So all in all, when the IIHF and the NHL sit down to talk about the NHL’s continued participation at the Winter Olympics, there will surely be questions raised as to whether teams will want to let their assets go and risk injury at the Olympics stage. In my opinion, the NHL will continue to be part of the Olympics as it is a stage for it to market itself and compete the ever expanding KHL. The risk the NHL has is that some of the more patriotic players may defect to leagues which allow them to compete in the Olympics and World Championships.

It’s going to be another four years before the South-Korean Olympics so there is time, but having said that, there was time to avoid the last lockout and I’m sure IIHF will want the contract in place well in advance for the 2018 Winter Games.


ImageThe CCM 4 Roll Pro gloves were a hit when CCM brought it to the market two years ago. IT brought the 4-roll glove in nylon since the CCM 925 glove that was phased out by the Vector and then the U+ range. The 4-Roll Pro II has undergone a serious re-design and the gloves now look more like the Bauer 4-Roll pro (now Nexus range). So what else has changed in the glove apart from the look?

 

The gloves have a similar feel to some of CCM’s other gloves that use the build from inside out methodology and actually feel really comfortable on the hand. CCM has mastered the art of making some of the most comfortable gloves on the market and the 4-Roll Pro II is following in the same path.

 

The biggest difference to the previous 4-Roll Pro glove is the cuff. CCM has made the cuff on the 4-Roll Pro II smaller and has left some of the elements out that were in the first line of products. The smaller cuff really improves the way you can stick handle. In the previous glove the CCM logo was stitched onto the cuff, but this time the company has used sturdy lettering to display its wares.

 

Breaking in:

Thanks to the glove being nylon covered, it is lightweight and that gloves are pretty much ready to use and game ready the minute you pick them up from a store. However as with any new kit, we recommend that you wear it for a couple of training sessions before you use it in a game, but the CCM 4-Roll Gloves are quick to break in and offer you a good level of comfort and responsiveness quickly.

 

Ventilation:

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Inside ventilation on the CCM gloves

Compared to the previous model of the 4-Roll Pro gloves, the ventilation is much improved. To be fair, the glove’s ventilation is very similar to that on the Bauer Nexus gloves. However, when trying out the two different gloves, to our hands the CCM 4-Roll Pro glove liner felt more comfortable than that of the Bauer one.

During game play, it is only natural that the gloves get wet. The CCM inner liner actually stays relatively dry, while the palm itself gets quite wet, and if you don’t have dryers to your disposal at the game, the glove can be quite uncomfortable toward a particularly heavy training session or game.

 

Protection:

CCM has used PE inserts in the glove and on all the rolls of the glove to give good protection from slashes and pucks. In the previous model the rolls and fingers actually had a very thin metal plate within it, which added a bit to the weight of the glove.

The thumb of the glove uses a three piece design like the previous version of the glove. We actually preferred the thumb design of the first gen of the 4-Roll Pro gloves. On the current one, the thumb area feels a bit un-protected at the tip.

 

Overall though, the levels of protection offered by the glove is really good and it doesn’t sacrifice any bit of the usability of the glove.

 

Quality and value for money:

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The grey patches are where holes were patched up, due to the poor quality of the palm

This is where the CCM 4-Roll Pro II disappoints big time. The palms of the glove wear out really fast and it is only after a couple of uses that you’ll  see the top hand’s palm starting to wear out. What was weird was that the pair we had also wore out from the finger really quickly (also on our top hand) which is something that hasn’t happened before.

 

Additionally, the bottom hand’s palm wore out quickly and actually left a sizeable hole in it. This is something that hasn’t happened with any other gloves we have used in during the career. With CCM gloves it is usually the top palm that wears out, but this is the first time that the lower hand’s palm wore out. Compared to the Sher-Wood T70 glove where after a season’s use the palms are still intact and the gloves are in top shape, the CCM really disappointed us with the wear and tear element.

 

The biggest disappointment in the build quality came when the seam between the palm and the actual glove broke down, leaving a big gap on the side of the glove and exposed the hand, which leaves serious questions, whether people should invest a relatively large chunk of money on these gloves as they seem to be made from paper.

 

In the end we ended up taking the gloves to repairs and ended up paying almost the same price for the repairs as the gloves themselves!

