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A conversation with the commissioner
He may not win a popularity contest, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's impact on the game cannot be questioned. He has taken a relatively small league and turned it into a $5 billion US industry. He has watched the footprint of the game grow in the United States and the league has added eight new teams under his tenure. But it hasn't been all roses. There have been three work stoppages — including the loss of an entire season. The stoppages haven't made him the most popular commissioner. On this season's final episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast, host Rob Pizzo chats with the commish about everything hockey. From the playoffs, to rule changes, to the Olympics
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From worst to first
The St. Louis Blues got the ending they wanted on Wednesday night as they beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 7 to capture their first-ever Stanley Cup. It truly was a Cinderella story considering on Jan. 3 the club was dead last in the NHL standings, 11 points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. There was a plenty of ups and downs along the way. On Nov. 20 they fired head coach Mike Yeo and replaced him with associate coach Craig Berube. Less than a month later teammates Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sanford fought at practice. Then on Jan. 5 the turning point happened. The team recalled goaltender Jordan Binnington from the AHL. He would go on an incredible run and finish the regular season with a 24-5-1 record and a 1.78 goals-against average. Former NHL goaltender Glenn Healy who won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994 joins host Rob Pizzo to breakdown the series and the top storylines of the playoffs.
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Keeper of the Stanley Cup
It's the oldest and most recognisable trophy in all of professional sports and what every Canadian boy dreams of lifting over their head one day. The Stanley Cup has seen and been through a lot since it was first awarded to the Montreal Hockey Club in 1893. If the Stanley Cup could talk it would have some of the most interesting stories to tell. Kris Draper's newborn daughter sat in the Cup and left a little surprise inside. It's been swimming in Mario Lemieux's pool and taken a shower with Steve Yzerman. The Cup has also had its fair share of bumps and bruises as well. Rocket Richard dropped it in 1993. A year later a member of the NY Rangers ripped off the top of the cup. Because of this the NHL brought on someone to take special care of the Stanley Cup. On this week's episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast host Rob Pizzo chats with the keeper of the Stanley Cup Phil Pritchard. Phil has spent more than 20 years as the caretaker of the Stanley Cup and shares some interesting stories about hockey's holy grail. Lyle "Sparky" Kulchisky the assistant equipment manager for the Oilers during their championship run in the 80's also joins Rob. Lyle talks about an infamous story where the Stanley Cup was in pieces following a night of revelling.
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Remembering Bobby Orr's iconic goal
The 2019 Stanley Cup final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins is well underway. The last time these two teams met in the Stanley Cup final in 1970 it produced one of hockey's most famous goals as Bobby Orr scored the Stanley Cup clinching goal in overtime while soaring through the air courtesy a Noel Picard trip. On this week's edition of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast we take a closer look at that iconic goal. Terry Crisp played 5 seasons for the St. Louis Blues and played in the 1970 Stanley Cup final. Crisp looks back on that series and where he was when that goal was scored. We also have a roundtable discussion about not only that goal but other famous goals of the past. The panel also discusses some of the hot button topics of the playoffs including officiating and video replays. Host Rob Pizzo is joined by Scott Russell and Signa Butler from CBC Sports.
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Stanley Cup preview
And then there were two. Two teams left standing to battle it out with the Stanley Cup on the line. The Boston Bruins will face off against the St. Louis Blues in a rematch of the 1970 Stanley Cup final. But how they got here couldn't be more different. Boston's path wasn't that unusual. They were near the top of the standings for most of the season thanks to, arguably, the best line in hockey (the "perfection line" made up of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak) and solid goaltending from Tuukka Rask. Both got even better in the playoffs and Boston is making its third Stanley Cup appearance of this decade. St. Louis took a completely different route. They were the sexy pick going into the season after making several acquisitions over the summer. But their early season did not go as planned and they were dead last on January 2. But then something changed. The team started buying into new coach Craig Berube's system. Their rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington started stopping everything in sight, ending the regular season with a 24-5-1 record. After a crazy run to the post-season, they are now four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time ever. This week, we preview the Stanley Cup final with insight from a former player from each club. Former Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft is now a studio analyst for NESN and was traded to Toronto for current B's goalie Tuukka Rask. He breaks down why the Bruins have been so good. And Hockey Hall of Famer Bernie Federko joins the podcast to give his insight on St. Louis' remarkable turnaround. Federko spent 13 seasons playing for the Blues.
