Monday, February 28, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Senators Sign Chris Phillips To Three-Year Deal

Chris Phillips Staying In Ottawa
For Three More Years
(Photo TVOS)
With the Ottawa Senators in a rebuilding mode and trading away players like Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarkko Ruutu, Alex Kovalev and Brian Elliott in recent weeks, the trade deadline spotlight has been shining brightly on pending UFA Chris Phillips.

Phillips made it clear he wanted to remain in Ottawa, the only NHL team he has ever played for, and GM Bryan Murray was interested in keeping the veteran blue-liner - if the price was right. Last night, a compromise was reached and Phillips will remain in Ottawa for three more years. His veteran leadership will be a valuable asset as he mentors the young defenceman coming up in the organization.

Read about the three-year contract extension for Chris Phillips at The Hockey Writers

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NHL Alumni Interview with Lanny McDonald - The 2011 Heritage Classic

The Alumni Game At
 The 2011 Heritage Classic
(Photo: Chris Ralph)
While the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames prepared for their outdoor game at McMahon Stadium in the 2011 version of the NHL’s Heritage Classic, the city of Calgary hosted a very special family reunion on Friday and Saturday. NHL Alumni members from the 1986 and 1989 Stanley Cup Finals gathered to reminisce, share a tall tale or two, and lace up their skates once again for a very special rematch.

The Montreal Canadiens Alumni skated away with a 5-3 victory on the cold February day, but there is little doubt that the fans in attendance went home with a warm feeling, having had the opportunity to watch the greatest team in Flames history take to the ice one more time. Enjoying every moment during the festivities was Hall of Fame member and captain of the 1989 Stanley Cup champions, Lanny McDonald.

“It was unbelievable,” McDonald said proudly. “To be able to renew old acquaintances and to have that much fun together, it was so special - for our team and their team. We dressed at the Saddledome and went up to McMahon Stadium. The Montreal team and our team rode on the same bus, so we were trash talking each other the whole way up. It was a great weekend; it was just a good time all the way around.”

“To have guys like Al MacInnins, Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk together again. Jiri Hrdina came all the way from the Czech Republic, Ric Natress came in from Ontario and to have Mike Vernon come out of retirement and play nets, it was really something! It was a fun time hanging out with friends that you have gone to war with.”

The outdoor rink at McMahon Stadium built especially for the Heritage Classic events provided a unique backdrop for the reunion. Normally the home of the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders, McMahon was a sea of red and yellow for the entire weekend. Despite the frigid temperatures, it was a tremendous experience for all involved.

“It really was tremendous,” said McDonald. “To play in front of 12,000 people at McMahon and then the next day to see over 40,000 people there; the NHL and the Calgary Flames did a great job of transforming the building into a hockey stadium.”

Leading up to these types of outdoor events, the discussion always revolves around the weather and the ice conditions. While things warmed up slightly for Sunday’s NHL game, the Alumni played in temperatures that hovered near -15 Celsius. Regardless of the conditions, the hockey instincts took over when the puck dropped.

“The instincts do take over, but they did a great job in transforming the ice from a very challenging ice for the Alumni game, to twenty-four hours later, being able to play the big game and ensure that no one got hurt. It was outstanding. While the temperatures for the Alumni game were like, -15 or -16, thankfully it warmed up a little bit too, it was about -8 or -9 for the real game, so that obviously helped the ice.”

While the Alumni game had many special moments, the spotlight was on McDonald during the second period when the Flames were awarded a penalty shot. The ice conditions became a factor, as all in attendance and those viewing at home held their collective breath as the puck began to roll off his stick. We were worried, was he worried?

“I could not get that puck to settle down,” McDonald said with a laugh. “As soon as I picked it up, it started jumping all over the place and I was worried it was going to jump over the back of my stick and I wouldn’t be able to get it back.”

“To start with, I was going top shelf to make it look really good, but the closer I got to the net, I thought - I’ve just got to find a spot and try to shoot it there while it’s jumping around. The puck finally settled down and I took a quick peek and the 5-hole was open, so I hammered a wrist shot as hard as I could through the 5-hole; I was pretty happy!”

