2017 IIHF World Juniors -NHL’s future and International Hockey


Chicago, IL — I am still recovering and digesting all of what I saw in what can only be called a spectacular 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Congratulations Team USA you played some extraordinary hockey and it was a thrill watching you.

A lot of people were concerned about USA hockey after the NHL World Cup. I was not one of those people.

Yes I did and still think that team USA for the World Cup was not constructed right but I had no doubts about the grass-roots levels of USA Hockey and that proved to be true.

I have to admit though when Alex Debrincat and Logan Brown were not selected for Team USA I was a bit skeptical again about the construction of this team following the fiasco at the World Cup.

Could Debrincat and Brown have helped Team USA? We will never know but what we do know is team chemistry is everything and we do know this Team USA was constructed well enough to win.

The one thing about USA Hockey I never worry about is the goaltending or defensive structure. It seems no matter who dons that mask for USA be it John Gibson or Tyler Parsons that net is rock solid.

To all the players I have no doubts no matter what NHL teams you play for you will be fun to watch going forward. Being a Chicago Blackhawks fan I’ve got my eyes on you Minnesota Wild.

The Minnesota Wild are getting the top scorer in this tourney Russian Forward Kirill Kaprizov who was just dynamic and a threat every time he was on the ice. He was selected by the Wild in the 5th round in 2015 yes 5th round. So you see there are hidden gems everywhere.

In addition to Kaprizov the Wild are getting Sweden’s forward Joel Erisson EK who had a good tourney himself and from the USA Captain Luke Kunin and Jordan Greenway who could don a Wild jersey now as physically he is fully developed.

The Wild’s future is extremely bright and has got me as a Hawks fan a bit concerned but that said, the Chicago Blackhawks have some gems of their own coming up.

It will be fun to watch this rivalry going forward. Minnesota, you maybe getting players to push you over the hump. Stay tuned.

For all those that do not watch the World Juniors why not?  These players regardless of country are the future of the NHL playing on one of the highest international stages.

Saying that I am very optimistic about the state of International affairs of hockey.

We all knew Teams USA, Canada, Russia and Sweden would be forces to contend with and be Gold medal candidates. What we didn’t know was how other lesser thought of hockey countries have advanced in their programs as well.

Teams Denmark, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Latvia & Slovakia you were a surprise and a thrill as well. Denmark and Czech Republic ended up second and third placing is group B just behind Sweden.

I’m not sure anyone saw that coming with Finland in that group but it just goes to show why you should watch these events as the world is getting smaller and closer together in talent and that is a great thing for the game of hockey.

This year the NHL draft will be in my great city of Chicago and I can’t wait to see some of the players from these teams get drafted. There are a ton on these teams that scouts may want to take a second look at.

Teams Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland has a ton of undrafted players available and yes even Team Russia has undrafted prospects.

The question has always been could players from those countries that play on big ice translate to the NHL.  Well now those players are playing either in the CHL or in USA college programs NCAA so that is no longer a big concern.

One name that won’t be missed and will go early is Swiss’ Nico Hischier currently playing with the Halifax Mooseheads. That kid is a dynamic stud.

For you Blackhawks fans you might want to keep an eye open for Mathias From of Denmark which the Chicago Blackhawks already drafted. This kid has the potential to become a power forward and I can’t wait to see his development.

Also Alexandre Polunin from Russia reminded me of a junior Artemi Panarin not as dynamic or polished but the skill and will is there for development if he wants to come to North America.

Alexander True who was the captain of team Denmark is another one who is waiting in the bushes for someone. Renars Krastenbergs of Latvia and the list goes on and on. Personally I can’t wait til the 2017 NHL draft.

Also I would like to say thanks to the NHL Network for showing the majority of the games and not just Team USA and Team Canada as every NHL team has prospects from all countries I think it is good to show all the games.

My only suggestions for improving this would be you got to stream games because of time differences and not everyone is by a television. Remember this is watched worldwide or at least you want it to be and honestly you could do more analysis of all of the countries and the NHL’s prospects.

I’d like to see instead of rerunning on The Fly a million times you need more comprehensive programming not just about the NHL but about the prospects of the NHL teams and even the undrafted players to watch, other leagues where prospects are playing,KHL,AHL, CHL, NCAA Etc.

