Tag Archives: USA Hockey

Three ways to improve the NHL All Star Game

Let’s face it, most people over the age of 18 don’t care for the NHL’s annual All Star Game, but it’s still an important part of the sport nonetheless.

For starters, the host city is provided with a boost in tourism for a weekend in January, while the local community receives more attention and support from the league in terms of growing the game for the duration leading up to that weekend and beyond– making it more accessible, more affordable and more inclusive, ideally.

It’s because of the good public relations and the charitable efforts made that the All Star Game should never go away.

That said, it could use some improvements to try to bring back the casual onlookers of the sport or even the diehards that tune out for the night and would rather watch paint dry.

Here’s three ways to try to bring more eyes to the game and at the very least boost its ratings on a weekend when not much else is happening to distract viewers from that season’s best NHLers having a little fun (how dare they).

Make it like the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

Want to further exemplify how the game is continuing to evolve, while getting younger and faster? Look no further than introducing a 23 and under team inspired by the 2016 World Cup of Hockey’s Team North America to the 3-on-3 format of the All Star Game!

Simply go back to naming teams after players and having them select their teammates and/or opponents, then pit the 23-year-olds and younger against the 30-year-olds and older and see if Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Rasmus Dahlin can beat Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin (assuming he wouldn’t skip the game) and John Carlson.

Want an added challenge? Bring back the Young Stars Game for players ranging in age from 18 to 20 and have them take on each other in an East vs. West format or simply throw them into the fire with the 23 and under team, 24 to 29-year-old team and 30 and older team (or something like that).

But seriously, either adopt the World Cup of Hockey teams for a 3-on-3 battle, mix it up with a young vs. old mentality or just pick who goes to the All Star Game and let them create their teams.

Imagine a team solely comprised of goaltenders. Now that’s worth tuning in for.

Better yet, let’s have the Elite Women’s team take on NHLers in a Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs inspired matchup or have Marie-Philip Poulin lace up her skates alongside Crosby, while Hilary Knight suits up with Matthews and unleash the fury that is all of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey coming together for an ultimate 3-on-3 battle.

Make it a weekend of skills

If most fans over the age of 18 are tuning in for All Star weekend festivities just to see who’s the fastest skater, who has the hardest shot, what kind of crazy relay race Gatorade has come up this year or the all-new addition of a 3-on-3 women’s game to the skills competition, then why not make it a two-night main event?

The Hardest Shot competition, for example, wouldn’t get to be featured on both nights with the possibility of players altering their sticks within legal manners to try to get more speed on their shot– unless you wanted to add something like that as a curveball.

If you don’t want to expand the number of events, then get creative and allow a little tampering for players to study what they did on the first night, learn what their competition did better and try to beat that on the second night.

Alternatively, the league could just have have a mixture of traditional skills (Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, Accuracy Shooting) and newer competitions (Shooting Stars, Save Streak, Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game) spread out over two nights with the return of the Breakaway Challenge, Skills Challenge Relay, Premier Passer, Puck Control Relay, Elimination Shootout and whatever you can come with to split each night with six different events.

Bring back the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format or have the divisions compete against each other and award points to the winners of each event.

The squad with the most points at the end of the two-night challenge wins bonus money or something.

Throw in an extra $50,000 for a charity that the winning team was playing for and you’ve got yourself even more good PR.

Don’t announce the All Star rosters until player introductions

Remember the outrage about Team USA’s 2010 Winter Games roster after it was announced immediately following the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park?

This would be like that, but with more people than ever before on Hockey Twitter™ completely freaking out about how Jack Johnson was named to the All Star Game.

Think of the controversy that could be drummed up in real-time without allowing anyone to have about a month to whine about All Star snubs or substitutions.

Even better, it might force players to go to the game instead of using the built-in time off from the bye week as an excuse to skip out on something that’s made for fans to get a chance to see who they might otherwise not see regularly.

(So the NHLPA’s never going to agree to this idea from the start, because time off matters.)

Sure the schedule currently lets every market see players from out of town, but the novelty of the All Star Game has always been that the host city and its fans (or anyone that may have traveled from out of town to the region) can get to see the stars of the game without the barriers of dynamic ticket pricing getting in the way (in theory) for a family of four that might not be able to afford a regular matchup against one of the more superstar loaded teams.

