Archive for the ‘NHL’ Category

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John Tavares will keep an eye on the business side of hockey this season.

The New York Islanders captain, who’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, is willing to negotiate terms of an extension during the regular season, he told NHL.com’s Brian Compton on Thursday.

That obviously gives both sides a much bigger window within which to reach an agreement, although a bit of a cloud of uncertainty will hang over the situation until a deal is reached with the Islanders or otherwise.

Ownership has made it clear the face of the franchise won’t reach a state of free agency, while Tavares recently stated things are a lot more complicated than people realize.

Meanwhile, the countdown to July 1, 2018 rolls on.

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The Calgary Flames aren’t leaving town if they don’t get a new arena. At least not in the short term.

On Tuesday, Flames president and CEO Ken King announced the team is no longer pursuing plans to construct a new facility in Calgary, classifying recent meetings with city officials as “spectacularly unproductive.”

The update comes after King revealed the two sides have not sat at the negotiation tables in more than a month, despite a willingness from Flames’ ownership to move away from its CalgaryNEXT proposal in favor of the city’s preferred Victoria Park site.

“We would not say we’re not interested (in Victoria Park),” King told reporters. “In fact, we’re interested enough to put up a very, very substantial participation, but apparently it’s not enough.

“It’s unfortunate, because I really thought we had something that would work, and it would seem pretty clear that it’s not. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get there, and I think it’s time that we stopped pretending and were a little more direct and a little more honest with our fans and with our city about that fact.”

There is frustration on the part of Flames’ ownership, particularly when their Alberta counterpart, the Edmonton Oilers, unveiled the new Rogers Place last season, a project that was largely publicly funded and came to fruition after Oilers owner Daryl Katz considered Seattle as a possible new home for the team if it was unable to land a new arena in Edmonton.

“This is the business side. It’s the boring side (but) it’s important. You’ve got to be viable, you’ve got to be able to secure your long-term future,” King added. “But I think our fans want to know if our two new goalies can stop pucks, if we can compete, and if we can beat the guys up north. Apparently we can’t beat them on the building front but maybe we can beat them on the ice.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, on hand for the announcement, echoed King’s sentiments on the city’s inability to see value in a new arena.

“One of the dynamics here that strikes me as a different, particularly say from Edmonton, I don’t get a sense from the city that there is a commitment to or a belief in the importance of having the right infrastructure and having a major league sports team,” Bettman told reporters. “I don’t see the same level of city commitment here that I’ve seen in other places.

“This team needs a new arena. This city needs a new arena. But there is no realistic prospect of it coming forward based on everything that has and has not transpired. The city was made aware last February as to what it would take to do an arena; it was their best shot at getting it done. The city is nowhere close to embracing that, so there was no point in continuing.”

While negotiations appear to be at a standstill, with King stating he does not see an immediate arena resolution on the horizon, he added that the possibility of relocating from Calgary is not something ownership has discussed.

That was most evident in June, when King shot down relocation talk after Flames’ president of hockey operations Brian Burke mentioned Quebec City as a potential landing spot for the franchise.

“In the short term, nobody should doubt the Flames’ or their ownership’s commitment to the community,” Bettman added. “But at some point, I envision without a new building there will be consequences that everybody is going to have to deal with.”

The Flames came to Calgary in 1980 after spending the franchise’s first eight seasons in Atlanta. In 1983, the team then made its home at the Scotiabank Saddledome, currently the NHL’s oldest arena, save for the since-renovated Madison Square Garden.

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Bobby Ryan took some solace in knowing he did all he could to help the Ottawa Senators win when it mattered most.

After a mediocre regular season, the winger played an instrumental role in Ottawa’s run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, where the Senators lost in double overtime to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite the team’s inability to achieve its ultimate goal, Ryan had a sense of peace this summer in relation to his game.

“It was nice to leave with a little more peace of mind, because it would have been a long summer if the playoffs had kind of followed the same script as the regular season for me,” he said Monday, according to Don Brennan of the Ottawa Citizen. “To get back to playing well and contributing – and playing some of the bigger minutes – meant a lot to me.

“I think it taught me that I’m still capable of it, because you doubt yourself when you’re going through a year like that. I’m going to try to identify with the player I was there, rather than the guy in the middle of the season.”

Ryan admitted it took him a while to get used to the system employed by head coach Guy Boucher, and thankfully for the Senators, it all seemed to click at the right time. The hope this season is Ottawa’s highest-paid player can keep it going and lead the team to a Stanley Cup win.

“Anything less than that is going to be a failure,” Ryan said.

Mark Scheifele

Last season, just six players finished with more points than Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele. Among them were Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, who finished first and second respectively in league scoring.

Scheifele hit a career-high 82 points in his 2016-17 campaign, shattering his previous high (from the year prior) by 21 points. And Scheifele believes he can do better – so much better, he feels he should be able to rival the league’s reigning top two scorers.

“Oh, yeah,” Scheifele said, according to NHL.com’s Nicholas Cotsonika. “There’s no doubt in my mind. In this sport, you can’t say, ‘Oh, you know, that was great. I just hope to stay amongst them.’ I’m pushing to be better than Connor, better than Sid.”

The 24-year-old understands that aim might seem outlandish, but he thinks there’s reason to believe he could achieve it.

“Obviously they’re pretty lofty goals,” Scheifele said. “Those guys are special players. They work unbelievably hard at their game. But at one time last year, I was top in the league in scoring.”

