--With the Winnipeg Jets paying their first visit to San Jose last night, it made me think of the World Hockey Association. The WHA was a rival league which impacted hockey significantly in the ‘70s but also has made its mark on the 21st century NHL.
--The WHA brought with it overtime to regular season games. The league played a sudden-death 10-minute period for games ending in regulation tied. The WHA was the first league to draw European talent in large numbers to North America.
--The Winnipeg Jets franchise (now the Phoenix club) gave the league immediate credibility when it signed the great Bobby Hull to a long-term multi-million dollar contract. The WHA also were the first to draft 18-year olds. At the time the NHL drafted 20-year olds. Following a 7-year war, the NHL absorbed Winnipeg, Hartford, Quebec and Edmonton into the NHL. The bidding war for hockey talent made it possible for professional hockey players to be paid full market value.
--The current Winnipeg Jets are presently in their 3rd season after being relocated from Atlanta. These Jets were not part of the WHA, but it offends me to see that the Jets’ Evander Kane wears number 9. The Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, gave so much to major league hockey and made it possible for the NHL to be successful in secondary Canadian markets and was key in getting Winnipeg major league status.
--How about Captain America Joe Pavelski’s incredible scoring streak? The Sharks Wisconsin-born centerman has notched a remarkable 18 goals in his last 20 games. The only Teal wearing player to score more was Jonathan Cheechoo who scored 20 goals in a 20-game span back in 2005-06. The Sharks #8’s recent exploits have raised “USA-USA-USA” chants from the Sharks fans in San Jose. Joe is maxing out his talent and is tireless in his preparation and in game production. “Little Joe” has 27 goals in 50 games, and is on a pace for 44 goals, 2nd to the Capitals Alexander Ovechkin. Pavelski will have a huge impact on Team USA’s drive toward an Olympic Medal next month in Sochi Russia.
--I enjoyed Sharks TV color man Drew Remenda’s take on the opening faceoff series of fights last Saturday as the Flames visited Vancouver. Drew floated the opinion that these sorts of things happen every once in a while and to true longtime fans recognize that. The mainstream media may be wringing its hands, but the NHL community should not be concerned. For the last 20-25 years the NHL has courted a broader fan base (particularly in the US) with little to show for it. I look at the NHL as a huge world-wide club open to whomever wants to join, but I don’t believe we should change our game for those who couldn’t care less.
--Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Network tomorrow at 6:30 PM when the Ducks and Kings square off in the first warm weather outdoor game at Dodger Stadium. Sunday NBC will be at Yankee Stadium for an outdoor tilt featuring the Rangers and the Devils. Who knows…a Northern California outdoor game could be in the NHL’s future.
--What’s up with the NHL’s injury updates featuring only ‘upper body’ or ‘lower body’ descriptions? The reports are so vague they might as well say nothing at all.
--Lost Wages. Next time the NHL expands there will be a need to put more teams in the west. Currently the Eastern Conference has 16 teams while the Western Conference has only 14 clubs.
How about a team in Las Vegas? During the winter snow birds from around the world visit Nevada for the warm weather, entertainment and gambling. Given their position in the sports pecking order I think hockey should be first. However precautions need to be made to ensure gamblers never get to close to the game and its players. The city would be wise to welcome the NHL with open arms.
--Monday night will be the first meeting between the Sharks and Kings since Dustin Brown’s questionable hit on San Jose rookie scorer Tomas Hertl. Hertl had to undergo surgery and it is unclear if he can return this season. The game at SAP Center Monday starts at 7:00pm and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Enjoy the games.