Lots of hockey stories have developed over the course of the last week, and I've neglected to make mention of these. However, Hockey Blog In Canada is committed to catching everyone up on news they may have missed, and that's what Rapid Fire Blogging is all about. Kick back, grab a beverage, and get ready for as much news as you can handle because it's time to get this article started!
- One of the big stories out of the NHL today was one of the worst-kept secrets in Tampa Bay's hiring of Barry Melrose as the Lightning's newest head coach, the sixth in franchise history. Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz, two former NHL players, will join the mulleted one as his assistant coaches. Personally, I think the Lightning are taking a step backwards as Melrose hasn't coached in the NHL since 1995. Time will tell, of course, but this seems to be a very questionable move, especially with some of the coaches still on the market.
- The NHL announced today that Anaheim Ducks' owner Henry Samueli has been suspended until further notice from any activity with his team or in the NHL after he pleaded guilty to perjury. He admitted to making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Michael Schulman, current alternate governor of the Ducks, will report to Commissioner Gary Bettman in Samueli's absence. Jim Kelley of Sportsnet.ca makes an interesting argument as to how Mr. Bettman should handle Mr. Samueli's guilty plea. This is one story that could turn out to be costly for the Ducks.
- The waiver wire has been hot in the last couple of days as washed-up goalies and lost causes hit the open market. Ray Emery, previously of the Ottawa Senators, is a free agent after being bought out by the Senators. Dan Cloutier is technically still with the Los Angeles Kings, despite being offered a buyout, because he feels he is medically unfit to play, thus ensuring the Kings have to continue to pay him. Marc Denis was placed on waivers by the Lightning in the hopes they can rid themselves of his brutal play. The Toronto Maple Leafs placed goaltender Andrew Raycroft and forwards Kyle Wellwood on waivers after they lost patience with those players. Toronto will also buyout Darcy Tucker, making him an unrestricted free agent. Good luck to these players in finding new homes!
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are finding out that success does not always breed an attraction for free agents. Gary Roberts basically confirmed that he will not be back this season in the Steel City, joining former Penguins Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa on the open market. While Roberts praised Pittsburgh's fans, his agent confirmed that the Penguins cannot offer what they are seeking. Good luck, Gary! You'll be missed in Pittsburgh!
- The ECHL announced yesterday that the Pensacola Ice Pilots had their membership to the ECHL terminated. The termination comes as a result of the Pensacola ownership group notifying the ECHL that it did not intend to play in 2008-09 or any season thereafter. In the ECHL Bylaws, failure to ice a team is grounds for immediate termination of the membership. All Pensacola players now become free agents, and I am disappointed for the fans in Pensacola that supported this franchise. The ownership group should be ashamed of themselves for not working harder to make hockey work.
- On the upside, the Toledo Walleye are now accepting deposits for club seats in their new arena! The Lucas County Downtown Arena is currently being built in Toledo, Ohio, and will begin play in October of 2009 in the ECHL! Congratulations to the Walleye, and to the people of Toledo on your new hockey franchise!
- Hockey USA announced that former ECHL coach Ron Rolston will coach the 2009 USA World Junior hockey team in Ottawa, Ontario at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Joining Mr. Rolston behind the bench will be another ECHL alumnus, P.K. O’Handley, as well as Nate Leaman and goaltender coach Jeff Blashill. Good luck in Ottawa, gentlemen!
- There were also some division and conference realignments in the ECHL that went down at the recent ECHL Board of Governors meeting. In the American Conference, there will be two divisions of 13 teams: the North Division with seven teams, and the South Division with six teams. In the National Conference, there will be two divisions of ten teams: the West Division with five teams, and the Pacific Division with five teams. The North Division will be represented by Cincinnati, Dayton, Elmira, Johnstown, Reading, Trenton and Wheeling. The South Division will be represented by Augusta, Charlotte, Florida, Gwinnett, Mississippi and South Carolina. The West Division will be represented by Alaska, Idaho, Phoenix, Utah and Victoria. And, last but not least, the Pacific Division will be represented by Bakersfield, Fresno, Las Vegas, Ontario and Stockton. For more information, please click here.
- For readers in St. John's Newfoundland, you get some pre-season AHL action coming your way! Mile One Centre will play host to the Hamilton Bulldogs' training camp, as well as a mini-tournament featuring the three Canadian AHL teams - Hamilton, Toronto, and Manitoba. For a city that supported the AHL very passionately for 14 years, this is a nice gesture by the Bulldogs. It would have been much more respectable had the Marlies done it, since the Marlies were most recently called the St. John's Maple Leafs, but who am I to criticize, especially when it deals with one franchise's history?
- The AHL's Springfield Falcons named Jeff Truitt as their new head coach. Mr. Truitt spent time honing his skill in the WHL as the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets where he posted a record of 113-76-18-9 in three seasons. Mr. Truitt also won a Memorial Cup with the Rockets, and helped Canada behind the bench on several occasions. Good luck on your new position, Mr. Truitt!
- Hockey Canada announced that Benoit Groulx of the Gatineau Olympiques will take over head coaching duties for the Canadian World Junior team. Mr. Groulx guided his team to the QMJHL Championship this year, despite them not being a favourite to win. He'll be joined behind the bench by Dave Cameron, who coaches the OHL's St. Michael's Majors, and Willie Desjardins, head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Good luck in Ottawa as well, gentlemen!
- Just in case you were wondering, the IIHF World Junior Championship is only 184 days away. The tournament will be opened on Friday, December 26, 2008 at 2:30pm EST with a game at the Ottawa Civic Centre between Latvia and Russia. Canada's first game is at 7:30pm that night as the Canadians take on the Czech Republic. Team USA will square off at 3:30pm EST on the 26th against Germany.
- The new Continental Hockey League/Russian Super League (CHL-R, acronymed by me) in Russia has all the makings of the WHA except for one thing: it's in Russia. Now, don't get me wrong. Russia is a great place to play hockey, and many players have gone over there and done very well for themselves. But let's face it - the NHL is where players want to play. Columbus Blue Jackets' draft pick Nikita Filatov already told the CHL-R that he wasn't interested in playing there. Evgeni Malkin was reportedly offered a contract for approximately $12.5 million per year tax-free, but wants to stay in Pittsburgh. You can have Chris Simon, though. We don't really need him as it is.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!