Author Archives: tdrisk

NHL: If you can play, you can play!

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Over the past couple decades, lockouts have given the NHL’s management and leadership a terrible reputation in the eyes of their fans. Well, they finally did something right. Yesterday, the NHL became the first North American sports league to officially partner with the You Can Play Project, a movement dedicated to the eradication of homophobia in sports. 

In fact, since its launch, the You Can Play Project has been publicly backed by numerous NHL players, including stars Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Zdeno Chara, and Daniel Alfredsson. To me, this is a no-brainer for all sports leagues, but especially for the NHL.

One of You Can Play’s founders, Patrick Burke, the son of hockey management legend Brian Burke, started the project last year in memory of his brother Brendan. In 2009, Brendan, who was the student manager of Miami of Ohio men’s hockey program, publicly came out of the closet with the unwavering support of the RedHawks team.

Brendan told the Toronto Sports Network, “I think it’s important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation.”

It’s nice to know that the hockey will be on the right side of history. I’d like to also point out that Major League Soccer publicly supported the movement this past fall. I hope more leagues follow suit. 

Simply stated, barriers do not belong in the sporting world. Participating in sports provided me with countless friendships, priceless memories, and personal development. Everyone should have access to those great experiences.

If you can play, you’re welcome to play. 

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Lunch: Top NHLers Likely on the Move

With the NHL’s April 3rd trade deadline fast approaching, the Pittsburgh Penguins struck first this past weekend acquiring Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray; two veterans hungry for their first Stanley Cup win. The other teams in the playoff picture have surely taken notice, so now it’s time to speculate which top players are on the trading block.

Jarome Iginla – Calgary Flames – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• Iginla is this year’s Ray Bourque. Once they were out of the playoff race, the Flames began shopping their long-time captain, whose contract is set to expire this summer. Taking matters into his own hands, Jarome has made it known that he will only waive his no trade clause for the Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings, and Penguins. Rumors indicate that the Bruins are the top suitor, but Jerome will not be cheap. The Flames will be looking to acquire a top prospect, a secondary prospect, and picks in exchange for Iginla, who has scored over 30 goals for 11 straight seasons. The man is a warrior who will bring intensity and heart to whichever locker room he ends up in.

Bobby Ryan – Anaheim Ducks – W

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

• The Ducks made it clear that Bobby Ryan is on the trading block after they signed Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to expensive, long term deals this season. The 26 year old power forward’s contract is also up at the end of the season, and the Ducks definitely don’t want to lose him for free. The tricky part of this situation is that the Ducks are flying high at 2nd place in the west and will be looking for a center who can step right into the lineup plus a prospect/picks. I could see the Flyers, a team that Ryan would fit into nicely, trading a package including Sean Couturier, but it’s still an open race. I would not rule out the Red Wings offering Valtteri Filppula or the Washington Capitals offering Mike Ribeiro as the top chip of their trade packages.

Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks – G

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Luongo (right) stands with Schneider (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

• The Canucks need to eventually deal their $5 million a year backup goaltender, but they will not be selling him for cheap, as the Toronto Maple Leafs learned this past off season. The Olympic gold winning keeper has been supplanted by the younger, more consistent Cory Schneider, but he’s still the same lovable Lou. The trade market obviously isn’t full of playoff bound teams looking for a starting goalie, but there are definitely quite a few teams who would love to turn a weakness into a strength going into next season. If the Canucks opt to trade Lou, I’d guess that it will take a top 4 defenseman, a top prospect, and picks. Eric Brewer of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers could be that veteran defenseman that Vancouver is looking for.

A couple other players who could be moved before next Wednesday are winger Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers, center Derek Roy of the Dallas Stars,  and defenseman Ladislav Smid of the Edmonton Oilers.

When the dust clears, there will surely be some new faces in locker rooms around the NHL as teams prepare for the final playoff push.