This idea’s the hardest one to pull off given how well secrets are kept in the league (they’re not), as well as due to the fact that people would know by warmups who’s made the team and tweet about it, plus the fact that All Star merchandise with any player’s likeness would still need to be made ahead of time to sell at just the right time leading up to the game and thereafter (which could get leaked).

New jerseys and future Winter Classic venues and teams are constantly being disclosed before official announcements or reveals, which can sometimes take the fun away from the moment when it actually happens or– more often– only further stew angry complaints on social media until fans see it on the ice.

But just think, what if we all agreed to show up to Enterprise Center or watch the 2020 All Star Game on TV without knowing who’s in it only to find out that Brad Marchand was left off the team even though he’s currently 6th in league scoring (with 64 points– 10 points fewer than league leader, McDavid) or that anyone from the Detroit Red Wings or New Jersey Devils even made the team despite the former being on track for the worst regular season since the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche?

Imagine the drama– then watch them play a 3-on-3 tournament!

Oh yeah, this also assumes that you’d somehow not spoil the rosters with the Skills Competition, but we can work those details out at a later time.

DTFR Podcast #168- 2019-20 Season Preview: Pacific Division

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #91- Our USA Wins Gold

After NHLers were not allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Games, Nick and Connor decided to create USA rosters with NHL players anyway. Also discussed, All-Star weekend, Jaromir Jagr and the Winnipeg Jets.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Merkle’s Weekly Bumblings: Week 15

Skater of the Week: Brad Marchand

You may not (probably don’t) like him, but the Little Ball of Hate doesn’t give a damn about what you like. He’s gonna score on your team, and you’re gonna deal with it.

The league’s premiere super-pest tallied two goals and five assists in four contests this week, made arguably more impressive by the fact that he started the week being held scoreless against Dallas before recording three consecutive multi-point games to close the week. Burning arch-rival Montreal for a goal and assist in the first meeting, then adding two helpers in the rematch, together with a three-point night against the Islanders, the former unheralded third round pick continues to prove all the critics wrong, as he’s currently on pace to shatter his breakout 85-point performance from last season.

Marchand’s 48 points in 37 games is good for 16th in league scoring, having played no less than seven-fewer games than any player ahead of him, and his performance over the last seven days is good for this award.

Tendy of the Week: Jonathan Bernier

Yeah, I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either.

Bernier’s NHL career has been a well-documented roller coaster of epic proportions, and the former 11th-overall pick has often seen the ‘Bust’ label floating near his name. But he seems to have really found a home with the upstart Avs this season.

In three starts this week, Bernier faced a ridiculous 110 shots and turned aside 105 of them to pick up three victories. On Monday he stopped 33-of-34 to down the Ducks, on Saturday he stifled 27-of-28 against the Rangers, and even when he gave up three to the Sharks, he managed a .938 save percentage on 48 shots faced. Of the Avs’ strengths, the defense is not high on the list.

Bernier is still shaking off some shaky performances earlier in the year, but in 21 appearances his 13-7-1 record, 2.61 GAA and .919 save percentage are more than respectable behind the run-and-gun Avs. If he continues this sort of play, the Avs could potentially use Semyon Varlamov as trade bait to solidify their D-corps come the deadline.

Game of the Week: Washington Capitals 3 @ New Jersey Devils 4 (OT), Thursday January 18th, 2018

A showdown between the top 2 teams in the stacked Metropolitan Division lived up to the hype, delivering seven goals, 51 shots, 48 hits, and 36 penalty minutes.

Drew Stafford would get things rolling 8:01 into the game, taking advantage of a misplay at the blueline by Dmitry Orlov to flee the zone and receive a breakout pass courtesy of Marcus Johansson, fighting off the back-checking Devante Smith-Pelly and going forehand-backhand-roof on Braden Holtby to give the Devils the early lead. Brett Connolly, who was stifled on a golden opportunity just seconds after the Stafford goal, would get his revenge and even the score at the 12:10 mark, pouncing on a long wrister from T.J. Oshie that deflected off of the skate of Jersey d-man Will Butcher right to his tape and burying it past Keith Kinkaid to give us a 1-1 game after one.

