Thursday, April 26, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Tom Pederson

Master Your Puck Handling Skills
with the Green Biscuit
Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - An interview with NHL Alumni member and creator of the Green Biscuit, Tom Pederson.

"In the early 1990’s, after Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in Los Angeles, the game of hockey flourished in the state of California. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks and San Jose Sharks joined the NHL during that time and the sport began to capture the imagination of sports fans that before the “Great One” arrived, had rarely taken notice of the game. Tom Pederson joined the San Jose Sharks one year after their inaugural 1991-92 season and he has continued to help grow the game in the state as a coach for the San Jose Jr. Sharks and as an NHL Alumni member.

After playing 240 NHL games with the Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tom added inventor to his résumé when he retired from professional hockey after the 1999-2000 season as a member of the Hannover Scorpions in Germany. Seeing a need for a puck with the ability to lay flat on any surface, he designed the Green Biscuit – a puck created to help develop your forehand and backhand pass, as well as the one-touch, saucer pass and toe-drag. Making the Green Biscuit a perfect addition to your off-ice training regime."

Read my interview Tom Pederson at the XHockey Products Blog.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: Interview with Dan Reja

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - An interview with Dan Reja, creator of the Dangle Glove.

"As is often the case in life, our journey can take us to new and unexpected places with wonderful results. For Dan Reja, the dream of playing in the National Hockey League during his professional playing career was never realized because of a lingering injury. However, taking the knowledge from playing the game professionally for seven seasons after his OHL career ended, as well as a lifetime of honing his skills, Dan now shares his passion for hockey as an instructor. He is also teaching proper stick handling skills to hockey players of all ages as the creator of the Dangle Glove. "

Read my interview with Dan Reja at the XHockey Products Blog.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: NHL Rookies Becoming NHL Stars

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - a great group of NHL rookies go from "Future Stars" to household names!

This Year’s NHL Rookies Are Becoming NHL Stars

NHL rookie Adam Henrique and the New Jersey Devils
take on the Ottawa Senators
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)
With the NHL’s 82 game schedule completed and the playoffs set to begin, the debates are raging in the media and amongst hockey fans regarding the annual awards that will be handed out June 20th in Las Vegas. Is Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, the Rocket Richard Trophy winner with 60 goals, also the Hart Trophy winner as the MVP or will Evgeni Malkin’s league-leading 109 points win the trophy? Has St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott played enough games to be considered for the Vezina Trophy with Jonathan Quick (Kings) and Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers)? Here in Ottawa, the award conversation revolves around Erik Karlsson. Is he the clear winner of this year’s Norris Trophy?

One thing is clear though, the NHL has no shortage of stars and world-class talent, and that number continues to grow. This season, an astounding number of young players have staked their claim to being the stars of the future in the NHL. How has this year’s group of rookies impacted the NHL? We need look no further than the Philadelphia Flyers, where 11 first-year players hit the ice at the NHL level for at least four games this season.

Leading the way for Philadelphia was rookie forward Matt Read. The former Bemidji State University star did not finish at the top of the rookie scoring race (he finished fourth with 47 points), but he has been an integral part of the Flyers season. When Philadelphia traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter during the off-season, many wondered who would fill the void left by their departure. Well, Read and fellow rookies Sean Couturier (27 points in 77 games) and Brayden Schenn (18 points in 54 games) have stepped into the lineup and made an impact with stars like Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds. The most impressive number for me when I look at the Philadelphia rookies - Read and Couturier have combined for ten game-winning goals this season!

In the Western Conference, Edmonton’s first-overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog finished the season at the top of the rookie-scoring race. These two may be the favourites for the Calder Trophy as the league’s Rookie of the Year and it will be interesting to see how their seasons are viewed. Nugent-Hopkins scored 18 goals and had 52 points, but he was limited to 62 games due to injuries. Landeskog had 22 goals and 52 points and suited up for 82 games with the Avalanche. Landeskog helped keep his team in the hunt for a playoff position until the final weeks of the season.

