When a 42-year-old Zamboni driver entered as an emergency goaltender and won an NHL game, it became one of the best stories in sports.
But David Ayres going from practising with the Toronto Maple Leafs to playing against them in the thick of a playoff race also generated debate about what should happen in those rare instances. So emergency goalie protocol will be a significant topic of conversation when general managers open their annual March meeting Monday in Boca Raton, Florida.
“This was a perfect storm,” Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said. “You never think it’s going to get to the point where you get two guys hurt, but it did happen. … Is it something that happens once every 20 years? Is it a great story? That’s what we’ll have to discuss.”
Ayres is not employed by the Maple Leafs and works as operations manager at the former Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. He has for years been one of the organization’s on-call practice goalies and even backed up for their top minor league affiliate during a game.
Despite going in for Carolina in a blue and white mask and equipment, Ayres stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced to help the Hurricanes beat the Maple Leafs. Because of that result, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford didn’t think much about the oddity of the situation.
“I guess if the result of the game had’ve gone the other way, I might’ve put more thought into it,” Rutherford said. “What’s going on now is everybody’s talking about what if, a lot of what ifs. We can talk in circles about what ifs and everything. I don’t have an issue with what just took place. But, like always, I’m open to listen to everybody’s thoughts and what everybody’s ideas are.”
The current rule of each arena making an emergency goalie available for a game stemmed from 2015 incident in Florida that almost caused an assistant coach to put on the pads and play. Because an emergency goalie has only been required to play twice — Ayres and Scott Foster for Chicago in 2018 — executives and officials might find the current protocol better than the old-school notion of making a skater go in net.
“We said it’s unfair to the guy on the ice to have to go in there,” St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. “It didn’t make any sense. So, now we said let’s see if there’s someone locally that can go in the net. It’s difficult to find 31 A-plus goalies that go to 41 home games a year. There’s always ways to try and see if we can improve it.”
Armstrong said he wouldn’t be in favour of the expense of carrying a third goalie all season, which would also be impractical. One possibility calls for each team to have a full-time employee at home and on the road ready to serve in goal if needed.
“What, do you go find a guy that’s not too bad of a goalie that can practise every day and work in your marketing department or wherever he’s working?” Nill said. “He’s got to travel with the team all the time. We look at those scenarios. With everything, there’s CBA issues involved, there’s labour laws involved, so just different things that you have to check off the boxes before you can decide what to do.”
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the NHL has to work with the Players’ Association on collective bargaining concerns, like determining who counts as a player. Those complications make it no easy fix with perhaps no perfect solution.
“Obviously we want what’s best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren’t putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game,” Daly said. “That’s obviously something we have to continue to work through.”
Some other topics that could come up when GMs meet Monday-Wednesday:
— Some offside reviews are disputable because a player’s skate might be in the air, making it unclear even on replay. Coach’s challenges are down after a rule change making an unsuccessful challenge a penalty, but this is more about officials getting it right.
“The offside rule I think is going to be discussed again where just breaking the plane would make it a little bit easier to view it on the video,” Rutherford said. “It’s always hard for the linesmen regardless which way we do this because everything’s happening so fast.”
— A few seasons into hybrid icing, Rutherford is concerned there are too many icing stoppages because players are skating back slower to get the call from linesmen.
“It appears to me that we now have more icings than are necessary where a guy going back for a puck may turn the opposite way where he could’ve got the puck or he may just play the opposing player at the blue line when he could’ve got the puck,” he said. “I have to find out if other GMs feel the same way, but if we do, maybe tighten that up a bit.”
— Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently the NHL isn’t planning to make radical changes to its playoff format like the NBA is considering. But with two of the top three teams in the league — Boston and Tampa Bay — playing in the same division, the current divisional format of those teams potentially facing off in the second round might again be questioned.
“We were in 1 to 8 (in each conference) and there was a disparity in travel and so we went to this format,” Armstrong said. “There’s going to be pros and cons to whatever decision is made. I understand the logic of talking about 1 to 8, but that’s an easy talk in the Eastern Conference. It’s a difficult talk in the Western Conference.”
— In-arena medical procedures worked when Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the bench earlier this month with a cardiac event. Because of the success of those protocols in situations involving Jiri Fischer, Rich Peverly and Bouwmeester, it’s not an area that needs immediate attention but will continue to be looked at to see what can be better.
“It’s not something that I think anyone looks at and says, ‘OK, this is perfect’ because it’s such an important thing,” Armstrong said. “It’s not something that will just stay stagnant. We’ll always try to evolve to make sure player safety and fan safety is at the forefront of our game.”