 

Conclusion:

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Further repair work, where the sutures on the palm came off from the main glove. Further disappointment for the overall build quality

It is a real shame that the quality of the gloves leaves A LOT to desire for. The gloves are genuinely comfortable to wear and ease stick handling. There’s a lot to like in these gloves, in terms of the features, but judging by the pair we’ve been trying out, we’re questioning whether you should actually buy them because of the quality problems.

If you are set on buying these gloves, be prepared to budget in repairs for them as well, or alternatively be prepared to buy another set of gloves mid season or at the end of the season. It is a real shame as we really liked the previous 4-Rolls from CCM and they’ve lasted a lot better than the new range of 4-Roll gloves.

However, we do hope that CCM keep the 4-Roll Pro in its line up, but that the company makes some serious efforts in improving the overall quality of the palm materials.

 

 

Pros:

  • Good fit
  • Easy to break in
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Eases stick handling
  • Light weight

Cons

  • The palm is not durable at all
  • Poor build quality
  • Poor price vs quality ratio

The NHL season has entered the Stanley Cup finals stage. At one stage it seemed like there would be another embarrassing engraving on the cup saying that the season was not played because of a work stoppage. The lockout did indeed cast a dark shadow over the world of NHL and boy, did it piss off the fans.

 

The fans of the NHL and hockey in general vehemently criticized the lockout and pledged never to watch hockey again and that the NHL was dead to them. I put my hand up and admit that I was one of them and those who read the blog regularly will remember some of the bitter posts that I made.

 

But on one fine day, all was back on and everything in the world of hockey seemed great! The season was shortened into a short sprint rather than a long marathon. And boy what a season we’ve had. Some great games during the regular season have made sure that the fans who were ready to turn to other sports have come flocking back. There have been some great highlights indeed.

 

To be honest, one could have almost forgotten that the season, started under a lockout. It does seem quite distant. 

 

I guess that at the end of it all, NHL and the game of hockey has won and persevered what was damaging to the league and the NHL brand. If people needed any further proof that hockey was back with a vengeance, game 1 of the Bruins vs Blackhawks Stanley Cup final drew the highest TV audience for a Game 1 match since 1997. It beat last seasons’ Kings v Devils final opening and man what a game it was. The Stanley Cup has been touted as the toughest trophy to win in all of professional sports and when you play nearly two full games of hockey in one night to obtain a game winner, it certainly speaks volumes of the type of entertainment that was on offer.

 

Is it all forgive and forget?

Well, no, not really. Were fans are happy to have the league back (yes it is the best hockey league in the world), there is still some repair work needed on the relationship. The fans are still like a jilted lover who will not put up with another bout of nonsense.

 

There is no doubt that the boos will rain down when Gary Bettman walks on the ice to hand out the Stanley Cup to either Jonathan Toews or Zdeno Chara. That alone should tell everyone that people have not forgotten how disappointed they still are with the lockout. Whilst the new CBA will guarantee some peace for the foreseeable future, the more skeptic fan will be thinking whether or not there is another lockout booming in the horizon of hockey’s future.  

 

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I’m going to answer this in the first sentence: No!

Not that I have anything against either of the players, but I believe that the best thing for the two would be is to have a long summer off. Koivu, the perennial captain of Minnesota Wild, didn’t have the easiest run in the playoffs and was shut down by the Blackhawks. It wouldn’t surprise me if there would be an announcement to say that Koivu has to undergo surgery in the post season. Urheilu-Lehti did a good piece on why Koivu should decline the opportunity to play for Finland at the World Championships, so and to be honest, I can’t say it any better. So I suggest you go to their pages and read the story (For the non-Finnish speakers through the power of Google Translate).

Mikael Granlund however, I think should be left alone for this year. Since that golden spring of 2011, he has been torn from one place to the next and last years’ world championships were not his sharpest, which I think in some respect hindered his rookie season in the NHL. For the past three years, Granlund has been under a magnifying glass and this is the first time that he can go into the summer with little or no media pressure. There are no stories of him being linked to this, that and the other Miss Finland candidate, there’s no stories about his airhook goal and the Finnish Ice Hockey Association has not had the chance to whore the World Championships with Granlund’s face plastered everywhere.

