Debate over a hockey team’s Indian name, logo, surfaces in a surprising place – Sweden

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The fight over sports teams using Indian/First Nations names and logos shifted to an unlikely battleground this week – Sweden.

A Stockholm man complained to Sweden’s Discrimination Ombudsman and demanded that the Frolunda Indians Hockey Club change its name and ditch its logo – an angry-looking Indian/First Nations member wearing a red, white, green, and black feather headdress.

“I want to report their logo to you and I want to demand that it is changed because it is offensive to all Indians and it uses a stereotypical image of Indians,” the complainant wrote to the ombudsman, according to a story reported by The Local in Sweden.

The  Frolunda Hockey Club's name and logo prompted an unsuccessful complaint to Sweden's government..

The Frolunda Hockey Club’s name and logo prompted an unsuccessful complaint to Sweden’s government.

But the complaint was dropped because “We arrived at the conclusion that it was not covered by Swedish discrimination law,” Clas Lundstedt, a press spokesman for the ombudsman, told The Local. “Discrimination is defined in the legislation as somebody being disadvantaged or treated worse than another person in a similar situation and that has not  happened in this case.”

He added: “This case could perhaps be related to freedom of speech legislation or similar, but that is not covered by laws on discrimination, so it is nothing that is within our remit.”

Frolunda's Joel Lundqvist.

Frolunda’s Joel Lundqvist.

Frolunda is a member of the Swedish Hockey League. The team’s alums include New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and former Buffalo Sabres forward Christian Ruuttu. Lundqvist’s twin brother, Joel, a former Dallas Stars center, played for Frolunda in 2014-15.

Frolunda adopted the “Indians” name and image about 20 years ago as a tribute to the team’s aggressive playing style which was described as “Wild West Tactics.” Peter Pettersson Kymmer, the team’s media manager, told Radio Sweden that he doesn’t believe that Frolunda’s name and logo are disparaging.

“We think our symbol and name communicate something entirely different, like courage, passion and fellowship,” he said.

Pettersson Kymmer’s comments sound similar to those of management of North American sports teams. The National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks,  Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, and the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins have resisted calls to change their names or logos.

Daniel Snyder, owner of Washington’s NFL team, has been under pressure by several Indian/First Nations groups, many members of Congress, and others to change his team’s name and remove the Indian head logo from the team’s helmets.

Media outlets like the New York Daily News, The Seattle Times, The Washington Post editorial board, The San Francisco Chronicle, and online sites Slate and Mother Jones no longer refer to the team by its name.

The U.S. Patent Office canceled the Washington football team’s trademark registration last June. But Snyder has vowed not to change the team’s name.

“A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning,” Synder told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” last year.

Frolunda management said they don’t intend to change their team’s name, either.

“The answer is no, but then I don’t know what will happen 10, 20, 30 years from now,” Pettersson Kymmer told Radio Sweden.

While the fight over Washington football team rages and the flap over Frolunda’s name generates headlines, Chicago’s NHL team doesn’t seem to get as much heat for its name and distinctive Indian head logo.

Last August, a seven-person panel from The Hockey News ranked Chicago’s logo as tops among the NHL’s 30 teams.

“What differentiates this logo from the Washington Football Club – and why there is not

 Chicago's Johnny Oduya sports one of the NHL's top-rated team logos.

Chicago’s Johnny Oduya sports one of the NHL’s top-rated team logos.

great controversy around it – is that it honors a great chief and does so with a sophisticated, artful design,” The Hockey News’ Rory Boylen wrote last August. “It’s not a cartoon like Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians and the team’s nickname that it represents isn’t the outright slur Washington’s is. This name and logo honors the memory of a great Native American chief who stood up to the injustices inflicted upon his people.”

The Blackhawks have forged a relationship with the American Indian Center of Chicago over the years and the team has “a genuine and ongoing dialogue with the native community in Illinois and for that we respect them,” center general counsel Scott Sypolt told USA Today last year.

“There is a clear distinction,” Sypolt added, “between sports teams that depict Native Americans as caricatures and red, screaming savages…If you look at Chief Wahoo, you have the big lips, the exaggerated nose and the beady eyes.”

Still, several folks believe that it’s time for the Blackhawks to take a new nickname and logo. “Clearly, no right-thinking person would name a team after an aboriginal figure these days,” Toronto Star hockey columnist Damien Cox wrote in 2010, “any more than they would use Muslims or Africans or Chinese or any ethnic group to depict a specific sporting notion.”

NYC roller hockey players pay tribute to a minority trailblazer

There was a time not-so-long ago when hockey truly wasn’t for everyone.

