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Color of Hockey: Riley helps granddaughter get back on ice –



William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles Ryerson University hockey player Kryshanda Green and her grandfather, former NHL forward Bill Riley.

Kryshanda Green already made one comeback. Her grandfather persuaded her to make another.

Green, a forward for Ryerson University in Toronto, was considering not playing this season, thinking she was too old at 26 for Canadian college hockey.

“I was just a little concerned about whether I would be able to keep up, what my impact was going to be, the dynamic in the dressing room,” she said. “My grandad spoke to me and made me see the light a little bit better.”

“Grandad” is Bill Riley, who was the third black player in the NHL behind fellow Washington Capitals teammate Mike Marson in 1974 and Willie O’Ree, who debuted for the Boston Bruins in 1958.

Riley’s message to his granddaughter: Get a grip.

“I said, ‘Listen, Kryshanda, Pop-Pop was in his 30s when Steve Larmer, Steve Ludzik and all those guys came in as 19-year-olds, played for us in the American Hockey League [for the New Brunswick Hawks], and looked up to me in the highest kind of way because of the leadership skills I displayed for them,'” he said, “I said, ‘These girls that are coming in, they will look up to you for eternity for all the things that you will help them with, so don’t think you’re too old to play.'”

Green took her grandad’s advice, and she’s glad she did. She’s captain of the Ryerson team this season and she’ll end her collegiate career as the university’s all-time leader in goals and points.

She has 74 points (33 goals, 41 assists) in 85 games. Green will also finish among the university’s leaders in assists, game-winning goals and power-play goals.

“Pretty proud, makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” Riley said. “I’m over the moon with what’s going on with her life right now and her career.”

Green’s success didn’t come easy. She quit hockey after playing her freshman season in 2012-13 at Western University in London, Ontario, where she finished with 21 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 26 games and earned Ontario Athletics All-Rookie Team honors. But her on-ice performance didn’t carry over to the classroom. Hitting the books wasn’t a priority, and Green left the university after that season, breaking her 69-year-old grandfather’s heart.

“He was flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He wasn’t too happy. “Every time we spoke to each other he said, ‘You gotta get back to the game, you gotta get back to the game.'”

Green didn’t play hockey for two years. She filled the void by collaborating with Toronto-area hip-hop artists and becoming the rapper known as Krash. She performed around town and even released a video and extended play recording titled “Bankrupt For Quality” four years ago. But as much as she tried to deny it, Green missed hockey and wanted to give college another try.

“I think it’s the [most fun] game in the world, and I missed all the bonds, the connections I made and just playing the game,” she said. “It was very hard for me to accept the way I left the game. What made my decision in wanting to go back to school is an opportunity to just try to finish the story in a different way.”

Ryerson coach Lisa Haley remembered seeing Green play junior hockey and contacted her about a second chance. Green enrolled at Ryerson as a redshirt transfer in 2015. She didn’t play a single game that season so she could focus on her studies.

“I think both Krash and I would agree that we were optimistic that this could be the outcome, but we were both realistic that this was a risk,” said Haley, who was an assistant for Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics. “She’s coming back to school much older than a lot of her teammates. It didn’t go very well for her the first time with the student-athlete life. It was definitely a roll of the dice on both ends.”

It was a roll Green wanted to take, especially when she learned that she could wear the No. 8, the number Riley wore with the Capitals from 1976-79, decades before Alex Ovechkin earned the nickname “The Great Eight.”

“When I came back, I was thinking going back the number I had at Western [97] but I suddenly changed my mind because I was just looking at a picture of my grandfather one day at my mom’s place and it struck a chord with me,” she said. “My grandfather is like a huge influence on me, he’s very inspiring. I know he dealt with a lot of adversity. His situation is something that I can be very proud of.”

Riley, who had 61 points (31 goals, 30 assists) in 139 NHL games for the Capitals and Winnipeg Jets, jokes that he left a lot of goals in that Washington jersey for Ovechkin.

He said he was choked up about Green wearing his number but also issued a grandfatherly challenge to her.

