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Sunday Long Read
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Sunday Long Read

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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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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Quote of the Day

It's something that you don't really envision starting this way, but when you put the work in you don't feel like it's unwarranted. You definitely don't envision it unfolding this way, but you do think you can be successful at this level.

— Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, who defeated the Jets on Wednesday to improve to 6-0-1 since making his first NHL start on Feb. 18