In big cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, the lack of access to ice skating rinks and lack of funds to pay for hundreds of dollars worth of equipment and team fees sent working-class urban kids to the streets to play the game they loved.

And play they did. With wheels on their feet, they competed on their neighborhood streets, on playground basketball courts, and in organized roller hockey leagues. New York has tons of urban sports legends, from basketball players who lit it up Harlem’s Rucker Park to the brothers Mullen – Joe and Brian – roller hockey-playing kids from Hell’s Kitchen who made it big in the National Hockey League.

The New York Times has a touching story about Craig Allen, who endured the slings and arrows of racism to become a 1970s roller hockey legend in the city. The Times piece by Corey Kilgannon is worth a read.

Heroics and highlight reel performaces by players of color in playoff games

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Hockey playoffs are in full swing and players of color are at the center of the action.

From the National Hockey League to Canada’s major junior leagues to the alphabet jumble of various minor leagues, players of color are providing heroics and highlights in the early rounds.

Washington Capitals' Joel Ward getting it done in playoffs - again.

Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward getting it done in playoffs – again.

Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward further enhanced his reputation as a clutch playoff performer with his game-winning goal against the New York Rangers with 1.3 seconds left in the third period in the first game of a second-round series opener at Madison Square Garden.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ward’s buzzer-beater against Rangers all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist marked only the third time that a winning goal had been scrored in an NHL playoff game with less than two seconds remaining.

Game-ending heroics are becoming old hat for Ward. He’s got three playoff walk-off (or skate-offs) goals, the most dramatic being a Game 7 overtime winner that vanquished the Boston Bruins from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012.

Anaheim Ducks left wing Emerson Etem is yet to score an NHL playoff game-ending goal. But he did recently notched a highlight reel goal in the Ducks’ opening round series against the Winnipeg Jets that melted the “White Out” of Jets fans inside the MTS Centre and drew oohs and aahs from amazed teammates.

Emerson Etem eats up Jets defenders on goal.

Emerson Etem eats up Jets defenders on goal.

Born in Long Beach, California, Etem wasn’t much of a scorer during the 2014-15 regular season, tallying only 5 goals and 5 assists in 45 games for the Ducks. But he has 2 goals in five games in the still-young playoff season – and loads of confidence after undressing the Winnipeg Jets.

A few rungs below the NHL, forward Connor McDavid is getting his share of snazzy playoff goals for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. The likely Number One pick in June’s 2015 NHL Draft is the Main Man in Erie, the straw that stirs the Pennsylvania-based franchise.

But folks lucky enough to catch the Otters’ playoff series against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on the NHL Network couldn’t help but notice Erie forward Nick Baptiste. He potted 4 goals in a crucial Game 4 against the Greyhounds, a team that featured defensemen Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round draft pick, and Anthony DeAngelo, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2014 first-round draft selection.

“It was one of those nights where you just try to shoot as much as you can, and they go in,” Baptiste said after the game. “Fortunate enough to get the goals, but more importantly, the win.”

Erie won the game 7-5 and eliminated the Soo from the playoffs four games to two. The series was a high-scoring affair that offered a glimpse of the future for the downtrodden Buffalo Sabres.

Sure, a bad Ping-Pong ball bounce or two in the NHL Draft Lottery cost the Sabres –  the league’s worst team in the 2014-15 season – the first-overall pick and a shot at McDavid in June’s draft.

But with the Number Two pick in the upcoming draft, Buffalo is poised to get a great player in Boston University forward Jack Eichel. And more help is on the way talent-wise to Buffalo in the near future in the form of players like Baptiste.

Nick Baptiste's performance in the OHL playoffs brought Erie Otters fans to their feet (Matt Mead/Matt Mead Photography).

Nick Baptiste’s performance in the OHL playoffs brought Erie Otters fans to their feet (Matt Mead/Matt Mead Photography).

The Sabres chose him in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. In the 2014-15 regular season, Baptiste tallied 32 goals and 32 assists in 53 games with the Otters and the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. He has 11 goals and 9 assists in 15 OHL playoff games thus far.

Baptiste was one of the last players cut in tryouts for the Canadian team that went on to win the Gold Medal in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

The Greyhounds also featured a future Sabre in right wing Justin Bailey. A Buffalo second-round pick in 2013, Bailey scored 34 goals and 35 assists in 57 games with the Greyhounds and the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. The Western New York native tallied 7 goals and 7 assists in 14 playoff games for the Greyhounds.

