LOGAN COUTURE PICKED LAST IN ALL-STAR DRAFT
National Hockey League teams go to great lengths to ensure that they make the correct decisions at the draft table every year. Understandably getting it right in the first round is a priority. It was once suggested to me that the typical NHL club might end up spending up to a million dollars making their first round selection. Amateur scouts may have spent several years watching a prospect make his way through junior hockey in North American or abroad. I don’t know exactly how much the Sharks scouting department spent during the lead up to picking Logan Couture
with the 9th selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft but it looks like whatever the tab was, it was money well spent. In just his second full season in the league Couture has the look of a franchise type player. The kind of player who leads his team on the ice, makes those around him better and handles himself with class off the ice. This year he’s on pace to surpass last season’s 32 goals and 56points. Even without injured line mate Ryane Clowe
he’s finding a way to put the puck in the net. He scores shorthanded and he scores on the power play. And how about the classy way he handled being picked last at the NHL All Star Draft? As a team official from a rival club told me recently, there’s no limit to what Couture can accomplish.
On a recent edition of Ask The Crew on our Comcast Sportsnet California telecast, a viewer asked Drew Remenda and I if we thought fighting would disappear from the NHL in the future? I said that I thought it would and there’s mounting evidence to suggest that it might indeed be the case. At its recent winter meetings, USA Hockey recommended that fighting be eliminated at the Tier I, II and III levels. If the vote this summer passes, any fights in USA Hockey sanctioned events will result in the combatants each receiving a game misconduct and an additional one game suspension. And now USA Hockey is asking that Canada work to ban fighting too. And Hockey Canada officials say they are willing to discuss the fighting issue as it pertains to the increase in concussions and head injuries and do what’s best for the players. Like it or not fighting in hockey will die a slow death. My guess is that 10 years from now you’ll hardly see it in the NHL.
EDMONTON, ICE SKATERS PARADISE
I’ve never taken my skates on a Sharks road trip before but after our recent trip to Edmonton I’m considering it. Two non playing members of our traveling party did take their blades along and did they ever hit the jackpot . First of all the weather cooperated in a big way. We’ve had plenty of road games in the Alberta provincial capital before over the years and most often its cold and sometimes bitterly so. I’m talking about temperatures in the -30 Fahrenheit range. But last week the temperature was just below freezing and that made for great opportunities to enjoy a twirl in the great outdoors. Edmonton City hall has an outdoor skating rink. There’s also Hawrelak Park’s frozen man made lake that I skated on as a boy growing up. Our guests took in both locations and had a blast. First there was the very unique experience of skating outdoors in a very urban downtown location. Then there was the exhilarating sensation of zooming around the mile long lake. On top of the outdoor experience there’s also a public skating rink in the West Edmonton Mall (the largest shopping mall in North America). Next time we have extra time in Edmonton, and the temperature is right, I’ll be strapping on my skates too.
TOP 5 CITIES TO GO ON A SHARKS ROADIE1. Montreal
– Take a metropolitan major city with a distinct French-Canadian culture and mix in a passion for hockey found in few places on earth. The NHL game is king in Montreal and the atmosphere at Molson Centre is unlike any other in the league. The only time people aren’t talking hockey is when they are eating the fabulous food. Don’t miss Montreal’s famous smoked meat!2. Vancouver
– First of all it’s so close to the Bay Area. You can fly there in about 2 hours or drive there in a day and a half. Once you arrive you’ll find a fabulous and culturally diverse international city. And do they ever love the Canucks. Sometimes they hate on Roberto Luongo but at the end of the day EVERYBODY cares about hockey.3. Nashville
– All of us who have come to love Nashville hope that the franchise endures forever. The growing fan base is extremely passionate and very hockey savvy. The vibe of the city is not what you’d expect. Yes, country music rules the roost but there’s plenty of live rock, blues and R & B to go around too. And don’t forget the legendary BBQ at Jack’s. It’s impossible to not have a good time in Music City USA.4. Edmonton
It’s my hometown so yes I’m biased. But the fans in Edmonton are serious. I once got a ride from an Edmonton cab driver that was originally from Pakistan. On the way to the morning practice he told me that then Oilers General Manager Kevin Lowe “had to find a right handed shooting defenseman to run the Edmonton power play” or they weren’t going to succeed. I asked the cabbie how long he’d been living in Canada. “Two weeks”, he replied.5. Chicago
– I lived in Chicago for a number of years and came to love the city. I think it’s the most underrated big city in the USA. It’s got great people, great architecture, great food and fantastic sports fans. Now that the Blackhawks have won their Cup and are back to being relevant again in the Windy City the United Center experience is fantastic. Still the best National Anthem in all of pro sports, especially if you’re there live.
When Sharks forward Tommy Wingels
scored at 15:03 of the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks on January 15th of this season it was a lot more than just the final Sharks goal in a comeback that fell short. It was Wingels first NHL goal. That’s the thrill of a lifetime for any pro and for Wingels, who was drafted in the 6th round by the Sharks in 2008 (177th overall). It was also the validation of years of hard work and dedication. Born in the Chicago suburb of Evanston in 1988, Wingels grew up in the nearby community of Wilmette. Even though he attended New Trier High School Wingels decided to forego the high school hockey experience and instead played for Team Illinois at the Midget Major AAA level. It was there that he began to be noticed. After his high school graduation he spent a season playing for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the United States Hockey League. It was a key step that got him to the University of Miami (Ohio) and eventually to the AHL in Worcester and the NHL with the Sharks. A Sharks win that night would have made things even sweeter for Wingels, but to score his first goal in front of his friends and family in his hometown against the team he grew up cheering for, was the memory of a lifetime.