SN Q&A: Denis Leary on 1970 Bruins, Bobby Orr, Cam Neely taking his money and why Boston should be 2020 Stanley Cup champs

May 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the Boston Bruins’ 1970 Stanley Cup championship. 

With an all-for-one and one-for-all mentality, that Bruins squad captivated Beantown and New England, including actor and comedian Denis Leary, who grew up about an hour west in Worcester, Mass. A hockey-obsessed kid, Leary was just 12 when the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Derek Sanderson were tearing up the Boston Garden ice.  

Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, NHL Network will a special, “The 1970 Bruins: Big, Bad & Bobby,” that takes viewers through the Bruins’ rise as they built a gritty, skilled team that captured the city’s first Stanley Cup in 29 years.

Sporting News caught up with Leary by phone to chat about the Bruins, his love of hockey and why this year’s team should just be anointed the 2019-20 champs.

(Editor’s note: The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)

SPORTING NEWS: What was it about that 1970 team that made them so special? They just took over Boston.

DENIS LEARY: You know, it’s a combination of how good they were, because they were very [good and] . . . I’m glad they talked about it in the special because they were really, it wasn’t just Bobby [Orr]. Bobby was an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime type of player. But, you know, you’re talking about Esposito . . . Phil was an integral part of that team, not just as the voice of the team on camera quite often, but on the ice. 

So these are iconic hockey guys, but the other thing was they were funny, they were camera-savvy, they were charismatic. They were sort of like, my brother used to say they were like the Rolling Stones of hockey. They were just so, they were like a pop culture phenomenon and not just in Boston, I mean, all over the hockey world. So I think that was a big part of it. There was sort of a rock ‘n’ roll element to that team.

And, but, you know, one of the things they barely touched on this in the special but I’ve seen in real life: They don’t want to talk about it, I know Bobby Orr doesn’t like to talk about it, but those guys not only have they stayed connected to that city, and a lot of them stayed there and raised their kids there and their families and everything. Beginning with that team, the stuff they’ve done for charity in Boston alone, just in Massachusetts, is astonishing and it started back then, when they were, you know, the big bad Bruins . . . like, every single one of those guys — Bobby Orr, Esposito, John McKenzie, Derek Sanderson, Gerry Cheevers, Ken Hodge, these guys come to your events and not only do they come, they’re there all day taking pictures and signing autographs.

There’s a million stories about these guys, uncredited with no cameras around, going to visit hospitals, sick patients. That stuff that you can’t even document. You hear the stories but I’ve seen it at public events, and it’s nonstop, it’s all year . . . So that, in the end, the most impressive part of that team to me is just how much they’ve done in the community up there and how that’s been passed on to them, to the future and current Bruin players. It’s pretty amazing.



(Courtesy: Denis Leary)

https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/54/aa/denis-leary-050620-denis-learyjpeg_rwy2burp52xa18q8mnhuf1rbt.jpg”>

SN: Take us through that moment and watching that overtime [in Game 4 of the Final vs. the Blues]. What was it like as a kid watching that famous goal?

DL: It’s such a personal memory, but, it really is, the weather was nice that day. The windows in all the buildings and apartments were open. So, what I really remember is being inside, you know, watching the game and there was nobody outside during the game. And right after Bobby scored the winning goal you just heard this explosion, you know, sort of like a muted explosion because everybody was inside. But then people started yelling out the windows, then people started beeping their horns and then I would say within an hour, all the kids we were out in the street playing street hockey and recreating the goal for I don’t know how many hours we did that.

You got to remember, you would tape your stick the way Bobby Orr taped his stick. There was a book called “Orr on Ice” that came out shortly after that Cup win. And it was, it was a big picture book but it shows you how Bobby tied his skates and how Bobby taped his stick and what Bobby ate before [a game]. I mean, that was like a bible, you know what I mean? So, we were all thinking that we’re going to be Bobby Orr if we do all this stuff, forgetting the genetics of it. 

