June 29, 2015

Hockey Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2015


Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Pronger, Phil Housley and Angela Ruggiero will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the Class of 2015. Bill Hay and Peter Karmanos were also inducted as builders.

Joining the 2015 inductees at the ceremony in November in Toronto will be Bob McKenzie of TSN, who won the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for excellence in hockey journalism, and Nick Nickson, radio voice of the Los Angeles Kings, who is the winner of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to broadcasting.

Today is a day to celebrate those who are inducted. The Hall of Fame is bang on correct in including Lidstrom, Fedorov, Pronger and Ruggiero. Whether you believe Phil Housley should be included or not (I'm torn), doesn't matter - he was a fantastic player and is now a Hall of Famer.

Some have been critical of the Hall not including the late Pat Quinn. He will get in, probably next year, but I suppose the Hall felt that they had to do some housekeeping by including Bill Hay first. After all, he was Quinn's predecessor at the Hall itself. Quinn's popularity would have overshadowed Hay, who is a very deserving honouree in his own right.

Is 2016 finally Eric Lindros' year? How about Sergei Makarov? It certainly will be a year to consider such backlogged candidates as there is no likely first year eligible inductees. Jason Arnott, Milan Hejduk, Jose Theodore, Roman Hamrlik, Vinny Prospal and Ziggy Palffy were all fine player but are not likely to ever be included.


Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2015

While we are waiting for the Stanley Cup final to resume, let's take a look at the upcoming decision the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee faces - who will be the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2015?





The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet on June 29th to decide and announce the class of 2015. The actual induction will not take place until November 9th.
Headlining first year eligible players is Nicklas Lidstrom.

Lidstrom is one of the very best defensemen to ever play the game. Many insist he is the 2nd best. A few even dare to suggest he was better than Bobby Orr
In 1,564 career games, all with the Red Wings, Lidstrom finished with 1,142 points. He appeared in 11 All-Star Games throughout his career, won the Norris Trophy a record seven times including three straight years on two occasions and also won the 2002 Conn Smythe Trophy all while hoisting the Stanley Cup four times. This is as big of a lock as you'll ever see.
There are two other locks, in my eyes. 

Sergei Fedorov was just a fantastic player, scoring 1,179 points (including 483 goals) in just 1,248 career games. He was a six-time All-Star Game participant, won the Hart Trophy in 1993-94 as the MVP and also won the Selke Trophy twice as the best defensive forward.
In the regular season he could be accused of going through the motions but come playoff time Fedorov was at his best. Impressively Fedorov scored 20 or more points in four consecutive playoffs. He is a three time Stanley Cup champion. 
Fedorov continued playing in Russia until 2012 when he retired to become manager of  the KHL team Metallurg Magnitogorsk. However he came out of retirement to play two games with CSKA Moscow at the 2013 Spengler Cup.

As I understand it, the Spengler Cup participation will not delay his Hall eligibility but I stand to be corrected on that. Regardless if it is 2015 or 2016, Sergei Fedorov should be a lock.



Another original question mark for eligibility was Chris Pronger. But the Hall of Fame has already confirmed Pronger will indeed be eligible. 
Pronger, who last played in 2012, is a certain lock, too. Pronger is a Stanley Cup champion, two time Olympic gold medalist and NHL Hart trophy and Norris trophy winner. However Pronger has never officially retired, and as an injured player he is actually unable to do so until his contract expires  in 2017 thanks to the salary cap.

"He would be eligible in 2015 as far as the way the bylaw reads and as long, obviously, as he doesn't play again prior to his election," said Jeff Denomme, president and CEO of the Hockey Hall of Fame. 
So even though he technically has yet to officially retire as an active player, Pronger will be eligible for induction, and almost certainly join Lidstrom and Pronger as locks. 
Other first year eligible players include Jason Arnott, Andrew Brunette, Tomas Holmstrom, Ethan Moreau, John Madden, Sean O'Donnell, Dwayne Roloson, J.P. Dumont, Robe Niedermayer, Craig Rivet, Brian Rolston, Brendan Morrison, Alexei Yashin, Steve Staios and Marty Turco.  It is unlikely any of these players will ever be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
That leaves only one spot open for Hall inclusion, as the Hall caps induction of male players each year at four. Is this the year the holier-than-thou Hall of Fame gets off it's high horse and rights a wrong by finally inducting the controversial Eric Lindros? Let's hope so. 
It should also be noted that a notable female player will also become eligible in 2015, and should also considered to be a lock. Long time USA defenseman Angela Ruggiero was one of the strongest female players ever to play the game. The Hockey Hall of Fame has a spotty record when it comes to recognizing female players, but they should have a pretty obvious inclusion in Ruggiero.