This Battle of Alberta won’t be like the past, but the emotion will be unmatched – Sportsnet.ca
EDMONTON — It’s been 31 years, so long that a generation really only knows the Battle of Alberta in snap shots from Hockey Night in Canada videos.
Gretzky down the wing on Vernon. Smith, in off of Fuhr. Fleury break dancing across the Northlands Coliseum logo. Dave Brown, startin’ the lawn mower on Jim Kyte.
Glen Sather, alternately cheering an OT goal in Calgary and issuing a hand gesture to Flames fans that would have garnered him a healthy fine today.
We’re here to tell you: societal norms dictate that the old Battle of Alberta will never be re-lived. This can not be that.
But although we might know what we’re NOT going to see when the Calgary Flames hook up with the Edmonton Oilers starting on Wednesday night, you never know what you might see in a matchup set to consume this prairie province for the first time since 1991. A grudge match that — in its best days — was as good a rivalry as the National Hockey League has seen in all its many years.
“You always knew going into it that there was going to be bloodshed, and it was going to be some of your own,” former Oilers (and Flames) defenceman Steve Smith said in my book, The Battle of Alberta. “It was real then. There were going to be fights and you were expected to be part of fights and physical hockey.”
“They were big, strong, physical,” added Edmonton defenceman Jeff Beukeboom. “They were dirty. Just like us,”
The sheer violence does not exist anymore, and for that the NHL is a better place. But the emotion that has gone missing with that violence?
That, we’d like to surgically implant back into the game, like a ligament from a cadaver that could put the hop back in the step of a league where too many players are buddy-buddy, asking how the wife and kids are rather than putting a glove in their opponent’s face.
It was that emotion that fuelled the high-octane dragster that was The Battle.
Emotion that would drive Doug Risebrough to slink into the penalty box with an Oilers jersey purloined from the latest Pier 6 brawl, and slice it into ribbons with his skates. Emotion injected into a practice from Flames head coach Bob Johnson, who dressed a Junior A goalie in an Oilers jersey so his players could feel the thrill of blowing pucks past a Grant Fuhr lookalike.
“That’s the thing we’re missing in the game today. Emotion,” said former Flames goalie Mike Vernon. “Those games had so much emotion, and there was a price that had to be paid. Like the time Dave Brown fought Stu Grimson. Grimmer sat in the penalty box for 10 minutes with a broken face.
“You want to see real? That’s real.”
Emotion from players who knew, this wasn’t going to be a normal game. And if I play like it is, I won’t survive it.
“I had no problem [expletive] cuttin’ your eye out. Wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” said Theoren Fleury, a small man who cut a big swath through the Battle. “Hey – you’re trying to [expletive] kill me? This was survival. It was that unpredictability that allowed me to have the room that I had.”
On a macro level, Edmonton and Calgary have always been contesting each other.
They fought over who would get the first Canadian Pacific Railway terminal (Calgary), way back in the 1800s. They argued over who would be designated the provincial capital, or lay claim to the University of Alberta in the early 1900s (Edmonton, and Edmonton).
Today the contest has been mostly won by the city that is simply 300 kilometres closer to the rest of the world than its rival. Calgary is the Dallas to Edmonton’s Houston, where the oil patch is concerned, an industry orchestrated by the white collars in the South, but serviced and operated by blue collars up North.
But where all this has impacted the sports scene is this: Anecdotally, more people born in Edmonton continue to live in Edmonton, while Calgary has become a city more rich in people from elsewhere; Edmonton is a city you leave, whereas Calgary has become somewhere people come to, with allegiances to other teams in tow.
That assessment is subjective, sure, but it’s backed up by the fact the Oilers tend to post better media numbers than the Flames do, whether it’s radio, TV or print. There is simply more local interest in Edmonton’s team than Calgary’s, a phenomenon that will be invisible to the naked eye these next two weeks.
When the original Battle began however, there was no question who was the big brother, and who was the little one.
Edmonton had joined the NHL from the old World Hockey Association in 1979, and the Flames arrived from Atlanta a year later. Soon, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey et al. were clearly a group the Flames could not match, or catch up to via the draft. So the Flames, with former University of Wisconsin coach Bob Johnson behind their bench, built a team using older college grads like Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Joel Otto, Jamie Macoun and Gary Suter.
In the end, the Flames only won one of five playoff meetings between the two, but they played the Boston Red Sox to Edmonton’s New York Yankees, or Don Cherry’s Boston Bruins to the 70’s Habs that were Edmonton.
“Ali needed Frazier,” Messier once said. “That top opponent that pushes, and challenges, and makes you better.”
As the two teams ready for a meeting beginning Wednesday night in Calgary, that old Saddledome is perhaps the only visual that will provide a similar look, outside the familiar jerseys of each team. The landscape is unfamiliar, with teams full of players who have never faced each other in a post-season series.