My advice to MG would be to stay in Minnesota/Houston until the world championships are done. Stay there and start training for next season. I have a feeling that the less Granlund is bothered by tabloids this summer, the better he will be, as he will have more time to prepare for the season, both physically and mentally. The last three years have been a whirlwind for the 20 year old and he surely needs his batteries fully charged.

I know there will be fans clamouring after Koivu and Granlund to come and play for Finland and be the saviours, but seriously, I don’t think that in the current mind frame of Koivu or Granlund they could act as the saviours everyone seems to perceive them as.

 

Edit @10:18 GMT: According to MTV3 in Finland, Finland will ask Mikko Koivu if he would like to join the team. I think it was inevitable that he was going to be asked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he declined. MTV3 also reported that Mikael Granlund will not be asked at this stage as Finland only has one roster spot available and want to offer it to Koivu. If Koivu says no, it would open up a door to Granlund.

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Finland named its roster for the World Championships after the completion of the Euro Hockey Tour in Brno, Czech Republic. The tournament ended in disappointment for the Finns, who lost all of its games in a tournament. When I watched a couple of games from the tournament, I thought that the team looked somewhat lacklustre and was never really a threat offensively. Defensively there were some questionable players on the ice, but at least, Finland’s goalies were strong.

 

The roster itself is a bit of a surprise from recent years, but upon reflection, it was to be expected. There are not that many Finns in the NHL and majority of them are taking part in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Let’s face it, the Stanley Cup is a bit bigger than the World Championships. The Finns that were left outside the playoffs were: Sami Salo (Tampa Bay), Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia), Kari Lehtonen (Dallas), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix), Olli Jokinen (Jets), Antti Miettinen (Jets), Ville Leino (Buffalo), Joni Pitkanen (Carolina), Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina), Sean Bergeinheim (Florida), Lennart Petrell (Edmonton), Teemu Hartikainen (Edmonton), Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary).

 

So let’s take a look at that list. Salo, Timonen, Jokinen and Kiprusoff have all more or less retired from the national team and would only suit up for a major tournament, like the Olympics. Lehtonen, Rinne, Leino, Pitkanen, Ruutu, Bergenheim (did not play the whole season) and Petrell are all out due to injuries. Miettinen is healthy, but has had a tough season and I’m not sure whether he was asked to join the team.

 

The only one out of that list that has said that he would play is Lauri Korpikoski and his participation is pending a medical from Coyotes, which he has passed and will be joining the team for the start of the World Championships.

 

Since the list of guys who said no thanks to the World Championships, some influential members of the Finnish hockey community have criticised the decision. Hjallis Harkimo, owner of the Jokerit team said on Radio Nova in Finland that “When they (the players) need to get noticed and they need to get into the NHL, the national team is a must. When they have used the national team, then some of them are not interested at all. It’s wrong against Finland.”

 

Juhani Tamminen, former coach of TuTo in Mestis went on to say that “If my generation would have acted and thought like this, we would only have ten rinks and we would be a B-class country in hockey.”

 

 

Both were also critical of the leadership of the Coaching and general managers in the way that they approach the players. However, the chief of Finnish Ice Hockey Association, Kalervo Kummola was quick to defend the players who had said “no thank you” to the World Champs and said that all of the players who declined had good and valid reasons (either injuries or other matters such as contract negotiations to deal with)

 

Where yes, it would be a good thing to have all those names in the roster, I can’t help but wonder what these guys owe to the Finnish system? They have donned the jersey when possible and in the biggest competitions i.e. the Olympics. They have endured backlash from fans and media alike when after a gruelling NHL season they simply have nothing in the tank. Is that the type of players they want? Guys who would get into the team because of their name but are so tired and beat that they have nothing to give. There is no point in playing guys like that.

 

It’s OK for people to bellyache after players, but the reality is that the NHL is the main job for these guys, and the national team would be sort of like overtime if you will. I tip my hat to the guys who do come after a gruelling season and find that extra gear to dig deep for a while longer, but at the same time I don’t blame guys for saying no.

 

Let’s not forget that it is always a risk to the players to join the team as there are things like insurance to cover and the risk of injury is ever present. It’s not an easy decision to players, specially those with family, or who are facing free agency and can’t afford to risk injury.

