Thursday, October 03, 2013


The National Hockey Season Begins 2013-2014

They dropped the puck last night to open the 2013-2014 season in the National Hockey League. Pipers piped, and drummers drummed, and yes, they unfurled a banner to acknowledge that the Chicago Black Hawks indeed won the Stanley Cup last season.


I got the jump on the season by purchasing a set of the O Pee Chee 2013-2014 cards. There are 600 cards in the set, with a ton of rookies at the end of the set, including Jonathan Huberdeau. He won the Rookie of the Year Award last year in his inaugural season with the Panthers. He certainly is a presence on the ice, and has a style somewhat similar to former great players from Quebec---Jean Beliveau and Mario Lemieux come to mind. He contributed 31 points in the 48 game season, and is expected to lead the Panthers into the playoffs this season.


Former Belleville Bull P. K. Subban played 42 games last year. As I am sure you will recall, there was a bit of fuss at the beginning of the season after the lockout when he and the team could not reach an agreement. There was rumours that he would be traded, that he was not ready to be part of the team. So much for that. P. K. had an exceptional season, and won the award as the best defenceman in the NHL, the Norris Trophy. A couple of other Habs come to mind in that category: Doug Harvey and Larry Robinson. Pretty select company.


And for the Toronto Maple Leafs, another season with plenty of hope. They have chosen to place Jonathan Bernier between the pipes, along with James Reimer. Bernier was tired of backing up Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles. He considers himself to be a number one puck stopper, and does not like riding the pine. Naturally, the coaching staff will always go with the hottest goalie, so there will be a battle in Hogtown to see who gets the start. A little rivalry between goaltenders is not a bad thing. I always smile when I hear them saying, “We’re best friends. It does not matter who gets the start, as long as we win”. Nonsense.


Belleville’s Brad Richardson has moved up the west coast and will be starting with the Vancouver Canucks this year. Team sources have told me that he will play a more significant role this year, moving from fourth to third lines, killing penalties, providing support in all areas.


Last night I caught bits of an interview with the intrepid Brian Burke, now chief honcho with the Flames. He rarely minces words, but does not often throw players under the bus. He was discussing the play of a young player. He explained to the media, that there were three areas on the ice that require attention, and that the rookie had learned about one of them. A fairly direct notion that all players must learn how to play defensively. The rookie will begin the season in the minors.


On the Western Front, at least from the Canadian West, there is growing optimism in Edmonton. The Oilers are now listed at 20-1 favourites to win the Cup. There’s another good reason never to bet on sports. The Flames have not improved dramatically over the summer, and will have difficulty reaching the playoffs.


The Winnipeg Jets spent the past couple of days at a resort. They had on-ice sessions, and participated in “team building” activities. Did Brian design those?


In the most interesting coaching change seen in years, John Tortorella and Alain Vigneault traded places. “Torts” will work behind the Canucks bench, while Vigneault will guide the Rangers. I am still shaking my head on that one!


We will also see an introduction to new “Icing” rules, referred to as “hybrid”. It will cut down on the suicide races to touch the puck, but will result in questionable calls. Linesmen will have to wear extra sharp skates, in order to determine the proper call. There should be a line between the circles. This imaginary stuff is fit for soccer, not hockey.


Welcome back to “The Greatest Game in the World”!



James Hurst


October 1, 2013  

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