When I think of it, I think about when I first introduced my mom to Bobby Orr, because my mom loved those Bruins as well. And she came to a charity event and she met Bobby Orr and it was like, it was literally like she was meeting Cary Grant. She was just like, “Oh, my God, Bobby, you’re still so handsome. Look at your hair. Oh, my God.” She just went on and on and on.

SN: You talked a little bit about it in the documentary about recreating the goal afterward. So, basically you had to get tripped.

DL: On concrete, by the way, so it’s in the street. So we were recreating the goal, everybody had to have a turn, being Bobby and Derek — those were the two guys who you were fighting over because nobody wanted to be the guy from the Blues or the goalie.

SN: Is it fair to say that team just kind of epitomizes Boston?

DL: I think they epitomized Boston. Boston as a hockey town has always loved gritty, tough players, right, like the blue-collar player. So that’s, that’s true. There’s a through-line from Bobby and the big bad Bruins right into the Bruins of the late ’70s with Terry O’Reilly, right into Cam Neely and Ray [Bourque’s] era, and even up to now. They appreciate great hockey but they love a team that’s tough and doesn’t back down. I think that’s very true.

And for some reason, you know, that sort of stayed. I think it reflects the fans, and what the fans love in that town, and I know it’s multi-generational.

I remember we had a practice for one of my charity games when the NHL was in a lockout, I forget which year that was, but Brendan Shanahan, who I had never met, [and] all the players were off and he came to the Garden for the skate the day before the event and Bobby Orr was there. [Orr] wasn’t skating, he was just on the bench, and Brendan knew he was going to be there. So we were already out practicing and somebody came and said, “Hey, Brendan Shanahan just got here. He’s in the locker room.” So I went back in and I said, “Hey, man, how you doing? Thank you so much for doing this.”

He’s like, “Oh, yeah, nice to meet you.” He goes — I mean this is a grown man and a massive NHL star — he goes, “Is Bobby Orr here?” And I go, “Yeah, he’s out on the bench.” He’s like, “Uh, can I meet him?” And I’m like, “Yeah, you can meet him.” 

It was like watching a 14-year-old kid meet, you know, his hero. But at the time Brendan was like 37. It was crazy.



(Courtesy: Denis Leary)

https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/ac/cf/not-ftr-denis-leary-bobby-orr-050620-denis-leary-ftrjpeg_dmnhl44u7h891573slxs80yrz.jpg”>

SN: What was it like for you the first time you met Bobby Orr?

DL: Oh, God.

I do a concert up in Boston every year for the Cam Neely Foundation. So, it was like, I want to say like ’94, ’95. And I was backstage before the show, and nobody had told me, Cam hadn’t told me. Nobody told me that Bobby Orr was coming. And I was coming out of my dressing room to go to some other comics dressing room to go over something.

And, I turned the corner, there was Bobby Orr and he’s like, “Hey, man, Denis Leary, man. It’s really nice to meet you, big fan.” I was, I literally, I think I probably went “huminah, huminah, huminah,” like, literally. And I was like, uh, and he was like, “Hey man, I’ll be back after the show. OK?”  And I’m like, “Yeah, sure. OK, great.”

You know, I was a little nervous, I was extra nervous knowing that Bobby Orr was in the audience. And I was getting ready to bring [fellow comedian] Steve Wright on, who’s, you know, Steve’s pretty calm, he’s very low-key, and I brought a guy on and Steve was next and I came off stage and said, like, “What do you want me to say?” And he’s like, “Never mind that, where’s Bobby Orr sitting?” And I went, “I don’t know. I can’t see.” (Laughs)

So, it just, you know, to me that’s like, I’ve met and worked with some of my biggest acting heroes — Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, Clint Eastwood. I mean, just too many people to name, but meeting Bobby Orr, that’s like when I call my mother and say I’ve met Bobby Orr. My mother was like, “Oh, my God, what was he like?” You know what I mean, it’s just like, I’ll never get over it.