 

The roster (see below) is nothing earth shattering and at on paper it doesn’t look like a championship contender, when compared to the likes of Canada or Russia who are loaded with individual talent.

 

I see that Finland’s opportunity is in how quickly the team gels together (properly). These guys have been together for the last EHT tournament and have gone through the camp together so I would expect that they are well on their way. I still question the playbook somewhat, but that’s up to the guys to assume and play to the coach’s instructions.

 

While I would like to see Finland staging an upset, I doubt that we will see the Finnish roster in the medal rounds, if we do, it is a massive feat from this team. The way I see this roster, after a lot of reflection, is that it is an opportunity for these guys to get noticed and maybe get big money deals from either the NHL or European leagues. The roster is relatively young and inexperienced at this level, which should feed the hunger for the players. I can see that one if not two of the Finnish goalies will be playing in North America after putting themselves in the shop window at the World Championships.

The Finnish roster is as follows:

Goalies,

Atte Engren – TPS – SM-Liiga
Joni Ortio – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Antti Raanta – Ässät – SM-Liiga

Defense

Juuso Hietanen – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod – KHL
Lasse Kukkonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Teemu Laakso –  Severstal Cherepovets – KHL
Tuukka Mäntylä – Tappara – SM-liiga
Sami Lepistö – HC Lev Praha – KHL
Ilari Melart – HIFK – SM-Liiga
Ossi Väänänen -  Jokerit – SM-Liiga
Janne Jalasvaara – Dynamo Moscow – KHL

Forwards

Juhamatti Aaltonen – Rögle – Elitserien
Marko Anttila – TPS – SM-Liiga
Juha-Pekka Haataja – Kärpät – SM-Liiga
Niklas Hagman – Lokomotiv Yaroslav – KHL
Juha-Pekka Hytönen – Amur Khabarovsk – KHL
Pekka Jormakka – Pelicans – SM-Liiga
Miika Lahti – JYP – SM-Liiga
Petri Kontiola – Traktor Chelyabinsk – KHL
Jarno Koskiranta – Tappara – SM-Liiga
Janne Pesonen – Ak Bars Kazan – KHL
Antti Pihlström – Salavat Yulaev Ufa – KHL
Sakari Salminen – KalPa – SM-Liiga
Veli-Matti Savinainen – Ässät – SM-Liiga
Ville Viitaluoma – HPK – SM-Liiga 

Lauri Korpikoski – Phoenix Coyotes – NHL*

 

*Please note that I have not seen an updated team roster that would include the forward that will be dropped to accommodate Lauri Korpikoski. 

 

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The move made yesterday by the NHL, NHLPA and You Can Play Project is ground breaking in professional sports. For those that don’t know, the You Can Play Project has been around for little over a year now and promotes support and education of LGBT  issues in sports. The project’s message is simple; If you can play, you can play.

 

Personally I’ve been a fan and a supporter of the cause since I first heard about it on Twitter about a year ago. To me it doesn’t matter what anyone’s orientation or sexual preference is. As far as I’m concerned, they will be treated like any other team mate and performances will not be judged on the premise of their sexual orientation.

 

The project took a massive step forwards today when it announced official partnership with the NHL and the NHLPA, making it the first of its kind in any professional sports and its players. In fact, since inception, NHL players and other sports teams have been supportive of the cause, which is evident of the project’s video testimonial page.

 

You Can Play Project was set up by Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and son of Brian Burke, to honour his brother Brendan Burke. Brendan, a student manager for the Miami University Redhawks hockey team announced he was gay in 2009 and had worked to eradicate homophobia in hockey. Brendan was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010.

 

“Our motto is ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ and our partnership with You Can Play certifies that position in a clear and unequivocal way. While we believe that our actions in the past have shown our support for the LGBT community, we are delighted to reaffirm through this joint venture with the NHL Players’ Association that the official policy of the NHL is one of inclusion on the ice, in our locker rooms and in the stands.” Said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an official press release from NHL.com

 

The partnership between the organisations will include significant commitment to education and training for teams, players, media and fans. You Can Play Project will also conduct seminars at the NHL’s rookie symposium to educate prospects on LGBT issues. Additionally, You Can Play resources and personnel is available to each individual NHL team as desired.