The Flames Alumni also welcomed a new member for the game at the Heritage Classic. The recently retired Craig Conroy joined the legendary ‘89 Flames and for the first time in many years, found himself as the “rookie” on the team.

“We were not only giving it to him for being the rookie, we were like, ‘Come on Conny, you’re the youngest guy here, you’ve got to score at least three goals!’ If he had a hat trick, we would have won the game 6-5. So, yeah, we were giving it to him pretty good. That’s what being part of the Alumni is all about.”

While hockey fans across Canada enjoyed the Alumni game at the 2011 edition of the Heritage Classic, there is no doubt the legendary players involved enjoyed it just as much - perhaps even a little more.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Alex Kovalev Experiment Ends In Ottawa

Alex Kovalev Is On His Way
 Back To Pittsburgh
(Photo TVOS)
The Alex Kovalev experiment has come to an end - the Ottawa Senators sent the "Russian Riddle" to the Pittsburgh Penguins today in exchange for a conditional 7th round draft pick. If the Penguins make it past the first round of the playoffs and Kovalev plays in 50% of the games, the draft pick becomes a 6th round selection.

Moving the 38-year old veteran provides the Senators with a roster spot to continue auditioning players from Binghamton.

In other moves today, the Sens claimed forward Marek Svatos off the waiver wire from the Nashville Predators.

Read about the moves and goaltender Craig Anderson's quick start in Ottawa at The Hockey Writers

Check out the Pittsburgh perspective from my THW colleague Mike Colligan

Friday, February 18, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Changes Keep Coming In Ottawa - Ruutu and Elliott On The Move

Brian Elliott Is Off To Colorado In
Exchange For Avalanche Goaltender
Craig Anderson
(Photo TVOS)
Two weeks before the NHL trade deadline, the "Home-Makeover Sens Edition" rolls on...

 The latest moves: Jarkko Ruutu joins the Anaheim Ducks - a 6th round draft pick has been added to Murray's collection, and goaltender Brian Elliott is off to Colorado in exchange for Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson.

The Senators hope to use the next twenty games to look at Anderson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, and discuss whether or not he will be their goaltender for next season.

Read about the Ruttu and Elliott trades at The Hockey Writers

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hockey Writers On CBC News - Online Media Slowly Merging With The Mainstream

This article was first published in the February 16th edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

During my career as a sports columnist, I have experienced many “firsts” - the first big interview, my first time on the radio as a guest, and two weeks ago, my debut on The Hockey Writers Live radio show as a co-host. Last Thursday was another first in my career, an appearance on national television as a guest on the CBC morning news.

At 10pm on Wednesday evening, I received a call from my editor at The Hockey Writers; the CBC had contacted him wanting one of the writers to discuss the new arena proposal in Quebec City from a hockey perspective. By 11pm, I was on the telephone with a CBC producer from Toronto. After a 40 minute pre-interview, I was booked for the morning news program and an interview on live television with Heather Hiscox. Too excited to sleep, I tossed and turned all night; the next thing I knew it was 6am and I was heading out the door of my apartment for the ten-minute walk to the CBC studios in Ottawa. While it was certainly great exposure for myself as a writer (it went great by the way!), it was also an incredible achievement for The Hockey Writers.com.

There has been an ongoing debate in recent years about the battle between the mainstream media and online writers. The mainstream media will have you believe that they are the only legitimate news sources that exist and if you write online, you are not and never will be a “true” journalist. For those not familiar with the world of online sports writing, there are two distinct levels or writing - the “bloggers” that take a more fan-based approach, which can be a lot of fun to read but not always accurate, and there are the news sources. True journalists and columnists working hard to deliver accurate information and fact based opinions on a daily basis.

