From Olympics to the NHL

With the dust settling on the end of a wonderful 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, all eyes will focus back on the NHL and the exciting race for the Stanley Cup Play-Offs. The recent Olympics followed the tradition of providing wonderful stories and shock results as Russia came out on top of the medal standings, with many other countries showing their pedigree across the multitude of events that make up the Winter Olympics. Cam Fowler, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonas Hiller and Sami Vatanen are to name but a few NHL stars who featured in Sochi, with Getzlaf being part of the Canadian team who won gold in the Final against Sweden. Their attention now turns to domestic ice hockey in a regular season who looks set to be one of the closest in modern NHL history, with those who want to bet on NHL games finding it difficult to call a winner and predict who will go all the way to lift the Stanley Cup. There can no doubt that every team will fight and scrap their way into contention for a Play-Off stop, with undoubted passion and commitment from every player often boiling over on the rink as a sign of how much making it to the Stanley Cup Final means to them.

Stars of the 2013-2014 season

Any review of the current NHL season would be remiss without talking about the wonderful achievements of Nathan MacKinnon who, in his first rookie season for the Colorado Avalanche, could reach over 30 goals. His goals record in the current calendar year has been outstanding, and the 22-year-old could be set to follow in the footsteps of legendary Avalanche right winger Milan Hedjuk who has recently retired from the sport. Head coach Patrick Roy could be willing to keep providing MacKinnon with a starring role in the roster alongside Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene who have also made an invaluable contribution to the cause.

Alan Vigneault should remain grateful that he has one of the best goaltenders in the NHL on his New York Rangers roster. Henrik Lundqvist remains at the top of his game, and at the age of 31 has many more years left in him to perform at the highest level. Lundqvist is one of the main reasons behind the Rangers’ resurgent form which has put them well in contention in the wildcard race for the Stanley Cup Play-Offs.

Leading the goal-scoring charts is something that has almost become second nature to Alex Ovechkin who continues to find the net with regular ease for the Washington Capitals. Head coach Adam Oates must pray every day that his star player does not succumb to injury as his team strives to battle through the wildcard field.

Stanley Cup Contenders

Defending their title may be more than possible for Joel Quenneville and the Chicago Blackhawks. Triumphant in the 2012-2013 season, the Blackhawks have started where they left off and are perfectly placed in the Central division to make a push for the title and secure a Play-Off spot. The serious injury sustained to Steven Stamkos in early November has not derailed the Tampa Bay Lightning who continue to look impressive in the Atlantic division under John Cooper. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks are currently top of the Eastern and Western conference respectively; with both looking perfectly set to qualify for the Play-Offs. A potential outside shot for the Stanley Cup are the Los Angeles Kings who, under Darryl Sutter, look strong in every department and know what it takes to win the illustrious trophy. The same team as 2012 has more than enough quality to seal a Play-Off spot, although a slight injury to Alec Martinez may come as an untimely blow for the Kings.


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Most Memorable Hockey Fights in History

hockey fight

Fistfights on the ice are almost a quintessential part of any hockey game. When a couple of guys (or girls!) lose it in the emotion of the game and start pounding away at each other, fans get caught up in the brawling, and sports highlights reels spin. Take a recent example — when the Vancouver Canucks played the L.A. Kings on January 13, 2014, Canuck Tom Sestito started punching Jordan Nolan of the Kings right after the faceoff. Sestito’s one second of play generated 27-minutes-worth of penalties, earned him the designation “Worst Sports Person in the World” from ESPN’s Keith Olbermann and started a much-watched Twitter fight between Olbermann and Sestito’s 13-year-old sister, Victoria.

Ten former NHL players, including former All-Star Gary Leeman, have sued the NHL for failing to educate them and to prevent recurring concussions. Despite the danger of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the deaths of multiple players from the head trauma-induced disorder, hockey fisticuffs are unlikely to stop anytime soon. There’s not enough room to recap every hockey fight in history, but NHL fans should remember at least a few of these memorable clashes. Grab your favorite team’s gear and get excited for the next match.

Bob Probert and Tie Domi — 1992

Bob Probert was one of hockey’s most seasoned fighters, and he probably didn’t believe that the much-shorter Tie Domi would be much of a match for him. Domi dangled the gloves first, but he waited until Probert made the first move. In the beginning, Probert and Domi’s fight didn’t pack much punch; Domi was too short to reach Probert with his left, and Probert kept hitting Domi’s helmet with his right. Then, Probert pulled Domi in, and Domi landed two fast punches that opened a four-stitch cut over Probert’s right eye. The two continued to struggle, with Probert entangled in his own ripped sweater, until the refs finally broke up the fight. As Domi skated toward the penalty box, he put on an imaginary championship belt to the delight of the 22,000-strong crowd.

Stan Jonathan and Pierre Bouchard — 1978

Jonathan was six inches shorter than Bouchard and 30 pounds lighter, and at first, fans thought Jonathan didn’t have a chance. However, because of his ability to duck Bouchard’s punches, Jonathan soon gained the upper hand. He delivered a right to Bouchard’s forehead and then a nasty left overhand punch to Bouchard’s nose, sending the big man down onto the ice with blood squirting out of his nose. Bouchard had prevailed over Dave Schultz, Ted Irvine and Wayne Cashman on the ice, but he couldn’t defeat Stan Jonathan, who had the bulldog defensive moves of a professional boxer.

Bob Probert and Craig Coxe — 1987

Probert and Coxe were both huge guys, and during the game, they threw off their gloves and started wailing each other with punches. After the fight had gone on for about 40 seconds, Probert looked like he’d had enough. However, he grabbed the back of Coxe’s jersey and started pummeling him with heavy-fisted rights from behind before the refs pulled Coxe away. Tragically, Bob Probert died at the age of 45 in 2010. Postmortem examination showed signs of CTE.

Scott Stevens and Dave Manson — 1991

In the fight known as the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre,” the Blackhawks and Blues were milling around the St. Louis net when the players started pairing up to duke it out. Big defenders Scott Stevens and Dave Manson skated away from the crowd to center ice, where Manson delivered a series of rights that left Stevens staggering and bleeding around his left eye. Stevens had been instigating fights all night, and the announcers and fans agreed that he deserved a righteous beatdown. Both teams were fined $10,000, and a total of 12 players were ejected from the game.

Flyers and Canadiens — 1987

Four players were on the ice before Game 6 of the Wales Conference when Claude Lemieux shot a puck into Philadelphia’s goal. Hospodar went after him, and both teams piled onto the ice. Dave Brown even ran out of the locker room without his shirt on and started hammering Chris Nilan. Hospodar was suspended for the rest of the playoffs, and the NHL initiated an automatic $10,000 fine and a 10-game ban for players that cleared the benches to fight. Coaches were also fined if they failed to control their players, and the new restrictions dampened most players’ enthusiasm for bench clearing.

Image by Les Stockton from Flickr Creative Commons

About the author: Blake Hollande lives in Quebec City and is an insatiable hockey fan.