A is for the Anaheim Ducks who will face their cross town rivals, the LA Kings, at Dodger Stadium on January 25th. This game will serve as a live test for future outdoor games in warm weather markets.
B is for Dan Bylsma. The Pittsburgh head coach will also serve the role for Team USA this winter at Sochi Olympics. Last night was a great opportunity for the Sharks US born players…Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, and Tommy Wingels to impress Bylsma. With other high profile Americas such as Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel and Ryan Kesler Team USA’s final roster will be a tough decision.
C is for the Cow Palace. If you haven’t been there since 1993 or are too young to remember, do you a favor and take in a San Francisco Bulls game at the old barn.
D is for downtown. The NHL best franchises make their hay from arenas situated in their city’s downtown. Great restaurants, lively bars, and a fan base employed nearby make it fun for everyone involved.
E is Edmonton, the city which will soon be enjoying the luxury of a brand new arena. Rogers of Canada also just announced a naming rights deal for the Oilers new home. The added revenue should allow the Oilers to be competitive with vast majority of NHL teams.
F is for feeling better, as in Raffi Torres and his knee injury. It will be very important that Raffi is at 100% for his late season return to the lineup. When he does return, he will play a huge role come the stretch drive and playoff time.
G is Gear. Equipment over the last 10-15 years has improved greatly. Skates are super light, pads for skaters and goalie are lighter and stronger, face shields has saved faces and in some cases careers. Every player in the NHL now uses composite sticks which are lighter and flex better for harder shots. But the Gear guys still need to find a way so that sticks don’t break so often.
H is for Happy. Is anyone happier to be playing in the NHL than the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl? He’s living the dream and is skating on the first line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
I as in ‘no I in team’. Hockey is the ultimate game. Will beats skills and teamwork is essential and hard work pays off unlike any other game.
J is for Joe Pavelski. Often he is called ‘Little Joe’ as compared ‘Big Joe’ Thornton. Pavs is anything but little on the ice. His all-around game is as good as anyone in the league. He’s a goal scorer, powerplay, penalty kill and faceoff expert. Equally remarkable is Pav’s fearless approach and clutch play.
K is for KHL, where former Shark Jonathon Cheechoo who has been selected to that Russian league’s All-Star team. Cheech will be on a line with other former NHLers Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov.
L is for Larry as in Robinson. I’ve been around Big League athletes for close to 30 years and Larry lives up to everything the fans would ever want their hero to be. He’s modest, funny, smart, a Hall-of-Famer player, a great coach, and a man who treats everyone with dignity and respect. He more than makes up for those few professional who don’t live up to such standards.
M is for moments. I can’t wait until the moment when the Red Wings and Maple Leafs make their entrance before 110,000 fans on New Year’s Day at the famous “Big House” in Ann Arbor. Tell your friends (fans of not) to make viewing plans. It should be epic.
N is for November which was a remarkable month for the Sharks which saw them go 8-2-3.
O is for NHL Officials who make the right call 99% of the time. It’s the other 1 percent which drives fans, coaches, and media crazy. The league needs to get it right, even when it means a short delay in arena. And like my Mom said, “when you make a mistake…own up to it”.
P is for Pittsburgh, a town that loves their Penguins. The Yellow and Gold that they share with the Steelers and Pirates is everywhere in that town. Much like Mario Lemieux in the 80’s, Sidney Crosby has saved Pittsburgh’s NHL team. Lemieux’s star re-energized interest in hockey, while Crosby was the force behind getting their new building.
Q is for Quebec City. That city is building their own new arena which should put them in line for an NHL relocation or expansion club. Much like Winnipeg, the fan, and corporate base is there. The Nordiques are still universally loved.
R is for Rookies. The Sharks’ super rookie Tomas Hertl leads all freshmen with 13 goals and 21 points. Other notable rookies include the Bruins’ Torey Krug with 16 points, the Flames’ Sean Monahan has 9 goals, and the Avs’ Nathan MacKinnon leads in helpers 11 assists.
S for Star Power of which the Sharks have is huge supply. The squad which boasts Thornton, Marleau, Burns, Couture, Boyle, Pavelski, and Hertl is as good a core as any team in almost any sport. Let’s hope this is the year to turn Star Power into a Cup they can be proud of forever.
T is for Television. Just last week Rogers of Canada bought all NHL TV and digital rights from the NHL. It’s reported to be a 12-year deal at $5.2 Billion (with a B). Rogers is hoping to use its transmission, cable, internet and cell phone services with what serves as ‘hockey software’ to make a profit from Canadian fans coast to coast. Each team will receive a big check every season from Rogers. And the players too will enjoy the contact as they receive 50% of all hockey revenue.
U is for underwear. New materials have been developed in recent years of which hockey underwear is used by the athletes. The sweat is wicked away from the body which keeps the player dryer and more comfortable during games.
V is for Marc-Edourd Vlasic. “Pickles” is playing the best hockey of his career and should crack the elite Team Canada Olympic lineup this year.
W is for wins of which a Shootout Win is not a win. Winning a skills completion is nice and everyone goes happy, but as a purist I still struggle with the shootout and the results it provides.
X is for Xmas. Christmas, like other religious winter holidays, are such family fun. Kudos go out to the National Hockey League for not scheduling games on December 24th, 25th and 26th. Many NHL players are young dads and those who make their living around the game will also benefit this thoughtful policy. Thanks!
Y is for Neil Young. A longtime Sharks’ season ticket holder, Neil has a true love for the game. The classic rocker was raised was in Canada and in part by a Hall of Fame sports-writing father. In old photos Young is often seen wear NHL jerseys or Toronto Maple Leaf patches on his jeans.
Z is for Zdeno Chara who continues to dominate every game he plays. At 6’9”, 255lbs, with a huge wingspan, high hockey IQ, and his ability to log high minutes, the Bruins are again a Stanley Cup contender.