As impressive as Landeskog, Nugent-Hopkins and the Flyers rookies have been, another player has made his case for Calder consideration - New Jersey’s Adam Henrique. The third round selection (82nd overall) in the 2008 draft, Henrique is a two-time Memorial Cup champion with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires and the talented junior star has brought his game to the next level - the NHL level. Averaging over 18 minutes per game and 23 shifts per game, he is playing top-line minutes in New Jersey, scoring 16 goals and adding 35 assists in 74 games. It is not just his total points that are impressive, Henrique’s overall game has been outstanding - he plays a regular role with New Jersey’s penalty killing unit and leads all rookies with four goals and three assists while shorthanded.

One rookie that does not score very often, but you will certainly be hearing his name in the coming years is Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen. He may not be in the running for Calder consideration, but he certainly deserves a mention. This time last year, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft was wrapping up his junior career with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Hockey League. He joined the Binghamton Senators and helped win a Calder Cup in the American Hockey League. A rugged d-man, Cowen made the Senators roster with a strong showing at training camp and played in all 82 games. He scored 5 goals and added 12 assists, but it is not his offensive prowess he will be famous for, it will be his presence and hockey knowledge behind his own blue line.

There is plenty of debate about the NHL game - injuries continue to be a major concern, the need to see more goals scored and even realigning the divisions and playoff formats are all major talking points. One thing is certain though - the league has an abundance of young stars that will one day become household names and the faces of the game.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TVOS and Fan-tastic Sports: 21 Consecutive Playoff Appearances for the Detroit Red Wings

Every Wednesday, I share my thoughts from inside the NHL Alumni Association and from around today’s NHL at Peter Ing and Bryce Salvador’s Fan-tastic Sports XHockey blog. This week’s article - the Detroit Red Wings and their remarkable 21 consecutive playoff appearances.
(Photo - Andrew Rodger TVOS)

April 1990 - that is the last time the NHL playoffs began and the Detroit Red Wings were on the outside looking in when the second-season began. The model of consistency for professional sports organizations, a lot has changed in the past 21 years... like having the ability to post blogs on the Internet for example.

When the Red Wings embarked on their remarkable playoff streak in 1991, Out for Justice starring Steven Segal was the top movie at the box office (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II was a close second). Wilson Phillips, Gloria Estefan and Amy Grant were battling for the top song on the American Billboard charts. Steve Yzerman, the current General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, had just completed his eighth season in the NHL when Head Coach Bryan Murray and his two assistants, Dave Lewis and Doug MacLean, led the Wings to a third place finish in the Norris Division. They lost in seven games to the St. Louis Blues in the first round that year, but it was the start of their current streak and a sign that great things were coming to Hockeytown.

In the last 20 seasons, the Red Wings have finished first in their division 14 times - once in the Norris and thirteen times in the Central. They have been the Western Conference champions six times and lifted the Stanley Cup in victory four times. When you consider how difficult it is to remain competitive in today’s NHL and the challenges of the salary cap era, Detroit continues to succeed year after year. Drafting well and teaching their prospects how to play the Red Wings way, they have signed key free agents during the off-season and added the right players at the trade deadline when needed. Whether it has been Bryan Murray at the helm as General Manager, Scotty Bowman, Jim Devellano or Ken Holland, the Red Wings organization always seem to make the right move at the right time and the results speak for themselves.

Several teams have climbed to the top of the league to win a Stanley Cup during Detroit’s streak, only to fall back into mediocrity soon after. The four Cups in the past 20 seasons and 11 championships in the long and celebrated history of the franchise, places them third on the all-time list for most Stanley Cup wins behind Montreal (24 Stanley Cups) and Toronto (13 Stanley Cups but none since 1967).

Their Original Six counterparts have combined for four Stanley Cups during the twenty year streak (the Montreal Canadiens in ‘93, New York Rangers in ‘94, Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and the Boston Bruins in 2011), but none have been as consistent as the Red Wings year after year. Their expansion-era cousins in Edmonton and on Long Island had their own dynasties in the 1980’s, but like the rest of today’s NHL teams, no other franchise can lay claim to such an impressive streak (New Jersey’s streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended last year). The Red Wings were one of the great teams in the Original Six era and clearly, they are one of the legendary teams of the modern era too.

The list of the great players to wear the Red Wings jersey during the streak is endless - Yzerman, Igor Larionov, Sergei Federov, Chris Chelios, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, Vladimir Konstantinov, Henrik Zetterberg... the list goes on and on! I can’t help but wonder what the top movie will be when the streak hits 30 consecutive seasons...