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NHL Insider

NHL once had tradition of playing on Christmas

Tuesday, 12.25.2012 / 3:00 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

Stan Gilbertson has a hat trick all his own.

Gilbertson scored 85 goals in an NHL career that lasted just six seasons and 428 games. But on Dec. 25, 1971, Gilbertson, then a 27-year-old rookie, slid the puck into an empty net with 18 seconds remaining, wrapping up a 3-1 victory for the California Golden Seals against their in-state rival, the Los Angeles Kings -- and becoming the last NHL player to score a goal on Christmas.

It was his only goal of the night, but he earned the "Stan Gilbertson Hat Trick" by also taking the last penalty ever assessed in a Christmas game and being in the box for the last power-play goal.

The Seals-Kings game was one of six on Dec. 25, 1971, and it represented the end of an era. Hockey on Christmas was a staple of the NHL from the 1920s through '71, when the practice of playing on the holiday ended. In fact, from 1960 through 1967, every team in the League played on Dec. 25.

The NHL's holiday hockey history also includes playing on Christmas Eve -- a practice that ended in 1972.

The New York Rangers must have thought the Grinch made up their 1966-67 schedule. Not only were the Rangers one of three teams to play on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but both games were on the road (Toronto swept a home-and-home series with Boston). But the Rangers didn't whine about having to play at Montreal on Christmas Eve and then fly into Chicago for a game on Christmas Night -- in fact, they won both games, beating the Canadiens 4-3 and shutting out Chicago 1-0.

Oilers' first-year pro Justin Schultz a quick study

Thursday, 12.20.2012 / 12:23 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Contrary to the statistics and a growing reputation as a future NHL star, Oklahoma City defenseman Justin Schultz is not perfect and his transition from college to professional hockey has come with the natural bumps one would typically expect.

At least, that's what Schultz is saying these days. Whether you believe him is a topic for a different debate.

"It still is difficult. I'm learning every day," Schultz, Edmonton's top defensive prospect, humbly told earlier this week in a phone interview from Oklahoma City, where he is playing for the Barons in the American Hockey League. "It's tougher at this level. It's still a challenge, but obviously I've had a good start."

Former hockey pro Russell returns to family business

Wednesday, 12.19.2012 / 12:06 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

In less than two years since retiring from hockey following an injury-plagued season with Groningen of the Dutch league, Wyatt Russell has found a new and very interesting line of work.

In one of his first major acting roles, Russell appears in the new film by director Judd Apatow, "This is 40," as a hockey player who flirts with one of the film's stars, Leslie Mann, who also happens to be Apatow's wife. For 26-year-old Russell, whose parents are actors Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, the day spent shooting the scene was a unique convergence of his lifelong passion and his Hollywood upbringing.

"I went on an audition," said Russell, who retired from hockey in 2010 due to persistent hip issues. "I walked in the room and it was Leslie Mann with Judd Apatow. It was intimidating. He said just talk about hockey. Do you know anything about hockey? He didn't know that's what I did. You could see there was a shift between their work and home life. That's the way I was raised. My parents are actors and never brought work home. I didn't even know what they did until I was about 10 years old. We never talked about it."

Haydar appreciates his career, wherever he's played

Wednesday, 12.12.2012 / 9:45 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

For a few seconds there only is laughter on the other end of the phone as a conversation about the what-ifs and what-could-have-beens in a professional hockey career momentarily are forgotten.

If you're Chicago Wolves forward Darren Haydar, a 33-year-old minor-league lifer stuck in a world that constantly changes around him, what else can you do but laugh when yet another interviewer asks you about Crash Davis, the infamous forever dreaming farmhand played by Kevin Costner in the movie "Bull Durham."

Haydar has been referred to as the Crash Davis of the American Hockey League. He knows it and finally can laugh about it.

Hextall recalls goal as proud moment for him, Flyers

Saturday, 12.08.2012 / 10:00 AM / NHL Insider

Davis Harper - Staff Writer

Ron Hextall won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in 1986-87, his rookie season. He led his Philadelphia Flyers to the '87 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in seven games to the Edmonton Oilers -- but was so good he became one of five members of the losing team to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. During the series, Wayne Gretzky called Hextall "probably the best goaltender I've ever played against." He played 13 seasons in the NHL and was enshrined in the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2008.

For all his shot-stopping abilities, Hextall also was the most aggressive goaltender the NHL had seen, legendary for his fiery and physical nature on the ice. His prodigious puck-handling and passing abilities made him almost a third defenseman on the ice for the Flyers. Thus, it scarcely came as a surprise when, on Dec. 8, 1987, Hextall became the first NHL goaltender to score a goal by shooting the puck into the net. The goal, scored at 18:48 of the third period, put Philadelphia up 5-2 on the Boston Bruins in front of a capacity Spectrum crowd.

