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Paul Kukla

About Paul
Paul Kukla is the man behind the excellent Kukla's Korner blog site. The longtime NHL fan and devoted Red Wings' supporter is joining NHL.com as a regular contributor this season. His blogs are a must read for hockey fans.

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E-mail your comments at: pk@kuklaskorner.com

Recent Posts
It's all about respect
Quick hitters
A view from above
Yzerman and his fans
A fan, a blogger and a writer

Season Archive
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006

Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006

It's all about respect

What is going on with the vicious hits lately? I do not recall so many of these violent hits in my 45+ years of watching hockey. Are the hits legal, 90 percent of them are, but the real question is, are they necessary?

We all know a big hit delivered at the right time during a game can change momentum and fire up the crowd. But now, more than ever, a big hit can also put a player's career on hold or even end it.

Hockey players know the risks that come with the game, fans know it too, and thankfully we haven't witnessed many instances of a player being severely injured because of a questionable hit. But are the players delivering these dangerous hits tempting fate? Without a doubt in my mind and this topic needs to addressed before the unthinkable happens.

It all comes down to respect. It is time the players start policing themselves. Before we witness a scene that none of us want to see, the players must put a stop to this madness ... before it is too late and the "I told you so", or "I just knew something like this was going to happen", become tomorrow's headlines.

The NHL has set their guidelines on these hits, but the players must also establish their own guidelines and think what the consequences could be if their hit took out a player. My advice is "Let up boys", complete the check, take the player out of the play, but don't take him out of the game - or worse, forever.

***

A few blog posts ago, I asked you to submit questions regarding hockey broadcasts to John Shannon of the NHL. Not only has Mr. Shannon responded to your questions and comments, he stated he would like to do this on a monthly basis. For more information and to read his responses, follow this link to Kukla's Korner.

I'd also like to take this time to thank the NHL for thinking outside the box and teaming up with me in these much needed Q & A's. Becoming pro-active is a very big plus in my mind and the NHL needs to be commended and in this instance, copied by other sports leagues.

While on the subject of Q & A's, many of you submitted questions for Alexander Ovechkin. The answers from Alex will appear in two parts during the month of December. There were some very creative questions from NHL fans from all parts of the world so look forward to AO's response in the coming month.

Posted by Paul @ 11:42 a.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2006

Quick hitters

About this time of year in the NHL season, I begin to look at the individual player statistics a little more closely. This morning, I studied the stats and, I must say, was a bit surprised with some of the names at the top of the stats.

* Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney are in the top five in overall scoring! When did that happen?

* Bryan McCabe has played in 22 games this year and has spent almost 10 1/2 hours on the ice.

* Jason Pominville has 11 goals, and leads the league in even strength goals with 10.

* The top three goal scorers in the NHL, Marian Hossa, Brendan Shanahan and Thomas Vanek have 47 goals, seven more than the team goal total for Columbus.

* The rail camera made its debut last night during the Colorado-Dallas game on Versus. After two periods or so, I was used to seeing the camera move along the rail which was placed on top of the glass, and believe it has some merit. One suggestion, paint or cover the camera in white, it will blend in with the ice and won't be as obtrusive as it was last night.

* The ice on a NHL hockey rink is approximately ¾ of an inch thick and it takes about 10,211 gallons of frozen water to create a hockey rink.

* They have tested a goal net in which the goal posts light up after a goal has been scored. Wonder how the goalies feel about that?

* I miss the Jagr salute after one of his goals!

* While on the topic of missing things, I sure would like to see an old analog time clock hanging from the rafters, you know, the one that ticked off time for each period, from 20 minutes down to zero.

* I am looking forward to the seventh annual Hockey Day in Canada on Jan. 13, 2007. Once you enter my home, you are required to stay all day and be prepared to talk hockey, hockey and more hockey!

* I wonder why we don't see players taking more slap shots during a shootout. These guys can put the puck anywhere they want, so high to the stick side would be my favorite target.

* When was the last time an offensive faceoff man scored a goal, timing the puck drop just right, and shooting it directly into the net?

* When goal judges are sitting at home watching a game, do they follow the puck, and the puck only?

* I've seen more Bobby Orr type "spin-o-rama" moves this year from defensemen, and that is a good thing.

* Trade rumors are just that -- rumors. When a general manager calls me to say he is about to make a trade, I will let you know, but don't hold your breath.

* When will we see the first female Zamboni driver in the NHL?

* Nick Lidstrom is the Grand Marshall of America's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. He recently noted he is going to bring out his "Stanley Cup parade wave".

***

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy the long holiday weekend and be safe.

My plans for this weekend are to respond to all of the 500 or so emails I received regarding last week's blog post. I appreciate the great response and I must say NHL fans are the most passionate fans, but we already knew that.

Posted by Paul @ 11:19 a.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006

A view from above

In a previous life, I was part of a large, corporate sales force. In one of those, "How to get more sales" books I would read on occasion, I remember this bit of wisdom. When things begin to get out of control, take a ride in a hot air balloon. Rise above the world that is yours, and look down, your world will look different after observing your daily routine from a different angle.