“‘He said, ‘You better earn that number. You better do something with that number if you’re going to wear it,'” Green said.

She responded by putting up 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 2016-17 and finishing 10th in the OUA in scoring. She had six multipoint games and led Ryerson with three power-play goals that season.

Green was an OUA Second-Team All-Star last season after finishing with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 24 games. She was also a finalist for Ryerson’s H.H. Kerr Female Athlete of the Year award.

“I’ve learned that I’m resilient and that I’m not a quitter, and that’s important to me,” Green said. “That no-quit attitude that’s the biggest thing for me because there are a lot of challenges in life in every area and I want to make sure that I’m not going to quit in those moments.”

Green hasn’t figured out what she’s going to do when she completes her studies at Ryerson. She has already earned her undergraduate degree in politics and governance from the university and is working toward a graduate certificate in criminal justice.

Whether she continues in hockey as a professional player or coach or puts her degrees to use, Haley is certain that Green will succeed in whatever she chooses.

“I think she’s a tremendous success story of someone who needed a second chance, was given it and has made the most of it,” Haley said. “If it’s being a rapper or being the next prime minister of Canada, I think she’s capable of either one of those things.”

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Why need for roster flexibility forced Maple Leafs’ hand in latest moves –



TORONTO — The price of much-needed roster flexibility was a piece of the goaltending depth Kyle Dubas amassed this off-season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers Monday before he even had a chance to play for the team. The closest Dell got was serving as Jack Campbell’s backup in Ottawa on Saturday night and now he’s off to New Jersey, where the Devils have been searching for more help since Corey Crawford’s retirement in training camp.

Toronto knew it had little chance of sneaking a 31-year-old with more than 100 games of NHL experience through the waiver wire, especially in this marketplace. There have been five goaltender claims since the NHL season began and it’s believed Edmonton was going to grab Dell if New Jersey didn’t take him first.

The move was necessitated by the fact the Leafs were only able to carry 18 skaters under the salary cap ceiling and lost Nick Robertson to a left knee injury that will sideline him for at least the next four weeks.

“[Robertson] had an MRI yesterday. The results we got back … I guess we would classify it as good news considering how it was looking,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said before Monday’s game against Winnipeg. “But he is going to miss some time.”

Stream 38 Toronto Maple Leafs games this season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, SN NOW+ subscriptions now include access to NHL LIVE!

The fact Robertson will miss at least 24 days and 10 games allows him to be placed on long-term injured reserve while he’s out. In waiving Dell and veteran centre Jason Spezza, who cleared and was assigned to the taxi squad in a paper move, Toronto was able to get just under the $81.5-million cap ceiling before placing Robertson’s salary on LTIR.

That should make it easier to move players back and forth from the taxi squad, giving Keefe more options to work with in the coming month. He put that directly to use by bringing up Mikko Lehtonen for his NHL debut against Winnipeg as part of an 11F/7D rotation.

“We want to get him going here today and really try to get a feel for how he can compete in the league, and give him a chance to do that,” Keefe said of Lehtonen. “The greatest challenge for players like him is the nature of training camp and no exhibition season is you can’t really get the kinks out, you can’t make the adjustments, you can’t make the mistakes in those games that don’t matter and then have it cleaned up by the time you’re playing for real.”

It shouldn’t be long before Rasmus Sandin, Travis Boyd and Adam Brooks jump up from the taxi squad and get some playing time as well.

Depth is necessary to get through every season, but the challenges are even greater with the compressed schedule and the lingering threat of positive COVID-19 cases.

That’s part of the reason why the Leafs brought in both Dell and Michael Hutchinson on one-way contracts in October despite already having Campbell and Frederik Andersen in-house.

“We did that before we knew what the schedule was exactly going to look like and we just wanted to make sure that we had as much depth as possible,” Dubas said earlier this month. “Not knowing the way that things were going to be, we just felt that having as many capable NHL goaltenders was going to be important.”

Hutchinson moves up to the No. 3 role with Dell on his way to New Jersey.