 

The NHL and the NHLPA in turn will work with You Can Play Project to integrate the project into their Behavioral Health Program, which allows players to confidentially seek counselling or simply as questions regarding matters of sexual orientation.

 

“NHL players have supported the You Can Play Project since its inception, which we are pleased to formalize and expand upon with today’s announcement,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “The players believe our partnership with the NHL and You Can Play will foster an inclusive hockey environment from the grassroots level to the professional ranks.”

 

Where the You Can Play Project has been hugely popular, it did encounter a bump in the road in July last year when Cam Jansen made disparaging comments about homosexuals during a radio show. However, the issue was handled candidly and Jansen has since been in constant contact with Burke and the You Can Play team, according to a story on NHL.com.

 

One can only hope that You Can Play Project will be seeking to extend its partnerships outside of hockey and strike up similar partnerships with other professional sports organisations not only in the US and Canada, but across the globe. As said, If you can play, you can play.


 

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I’ve recently seen a huge uptick in twitter and facebook accounts that promote hockey life style. There are legitimate companies out there, like Gongshow, Bardown, Sauce to name but a few, that have made a business out of the hockey life style.

 

Some of these ‘hockey life’ accounts are actually quite funny, but some of them are just downright terrible and sometimes give a totally different view of hockey than what the players actually go through. There are accounts out there that think that hockey is all about parties and wheeling. Yes, that does happen, but players these days are some of the most fine tuned athletes. Given the rules of the team and the intense schedules, partying is not the first thing guys do when they finish a game. Like said, parties happen.

 

As a result of all these accounts I thought that I’d give an insight into what the ‘hockey life’ is all about.

 

As mentioned on the blog before, I have a regular day job that is the main breadwinner for our family. My hockey life revolves around my job, weekly off ice training, on ice training and games. The only time that I have for drinks is to have maybe a beer or two after games and then a few more at the end of season party before I start the off season training.

 

Hockey life to me is this: it means late nights in the car, driving to training and games. It means lonely nights in the gym when you’re working out trying to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout the season. It means getting up early in the morning before work and going for a run. It means sacrifices and accommodating attitude from the family so that the ‘head of the household’ is off most weekends chasing his dream.

 

Hockey life means that hockey doesn’t stop at the last buzzer of the last game of the season. It is a process that takes 12 months. It is far removed from the glamour that sometimes gets associated with the game. But the fact of the matter is, despite every sacrifice that I make, I wouldn’t change it. The locker room is like a sanctuary, where all the days’ worries and troubles wash away. The minute you step over the threshold, you feel like you are with brothers. It is through thick and thin with your teammates. Sometimes tempers flare on the ice and among teammates, but once you are over that it is back to normal.

 

So yes, hockey life isn’t all about wheeling and girls. It’s about hard work and brotherhood with a bunch of guys who come together for a common cause. That is essentially what hockey life is about. 


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Zoltan (insert Dude, Where’s My Car joke here) Hetenyi has gotten himself into a bit of trouble over in the US. The Hungarian puck stopper, who also played in the Finnish SM-Liiga for Jokerit last season, has reportedly been arrested on three counts of sexual battery. Additionally to the sexual battery charges, Hetenyi reportedly shouted that he hates America and other racial slurs.

 

The incident took place Duluth Georgia when Hetenyi and his team Orlando Solar Bears from the ECHL  were in Duluth to take on Gwinnet Gladiators. According to Gwinnet Daily Post, there was no mention in Hetenyi’s arrest record on whether he was intoxicated, but well, chances are he might have had one or two drinks. According to his arrest report, Hetenyi wanted to demonstrate his glove and blocker hands to a waitress at a local Duluth establishment. Hetenyi, according to the police report, grabbed a waitresses buttocks with two hands (did this twice) and then grabbed her breasts.

 

Following the arrest, Orlando Solar Bears have announced that they have cut all ties with Hetenyi following his arrest, making a serious dent in his plans to push for the higher tiers of North American hockey. Hetenyi has split his time this season with the Solar Bears in the ECHL and Peoria Rivermen in the AHL. It is unclear at this stage whether Hetenyi will be seeking playing opportunities in Europe or if he is likely to return to his native Hungary, or if he will have a spot on the Rivermen roster.