The second saw both the scoring and intensity ramp up, started off by Devils captain Andy Greene (playing in his 750th game) scoring on an almost-identical play to the Connolly goal, this time a Taylor Hall effort from the left point deflecting off the stick of Matt Niskanen and coming right to Greene who was just able to squeeze the shot between the left arm and torso of a sliding Holtby to regain the Jersey lead 3:33 into the frame. Then at the 8:33 mark came some shenanigans. Tom Wilson laid a hammering hit on Brian Gibbons along the boards in the neutral zone, leading Brian Boyle to come to the defense of his teammate and earn himself a misconduct and extra minor for instigating. I could go on a tangent about clean hits leading to fights (Gibbons himself appeared to try to wave off Boyle as he approached Wilson), but I’ll save that for another day.

Further into the secnd we go, and the Devils capitalize (see what I did there?) on another breakout pass, this time with Miles Wood sneaking behind the Washington defense and receiving some airmail from Sami Vatanen before getting one through five-hole of Holtby to give New Jersey the 3-1 edge at the 10:55 mark. But just 14 seconds later Dmitry Orlov would collect a long rebound off the boards and spanked the ‘Made In Slovakia’ lettering right off of the puck as it screamed past Kinkaid into the back of the net, sending us into the final frame with a 3-2 Devils lead after some strong netminding by Holtby in the closing stages of the middle frame.

Kinkaid and the Devils would hold the fort for most of the third, but finally with just 3:48 remaining it would be Connolly (who had himself a very good game, I might add) who collected a terrific Evgeny Kuznetsov feed from below the goal line and slid the puck right underneath the left pad of Kinkaid to knot the score at three and send the game to overtime (though not before Kinkaid would shake off a ‘Nisk-cannon’ to the noggin that removed his mask in the dying seconds).

The crowd at ‘The Rock’ would have little to fret over, though, as just 34 seconds into the extra frame it would be Taylor Hall receiving a chip pass from Sami Vatanen, before giving himself a second chip pass to get around Kuznetsov and streaking in on Holtby, roofing a quick wrister over the glove hand and sending the Jersey-faithful into a frenzy.

News, Notes, & Nonsense:

The Golden Knights are, at the time of this writing, the #1 team in the NHL. I don’t actually have anything clever prepared for this, I just wanted to say it out loud.

A couple of high-profile injuries struck this week, with Edmonton losing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a hand injury for at least a month, and the Rangers losing Kevin Shattenkirk to a meniscus tear, an injury that could sideline the defenseman for quite some time.

The Senators have supposedly made it their #1 organizational goal to re-sign Erik Karlsson. I’m not sure how much money it will take to keep him with a franchise that doesn’t appear to be set up for major success any time soon, but if anyone has any suggestions for convoluted schemes to marry into his family, I’m all ears.

Dustin Brown was fined (but not suspended) for brutally cross-checking a helpless Justin Schultz face-first into the boards, in a move the Department of Player Safety referred to as “We have no idea who this Andrew Cogliano person you speak of is, and we’re not sure what two-game suspension you could be referring to.”

The Colorado Avalanche have won nine consecutive games, which might be the only thing less people would have bet on at the beginning of the year than Vegas spending time at #1 in the league.

Rene Rancourt has announced that he will retire from his position as the Bruins’ longtime anthem singer. Personally, I never actually thought he was that good of a singer, but his showmanship has always been absolutely second-to-none, and anyone legendary enough to be referenced in a Dropkick Murphy’s song gets a pass in my book, so congrats to Rene on an incredible career and best of luck in retirement.

Finally, I’ll close on two sombering notes. First, I extend my sincerest condolences to Matthew Murray and his family, as the Pittsburgh goaltender has taken a leave of absence from the team to mourn the passing of his father, and I’ll repeat the sentiment to the family of USA Hockey executive and two-time Olympian Jim Johannson, who passed Sunday morning at just 53 years of age.

Stuff from the week (so far): It’s on!

Some of the biggest news and notes (and bad takes) from this week in hockey.

Wednesday was full of surprises as most people probably were distracted by hockey games on TV or at their local rink on Tuesday night.

