Sunday, 5 October 2008

The First Weekend

Well, the weekend is over once again, and I'm a bigger number than I was yesterday. That's cool, though, and I'm ok with getting older. We all do it, and it seems to be inevitable. It almost feels like 1994 since the New York Rangers are the top team in the NHL. Thankfully, two games don't make a full season, and there's still a ton of hockey to be played. I think the Europe experiment went well as it appeared that both Prague and Stockholm sold out their arenas to watch NHL action. Can they do it for 41 home games? No clue. But the fact that they did it more often than Phoenix, Atlanta, and Miami have in the last year suggests that the Sunbelt dream might be dead. Exhibition hockey in those cities might fly, but having franchises there do not. However, since I'm not sitting in an NHL office in New York City, what do I know?

In any case, here are you headlines from the past weekend. I'm still recovering from eating too much cake and drinking too much beer, but I'll have some good stuff coming up this week.

  • In a somewhat surprising move, the Vancouver Organizing Committee has shutout Right To Play, a charity that was covered here on HBIC, over a sponsorship problem. VANOC has told Right To Play that the official Olympic sponsors get precendence over Right To Play's sponsors, and that if Right To Play wants to set up shop in the athlete's village, they need to drop their sponsorship information. Now, I'm not one to criticize an organizing committee because they do need sponsors to run the programming, but we're talking about a charity that started out of the Olympics! Right To Play started in 1992 and was called Olympic Aid. They've since grown much larger than just as an Olympic charitable organization, and Vancouver won't let them be at the village? Poor form, VANOC. Very poor form, especially with the number of athletes involved who contribute to Right To Play.
  • It's funny how the Lightning have started the season 0-2 this year after investing in over-the-hill and never-was forwards while trading away some decent talent. Filip Kuba looked solid on the Ottawa blueline, but Andrej Meszaros was rather invisible for Tampa. Goaltending doesn't appear to be an issue for the Lightning, but those six guys between the forwards and the goaltenders are softer than melted butter, and that's going to hurt Tampa Bay all season long. Make no mistake that teams like Philly and Boston will hurt T-Bay whenever they play them with their large, physical forwards.
  • The Montreal Canadiens shed themselves of some baggage today, waiving goaltender Marc Denis and defenceman Alex Henry. Why did Montreal waste money and paper signing Denis? He will be a career AHL goaltender for the rest of his career unless the NHL decides to expand again. And that won't happen for a long, long time (I hope).
  • Montreal also demoted Max Pacioretty and Yannick Weber to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday. Don't get me wrong here, but Bob Gainey is doing both good and bad. The good is that both Pacioretty and Weber can hone their skills in the AHL and make them better for the future, as well as being valuable call-ups if there are injuries. The bad is that Pacioretty looked NHL-ready, and could have been a very exciting rookie to have on the big squad this season. The best part of this news is that Gainey, through excellent drafting and scouting, has assembled an impressive future for the Canadiens.
  • Ondrej Pavelec, last year's AHL Calder Cup winning goaltender, has refused to report to the AHL's Chicago Wolves after being demoted by the Atlanta Thrashers. His agent has stated that his client will get on a plane and go home. I'm not sure if that's Kladno, Czech Republic or somewhere else, but I'm quite certain there are a number of teams - both in the NHL or in Europe - that would love to have the 21 year-old suit up for them. If nothing is done in the short-term, I could see the Thrashers trading him by mid-November for some decent NHL-ready talent.
  • The IIHF's Champions Hockey League launched a new website as they prepare for their upcoming games. It's laid out fairly well, and it seems to be pretty user friendly. In one of the more interesting stories on the site this weekend was a story about Oleg Tverdovsky's rough play in the Russian League. Oleg? You're kidding me, right? Maybe he really was scared of the "bigger" guys in the NHL?
Ok, that's all for me today. I need some sleep to work off this sugar-induced, beer-contributing haze that I've got myself into. I'll have some more stories this week as we build towards October 9, and the start of the NHL season in North America!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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