Lunch: Alex Ovechkin Drops the Gloves with Mike Milbury

Ovechkin led the Capitals to a dominant victory over the Panthers on 3/7/13.(Alex Brandon / AP)

Ovi leads the Capitals to victory over the Panthers.
(Alex Brandon / AP)

Mike Milbury, NBC’s hockey analyst, has been one of superstar Alexander Ovechkin’s toughest critics since the Russian entered the National Hockey League.

If you are unfamiliar with Milbury, I’ll give you a brief recap of his involvement with the NHL. The most memorable act of his playing career came in 1979, when he climbed into the stands at Madison Square Garden, removed a Rangers’ fan shoe, and slapped him in the face with it. I’m not joking. Here it is:

And I’m almost positive that he was inspired by the 1977 film, Slapshot. If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, grab yourself a sixer of Molson and enjoy.

Milbury eventually found himself managing the New York Islanders in the late ’90s. During his brief stint as the GM, he traded away Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Todd Bertuzzi, Ziggy Palffy, and Olli Jokinen, as well as numerous other players who went on to have long NHL careers. In addition to trading away that loaded pool of talent, he also signed Rick DiPietro and Alexei Yashin to 2 of the worst contracts in hockey history. To this day, Islanders’ fans still blame Milbury for robbing them of their superstar prospects and financially crippling the franchise.

Somehow (maybe he called Matt Millen for advice?), Milbury wound up as the “hockey expert” at NBC Sports. Now, it seems like his favorite thing to do is compete with Don Cherry, his former coach, for the title of the most embarrassing TV personality in hockey.

Just last Wednesday, after Ovechkin had a particularly weak performance, Milbury went after the Russian with petty insults and a brutal attack upon his character.

I’ll admit that Ovi underperformed. Hockey is a brutal, emotional sport. Milbury should know from experience that it is nearly impossible to be on your game every night of year. Much like Ovi’s play, Milbury’s rant was inexcusable.

It took about a week for Ovechkin to respond to Milbury’s comments, but he eventually fired back:

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Last night, Ovi also responded on the ice, picking up a goal and 2 assists as the Washington Capitals routed the Florida Panthers 7-1. With the Caps sitting at 12th place in the East, Ovechkin must continue to elevate his play if they have any hope of making the playoffs.

This weekend will be a big test for the team. After a game against the Islanders on Saturday, the Capitals and New York Rangers play in NBC’s game of the week on Sunday at 12:30.

I think for the first time ever, I am eagerly waiting to hear what Mike Milbury has to say.

Breakfast: Not Enough Ice Time For The NHL

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As the new hockey guy at the OrangeWedge, I’m joining the writing team at an exciting time. After an embarrassing 113 day lockout, the 2013 NHL season is about halfway finished, and the league is as popular as ever.

That is, as popular as ever among long-time hockey fans.

Many writers undoubtedly point to the past work stoppages as the leading factor for the lack of American support. While I agree with this, I believe that the NHL’s popularity cannot be discussed without mentioning ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports.”

The big story of this year has been the Chicago Blackhawks’ miraculous 22-game point streak. As a Detroit Redwings fan, it sickens me, but I have to tip my hat and say well done. After the Hawks and the Wings faced off this past Sunday, in NBC’s second most viewed hockey game in history, ESPN was forced to properly highlight the achievement. How did they bring attention to this historic streak, you ask? By allowing their controversial NBA analyst, Stephen A. Smith, to discuss it on their flagship program, SportsCenter. Smith, unimpressed by the streak, attacked long-time hockey analyst Barry Melrose, barely letting him get a word in while he attacked with nonfactual arguments.

My gripe with Stephen A. Smith’s prideful ignorance has more to do with ESPN than Smith himself. It is not surprising that a basketball guy thinks poorly of hockey. To be honest, I doubt you’ll ever find me mentioning basketball on the Wedge, unless of course I’m discussing this year’s top NHL prospect Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones. But more to the point: ESPN, in their quest for higher revenue and ratings, fails to cover the NHL with the integrity and fairness it deserves. Until this changes, ice hockey will forever be the little brother of North America’s big 4 sports.

Lucky for American hockey fans, there may be hope in the future:

Hockey Tweet

Let’s just hope that the reporter there was not Stephen A.