Video: Ole Kristian Tollefsen Hits Lubos Bartecko

February 24, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Videos

In one of the scariest moments in hockey since Clint Malarchuk’s throat was cut by a skate, Slovakia’s Lubos Bartecko lost his helmet and struck his head on the ice following a vicious elbow from Norway’s Tollefsen.  A massive amount of blood began leaking from the back of Bartecko’s head as training staff rushed onto the ice to treat him. A frightening moment in what has been a rather exciting Olympic hockey tournamanet thus far.

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The good news is that Bartecko is said to be recovering and not suffering from any major injuries, but did suffer a concussion on the play and is not supposed to be in the lineup on Wednesday.

The bad news is that the barrage of checks to the head continues from NHL players this season (Tollefsen is property of the Detroit Red Wings).

I think Puck Daddy wrapped it up best here:

Tollefsen received 25 minutes in penalties, including a match penalty for “Checking to the Head and Neck Area” and a five-minute major during which Michal Handzus(notes) and Marian Gaborik(notes) scored for Slovakia. It was a reprehensible head shot from the recent Detroit Red Wings acquisition.

Why Hockey Is The Gold Standard Of The Olympics

February 23, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

2010 Winter Olympic Medals | Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals

I don’t make many concessions when it comes to sports. I’m a hockey fan. Everything else is tertiary. Seriously. There is no second or third place. Hockey is the most exciting sport on ice or earth. Give me pre-season, regular season or the playoffs; everything else just melts in comparison.

I’m in ‘like’ with the Summer Olympics. Sure, I enjoy watching the swimming medley and Table Tennis but the whole spectacle lost its luster after the last Tug of War in 1920. The balance beam and the Dream Team just don’t add up to “Must See TV” for me.

It’s ironic, I must admit. I hate the cold. No matter how many layers I have on, I shiver like a toy poodle on a mild day. I don’t like the snow; I prefer the surf and sand. I’m just a beach bum. Explain, then, why I love the Winter Olympics. Explain why I love hockey?

Hockey is to the Winter Olympics as the Empire State Building is to New York, the Eiffel Tower to Paris, the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. It would make the Winter Games unrecognizable, unimportant. Some could even argue that Olympic hockey is superior to the Stanley Cup Playoffs! After all, the players haven’t endured an 82 game season. They’re fresh. They’re hungry. For some, this will be their only chance at a title, medal or championship of any kind. Some have even come out of retirement for these Olympic games.

Watching some of these games I get a flashback to the mid-nineties with Jagr (and his mullet), Teemu, Lidstrom, Fedorov … The only guys missing, it seems, are Lindros and Bure. The level of play, in almost every game, is unparalleled.

The Importance of Hockey to The Olympics

There is a reason why the Winter Games close with the Gold Medal hockey game. There’s a reason why the NHL suspends the season for the Olympics. There’s a reason why there is no All-Star game this year. Every game is the All-Star game. Every team is an All-Star team.

This isn’t just the Olympics, this is All-Star Week. We’re watching the Puck Control Relay, the Fastest Skater, Hardest Shot, Breakaway Challenge and Elimination Shootout. We’re watching the playoffs. We’re watching the Stanley Cup finals. We’re watching the culmination of careers and dreams. The hopes of countries that often don’t get to show their national pride on a global stage. Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all get to wave their flags and scream until they’re hoarse. They’ve got a shot at gold in hockey and that only comes once every four years at best.

There’s something distinctly different about Olympic hockey. It’s not that the players grew up as neighbors or that they speak the same language; it’s not the common hatred for neighboring nations: it’s pride, patriotism and passion at its purest.

This past Sunday we witnessed one of the best days of hockey I can remember. The Czech Republic lost a battle versus Russia. The United States played their hearts out, beating the home team, Canada, in a frenetic fight. Bitter rivals Sweden and Finland clashed in a hard-hitting and emotional, albeit one-sided, game. And, that was just Sunday.