Also why not show Women’s hockey? There are a lot of women’s hockey fans I’d tune in.

The NHL is getting younger and lets not forget your league is the only one of the majors that has a diversity of countries that players come from. I could go on and on about this.

As we saw in both the World Cup with teams Europe and North America and in the IIHF World Juniors with the surprise of Denmark, Swiss and others the hockey world is getting smaller and the entire world is now watching and the interest is there and can grow if nurtured properly.

The World Juniors is only one of these international events viewed by global hockey fans. I can’t think of another one coming up except the 2018 World Juniors.

Oh yeah there is that small event being hosted by South Korea in 2018 that only the entire planet will be watching.

Yes I have an agenda that is to see the NHL players go to the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Why?

Because as a hockey fan I want to see the best players each country has competing in the game I love on a worldwide stage at the highest level.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during an interview at the Winter Classic he thought it was a tough sell to the owners and board of governers to shut down the NHL hence making no money for three weeks and he needed a silver bullet to push an approval through.

Well Mr. Bettman I have no silver bullet other than what will the owners do if players decide to go anyway?

Is Pittsburgh or Chicago going to say no to Sidney Crosby or Evegni Malkin or Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane? Alex Olvechkin already stated he is going regardless and can you blame or deny him playing for Russia?

How can you tell players to not play for their countries? I remember when T. J. Oshie kept going in the shoot out with Team USA against Russia at The Sochi Olympics.

I remember seeing all of the USA military stationed abroad watching and cheering? They got a brief welcomed reprieve from the stresses of their duties.

Now perhaps it will be Troy Terry or Oshie again but can you really say no?

Yes you will lose money for three weeks the players are gone and no other professional sports leagues have to endure this, but in the larger picture you maybe gaining so much more.

As the fourth pro sports league in the United States you need to take chances & try harder.

Hockey really does not have a very big foot print in Asia like they do in Europe and North America nor does any other North American professional sports leagues. Now is the perfect time to take that step.

I’m not an idiot and realize financial impacts are a huge consideration but if that can be worked out then NHL the world is your stage. It’s just up to you to take ahold of it and introduce the world to the greatest game and team athletes on the planet.

So Thanks for a great IIHF World Juniors all countries teams and Team USA you made us proud.

NHL I’ll leave you with the following words from a great man who sums up if you should go to the Olympics in South Korea.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston S. Churchill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – reflection time


Chicago, IL — With a new year we are all compelled to look back at the past year and what we accomplished or what is still on our to do lists.

The Chicago Blackhawks are no different. Last year saw plenty of injuries but also there were career milestones achieved by Marian Hossa reaching 500 career goals and Patrick Kane reaching 700 points. Congrats guys those are truly remarkable numbers.

It saw the Hawks re-sign what has to be the most unexpected and exceptional talents in Artemi Panarin which will keep him sticking around Chicago for a little while longer thankfully.

It saw so far the best year statistically from Artem Anisimov and insane goaltending from both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling.

It also saw for probably the first time in a long time the beginning of so many’s NHL careers in Vinny Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, Nick Schmaltz and some how they have all managed to fit in and play their roles without the team skipping a beat.

So here we sit a day before the Winter Classic where the Hawks will take on their divisional rival the St. Louis Blues and they are sitting tops in the West and their division with the Minnesota Wild nipping at their heels with games in hand.

Still considering all they had to overcome and what they have accomplished it is impressive they are 5th in the entire league in points with only Eastern Conference teams ahead of them which is strange to say the least that it appears the tables flipped in 2016 from West to East being the dominant conference.

Now however it is time to look forward and improve as the NHL schedule is hurling towards the second half and that will determine not only who will make the playoff but who opponents will be.

So if I could request a gift from the hockey Gods for the Blackhawks it would be several things as we all can improve. I have a very long list for myself as well.

These are some from my observations and I’m giving them to help if they don’t already know themselves not to cast blame.

If I could give the Hawks anything I would give them wake up juice. Remember from Back to the Future III  the saloon scene well here it is.1

I know I am not a morning person myself but the Hawks have to somehow find a way to start on time. It is not a formula for success that can be sustained especially against good teams to always be chasing the game from behind.