On the 25th anniversary of Hextall's achievement, talked with Hextall and the teammates, commentators and opponents who were on hand to witness history.

Wounded Canadian veteran conquers sledge hockey

Saturday, 12.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

When Dominic Larocque was growing up in the Montreal suburb of St-Timothee, he was about as active as a young man could be.

He played high-level hockey up to the Junior A level, played top-tier football for his school, and played competitive soccer for his city.

So when Larocque turned 18 in 2005, he decided he would use that energy to benefit his country and enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces. Within two years, he would be deployed to Afghanistan, where he served near Kandahar.

About four months into his tour, on Nov. 27, 2007, Larocque's life took a drastic turn when the light armored vehicle he and two other soldiers were riding in drove over an improvised explosive device (IED). The three were taken by helicopter to a hospital to have their wounds tended to.

Kings' Robitaille has fun appearing on Disney cartoon

Thursday, 12.06.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

As a Hall of Fame player and an executive for the reigning Stanley Cup champions, life in Los Angeles has been pretty good for Luc Robitaille.

More than 25 years since arriving in Hollywood, the notoriety has afforded the hockey icon some unique opportunities. The latest has the Los Angeles Kings' president of business operations appearing on the season premiere of the popular animated children's program "Phineas and Ferb," shown by the Disney Channel on Dec. 7.

"It was a lot of fun. The guys over there are big hockey fans. It was fun to be there," Robitaille told "These guys made it really easy on me; it was cool."

Robitaille admitted he wasn't familiar with the show, which has had guest appearances from Tina Fey, Michael J. Fox and Kevin Smith. Robitaille agreed to do it at the urging of his assistant, Kehly Sloane, whose son is a big fan. For the creators of the series, which premiered on Disney in 2007, it was a thrill to have the legendary Kings player on the program.

Eight great moments in Montreal Forum history

Thursday, 11.29.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Richard Milo - Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Forever considered as the temple of hockey, the Montreal Forum was the home of the Canadiens for 70 years until they moved to the Bell Centre in 1996.

The Forum served as home for the Habs for 22 of their NHL-record 24 Stanley Cup victories, and 12 times they lifted the Cup on Forum ice.

The Canadiens had so much success at the Forum, its walls were said to be inhabited by the ghosts of the past that helped the home team accomplish some extraordinary feats.

Former general manager Frank Selke asked toward the beginning of the 1950s that a passage from John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" -- written during World War I -- be reproduced on the walls of the Canadiens dressing room, a passage that would come to define the team's sense of history and success: "To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high."

Holding the torch high was what the Canadiens always took great pride in during their years at the Forum, but the building was actually not meant for them initially.

When it opened on the corner of Atwater Ave. and Ste-Catherine St., the Forum was actually meant to house the Montreal Maroons, the city's other NHL team. But the Canadiens were invited to play the Forum's inaugural game because their own venue -- the Mount-Royal Arena -- relied on a natural ice surface that was not ready for game action yet. The Canadiens would only move to the Forum on a permanent basis two years later, and they would share the building with the Maroons until 1938 when their co-tenants folded.

Carbonneau relished being part of final Forum night

Thursday, 11.29.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

Guy Carbonneau knew the odds were stacked against his Dallas Stars on March 11, 1996.

"I'm pretty sure we had a few dollars on the board to see if we could win that game," Carbonneau told

All the motivational money in the world likely wouldn't have mattered that night. The Stars drew the unenviable task of facing the Montreal Canadiens in the final game at the Montreal Forum, which was won handily by the home team 4-1 in front of a standing-room crowd of 17,959.

"You think about it a little bit before, but you know it's going to be a special night," said Carbonneau, who spent his first 12 NHL seasons with Montreal. "There was a lot of support from the fans and a lot of people I knew in the past. Once you get out on the ice, it's not something that you really worry about."

Wild goalie contest ends in tie, to be continued

Wednesday, 11.21.2012 / 8:21 PM / NHL Insider

Believe it or not, the shootout needs overtime.

The contest to determine the Minnesota Wild's new emergency goaltender ended in a tie Sunday, requiring finalists Treye Kettwick and Joshua Swartout to try it again another time.

Each goalie was expected to face eight shooters during the second intermission of an American Hockey League game between the Houston Aeros and Rockford IceHogs at Xcel Energy Center.

But after the first two rounds of four ended even (each goalie was scored on twice), three sudden-death shots were saved by each goalie before the intermission time ran out and the AHL game had to resume.

With no other tiebreaker in place, the Wild will resume the contest at a later date.

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Quote of the Day

Yeah, it was a pretty special moment for me. Today was my Dad's [55th] birthday. I have a lot of family in town, so it was a special moment for me to score my first one today. A win definitely would have capped it off, but you can't have everything.

— Sabres rookie Jack Eichel after scoring a goal in his National Hockey League debut
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