 

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Finnish defence man Kimmo Timonen will be playing his 1,000th NHL career game tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Timonen’s story is one of inspiration to a young aspiring athlete. His story is about never giving up and fighting to achieve his dream.

 

Timonen is not the biggest of players and in NHL standards, should have never become a established defender in the league. At 178cm (5’10”), he is overshadowed in size by many frontline defenders in the NHL, however, Timonen has made it work. He has an unrelenting work ethic and has a great eye for the game, which has helped him along the way.

 

When he was drafted by Los Angeles Kings in 1993, he was told that he would never play in the NHL as he was not big enough, he wasn’t enough of a deterrent to play on the power play. However, Timonen, now in his 14th NHL season, has made it work in the NHL and has become one of the most respected D-men in the game. He has appeared in four NHL All-Star games, and has played under 70 games in a season only twice in his career (1998-1999 and 1999-2000, his first two seasons in the NHL).

 

Timonen made his break with the Nashville Predators and was a key part of the teams’ defence during its formative years. He was even named captain of the team for the 2006-2007 NHL season, however he was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers during the off season. Timonen has been a core element of the Flyers defence since then and has now taken an even bigger role with the absence of Chris Pronger.

 

Timonen is known for logging big minutes on the ice and has this season averaged 21minutes and 16 seconds of ice time per game, only Barydon Coburn and Claude Giroux have logged more minutes per game on the Flyers’ roster than Timonen, who is 38. Not bad going for the ‘old’ guy. At the time of writing this, Timonen is ranked 4th on the Flyers’ point scoring and is one of only five players who have a positive +/- rating on the Flyers’ roster.

 

I think one of the moments that will stick with me from Timonen’s career is a picture of him from the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Finals. I saw a picture of him in a Finnish paper and the guy looked physically tired. The tiredness and the injuries he was carrying was visible on his face, but when you heard him speak and read the interview, there was a burning desire to win. The desire of reaching that goal by squeezing every last little drop of energy out of your body, no matter how much it hurt and no matter how badly something at the back of the head was screaming “no more!”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. Timonen said then, and has said after every lost Stanley Cup Play-Off series, that he has a taste of s**t in his mouth as the ultimate goal was not realised. A sign of a true winner, when nothing else except hoisting the cup will do. Timonen admitted in an interview with Finnish Urheilulehti that winning the Stanley Cup is what drives him.

 

So ahead of tonight’s game, congratulations on your achievement Kimmo. It has been a long hard road that you have traveled and hopefully one day, you will realize your dream and hoist the cup. 

 

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Jarkko Ruutu, a man who has probably caused more controversies during his career than he has scored goals. Fact is Ruutu is loved for his antics (I’m a big fan of his style. When it’s within the rules of the game). He is a player who has been typecast as a dirty player, sure there are incidents which I agree that have been dirty, but Ruutu is a clever player and knows how to get under your skin and even make you feel uncomfortable playing against him.

 

What I also like about Ruutu is his back story and his journey to the NHL, which wasn’t easy and required a lot of hard work and sacrifices. One could say his journey to the big leagues was inspirational. 

So why blog about Ruutu, who has not been in the NHL since 2011-2012 season after he left the Ducks. Ruutu has caused an uproar in Finland after his hit on KalPa’s Artturi Lehkonen. The Sm-Liiga disciplinary board has assessed a three game suspension for Ruutu for hitting a player without a puck. Even in the disciplinary notes, the leagues disciplinarian says, “The contact itself is clean but comes in late.” The suspension has of course sparked mass debate within the Finnish hockey populous on Twitter. There are some who say that Ruutu is a menace to society and those that feel three games was too much and there should have been no suspension at all. I think, where the hit was clean, it was late and it is always unfortunate to see a player sidelined with a concussion.

 

I’m not going to start wading into the whole hit and the suspension, but rather on the comments that have since ensued. This morning Kalpa’s director Kimmo Kapanen was quoted saying “Ruutu told Lehkonen at the start of the game that it would be lights out for him.”

