There have been a number of stories that have been reported today from the various leagues across North America. Some deal with future events, some deal with relocation of teams to new cities and new leagues, and some are just cool stories. There was a suspension and a trade today, so we need to cover the business side of the game as well. With all the stuff that's been going on, let's get cracking on a busy day in the hockey world. I'll try to elaborate as much as possible on each story.
- Kari Lehtonen is now part of the Dallas Stars. Lehtonen lost his status as the top goaltender in Atlanta with the emergence of Ondrej Pavelec. Combine that with inconsistent play and a penchant for injuries, and the Thrashers gave up on him. Coming back to Atlanta from the Stars will be highly-touted defensive prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick. Not a bad deal for the Thrashers, but you have to wonder what may happen with Marty Turco and his UFA status approaching.
- Goaltender Ray Emery's hip may need surgery to correct his woes, and this has the Flyers worried with only Michael Leighton to man to the crease. With Turco's status in the air at this point, the talks may heat up between Dallas and Philly for the goaltender.
- The Pittsburgh Penguins have expressed interest in hosting the 2010-11 NHL All-Star Game in the brand-new Consol Energy Center slated to open next season. They have also expressed interest in hosting the NCAA's Frozen Four tournament with Robert Morris University. This would an excellent opportunity for the NHL and the NCAA to get into a market that will be buzzing due to the hockey activity.
- Team Canada breathed a huge sigh of relief today when it was announced that centerman Ryan Getzlaf's sprained ankle showed no significant ligament or muscle damage. There was talk of Getzlaf possibly missing the Winter Olympics with his injury, but it appears that he will be ready to go by the time the men's hockey tournament begins. Honestly, I'd take Getzlaf over Jeff Carter or Vincent Lecavalier at this point in the season any day of the week.
- The NHL will expand its kickoff weekend in Europe for the 2010-11 season by sending six teams to three European cities. The Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes will square off in the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic in what appears to be the best matchup. The San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets will tangle in the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. And in what seems like a poor choice of teams right now, the Carolina Hurricanes will meet the Minnesota Wild in the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. The 'Canes and Wild will play October 7 and 8; the Jackets and Sharks will play on October 8 and 9; the Bruins and 'Yotes will play on October 9 and 10.
- The AHL's Albany River Rats appear to be on the move. According to reports, a press conference scheduled tomorrow will announce that the River Rats are moving closer to their NHL affiliate, the Carolina Hurricanes, by moving into Charlotte, North Carolina. There's also word that the team will change their name from "River Rats" to "Checkers". There's no word on any other franchises moving into Albany at this time, but it seems that anything can happen in the AHL.
- Speaking of which, the Edmonton Oilers announced today that they are resurrecting their AHL franchise. The Edmonton Road Runners, who have been suspended for a couple of years now, will move to Oklahoma City for the 2010-11 season. Indications are that the management team of the former Oklahoma City Blazers of the CHL will be brought onboard, and that the franchise will hold a "name the team" contest before the start of the next season. Edmonton's agreement with the Springfield Falcons will end as a result of this decision.
- Anaheim now sits as the only NHL franchise without an affiliate for the 2010-11 season in the AHL. Springfield could be a destination for this one season, but the Ducks already walked away from the Portland Pirates due to the immense distance between the teams. I think Springfield will be temporary, but only the Ducks know what they will do for the upcoming season.
- Down Goes Brown, an incredibly funny and smart blog, turns two years-old. Get over there and wish Sean some good wishes. And read his stuff. You won't be disappointed.
- Great story from the hockey world as Wendel Clark lends his name in helping the Chase McEachern Hockey for Heart Tournament in Alliston, Ontario. Chase was an 11 year-old boy who was diagnosed with an atrial flutter which caused him to be monitored whenever he played sports. He started a campaign to raise funds for schools and public places to purchase AEDs, or automated external defibrillators. Unfortunately, Chase lost his battle after collapsing in gym class. Anyone who raises $10,000 gets to participate in the game against the pros headlined by Clark in one of 14 Ontario communities! If you'd like to donate to an excellent cause, please head over to the Hockey For Heart website and give what you can. Your dollars will be a life-saver. Literally.
- Today's a big day in hockey history as well. Back in 1966, the NHL decided to double the size of the NHL by admitting six new expansion teams in their own division. The newly-formed West Division contained the California Seals, the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota North Stars, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St. Louis Blues. The main motivation was money as the NHL looked to gain bigger television contracts like the NFL and MLB, but another factor that was growing behind the scenes was the rising of a rival hockey league. Of course, this expansion led to the NHL becoming the dominant hockey league on the planet, so this date in history is quite important.
- In a rather unfortunate story, the IHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks, the league's top team thus far this season, has announced that they will cease operations at the end of this season, ending a 50-year run of professional hockey in Muskegon. The Lumberjacks average only 2835 fans - good for third in overall attendance - but nowhere near the IHL's leader in the Fort Wayne Komets who average 8080 people per game.
- But with every dark cloud comes a silver lining. Indianapolis businessman Josh Mervis has announced that he will bring a USHL team to Muskegon for the 2010-11 season. The USHL features players ranging from 16-20 years of age. The new USHL Muskegon Lumberjacks was a franchise owned by the Mervises that was dormant for the last four years after closing its doors in Rochester, Minnesota. With Dubuque, Iowa joining the USHL next season as well, the USHL will feature 16 teams.
- Lastly, there's a new button on the right. I've decided that I need to keep up with the rest of the hockey world, and I've joined the Twitter revolution. This does not mean that I will "tweet" with reckless abandon, however. I simply post information that I find funny or relevant or both. If you want to get onboard with HBIC's Twitter movement, click the button on the right.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!