The fact that like every once in a while Bobby calls me or I see him some place and he’s like, “Hey, Denis.” I just can’t, every time he says it to me, I’m like, Bobby Orr just said hi to me. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. 

SN: It’s almost like it takes you back to being that 12-year-old kid watching that game.

DL: Always, always. The other thing I love about those guys is if you happen to be together and you haven’t seen each other in years or you’re just talking on the phone, whatever it might be, if you bring up a game or a moment from a game because you know it’s been happening recently a lot because they’re running old games now during the lockdown. If you mentioned like, I just watched this game, ’71 and I saw this play, they remember the play, and the game. Exactly. You know, which I love the total recall.

SN: Do you have that picture in your house of Orr’s goal?

DL: Are you kidding me? Of course. Bobby signed one specifically to me. 

So, I have it. It’s got a special spot in my office. Yeah, that picture, that one stays. Even when, sometimes you think like, I’m gonna change things, that’s the one that stays. When I was growing up in my house, my parents had — my parents are Irish immigrants who came over, you know, in 1950 — so, as you can imagine, the first Irish president was a huge icon for them. So, in our house we had a picture of Jesus, we had a picture of Jack Kennedy, and we had a picture of Bobby Orr in the kitchen.

SN: When you’re out there playing, who do you maybe emulate? Who do you like to mimic your game a little bit after?

DL: Oh, my God (Laughs), that would be such an insult to any professional player.

The guys I grew up with, there was a lot of great players, so I was always a third- or fourth-line guy. Derek Sanderson was always the guy that I emulated just because — I’m not talking about like the lifestyle-wise — I’m talking about as a player because he was a defensive third-line center who could occasionally score. So we all wanted to be Derek; all the guys that weren’t good enough to be on the first two lines.

And then later in life I became a defenseman. I hasten to tell you that. 

In a lot of the charity games I play, my foundation used to have a game up in Boston, Bobby Orr and all those guys used to play in the game and for some reason, they always put me on a defensive pairing with Ray Bourque. And so the first time I played with Ray was at the Garden in front of 15,000 people  — which is nerve-wracking enough — but I’m like OK. So they put me with Ray, that’s good because you know I can’t really f— this up, and the first couple of times we were on the ice Ray grabbed the puck and headed up ice and I just sort of stayed back because, you know, it’s Ray Bourque.

So we came off after one of our shifts and he goes, “Hey, man, why don’t you follow me up ice? I’m gonna give you the puck.” And I’m like, “Ray, people don’t want you to give me the puck, OK? The last thing they want is for you to give me the puck.” So whenever he just passed it to me I just passed it right back. (Laughs)

SN: It must have been a thrill, though, for you to be out there with those guys, like one of those fantasy camps.

DL: It is, but it’s also like, it’s, it’s a little frightening, to be honest with you . . . When I first played with Ray he had just retired, and, you know, Cam Neely’s an old friend of mine, I’ve skated with Cam. The sound that their skates make is frightening . . . how strong their legs are and the sound of their skates digging into the ice you just go, like, “Oh, my God, are you kidding me?” you know, and the speed and then when they get going even in a charity game, when you get a bunch of guys who are ex-professional players and mostly Hall of Fame guys, when they start passing the puck around you just go, “Oh, yeah, right, right.”

SN: That’s how you think it looks, not necessarily how it happens.

DL: I’ll tell you when we were younger, this is when Cam was still playing, I remember being on the ice we were shooting a commercial for his charity, the Cam Neely Foundation, and we were just on the ice playing while we were doing the commercial and in between shots we were out at the blue line. And, I forget what the bet was but let’s say it was 50 bucks.

He’s like, ‘Hey, 50 bucks to the first guy who can hit the crossbar from here.”

And we were like, “Yeah, you go first.”