Forget March Madness. Forget the Super Bowl. Forget baseball and basketball (as if you had to). This is it. We’re spoiled rotten. We have the best trophy in professional sports, the best Olympic event regardless of season, the best sport and the best athletes. We’re spoiled rotten as hockey fans and we want more.

Hockey may have lost its spot on network television but it hasn’t lost its edge, its passion, its heart or its place in our living room. No matter what channel or time it is on, I’ll certainly be tuned in to each game from here on out.

Hockey is the gold standard in Olympic competition. There are three rewards to be had but silver and bronze are hardly consolations. Gold is why these players are here and hockey’s got it. Especially at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

This article was a contribution to NHL Digest by David Weiner. David is a Social Media Communications guru and hockey fanatic. When he’s not jet setting around the globe giving presentations, you can find him professing his love for the sport on Twitter – @davidweiner

Who Was The First American Born Captain To Win The Stanley Cup?

February 22, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Legends

Derian Hatcher Dallas Stars Captain and Stanley Cup ChampionThis achievement belongs to Derian Hatcher who won the Stanley Cup as a captain of the Dallas Stars in 1999. Hatcher started his career with the Stars some 10 years earlier after being drafted by the then Minnesota North Stars in the 1990 NHL Entry draft.

Hatcher is famous for his massive physique (height of 6 ft5 and weight of 235 lbs) and physically punishing style that made him one of the most fearsome defensemen in the league.

Hatcher scored in his first game as a Minnesota North Star on October 12, 1991 in a 3-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings. He continued to dominate the Stars’ blueline even after the move to Dallas, contributing 1,380 penalty minutes, 223 assists and 71 goals during his career with the Stars.

The hulking blueliner signed a $30 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings in 2003, but did not have much success in Detroit, having his contract bought out in 2005. Later in 2005 he became a member of the Philadelphia Flyers and went on to become an interim captain for the Flyers a year later.

Hatcher was also part of the US national hockey team for most of his career and even participated in two Olympic Games, suiting up for Team USA in 1998 and 2006.

After suffering a severe knee injury during the 2008-09 NHL season, Derian Hatcher announced his retirement in June 2009. Hatcher is currently a player development coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, the place where he ended his National Hockey League career.

Why NHL Goalies Are Dominating The Olympics

February 20, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

2010 Olympics Hockey goaltender Martin BrodeurUnless you’ve been living under a rock this week, you know that National Hockey League goaltenders in the Olympics are flat out dominating the Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament so far.

Thursday night’s instant classic between Switzerland and Canada was a perfect example. Jonas Hiller faced 18 shots in the third period alone and stopped them all, including the glove save of the tournament on Ryan Getzlaf, which earned his team a much-needed and unexpected point in the standings. To millions of hockey fans this was a shock, as nobody expected him to put up much of a fight.

Despite being out-played by Hiller, the venerable Martin Brodeur laughed last. He shut down Martin Pluss and Switzerland in the shootout and helped Team Canada escape with a 3-2 overtime victory. So no matter which way the story is told, both Hiller and Brodeur will be considered heroes for their respective country. It was a memorable, adrenaline-pumping goaltending battle that will go down in history as one of the most exciting preliminary games in the last three or four Winter Olympics.

You can take the NHL goaltending dominance one step further by looking at the stats through Friday night. Every NHL goalie has a GAA at 2.0 or below, except for Hiller, who obviously has still been one of the strongest so far. Every NHL goalie also currently holds a save percentage of 90% or above. Only Jonas Gustavsson has a slightly lower save percentage at 89.5% (17-19) and even Thomas Greiss, who is considered to be on a Tier-II Germany team, has a 92.0 save percentage.

So what’s the source of NHL goalies being so successful in this Olympic tournament so far? Why is it so much more noticeable than in the 2006 Olympics in Torino? It’s not due to a lack of offensive talent or power play opportunities, that’s for sure. Although there’s no simple or specific answer to this question, partly because we are still just three days into action, there’s a certain area of the ice you should really keep an eye on if you’re a real fan of the goaltending.