History Made: First Chinese Born Player Drafted By NHL



Andong Song became the first Chinese-born player to be selected in the NHL Draft when the New York Islanders chose him Saturday in the sixth round (No. 172).

The 6-foot, 161-pound defenseman, who plays at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, had three goals and seven assists in 26 games.

Song was born in Beijing and began playing hockey as a youth. But it was not easy. There was only two public skating rinks in the entire city. He often would skate on a speed skating oval, but he instantly fell in love with hockey.

His family moved to Oakville, Ontario when he was 10, partially because of his love of hockey. Then relocated to New Jersey soon there after.

Though he has been in North America for half of his life, he skates for the Chinese national team. He has twice played in the IIHF Division B World Championships. This year Song captained the team to a 5th place finish in the tournament which also included Serbia, Romania, Spain, Belgium and Australia.

Chinese hockey fans are taking note. A Chinese television crew has been following his journey.

“Hopefully, what I want to do is to really drive people behind me,” said Song, proudly sporting a New York Islanders sweater. “I’m really not focused on myself; I’m really trying to do something good for Chinese hockey.”

Here is a full breakdown of the 2015 NHL draft by birthplace:

Canada    79
United States    55
Sweden    19
Russia    17
Finland    13
Czech Republic    11
Slovakia    5
Switzerland    4
Latvia    3
Belarus    1
China    1
Germany    1
Netherlands    1
Ukraine    1
TOTAL    211

June 28, 2015

Doug Rombough

Whether it was while he played junior hockey with the OHL Black Hawks or as the founder of one of the most popular restaurants in town, Doug Rombough was always popular in St. Catherines, Ontario.

Rombough was a big kid - 6'3" and played at over 200 pounds - out of St. Catharines, Ontario, just few minutes across the Canadian border from Buffalo. Some speculated that the reason why the Sabres chose the big center with the 97th overall and second last draft pick of their inaugural year of 1970 was because he played in St. Catharines and the Sabres wanted to entice Canadian fans to cross the border for a night's worth of NHL excitement.

Given his late round draft status, it is doubtful that Sabres ever expected a whole lot out of Doug, at least at the NHL level. He was huge but didn't play overly aggressively, and was not an overly mobile skater. He never posted any significant numbers while in junior. His career bests at that level were just 14 goals and 27 points.

Rombough, however, seemed to be a late bloomer. He reported to the minor league Flint Generals in 1970-71 and impressed with a 22 goal and 58 point season in 76 games, and followed that up with a strong playoff.

The Sabres promoted Doug to their chief farm affiliated in Cincinnati of the American Hockey League in 1971-72. Doug fit in nicely scoring 22 goals and 48 points. Again he had a strong playoff, scoring 4 goals and 8 points in 10 playoff games.

Doug's breakout year was in 1972-73, also with the Swords of Cincinnati. Doug had a really strong regular season, scoring 28 goals and 71 points in 66 games - far exceeding any expectations the Sabres had when he was draft just 3 years earlier. Doug was rewarded with a 5 game call up to Buffalo and scored his first two NHL goals. Doug was returned to the AHL however and kept up his reputation as a playoff standout. He and teammate John Gould shared entire league lead in goal scoring with 10 in 14 games as the Swords captured the Calder Cup as the American Hockey League champions! That team also featured future Sabres Rick Dudley and Bill Hajt.

Coming off of such a fine season, Doug continued his hard work through training camp in 1973 and forced the Sabres to keep him at the NHL level. Unfortunately for him the Sabres at the time were quickly emerging as a young and talented team. Doug had trouble finding quality ice time and scored just 6 goals and 15 points in 46 games.

The Sabres were looking for some additional grit and in a trade sacrificed Rombough's promise to land Brian "Spinner" Spencer's physical presence. Doug finished the year with the New York Islanders by scoring 3 goals and 4 points in 12 games.

Doug found himself in a similar position in Long Island as he was in upper New York state. The Isles were also emerging as a talented team, and Doug didn't play nearly as physically as coaches wanted a player of his size to play. As a result he was again moved in a trade. On January 5, 1975 Doug was traded to the Minnesota North Stars with Ernie Hicke for Jean-Paul Parise. Doug finished the year with a total of 11 goals and 26 points in 68 NHL games.

Doug started the 1975-76 season with the North Stars but after just 2 goals and 4 points in 19 games, he found himself demoted to the minor leagues where he continued to struggle, scoring just 5 goals in 42 games.

Doug quietly rounded out his career by playing two seasons with the Central Hockey League's Dallas Black Hawks in 1976-77 and Fort Worth Texans in 1977-78.

In 150 NHL games Doug played in 150 NHL games, scoring 24 goals and 51 points. Had he found more ice time perhaps he would have had a more successful stint in the NHL.

