With the weather warming across the Canadian prairies, the heatwave has brought with it the best time of the year for our outdoor hockey league: playoffs! Because of this, and because I'm insanely busy at work today, this will be a short look at some of the stuff going on in hockey. It's nice to stay in touch with some of the weirder stuff that has happened as of late, so let's take a look at some of the stories from across the hockey world.
- Major news out of the St. Louis Blues today as they announced that they have placed former all-star goaltender Manny Legace on waivers today. Legace has had an up-and-down season with injuries and his play, and the emergence of Chris Mason as a cheaper starting goalie forced the Blues to cut ties with Legace. The strangest part? Mason's explanation as to why he's been playing better: "The 32-year old Mason told FSN that he attributes his recent string of play to the fact that he feels lighter after getting his eyebrows tweezed and nose hairs waxed on January 15th". Um... what?!?
- Staffan Kronwall, one of Toronto's supposed prized up-and-comers, is on the move. The Washington Capitals claimed the defenceman off re-entry waivers today. While Kronwall has never reached his full potential in terms of being a full-time NHL defenceman, he had shown flashes of brilliance on a woeful team. With the Capitals, he should flourish in their transition game.
- Sean Avery appears to be on the fast-track back to The Big Apple. The Rangers are in Dallas tonight for a game against the Stars, and it is expected that Rangers' GM Glen Sather will speak to Stars' GM Les Jackson regarding the possibility of re-acquiring the troubled winger. The Stars would have to work out an agreement to send him to the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack, who seemingly are willing to accept him, before the Rangers could claim him on re-entry waivers, thus splitting the cost of Avery's salary with the Stars. The AHL's Manitoba Moose, with whom the Stars have a working relationship for development, have clearly stated that they want no part of Avery's traveling show. Whether or not Avery gets back to the NHL this season is simply a matter of logistics at this point.
- Here's a pretty good screen grab, compliments of Uni Watch Blog, of Brad Richardson of the Los Angeles Kings in their game against the Ottawa Senators. Or should that be Richarson? Oops. Apparently, Richardson played in his new name for two periods before a properly-named jersey was given to him.
- Great move by the Rangers to honour Adam Graves on February 3 by retiring his #9. Graves was a scoring, rugged, slick, fighting winger who literally filled any hole in the Rangers' line-up when asked. Adam, along with his family, were brought to MSG for the retirement, and all the legends were on hand - Messier, Bathgate, Richter, Leetch, and many others. The players wore a patch in Graves' honour for the game. Classy move by the franchise in showing their respects for one of the classiest men to ever play the game.
- ESPN ran a survey of the NHL players, asking them all sort of questions. While I disagree with some of the comments, these were the players talking so they must be true. My comments will follow.
- Jarome Iginla was voted best leader in the NHL by 22% of the 193 players surveyed. I can see this. Iginla plays hard every shift, and he literally makes everyone around him better. He never shies away from a question, and he does it all - hits, scores, fights.
- 54% thought that Marty Turco would be the goalie who would make the best forward or defenceman. Marty struggled stopping pucks earlier this season, so this might be a little foreshadowing. Seriously, though, he handles the puck extremely well, so I can see this. Brodeur was voted second, and it's no surprise that the top two puck-handling goalies would lead the list.
- 16% of respondants stated they would trade lives with Alexander Ovechkin. I'm not sure I'd agree with this, although Ovechkin does seem to have a lot of fun. And to be that skilled? I can see some players being a little envious.
- 52% thought Sidney Crosby was the biggest on-ice complainer. While it's true that he yaps with the officials all the time, I'm quite certain a few other guys did that as well and were labelled as whiners - namely, Gretzky and Lemieux. It's all about perspective, though, since Chris Pronger received the second-most votes.
- No surprise that 8% of the players thought that Jarome Iginla would make the best President or Prime Minister. What was surprising was that 5% voted that Chris Chelios would be a good President. I guess if everyone else in the White House is a septuagenarian, why not add another?
- 24% thought Flyer fans were the most disruptive. I'm quite certain that Philly fans have a stranglehold on all sports in terms of their "disruptiveness". Personally, I love their passion for their teams, and how everything is life or death with them. The NHL needs more fans like those that attend Flyers game.
- 18% voted that Kerry Fraser was the best referee. Don't let his hair intimidate you. Fraser, one the most tenured referees in the NHL, does a very good job in this writer's opinion.
- 47% saw Las Vegas as the best expansion city. If Jerry Bruckheimer is involved, this may fly. However, the IHL's Thunder used to and ECHL's Wranglers currently draw less than 5000 fans per game. People don't go to Vegas to watch sports. They go to bet on sports. Interestingly, Winnipeg got 16% of the votes - surprising since there's absolutely no way the Manitoban city can afford to be an NHL city.
- 82% of players want to continue playing in the Olympics after Vancouver in 2010. Without a doubt, all of the Russians want to win in Moscow in 2014. And it's a huge honour to represent your country while playing for an Olympic gold medal. This one didn't surprise me whatsoever.
- And Patrick Marleau was voted the most underrated player by 8% of the players surveyed. Interesting, to say the least. Marleau doesn't benefit from the "east coast bias" of the media, and that might be why.
- Gary Bettman said Wednesday night that reports of the Phoenix Coyotes' demise are "ridiculous". Let me get this straight: a franchise that has lost money every year since arriving in the desert, has been sold twice already, and has one of the most insane arena deals ever isn't on the endangered species list? Spare me the rhetoric. The Coyotes are officially the Montreal Expos - living on league monies while they wait for someone to facilitate their move to a more hockey-friendly market.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!