Predators’ Seth Jones joins Team U.S.A. for 2015 IIHF World Championship

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The Nashville Predators’ loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs became America’s gain this week when defenseman Seth Jones joined the U.S. Men’s National team that will compete in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.

Predator's Seth Jones dons red, white, and blue jersey again (Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images).

Predator’s Seth Jones dons red, white, and blue jersey again (Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images).

Jones, 20, adds a wealth of international experience to a young U.S. team that’s set to compete in the 16-nation tournament which runs May 1-17  in Ostrava and Prague, Czech Republic.

He’s a three-time IIHF gold medalist, having helped the U.S. to the top prize at the 2011 and 2012 IIHF Under-18 World Championships and the 2013 World Junior Championship.

Jones, son of former National Basketball Association star Popeye Jones, also skated for Team U.S.A. in the 2014 IIHF World Championship and made the tournament’s All-Star team. He was also named best defenseman by the tournament’s directorate.

The U.S. team begins its 2015 quest for the gold May 1 against Finland, a game in which Jones could face goaltender Pekka Rinne, a Nashville teammate. Rinne was the 2014 tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

The 2015 U.S.A.-Finland game will be aired live on cable’s NBCSN at 10 a.m. All of the American squad’s games will be live-streamed for mobile devices, desktops and tablets via NBC Sports Live Extra.

The fourth player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, Jones appeared in all 82 games for the Predators during the 2014-15 regular season. He tallied eight goals and 19 assists and had a plus/minus of plus-3.

He played in all six of the Pred’s first-round playoff games against the Chicago Blackhawks. He had no goals, four assists and was a minus-6. The Blackhawks eliminated the Predators four games to two.

But rather than go home to Plano, Texas, at the end of his National Hockey League season, Jones decided to head to the Czech Republic. He joins other NHLers  who are skating for their countries after their teams either failed to qualify for the playoffs or were eliminated in the first round.

Team Canada features an all-NHL roster that includes forwards  Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins,  Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche.

The U.S. roster is a mix of NHLers, American Hockey League players, and NCAA Division I college players including Boston University forward Jack Eichel, likely to be taken by the Buffalo Sabres with the second pick in the 2015 NHL Draft June 26-27.

NHL players joining Jones on the American squad includes forward Nick Bonino of the Vancouver Canucks, defenseman Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins, and defenseman Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes.

NHL head coaching diversity down to zero as Flyers fire Craig Berube

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And then there were none.

The number of minority head coaches in the National Hockey League zeroed out Friday when the Philadelphia Flyers did the expected and fired Craig Berube after the team failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ted Nolan, left, and  Craig Berube, were the NHL's only minority head coaches. Both have been fired.(Photo/Philadelphia Flyers).

Ted Nolan, left, and Craig Berube, were the NHL’s only minority head coaches. Both have been fired.(Photo/Philadelphia Flyers).

Berube, who is part Cree, joins former Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ted Nolan, who’s Ojibwe, on the unemployment line. The two made history in November 2013 when they became the first two First Nations members to coach against each other in an NHL game.

“Do I think he did a good job last year? Yes,” Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall said of Berube. “And this year things didn’t go so well. So you take the whole piece of the pie. I don’t think you can evaluate a coach on 20 or 40 games; you have to evaluate him on the whole ball of wax. We felt over two seasons that a change was needed.”

The Flyers tapped Berube, 49, to replace Head Coach Peter Laviolette in October 2013.  About a month later, Buffalo brought Nolan back for a second stint behind the Sabres bench.

Now the two have received their walking papers nearly a week apart. Neither firing was unexpected. Flyers management felt it had a playoff-caliber roster. But the team finished sixth in the NHL’s Metropolitan Division with a 33-31-18 record that wasn’t Stanley Cup Playoffs-worthy.

Philadelphia Flyers let Head Coach Craig Berube go after two season behind the bench.

Philadelphia Flyers let Head Coach Craig Berube go after two season behind the bench.

The team was plagued by inconsistent play – world-beaters against top-tier NHL teams, doormats against lesser opponents – and some questionable coaching decisions. Berube mismanaged goaltender Steve Mason, arguably the Flyers’ best player in 2014-15. Berube appeared to rush Mason back between the pipes early after the goalie suffered injuries.

Nolan’s canning wasn’t a shocker but the rationale for it was. The Sabres, at 23-51-8, had the NHL’s worst record, a dubious distinction that now puts the team in the best position to land the first overall pick in June’s NHL Draft, which will likely be Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid.

After putting an underwhelming product on the ice, and after a season of fan and media talk about the Sabres tanking for the best shot at McDavid,  Buffalo General Manager Tim Murray said he let Nolan go because he thought the team was better than its record indicated.