First, if you didn’t see the news late Tuesday night, then you probably woke up delighted to hear that USA Hockey and the US women’s national team came to an agreement that will 1) pay women’s players more, 2) established a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group to help oversee and assist USA Hockey with fundraising and promoting girls and women’s hockey at all levels to help grow the game and 3) sends the original Team USA members to the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship being held in Plymouth, Michigan (which starts on Friday, by the way).

To summarize, it’s a four-year contract that’s a step forward, but ultimately, probably still not enough to be perfectly ideal and equal. We’ll all keep working on that, right?

I mean, let’s not forget the foolishness of USA Hockey to have contacted members of the U16 team to play against professionals before this agreement was made. Absurd!

US games will be carried on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com, so check your local listings for times and more– I’ll be busy watching USA vs Canada on Friday night, thank you very much.

Charlie McAvoy joined the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an ATO for the rest of the season, thereby forgoing his remaining career at Boston University, much to the dismay of Terriers fans (okay, maybe not). Boston Bruins general manager, Don Sweeney, was smart not to burn a year off an entry level contract while trying to get McAvoy up to speed in the professional game.

In fact, this is something most general managers have been doing at this point of the season, with the exception of University of North Dakota product and Colorado Avalanche prospect, Tyson Jost’s signing with the Avalanche. Colorado GM Joe Sakic indicated that Jost will be inserted immediately in the lineup– for the remainder of the regular season– in the midst of a season to forget for the Av’s.

As noted by Mike Kelly (NHL Network, TSN, LeafsTV), the Avalanche are really, really bad. Like, really, really, really bad this year.

In other news, Los Angeles Kings forward, Jarome Iginla picked up the game winning goal (his 100th of his career) and the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday night.

Good for him, though I’m sure Flames fans felt uneasy for their favorite adopted son knowing that their team is probably going to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs instead of the Kings. Just like everyone predicted back in October.

Not so long after everyone was gleaming about the US national women’s team agreement with USA Hockey, University of North Dakota cut their women’s hockey program on Wednesday.

In addition to women’s ice hockey, UND also got rid of their swimming and diving team (both men’s and women’s). SB Nation’s Joe Barbito (per The Ice Garden), reported that the team was already on the ice preparing for next season as news about the program’s demise began circulating. Even a recruit was on campus for an official visit, only to find out about the disappointing news from one of the most competitive programs in the country.

Several former UND hockey players have spoken out and expressed their displeasure with the university.

Also making waves on Wednesday was the miracle that nobody expected from a league otherwise known for secrecy.

The NHL announced that the Expansion Draft lists for protected and available players for the Vegas Golden Knights’s choosing will be made available to the public around June 18th. This is good. This is what fans like. Fans also like salary cap information and stuff like CapFriendly, but we’ll see if the league will ever make more of a shift towards being more open and informative than what’s already surprised many with the Expansion Draft lists announcement.

Wednesday’s surprise announcement wasn’t the only thing from the league, as NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman was on hand along with members from the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks for the official announcement of the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging that will be played at Mercedes-Benz Arena and the Huaxi LIVE Wukesong’s Le Sports Center in Shanghai on September 21st and September 23rd, respectively.

Expanding the game, good. The whole Kings and Canucks matchup, not as good. I mean, Vancouver is destined for a turnaround, but it just seems like they won’t be competitive enough for Los Angeles, even for preseason games. Then again, the Canucks are quietly gaining ground (on a developmental level).

Last week the league announced the 2017 SAP Global Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Ottawa Senators to take place in Stockholm, Sweden in November. Those regular season games make sense, as long as the Avalanche don’t trade Gabriel Landeskog before then.

But if anything, think of the huge draw for Erik Karlsson fans in his homeland alone.

Both global preseason and regular season games will be the first of their kind since the last regular season games played in Europe in 2011.

And so far through Thursday, looking past matchups and injuries, we’ve been reminded that on this day 38 years ago, the NHL voted on the merger of four World Hockey Association (WHA) teams to begin play in the league for the 1979-1980 season.

Only the playoff bound-for-the-first-time-since 2006, Edmonton Oilers remain in the same location since the merger, as the Winnipeg Jets jettisoned for Arizona, Québec Nordiques left for Colorado and the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes 20 years ago.