Originating out of Montreal, The Hockey Writers.com has over 50 hard working writers, dedicated to providing news from around the NHL and the hockey world. The site’s owner, Bruce Hollingdrake, is very careful when it comes to the types of writers working for the site and the content posted there. Through a lot of his own hard work and dedication, Bruce has brought The Hockey Writers to where it is today - getting phone calls from the CBC, looking for information from his team of writers!

While it is easy for the mainstream to dismiss online journalists and columnists, in this ever-increasing mobile world we live in, the ability to reach hundreds, if not thousands of readers instantaneously, is an incredible accomplishment. The Hockey Writers is much like our very own Main Street Magazine - news from the Laurentians can be delivered right to our inbox every week, filled with articles and opinions from excellent writers. Does it have less credibility because it arrives via the Internet? Absolutely not!! The same applies to sites like The Hockey Writers.

Last Thursday’s appearance on the CBC marked an important milestone for myself and The Hockey Writers. A national news outlet with many of their own talented sports broadcasters contacted us, proving that the line between the “mainstream” and the “new media” is closer to disappearing altogether, which is a good thing for all of us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Senators Trade Chris Kelly To The Boston Bruins

Chris Kelly and the Boston Bruins will arrive
at Scotiabank Place on Friday evening to take
on the Ottawa Senators
(Photo - TVOS)
After a 4-3 shootout loss to the New york Islanders last night, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray announced that Chris Kelly had been traded to the Boston Bruins for a second round pick at the 2011 NHL Draft.

What started out as a "re-tooling" project, shedding salary at the trade deadline and adding some key free agents this summer to become competitive again next season, has become a full rebuild. The Kelly trade is the second in less than a week for Murray - fan-favourite Mike Fisher was traded to the Nashville Predators last Thursday.

Read about the Chris Kelly trade at The Hockey Writers

Sunday, February 13, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Senators Win In Their First Game Without Mike Fisher

Sens Rookie Bobby Butler
Scored His First NHL Goal
On Hockey Day In Canada
(Photo TVOS)
The Ottawa Senators ended their 11-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory in Edmonton on Hockey Day in Canada. The win also ended goaltender Brian Elliott's personal 13-game losing streak.

In their first game without Mike Fisher, Ottawa fans witnessed strong performances by Nick Foligno, Jason Spezza, and Alex Kovalev. Rookie forward Bobby Butler scored his first NHL goal and added an assist.

Read about the 5-3 victory and life without Mike Fisher at The Hockey Writers

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Role Models In The Sports World Still Exist!

This article first appeared in the February 2011 edition of Main Street and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper.

One of my goals as a sports columnist is to shine the spotlight back on the good people and the role models in the sports world. To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Main Street, in this month’s column I would like to share a few stories about some of the wonderful athletes I have encountered through my work at Main Street, The Voice of Sport and The Hockey Writers.

I started my writing career three years ago and one of the first people I interviewed was Lachute native Kevin Lowe. A six-time Stanley Cup champion, he was my idol growing up and I conducted many imaginary interviews with him when I was 10 years old. When I started with Main Street, I said to Jack, “I am going to get an interview with Kevin Lowe.” I was not sure how, but I was certainly going to try. I sent an email to the Edmonton Oilers and much to my surprise, Kevin wrote back saying he would love to do an interview. We have spoken several times for Main Street and he always finds time for our hometown newspaper; he is certainly one of the good guys.

Another Main Street supporter is baseball pitcher and best-selling author Dirk Hayhurst. Very active on Twitter as The Garfoose, Dirk appealed to his friends and fans to donate to the relief effort when the earthquake struck Haiti. To encourage more donations, he personally called anyone that contributed $50 or more and thanked them. Dirk and his fans also raised money for the relief effort in Pakistan after flooding devastated much of that country. It is not a story that you see in the sports pages, but we should! My conversations with Dirk are always enlightening, inspirational, and entertaining interviews; it is an absolute pleasure to speak with him.
AHL Veteran Bryan Helmer
(Steven Christy)
Hockey player Bryan Helmer has been featured in my columns here at Main Street - Bryan has played in 146 NHL games and he is approaching 1,000 games in the AHL. He too was willing to speak with an “up and coming” sports writer and over the past few years we have become friends. Last year, Bryan’s team won the Calder Cup in the AHL and I asked if I could drop by to take a picture of him when he had the Cup. Expecting a public event, I was in full reporter-mode, but when I arrived, I discovered that I had been invited to the Helmer family dinner. A simple act, but Bryan knew how much it would mean to me to help him celebrate his victory and I now have a cherished memory that will last a lifetime.

