BY: Gerry Cantlon Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – Hard to believe that this is the eighth week since the Hartford Wolf Pack ended their 2015-2016 campaign, but the hockey world presses on and we have got all the news for you.
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Pittsburgh Penguins captured their third title of the Sidney Crosby-era. “The Next One” was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for the MVP of the playoffs and for owner Mario Lemieux, whose sale of the franchise will be announced likely in the next week, goes out on top with his fifth Stanley Cup.
Nick Bonino, the Farmington native who played high school hockey at Farmington High and then in prep school at Avon Old Farms, had a strong playoff run. Bonino captures his first silver chalice while former Hartford Whalers GM, and a one-time New Haven Nighthawk. Jim Rutherford, the current Penguins GM, gets his second Stanley Cup ring. His first came with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.
CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS
The Lake Erie Monsters swept the Hershey Bears to capture the first AHL title for the city of Cleveland since 1964. Attendance for Game Four was an AHL record for a championship game. The crowd was announced at 19,558 for the 1-0 overtime win and brings to an end the 80th AHL season.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the game’s only goal which also turned out to be the series winner with just 1.9 seconds left in the first overtime.
The play started with a faceoff win by Lukas Sedlak who drew it back to Zach Werenski at the right point. The young rearguard, signed by Columbus after Michigan’s season ended and who’s had a superb playoff, put the shot on net. The rebound came back to Sedlak whose shot was stopped by Bears’ goalie Justin Peters. However, the rebound of that shot went right to Bjorkstrand at the right side of the net. Bjorkstrand’s shot went off Peters while trying to make the save, and the puck fluttered over the goal line. For Bjorkstrand, it was his tenth of the post-season and set off a wild celebration.
Bjorkstrand, a Danish rookie, became just the fourth first-year player to ever capture the playoff MVP award and he was the first forward. The first three were goalies Pasi Nurminem (Chicago 2002), Carey Price (Hamilton 2007) and Michal Neuvirth (Hershey 2009). The award bearing the name of the former league commissioner and was first handed out in 1983-84 to former New Haven Nighthawk Bud Stefanski, who was then playing with the Maine Mariners.
Both Peters, and Monster goalie, Anton Forsberg, put on a goaltending clinic with fantastic stops that kept the game scoreless for 89:59 of action.
In overtime, with 6:20 left, Peters made a glorious glove save on Alex Broadhurst coming in from his off wing, the right side. Forsberg followed denying Riley Barber on his turnaround shot off the left-wing and coming from behind the net. Before scoring the winner, Bjorkstrand was on a three-on-two break and denied by Peters. With 4:07 left, Forsberg stopped Carter Camper from dead-center, fifteen feet out as he tried to keep Hershey alive in the series.
In the third period, an early save by Forsberg and then Peters stopping Bjorkstrand on the power play at 9:35 and then 50 seconds later, Peters stoned Werenski following up a rebound from a right point shot from former Ranger and CT Whale, Steve Eminger.
In the second period, Peters made successive sterling saves to keep the Monsters off the board. Peters made a skate save on Bjorkstrand coming off the left wing with a backhand shot and then Sedlak on a clean breakaway twelve seconds apart. He also stopped Josh Anderson late in the period. Then Forsberg stopped ex-Pack captain, Chris Bourque while on the powerplay and Liam O’ Brien nearly halfway through the period.
Stratford native and Fairfield Prep as well as Salisbury prep player, Jamie Sifers, made a fantastic shot block with an open net on Barber’s left-wing follow-up shot to a rebound of a bid by Nathan Walker. All attempts were obviously put down by Forsberg.
Josh Anderson had a great chance for Lake Erie in the first period on a beautiful dipsy-doodle move, but Peters rejected the bid and Sedlak’s sharp angle, left-wing shot at 13:52.
In a surprise move, UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) defenseman, Chris Summers, was resigned by the Rangers to a one-year, two-way contract. He’ll earn $600K in the NHL and $350 in the AHL. He was signed in the open period that comes before free agency kicks on July 1st.
Last season, Summers played on an NHL one-way deal that he signed with Arizona for $625K.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan native played superbly in the last 25 games in all situations in helping the Pack make their late season charge to try to make the playoffs.
He makes himself a player with an attractive contract. Much will depend upon where the salary cap lands, thus making any future trades by The Rangers that involve defenseman and for next year’s NHL expansion draft with Las Vegas that much more important.
- The Rangers have signed 23-year-old, 6’3, 210lb. Finnish left winger and defenseman, Ahti Oksanen, to a one-year AHL contract for Hartford next season. He played four full years with Boston University (HE) playing 150 games with 51 goals 64 assists and 115 points. He started out as a defenseman and played primarily left wing in his senior season.
His senior season he played 39 games with 15 goals and 36 assists and his junior campaign he played 40 games with 25 goals and 38 points and played in the NCAA championship game as the Terriers lost to the Providence College Friars.
Gordie Howe’s iconic number 9 hangs in the rafters of the XL Center and in Detroit, the legend that filled it out the jersey has passed.