When the Hawks play a full 60 minutes they are almost unbeatable. If it means shorter shifts so every one is fresh and ready to go or maybe they do need wake up juice.

The only problem is shorter shifts require more line changes and that is another area that could be improved upon. Need to work on that as well.

There have been several times the Hawks have gotten burned on this or caught on 2 on 1’s. Better decisions for those coming off the ice please. So I would ask for improved line changes.

Both sides of the special teams could use some work. This is a problem the Hawks continually seem to have but I think I will address this in a separate blog at the end of the year to get a full picture as this is still an ongoing work in progress.

The one thing I would desperately like improved is the Hawks in their own zone are a disaster sometimes. They can not get the puck out and are pinned in for too long. The Defensive zone clears need improvement.

Forwards you may need to come back and either help or be better options for outlets. The Hawks are giving up way too many shots against which is putting undue stress on the goalies.

Part also of this is not winning faceoffs in their own zone or in the neutral zone which is an area again the Hawks have struggled with over the years.

Outside of Jonathan Toews the team as a whole needs to get better including the wingers. If you start off losing possession in your own zone then you are running around.

Overall I would say though the Hawks as a team need to improve in their battles along the boards and their positioning in their own zone and not giving away the puck so much in your own zone.

Don’t believe me both their Corsi and Fenwick against is not great. If your going to give up that many shots then you at least need to take more shots than but that really isn’t the issue.

I believe the Hawks are like 23rd in the NHL in shots against per game so need to shore that up and help both the defense and goalies out.

Turning to the offense I’ve not seen enough net front presence and I would suggest all the Hawks practice tips, deflections and batting the puck out of the air around the net more. Sidney Crosby is racking up a career year with just getting to the net and batting pucks.

Also Goalies now are too good you need more deception like using backhanders, snap shots, tips, deflections, wrap-arounds these all take less time to get off and in today’s game speed is paramount not only in skating but in shooting as well.

I believe the Hawks are close to the bottom of the league in all of these types of shots so vary it up and keep the goalies guessing.

Artem Anisimov is so successful because he is becoming a master around the net. More please from everyone. Remember too your opponents study you and your tendencies so mix it up.

Overall though the Chicago Blackhawks have put themselves in an excellent position. Just clean up these things and then the rest of the league needs to look out.

Happy New Year to all go get them in 2017. Here is to starting the New Year off good with a win in the Winter Classic against the Blues. GO HAWKS!

  1. Back to the Future III – released 1990 through Universal Pictures produced by Neal Canton and Bob Gale, directed by Robert Zemeckis.

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Road continued for Panarin


Chicago, IL — Yesterday the official word came down that the Chicago Blackhawks and Artemi Panarin agreed on a 2 year (bridge) contract that keeps him in a Chicago Blackhawks sweater til 2019. Who won this deal?

Chicago Blackhawks, NHL and hockey fans did. It means we all get to see this phenomenal talent continue on his journey.

We get to see what he and his line mates, country-man Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane can continue to create going forward and that should make all hockey fans happy.

I for one was overjoyed. Thanks Stan Bowman for once again finding ways to make things work, Thanks Artemi Panarin’s agent Tom Lynn for assisting in working this out.

Thanks Artemi Panarin for so many things. Chicago I think fell in love with you the moment we saw your unique talents on ice of which there are many.

Taking what is a home town discount just makes Chicago love you more and with comments like “I like everything about the team and environment here. You can’t earn all the money in the world.” will endear you to Chicago forever. 1 Too see the entire Panarin interview go to Chicago Blackhawks site BHTV.

It is refreshing to see and hear someone who is not all about money grabs. It also is a smart move for both the organization and Panarin.

Panarin is a smart guy he understands that this team is cash strapped with the cap and if the team is going to continue to achieve success they need certain players in place to do so.

In the long run Artemi will get a huge payday as he continues to just get better. We forget he is still developing and learning North American style hockey.

Who knows how high this kid can go. He is currently sitting in 5th in the entire NHL in points behind Malkin, Tarasenko, Crosby and McDavid.

Now that is impressive. The guy has only been here 18 months and had to adjust to a new style of hockey, rules, language, culture and everything this fast is mind blowing.