 

OK, so Ruutu’s comment might come across as intentional that he did actually knock out Lehkonen, but who in our playing careers has not shouted something at the opposition. Hockey is such an intense sport where you try to get the upper hand from your opponents by any means necessary, be it skill, contact or psychological. It’s letting your opponent know that they better keep their head up at all times. I mean look at Esa Tikkanen, he was one of the motor mouths of the league when he played, or if you read the Theo Fleury autobiography, it looks like it’s common practice in hockey to give eye surgeries with a stick or to kill someone. Yet, we’ve not seen intentionally anyone carve out ones eye or actually kill someone on the ice after a threat has been made. Yes, there have been some damn right dirty plays in the NHL and in hockey in general, I accept that and I would like to think that every hockey fan is willing to put their hands up and say “hey our sport isn’t clean at times.”

 

It’s pointless for me to argue whether Ruutu said such comments to intentionally hunt Lehkonen as I have only seen the incident above and did not see the entire game. But seriously, you would have to be pretty demented as a hockey player if you are out there intentionally trying to injure your opposition. Where I do think that the hit was late, I think Lehkonen’s concussion was a result of his head making contact with the ice. Never the less if he had been in a position to receive the check and had he been in control of the puck and been aware of Ruutu, he would probably have skated away unscathed.

 

The other two problems I have from this incident relate to the wider problem in the Finnish SM-Liiga. Since the Ville Peltonen – Semir Ben Amor incident, the games this season have been relatively non-physical. I will put my hand up and say that I have seen less games this season than last (Thanks to  a poor internet connection). There is less and less in terms of big (clean) hits and physical play and it went all the way to 2013 till the league saw its first fight. What is lacking in the Ruutu – Lehkonen incident is the response from Kalpa players. If you look at Ruutu, while he is skating towards centre ice, he is prepared to drop the gloves and pay for his hit (as he would do anywhere else), but alas, the Kalpa players make no attempts to respond to it. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen in the league and I’d argue that in 90% of incidents SM-Liiga players do not respond as you would see, say O’Reilley responding to the hit that took out Gabriel Landesgok. Take a look at this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txYJ6ez52Hg Your teammate is laying on the ice, injured and yet there is no response apart from a few push and shove attempts. 

 

Since I went back to playing proper hockey, as in not recreational hockey, one of the first things our coach drilled into us was that if anyone runs our goalie or a teammate was that we had to stick up for them and to make the opposition know that we weren’t going to take any s**t. I’ve stepped up once or twice and I’m not a fighter type of player but to me, a response is a natural reaction. Is that an old-school way of thinking? Or have I just been turned into a candy ass hockey fan who expects such a thing from watching too much NHL hockey?

 

I’m not saying that you turn the league to a total gongshow, but players need to be responsible for their actions on the ice. That is why there is the ‘code’ that has been often talked about. A couple of non-Finns that I’ve spoken to about the SM-Liiga say that the league is boring. Yes, it is compared to the NHL and the first comments always is, there’s hardly any hits or that you see bigger hits in a bush-league game. The product has definitely suffered as a result of the lacklustre disciplinary action that has taken away the players’ right to respond to dirty plays and the lack of physicality will only hinder the Finnish prospect production.

 

The couple of rookies I’ve had my eye on this year (Mikael Granlund and Sami Vatanen) are helplessly behind on physical play and physical development compared to some of their rookie class mates of this season, mainly from North America. The emphasis in Finland is more on flow and creativity where the NA school of hockey seems to pay more emphasis to speed and size and let’s face it; if these kids are being primed for the NHL, which is fast and hard physically, it is the right thing to do. Disclaimer: I know the North American school of hockey focuses on other areas as well, but that is just an example. The Finnish prospects are nearly not as NHL ready in their draft year as their counterparts.

 

All in all, hockey is a contact sport and highly entertaining when played as such. I doubt no-one in their right mind would like to see the NHL or the SM-Liiga for that matter to turn into a league where there’s no hitting, no one says a word, not even to call for a pass and the opponents just blow kisses to one another. But one thing is for sure. Hockey on all levels needs to get rid of cheap shots and head shots.

 

As this is a long rambling post, I’d be keen to have people share their views in the comments section. Let’s start a discussion around these issues. 

 

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