His first shot just goes — PING! — off the crossbar. Second shot — PING! — off the crossbar. We just go, “We quit.”

Wait, what are you, nuts? C’mon.



(Courtesy: Denis Leary)

https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/d4/0/not-ftr-denis-leary-cam-neely-050620-denis-leary-jpeg_ris9x95xqn941r2rh9cs7ik3e.jpg”>

SN: What’s your take on the Bruins today?

DL: I would say I’m a little bit prejudiced because I’m friends, close friends, with the guy who’s the president of the team, but I have to say that Cam turned that team around. And I was just so overwhelmingly happy for him that [while] he didn’t win a Cup as a player and his career was shortened, the fact that they won a Cup in 2011, and he’s from Vancouver so it was in his hometown, his whole family got to come — that was an amazing thing.

But it’s also kind of amazing, even with the losses against the Blackhawks (in 2013) and against the Blues last year, how consistently great that team has been for the last 10 years and this year. I know I’m a Bruins fan, I’m just saying this with as much — what’s the word — lack of prejudice as I can, I thought this team, the team this year, was better than the team in 2011 and better than last year’s team.

I thought we were going all the way. Great team. I mean, just deep, deep, deep, great goaltending, very deep team.

SN: As a sports fan, what is your take on it what’s happening now? Should they even finish the season or move on? I don’t know if you have an opinion on what’s been going on.

DL: Oh, I have an opinion.

You know, we were in first place. So as far as I’m concerned, if we’re not gonna play any more games I think we should just get the Cup. Now, I know that’s gonna piss off a lot of people but if we can’t do that, then, yeah, let’s play some games. I don’t care if there’s fans there or not. 

Listen, you have to understand . . . Last night I watched a game from 1988. The seventh game (of the Eastern Conference finals) vs. the New Jersey Devils and I was yelling at the screen and yelling at the refs and cheering the goals.

So, yeah, I’m losing it a little bit, but, you know, I would watch. I don’t care how they set it up, I would watch it.

Source: Read Full Article

Joe Thornton reveals he has shaved his iconic beard

There are a select few NHL players who you can pick out the moment they step on the ice. San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton is probably on top of that list, although that might not be the case anymore.

The veteran center revealed in a video Saturday that he had shaved his iconic shaggy facial hair. It marks the first time he has been clean-shaven since the start of the 2018-19 season, when Sharks teammate Brent Burns did the honor of shaving Thornton’s beard for him.

The video featured an initially bearded Thornton standing next to his daughter, Ayla. A few seconds in, she nods her head and it snaps to a now-beardless Thornton standing in the same place.

Thornton started growing out his facial hair during the 2015-16 season. His beard gained notoriety during the Sharks’ run to the Stanley Cup Final that year when St. Louis Blues forward David Backes grabbed it during a squabble.

The beard was also damaged in early 2018 when Nazem Kadri of the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled out a tuft of it during a fight.

While many people are choosing to grow out their facial hair during their coronavirus quarantine, it seems Thornton has opted for the opposite approach. Hopefully, hockey returns before his beard has grown back too much. 

Source: Read Full Article

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton shaves famed beard

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, 40, is the NHL’s ultimate graybeard.

But that famed long, bushy beard is no longer.

The clean-shaven Thornton was unveiled Saturday in a funny Sharks tweet in which his daughter, Ayla, does a “I Dream of Jeannie” imitation to show off the new, younger look.

The six-time All-Star's beard had taken on a life of its own in January 2018 when Nazem Kadri, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs, ripped off a handful of Thornton’s facial hair during a fight.

Thornton, who has more than 1,500 career points, started growing the beard in 2015-16. He took a brief break at the start of the 2018-19 season when teammate Brent Burns, who has the NHL’s best facial hair, helped shave it off. Thornton didn’t like the look and stopped shaving.

*poof* pic.twitter.com/kQVdFwjnI2

No one knows when the NHL will resume because of the coronavirus pandemic, so Thornton has a chance to grow it out again.