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Women's pro hockey saga
For years women's pro hockey has had two professional leagues. The CWHL, and the NWHL. You would be absolutely hard-pressed to find anyone who thought that was a good idea. Coaches, players, even commissioners all agreed, in order for the game to grow you needed one league with all the best female players in the world in it. Then on March 31st the bomb dropped. The CWHL, announced that they were seizing operations. Saying that their business model is "economically unsustainable". But that turned out to be nothing compared to what happened next. More than 200 women from the now defunct CWHL and the one remaining league the NWHL banded together and released a statement. "We will not play in ANY professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves? It's time for a long-term viable professional league that will showcase the greatest product of women's professional hockey in the world." #ForTheGame Then another twist to the story. Anya Battaglino the current director of the NWHL Players' Association joined the podcast and divulged some new information. The NWHL is in the process of offering it's players a new contract, the highlight would be a 50/50 revenue split. Battaglino is on record saying she doesn't believe in the boycott and thinks it sets the game backwards. Sarah Nurse is one of the 200 players who are part of the "for the Game" movement. Sarah shares how the movement got started and how terrifying the process has been. She also reveals the abuse she has taken on social media for taking this stance.
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Remembering the best Game 7s of all time
Are there two better words in the hockey dictionary than Game 7s? And when 60 minutes isn't enough time to decide the winner you have the three best words in hockey? Game 7 overtime! We saw three Game 7s in the first round, two of them went to overtime. The Sharks comeback against the Golden Knights and the Hurricanes rallying to beat the defending champs marked the first time in NHL history that we saw two Game 7s with multi-goal comebacks in the same post season. Since the league introduced Game 7s in 1939, 134 of them have been played with the home team winning 102 of them. On this week's episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast we look back at the best Game 7s of all time. One of the greatest Game 7s to be played was the 1987 Easter Epic between the NY Islanders and Washington Capitals. That game was decided in the 4th overtime period and took an astonishing 6 hours and 18 minutes to play. The man who scored the winner Pat LaFontaine will join us as he looks back on the game 32 years later. He shares some interesting facts about the game that the average fan wouldn't know. What's it like to call a six hour game? We have a conversation with the man who called the game for ESPN Mike "Doc" Emrick.. Doc who has called 44 game seven's and has fond memories about the Easter Epic. And on this week's edition of Ice Level Sophia Jurksztowicz goes into the Hockey Night In Canada podcast archives to reprise an interview we did earlier this year with former NY Ranger Stephane Matteau. Matteau talks about his overtime winner vs the Devils in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference final. 25 years later its still one of the biggest goals in Rangers history.
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Round 1 recap with Jeremy Roenick
The first round of the NHL playoffs is one of the most exciting times in sports. You just don't know what's going to happen. This year is no exception as many NHL brackets have been shredded to pieces. It's been one of the craziest first round's in NHL history. The Tampa Lightning who won a historic 62 games were swept away by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The best team in the west the Calgary Flames lost in five to the Colorado Avalanche. The Pittsburgh Penguins who have won the Cup two of the last three seasons were swept by the upstart NY Islanders. The San Jose Sharks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and down 3-0 in the 3rd period of game seven to stun the Vegas Golden Knights. To help breakdown this madness we enlisted former NHL player and current NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick. Roenick played 18 seasons in the NHL and is one of the most colourful personalities in the game. Ice Level reporter Sophia Jurksztowicz catches up with NBC sports host Kathryn Tappen to talk about the playoffs and the grind of covering one of sports longest events.
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20th anniversary of Gretzky's last game
April 18, 1999 is a day many hockey fans have etched in their memories. On that day, Wayne Gretzky played is his final game in the NHL. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since his last game. Believe it or not, there is a generation of hockey fans that have never seen Gretzky play before. On this week's episode, we look back on that day as the Great One joins the Hockey Night In Canada podcast. Wayne takes a look back with host Rob Pizzo about his memories from that day - from his father Walter driving him to the game, to the stars and former players that were in attendance. Rob also chats with John Shannon, who was the executive producer of Hockey Night In Canada at that time. Shannon talks about the challenges of turning a Sunday afternoon game that wasn't planned to be broadcast into one of the most watched games in Hockey Night history. On Ice Level, Sophia Jurksztowicz has a conversation with Manny Maholtra who played with Gretzky in his final game. Malhotra was an 18 year old rookie for the NY Rangers.