After hockey Rombough founded the bar-eatery Romby's in St. Catherines, Ontario, a popular tavern known for live music. He especially enjoyed hosting the many kids sports teams that he sponsored.

"He was a very well-liked guy," Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, a junior teammate of Rombough's, said. "If anything his legacy is (not just hockey) it's owning Romby's — more people remember that place."

He later sold the business, though the restaurant remains under new ownership.

Rombough moved to Dallas, Texas, then Denver, Colorado and finally Plantation, Florida, working in real estate. He passed away at his Florida home on June 20th, 2015. He was 64 years old.

June 25, 2015

A Little NHL Draft History


It's NHL Entry Draft day. Enjoy it, folks. I think this year we will see some intriguing story lines from the draft and from the trade fronts.

Here are some year by year capsule reviews of NHL drafts gone by:

1963 - 1964 - 1965 - 1966 - 1967 - 1968 - 1969 - 1970 - 1971 - 1972 - 1973 - 1974 - 1975 - 1976 - 1977 - 1978 - 1979 - 1980 - 1981 - 1982 - 1983 - 1984

Also, take a look at these pieces:

All Time 1st Overall Draft Selections
Best Players Never Drafted
Infamous Draft Trades



My fascination with the National Hockey League Entry Draft more or less began in 1990 with Petr Nedved.

As a young fan of the lowly Vancouver Canucks, the draft represented hope. With Trevor Linden in place as the heart and soul, the team desperately needed a scoring superstar. With the draft in Vancouver and with the Canucks holding three of the first twenty-three picks, including #2 overall pick, these were exciting times.

The draft was said to be, and would prove to be, one of the deepest in history. Mike Ricci entered the previous season as the consensus top pick, but Owen Nolan and Keith Primeau caught up quickly. Jaromir Jagr would have undoubtedly been the top choice but there was risk because his availability was still in doubt as political reform was still in progress.

But the man I wanted was another Czech player - Petr Nedved.

All eyes were on the spindly Czech kid who did nothing to hide his fascination with Wayne Gretzky. He emulated him in every way. He tucked in his shirt the same, wore the same Jofa helmet, and copied his hunched over skating style. He'd fly down the wing, curl at the blue line looking for an amazing pass, although he really should have been more greedy and use his laser of a shot more often.

Nedved was a household name among hockey fans, bravely defecting to the Canada at age 16 to great fanfare to chase his dream of playing in the National Hockey League. Nedved tore up the Western Hockey League with 65 goals and 145 points in 71 games. His offense was undeniable. He had the creativity and vision of #99. He was a game breaker through and through. He had already showed more courage than any other player possibly could.

I, like a lot of west coast fans, desperately wanted Vancouver to take Nedved. The rumour at the time had Philadelphia was supposedly offering Ron Sutter and Scott Mellanby if Vancouver flipped picks and slipped down to #4. They wanted Nedved too.

The Canucks did take Nedved, but did not really not what to do with him. He made the NHL team immediately, but he was too slight to make an impact. But sending him back to junior was not an option either, as he was too good for that league, and he had no other place to play. So the Canucks coddled him on the 4th line. To this day I believe Nedved's development was stagnated by this decision. He probably should have been returned to junior, even if the WHL offered no competition.

Nedved, despite glimpses of brilliance, never really found his way in the NHL until his third season. I don't think he ever came close to matching my expectations as a NHL player, no matter how much I wanted him too. Then again, my expectations were unfairly through the roof.

You can read more about Petr Nedved here. But Nedved is not the point of this long post.

Price Is Right At 2015 NHL Awards Show


The spotlight was clearly on Carey Price on Wednesday as the NHL handed out their annual awards.

Carey Price cleaned up, winning the Hart Trophy as MVP, Ted Lindsay Trophy as MVP as voted by the players, the Jennings trophy for fewest goals against and Vezina trophy as best goaltender.

In winning the Hart Trophy, Price becomes just the seventh goalie to be named as the league's MVP. The other goalies to win the Hart are Roy Worters with the New York Americans in 1928-29, Chuck Rayner with the New York Rangers in 1949-50, Al Rollins with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1953-54, Jacques Plante with the Canadiens in 1961-62, Dominik Hasek with the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-97 and 1997-98, and Jose Theodore of the Montreal Canadiens in 2001-02.

Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson won his second Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman, finishing ahead of the Canadiens' P.K. Subban and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

Florida Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, beating out Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone and Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau.

Calgary coach Bob Hartley won the Jack Adams trophy as coach of the year. Flames forward Jiri Hudler won the Lady Byng trophy for gentlemanly play.

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward for the third time in four years.

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