That could wind up being a big opportunity for him career-wise but it had to be tinged with a whiff of disappointment. Dell only got to pull on the Leafs sweater in an intra-squad scrimmage during training camp and to serve as the backup over the weekend, and never put his Felix Potvin-inspired pads in any real action as a result.

“He’s a quiet guy that just goes about his business and stays ready,” said Keefe. “That’s really what you’re looking for in terms of personality and how he’s handled himself. … He’s an established goaltender in the league and we knew when signing him that it would be difficult to get him through waivers if it came to that.

“Here we are.”

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Maple Leafs’ Robertson to miss about four weeks with knee injury –



Toronto Maple Leafs rookie forward Nick Robertson, who suffered a knee injury in his NHL regular-season debut over the weekend, will be sidelined roughly four weeks, coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters Monday.

Robertson was injured in the first period of the team’s 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators after a hit from Drake Batherson.

The 19-year-old Robertson appeared in four of the Maple Leafs’ five playoff games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, scoring one goal. He replaced fellow rookie Alexander Barabanov on the fourth line Saturday and had one shot in 2:20 of ice time before his injury.

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Toronto Maple Leafs Make Tough Decision in Waiving Jason Spezza and Aaron Dell – The Hockey Writers



We knew the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to have to be creative with the salary cap situation. General Manager Kyle Dubas said there would be a lot of paperwork to file out to stay compliant, but it was just a formality for the most part. But that paperwork started a dumpster fire on Sunday morning. Jason Spezza hit the waiver wire, and within minutes it got worse. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnson spoke with Spezza’s agent, Rick Curran, who said Spezza would “simply retire” if another team claimed him.

What just happened? Spezza has played well as a fourth-line centre. He won all 10 of his face-offs on Saturday night in a win over the Ottawa Senators. He recorded his 600th career assist in the opening game against the Montreal Canadiens. He even played a few shifts on the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander. These facts did not lead anyone to imagine that his hometown team would waive the 37-year-old veteran.

Jason Spezza has been waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I’m sure Dubas did not come to this decision lightly. It’s a ripple effect of Nic Robertson injuring his knee in the first period of the game on Saturday night. A move had to be made to bring up another player from the taxi squad. According to his agent, Spezza understood the risks of these roster moves when he resigned with Toronto. He was happy to continue to play a depth role and offer leadership.

Rough Ride for Spezza in Toronto

I get that this is business, but you have to feel for the guy. He came to Toronto to pursue his dream of winning a Stanley Cup. In his first game with the organization, Mike Babcock gave the veteran the healthy scratch with several family members in attendance. A move that lit up the Toronto sports commentators for weeks. Now just three games into his second season with the Maple Leafs, he is put on the waiver wire.

It seems unlikely Spezza will be claimed. However, Toronto may lose its third goalie. Aaron Dell has also been put on waivers. Toronto was carrying three goalies to offer more downtime to Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell. Andersen didn’t dress on Saturday night.

A Move Was Coming

Before Saturday’s game, Sheldon Keefe was asked about his ability to make lineup changes. His answer left it open to this kind of move. “You get the extra goalie insurance the depth there, and of course we value,” said Keefe. “I think when you look at our situation carrying a 21 man roster, and one of those guys is a third goalie, it limits our ability to make lineup changes. But a lot can happen in a season, and things can change quickly.”

Aaron Dell Sharks
Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Those changes did happen quickly. Not only in Toronto, but the Edmonton Oilers are facing challenges. Mike Smith was placed on the long-term injured reserve list. Edmonton lost back-up Anton Forsberg, who had earlier been claimed off waivers. This left Edmonton one minor injury from a disaster in the net. The Oilers have signed two goalies since, but due to quarantine restrictions, they are not available to the team until January 27. Edmonton is 19th on the waiver wire list. Not only that, the Oilers are in Toronto for a game on Wednesday and Friday. It’s hard to imagine that Dell will not be claimed.

We are just three games into the 56-game regular season. We are getting a sense of how difficult it will be for teams and players to manage the new world of quarantine restrictions. Who could’ve predicted that Robertson’s knee injury could lead to a possible retirement of Spezza and could possibly help out a North Division rival? This is the new normal.

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