“I didn’t foresee us being a 30th-place team,” Murray said at a news conference. “Certainly after the trade deadline, trading out guys I had a big part in that, there’s no question and I own that. But up to the trade deadline I was open to keeping guys, I was open to maybe discussing with guys that were coming due, but the place we  were in was the place we were in.”

Whatever the rationale, both Buffalo and Philadelphia are in the market for head coaches. Both teams may take runs at Detroit Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock, whose contract in the Motor City expires soon.

They like Mike. Several NHL teams are expected to bid for Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock's services. (Photo Courtesy of The Detroit News/David Guralnick).

They like Mike. Several NHL teams are expected to bid for Red Wings Coach Mike Babcock’s services. (Photo Courtesy of The Detroit News/David Guralnick).

However, Babcock will be in high demand – Detroit, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will surely be interested – and he’ll demand to be paid, at least $5 million per season.

The Flyers may take a look at former Pittsburgh Penguins and U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team coach Dan Bylsma; St. Louis Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock;  former Flyer player and Gold Medal-winning Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team coach Kevin Dineen; or even former Flyers Head Coach  John Stevens, currently a Los Angeles Kings assistant coach.

Washington’s Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club featured on PBS NewsHour

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Kudos to the PBS NewsHour for taking time in Thursday evening’s newscast to tell the story of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program.

Since 1977, program founder Neal Henderson has shown that if you give a kid – no matter what race, ethnicity, or gender – a stick, a puck, some equipment, ice time, and a chance, they can become hockey players.

Henderson is a hockey lifer who teaches life through hockey. He uses the sport to instill teamwork, discipline, perseverance, responsibility and accountability in kids from some of D.C.’s toughest neighborhoods.  He’s a gentle man who preaches tough love, a task master who takes time to make sure his players are alright, both on and off the ice.

Hockey is lucky to have him. And PBS NewsHour was thoughtful enough to show viewers the essence of what he and the Fort Dupont program are all about.

Neal Henderson, far left, and his Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club  hang out with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (Photo/Patrick McDermott).

Neal Henderson, far left, and his Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club hang out with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (Photo/Patrick McDermott).

The Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club is part of the National Hockey League’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative which provides support and unique programming to non-profit youth organizations across North America that are committed to offering children of all backgrounds opportunities to play hockey.

Diversity among NHL head coaches declines after Buffalo Sabres fire Ted Nolan

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Diversity within the National Hockey League’s head coaching ranks dwindled Sunday evening when the Buffalo Sabres fired bench boss Ted Nolan.

Nolan, who was in his second stint with the Sabres, piloted to team to a dismal 23-51-8 record, the worst record in the league. But many Sabres fans embraced the team’s race to the bottom for a chance at drafting Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid,  who’s ranked as hockey’s top prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau.

Ted Nolan won't be back behind the Sabres bench in 2015-16. The team fired him on Sunday. (Bill Wippert, Buffalo Sabres)

Ted Nolan won’t be back behind the Sabres bench in 2015-16. The team fired him on Sunday. (Bill Wippert, Buffalo Sabres)

The league will hold a ping-pong ball lottery Saturday to determine which of the 14 NHL teams that failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs gets the first pick. The Sabres have a 20 percent of winning it.

Sabres General Manager Tim Murray told reporters Sunday that he felt the team had a better roster than its record indicated.

“I didn’t foresee us being a 30th-place team,” Murray said at a news conference. “Certainly after the trade deadline, trading out guys I had a big part in that, there’s no question and I own that. But up to the trade deadline I was open to keeping guys, I was open to maybe discussing with guys that were coming due, but the place we  were in was the place we were in.”

Murray added: “I don’t know if I was disappointed (in Nolan). We decided to go with young guys in a rebuild and surround them with some high-character veterans and we’ve done that. We still finished in 30th-place. There’s been a lot of changes here and that’s on me. I’m not going to question his coaching decisions here in front of you guys. It’s a decision that was made and there’s a big picture to it.”

Nolan, who’s Ojibwe, had a 40-87-17 record with the Sabres since he took over Buffalo’s coaching duties in November 2013. The team’s poor showing over the last few seasons prompted it to trade stars like goaltender Ryan Miller, high-scoring forward Thomas Vanek, and unload bad free agent contracts like forward Ville Leino‘s.

Asked  by the Associated Press about his dismissal, Nolan said “I’m just going to reflect on it and come out with a statement in the next couple of days.”

Evander Kane will have a new coach and new teammates next season in Buffalo.

Evander Kane will have a new coach and new teammates next season in Buffalo.