Source: Read Full Article

Jaroslav Halak, Bruins agree to one-year contract extension

Jaroslav Halak will be back in Boston next season.

The Bruins announced Friday that the veteran goalie had agreed to a one-year contract extension with the team. It will be his third consecutive season in Boston serving as the likely backup to No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask. 

The extension will cause a $2.25 million cap hit for the Bruins next season, and, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Halak will also be eligible for performance bonuses because of his age. 

Halak has played in 31 games this season, posting an 18-6-6 record with three shutouts, a 2.39 GAA and a .919 save percentage. 

The Slovakian joined the Bruins as a free agent in 2018 after spending four seasons with the New York Islanders. He has made 71 appearances in two seasons for Boston.

Since being selected in the ninth round of the 2003 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, the 34-year-old Halak has played in 520 regular-season games, compiling a 272-167-58 record. He has also played for the Canadiens, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals in a 14-year NHL career. 

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and are on track to win the Presidents’ Trophy this year as the team with the most regular-season points. 

Source: Read Full Article

Maple Leafs’ Jake Muzzin says hand is ‘pretty much 100 percent ready to go’

Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin said his hand is almost fully healed in a call with reporters Tuesday. He suffered a broken hand on Feb. 25 after absorbing a shot against the Tampa Bay Lighting.

“The hand is doing great. Today, it’s pretty much 100 percent ready to go, so getting treatment and just working out trying to stay ready like everyone else,” Muzzin said, hinting he could be back in the lineup if the 2019-20 NHL season restarts. “As far as the hand goes, it feels fine and it’s ready to go. A couple of weeks on the ice before wouldn’t hurt to get back and get some touches and feels.”

Since Muzzin was rehabbing an injury, he still had access to team facilities to continue getting treatment. It was a different feeling for him going into the arena.

“Yeah, obviously different feel in here,” he noted. “Coming here, there’s two, three people really and you have the whole arena to yourself. Kind of a weird feeling coming in, but I was actually lucky, fortunate enough to be able to get the treatment and the work needed to be done to make sure I heal properly.”

One day before his injury, Muzzin agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Maple Leafs. He explained his rationale for signing the new deal.

“The direction the team is going, the personnel, the people, the organization and the city itself,” the 31-year-old defenseman said. “There are way more positives than negative so we wanted to be here and we called the team on it for me to be here. I’m glad and we’re really fortunate that we got a deal done before all this happened.”

After being traded midseason last year by the Los Angeles Kings, Muzzin said it took a couple of months for him and his family to adjust to Toronto.

“I had never been traded before so I was going into a new situation so it was kind of a different experience for me,” he recalled, having grown up about a 90-minute drive outside Toronto in Woodstock, Ont. “The way the guys accepted me last year, accepted my wife and the way the organization accepted us as a family and as a group was unreal. They really made the transition as smooth as it could be.

“We kind of felt that we were at home. You know we got over the initial shock of being traded and being in a new city and kind of growing some roots here. I feel we’ve done that and we’re excited for the next four years here.” 

Muzzin, who has scored 39 points in 83 career games with the Maple Leafs, feels really fortunate to have signed his contract extension before the season was paused. He sympathizes with the pending free agents.

“It’s the uncertainty of these days. There’s an unknown that I think would be on the back of your mind,” he said. “I don’t know if guys get what they think they should get or this is going to be fine or, you know, something is going to drastically change. Maybe you have to structure a deal differently.

“For me, I don’t have that. I was fortunate enough to get a deal done before and so I thought maybe everything is going to be fine. I don’t know. That’s just the unknown and uncertainty over what’s going to happen.”

Source: Read Full Article

Defensmen Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox discuss how college hockey prepared them for NHL

The Colorado Avalanche’s Cale Makar, Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes and New York Rangers’ Adam Fox are three of the brightest young defensemen in the league. A common experience they all went through was playing college hockey before making the move to the NHL.

