To stay or go? Anthony Duclair’s play gives Rangers something to think about

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Anthony Duclair wants to make it hard for the New York Rangers.

Quebec's Anthony Duclair is trying to stick with the Rangers.

Quebec’s Anthony Duclair is trying to stick with the Rangers.

The speedy 19-year-old sniper from the Quebec Remparts and the 80th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is hoping to make the Rangers brain trust think long and hard about keeping him on the team’s roster instead of sending him back to his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team.

“I’m trying to make this team for sure,” Duclair told MSG Networks between periods of the Rangers 4-1 preseason win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago Friday’s night.”I’m not a kid looking to go back to junior.”

And if he scores more goals like the one he notched midway through the first period of Friday night’s game, Duclair could find himself skating on Broadway. It was his first NHL goal.

“I thought I was going to be nerveous, but I handled it pretty well with the help of the guys here, talking to me, telling me to relax,” Duclair told Blueshirts United after the game.

Duclair registered 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games last season for Quebec. Though his 2013-14 stats were impressive, Rangers management entered training camp thinking that Duclair could benefit from another year of seasoning in the QMJHL.

But Duclair has other ideas.

 

 

Vancouver Sun runs a less than sunny caption with photo of Jordan Subban

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The publication is named The Vancouver Sun but the caption with the photo was hardly enlightening.

Defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth-round draft pick in 2013, scored his first-ever NHL goal in Tuesday night’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. After scoring the goal, a happy Subban celebrated with his teammates, a moment captured in a photograph published in The Sun’s online edition.

The picture was fine. The caption that accompanied it, not so much. It said: Vancouver Canucks celebrate goal by Jordan Subban (dark guy in the middle) against San Jose Sharks in NHL pre-season game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. on September 23, 2014.

“Dark guy in the middle.” Really? Glad the cutline cleared up that confusion.

Jordan Subban

Jordan Subban

To add some bones to the caption’s obsession with Subban’s flesh: Jordan Subban was the 115th player selected in the 2013 draft. He’s the youngest brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban.

Jordan was a top defenseman last season for the Bellville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. The diminutive 19-year-old notched 12 goals and 30 assists for the Bulls in 65 games. Big brother P.K., who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2013, on several occasions has said Jordan is a cerebral blue-liner who can teach him a thing or two about playing defense.

The Sun and Vancouver’s Province newspaper apologized for the insensitive caption, but it’s still the latest racially clumsy episode before the first puck drops on the NHL’s 2014-15 season. First EA Sports inexplicably depicts St. Louis Blues tough guy Ryan Reaves about 15 shades too dark in its NHL video game, now the crazy Subban caption.

Subban took the episode in stride.

“I heard about that,” he told The Province Wednesday. “I had a chance to talk to a representative from the paper and it seemed like a pretty honest mistake. Am I worried about it? No. If people should be talking about something, it should be the way I played last night rather than that. Hopefully, it will just die down.

“It was just unfortunate. I don’t think there were any bad intentions. It is what it is and I’ve moved on and I’m sure everyone else will, too.”

Subban is on his way back to Bellville. The Canucks cut him and three other players and shipped them back to their major junior hockey teams.

 

Anaheim Ducks ink 2014 playoff star Devante Smith-Pelly to a two-year deal

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Devante Smith-Pelly only scored two goals and 10 assists in 19 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season.

Devante Smith-Pelly

Devante Smith-Pelly

But the rugged 22-year-old right wing with the hyphenated last name made a name for himself in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, showing the power and promise of things to come. On a team loaded with scorers like Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, Smith-Pelly topped the Ducks with five playoff goals in 12 games.

Anaheim rewarded him Tuesday with a two-year contract with undisclosed terms. ESPN.com reported that the deal is worth $800,000 per season.

“I’m pretty relieved to get it done,” Smith-Pelly said on the Ducks’ website. “This is my first process going through something like this, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take. There’s a long process to it. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come this close to camp, but at the same time, I knew something would get done before.”

Taken in the second round with the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Smith-Pelly proclaimed himself happy with last season’s playoff scoring run but added that he wasn’t completely satisfied because the Ducks “would have liked to go forward and win the thing.”

“On a personal level, it was good for me and good for my confidence,” he said. “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun the whole time.”

With the contract negotiations behind him. Smith-Pelly said he can concentrate on having a good training camp and work towards becoming a regular top-six forward on the team.

Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau “shuffles the lines and, with the way I play, I can be successful on any type of line,” Smith-Pelly said.

“I’m just trying to get better,” he added. “If it ends up being in a top-six position, hopefully I can contribute offensively and keep my physical game. If it’s bottom-six, hopefully it’s the same. I’m the type of player that can play in any kind of role, and I’ll accept any role I’m given.”

