--Recently in a game in Tampa Bay Sharks’ defenseman Douglas Murray
took a puck to the neck that knocked him out for the rest of the road trip. A fractured adam’s apple was the diagnosis. A few years back the Panthers’ Richard Zednick took a skate across the neck. If not for medical techs and team trainers’ quick action, Zednick could have bled to death right there on the ice. Neck guards are a standard piece of equipment at the youth level. Player skates are as sharp as any knife in your kitchen. When will the neck guard come to the NHL full time? In my opinion it is only a matter of time. Let’s hope so. I’d hate to see an avoidable fatality on the NHL ice.
--A story that deserves more attention in the popular culture is the story of remarkable Sutter family. From modest upbringings in Viking, Alberta, 6 brothers made it all the way to the NHL. Brian, Darryl, Duane, Brent and twins Rich and Ron collectively played almost 5,000 games with nearly 3,000 points. The next generations has seen cousins Brett and Brandon crack NHL rosters while other cousins Shaun, Merrick, Brody and Luke have all played hockey at least the major junior level. You’ll remember current Kings’ coach Darryl coached San Jose in the late ‘90s and brother Ron serve time in teal as a pest of a forward who was known for excellent penalty killing and consistent strong effort. I’d love to see Hollywood bring this story to life on the silver screen.
--Ever see some NHL players wearing yellow laces in their skates? Ever wonder why? I did, and discovered the yellow laces have a coating of wax which helps keep skates laced extra tight.
--It appears the new realignment and schedule will be on hold at least until a new CBA is in place. Even then it’s no lock. The recently proposed system was an effort to reduce travel cost. I have an idea in case the league stays with the existing conference system. How about scheduling 2-game series for all non-divisional, matchups inside the conference? Rather than, for instance, travelling twice to St. Paul to face the Wild, the Sharks would play there twice over 3 or 4 days. I think the second game of the series would have some fire left over from the 1st game. And when die-hard fans, looking to take a road trip, to say Vancouver or Chicago they’ get a chance to see their team twice in one city. Likewise any Central or Northwest teams coming to San Jose would play a 2-game series.
--Are you a devoted Sharks fan? You can’t make it to many games due to cost or work? Best value ever is a free admission to a Sharks practice at Sharks Ice on 10th and Alma in San Jose. Most home non-game days the Sharks hit the ice at 11:00am. They usually run drills and work on the finer points of the game. This is a great chance to see these amazing athletes up close. Bring your jacket -- it gets cold.
--Western Conference teams have to do a lot of travelling, west coast teams even more. But the Sharks travel is about as good as it can be with a team charter every road trip. The plane is set up with all first class style seating. There’s plenty of room to move around. There are catered meals, plenty of finger food and munchies. One of the best features is the plane has ac power and starting this season, wireless internet.
--Following the 2004-05 work stoppage the NHL made some rule changes in the effort to speed up the game and let the stars be the stars. Lifting the center red line for 2-line offside passes promised to have multiple upsides. But for every new rule there are 30 NHL head coaches who will find a way to breakdown the rule and tighten up the game. Now 6 years down the road the ‘stretch pass’ is anything but exciting. Defensemen stand behind their own goal and look at all their options. With no clear breakout, d-men pound the puck on the boards praying that a teammate catches it at the far blueline. The league may want to take a good long look at this one. This tactic does nothing for the game. I want to see skill and skating. Banging a puck into the boards is not skill.
--What’s up with today’s game? Since when has everyone turned into a goaltender? Block shots are now half the game. It seems like any shot from the outside is now a block or attempted tip shot. Teams’ defensive tactic is now to have all 5 skaters collapse to the front of their own net. The ensuing scramble in front of the net can be exciting in the last minute of the game, but when this happens every minute of every period…ho hum. How about a hockey version of basketball’s ‘key’? Create an 8’ x 8’ key in the slot just above of the goaltenders’ crease? In the space only one defender is allowed. Offensive plays can reside in the key for no more than 3 seconds. This would clear shooting lanes and make more scoring chance front the outside. I’d like to see something like this tested in one of the NHL new rules scrimmages. I’m sure with a tweek here and there they can find an upside to this idea.
--Recently, for the second time this season, the Blue Jackets were on the bad side of an NHL video review involving the clock in the last second of play. A couple months ago in a Kings/Jackets matchup, the clock was not started immediately. The result was a Kings goal to tie the game in the final tenth of a second to tie the game. The Kings then score in the OT to win the game. Last week in New York, Columbus had appeared to tie the game with one-tenth of a second. Columbus TV had .02 remaining, Rangers TV .01 and NHL video review showed that time had expired. The NHL went into full spin mode claiming that official video review is the only ‘official’ clock. What? For twenty years the NHL has been using TV broadcasters’ overhead camera with a superimposed clock to determine when the period had expired. My suggestion is to, yes, take another idea from the NBA. Hoops have a red light on the backboard connected to the ‘official’ game clock. When a shot is taken in the final moments of a quarter the red light is activated at the instant the clock runs out. This gives visual indication of the clock status. Any camera that sees the backboard can be used to determine if time had or had not run out.