Makar had a slightly different path to the University of Massachusetts, where he spent two seasons including winning the 2019 Hobey Baker Award for the best men’s player in NCAA hockey.

After getting selected in the Western Hockey League draft, the Calgary native turned down the chance to play junior hockey and decided to go stateside.

“I think when it came down to it, it wasn’t too hard,” Makar said. “Fortunately for me, I just had a lot of friends and family that went the NCAA route and the junior route as well and I kind of compared both in terms what I thought would benefit me the most. I think I ended up at a great place there at UMass.”

Over the course of two seasons with the Minutemen, Makar totaled 70 points in 74 games leading UMass to the national championship game in the 2018-19 season.

He said going to college was the right choice for him and represented some of the best years of his life so far.

“For me at the time, I was just a smaller guy and I think college just gives you an opportunity to work on your body and mental side off the ice more,” Makar said. “It kind of gives you a longer trajectory to get where you want to go so I felt that for me it was the right decision at the time.”

For Hughes, the decision to attend college was more straightforward. His parents played college hockey, making the path attractive to him.

“I grew up in a house with two parents that went to U.S. schools to play college hockey so it was something they always pushed for us,” Hughes said. “As an American kid, that was something I always wanted to do. Once I made the NTDP (USA Hockey National Team Development Program), I knew I wanted to go to school after those two years.”

At the University of Michigan, Hughes tallied 62 points in 69 games over two seasons including winning Big Ten Rookie of the Year in 2017-18.

Fox attended Harvard and spent three seasons with the Crimson becoming the fourth defenseman in school history to reach 100 career points. He also broke the single-season school record for points scored by a defenseman (48 in his junior season).

He believes the physical toughness of college hockey helped prepare him for the NHL.

“I think there’s a lot of physical attributes that college allows you to work on and grow there. You’re not just going there to play for a year and leave,” Fox said. “Sometimes it’s two, three or four years and really let yourself jump into the NHL and be ready for it. I think college does a good job of allowing for that.”

The three have been standouts on their current teams. Makar, who scored in his NHL debut in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, has put up 50 points in 57 games this season with the Avalanche. Hughes has scored 53 points in 68 games in Vancouver with Fox tallying 42 points in 70 games with the Rangers.

Their success in college laid the foundation for their NHL careers.

“I think we were all lucky. We all went to good spots, good situations. Speaking for the other guys, but we all had coaching staffs that probably believed in us and put us in the right situations and spots,” Hughes said. “For me, going from college to the NHL, you obviously believe in yourself and you hope you’re ready but you never really know so you just kind of hope that you’re going into a good spot and it all just kind of works out.”

Source: Read Full Article

Joel Ward officially announces retirement, hockey world reacts on Twitter

During the 2019-20 NHL All-Star Game weekend, Joel Ward told Sporting News: “I’m done. I haven’t done an official post.”

He added with a smile, “I know, I’m getting around to it.”

On April 27, he finally got around to it.

“I’m retiring today,” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune. “I know I didn’t play the last two years, but I tried. I did. I wish I could have gone out in a bit of a different way. But, you know, just thinking about it all — all 726 games — I realized something.

“Who am I to wish for any more time? I got what I wanted. I’m one of the lucky ones. Hockey is a beautiful game, and it works in mysterious ways. Some players, they end on a perfect high, some have it taken from them. But me, I kind of thought it was fitting that I went out the way I came in — without anybody really noticing.”

Ward played 726 games in the NHL and potted 133 goals along with 171 assists between the Capitals, Wild, Predators and Sharks. His road to the league wasn’t easy. Ward wound up going to college at the University of Prince Edward Island and after a year with the Houston Aeros (AHL), he signed a contract with the Wild in 2006. He got a cup of coffee with the team, but it wasn’t until 2008-09 that Ward stuck in the NHL, with the Predators.

