Team Canada poised to be heavy on talent and diversity at IIHF world junior tourney


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When Team Canada takes to the ice at Montreal’s Bell Centre for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, the squad will be heavy on talent. It also may be heavy on diversity.

The Rangers are loaning Anthony Duclair to Team Canada (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

The Rangers are loaning Anthony Duclair to Team Canada (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Four players of color are vying for spots on Team Canada at the team’s selection camp in Toronto – New York Rangers forward Anthony Duclair, Erie Otters forward Nick Baptiste, Kelowna Rockets defenseman Madison Bowey and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse.

Thirty players – two goaltenders, 10 defensemen, and 18 forwards – were invited to the camp for 22 spots on the Canadian team that will compete in the 10-nation tournament with games in Montreal and Toronto.

The tournament is a showcase for talented players from around the world who may find their way to a National Hockey League arena near you in the near future. The four players in Team Canada’s camp share a bond: All were chosen by teams in the 2013 NHL Draft at Newark’s Prudential Center.

The Rangers are loaning Duclair, their 2013 third-round draft pick, to Team Canada. The speedy rookie left wing has 1 goal and 6 assists for the Blue Shirts in 18 games. He scored he scored 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games in 2013-14 for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“We expect that the team will benefit greatly from the addition of Anthony for both his skill and leadership, and we believe this will be a great experience for Anthony, as he embarks on what we expect will be a long and successful professional and international playing career,” said Scott Salmond, vice president of hockey operations/national teams for Hockey Canada.

Duclair, who averages about 12 minutes a game but has been a healthy scratch in the last three Rangers games, said he was thrilled to be loaned to the Canadian team.

“Very happy, honored to be here,” Duclair told The Toronto Sun. “(Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault) asked me a couple days after the roster came out what my thoughts were and I told him I wanted to be part of this tournament. Being in Canada, being in my hometown of Montreal, I wanted to be part of this.”

Edmonton draftee Darnell Nurse hopes to anchor Canada's defense (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Edmonton draftee Darnell Nurse hopes to anchor Canada’s defense (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round draft pick, is on a mission to make Team Canada after being snubbed last season. Captain of the Greyhounds, Nurse has 6 goals and 13 assists in 19 games for his OHL team. He played two games for the Oilers this season without collecting a point.

Nurse told reporters in Toronto that he’s improving his game by keeping it simple.

Capitals draftee Madison Bowey (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Capitals draftee Madison Bowey (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

“I’m not putting myself in those situations where I get myself in trouble on the ice and not really helping out my teammates,” he told The Edmonton Sun. “It’s just maintaining that simple-game mindset and going out there and being someone who is hard to play against…I have always had the tools. It’s just finding the way to use them.”

Bowey, a Washington Capitals 2013 second-round draft pick, arrived at the Team Canada camp with a distinct advantage – he’s the only right-handed shot among the 10 blueliners invited to Toronto. He’s also second in scoring among defensemen in the Western Hockey League with 8 goals and 25 assists in 28 games for the Rockets.

He showed off his offensive skills earlier this season when he scored two goals and six assists in three games.

Nick Baptiste, a Buffalo Sabres 2013 draft pick (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Nick Baptiste, a Buffalo Sabres 2013 draft pick (Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

If right wing Nick Baptiste makes Team Canada, it will be his third team this season. Baptiste, a Buffalo Sabres third-round pick in 2013, began the 2014-15 season with the OHL Sudbury Wolves and was traded to the Otters in November. He notched 8 goals and 8 assists in 19 games with the two teams.



Ice Hockey in Harlem gets the perfect holiday gift: the repair and reopening of its home rink



Ice Hockey in Harlem Thursday will get the best gift that the organization could receive this holiday season: Its home rink back.

New York City’s Parks Department announced Wednesday that Central Park’s Lasker Rink, initially thought to be shut down for most of the winter because a major problem with its refrigeration system, will reopen on Thanksgiving Day.

“We want to sincerely thank everyone within the hockey community who came together on our behalf,” IHIH Executive Director John Sanful said. “It was a positive response, unlike any I’ve personally seen in some time. We are really looking forward to resuming our season again at Lasker Rink.”

The waiting is over! Ice Hockey in Harlem will return to its repaired rink next week.

The waiting is over! Ice Hockey in Harlem will return to its repaired rink next week.

