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Sunday Long Read
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Sunday Long Read

Islanders closing Coliseum chasing one more Cup

Sunday, 04.05.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"It's the land that time forgot over there. It's all the same ushers, it's the same people working there. To me, it feels like I stepped back through a portal to 1984." -- Former New York Islanders captain Patrick Flatley

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Depending on where you live on Long Island, you either drive north or south on the Meadowbrook Parkway. When you see the gigantic smoke stacks alongside the highway, you know you're almost there.

You get off at Exit M4. On most nights, many of the car horns are playing to the tune of "Let's Go Islanders," a repetitive sound you've heard nearly every trip you've made to Uniondale.

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the only home the New York Islanders have had, opened in 1972, the same year the Islanders entered the NHL with the Atlanta Flames. This Saturday, the Islanders will play their final regular-season game there, against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Sunday Long Read: Kelowna develops defensemen

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The murals on the walls of Prospera Place, home of the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, are striking for their size and the stories they tell.

They trace a genealogy of winning; the Rockets have made the WHL playoffs 18 times in 20 years in Kelowna, won the championship three times, played in four Memorial Cup tournaments (they're one of five teams since 1972 to play in three straight (2003-05)), and won the Memorial Cup in 2004.

Along the way, the Rockets, led by owner/general manager Bruce Hamilton and assistant GM Lorne Frey, have produced an alumni list full of well-known NHL players.

Among them are 11 defensemen who opened the 2014-15 season on an NHL roster, more than any junior or European development program.

If the Penn State University football team is known as Linebacker U., then the Kelowna Rockets could be called the Cradle of Defensemen.

"Maybe Lorne Frey has some special thing going on up there," said Scott Hannan, a San Jose Sharks defenseman and Kelowna alum. "He knows where to draft. … They're just smart hockey guys. And I think when you see that, and to be able to have good coaching staffs and a good facility to train the right way, you've seen that [NHL development] with the defensemen especially. They've been able to develop some really, really good defensemen.

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Lorne Frey chief pilot for Rockets

Sunday, 03.22.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League had 11 defensemen on NHL opening-night rosters this season, each featuring a unique skill set.

There's the all-around brilliance of Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, the offensively gifted Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche, and defensive-minded Scott Hannan of the San Jose Sharks.

The common denominator among all of them is 64-year-old Kelowna assistant general manager Lorne Frey, a scout so dedicated to the business he might have some coffee in his blood stream.

"I hired him before we had control of the expansion franchise," Kelowna owner and general manager Bruce Hamilton said. "He's as close to me as anybody is. We don't make any decisions without both of us being involved.

"At the end of the day, my say is the last one, but generally we both agree before we come to that. We've been doing it that way for 20-some years now."

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SLR: Forgotten Vipers once rocked Detroit

Sunday, 03.08.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent

The 1990s marked a time of seismic change in hockey: The Iron Curtain fell, providing a massive influx of talent from Eastern Europe, NHL franchises migrated from Canada and traditional markets in the Northeast and Midwestern United States to new ones and the League embarked on a rapid and ambitious expansion plan to the Sunbelt and beyond.

That atmosphere proved ripe for exploitation by the right kind of visionary minds. Enter Bill Davidson and Rick Dudley, the former, a glass manufacturing mogul who presided over a pro sports empire, and the latter, a respected talent evaluator with progressive ideas about how to run a pro hockey enterprise.

Together in 1994, they gave birth to the Detroit Vipers, an independent International Hockey League franchise that cut a rollicking, phoenix-like path through the decade. Playing out of the Palace at Auburn Hills, the home of the Davidson-owned Detroit Pistons of the NBA, the Vipers used the Pistons' charter plane for travel. While other minor-league franchises rode buses for hour upon hour, the Vipers whimsically flew to road games as close as Kalamazoo, 140 miles away -- or about a 15-minute flight.

Their top-notch facilities included a hot tub and a sauna. Former player Stan Drulia recalled a game in Cincinnati the night of one of the famous Evander Holyfied-Mike Tyson boxing fights. The players asked the pilot to wait long enough after the Vipers' game before returning to Detroit so that they could visit a local establishment and watch the fight first.

"Those are the privileges you appreciate and we were able to take advantage of," Drulia said.

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Sunday Long Read: Adult league thrives in San Jose

Sunday, 02.15.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- Chuck Kosowicz grew up, like many people in Toronto, as a hockey player.

When Kosowicz, 55, came to Northern California 15 years ago for a job with Cisco Systems, he brought his hockey equipment with the hopes of finding a place to skate and a few people with similar interests.

What Kosowicz found is one of the largest organized hockey programs in North America.

"I was just hoping that I could find a place to play," Kosowicz said. "I was crossing my fingers that I could play. I found out there was hockey here and I could play and it was wonderful. I am very happy about that.

"I've probably played more hockey here than I ever had before."

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Sunday Long Read: Columbus first-rate hockey town

Sunday, 01.18.2015 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

The scene that surrounded the Columbus Blue Jackets during Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series at Nationwide Arena was unfathomable for longtime fans in the area.

Here was a team the city could call its own, playing in a state-of-the-art building with a rollicking crowd roaring with every opportunity by the home side. The noise flowed onto the ice surface in waves, the fans screaming for the goal that would extend the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the perennial NHL powerhouse and burgeoning rival.

The eyes of the hockey world were on the Ohio capital as the pesky Blue Jackets attacked, looking to make the statement that after a 15-year journey they had arrived as a force.

Ed Gingher, who runs the city's only AAA youth hockey program, was there that night. He is heavily invested in what the Blue Jackets do because it directly impacts the talent pool available to feed his program; plus he does some work for the franchise. He is devoted to the sport, having played and coached it for much of his life.

"I've never heard a building as loud as the one in Columbus during that series," Gingher said.

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Sunday Long Read: Landeskog a 'born leader'

Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Tony Landeskog still has the story saved on his computer, the one he read over and over with his son, Gabriel:

"What it takes to be an NHL captain."

"We just printed that out and read through it," Tony told NHL.com. "It was what personality is important to be a captain."

"Take heart and the ability to be heartless," was the lead to the story by longtime hockey writer Alan Adams. "Add experience and the savvy to get a message across. Mix in desire and the wherewithal to instill that same desire in others. And blend in a heaping helping of leadership."

Gabriel Landeskog was 12 years old when that article was published, but the qualities Adams described are evident today in Landeskog, now a 22-year-old in his third season as captain of the Colorado Avalanche.

For those who know Landeskog best, it's not surprising he is the captain of an NHL team. That it happened after his first season raised a few eyebrows. But seeing a "C" on the front of his jersey is about as normal as seeing his name on the back of it.

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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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Quote of the Day

I think everyone left it out there. Every game this season, regular season and playoffs, we played as hard as we could. We're not out of the playoffs right now because of lack of effort, and that's all that we can ask of each other.

— Predators defenseman Seth Jones after Nashville was eliminated by Chicago in Game 6 on Saturday