Ward would score one of the biggest goals in Washington’s history in a Game 7 against the Bruins, the anniversary of which was just two days ago, when he buried the rebound of a Mike Knuble shot past Tim Thomas. He also played in a Stanley Cup Final with San Jose in 2016.

After the announcement, the hockey world took to social media to send well wishes to the stay-at-home dad who, as he told Sporting News, is “hoping to get back in the game and help teach and coach a little bit” and is now — officially — a retired NHLer.

Source: Read Full Article

NHL executive Colin Campbell explains criteria for ‘hub cities’ to help finish season

After weeks of rumors, it looks like one plan to finish the NHL season has risen to the top of the list.

A proposal to host games at a select few “hub cities,” possibly one per division, has continued to gain traction with the league. On Friday, NHL senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell reiterated what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated on Wednesday night; that previous plans to host games at neutral-site arenas in places like North Dakota and New Hampshire couldn’t have worked.

“We need to have an NHL arena,” he said on Sportsnet’s “Hockey Central” on Friday. “There was some talk about North Dakota and other sites. We need an NHL arena that’s game-ready, that’s all set up and ready to go for broadcasting, for NHL games. They need four dressing rooms inside those arenas to play the number of games they need to play each day. The hotels need to be adequate and what our players need.”

MORE: Bettman on league return, draft: “We don’t live in a world of perfect anymore”

Current front-runners are thought to include PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., home of the Hurricanes, and the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., home of the Wild. The Arizona Coyotes are also reportedly keen to host. However, Campbell said the NHL is carefully considering the available options.

“There’s a number of criteria,” the long-time league executive said. “Is it a friendly hub? What state is friendly? What province is friendly? What are they dealing with [in terms of COVID-19 cases]? Obviously, you look at the New York area, it’s not very friendly, and you look at Alberta, that seems fairly friendly.”

On Friday, Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi announced that the city’s ban on public gatherings had been extended until Aug. 31. However, Postmedia’s Danny Austin reported that Nenshi said professional sports teams could possibly get an exemption. The extended ban comes a day after the city’s premier summer event, the Calgary Stampede, was canceled.

When asked if Toronto could be a potential candidate, Campbell responded positively, referencing the 2016 World Cup of Hockey held in the city. 

“We dealt with various practice rinks, dealt with various hotels, dealt with (Scotiabank Arena), dealt with various dressing rooms, dealt with all the issues that we’re going to have to deal with, so that’s a step up that Toronto has,” he said. “Plus it’s a 70-cent dollar, there are a number of restaurants in that square there, a number of five-star hotels within shouting distance, so Toronto has a number of excellent pluses on their side to be one of the hub centers.”

The plan is far from finalized, though. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet in an interview with Ron MacLean on Wednesday that the league wouldn’t be rushing back before it’s safe. 

“All of this is contingent, nothing has been decided,” he said. “The decision ultimately will be made by medical people and people who run governments at all different levels. We’re not going to try to do anything that flies in the face of what we’re being told is appropriate.”

Regardless of where the league chooses to play the final regular-season games, it looks almost certain that fans won’t be in the stands, which would make for a strange atmosphere in the playoffs. 

Source: Read Full Article

Wayne Gretzky rooting for Alex Ovechkin to break his goals record

Wayne Gretzky is rooting for Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin to break his all-time goal scoring record. In an interview with the Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno, Gretzky is supporting Ovechkin’s chase of his goals record.

“I can’t help but cheer and root for him each and every day,” Gretzky told the AP. “I hope I’m the first guy who’s able to shake his hand when he does break my record.”

Gretzky and Ovechkin conducted a joint interview for the first time and it will air on NBC Sports Network and Sportsnet on Monday. Ovechkin’s pursuit of “The Great One’s” record was among the topics discussed.

The all-time goals scoring record is held by Gretzky at 894 goals with Ovechkin at 706 goals. What marvels Gretzky about Ovechkin is his longevity. Even at 34 years old, the Capitals forward is still putting up consistent numbers as Ovechkin is tied with Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the league-lead with 48 goals. 