In a recent interview with Calgary Flames legend Lanny McDonald for my “Ask the Alumni” series at The Hockey Writers, I asked if there was a charity he was involved with I could help promote in our article - he went on to name over 20 charities. McDonald retired from the NHL in 1989, and yet he is still very active in the hockey community; he is the perfect example of the phrase role model. As Kevin Lowe told me in our first conversation, “If I can lend my name or appear at an event to help others, why wouldn’t I do it?”

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the good news in the sports pages; scandals and controversy are good for business - a good story about someone lending a helping hand does not sell as well. I have discovered from my own experiences, there are still role models in the sports world - they do exist and we should celebrate them! Have a great sports day everyone.

Image Resource: Steven Christy Photography

Sunday, February 6, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Nick Foligno Quickly Becoming A Leader For The Ottawa Senators

Ottawa's Nick Foligno and
 Sergei Gonchar
(Photo TVOS)
It has been a difficult season for the Ottawa Senators to say the least. As Ottawa fans look for positives this year, one player that is emerging as a true leader on the ice and in the community is left winger Nick Foligno.

After a strong pre-season, Foligno struggled through the first half of the schedule, but his strong work ethic and hard work have begun to pay off in the second half.

Read about Nick Foligno's newfound leadership role at The Hockey Writers

Saturday, February 5, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: 11th Annual Hockey Day In Canada

Hockey Day In Canada
 has become a fun day for the whole family
The CBC hosted a conference call this week to announce the events surrounding the 11th Annual Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, which takes place in Whitehorse this year. What started as a one day celebration of hockey in Canada, the event has evolved into a full week of activities celebrating all levels of hockey in the country.

I joined the conference call on behalf of The Hockey Writers, speaking with Joel Darling (Director of Production for CBC Sports), Ron Robison (President of the WHL), Doug Janzen (Whitehorse Branch Manager at Scotiabank), Walter Brennan (President of the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association), and the hosts for Hockey Day in Canada - Ron MacLean and Don Cherry.

Read all about Hockey Day in Canada at The Hockey Writers

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saku Koivu - A Great Leader On The Ice And In The Community

This article was first published in the February 2nd edition of Main Street Magazine and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by Main Street Week News to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Magazine delivered right to your inbox.

On January 22nd, fans of the Montreal Canadiens welcomed back a former player that won their hearts with his play on the ice and his actions away from the rink. For the first time, Saku Koivu returned to the ice at the Bell Centre as a visitor with the Anaheim Ducks. It was tremendous to hear the ovation he received but it was very strange to see him in a Ducks uniform. While the Canadiens may have chosen to go in a different direction a few season’s ago, it would have been nice to see Koivu retire in a Montreal uniform - he had earned that right.

A first round selection (21st overall) by the Canadiens in the 1993 NHL draft, Koivu arrived in Montreal for the start of the 1995-96 season after playing in his native Finland for three seasons. He made an immediate impact in his rookie season, scoring 20 goals and adding 25 assists. After two years in Montreal, he was named captain of the Habs, becoming the first and only European player to wear the “C” for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. His nine seasons as captain is second only to one of the greatest captains in the entire sports world, Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau. Koivu played 792 games with the Canadiens, scoring 191 goals and adding 450 assists.

Koivu battled back from several injuries during his time in Montreal, but his courageous battle with cancer proved he has the heart of a champion. Feeling unwell, Koivu met with team doctors in the fall of 2001 and received the devastating news - he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He battled the disease and won, and after missing 79 games, he returned to the ice to finish the season with his friends and teammates. The battle with cancer led Koivu to create the Saku Koivu Foundation, raising millions of dollars to purchase a PET/CT scan machine, an important piece of equipment vital to the early detection of cancer. Donated to the Montreal General Hospital, where Koivu was treated, there is no doubt that the machine has saved many lives.