Last Friday, Howe passed away the age of 88. Howe was in Ohio with all four of his children present at the home of his son, Dr. Murray Howe.
Howe truly was a man of legendary proportions. He was a ferocious on-ice competitor, a true gentleman, and an ambassador for the game off the ice.
His accomplishment list is not just a simple compilation of numbers pointing to the power of his game. Howe played mostly in a six-team league except for his last five of his first NHL tour. He also played in the WHA and ended his career in the city of Hartford. Howe scored his first point assisting on a goal by Adam Brown in 1946 and originally wearing the number 17. He shifted to nine when it became available to get better sleeping quarters on the train!
Howe was part of Detroit’s run to Stanley Cup glory in the 1950’s as part of the famed, “Production Line,” with Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel.
He played 2,421 NHL games and played up until age 52. In 26 NHL seasons, Howe won four Stanley Cups, and played in 21 All-Star games, his last coming in 1980 in Detroit. He was a first team NHL All-Star selection twelve times. He won the scoring title and league MVP awards a total of twelve times and scored twenty goals or more 22 consecutive seasons.
Howe was the only player for whom the three-year grace period was waived when h was selected to join the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. Howe is also the only player to come back to actively play while being in the HHOF.
He scored 1,850 points before Wayne Gretzky obliterated his childhood hero’s marks with 2,857. In that last All-Star game, Gretzky, then 19 years old was his center. Howe was the first player to crack 1,000 points for an NHL career. Howe’s legendary toughness he was built with the strength of working on a farm. Howe topped 100 PIM just four times in his career and after a legendary scrap with Rangers tough guy Lou Fontinato on February 1,1959. He was rarely challenged.
The term, “a Gordie Howe hat trick” which consists of a goal, assist and fight in a single game is a revered hat trick among players. Howe did it just twice in his career.
His 801 goals scored was tops till Gretzky surpassed him in 1990. His 801st and final goal was scored in hockey’s golden cathedral, the Montreal Forum, on April 9, 1980. The primary assist was from his son, Mark Howe.
The younger Howe was chugging up the right wing side of the ice, cut to the middle and found his father on the left wing. Gordie sent a backhander to the net with the screen provided by former Wolf Pack assistant coach, New England and Hartford Whaler, New Haven Nighthawk (player and assistant coach) and Ranger, Nick Fotiu, that sailed past goalie Denis Herron.
In his last season, Howe had 15 goals and 41 points and played in all 80 games.
He played the most games regular season games at 1,767. Mark Messier in second with 1,756 followed by Whaler great Ron Francis at 1,731. His 26 NHL season mark was tied by Chris Chelios when he was with the Red Wings.
The second act of his magnificent career was coming out of retirement after two years to play with his two teenage sons then Mark and Marty with the WHA Houston Aeros as their mother Colleen Howe engineered one of the most important sports contracts of the era and gave the then fledgling league another marquee name along with Bobby Hull.
In four years, Howe would top 100 points twice. He just-missed having a third 100 point season with a total of 99 points, won league MVP his first year and two AVCO Cup titles.
Howe played 419 WHA games with 174 goals and 334 points. He moved to Hartford to play for the New England Whalers when the Aeros franchise folded again. A trio signed a free agent contract as talks of an NHL merger were heating up.
Howe recorded his 1,000th career goal against the Birmingham Bulls on December 7, 1977, for the New England Whalers, who sported a great harpoon logo jersey in Springfield, their temporary home after the collapse of the XL Center, then Hartford Civic Center, roof.
Howe played one shift in 1997 with the old IHL Detroit Vipers at the age of 69 on opening night on October 7, 1997, becoming the only player to have played professional hockey in six decades.
Wolf Pack players got a treat when “Mr. Hockey” came to see the team on November 27, 2000, for the first, Hockey Heritage Night.
On March 26, 2011 the CT Whale honored Howe when they made it “Gordie Howe Night.” The Whale also honored the past teams of the NHL and WHA.
Howe’s last visit to the XL Center was inauspicious. He sat in the stands in the back row of the lower bowl at the visiting goal side for an 11:00 AM morning game between the Wolf Pack and the Albany Devils on November 5, 2014. Gordie was accompanied by his son Marty who still resides in the area.
Howe’s health deteriorated the past few years as he suffered a major stroke and had spine issues that required surgery. The family made a last ditch effort by getting him stem cell treatments at a Mexican clinic. They were able to turn around his fortunes as shown to Cantlon’s Corner by Mark Howe and it was remarkable till his passing last week.
Well not really.
The NHL is set to announce next week that Las Vegas will become the 31st NHL franchise. The organizers will post the incredible $500 million entrance fee and will begin play at the brand new, 20,000 seat, T-Mobile Arena in the 2017-18 season. It will make the NHL the only one of the four major sports leagues to have a franchise in Sin City.
Quebec City was rejected despite having a brand new $450 million Videotron Centre. The Videotron Center has hosted an NHL exhibition game during the past season and which will do so again when the Montreal Canadiens will host a game in October.