 

 

 

Show me the Color of Hockey

With the 2014-15 National Hockey League season just a few weeks away, I’d like to see and hear from hockey fans of color about your hockey experiences – as players young and old, as parents, as teams, as fans, whatever.

I’d like to post your photos accompanied by a bit of information about you: how you got involved in the game, what you love about it, and who’s your favorite player. I’d, also like to know your predictions on which team will win the Stanley Cup, which player will win the scoring title, and who’ll be the league’s most valuable player.

Once I get enough responses I’ll post the results, hopefully before the puck drops at the NHL’s first regular-season game next month. So don’t be shy, send your pictures and stories to colorofhockey3582@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Former NHLer Mike Grier to coach all-star team of American hockey prospects

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Mike Grier already has his strategy down for coaching a squad of some of the best 2015 NHL draft-eligible players born in the United States: just open the bench door and point them to the ice.

“You’ve got all the best players around so you won’t have to do too much,” Grier told me. “I’ll keep everyone involved and keep the lines flowing.”

Grier will test his coaching philosophy on September 25 when he serves as a bench boss at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s definitely an honor to be involved in this event,” Grier said. “It’s a big deal for USA Hockey and you’ll have a lot of NHL teams watching.”

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Forty-two players who’ll be eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft will compete on teams coached by Grier – who played 15 seasons for the Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and San Jose Sharks – and Eddie Olczyk, the lead hockey analyst for the NHL on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

Olczyk played 16 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped guide the Rangers to its Stanley Cup victory in 1994 and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

A Detroit native and Boston University hockey standout, Grier was the NHL’s third U.S.-born black player. He followed Indiana-born forward Donald Brashear and Ocala, Florida’s Valmore James who became the NHL’s first African-American player when he debuted with Sabres in the 1981-82 season.

James and Brashear were tough guys, on-ice enforcers known more for their fists than their scoring touch. Grier combined toughness with scoring. He was the NHL’s first African-American player to score more than 20 goals in a season. He finished his career with 162 goals, 383 total points and 510 penalty minutes in 1,060 games.

Grier played for Team USA at the 1995 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship and won a bronze medal skating for the U.S. at the 2004 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

“It’s really something that I’m proud of, being one of the first to break through,” Grier said.  “The (minority) players who are coming up now are skill players who are contributing to their teams. It’s only natural to get more kids of color in the game.”

These days, Grier is involved in coaching youth hockey coaching and he served as an on-ice instructor last month at USA Hockey’s Boys’ Select 17 Player Development Camp.

“I’m just seeing what comes,” Grier said. “I like working with kids on the player development side of it and giving back to the kids.”

Ice Bucket Challenge a real challenge for Old Spice Guy

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Whether he’s promoting Secret deodorant or his trusty brand, Isaiah Mustafa – aka the Old Spice Guy from the hilarious TV commercials – can’t let an ounce of wetness touch his perfectly chiseled man-hide, even if its’s for a good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge to combat ALS. But he’s always willing to try.

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” hates sweat but loves ice hockey and discussed his passion for the sport last November with the Color of Hockey.

"Old Spice Guy" Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

“Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

 

When darkness fails – EA Sports fades St. Louis Blues’ Ryan Reaves too black in game

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Ryan Reaves

Ryan Reaves

As an on-ice enforcer who tangles with some of the National Hockey League’s best fighters, St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves is used to being a little black and blue after a tough game.

But one can excuse Reaves for being red hot miffed at EA Sports  for digitally making him waaaayyy too black in its NHL video game.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports' digital version of the rugged right wing.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports’ digital version of the rugged right wing.

Adventures – or misadventures – in pigmentation aren’t unusual in the media world. Time Magazine faced an avalanche of criticism when it darkened the facial features of then-murder suspect O.J. Simpson on its June 27, 1994 cover.

And Lifetime’s made-for-TV biopic about the late R&B singer/dancer Aaliyah has been slogging through controversy from the moment its producers initially cast an actress who many Aaliyah fans deemed too light-skinned to play the lead role.

However, the ghosts of colorations past probably mean little to Reaves, who’s dealing with the here and now. He made his displeasure with EA’s digital version of him known in one succinct tweet.

You’d think the folks at EA wouldn’t want to get on Reaves’ bad side. He’s the Blues’ designated hitter – with his body and his fists. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native tallied only 2 goals and 6 assists in 63 games for St. Louis last season. While Reaves finished 546th in the league in scoring in 2013-14, he was 12th in the league in penalty minutes with 126.

Reaves has been hearing it from teammates and friends in the NHL about his dark digital alter ego. Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, ever the eagle eye, tweeted that he noticed something different between the real Reaves and the EA one.

“I know eh…wrong jersey…,” Elliott wrote.

 

 

Jamaica begins its skate toward a national ice hockey team; Winter Olympics soon come?