Maybe the difference from Russian style hockey to North American style isn’t that much after all at least not for special players. To be a point per game player in the NHL is really stunning and something I don’t think anyone expected, well maybe Panarin did.

Of all the great things he does on ice and his remarkable stats what has really caught my attention was his intangibles and why he fits so well with the Blackhawks.

Those intangibles are character, discipline, sacrifice and simply wanting to be the best. These attributes got him here and I have no doubt when all is said and done he may very well end up with the same numbers statistically as Patrick Kane.

Like the other core players on the Blackhawks that drive to be the best and win is also very much instilled in Panarin which is why I can’t think of a better NHL team for him to be a part of.

What a coo for the Blackhawks, I doubt they ever thought they would find another Patrick Kane not with where they are drafting from and yet they did from a place no one would have guessed.

Personally I never heard of Korkino, Russia until Artemi Panarin came to the Hawks. Korkino is a small town in Russia located by the Ural Mountains.  Now I will never forget Korkino.

Panarin is a long way from home but then again maybe not.

For hockey players home is on the ice, any ice,  be it in a rink or on a pond and now even in the middle of a desert like Las Vegas. From day one Panarin  was home at the United Center  just playing hockey. We here in Chicago are lucky enough to see him play and just enjoy his talents.

We are already spoiled with all the talents on the Blackhawks but to get to see him with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov is just surreal what they can do is just magical.

There are so many similarities between him and Patrick Kane not in just how they play and see the game but in their backgrounds. Both were told many times they were too small to play competitive hockey. Thank the Lord they stuck with it.

Recently Russian TV MAT4 did a documentary on Panarin and his path to NHL, which in itself is the material for a movie or at the very least a book.

His story is just incredible with all the things he and his family had to overcome to get to the NHL and he’s only 25 years old and still writing chapters in his life.

As a side note I absolutely love his grandfather and grandmother. I hope they get to come to Chicago and get to see Artemi play one day and how fast and skilled he is and this team is.

Here are the links to YouTube documentary with English subtitles 2:

part 1

Part 2

part 3

If you watch this you will see it was not an easy road but then again the path to being great never is.

It’s nice to see that Artemi Panarin is finally getting to reap some of the rewards of all his hard work and sacrifices he and his family made to get him here at the pinnacle of the hockey world.

Congratulation Artemi it is well earned and deserved. Enjoy.

The only thing that would make this a complete Rocky type movie is the Chicago Blackhawks need to win another Stanley Cup and Artemi getting to raise it.

I don’t think there has ever been a player that has won both a Gagarin Cup and Stanley Cup as a player.

I know Mike Keenan did as a Coach for the NY Rangers in the NHL  and Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL but I do not believe there has ever been a player to do it.

Somehow I have a feeling that Artemi Panarin may accomplish this feat. His accomplishments are limitless and as a hockey fan and a Chicago Blackhawks fan I’d love nothing more than to see that dream made reality in an Indianhead jersey.

 

  1. taken from interview on BHTV
  2. taken from YouTube documentary done for Russian TV MAT4

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Road conquered on the way to the Classic


Chicago, IL — The Blackhawks are back in Chicago after a perfect road trip that saw them take a huge bite out of New York’s professional hockey teams and then finished with a thrilling offensive slugfest against an ole Central Division adversary the St. Louis Blues.

The trip east started with an Original Six re- match against the highly touted NY Rangers for the second time in five days. 

The Hawks come away from a tight, almost playoff like game with a 2-1 regulation win after dropping the 1-0 in OT meeting vs these same Rangers.

It was good to see the Hawks get three out of four possible points against a very good team.

The next tour of NY saw them take on the Isles in a dramatically different style of play from the Rangers games. Stop the presses this game the power play actually was perfect and went 3 for 3 thanks to two Artemi Panarin blasts perfectly set up by Brent Seabrook.

The Hawks actually had to come back after not a great start going down 2-0 to the Islanders.

Props to Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa with the other goals. Hossa has never looked so good and Anisimov just does his thing, which is not easy but somehow he manages to compliment two magicians perfectly.

Speaking of magicians I truly hope Stan Bowman is. Artemi Panarin needs to stay right where he is here in Chicago next to Anisimov and Kane.