Two teams who once combined for 780 goals in a season settled for 576 this season. And penalty minutes?
Forget about it…
In 2022 however, there are some similarities. Connor McDavid will play the part of Wayne Gretzky, while the Elias Lindholm line will lend depth and execution the way Johnson’s old Flames would attack Edmonton using his oft-referenced — but never actually seen — “Seven Point Plan” to beat the Oilers.
Today Matthew Tkachuk is the spoon that stirs the emotional bouillabaisse, whereas before it was Esa Tikkanen or Neil Sheehy, the Flames defenceman and Gretzky-pesterer whose refusal to fight anyone on Edmonton wound the Oilers up like a top.
When it’s done, all we can hope for is some lasting memories, some players who might not tee it up together the way they may have a summer ago, and two organizations that see each other as they once did — as the in-division hurdle that had to be jumped on the way to a Stanley Cup.
“All the most important, most memorable team meetings we ever had were held in that dressing room in Calgary,” Craig MacTavish once said. “We were the best two teams in the NHL of that day, and we would meet very early in the playoffs.
“They were absolute wars,” he added. “A pleasure to be a part of, in hindsight.”
We leave you with this anecdote, from Beukeboom.
“I think it was a pre-season game,” he began. “I was going up ice and got two-handed on the back of the legs by Fleury. Whack! I remember a pile-up in the corner one day, after Simmer (Craig Simpson) had taken out their goalie, and Fleury was running his mouth. ‘You guys suck. You can’t skate, you big [expletive].’ So now we’re in the pile in the corner, and he’s on top of me. But, we come out of it together, and now he’s saying, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got you. No problem.’ Like, now he’s being a nice guy.”
So, what did Beukeboom do? Exactly what Fleury would have done, had the shoe been on the other foot
“I suckered him. Cut him open for stitches,” he said. “It was one of the few times [head coach] John Muckler paid me a compliment.”
Barkov, Bergeron, Lindholm named as Selke Trophy finalists – Sportsnet.ca
The Calgary Flames‘ Elias Lindholm joined fellow centres Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as one of three finalists named for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the NHL announced Tuesday.
The award, which is given “to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of
the game,” is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with the top three vote-getters listed as finalists.
Lindholm, 27, has never won the award, but posted a plus-61 rating that was second only in the league to teammate Johnny Gaudreau’s plus-64. The Swedish centre was the fifth-best in the league at faceoffs, with a 52.9 per cent success rate in 1,592 attempts.
Barkov, who won the Selke last year, led the Panthers to the Presidents’ Trophy this season with the league’s best record. The 26-year-old from Finland posted a career-best 57 per cent success rate in faceoffs and led his team’s forwards in average ice time (20:18) for the fifth straight year. His plus-36 was fourth best in the league amongst forwards.
Bergeron, who may retire this off-season, has won the Selke four times in his 19-year career, which is tied with former Montreal Canadiens great Bob Gainey for the most in NHL history. The 36-year-old from L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., has been a finalist for the Selke 11 times and led the league this season for the seventh time in his career in faceoff wins, with a success rate of 61.9 per cent.
The NHL plans on revealing its 2022 award winners during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final.
England to host 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup
World Rugby (WR) has named England as the host nation for the 2025 Women’s Rugby World Cup.
In addition, WR also unanimously approved Australia as hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s in 2029 with the United States (US) hosting the men’s tournament for the first time in 2031 and the women’s in 2033.
WR is hoping to generate US$1 billion from the World Cup in 2031 as it seeks to tap into the US’ vast sporting culture and commercial potential.
“The USA is the golden nugget everyone wants to get a hold of. It’s the world’s biggest sporting market,” said WR chairperson, Sir Bill Beaumont.
2031 and 2033 World Cups have 25 or so venue bids on the table from all over the country. WR delegates have already been shown around the Denver Bronco’s impressive Empower Field home. One possibility could see the tournament start in the west of the country and gradually move east. There is also the possibility of using localized pools, where each group plays in a different part of the country before congregating for its grand finish.
The whole process is expected to cost in the region of US$500 million and has already received bipartisan support, alongside the seal of approval from President Joe Biden, who wrote a letter to Sir Beaumont promising regulatory support and infrastructural guarantees.
In the US, there have been many attempts to crack the market, but none have yet succeeded. However, the continued presence of rugby in the Olympics, the growing footprint of Major League Rugby (MLR) and an acceptance of where things went wrong in the past, means there is optimism around the next decade.
The US men’s team faces one of the biggest games in their history in June when they have their two-legged playoff against Chile for a spot in the 2023 Rugby World Cup scheduled to take place in France from the 8th of September to the 28th of October 2023.
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