In a recent interview with Calgary Flames legend Theo Fleury for my “Ask the Alumni” series at The Hockey Writers, a reader asked Fleury, if he was the General Manager in Calgary would he keep current captain Jarome Iginla on the Flames until he retired. In many ways, Fleury’s answer applies to the Koivu situation. He said, “I think it’s important that Iggy (Iginla) does retire as a Calgary Flame; it’s important for the league as well. You look at guys like Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman that had that opportunity to play for so many years for the same organization and have success - I think that is important.”

Some hockey columnists have speculated that Koivu was run out of Montreal because of his failure to learn French, while others claim the organization simply chose to go in another direction. Whatever the reason, from my perspective, Koivu should still be in Montreal with a “C” on his uniform.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The 1st Annual GARFOOSE DAY - March 24th, 2011

February 2nd - Groundhog Day... A day to publicize and promote an animal that is not very interesting and his accuracy skills on predicting the return of spring is less than inspiring. There is no other way to say this; Groundhog Day should not be celebrated!

The team here at The Voice of Sport has decided that it is time for a new holiday - an event to honour and celebrate a truly remarkable animal. A fire-breathing, wi-fi enabled, half-giraffe/half-moose, protector of the sacred baseball groves.

The Voice of Sport.com is pleased to announce that March 24th, 2011, will mark the first-ever and hopefully 1st Annual GARFOOSE DAY!!

The 1st Annual Garfoose Day gives the Garfooslings of the world an opportunity to celebrate all things Garfoose, including the March 24th birthday boy and Garfoose creator himself - Dirk Hayhurst!

An International event, TVOS wants you to find your inner-Garfoose wherever you are and celebrate! It is a wonderful feeling when you discover the Garfoose within you. How do you find your inner-Garfoose? It’s up to you, anything your imagination can come up with to celebrate the 1st Annual Garfoose Day will be awesome.

Dress up as a Garfoose, go for a walk and send in the pictures (it’s fun - I do it regularly as “Business Garfoose”!). Bake a cake in the shape of a Garfoose or draw a picture of Super-Garfoose. We want to hear all about it - take a picture and send it in to The Voice of Sport. Write a poem or a short story about the wonders and magic of the Garfoose.

Another great way to celebrate Garfoose Day is to help others - volunteer to help someone in your community, make a donation to your local food bank, or donate to a children’s charity - the Garfoose loves children! As a proud Garfoosling, you’ll be helping others while celebrating the 1st Annual Garfoose Day.

At the end of March, we’ll post some of your pictures, poems, stories, or tales of your Garfoose Day activities here at The Voice of Sport (send your stuff to thevoiceofsport@gmail.com). Help spread the word too - if you are on Twitter, tag your tweets with #GarfooseDay

Let’s make the first-ever and 1st Annual Garfoose Day the best it can be and we will teach the silly groundhogs of the world a lesson. Can’t wait to hear all about your Garfoose Day activities...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

TVOS at The Hockey Writers: Ask The Alumni - Send Us A Question For Claude Lemieux

Claude Lemieux
Photo by Jill Goodell
The NHL Alumni Association and The Hockey Writers have teamed up for an exciting series at THW - "Ask the Alumni"

Each month a different NHL Alumni guest will join me for an interview and the best part of the series, you can be part of the interview too! This month's guest is 4-time Stanley Cup champion Claude Lemieux.

Lemieux played 1,215 games in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, Dallas Stars and the San Jose Sharks. He excelled in the playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995 as the playoff MVP, and he is one of only five players to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams.

Have a question for Claude Lemieux - Send it to thwnhlalumni@gmail.com by February 14th, 2011

Image Resource: Claude Lemieux in San Jose - Jill Goodell