Monday, 2 September 2013

Gold, Money And Riches

It seems as though there was a plethora of riches handed out today as one team brought home some new pieces of gold while two players struck it rich with new contracts. If Labor Day was all about the everyday, hard-working man getting a break, the three stories today are all about the hard work that went into something bigger. For Team Canada, Corey Crawford, and Ryan O'Byrne, Labor Day was a particularly good day!

Canada Wins Gold

I wrote about this on Saturday, but Canada and Norway were to meet yesterday in the Four Nations Cup in Sochi, Russia for the gold medal after Canada had beaten Russia in one semi-final while Norway downed the Czech Republic in the other. While I anticipated this being a close game between the two sledge hockey powers, it actually turned out to be quite the opposite as Canada hammered Norway by a 5-0 score to win gold!

Kudos go out to the entire team on bringing home yet another gold medal! Greg Westlake had a pair of goals while Adam Dixon, Marc Dorion, and Billy Bridges recorded singles. Corbin Watson had a relatively easy effort in stopping four shots for the shutout win. With this win, Canada should be close to being ready for the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi where they will go in as a favorite. Congratulations, men, on an outstanding tournament!

Crawford Gets Paid

From one Olympic team to an Olympic hopeful, things were pretty good on this side of the pond for Corey Crawford today. Crawford signed a six-year, $36 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks to cement his place in the Chicago crease for the immediate future. After having helped the team to a Stanley Cup parade this summer, the payoff for Crawford was looming although I'm not sure many had him pegged at $6 million per season. I like Corey Crawford, and I have him pegged as the backup goalie for Team Canada in Sochi. His contract, however, follows a worrying trend of awarding massive contracts to players who may or may not be core players. Jonathan Toews? Absolutely. Patrick Kane or Patrick Sharp? Without doubt. But what happened to the last guy who won Chicago a Stanley Cup? Antti Niemi is now toiling for the San Jose Sharks. And he's not the only one.

Outside of Jonathan Quick, the last four goaltenders who won Stanley Cups were Corey Crawford, Tim Thomas, Antti Niemi, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Thomas has his rights traded after taking a year off from the Bruins, Fleury is seeing a sports psychologist to right his head after bombing in recent playoff years, and Niemi was shipped off to San Jose. While Crawford outdueled Quick this past playoff season, is there any reason to think he's part of the core in Chicago? Right now, that answer would be a yes, but the NHL is a "what have you done for me lately" league.

Michael Leighton, who played for Philadelphia in losing to Chicago in 2009, is now in the KHL. Roberto Luongo was nearly run out of town by the Vancouver Canucks over the last two years after helping them to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. If Chicago falters over the next couple of years, Crawford could just be another footnote alongside Thomas, Niemi, and Fleury. Unless, of course, he continues to win big games and keep Chicago as a contender.

Money may talk, but keep an eye on what Crawford does for Chicago this season under his new contract.

O'Byrne o'the Czech Republic

Former Toronto Maple Leaf and Montreal Canadien Ryan O'Byrne has decided to walk away from another potential two-way deal with the Habs in favor of guaranteed money in the KHL! O'Byrne signed a two-year contract with HC LEV Praha, ensuring that Canada may have another former NHLer ready for play at the Spengler Cup this Christmas. While financial info wasn't disclosed, there's no doubt that it was more than he would have made playing with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs.

O'Byrne was never an offensive dynamo, but he was a very serviceable defenceman. He recorded 39 points and 369 penalty minutes in 308 NHL games with with Colorado, Toronto, and Montreal, and was drafted 79th overall by the Canadiens in 2003 out of the NCAA's Cornell University. While he wasn't flashy or a highlight-reel player, O'Byrne was the last man to wear #3 in Montreal before it was retired in honour of Emile "Butch" Bouchard in 2009.

Best of luck in the Czech Republic and the KHL, Ryan! Look forward to seeing you in Davos, Switzerland playing for Canada!

There are a few Labor Day updates for you. It's going to be a busy week for me as The Hockey Show does a remote starting at 1:00pm CT on Thursday from the on-campus pub known as The Hub. I'll be live all afternoon during commercial breaks as we give away a ton of Bisons hockey tickets, a pile of merchandise, and some other hockey gear as we work our way to the regular hour of The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT where we'll feature a number of Bisons players! It should be a good time, so make sure you tune in!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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