Stan please find some magic dust. Believe it or not with how great Panarin was coming in I actually see him getting better and he is just so smart and like Kane with great on ice vision.

So the Hawks left New York with a perfect record and then it was onto St. Louis with a preview of the Winter Classic.

The debut of Epix Road to the outdoor Classics which spotlighted four teams that will be playing in outdoor games – The Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks was premiered.

Let me just say to someone the NHL or the Chicago Blackhawks need to figure out a way like the NFL did with NFL films to document cinematically games because they are just brilliant.

Everyone knows how special hockey players are and coaches but this just solidifies our thoughts as we get to see the personalities of these players and coaches up close.

The on ice mic’d up conversations are just priceless. Yes there are profanities but it is a rare view that we get to see and actually feel what the players, coaches and refs see and go through in a game.

I’ve said for some time somehow the NHL needs to get mics and camera’s on the benches and on refs for games.

I don’t know either have an option with ratings warnings to just listen to the on ice and behind bench stuff editing out of course game strategies in addition to traditional broadcasts or somehow have these shown in a weekly highlights reel.

So perhaps the most important game on the road trip was the game in the Blackhawks own back yard of St. Louis.

The Blues being a divisional foe and just six points behind the game represented a four point swing if won in regulation and that the Blackhawks were able to accomplish.

Was it easy NO. They lost Artem Anisimov and had to keep overcoming deficits which they did four times. I saw on twitter they had only accomplished that three times in the entire history of the team.

So for those that keep saying the Hawks are not for real you may want to rethink that.

I think even Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was impressed by the Blackhawks resiliency and determination in his post game presser. 

Two of the Hawks six goals came from young  players Rassmussen and Hinostroza due to their grinding forchecking and resolve at the net and it was impressive. Below is link to NHL – St. Louis Blues site for Hitchcock post game presser.

https://www.nhl.com/blues/video/dec-17-postgame-interviews/t-277437432/c-47514403

If the Hawks young guys keep doing that only good things will happen.

Also Ryan Hartman you are a treasure for sure. This guy is so intelligent he knows how to agitate and go to the edge yet not over. That takes tremendous self control. That smirk is priceless. You keep being you Hartzy.

Hear coach Joel Quenneville talk about the young guys and the Chicago Blackhawks impressive team game on this road trip. When you get your head coach giving you the thumbs up you are doing something right.

https://www.nhl.com/blackhawks/video/coach-q-on-win-over-stl/t-277512494/c-47514603

So in an uncharacteristically high scoring game between two usually stingy teams this was a wild one and if it is any indication of how the Winter Classic will go it should be a great one.

The Hawks are now home for the next three games before the Christmas break and are looking good with being currently tops in the NHL, West and six points ahead of the Wild and eight points ahead of the Blues.

The Hawks just need to keep it rolling and not let down now that they are home.

Thanks for the thrills you truly have been fun to watch and Happy Holidays one and all.

Videos taken from the teams websites www.nhl.com/blues & www.nhl.com/blackhawks

 

 

 

 

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NHL – Entering the eye of the tiger; 2018 Olympics should they go?


Chicago, Il — This week it was announced that the NHLPA rejected the NHL proposal to go to the 2018 Olympics if the CBA was extended. What it did bring up again was the question will the NHL be going to the 2018 Olympics in PyeonChang, South Korea and should they?

The NHL & PA need to make a decision soon like early 2017. The BOG will be meeting to discuss in the coming weeks.

We all know that money makes the world go round and the financial costs for travel, insurance, injuries and shutting down the league mid-season are huge considerations. If the financial aspects of this gets straightened out and that is a big IF I can think of several reasons why the NHL should go.

The biggest of which is not since Marco Polo and his travels to the East has there been a bigger opportunity for the West to meet the East and exchange cultures.

Sports is a microcosm of cultures so why not share and see?

Marco Polo wrote his travel logs,which guess who read them and inspired him to travel? A Mr. Christopher Columbus and we all know how that turned out.

You never know what larger things may loom with the opportunity. The NHL can reach out to the world on a huge scale with the entire planet watching.

The NHL has a huge window to seize the moment to be the first North American professional league to show off their sport to Asia in winter games.