Buffalo is looking to use the 2015 draft to reload – both on-ice and behind the bench. The drive for 2015-16 began in February when the Sabres acquired forward Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets in a seven-player trade.

Kane suffered a shoulder injury before the trade and didn’t play a single game for the Sabres. He knows he was brought in to add firepower to a team on the cusp of getting McDavid or Boston University forward Jack Eichel.

“There’s a lot of excitement for the future in Buffalo,” Kane told NHL.com in February. “Just looking at next year, they’re going to get a top pick and that’s exciting. Just to have one of those guys maybe to play with next year, plus the other young players on that team.”

There’s speculation that if the Sabres do land McDavid they’ll take a serious, and expensive, run at Detroit Red Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock, who’s in the final year of his contract in the Motor City.

Babcock, who guided Detroit to the Stanley Cup in 2008, could command several million dollars per season as teams like the deep-pocketed Toronto  Maple  Leafs, which fired Coach Peter Horachek and General Manager Dave Nonis Sunday, aggressively vie for his services.

Nolan’s firing leaves only one minority head coach in the NHL – Philadelphia Flyers’ Craig Berube, who’s part Cree. But Berube might also be on his way out the door soon because the team – 33-31-18 – failed to make the playoffs.  The Flyers only have a 6.5 percent chance of winning the McDavid/Eichel lottery Saturday.

Kia Nurse joins big brother Darnell with a championship victory

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Another championship game, another championship for the Nurse family.

Defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round draft pick, powered Team Canada to a 5-4 victory over Russia to win the Gold Medal at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in January.

UConn guard Kia Nurse adds to the family championship trophy case.

UConn guard Kia Nurse adds to the family championship trophy case.

Wednesday night, guard Kia Nurse, Darnell’s younger sister, scored nine points to help the University of Connecticut Huskies capture their third consecutive NCAA Division I women’s basketball championship, the school’s 10th overall. The Huskies defeated Notre Dame 63-53 in Tampa, Fla.

“It’s the pinnacle of women’s basketball,” proud papa Richard Nurse told the hometown Hamilton Spectator before the game. “Outside of the Olympics there isn’t a bigger stage for women’s basketball than the NCAA championship.”

The Nurses are a close-knit, athletic family

Team Canada's Darnell Nurse.

Team Canada’s Darnell Nurse.

-and highly competitive. Father Richard Nurse was a wide receiver for the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats; his wife, Cathy, was a stellar basketball player for Canada’s McMaster University.

Their older daughter, Tamika, played basketball at the University of Oregon and Bowling Green State University. Richard Nurse’s brother, Roger, was a standout lacrosse player in Canada. Their sister, Raquel, was a Syracuse University hoops standout and is married to former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Kia and Darnell’s cousin, Sarah Nurse, plays hockey for the University of

Wisconsin. Her younger brother, Elijah Nurse, was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the Canadian major junior team Darnell plays for.

Kia Nurse gravitated to the hardwood rather than the hard ice. Still, her father says that she has a hockey player’s mentality on the court.

“Besides being extremely skilled, she’s a nasty piece of business,” he once told me. “She’s very physical.”

Big brother Darnell wasn’t able to attend Kia’s game on Tuesday night. His Greyhounds were preparing to play the Guelph Storm in the second round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

But most of the family – including McNabb – was in Tampa to cheer and celebrate. And the Nurses becoming a two-sport, two-championship household wasn’t lost on the hockey world.

Darnell Nurse team Canada photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images.

St. Louis Blues’ Ryan Reaves has a present for the tooth fairy

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St. Louis Blues Headshots

Who needs dental school? Apparently not St. Louis Blues right wing Ryan Reaves.

After taking a bone-rattling check Sunday in the Blues’ 2-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the rugged forward returned to the St. Louis bench and performed oral surgery – calmly yanking a loose tooth bare-handed. No Novocaine, no pliers, no missed shift, no problem.

But did he put it under his pillow after the game?

To better understand what makes Reaves tick, give this great ESPN.com story a read.

When Greatness Collides – Subban vs. Ovechkin Round Two

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A couple of things about pro hockey players: They never forget and they seldom forgive. They may not get mad immediately, but they almost always get even – no matter how long it takes.

Such appeared to be the case in Montreal last Thursday when Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban lined up Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin with a solid check that sent him airborne.

Ovechkin wasn’t hurt by the collision. As the Great 8 used to say, “Russian machine never breaks.”

The highlight-reel hit was payback by P.K. On Feb. 1, 2011, Ovechkin posterized Subban, sending sent him skyward with an open-ice hip check that many considered the hit of the season.

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