Cantlon’s Corner wrote that would be the case back in February.
It is a big gamble by the NHL (pun intended) to have hockey in the Mojave desert to attract a core group of fans, be competitive with a shrinking player pool and with the nation’s economy still stuck in neutral trying to develop a consistent revenue stream. The expansion draft will take place with a lot of players with large contracts made available as a salary dump to help other teams clear cap space.
This will also create 31st AHL team.
Potential candidates to join the Pacific Division of the AHL could be a team in Reno, NV. They still have the Reno-Sparks Convention Center (formerly Centennial Coliseum). The RSCC was built in 1965 and renovated in 2009. Their last pro hockey team was the Reno Renegades/Rage of the defunct WCHL (West Coast Hockey League) in 1995-98, that merged with the ECHL. Then would likely have a secondary affiliation with a regional ECHL team like Salt Lake City.
This also would allow Vancouver, the last West based NHL team still out East in the AHL to shift West into the Pacific Division from Utica. The two most likely destinations would return the AHL to Abbotsford 40 minutes from downtown Vancouver or place their AHL team in the Pacific Coliseum, the former home of the Canucks, whose junior tenant the WHL Vancouver Giants are moving in the fall to nearby Langley,BC, but will retain their name.
ON THE MOVE AND OFF SEASON AHL NEWS
New Canaan native, and one time Taft Prep star, Jack Downing, who played in Cincinnati (ECHL) last season has signed to go EC Kassel (Germany DEL-2) next season.
Cheshire native Luke Curadi has retired from hockey after just one minor pro season with Adirondack (ECHL). Curadi was in Wolf Pack training camp last fall. Curadi, who had a four-year collegiate career with R.P.I. (ECACHL) played his public school hockey at Cheshire and ND-West Haven and junior hockey with the Hartford Jr. Wolf Pack. Curadi is getting into coaching with Elite Hockey Academy at Cheshire Academy as an associate head coach for the U-16 team. The head of the hockey academy is run by another ND-WH alum Peter Alden. Read about it HERE.
Former Wolf Pack captain, Aaron Johnson, who also played briefly for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers earlier in his career, is going from Stockton to Adler Mannheim (Germany-DEL). Rob Klinkhammer goes from Bakersfield to Dynamo Minsk (Belarus-KHL)
Jeff Tambellini, the older brother of the Wolf Pack’s Adam Tambellini, after one season in Syracuse, heads back to Europe and Djurgardens IF (Sweden-SHL).
Another AHL’er to Europe is Christian Marti who split the year between Lehigh Valley and Reading (ECHL). Marti goes back to Switzerland to play for ZSC Zurich (LNA). That makes 31 AHL players have signed to go to Europe and more announcements to be expected over the next three weeks.
Derek Ryan of Charlotte, who was strongly being courted by Swiss-based teams, returns to Carolina with a one-year, two-way deal ($600K-NHL/$300K-AHL) with the Hurricanes.
A trio of former Sound Tigers are getting new hockey addresses. Kevin Mitchell goes from EC Graz (Austria-AEHL) to HC Nikko (Japan-ALIH), David Ullstrom Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia-KHL) to Dynamo Minsk (Belarus-KHL) and Justin Courtnall goes from Allen (ECHL) to Brampton (ECHL).
Retired Wolf Pack centerman, Marc Savard, who hasn’t played hockey since the 2010-11 season, had his contract for which he is still paid, traded for a third time this time to the New Jersey Devils from Florida for two AHL forwards in Graham Black and Paul Thompson, who spent all last year in Albany. For Thompson, it will be his second tour in Springfield next season who are the new affiliate city for the Panthers.
The new Springfield team name will be called the Thunderbirds and was announced on Wednesday.
A series of articles from Springfield first the deal to sell Florida on Springfield; HERE
Naming of team; HERE and HERE
A street being named after Bruce Landon; HERE
The Vancouver Canucks have done an organizational goalie coach switch . Ex-Pack Dan Cloutier will be in Vancouver handling the NHL goalies for the Canucks and taking his spot as the organizational goalie development coach is one time Nighthawk-Rollie ‘The Goalie” Melanson.
Former Wolf Pack goalie Vitali Yeremeyev moves up from Barys Astana (Kazakhstan) junior team in the Russian MHL league to be the goalie coach for Dynamo Moscow (Russia-KHL).
The Milwaukee Admirals have moved to their new home the Carver Arena at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as the BMO Harris Bradley Center (presently 28 years old remember the XL is 41 years old) is slated to close in two years when the Milwaukee Bucks open a brand new NBA-only arena and the Bradley Center will be knocked down 12 months after the opening of the yet unnamed arena.
The Rockford Ice Hogs and the Chicago Black Hawks have extended their affiliation agreement another five years.
Texas Stars have extended their ECHL agreement with Idaho another two years.
The last European championship goes to HC Bat Yam of the Israeli Hockey League capturing their second title and first since 1995 beating Monfort Maalot 6-3.