The NHL owners for the most part are businessmen.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell them the big picture of the potential audience here in what I call the penetration of the big three China, India & Japan to give them a taste of the greatest sport in the world.

China & India both have a population of 1.3 billion people. Yes that is correct billion. Korea has a smaller population of  50mil and Japan 126 mil. So we can all see the gigantic merchandising potential here in this area.

I don’t see how you can go to the Beijing 2022 Olympics but can’t go to Korea it sends a bad message and is disrespectful to Korea, and if there is one thing the East values it is respect.

Also how are financial considerations not in play for 2022 but they are for 2018?

Big picture you can see why any sports league would want to penetrate the Asia markets but why the NHL? How can hockey become popular in these non-traditional hockey countries?

Well there are a couple of reasons. Korea, Japan & China all have as their most popular sport and I’m not even sure I’d classify these as sports, Tae Kwan Do, Sumo wrestling & Martial Arts respectively.

China is big into board games like chess and they like ping pong but team games maybe baseball or soccer but as you can see this is wide open.

The one thing is Martial Arts demands speed and agility. It also does not matter what size a person is to be good in Martial Arts. What North American sport has speed, agility and size is not a consideration? Hockey.

With the NHL moving more towards speed and skill and having smaller players now more than ever it has never been a more appealing game to entice the East. If you value roundhouse kicks I’m sure you can appreciate spin-o-rama’s or just the pure speed and power of the game.

As a huge Bruce Lee fan (he also tried to bridge East & West) he incorporated all styles of Martial Arts including Tae Kwan Do into his no style, style Jeet Kune Do, which is based on fluidity of motion, improvisation and speed to drive power. Kind of sounds like hockey.

 

Another reason to go is the current players are getting older and may not be able to go to the 2022 Olympics so this will be some players last chance to play on the biggest stage for their country so you know all the players want to go. Ovi you are not alone trust me.

You know the coaches and fans along with the players want to see them go. It really is just the owners that don’t want this.

As a fan I want to see Team USA represented with Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Suter, Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Zach Parise ect. For some of these players this maybe their last time to go.

Now the other complaint is the time differential I believe Korea is 15hrs ahead of Chicago time so 14hrs ahead of NY and 17hrs ahead of LA.

Granted that is not ideal but let’s be real NHL fans are loyal and nuts. I say that lovingly because I am one. I would wake up at 3-5AM to see Team USA and I’m sure Canadians would as well to watch Team Canada.

Another reason to go isn’t the NHL’s broadcasting partner NBC sports carrying the 2018 Olympics?  What better way to give back to one of your partners and have them highlight the NHL.

Bring in the ref cams and also I would suggest offering games being done on multi-cams and with option to take out the broadcast and just hear and experience the sounds of the ice. Honestly this game sells itself if you are into speed and skill.

Another objection is the three week stoppage of the NHL when they won’t be making money which is true but you have to look long term. What is three weeks if you can intrigue Asia? A mere drop in a vast ocean.

Injuries has also been given but honestly injuries can happen during the season so I would not use that as a reason.

Also the NHLPA did the World Cup for the league thus owners so time to repay and do something for the players and let them go to Korea if they want.

Lastly the best ambassadors I could think of to go to the East would be hockey players they are all so likeable and affable and skilled they will represent well to cultures that value politeness, respect and traditions.

The East believes in the collective. In other words what we do as individuals impacts the whole of humanity and isn’t that team sports?

Also the symbol being used by PyeongChang is one of ice and snow hum sounds hockey to me.

As a fan I really hope they go I will be tuned in no matter if the sun is rising in the East or setting in the West.

Video taken from YouTube opening scene of Enter the Dragon released in 1973 distributed through Warner Bros in the US, Producers Raymond Chow, JerryWeintraub, Bruce Lee & Paul Heller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Quarter grade (The Blackhawks are still the Blackhawks)


Chicago, IL — We are just about a quarter of the way through the NHL regular season. The Chicago Blackhawks record is an impressive 13-4-2 which is good enough for not only tops in the Central but tops in the West and second overall in the NHL only behind the Montreal Canadiens.

While the above record and stats is very impressive what is truly impressive is this year the Hawks had to integrate a bunch of young unproven talent into the mix. Considering that, it makes what the Blackhawks have done even more impressive.