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At the end of the two days, the head coach who had no idea about exactly what he’d gotten himself into sounded pumped.

“The talent level is off the charts,” Graeme Townshend, head coach of the under-construction Jamaican national ice hockey program proclaimed Sunday. “We have a lot of talented kids at our disposal. There are some good players up here, obviously, but I didn’t expect them to be as good as they are.”

The Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation took its first on-ice strides toward building an Olympics-worthy national team with a two-day tryout at a suburban Toronto rink over the weekend under the watchful eyes of Townshend, a former Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators forward who was the National Hockey League’s first Jamaican-born player, and Cyril Bollers, president and coach of Skillz Hockey.

And so it begins. Participants in Jamaica's first-ever ice hockey effort pose for history.

And so it begins. Participants in Jamaica’s first-ever ice hockey effort pose for history.

About 18 skaters – from as far away as Sweden and Washington, D.C., and as nearby as Scarborough, Ont., and Quebec – ventured to the Westwood Arena in Etobicoke, donned practice jerseys with Jamaica’s yellow, black, and green flag on the front, and showed Townshend, Bollers, and the rest of the JOIHF brain trust what they could do. Twenty-five players showed up for Sunday’s sessions. The tryout participants ranged in age from 15 to 28, Townshend told me.

“As the word got around, more and more kids started to find us, I guess,” he added.

The prospect of representing his mother’s homeland is what prompted 17-year-old forward David Southwells to travel to North America for the first time from his family’s current home in Tingsryd, Sweden, birthplace of former Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kjell Samuelsson.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Southwells told me. “It would mean a huge amount, especially to my family because of our heritage.”

Hockey Coach Graeme Townshend (center) liked what he saw during Jamaica's first-ever ice hockey tryout.

Hockey Coach Graeme Townshend (center) liked what he saw during Jamaica’s first-ever ice hockey tryout.

Washington’s Duante Abercrombie learned about the Jamaica tryout via Instagram about a week ago. An alum of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority youth hockey program in the United States, Abercrombie happened to be in Whitby, Ont., training for a potential tryout with the Dayton Demonz of the Federal Hockey League when he got the message.

The trip from Whitby to Toronto was a short train ride for Abercrombie, one that also spurred a family reunion in search of his Jamaican roots.

“I didn’t speak to my dad when I was a child, and my mom (Devara Abercrombie)  always said my dad had Jamaican (in him)  but she didn’t know where it went because they didn’t speak. I was three months old when they separated,” Abercrombie told me. “I didn’t speak to him until I was 18 years old, and maybe just three times. The only other time I spoke to him was this past week when I let him know that he officially needs to find (his Jamaican) descendants and other stuff.”

That conversation led to more talk and a warm catching up between Abercrombie and his father, Michael Armstead.

“He was so excited. He’s kept up with everything that I’ve done,” Duante Abercrombie told me. “This weekend wasn’t just a great weekend for hockey, it also gave me an opportunity to connect with my dad.  It was really a powerful, powerful weekend. I just didn’t get a hockey blessing, I got a family blessing out of it, too.”

Abercrombie is only 28 but consider him a hockey lifer. After playing for Fort Dupont Head Coach Neal Henderson and winning a Washington, D.C., hockey championship with Gonzaga High School, Abercrombie set his sights on reaching the pro ranks.

His quest took him to New Zealand in 2011-12 to play for the West Auckland Admirals of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. Since then, he’s been preparing for his chance, perpetually training on and off the ice should a team come calling.

The closest he’s gotten to the NHL was practicing with Washington Capitals players Mike Green, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom at the team’s Kettler Capitals Iceplex facility in Arlington, Va., during the weeks of the 2012 NHL players lockout.

If Townshend and the JOIHF officials can find more players with Abercrombie’s desire and hockey pedigree, the fledgling program will be off to a good start.

The weekend’s tryout was the first of several to be held in Canada and the U.S. When Jamaica gained associate membership in the International Ice Hockey Federation in 2012, JOIHF officials boldly stated that their goal was to have a team on the ice at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Skillz Hockey's Cyril Bollers (left) provided his coaching expertise to the Jamaican hockey effort.

Skillz Hockey’s Cyril Bollers (left) provided his coaching expertise to the Jamaican hockey effort.

But JOIHF officials have since slowed their roll on 2018, acknowledging that they have a lot of work to do on and off the ice before even thinking about the next two or three Winter Games.

“It’s premature to shoot for 2018,” Townshend told me. “Logistically, it would be monumental. We’d have to work our way through the different divisions of the IIHF. We don’t have a rink in Jamaica yet, we have to wait until that’s done. There’s a first step in that process, getting funding for that rink.”