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Top storylines heading into the NHL playoffs
It's the time of the year that NHL fans have been waiting for, the Stanley Cup playoffs are finally upon us. 16 teams. Eight best-of-seven series in the first round No disrespect to Christmas but "It's the most wonderful time of the year." Every year, there are so many more storylines than simply "who will win each series and in how many games?" and this year is no different! Will 62 wins mean ANYTHING to lightning fans if they don't win the Cup? Can a Canadian team win the cup for the first time since 1993? We can't forget about OV and the Caps going for a repeat. We also have sentimental favourites, goaltending question marks, and dark horses. We are going to try and hit every one of these topics. Justin Bourne from The Athletic joins Rob in studio to go over these topics, and on Ice Level Sophia Jurksztowicz chats with Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell. The "Bunch of Jerks" as coined by Don Cherry were the feel good story of the 2019 regular season.
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Top story lines of the season
It's the final week of the NHL regular season. The Stanley Cup playoffs begin next Wednesday. But before we look ahead let's look back on some of the major story lines from this past season. The Tampa Bay Lightning became the 3rd team ever to hit the 60 win mark joining the 1996 Detroit Red Wings and the 1977 Montreal Canadiens. They are almost 20 points better than the second place team and they have 3 players with 90 plus points (Kucherov-Stamkos-Point). It really has been an historical season for the Bolts. For the first time since the 2005-06 season the NHL will average over 6 goals per game. As of April 3rd five players this season will finish with 100 points or more. That's the highest total since the 2006-07 season when seven players reached that mark. As of March 29th there have been 497 comeback wins this season. That is the seventh most in a campaign in NHL history. Former NHL GM Craig Button and current TSN director of scouting drops by to discuss these story lines and gives us his take on why scoring is up in the NHL. Another major story line was Alexander Ovechkin. For the 8th time in his career "the Great 8" hit the 50 goal plateau. For the 8th time in his career he will lead the NHL in goals breaking a tie with Bobby Hull. Ovechkin now has 658 career goals. Is it possible Ovechkin can pass Wayne Gretzky's mark of 894 goals? Dom Luszczyszyn of the Athletic joins host Rob Pizzo. Dom wrote a fascinating article on why he thinks Ovechkin becoming the all-time leading goal scorer is a very attainable feat.
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The NHL awards explained
It's not quite the American Electoral system, but the NHL awards still mystify fans who try to figure out how the ballots, candidates, votes and all the rest of the process, actually work. On this week's Hockey Night in Canada podcast, Rob Pizzo and Sophia Jurksztowicz deserve a public service award themselves for shining light on the opaque business of picking the five most deserving players (and coach) of the regular hockey season. Maybe the most interesting thing we learn this week is who gets to vote. Sophia Jurksztowicz talks with Mark Spector, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, who takes care to explain that every effort is made to spread out the ballots as fairly as possible. Northern towns like Boston, Toronto, New York etc, have a great number of long-serving pro hockey journalists who would love to get in on the voting? but that would likely skew the attention and awards unfairly away from deserving, smaller hockey markets in the South and West. Host Rob Pizzo gets very efficient this week, talking to one man for three perspectives on the awards experience. Former NHL great (and until John Tavares- the highest scoring Leaf rookie in history) Ed Olczyk, talks as player, coach, and commentator, about behind the scenes considerations at awards decision time. Olcyzk also discloses his own votes for the top five honours this year. See? The process is getting more open and understandable by the minute.