The biggest takeaway for me so far is that the Blackhawks are still the Blackhawks. I’m not sure if it’s the coaching, that core or there really is magic in that Indianhead sweater as depicted in The Orchard video.

The Hawks have proven time and time again they are never out of a game and the belief they have in each other and their game is really a testament to the players, coaches & organization and I will throw in the fans as well.

If there is one thing I’ve learned never count this team out. If you notice be it at the United Center or on the road you rarely see Blackhawks fans leave early even when the team is losing why?  We believe in you Hawks that you will find a way to win.

The champion’s pedigree is still in that locker room and behind the bench and it seems no matter who comes in, that core and coaches gets everyone’s buy in.

Belief is half of being I once wrote that I heard and it is so true. Now they still have to execute on ice but I still don’t think there is a team that once they put their minds to it turns it up to a level other teams just can not. Maybe the LA Kings had that once but I’m not sure they still do.

The Hawks last two games in Calgary and Vancouver were just WOW especially Vancouver. Three on Three hockey OMG love, love, love. To be able to come back in games is not something you want to make a habit of but boy is it thrilling and sometimes I think the Hawks prefer these challenges but guys it gives us fans ulcers.

The problem is you may encounter teams that are too good that won’t let you come back or bounces don’t go your way. Hockey is a strange game in that sometimes things are out of your control so you don’t want to tempt the hockey Gods too much. That said if there is any team that can do it still it’s the Chicago Blackhawks.

Marian Hossa are you a Demi-God?  Did you come down from Mount Olympus? Was Kris Versteeg right you are a Greek God, are you Zeus?

This guy is unreal and is playing lights out right now with two GWG in Calgary and Vancouver he has not lost a step in fact he may have gained some and not lost any of his two way play. Mr. Hossa you are an inspiration for us all.

The youth infused on the team are gaining invaluable experience that will pay dividends come spring. You can see their confidence grow and they are making good decisions. My only suggestion to the young guys take your shot if you are in a good position shoot ask questions later.

People ask me who is  Schmaltz, Hartman, Hinostroza, Forsling, Panik & Motte? My response — They are Chicago Blackhawks watch them grow and shine and that is exactly what they are doing.

Maybe even more kudos to the boys, you somehow have the coaches trust which is huge. If they feel they can put you out there is tough or bad situations and you shine that will only help the development process speed up. Thumbs up guys you’ve earned wearing that sweater whether it’s first line or fourth or in between do your things.

The other takeaways so far has been stellar Goalkeeping from both Corey Crawford and Scott Darling. Honestly without these guys the Hawks may not have the record they do. So many of the 19 games the Hawks did not get rolling until later in the game which means the goalies had to keep the team in the game til the offense got going.

We all know in Chicago how great Crawford is and the guy just keep proving it over and over and Darling having to come in with just practice under his belt and do what he does 4-0 he is amazing.

And let me just say despite not playing together regularly Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin are just extraordinary. They are just magic together and so much fun to watch.

I really am starting to think they must have been brothers in another life due to  their innate abilities to know where each other are at all times and more remarkably, where they will be is just a level of telepathy rarely seen especially on a hockey rink. I also would not be shocked if they both can use telekinesis to move hockey pucks as well.

Finally my last take away came in the most recent game against the Canucks. The Hawks had to over come a call, this one was correct, that they thought had ended the game only to be overturned and they had to regroup themselves mentally and still go out there and try and win a game which they did.

This just shows the Hawks still have that nail tough mentality and determination. They can put aside obstacles and still focus enough to overcome them in game which is huge. It is a quality that is needed to be a Stanley Cup contender and champion and I’m happy to see they have not lost this.

This year the Western Conference so far appears weaker than it ever has been in recent memory which if the Blackhawks can keep up this pace bodes well for them. They do have some areas that need cleaning up (special teams) but they have 63 more games to get this stuff straightened out.

They have all the tools and then some inexplicable ones (I.e. magic, telepathy, manifestation ect) as well to go far not only in the regular season but into the spring.

My Quarter Grade is an A- they have exceed my projected start and overcome obstacles. I can’t give a flat out A as they aren’t perfect due to the horrid special teams, at least not yet.