The Importance of Goal Crease

That space would be the goalie’s domain – the blue crease. Ah yes, the non-truncated full semi-circle crease is back, just like the good ol’ days before the lockout. The NHL now uses what is called a truncated crease, but the IIHF uses a full semi-circle. On the surface, this change may seem strictly aesthetic or visual. But it has actually been playing a big role in the ability for the NHL goaltenders to execute their game with more ease. Allow me to break it down for you real quick.

This season in the NHL, there has been more traffic in front of a goalie, bodies crashing into the net and just about anything else imaginable when it comes to crowding a goaltender than ever before. Not only does this make it more difficult for a goalie to track the puck, it’s harder for them to execute their butterfly, slide or push laterally, corral loose pucks and control rebounds. The NHL’s truncated crease also allows skaters to stand directly to the left or right of a goaltender with their stick blades in shooting lanes, which increases the chance of shots from the high slot or just inside the blue line to be re-directed past a goalie.

But in this Olympics, that dynamic has swung severely back in the goaltender’s favor. A full semi-circle not only adds and increases more surface area for the goaltender to execute their game without hindrance, but with a full semi-circle crease, players cannot stand in that truncated area to try and re-direct pucks or screen the goaltender.

And there you have it; more blue surface area equals more time and space for NHL goaltenders to execute their game and the result has come to fruition in their statistics and performances. It may not be the only reason why NHL goalies are dominating, but it certainly helps. During the next Olympics game you watch, keep an eye on this dynamic and you’ll surely notice the difference compared to that of an NHL game!

This article was contributed to NHL Digest by Justin Goldman, a goalie scout for McKeen’s and the founder of The Goalie Guild. You can find plenty of insight and analysis on goaltending in the Olympics by checking out his Olympic Goaltending Notebook and scouting reports!

How Are You Celebrating Olympic Hockey?

February 12, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

With the Olympics finally here and Hockey being the focus of NHL Digest, we want to know how you are celebrating Olympic hockey?

If you happen to be one of the lucky folks who are able to be in Vancouver to see the games in person, that’s fantastic! Feel free to share your story by contacting us here.

If you happen not to be able to attend the games in person, what are your plans for watching the Olympic hockey games? At home with friends and family?At a local establishment?

No plans yet?

Molson Has You Covered!

Although, the Molson Hockey House is in full swing out in Vancouver for the Olympic games, they are also bringing the Hockey House to you with several events across Canada planned to help support Team Canada as they go for Gold in Men’s and Women’s Hockey.

Here is a list of the events that Molson has planned. If you don’t have any plans yet, feel free to attend the one nearest you for great beer, great hockey and great prizes! Below are the dates, times, locations and RSVP TwtVites as well as the Twitter addresses of the organizers from Molson. Feel free to tweet them and – say NHL Digest sent you!

  • CALGARY, AB – Feb 25 – 4:30 p.m. Women’s Ice Hockey, Gold Medal Game
  • TORONTO, ON – Feb. 25 – 6:30 p.m. Women’s Ice Hockey, Gold Medal Game
  • MONTREAL, QUE – Sunday, Feb 28 – 3:15 p.m. Men’s Ice Hockey, Gold Medal Game

This is a great way to get together with your fellow hockey fans and cheer on Canada for the Gold!

Tell Us How Are You Celebrating And Win A Jersey?

If you can’t make it to the games or to any of these scheduled events, drop a comment below and let us know how you are celebrating Olympic hockey.

All commenters will be entered into a random draw to win an Official Team Canada Hockey Jersey!

If you’re not from Canada, don’t worry, leave a comment anyway… it’s all about celebrating hockey!

P.SThe guys over at The Hockey Card Show are having a fantastic Olympic Hockey Pool! Be sure to get registered for that to win more prizes!

