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Sunday Long Read
(Page 3 of 3)
Sunday Long Read

Sunday Long Read: Samoskevich honors Sandy Hook

Sunday, 12.15.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Preparing for one of the biggest games of her career, Melissa Samoskevich heard the news that will, in many ways, shape the rest of her life.

Samoskevich, 15 years old, was on a bus with her hockey teammates from the Shattuck-St. Mary's School varsity girls team on Dec. 14, 2012, settling in for the long bus ride from campus in Fairbault, Minn., to face a powerful Chicago Mission team, considered to be one of the best in the country.

The game for Shattuck would be a measuring stick against one of the toughest opponents on the schedule. The tough task ahead consumed the thoughts of Samoskevich as the bus ate up the miles toward the Windy City. When Samoskevich wasn't thinking about the game, and the role she hoped to play in it, she was thinking of an upcoming trip home to visit family during the holiday break.

But a phone call during that bus ride would send the sophomore's world off its axis. Samoskevich's mother, Patty, called that afternoon, the bearer of bad news about the family's hometown of Sandy Hook, Conn.

"My mom called me and [said] there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary," Samoskevich said. "Are you kidding? In Sandy Hook? I was dumbfounded. I remember getting on my laptop and putting the news on my laptop. When we finally got to the hotel, I found out how many lives were lost. I couldn't believe it."

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Sunday Long Read: Ducks back H.S. champion

Sunday, 12.08.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Dusseldorf, Germany is a long way from the NHL, figuratively and literally.

Yet, after playing 10 seasons in the NHL, the majority of which spent with the Los Angeles Kings, Dusseldorf is exactly where Craig Johnson found himself in 2005. He went to Germany a year previously to play for the Hamburg Freezers during the NHL work stoppage. He expected it to be a one-off adventure, but an abdominal injury and complications from the surgery to correct it left Johnson out of hockey for close to a year and without a NHL contract offer.

By the time he was healthy, NHL teams had settled their rosters, so Johnson stayed in Dusseldorf for a two-year run with the DEG MetroStars of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional circuit.

After 30 goals and 51 points in 75 games, Johnson was again at a crossroads and opted to return to Southern California, where he had set up roots after playing parts of eight seasons with the Kings and a portion of the 2003-04 season with the Anaheim Ducks. While considering his next move, Johnson took some time to coach his son, Eric, who was playing with the Anaheim Junior Ducks, a youth program established in 1994, not long after the NHL came to Orange County.

There was no way for Johnson to know it at the time, but the decision paved the road for a high school hockey program in California to make history a few years later.

As the varsity hockey coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Johnson has spearheaded a program that, like the interscholastic league in which it competes, has seen an unlikely and meteoric rise, one which has gained praise across the hockey world.

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Sunday Long Read: '96 World Cup an American dream

Sunday, 12.01.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The clock was ticking and turning into the enemy again as the United States appeared to be moving closer to another would've, could've, maybe should've moment against Canada in a major international event.

3:24, 3:23 …

Canada's Claude Lemieux wired the puck around the boards. It went untouched until it reached American Brian Leetch at the left point.

3:22, 3:21 …

Leetch settled it and wound up for a slap shot.

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Sunday Long Read: Sid vs. Ovi has defined generation

Sunday, 11.24.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- There have been so many memorable moments, so many indelible images in the careers of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby since they were the No. 1 picks in back-to-back NHL Drafts. Yet, the outcome of one shot could have made everything different.

The two superstars had willed their teams, Ovechkin's Washington Capitals and Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins, through six games of an epic, breathtaking Stanley Cup Playoffs series when they collided in a winner-take-all showdown on May 13, 2009 in the Chinatown district of the nation's capital. The series, which offered the potential for greatness and then delivered beyond anyone's highest expectations, had reached its climax.

Less than three minutes into Game 7 at Verizon Center, Ovechkin collected in stride a puck that had caromed off the boards. The red-clad crowd rose to its feet as its favorite Russian locomotive steamed past a helpless defenseman and moved in alone toward the goaltender.

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Sunday Long Read: '03 Heritage Classic starts boom

Sunday, 11.17.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

For the NHL, a flight of fancy from a group of beer drinkers provided the impetus for the outdoor-game boom that has shaped the past decade for the League.

Patrick LaForge, who as the president and chief operating officer of the Edmonton Oilers, was one of the driving forces behind the League's first regular-season outdoor game, the 2003 Heritage Classic played at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 22. His idea, sketched out on a flight back to Edmonton, found its roots in a survey of Molson customers.

The game, played on a brutally cold day in the City of Champions featured the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It was preceded by a Legends Game that proved to be one of the most memorable alumni games in the history of the sport, if not all sports.