Chicago was fortunate enough to see one of their baseball teams play well into the fall.

I have a feeling if things continue like this for the Hawks the cosmos may see another Chicago sports team play into a season beyond their normal ones.

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – return of favored sons


Chicago, IL — There are some NHL games that don’t need any pomp and circumstance as they are event all by themselves without sales pitches or marketing schemes. Tonight’s game at the United Center against the Montreal Canadiens is one of them.

If it was not enough the most iconic NHL jersey’s will square off in an original six cross conference match-up.

For the youth of today go look up the 1960’s/70’s Chicago Blackhawks and of course the hallowed Flying Frenchmen of Montreal. The history and tradition that the NHL was built on are captured in those sweaters that will don the ice once again.

If that was not enough both clubs are currently ranked #1 & 2 in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens have come out of the gates flying that would make the Rocket proud.

The Hawks had a little bit of a stumble at the gates due to new faces and finding themselves particularly on the special teams.

Now though the Hawks seem to have found themselves and are currently sitting #1 in the West and 2nd in league overall sitting only behind these same Montreal Canadiens.

Putting aside traditions, legacy and best club statuses perhaps what is more impassioned will be the return of Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw.

Now I for one did not like at the time the trade of Danault and my opinion of that trade still has not changed. I’m admittedly biased for Danault. I remember seeing him in prospect camps and loved the guys passion and sheer love of the game and nothing has changed that.

I understand the Hawks have a window and they needed to bulk up last year for another playoff run but damn I want Philly back but I guess that is hockey baby.

Danault has come out of the gates flying and has seemed to have found the net. He already has more goals with Montreal than I believe he did the entire time he was here in Chicago in a limited stint.

Ironically he is centering Andrew Shaw and Max Pacioretty and that line I believe has as many points as Kane, Toews  and Panarin combined.

Danault is a Montreal native so the trade seems to have worked out great for Phillip. I wish the kid nothig but success and a bright future there as I’m sure anyone who was at those prospect/rookie camps, Icehogs games & Hawks games do as well.  Meilleur de tout Phillip.

Andrew Shaw has not had that easy of a transition to the hockey club de Montreal but seemed like his ole Shawzy self in yesterdays game vs the Detroit Red Wings.

Don’t feel bad Shawzy I’m sure your team mates, coaches and fans here in Chicago have had problems as well adjusting to life without the Mutt.  Again thank the cap, oh why can’t hockey be like baseball.

Remember coach Quenneville said that Shaw was irreplaceable prior to the trade and as far as I can recall he has never said that about anyone. So we all miss Shaw.

Chicago will never forget him helping bring two Stanley Cups here in 2013 & 2015. I for one will always have that indelible image of a puffed up black and blue eye and blood running down his cheek while hoisting the Cup in my head. That pretty much sums up Shaw, determination, energy and above all grit.

If you didn’t love Shaw already he dedicated the goal he scored yesterday to his friend Bryan Bickell when I saw that I almost melted into an emotional pool of mess.

Speaking of which, the news yesterday of Bryan Bickell was surprising and heart wrenching. It also explains a lot for those that thought he got complacent with the big contract. I may have been guilty of that thought myself. It now seems it was because of medical reasons and we should never judge because you have no idea what a person is going though at the time.

I wish Bryan nothing but the best, be strong, hang in there and I know with the great support system you have you will somehow thrive in a new chapter of life.

Ok back to hockey, I’m really not sure as I’m sure most fans and team mates are how i’m going to feel seeing Shaw and Danault with the C on their chest repping Canadiens not Chicago.

The game itself will be a good measuring stick for both teams to see how they will fare against a strong opponent who they will not see much unless somehow they manage to both make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Oh that would be a dream but first things first.

This will also be the last home game for the Hawks for a while as they head out on their annual circus trip. So to say a win here would be nice to put further distance between themselves and the Blues who happened to lose on Saturday to Columbus.

It’s highly unlikely we will see Carey Price this game being the second of back to backs but one never knows.

So if you are a fan of tradition, fast skilled hockey and emotional reunions tune into this one folks it has all the earmarks of a classic.

Welcome back boys it’ll be good to see you and hopefully we can see you again in June. Chicago wishes you both well just not tonight.

 

 

 

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