Parks Department officials said all hockey games, practices and skating lessons at the Harlem rink are scheduled to resume on Monday. Since the rink abruptly shut down on Nov. 14, Sanful and IHIH officials have been trying to determine where the program’s 240-plus kids would skate and play during the 2014-15 season.

But IHIH’s worries ended when the parks department, which runs the rink with the Trump Organization and the community, managed to speed up the repairs to the rink’s valves and concrete slab.

“We are thrilled to welcome back Lasker Rink for this winter season,” said New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver. “The rink is a beloved neighborhood destination during the winter months, and it offers a fun and exciting way to stay active and enjoy the cold weather. I applaud all of the NYC Parks employees who worked diligently to make the needed repairs.”
Hockey and Ice Hockey in Harlem return to Lasker Rink next week.

Hockey and Ice Hockey in Harlem return to Lasker Rink next week.

When Lasker’s availability for the season was in doubt, the hockey community in New York and beyond the city limits offered to help IHIH, one of the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey programs.
The New York Rangers said IHIH could use of its practice facility, the MSG Training Center, in Greenburgh, N.Y., and promised to help in shuttle the kids the 28 miles from the city to the suburban rink.
IHIH players can't wait to return to the ice next week.

IHIH players can’t wait to return to the ice next week.

“We cannot thank (Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman James) Dolan and (Rangers President and General Manager Glen) Sather enough for their support in our time of need,” Sanful said.
Ice skating rinks in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even Rhode Island called with offers of ice time or games for IHIH players.
“This clearly demonstrated that Ice Hockey in Harlem has friends and supporters who care about hockey and that children, no matter who they are, should be able to play this beautiful game,” Sanful said.

Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds in a Toronto Blue Jays cap? don’t hate, Philly, it’s for love


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Flyers' Wayne Simmonds.

Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds.

Yo, Philadelphia, if you see Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds wearing a Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap, cut him some slack.

Sure, that blue lid with the bird head and red maple leaf on it brings back bad flashbacks of Toronto’s Joe Carter smashing a Mitch Williams fastball into SkyDome’s left field bullpen for a ninth-inning, walk-off three-run homer in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series and announcer Tom Cheek screaming “Touch ‘em all Joe” as your Philadelphia Phillies dejectedly trudge off the field.

But for Simmonds, the Blue Jays brim brings back a different memory – of his Nana, grandmother Catherine Mercury. He tells a touching first-person story on as part of the National Hockey League’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.

Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds fights cancer for his late grandmother.

Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds fights cancer for his late grandmother.

Simmonds is in a 30-second television ad for the campaign that features NHL stars like the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche’s Gabriel Landeskog, and Flyers’ captain Claude Giroux.

Simmonds’ involvement in the campaign reflects his stature as one of the NHL’s rising stars, a trajectory that began last season when he led the Flyers with 29 goals. Kick in 31 assists, and Simmonds finished third on the team in scoring in 2013-14 with 60 points. He’s scored seven goals and five assists for 12 points in 16 games so far in the 2014-15 season.

Since coming to the Flyers in a 2011 trade from the Los Angeles Kings, Simmonds has become a fan favorite for his scoring and physical play. Nothing says love more in Philadelphia than notching two Gordie Howe hat tricks – a goal, an assist, and a fight – in one season, which Simmonds accomplished in 2013.

But for Simmonds, nothing says love more than wearing a Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap.


Home rink broken, Ice Hockey in Harlem looks for temporary place for kids to play


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Since its inception, Ice Hockey in Harlem has done what many folks considered impossible.

It’s taken at-risk black and Latino kids from one of the city’s more impoverished areas and not only hooked them on playing hockey, but used the sport to expose them to a world beyond their neighborhood and to the world of possibilities if they stay in school and pursue life’s positive path.

The group’s presence helped revive a down-and-out outdoor rink in a part of New York where few white people dared to venture, making it a welcoming, family-friendly destination – a lynchpin in an evolving Harlem where people of all colors now live, shop, and dine.

“Hey, if Wayne Gretzky can go near 110th Street to hang with the kids at the Lasker Rink in the 1980s, why can’t I go skating there now” has become the mantra. Like Harlem’s Apollo Theater, the Lasker Rink is a place where everyone wants to play.

The Philadelphia Flyers practiced there in 2012, so did the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2011 and the Ottawa Senators in 2010. Boston University worked out with the IHIH there last year, ditto Union College in 2012.

But Ice Hockey in Harlem has been Lasker’s longest-running act, calling the rink on the north end of Central Park home since the organization’s creation in 1987. That run was interrupted over the weekend when the New York’s parks department suddenly announced that it was shutting down for the 2014-15 season to make major repairs to the facility’s refrigeration plant.

Ice Hockey in Harlem players are looking for a place to skate after their home rink is suddenly closed for repairs.

Ice Hockey in Harlem players are looking for a place to skate after their home rink is suddenly closed for repairs.

The shutdown sent Ice Hockey in Harlem, one of the nation’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey programs, scrambling to find a place for over 240 kids to practice and play.

“We’re working on an emergency plan,” John Sanful, IHIH’s executive director told me. “I don’t have details yet, but suffice to say we’re committed to making the season happen.”

Sanful called the shutdown “a setback” but added that Ice Hockey in Harlem will do what it’s always done: overcome.

“It’s a minor setback, as with any situation beyond your control,” he said. “Ice Hockey in Harlem is stronger than it’s ever been. We will continue on and the future is very bright and very strong for Ice Hockey in Harlem.”

Still, there are no easy or ideal solutions for IHIH’s current predicament. New York is a city of 8.2 million people, but there are only seven indoor year-round ice sheets in the area.

Developers of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center are hoping to build the world’s largest ice skating facility in the New York City borough of the Bronx, a short subway ride from Harlem. But the mega rink in a massive renovated armory is years away.

Looking to solve their here-and-now dilemma, Ice Hockey in Harlem officials sent its squirts and Lady Harlem hockey team to practice Saturday in Brewster, N.Y., nearly 60 miles from New York City.

Ice Hockey in Harlem kids, who know their way around NYC's transit system, face playing in temporary digs.

Ice Hockey in Harlem kids, who know their way around NYC’s transit system, face playing in temporary digs.

Whatever IHIH does for the rest of the season will likely cost the nonprofit some money. Ice Hockey in Harlem depends on the hockey community and donations for funding.

The organization, founded by Dave Wilk, Todd Levy, and former New York Rangers player Pat Hickey, is part of the National Hockey League’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative which provides support and unique programming to more than 30 non-profit youth hockey organizations across North America.

Programs affiliated with”Hockey is For Everyone” help lower the biggest barrier that keeps many minority and poor kids from playing the game: The expense. Organizations like IHIH, Philadelphia’s Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, and Washington’s Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, provide free equipment, ice time, and instruction.

Ice Hockey in Harlem vows to play in 2014-15 despite home rink shutdown.

Ice Hockey in Harlem vows to play in 2014-15 despite home rink shutdown.

In return, kids in the programs must stay in school, be in good academic standing, and be respectful people.  Most of the programs provide academic assistance – tutoring, computer access, college counseling – and mentoring.

While the NHL assistance is beneficial, IHIH is almost always in fund-raising mode. They host an annual “Benefit on the Green” golf tournament that attracts current and former NHL players along with corporate and private sponsors.

The Rangers pitch in by hosting an annual Winter Sports Auction, and legendary team play-by-play man Sam Rosen and former Blue Shirts like Adam Graves generously give their time to the IHIH cause.

IHIH Alum Malik Garvin, good person, good hockey player, scored his first college goal.

IHIH Alum Malik Garvin, good person, good hockey player, scored his first college goal.

People inside and outside IHIH stress that its goal isn’t about building good hockey players. It’s about building good people. Levy’s voice filled with pride recently when he talked about Malik Garvin, who he use to coach on cold Harlem nights at Lasker.

Saturday, Garvin scored his first goal on his first shot for Western New England University, an NCAA Division III school. The Golden Bears lost to Suffolk University 3-1, but Levy said Garvin, a 22-year-old senior, was still a winner.

“He epitomizes what we want for all our kids…not the goal he scored but the fact that he is a double major – finance and accounting – and has used his love for hockey to propel him in life,” Levy. a member of the IHIH board, told me. “The sad irony is that with our rink closing this year, I fear that the next Malik will be prohibited from this kind of life success.”




Hockey in Colorado a Rocky Mountain high? Try playing it in the Himalayas


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Hockey is often about attitude. But it’s sometimes about altitude.

Even the best-conditioned National Hockey League players find themselves breathless after skating a hard shift against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver’s thin air.

Some hockey players in India take the game to a higher level – like the to the Himalayas. They not only prove that “Hockey is for Everyone” but that “Hockey is for Everywhere.” Here’s a neat video that’s also on the International Ice Hockey Federation’s website.


Islanders first round pick Joshua Ho-Sang traded by OHL Windsor to Niagara


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Islanders 2014 first-round draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang.

Islanders 2014 first-round draft pick Joshua Ho-Sang.

In a surprise move, Joshua Ho-Sang, a New York Islanders 2014 first-round draft pick, was traded Friday by the Windsor Spitfires to the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.

A day after Windsor General Manager Warren Rychel batted down rumors that he would move Ho-Sang, he shipped the electrifying high-scoring forward to Niagara for forward Hayden McCool, 17, and OHL draft picks in 2016, 2018 and 2019.

Ho-Sang, 18, was the Spitfires top scorer with three goals and 19 points in 11 games. He amassed 49 goals and 148 points in 141 regular season games for Windsor.

“It’s more sad than anything, but that’s life,” Ho-Sang told The Windsor Star of the trade. “I’m excited to get a start with a new team and hopefully spark a few points.”

He played for Niagara Friday night against the Erie Otters and registered an assist in an IceDogs  2-1 victory. The game was coincidentally televised in Canada on Sportsnet and in the United States on NHL Network.

Spitfires Head Coach and former National Hockey League tough guy Bob Boughner acknowledged that his team gave up a lot of skill when it dispatched Ho-Sang. But he told The Star that “We really like our core group of young guys and we want to build around that core.”

“It’s a little bit of short-term pain for long-term gain, I think,” Boughner told The Star. “We want our team to go in a certain direction and we want to create that strong culture like we had in the past, and this deal allows us to do that.”

Friday’s trade appears to be more about Niagara needing Ho-Sang than Windsor shedding him. The IceDogs were 5-13 heading into Friday’s game. Sports pointed out that the team will need 48 points in 50 games to remain in the playoff hunt. Their star forward, Brendan Perlini, an Arizona Coyotes first-round pick, has been out with a hand injury.

“We’ve had guys trying to do too much,” Niagara Head Coach and General Manager Marty Williamson told “I thought (Toronto Maple Leafs forward prospect) Carter Verhaeghe was a great example. He was just doing way too much.”

Enter Joshua Ho-Sang. He was the Spitfires first-round draft choice – the fifth overall pick –  in the 2012 OHL draft. Hockey scouts drooled over his offensive skills: swift skating, slick stickhandling ability, and an array of lethal shots.

But some hockey people became wary of Ho-Sang. Some considered him too individualistic and more concerned about being a human highlight reel than a winning hockey player. They wondered whether he could conform to a team.

He sat out the Spitfires’ first six games under a suspension for a push on London Knights defenseman Zach Bell in last year’s playoffs that resulted in Bell suffering a broken leg.

Ho-Sang hasn’t been shy about speaking him mind. He talked freely about race in an interview with The Toronto Sun ahead of the 2014 NHL Draft, telling the publication that “I think color definitely plays a factor in perception.”

And he’s questioned why Hockey Canada hasn’t given him a serious look for a spot on the team that will play in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto in December and January.

All of that frightened some NHL general managers to the point that they reportedly had Ho-Sang on their “Do Not Draft” list.

Ho-Sang sweated out the first round of June’s draft in Philadelphia until the Islanders and General Manager Garth Snow took him with the 28th overall pick in the draft. The team traded two second-round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning to get the 28th selection.

Afterwards, Snow told TSN that he wasn’t worried about taking Ho-Sang because “They (critics) sh*t on me, too.”









Skillz Hockey’s Cyril Bollers joins NHL legend Paul Coffey in coaching junior team


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When a Hockey Hall of Famer, four-time Stanley Cup winner, three-time Norris Trophy recipient, and second-leading scorer among National Hockey League defenseman all time calls and asks you to ride shotgun with him in coaching a Canadian Junior “A” hockey team, what do you do?

“This opportunity came and I jumped at it,” Cyril Bollers, president and coach of Skillz Hockey told me. “That was something I never thought possible.”

Last weekend, Bollers signed on as an assistant coach of the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, working under Paul Coffey, who was named the Panthers’ new head of hockey operations by new General Manager Matt Muir.

Cyril Bollers works the bench as assistant coach of the OJHL Pickering Panthers.

Cyril Bollers works the bench as assistant coach of the OJHL Pickering Panthers.

The vacancies occurred when owner Steve Tuchner fired GM/Head Coach Matt Galati late last month. The Panthers are in the 22-team OJHL, a league that serves as a pipeline to NCAA and Canadian college hockey programs. It’s the Canadian equivalent to the United States Hockey League.

The Panthers are currently in second place with a 9-7-1 record in the OJHL’s North Division.

Coffey – who racked up 396 goals and 1,135 assists with nine NHL teams over a 21-season career – reached out to Bollers who once coached Coffey’s son, Blake, on an Under-15 hockey team. Blake Coffey is on the Panthers roster. Familiarity with the younger Coffey and with the OJHL were all pluses for Bollers.

“I coached in the OJ before with Brampton as a head coach, but I think for me what is most impressive is receiving a call from Mr. Coffey and being asked to come and join the team,” Bollers told me.

Bollers is one of the few coaches of color in high-level organized hockey. Philadelphia Flyers’ Craig Berube and Buffalo Sabres’ Ted Nolan, both of First Nations heritage, are currently the only minority head coaches in the National Hockey League.

Paul Jerrard, who is black, is an assistant head coach for the Utica Comets, the Vancouver Canucks’ American Hockey League farm team. Darren Lowe, who’s also black, is head coach of the University of Toronto’s men’s hockey team.

Bollers is sharing his coaching Skillz with Pickering.

Bollers is sharing his coaching Skillz with Pickering.

And Bollers aspires to join their ranks. His Skillz Black Aces and Black Mafia teams began as Toronto-based youth hockey teams comprised of elite, National Hockey League draft-eligible players born between 1995 and 1996 – and almost all of them black. As the program became successful, kids of all colors began filling out the rosters.

Skillz alums include Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang, the New York Islanders first-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Barrie Colts forward Brendan Lemieux, a Buffalo Sabres second-round pick this summer, Portland Winterhawks forward Keegan Iverson, a New York Rangers 2014 third-round pic, and Jaden Lindo, the Pittsburgh Penguins’  2014 fourth-round pick, all played for Bollers.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round pick, Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey, a Sabres 2013 second-round choice, and Bellville Bulls defenseman Jordan Subban, a Vancouver Canucks 2013 fourth-round selection and the brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, also played under Bollers.

The Pickering post is the latest coaching assignment for Bollers. In March, he was tapped to be an assistant coach for an Under-16 hockey team that will represent Ontario in the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

In August, he helped the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation conduct its first player tryouts  in Etobicoke, Ontario.

For Coffey, the Pickering job is his latest foray into to hockey team management. He was head coach of the Toronto Marlboros midget “AAA” team last season when he was suspended for three games by the Greater Toronto Hockey League for allegedly making “discriminatory slurs” in the closing minutes of a game against the Senators, The Hockey News reported in February.

Details of the incident were never fully disclosed. But The Hockey News reported that the Senators lobbied the GTHL for leniency for Coffey, saying the incident had been blown out of proportion.







Announcer’s gooooaaalll! is for more Florida Panthers games broadcast in Spanish


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Play-by-play announcers for National Hockey League teams called a total of 49 goals in 10 games that were on the league’s schedule Thursday night. The calls ranged from the mundane “He shoots, he scores” to more rousing acknowledgements of players putting the biscuits in the baskets.

Panthers' Scottie Upshall's goals will never sound the same after Arley Londono's call Thursday.

Panthers’ Scottie Upshall’s goals will never sound the same after Arley Londono’s call Thursday.

But the calls of that night belonged to Arley Londono, who rocked the play-by-play mike in the Florida Panthers’ 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. The game was the he first of three that the Panthers will broadcast on two Spanish-language radio stations this season. Fox Sports Florida made Thursday’s radio broadcast available for television via SAP.

Londono, who was the Panthers’ original Spanish-language announcer from the team’s inaugural season in 1993 to 1996, brought his hockey knowledge and a touch of World Cup soccer flair to the Thursday’s broadcast, as evidenced by Panthers goals from forwards Brandon Pirri and Scottie Upshall.

Londono was no doubt pumped about being back on the air calling a sport that he loves and hopes will catch on with the Miami-area’s large Spanish-speaking community.

“For me it’s a special moment,” Londono told the Sun-Sentinel of Broward and South Palm Beach countines before Thursday’s game. “Now with (Cuban-American goaltender) Al Montoya on the team, it’s a great challenge to restart the mission to teach hockey to the Spanish community.”

He hopes that this season’s Spanish-language broadcasts on ESPN Deportes 1210 AM in Miami and ESPN Deportes 760 in West Palm Beach will be successful enough to persuade the team’s management to offer Panthers’ entire 2015-16 season in Spanish.

“That is the mission right now, to connect the Spanish population with this sport,” he told the Sun-Sentinel, and I hope next year we’ll have it all season.”




“The”Duke” reigns at MSG, scores 1st NHL goal in Rangers win over Wild


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Move over, “King Henrik,” there’s more hockey royalty at Madison Square Garden.

"The Duke" scores on Broadway.

“The Duke” scores on Broadway.

New York Rangers rookie forward Anthony Duclair shared the limelight with goaltender “King” Henrik Lundvist Monday night, scoring his first National Hockey League goal. The tally tied the game on the way to a wild Rangers 5-4 comeback win against the Minnesota Wild at MSG.

Duclair, nicknamed “The Duke” by his teammates, used his speed off the right wing to create open space and fired a snap shot past Darcy Kuemper that knotted the game at 4. Duclair was awarded the third star of the game and the post-game Broadway Hat, a stylish fedora, by his teammates for his outstanding play.

“That was probably the best moment of my hockey career,” he told MSG Networks after the game. “A lot of stuff is going through my mind there. Obviously a big goal, tied up at four. You know what? When I got back to the bench I was yelling to the boys ‘Let’s go, keep going. It was a big goal for myself and for the team as well.”

With Monday’s score, Duclair has one goal and four assists in seven NHL games. “The Duke” looks like a keeper.

Duclair, a third-round pick (80th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft is proving to be a find for the Rangers.  He scored 50 goals in a concussion-shortened 59-game season last season for the Quebec Remaparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With the Rangers, Head Coach Alain Vigneault has played the 19-year-old from Pointe Claire, Quebec, on the  team’s top line and on the power play.

“The Duke” said the puck he scored with is probably heading to his parent’s home in Canada. “I couldn’t do without them,” he said. “My dad’s going to be pretty pumped and my mom’s probably crying right now.”

Florida Panthers go back to the future with Spanish-language radio broadcasts


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The Florida Panthers, last in attendance among National Hockey League teams, are trying to woo more Hispanic fans by broadcasting three games in Spanish this season.

1210-AM ESPN Deportes in Miami an ESPN Deportes 760 AM in West Palm Beach will carry the games beginning with the October 30 home tilt against the Arizona Coyotes on Hispanic Heritage Night.

When not stopping pucks, Al Montoya will be talking hockey on radio to woo Hispanic fans.

When not stopping pucks, Al Montoya will be talking hockey on radio to woo Hispanic fans.

The stations will also broadcast the January 15 home game between the Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche and the March 21 home match against the Boston Bruins.

“These radio broadcasts will help to continue to grow and enhance our brand and the game with our Hispanic fan base in the tri-county area,” said Rory A. Babich, the Panthers’ CEO and president.

Arley Londono, the Panthers’ original Spanish-language broadcaster from 1993 to 1996, will be the play-by-play man for the games and Octavio Sequera will serve as color analyst and host.

When he’s not between the pipes, Panthers goaltender Al Montoya, the National Hockey League’s first Cuban-American player, will be behind the mic talking hockey during weekly spots on 1210 AM ESPN Deportes and ESPN Deportes 760 radio shows.

Montoya joined the Panthers as a free agent in July after spending two seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. The New York Rangers originally took Montoya with the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft after he starred in net for the University of Michigan.

Although the Panthers are playing respectable hockey early in the 2014-15 season – a 2-2-2 record heading into the weekend – the team is struggling mightily at the gate.  The ‘Cats only average 9,365 fans at home, making the BB&T Center in Sunrise seem cavernous. The team averages 17,503 fans on the road.

Given the presence of NHL teams in areas with large Hispanic/Latin-American populations – New York, Los Angeles and, Dallas – it’s surprising that more teams don’t offer Spanish-language game broadcasts.

Players like defenseman Alec Martinez, who scored the goal that clinched the Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings last season, and San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres have helped draw more Hispanic/Latin-American fans to the game.

Some of the NHL’s broadcast partners, mindful of the changing demographics and immigration patterns in the United States and Canada, are expanding their radio and television offerings beyond the usual English and French.

“Hockey Night in Canada” continues its Punjabi telecasts this season and Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet, which owns HNIC’s broadcast rights, ultimately plans to offer introduction to hockey television spots – remember Peter Puck? – in 22 languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.








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