Confidence doesn’t seem to be an issue for Scheifele. It’s also likely why he feels that if he and his talented linemates (Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers) can maintain their chemistry, there’s no reason why he can’t continue to rank among the league’s elite.

“In my mind, I see it as, if I stay more consistent, there’s no reason why I can’t stay there,” Scheifele said. “I’ve just got to continue to push. I’ve got some great linemates, which helps me. We’ve got a great (defense) corps behind us. I’m going to continue to push to be the best and not just be mentioned in that company, but be at the very top.”

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Part of the deal between Nassau County and Barclays Center, where the Islanders play now, but which operates the renovated Nassau Coliseum, is that the Islanders either play four regular-season games and two preseason games at their traditional home, or the county gets an extra $1 million in rent.

Because Sunday’s preseason contest between the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers is the only scheduled NHL action at the Coliseum in 2017-18, Nassau County is getting its extra million bucks.

Sunday’s game also was little more than a tease. Gary Bettman said earlier this month at the Winter Classic press conference that “my gut reaction is it’s not a viable option” for the Islanders to return to an arena that got a $165 million renovation but still has many of the same issues as it did before the Islanders moved to Brooklyn, simultaneously 22 miles and light years away.

John Tavares nearly blew the top off the old barn when he scored his second goal of the game, an overtime winner to give the Islanders a 3-2 verdict. The level of sound in the old barn is the same as ever when the building is full, and the sellout crowd serenaded the Islanders all the way off the ice.

“It was pretty close to what we had in the playoffs,” Tavares said. “It was through the roof coming out in warmups and certainly the start of the game. Hearing the ‘Let’s go Islanders’ chants and the ‘Yes! Yes!’ chants (for goals) were prominent again. This fan base has got a tremendous identity, and they don’t want to lose hold of that. As players, we recognize that, and we want to reward them with good hockey, so this was fun.”

During the break between the third period and overtime, the fans made their opinion known, loudly chanting, “BRING THEM BACK.” The chant rose up again after Tavares’ game-winning goal.

“They certainly wanted to be heard,” Tavares said. “That’s above my pay grade, but I think certainly this place is very meaningful to this organization and the identity of this organization for a reason.”

 

The identity lives on in the Islanders’ logo, which has not changed since the move to Brooklyn. The tip of the “I” in the word “Islanders” points directly to the location of Nassau Coliseum. Keeping the team’s identity exactly the same is one of the reasons the move has felt half-baked for a lot of people, and why a return to Nassau County, even for an afternoon, was priceless.

“It means a lot,” said Matt Mead of Rockville Center, wearing a vintage Dave Scatchard jersey. “It’s kind of sad, because you know we’re going to have to head to Brooklyn after this, so it’s nice to have one little last hurrah here. It’s a good turnout, and I got to see a lot of old friends that I haven’t seen in a while.

“I’m enjoying it. It’s a 30-minute train ride to get to Brooklyn – it’s not that bad, but I miss coming here, tailgating, being with friends and family. Brooklyn’s a little bit of a pain.”

That pain is measurable in the fact that the Islanders ranked 28th in the NHL in attendance last year, at 13,101 per game, 82.9% of capacity in Brooklyn. That was down from an average of 13,626 (86.2%) in the first season in Brooklyn, while the Islanders averaged 15,334 per game, 94.8% of the final-season capacity at the Coliseum.

Sunday’s crowd of 13,917 not only filled the Coliseum, but the parking lot as well. Arriving in the morning, fans set up their tailgates and Islanders flags flew all over.

“I think we had a good sense that was going to happen,” said Tavares, who owns 89 regular-season goals at the Coliseum, plus five in the playoffs. “That was such a great part of Islanders hockey and who the Islanders are, is a lot of weekend afternoon games or evening Saturday home games, people out in the parking lot with a lot of space, just enjoying the atmosphere of what it was to be an Islander fan. It was great that they got to enjoy that again.”

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Marc-Andre Fleury would have been open to moving to Alberta.

The Vegas Golden Knights goalie was a potential trade candidate last season while still a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and admits he likely would have waived his no-trade clause if he had been presented with an opportunity to be dealt to the Calgary Flames.

“I think so,” Fleury disclosed recently in New York for league meetings, per Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. “I think Calgary is a great town and a great hockey team too. I think they’ll be very good again this year. But here I am.”

“Here” is Las Vegas after Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford ultimately decided to hang on to Fleury as insurance heading into the postseason. It turned out to be a prudent move, as the veteran played a huge role in relief of an injured Matt Murray en route to a 2017 Stanley Cup win.

Fleury was later exposed for the expansion draft, and was happily scooped up by hockey’s newest franchise. The Flames, meanwhile, acquired Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes to play in goal for them this season.

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Seattle would like to house a NHL club.

Oak View Group reached an agreement with Seattle mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday to privately fund the construction of a $600-million arena at the Seattle Center.

The building would be a prime location for a NHL franchise, and the league’s deputy commissioner said that appears to be part of the group’s plan.

“The group has confirmed having a strong interest in owning and operating an NHL franchise,” Bill Daly said, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. “We will be continuing to monitor the situation.”

Oak View Group leader Tim Leiweke says billionaire David Bonderman – a potential NHL owner – has put money into the building, according to KING 5’s Chris Daniels.

Leiweke is a former president and CEO of both Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, whose holdings include three major sports franchises, and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Los Angeles Kings as well as several other sports teams and arenas.

In November, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a conference in Toronto that the NHL would not focus on Seattle until the city “actually build(s) a building.”