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Remembering Ted Lindsay
On March 4th 2019 the hockey world lost a legend when the great Ted Lindsay passed away at the age of 93. Lindsay was one of the most talented yet feared players on the ice and garnered the nickname "Terrible Ted". He was part of the famed "Production Line" which featured Red Wing greats Gordie Howe and Sid Abel. He won the Art Ross trophy in 1950 and won four Stanley Cups with Detroit. In 2017 he was voted one of the NHL's 100 greatest players. Despite all the on ice accolades his greatest achievement was something he did off the ice. He was the driving force behind the creation of the NHLPA. NHL players past and present owe a debt of gratitude to Lindsay for the battles he endured getting the NHLPA established. On this week's episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast we celebrate the life and legacy of Ted Lindsay. Dave Stubbs has been a sports columnist for more than 40 years. Dave had the good fortune of getting to know Ted Lindsay in his final years and joins Rob to give insight on who Ted Lindsay the person was and share some fascinating stories. Ken Daniels has been the voice of the Detroit Red Wings since 1997. He's had the pleasure of knowing Ted Lindsay for more than 20 years. Ken fills us in on what Lindsay meant to the city of Detroit, the Red Wings franchise and how he resonated with the fans. And on Ice Level Sophia Jurksztowicz catches up with Mathieu Schneider Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the NHLPA, As a former player Schneider hasn't forgotten the personal sacrifices Ted went through so future players could have a prosperous life.
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Racism in hockey
Despite being an open and inclusive game racism in hockey like in society unfortunately still exists. Recently there have been several alarming incidents involving fans and minor hockey teams that have garnered national media attention in the U.S. and Canada. In December, Divyne Apollon II, a 13 year old member of the Maryland-based Metro Maple Leafs youth hockey team, faced racial taunts during a game against a team from Pennsylvania. In February, Jonathan Diaby, a 24-year-old defenseman playing in an independent league in Quebec endured racial abuse while sitting in the penalty box. Diaby's father and girlfriend were harrassed by fans in the stands. On this episode of the Hockey Night In Canada Podcast we discuss racism in hockey and how to educate people so incidents like the ones mentioned above don't happen again. We speak to Karl Subban, the father of PK, Malcom and Jordan. He's dealt with racism several times throughout his life. He provides an interesting take on how to deal with racism and how he has instilled positive values in his kids. Peter Worrell has been the victim of bigotry on more than one occasion including in the NHL. He opens up about an ugly incident he endured while playing for the Hull Olympiques of the QMJHL. And on Ice Level Sophia Jurksztowicz has an in depth conversation with Diaby about the ugly incident he and his family went through in Saint-Jerome, Quebec and how he is dealing with the emotional aftermath.
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Celebrating International Women's Day
It has been 110 years since the first official International Women's day. 18 years later the first documented all-women's hockey game took place. Women's hockey has seen some remarkable growth since that first game. Manon Rheaume became the first women to compete in an NHL exhibition game playing in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. Women's hockey made it's Olympic debut in Nagano in 1998 as the United States defeated Canada for the gold medal. There are now two professional women's hockey leagues. The National Women's Hockey League and the Canadian Women's Hockey League both pay women to play hockey. Despite all the advancement's there is still room to grow. In this episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast, we celebrate women's hockey. All our guests this week have left a significant mark on the game. Margot Page has done it all: played, coached, mentored and is still a huge part of the hockey community. She is also an important piece of the women's hockey historical puzzle. Natalie Spooner is a World and Olympic Champion and is a current member of the Toronto Furies. At this year's All-Star game Kendall Coyne Schofield made history becoming the first woman ever to compete in the NHL All-Star skills competition. She joins Rob to discuss the weekend and how her life has changed since then. And on this week's edition of Ice Level with Sophia Jurksztowicz we revisit a piece she did on a previous episode where she spoke to trailblazer Manon Rheaume.
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Top 5 Stanley Cup contenders after trade deadline
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, it's time to turn our focus back to the ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning are without question the best team in the league right now. They are on pace for 130 points this season, which would be the most by any team in the salary cap era. Only the 1977 Montreal Canadiens (132) and the 1996 Detroit Red Wings (131) had more. After that, though, it's kind of a crap shoot. There's arguably a group of six or seven other teams with a legitimate shot at the Cup. The parity this season is crazy. In this episode of the Hockey Night In Canada podcast, we discuss the top five teams after the trade deadline. ESPN's Greg Wyshynki drops by to chat with host Rob Pizzo to help answer this question. Spoiler alert: Their top five are pretty similar. And on this week's edition of Ice Level. Sophia Jurksztowicz is joined by Jamie McLennan, who was part of TSN's trade deadline coverage. The two take a closer look at the Mark Stone trade and the quiet deadline from the Calgary Flames.
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