UPDATE FOR WINNER: March 2, 2010- Congratulations to the winner of the jersey, as chosen by random.org – Darcy Olynyk.

Searching For Parity In International Hockey

January 8, 2010 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns

This year at the World Junior Hockey Championships we saw Canada and the USA rise clearly to the top as the two most dominant teams in the world, with Sweden a not-too-distant third. 

Because of some blow-out wins over other nations, TSN’s Dave Hodge suggested that putting a Canada ‘B’ and USA ‘B’ team in the tournament would result in better hockey and a better tournament as opposed to having a relegation round. 

How much better would next year’s tournament in Buffalo be if there were teams labeled USA1 and USA2 and Canada1 and Canada2? The two extra teams would be capable of winning games, or even medals…

Although Hodge admits it isn’t about to happen, would this really be better for the development and growth of the sport? 

This type of format exists at the World U-17 Hockey Championships where Canada finished 1st (Ontario), 2nd (Pacific), and 4th(West) , with the United States coming in 3rd in the 2009 tournament. But in 2010, The United States finished 1st, Canada (Ontario) 2nd, Sweden 3rd and Russia 4th. So, it seems as though the parity may be improving at the younger levels.

Even given the 2010 results, such a multi-team format might work when there are age restrictions in place, but at the Olympic level there are a handful of countries with enough depth to put together a team to challenge for the Gold. And, rounding out the tournament with a few other countries rarely results in extremely lop-sided contests – while further fostering the development of the game.

The upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics will feature up to 7 different teams that could genuinely compete for a medal.  That said, Ryan Hildebrandt offers up a scenario (which is not likely to happen) that gives hockey fans some food for thought.

Of the players not hailing from the “Big 7″ Olympic hockey nations (Canada, Russia, Sweden, USA, Finland, Slovakia, Czech Republic), Ryan has developed a team that he believes could compete with the other 7 nations at the Olympics. 

The Rest of the World All-Star Team

Hockey, for better or worse, draws the vast majority of its talent from 7 countries.  The so-called Big 7 make up over 95% of the NHL and, come February, are the only countries with any hope of winning Olympic gold. 

I wondered what a team would look like if, in a bizarre turn of events, the IIHF/IOC allowed a ‘national’ team that was comprised of the best players from any country outside the Big 7.  Using the best current and former NHL players, here’s what my team would look like:

Forward

  • [C] Anze Kopitar (Slovenia)
  • [W] Tomas Vanek ( Austria)
  • [RW] Nik Antropov (Kazakhstan)
  • [W] Ruslan Fedotenko (Ukraine)
  • [LW] Alexei Ponikarovsky (Ukraine)
  • [C] Dainius Zubrus (Lithuania)
  • [RW] Jannik Hansen (Denmark)
  • [C] Frans Nielsen (Denmark)
  • [C] Marcel Goc (Germany)
  • [C] Marco Sturm (Germany)
  • [C] Mikhail Grabovski   (Belarus)
  • [RW] Andrei Kostitsyn (Belarus)
  • [RW] Sergei Kostitsyn (Belarus)
  • ·         [C] Peter Regin (Denmark)

Defense

  • Christian Ehrhoff (Germany)
  • Dennis Seidenberg (Germany)
  • Mark Streit (Switzerland)
  • Luca Sbisa (Switzerland)
  • Ruslan Salei (Belarus)
  • Oskars Bartulis (Latvia)
  • Karlis Skrastins (Latvia)
  • ·         Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (Norway)
  • ·         Alexander Sulzer (Germany)

Goalie

  • Cristobal Huet (France)
  • Jonas Hiller (Switzerland)
  • Martin Gerber (Switzerland)

 

This team is likely still at the lower end of the ‘Big 7′, but would they have the tools to potentially challenge for a championship? What are your thoughts on this team? Did Ryan miss any critical players?

Who would be on your ‘Best of the Rest’ Olympic Hockey team?

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