The Hockey Hall of Famer doesn’t know whether Ovechkin will catch his record as the Capitals forward might desire to play in his native country.

“Maybe one day in his mind he’ll say, ‘Look, I want to go home and play in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) when I can still compete at a high level,” Gretzky said. “We don’t know that. That’s his decision. But I think he loves playing in Washington, I think he loves the NHL and I think he’ll do everything he can at any point to chase down the record.”

Gretzky said he was offered to play in the KHL following his NHL retirement but turned it down. He said Ovechkin is in a different situation since Russia is home for him.

“All I remember was my mindset was there’s one league and if I’m not good enough for this league, I’m done,” Gretzky recounted. “I grew up, I’m an NHL guy and if I can’t play in NHL, that’s it for me. He’s (Ovechkin) probably in a different scenario. He grew up in Russia and he’s proud of his country and maybe it’ll be great for him to go home.”

When asked about how much longer he wants to play during the joint interview, Ovechkin was mum pointing to his current contract that expires after next season.

“We’ll see,” Ovechkin said. “I’m healthy, thank God, and I still love this game. As soon as I’m not going to love this game, I’m not gonna cheat on it because I respect it a lot.”

Ovechkin isn’t thinking about the record amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that paused the 2019-20 season.

“My mind right now is not about 50 goals or catch ‘The Great One’ or somebody else,” he said. “My mind right now is to do the best what I can do, and what my family can do to be safe.”

Source: Read Full Article

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says 2019-20 season is ‘probably going to be playing into the summer’

Just two days after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league was “exploring all options,” he indicated on Wednesday morning that it’s looking more and more likely the winter sport will hit the ice over the summer.

“We’re focused on being as flexible and as agile as possible and when we get the opportunity from a health standpoint to bring our players together, to let our teams reconstitute themselves, to get operations up and running, we’ll be in a position to do that whenever it makes sense,” he told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings with Maria.” “We believe that we can be fairly flexible in terms of the calendar.

“My guess at this point is we’re probably going to be playing into the summer, which is something that we can certainly do.”

The NHL paused its 2019-20 season back on March 12, a day after the NBA did the same due to two players testing positive for COVID-19. Players were allowed to return home and the league recommended self-quarantining, which was extended to April 30 this week. Discussions have been ongoing since then regarding how, when and if the league will return to conclude the 2019-20 NHL regular season and decide a Stanley Cup champion. Bettman once again stressed the importance of the NHL returning only when the health risk for everyone attending games, from players to personnel to fans, is low.

“Before we can begin as a business standpoint we’ve got to be comfortable that we have the appropriate medical protocols in place because keep in mind, we’re going to have to have our players travel from virtually all over the world,” he said, when questioned about the possibility of using an antibody test or having temperatures being taken of players to reopen. “So when we decide it’s time to play we’ve got to be able to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not infecting the population of players but that we’re not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going.”

Bettman again mentioned that the NHL has been considering all roads and avenues when it comes to bringing the sport back, including looking into neutral sites hosting games and a two to three-week training camp to get players back in game shape; unless rehabbing an injury, players have not been able to lace up the skates since the season was put on hold. The biggest question mark that has arisen in the last month is just how the league will handle the standings; the NHL’s 31 teams played anywhere from 68 to 71 games of the 82-game schedule, with multiple franchises fighting for either a playoff spot or better odds in the draft lottery.

“Whatever we do to come back, and this is where I’m talking about being agile and flexible, we’re going to have to do something — whether it’s complete the regular season in whole or in part, whether or not it’s expanded playoffs — we’re going to have to do something that’s fair and has integrity,” Bettman noted, adding in that franchises have been lobbying for their choice regarding how to handle the situation. “That’s going to be very important no matter what it is we do and we’re considering all of the alternatives.

“Nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.”

Source: Read Full Article