The successes of that day, which spawned the outdoor-game boom to follow, provided the blue print for a series of Winter Classic games beginning in 2003. It also spawned another Heritage Classic, in Calgary in 2011, as well as one to be played in 2014 in Vancouver. The four-game Stadium Series to be played in three different venues during the 2013-14 season is also a linear descendant of the audacious plan by the Edmonton Oilers to take the game back outside to its roots.

With the 10-year anniversary of the landmark event looming next week, as well as the approaching 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., coming into focus, NHL.com revisited the magical spectacle in Edmonton that forever altered the course of the National Hockey League and hockey in general.

In this Sunday Long Read, 25 different individuals involved with the day share their memories of a game -- and a spectacle -- that proved to be beyond the strongest imaginations at the time.

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Sunday Long Read: Cup champs used down time well

Sunday, 11.10.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

George McPhee had constructed a Stanley Cup Playoff team in 2002-03 that included the highest-paid player in hockey, a Vezina Trophy winner and two other All-Star-caliber skaters.

But something was amiss for the Washington Capitals. The $11 million man, forward Jaromir Jagr, was not producing at the level expected of him. Nor was he providing a boost at the box office. A franchise known for regular-season consistency (and postseason disappointment) wasn't moving forward or backward, and the roster was getting older and more expensive without improved results.

A terrible start to the 2003-04 season confirmed the suspicions of McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis. It was time to try something else.

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Sunday Long Read: Jets lift spirits of Winnipeg

Sunday, 11.03.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Thomas Steen skated onto the ice at Winnipeg Arena to a noise with an intensity he had rarely heard in his life.

The one-time captain of the Winnipeg Jets, on the eve of retirement from the NHL, had been called out onto the ice by Don Cherry, the CBC commentator, as part of a farewell ceremony for the team on May 6, 1995. It came days after the season ended and shortly after the announcement the organization was being relocated to Arizona, where it would begin life as the Phoenix Coyotes in the 1996-97 season.

Steen, clad in jeans and his white No. 25 Winnipeg Jets jersey, skated to center ice and listened as Cherry began a series of speeches -- eulogies, really -- for the Jets, the only North American team Steen had known.

Steen wiped repeatedly at his eyes, unsuccessfully fighting back tears, as Cherry lauded the fans for the passion they exhibited for the game and for their team.

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Sunday Long Read: Orr's impact remains omnipresent

Sunday, 10.27.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The anger, and the disbelief, in Derek Sanderson's voice are unmistakably present 30 years after the fact.

A long-ago attempt to besmirch the reputation of Bobby Orr remains a fresh wound, still galling despite the passage of time.

At the time, Sanderson was approached by a reporter researching a story on Orr, a former Boston Bruins teammate and one of his best friends. In fact, Orr played a leading role in Sanderson becoming sober and finding his way back from the abyss.

So there was an eagerness to talk about Orr. Almost immediately, however, Sanderson sensed this was not going to be a flattering tale about his respected and revered close friend. Sanderson had developed a sense for these things because this wasn't the first time a reporter had come to him looking for a speck of dirt on Bobby Orr.

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Sunday Long Read: Tough decision, NHL or juniors

Sunday, 10.20.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Hockey prodigies Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon have been virtually inseparable for the past two years. Now they have been forced apart by the decisions of NHL team executives and sent to opposite ends of the hockey spectrum.

Drouin and MacKinnon combined to lift Halifax to the top of the Canadian Hockey League during the past two seasons, and an assumption grew that they would be high first-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft and begin a head-to-head battle at the NHL level that would last the better part of two decades.

But that duel must wait at least a year now after the unexpected decision by Tampa Bay Lightning management to send Drouin back to juniors before the 2013-14 regular season began.

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Sunday Long Read: Goaltending Economics 101

Sunday, 10.13.2013 / 3:00 AM / Sunday Long Read

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Mike Richter is an American hockey hero, a kid from a small town near Philadelphia who grew up to become the first starting goaltender for the New York Rangers to win the Stanley Cup in 54 years and the backbone of a landmark victory for the United States at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

When Richter was eligible to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 1998, he was one year removed from the best save percentage of his career and had led the NHL in games played by a goaltender. He was one of the top two goalies on the free-agent market, along with the Edmonton Oilers' Curtis Joseph.

Joseph moved across Canada and signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Richter stayed put, returning to the Rangers (after reports of New York flirting with the idea of pursuing Joseph).

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Quote of the Day

I downplayed the first one because I thought it's just a hockey game. We just want to win the game; it's against our rival and we want the two points. I downplayed it, but now having gone through the first one I look back and say, 'Geez, that was really cool.' I think as I've grown a bit older I've got a lot more appreciation for what we're allowed to do every day.

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the second one of his career after 2011 in Pittsburgh