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Sunday Long Read
(Page 1 of 4)
Sunday Long Read

Panthers' Bjugstad building career on character

Sunday, 12.07.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Jim Johannson had limited expectations prior to getting his first extended look at Nick Bjugstad in the summer of 2011.

To this day, Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is amazed at how Bjugstad can transform into a competitive beast when he steps on the ice.

"He was a great kid to be around, almost too nice a guy," Johannson said. "You start to ask yourself, 'How can this guy be such a competitor?' He's the first guy opening doors for people, saying 'Please' and 'Thank you.'"

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Sunday Long Read: Flyers' Simmonds gives back

Sunday, 11.23.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Wanda Simmonds remembers the conversation she had one day a few years ago with her son Wayne.

It was before Wayne Simmonds grew into a 6-foot-2, 183-pound forward for the Philadelphia Flyers; before he was a second-round pick (No. 61) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2007 NHL Draft; even before he was a budding star in the Ontario Hockey League.

It was when Simmonds was an unknown minor player, one of many skating in regional leagues across Canada.

"I said to him, 'There's two things I want to you to do if you ever make it to the NHL,'" she told NHL.com. "'I want you to give back [to your community] and I want you to give to your church.'"

Obedient son that he is, Wayne Simmonds followed his mother's wishes. And the next generation of hockey hopefuls from the Scarborough, Ontario region has benefited from Simmonds keeping his word.

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Peter Forsberg forged golden legacy in Sweden

Sunday, 11.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Risto Pakarinen - NHL.com Correspondent

Postage stamp images in Sweden are usually reserved for kings.

So it shouldn't come as a surprise Peter Forsberg is one of the few hockey players to have his likeness on a stamp issued by Swedish Post, the government agency regulating the country's mail system.

In a wonderful piece of symbolism, the moment commemorated on that stamp represents Forsberg's ascendancy to the hockey throne in his country.

The stamp captures Forsberg in the process of pushing a puck past Canada goaltender Corey Hirsch into the net, giving Sweden the lead in the shootout of the gold-medal game at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

A select group of Swedish players have had their likeness on a stamp, but Forsberg is the only one to have a singular accomplishment portrayed.

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Goalie mask designs evolve into artwork

Sunday, 11.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Kevin Woodley - NHL.com Correspondent

A black felt pen wielded in protest is the root of the goalie mask design revolution which has changed the literal face of hockey.

Almost 50 years later, goaltending masks have evolved into artistic storytelling of the highest order with colorful, intricate designs a seemingly mandatory part of every goaltender's wardrobe all the way down to the youth level.

Gerry Cheevers had no idea he was starting a movement during a non-descript practice in the late 1960s. He had retreated from the ice after being hit in the mask with a shot. Ordered back on the ice, Cheevers filed his protest first, having a trainer draw the representation of 10 stitches on his white mask where the puck struck him moments earlier.

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Sunday Long Read: Babcock tree seeded by chances

Sunday, 10.19.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Bill Peters didn't know what to think when he saw Mike Babcock frenetically walking toward his table at the 2014 NHL Draft.

Peters, named coach of the Carolina Hurricanes eight days before, worked the three previous seasons on Babcock's staff with the Detroit Red Wings.

"He came over and said, 'Come here for a minute,'" Peters said. "I didn't know what was going on, but he was moving around like he was in a house on fire."

Peters knew better than to stay put. When coach summons you, you respond. Something meaningful is likely happening.

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Sunday Long Read: Hershey's a great hockey town

Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

HERSHEY, Pa. -- The best way to start a story about the best minor-league hockey town in America is to tell the one about how a modern dynasty began.

At first glance, the phrases "minor league" and "dynasty" aren't supposed to go together. The minor leagues in hockey and baseball are, by design, in a constant state of flux. Roster turnover is required as these teams provide parent organizations with future big leaguers.

Hershey, Pa., didn't become the best minor-league hockey town in America by being like the rest, though. The Hershey Bears win, and they win consistently.

As a result, the Bears, now aligned with the Washington Capitals, built a modern dynasty in the American Hockey League.

So, about the beginning of that ... it almost never happened.

In 2006, the Bears led the Portland Pirates three games to one in the Eastern Conference Final of the Calder Cup Playoffs, but Hershey lost two straight games.

If this was going to be remembered as one of the great playoff series in recent AHL history, it was going to need some quirks, and it had plenty. Because of scheduling conflicts, the best-of-7 did not follow a traditional format, and Hershey had Games 3, 4 and 7 at home, instead of a 2-3-2 or 2-2-1-1-1.

The Pirates won Games 5 and 6 in Portland, but then there was a six-day layoff before Game 7 at Giant Center in Hershey.

Even worse for the Bears, Portland's parent club, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, were eliminated from the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs between Games 6 and 7, and that's where the mythical part of the tale arrives.

This story works better if some of the principal characters tell it:

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Sunday Long Read: Trip by Canucks lifted Curtain

Sunday, 04.06.2014 / 2:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Vancouver Canucks needed answers and weren't shy about looking for them in unusual places.

Not even a trip to the 1982 Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the New York Islanders, could put a brave front on what the organization felt was a lost decade.

The Canucks owner, Arthur Griffiths, believed the change would come from harnessing the talents of Eastern European players who, to that point, had been excluded from the NHL.

Throughout the 1980s, the Canucks had a losing record every season, finishing last in the Smythe Division three times in four seasons between 1984-85 and 1987-88.

In that atmosphere, no idea was off-limits. This allowed the organization to turn to a potentially unorthodox avenue for help: Looking into acquiring players from Eastern Europe, particularly those behind the Iron Curtain.

No Eastern Bloc players had made the jump to the NHL. Most were banned from doing so by the communist governments that ruled their countries.

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Snider Foundation grows game in Philadelphia

Sunday, 03.30.2014 / 2:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

Virlen Reyes is sitting at a two-top at a Starbucks on the quad of West Chester University, where she is a senior. She is in the middle of telling her life story when she pauses.

Her narrative has unraveled during the course of nearly an hour when Reyes, in a quiet, confident voice, has held forth on the circumstances of her remarkable evolution. It's a gripping tale, and Reyes is a capable storyteller. Now, though, caught in the part between her graduation from high school and her college years, her train of thought stalls as a flash of realization crosses her face.

"I'm just … I'm just noticing now how much effort it took not to give up," she said.

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Sunday Long Read: Catch up with our stories here

Sunday, 03.16.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

NHL.com

NHL.com has presented a weekly Sunday Long Read since the start of the season in October. If you have missed any of the in-depth stories, please take the time to catch up with them here.

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Sunday Long Read: Modano remains face of Stars

Sunday, 03.09.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Dallas Stars president Jim Lites tells the story as if it happened yesterday. That's how well he remembers it. That's how much the conversation Lites had with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones nearly 20 years ago resonates with him.

"I remember Jerry Jones saying to me about two years into our stay here, 'Jim, I can't believe how much success you guys have had, I never would have thought hockey would be successful in Dallas,'" Lites told NHL.com. "And then he said, 'That Mike Modano is as important to this community as Troy Aikman. I can't believe how dynamic he is.'

"I mean, the Cowboys are the Cowboys and Troy Aikman is Troy Aikman, but Mo was that good, that big," Lites continued. "He's the guy every man wants to be and every woman wants to be with."

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Quote of the Day

I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning