Was Devante Smith-Pelly’s tweet playfulness or making a point?
Moments after the Anaheim Ducks were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 5-3 Western Conference Game 7 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night, Montreal Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly tweeted a message that didn’t sit too well with the fans of the team that traded him.
Smith-Pelly shrugged off the responses, some of which criticized the bruising forward’s weight and Montreal’s failure to advance in the playoffs.
He told The Montreal Gazette: “I didn’t think it was a big deal…I didn’t think people would be that upset about it, but that’s the way Twitter goes, I guess.”
“The worst one?” Smith recounted to The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs. “That I was too bad to be on a (crappy) team, that the Canadiens had lost in the second round. It was hilarious. I thought it was great.”
The Ducks dealt Smith-Pelly to the Habs in February to Montreal for rookie forward Jiri Sekac. Smith-Pelly was supposed to add size and a power forward’s scoring touch that was lacking from the Canadiens’ smallish offensive players.
Smit-Pelly had 5 goals and 12 assists in 54 regular season games with Anaheim and only 1 goal and 2 assists in 20 games for Montreal. He notched a goal and 2 assists in 12 playoff games with the Canadiens.
The Ducks selected Smith-Pelly with the 42nd pick in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft. Before the 2014-15 season began, the team re-signed him to a two-year deal reportedly worth $800,000 per season.
Not all hockey fans were upset by Smith-Pelly’s tweet.
What fans watching the final probably won’t see are two coaches of color who’ve been vital behind the scenes to the Lightning’s quest for the Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean.
Frantz Jean is the Lightning goalie coach who puts starting netminder Ben Bishopand backup Andrei Vasilevskiy through their paces in practice and strives to keep them on an even keel during the emotional rollercoaster that is the playoffs.
“From our perspective, Ben’s doing nothing different,” Jean told The Tampa Tribune earlier in May. “Except now he’s on a bigger stage.”
Bishop heads into the Stanley Cup Final with a 12-8 playoff record, 2.15 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. During the 2014-15 regular season, Bishop won 40 games, fourth-best among NHL goalies, and lost only 13 contests. His 2.32 goals-against average was 15th best in the league.
Jean has presided over the Lightning organization’s goaltending since 2010. Under his tutelage, Tampa Bay goaltending prospects playing for the AHL Norfolk Admirals and ECHLFlorida Everblades vied for league championships in 2012.
Then-Lightning property Dustin Tokarski– now with the Montreal Canadiens – finished the 2012 AHL playoffs with the best save percentage and goal-against average and led the league with 32 wins in the 2011-12 regular season.
Jean joined the Lightning organization after coaching for 12 years with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. His Moncton netminders allowed the fewest goals in the league in the 1999-00, 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
A Montreal native, Jean coached goalies on Hockey Canada’s Under-18 teams that won Gold Medals at Ivan Hlinka Memorial International Tournaments in 2009 and 2010.
In the six degrees of separation of the hockey world, Jean can take some credit if the Blackhawks defeat his Lightning for the Stanley Cup. He coached Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawfordat Moncton.
“I’ve seen him grow from a teen to a man,” Jean told CSN Chicago recently. “When I see the work he had to go into the minors, to pay his dues and learn to be a consistent goaltender and then to be able to duplicate that in the pros, I’m very proud of him.”
Crawford is apparently still fond of his old coach. “A great coach, an awesome guy,” he told The Tampa Times in 2013. “He was great technique-wise, and for my mental game, taking care of myself and learning that aspect, too, getting rest at the right time. He definitely helped me moving on to pro hockey.”
Lightning video coach Nigel Kirwan.
Jean is a newcomer to the Lightning when compared to video coach Nigel Kirwan. He’s been with the ‘Bolts since the team’s inaugural season in 1992. He worked in the Lightning’s ticket sales office before then-Head Coach Terry Crisp made him a video coach in the 1996-97 season.
Initially, he thought Crisp’s job offer was a joke.
“I basically told him to go fly a kite,” Kirwan told TampaBayLightning.com in 2012. “Crispy was a prankster and loved to rile the office up so my immediate reaction was that he was trying to get me going. I also had a report due to my boss that was already late so I told him to just get out of my office.”
But Crisp, now a studio analyst for the Nashville Predators, pressed Kirwan because “I saw something in him,” he told TampaBayLightning.com. “He knew the game, he loved the game, and his personality fit right in with our staff. He fit right in like a hand in a glove,” Crisp added.
Now Kirwan serves as a keen set of eyes for Tampa Bay’s coaching staff and players. He breaks down pre-scout and game film and helps formulate scouting reports on opposing players. He performed the same tasks for Team USA at the 2008 and 2009 International IceHockey Federation World Championships.
Born in Jamaica and raised in Winnipeg, Kirwan hoisted the Stanley Cup when the Lightning won it in 2004. Only the Blackhawks stand in the way of him doing it again.
After 17 National Hockey League seasons playing for five teams that provided him with every piece of equipment he needed, tough guy forward Donald Brashear had an epiphany – and a case of sticker shock – when he had to buy a hockey stick.
“I was retired for five years, so when I ran out of sticks and I went to buy one at a store, I thought the sticks were so expensive,” Brashear told me recently. “Even though I have money, it didn’t make sense for me to pay 300 bucks for a stick just to play in the beer league.”
Donald Brashear launched a quest to make an affordable hockey stick.
That breath-gasping experience launched Brashear on a mission to manufacture and sell professional-caliber, carbon fiber, high-performance hockey sticks at an affordable price.
The result was Brash 87, an upstart business that sells Brashear-designed sticks for players of all levels. He’s priced them between $129 (CAN) and $189 (CAN) – roughly $103 to $151 (USD) – about half the cost of name-brand sticks.
Brashear is the latest individual or company to venture into the lucrative and ultra-competitive hockey stick business. In 2013, STX, a Baltimore-based lacrosse, field hockey, and golf equipment maker branched off into ice hockey sticks.
In 2000, golf club shaft-maker True got into the hockey stick biz and has sold more than two million twigs since. But big-name hockey companies continue to be the big dogs. Bauer, for example, has an estimated 54 percent of the hockey equipment market – which includes sticks.
Brashear says he’s not out to conquer the hockey stick-making world. He just wants a small piece of the planet.
“It’s like you’re drinking Pepsi-Cola and then there’s a new company that shows up and says ‘Listen, I want to take one percent of that market,'” he told me. “If I can get one percent of what that company is making, that’s a lot of money.”
Donald Brashear played for five NHL teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers (Photo/ Mitchell Layton/Getty Images via Philadelphia Flyers)
Brashear began his quest slowly. First, he searched for a reliable manufacturer in China who could make sticks to his specifications. After personally putting prototype sticks through their paces, he began selling the sticks around hometown Quebec City and at a Toronto-area Canadian Tire store.
“In six months, eight months, I sold like close to 3,000 sticks with no marketing, no advertising, no nothing. Only word of mouth,” he told me. “I hit two markets: the parents who don’t want to pay for a stick that’s too expensive and the beer league player who wants a high-performance stick.”
He’s become a traveling salesman of sorts, lugging a few Brash 87’s with him to rinks around Quebec City where he plays hockey five times a week.
“I bring my sticks, other players take them and they realize ‘That’s a nice stick, it’s light,'” Brashear said. “I say ‘Why don’t you try it?’ They try it and they adopt it.”
Now Brashear is looking to expand. He pitched his wares earlier this month before the panelists of CBC’s “Dragons’ Den,” Canada’s equivalent to CNBC’s popular “Shark Tank” business reality television show. The episode should air in the upcoming season.
Donald Brashear recently pitched his less-expensive Brash 87 hockey sticks to CBC’s “Dragons’ Den,” Canada’s version of CNBC’s “Shark Tank.” (Photo/CBC)
“The ultimate goal is to build a high-performance stick to help people save money on sticks,” he said. “It’s not something I’m doing to become a millionaire. It’s something I’m doing where I’m helping people and helping me at the same time.”
Some fans might think Brashear’s desire to sell hockey sticks a bit odd. After all, he was a player known more for his fists than his scoring touch. In 1,025 NHL games, Brashear tallied 85 goals, 120 assists and a whopping 2,634 penalty minutes – most of them accumulated five minutes at a time as one of the league’s fiercest and most-feared fighters.
The website dropyourgloves.com calculates that Brashear had 390 fights during his hockey career – 277 of them while playing for the Montreal Canadiens, VancouverCanucks, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and New York Rangers. He spent enough time in the sin bin that he’s ranked 15th all-time in penalty minutes among NHL players.
“A lot of people know me as a guy that was fighting but knew how to play the game, that could score a goal once in a while, and could make some passes,” said Brashear, an Indiana-born French-Canadian. “If you look at my stats, I fight but I was also picking up points.”
Brashear had the ability to light the lamp. He was second in scoring on the Fredericton Canadiens -Montreal’s American Hockey League farm team in 1993-94 – with 38 goals and 28 assists while amassing 250 penalty minutes. He had an NHL career-high 28 points – 9 goals, 19 assists – for the Canucks in 2000-2001.
One of his most satisfying seasons was when he scored 25 points – 8 goals, 17 assists – with the Flyers in 2002-03 as a fourth-line player with right wing Sami Kapanen and center Keith Primeau.
“That was a fun year, I really liked it,” Brashear told me. “I always wanted to be in different situations, and I was used in different situations. I wanted to become a better player.”
He added: “I shot a lot of pucks and I know a lot about hockey sticks. I would watch (Capitals forward Alex) Ovechkin make a move and I would try to make the same one. It would take me two years before I would be able to, but in the end I would get it.”
But toughness remains Brashear’s calling card. When his young players were being pushed around in the Swedish Hockey League last season, Modo Assistant General Manager Peter Forsberg telephoned his then 42-year-old former Flyers teammate Brashear and asked him to hop a plane and suit up.
“I said ‘Peter, I’ve been retired for five years. Yeah, I play a lot of hockey, but I’m not in game shape like going 100 miles an hour like these kids now in Europe,'” Brashear recalled. “I said ‘We’re not allowed to fight.’ He said ‘No, but your presence there is going to make a big difference.'”
Brashear’s Modo stat line: 12 regular season games, no points and six penalty minutes. He had a goal, no assists, and two penalty minutes in four playoff games. He was a fan favorite during his nearly three-month stint in Sweden.
“I really enjoyed it…I kind of wish right after my career I had the chance to go play there to get better at the game there,” he said. “There’s so much skating, passing the puck. It’s not so much physical.”
Tyrell Goulbourne isn’t going to let a little thing like recovering from surgery on a lacerated calf muscle keep him from being with his Kelowna Rockets teammates when they compete for the Memorial Cup in a four-team major junior hockey tournament that begins Friday in scenic Quebec City.
“I wouldn’t miss it if I was in a wheelchair, I’ll be there,” Goulbourne, the 21-year-old left wing told Western Canada’s AM 1150 radio.
Injured Kelowna Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne will root for his team in the Memorial Cup from the sidelines (Photo/Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets).
The team stormed through the Tri-City Americans, the Victoria Royals, and the Brandon Wheat Kings to capture the WHL’s Ed Chynoweth Cup, losing only three games along the way. The Rockets began the playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Americans and ended it by sweeping the Wheat Kings.
The quest for the Memorial Cup begins Friday when the Rockets face the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’sQuebec Remparts, the tournament’s host team. The Rimouski Oceanic, the QMJHL’s champions, and the Oshawa Generals, the Ontario Hockey Leaguechamps, also qualified for the tournament.
An Edmonton native, Goulbourne was a major contributor to the Rockets’ 53-13-5-1 regular season record and in the team’s playoff run before his injury. A Philadelphia Flyers third-round draft pick in 2013, he tallied 22 goals and 23 assists in 62 regular season games and notched a goal and an assist in 12 playoff games.
Four Rockets players were among the Top 10 scorers in the WHL playoffs. Still, Kelowna is known more for its defense. After all, this is the team that produced the likes of defensemen Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Tyler Myers of the WinnipegJets, Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres and the Flyers’ Luke Schenn.
Madison Bowey hoists WHL championship trophy, perhaps a practice lift for the Memorial Cup (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets).
Carrying on that blue line tradition is team captain Madison Bowey, a 2013 Washington Capitals 2013 second-round draft pick. His 2014-15 season could earn him more than a look-see from Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz during the team’s rookie camp and training camp later this year.
The 20-year-old Winnipeg native scored 17 goals and 43 assists in 58 regular season games and had a gaudy plus-minus of plus-38. He had 7 goals and 12 assists in 19 WHL playoff games. Bowey also played for Gold Medal-winning Team Canada in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, scoring a goal and 3 assists in the tournament.
All Bowey has done is win this season to the point that he’s in a position to complete a hat trick – an IIHF championship, a WHL championship, and a Memorial Cup.
Another Rockets defenseman, Devante Stephens, hopes to follow in Bowey’s skates and be selected by a National Hockey League team at the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla., next month. He’s ranked 116th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.
Devante Stephens hopes to follow a long line of Kelowna defensemen into the NHL (Photo/ Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets).
Stephens scored 4 goals and 7 assists for the Rockets in 64 regular season games and 4 assists in 17 playoff games. The Surrey, British Columbia, native won the team’s Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player awards this season.
If Stephens, 18, hears his named called inside Sunrise’s BB&T Center at the June 26-27 draft, he may give an assist to Bowey, whose absence from the Rockets for the world junior championship gave Stephens more minutes and more responsibility on the ice.
“When the guys went away to world juniors….I really had an opportunity to show the coaches what I had,” Stephens told Rockets TV. “And I think it was a real stepping block for me, especially in this league. I really just got to show my stuff.”
Born in Haiti and raised in Canada, Michael Herringer helped backstop the Rockets to the WHL championship (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets).
Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer has had a chance to show his stuff to Rockets coaches – and potential NHL suitors – this season. In 14 regular season games Herringer posted an 11-2 record and recorded 2 shutouts.
Born in Haiti and raised in Comox, British Columbia, the 19-year-old Herringer had a 2.33 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. He went 3-0 in the WHL playoffs with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.
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 Localin Sweden.
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 is a member of the Swedish Hockey League. The team’s alums include NewYork 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 PetterssonKymmer, 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
N.Y. Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, a Frolunda alum.
American sports teams. The National Hockey League’sChicago Blackhawks, Major League Baseball’s ClevelandIndians and Atlanta Braves, and the National Football League’sKansasCity 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 WashingtonPost 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 topsamong 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.
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 Wahooof 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 Chicagoover 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.”
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 – Joeand 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.
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 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.
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).
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 JuniorChampionship.
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.