I would like to pass that advice onto the hockey world. Hopping from website to website on a daily basis, I am beginning to see a pattern of complaints, moaning and outright rage. I have always believed the easy way out is to complain about something rather than to dig deep and find a positive or a solution to a problem.

I challenge writers of all types, bloggers, professionals, even those that send emails, to find the good in the game and write about it. Do it for a few days instead of complaining about a certain referee, or a general manager or a player you feel is not living up to your standards. You will feel better, you may surprise a few people and if you are publicly published, who knows, you may gain a new following.

The NHL game as we know it in the "modern NHL" is not perfect. Is it improving? Without a doubt. All we have to do is go back a few years and remember the clutching and grabbing, the constant interference and the frustration many of us felt when the star players could not showcase their talent on the ice. The hack-and-wack type guy was "hot" three-10 years ago, now we have the pure skater and passer, the foundation of the game, making a well-deserved comeback. If you couldn't win the game a few years ago, you tried to beat the team into submission, to prove a point and make sure you weren't beat again (which rarely happened).

The stars are beginning to shine, new players are making a positive impact on the game, and without a doubt, the NHL is headed in the right direction. I may sound a bit biased, but I have been watching this game for over 40 years, and have witnessed first hand the progress and then downturn the game experienced. I feel good right now about "my game" and I encourage you to do the same.

Get in that balloon, force a hard blast of hot air and go back a few years. Stay a while, fight through that big black cloud of interference and try to watch a game.

Now steer and hover over a game tonight. Players are skating, scoring and you can actually see open ice. The hard hits are still there and the players are being allowed to play the game as it was meant to be played.

If you agree, let me know (pk@kuklaskorner.com), if you don't see the same game I am seeing, let me know (pk@kuklaskorner.com) too, but please don't shoot my balloon down, it is the only one I have.

***

Thanks to Tripp Mickle, a staff writer at Sports Business Journal (access to articles are normally for paid subscribers), all hockey fans can read a great story on John Shannon, NHL VP of Broadcast. Reading about John's vision gives me great hope our game will be much closer to perfect in the upcoming years. While we are on the John Shannon topic, I will be posting the answers to many of the questions you had for him in the next few weeks.

The Hockey Blog Chatter

The Forechecker breaks down the penalty makers. Today I thought I'd highlight some of the top penalty specialists of the 2005-06 NHL season. No, not penalty killing specialists, but instead those guys who took the most penalties of various kinds. The Syracuse Bulldogs had the infamous Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, a master at using the blade of his stick on anything but the puck, but who deserves that tag in the NHL? Here's a quick look at some of the leading practitioners of hockey's Dark Arts.

HLOG (Hockey's Ladies OF Greatness), showcase some of the NHL mascots. Allow me to introduce you to Sabretooth, mascot of the Buffalo Sabres. Sabretooth was selected as the Sabres mascot because the name of the team is right there in his name even though sabretooth tigers have never, to my knowledge, carried sabres or any other kind of weaponry for that matter.

Make sure to visit their homepage and scroll down a bit for more mascot talk.

Can you build an all free agent team that competes with the one at Puttin' on the Foil? Let's see what the best team money can buy is. To be eligible, players must have signed a new deal as a UFA with a new team, not their old team. The team will be limited to the new cap of $44 million, which includes a spare centre, winger, and defenseman.

In case you missed the recent Forbes Report on the Ultimate Hockey Franchise, Puckhead's Thoughts breaks it down for you.

The Puck Stops Here points out three players who should be playing right now but are not. A salary cap is bad for the hockey fan. Not only does it remove all the good teams with enforced parity, it also keeps good players with NHL value out of the league. Teams apportion their salary cap money over the summer to certain players and inevitably some get left out.

Posted by Paul @ 10:57 a.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006

Yzerman and his fans

What questions do you ask Steve Yzerman that you haven't heard before? We all know what Steve is doing now in his vice-president position with the Wings. Seeing him being asked the same questions over and over again, truthfully made me feel a bit uneasy. How many times can Steve respond to questions like, What time do you get to the office?", "Do you miss the game?" or "Have you skated recently Steve?"

I decided to do a quick turnaround, walk out of the media room and head to the Olympia Room. This area of Joe Louis Arena normally caters to the season ticket holders, who can stop by on a game night for a nice dinner, a few beverages etc. It is a huge room, and is adorned with Wings memorabilia on the walls. Monday, the room was filled with fans who paid to witness the Lester Patrick Awards and have a nice luncheon, which was held on the floor of the "Joe".

A crowd of about 350 people were in attendance and I decided to take the pulse of the paying folk. I introduced myself to a couple sitting in one of the comfortable booths of the Olympia Room and asked why they were here. "To pay respect to Steve Yzerman", was their answer.

Others that I talked with had the same type of response. They wanted to see how Steve was doing and basically show respect for him. One woman mentioned to me, "As a Detroit fan for over 20 years, I grew up with Stevie. Whenever he felt joy, I too felt it. When he raised his first Stanley Cup over his head, I cried for 20 minutes. They were tears of happiness for Steve first, the team second. The second Cup, I again cried, but this time because Steve proved to the hockey world he could do it again. The third Cup, once again tears rolled down my face, but this time with a little sadness, because I knew deep down this might be the last one for Steve."