“We have to do it right, cross the T’s and dot the I’s. We have to satisfy the International Ice Hockey Federation’s guidelines.” he continued. “My job is to just keep plugging away and try to get us into competition outside of the International Ice Hockey Federation jurisdiction and just get the word out there, start getting more attention to the program, and once we do that I think the funding will come.”

A special Color of Hockey thanks to Damon Kwame Mason, Producer of “Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future,” for shooting and sharing photos from the tryout. To learn more about his documentary project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/soulonicemovie and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_63win3qQSA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh Ho-Sang hangs with Skillz Black Aces

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New York Islanders 2014 first round draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang returned to his roots this week to provide some on-ice inspiration and motivation to the Skillz Black Aces, a youth hockey team that he played for over four summers.

Ho-Sang, a high-scoring forward for the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, has called playing for Coach Cyril Bollers’ predominantly-minority squad “probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life.”

N.Y. Islanders draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang (second to the left, second row) with Skillz Black Aces members. The finely-locked gentleman on the second row far right is dad Wayne Ho-Sang. Coach C.J. Bollers stands second row, far left.

N.Y. Islanders draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang (second to the left, second row) with Skillz Black Aces members. The finely-locked gentleman on the second row far right is dad Wayne Ho-Sang. Coach C.J. Bollers stands second row, far left.

Skillz is increasingly becoming a stepping stone to the National Hockey League Draft. Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick, Barrie Colts forward Brendan Lemieux, a 2014 second-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Portland Winterhawks forward Keegan Iverson, the New York Rangers third-round selection, and Owen Sound Attack forward Jaden Lindo, a fourth-round choice of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are all alums of Skillz summer hockey teams.

So are Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013  first-round pick; Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey, a Buffalo Sabres second-round pick; forward Stephen Harper of the Erie Otters; and Bellville Bulls defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth-round pick and the younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban.

 

 

L.A. Kings’ Jordan Nolan, Garden River First Nation, enjoy a day with Lord Stanley

What a season for Los Angeles Kings center Jordan Nolan and his family.

In the flash of Kings defenseman Alec Martinez’ double-overtime, series-winning goal that vanquished the New York Rangers in June, Nolan became a Stanley Cup winner for the second time in three seasons.

Kings' Jordan Nolan shared the Cup with his family and his tribe (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Kings’ Jordan Nolan shared the Cup with his family and his tribe (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Earlier this season, his dad, Ted Nolan, returned from the hockey wilderness to become head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, the team that fired him after the 1996-97 season. And while most National Hockey League coaches not named Mike Babcock were at  home during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Ted Nolan was busy in Sochi coaching Latvia’s national team.

Babcock’s Canadian team took home the Gold Medal, but only after squeaking out a nervous 2-1 quarterfinals victory against Nolan’s Latvian squad. And who knows what might have been had Latvian goalie Kristers Gudlevskis not worn down under the barrage of 57 Canadian shots.

So Jordan Nolan’s day last week with the Stanley Cup was indeed a celebration – for the family and for the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The Nolans are proud Ojibwe who say their heritage is as much a part of them as hockey is part of Canada’s national fabric.

“I’m definitely excited to bring the Cup back to Garden and share it with family, friends, and fans,” Jordan Nolan told SaultStar.com in June. “It’s pretty cool to do it again. I wasn’t expecting this halfway through the season.”

Jordan Nolan appeared in 64 regular season games for the Kings last season. He registered 6 goals, 4, assists and 54 penalty minutes. He played in three playoff games last season and was held scoreless.

Hockey Hall of Fame’s Phil Pritchard, who travels with the Cup all summer as it goes to each member of the Kings’ roster and coaching staff for a day, was kind enough to share photos of Jordan Nolan’s day with Lord Stanley.

Los Angeles Kings' Jordan Nolan celebrates Stanley Cup victory at a Garden River Pow Wow (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Los Angeles Kings’ Jordan Nolan celebrates Stanley Cup victory at a Garden River Pow Wow (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Jordan Nolan brought the Cup to Garden River when the Kings won it in 2012, so he figured he had to up his game when he returned with Stanley last week. So he surprised father Ted by also brining the Jack Adams Trophy that he won in 1996-97 as coach of the year for his work with the Sabres.

Father and son cling to the winner's bling - Jordan Nolan (right) to the Stanley Cup, Ted Nolan (left) to the Jack Adams Trophy (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Father and son cling to the winner’s bling – Jordan Nolan (right) to the Stanley Cup, Ted Nolan (left) to the Jack Adams Trophy (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

 

Jordan Nolan strikes a familiar pose with the Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Jordan Nolan strikes a familiar pose with the Cup (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

 

Ted and Jordan Nolan enjoy a little father/son quiet time with Stanley (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

Ted and Jordan Nolan enjoy a little father/son quiet time with Stanley (Photo/Phil Pritchard, Hockey Hall of Fame).

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