I want to tell you something about the woman I talked with She is not a "puck bunny", not an autograph hound, but a woman who took an extended lunch just to see Steve Yzerman. She had no intention of meeting him, never has, but wanted to be there out of respect for him. The others I talked with were just like her.

What is it that makes us so attached to our players?I am sure fans all over the world have the same type of feelings for their "favorite" player. Without even knowing them, we feel like we do know them.

Talking with many of the big names in hockey at this event, including Bill Daly, Peter Karmanos Jr., Ken Holland, the honorees and others, they all had one trait. They all love the game and want the best for everyone, with the fans at the top of the list. They know the game is not perfect, but are sincerely working on a daily basis to improve the game we know today.

Walking back to my car when the ceremony was finished, I reflected on the day. I just spent a wonderful five hours with the hockey world, but I wanted more ... and I do wonder if I will ever remove the media badge from around my neck.

Posted by Paul @ 12:22 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006

A fan, a blogger and a writer

Lately I have had some deep questions for myself, am I a fan, a blogger or a writer?

Yesterday at the Lester Patrick Awards Luncheon at the Joe Louis Arena, I believe I wore three different hats.

This was my first "official" assignment from NHL.com and to be truthful, I did not know what to expect. I was anxious all morning, arrived at the "Joe" about an hour early and walked around the arena. Even though I have made that same walk hundreds of times, this one felt different. I was the only person on site, except for the employees who were getting ready for the luncheon. I walked into the media room, where in about an hour, the Lester Patrick recipients, Steve Yzerman, Reed Larson, Red Berenson, Marcel Dionne and Glen Sonmor would be made available to the media for about half an hour. I sat down, jotted down a few notes on my pocket pc and tried to kill some time.

I decided to take another walk through the vast and still empty "Joe", my NHL media tag swinging from my neck. Walking around a corner, I heard the sound of an electric cart heading my way with the infamous Zamboni driver, Al Sobotka on board. He looked different, normally I picture him with an octopus swinging above his head, this time he was just humming along on his cart, headed who knows where ...

Now back in the media room with about 20 minutes before the recipients would be made available to the press, I was glad to see some recognizable faces. A few of the Wings beat writers were there, a couple sportscasters from Detroit area TV stations popped in and about 10 other media types were there too, all waiting for the interview process to begin.

In a flash, in walked players I idolized as a kid. First Reed Larson, a defenseman with a booming slap shot. Next was Red Berenson, smooth as silk and still looking as if he could step on the ice. Next in was Marcel Dionne, and memories of him wearing the winged wheel flashed in my head (along with the darkness of the Ned Harkness years). The media started making their move, camera lights brightened up the room and each player was surrounded by microphones and digital voice recorders thrown in their face. I stood back from the crowd, feeling as if I did not want to interfere with the job the media was doing, then I realized I was one of them.

I found an open space near Reed Larson, clicked on my pocket pc and activated the recording device and pointed it towards him. My ears were listening to the conversation, but my eyes were focused on the entry to the media room. In walked Glen Sonmor, who was not as recognizable as the former NHL players and about a minute later, Steve Yzerman walked in. The media gathered around Steve as quickly as possible, leaving me with an opportunity to talk to Reed one on one. I found myself wearing my "fan" hat, chatting with him about the old Olympia, Reed told me it was the best ice he ever skated on. He mentioned the concrete under the ice was all one piece, not a crack in it at all, and he believes that was what made the ice so good.

I moved on to Marcel Dionne where only two other people were interviewing him. I had the opportunity to tell Marcel I once owned the house he lived in while he played in Detroit. He was amazed at that story, we talked a little about the house, and the good times he had in it. I asked Marcel if he ever wanted to play for the Canadiens. He said sure and actually had the chance to do so at one point in his career, but the constant media scrutiny he would have been under was a factor in not playing for Montreal.

Next up was Red Berenson, who was standing all alone (by now, everyone was around Yzerman). I introduced myself to Red and asked him about his decision to wear a helmet in the NHL when the vast majority of players were not wearing a helmet. Red told me he was the first NHL player to wear a helmet by choice, others had worn a helmet, but were forced to because of previous head injuries. He told people the reason he wore a helmet was one of common sense. "My brain told me to wear it, and I wanted to protect my brain in order to make decisions like this in the future."

I stopped by to introduce myself to Glen Sonmor and to congratulate him on the award. Then I headed to the ever growing media scrum around Steve Yzerman. Once again I found myself wearing my "fan" hat.

I am going to stop now, and bring you Part 2 (the Yzerman story) in the next day or so. If I continue now, you may be reading and reading and reading.

***

Don't forget you have eight days to submit a question for Alexander Ovechkin. A total of 98 hockey fans have submitted questions for AO and there is still room for more. See my previous blog entry (October 31) for more information.

Posted by Paul @ 10:21 a.m.



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