Mixed feelings for Habs fans on Richard Riot anniversary

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It could be a day of mixed feelings for older Montreal Canadiens fans. On one hand, the 2009-10 edition of the team is on a hot streak right now, winning six in a row to land them comfortably ahead of the playoff bubble. Still, those probably gray-haired fans may also think back 55 years, to a time when one hockey player ended up becoming a lot more than “just a hockey player.”

That’s because on March 17, 1955, a riot erupted due to then-NHL president Clarence Campbell’s decision to suspend French-Canadian icon and hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard throughout the remainder of the league’s regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs. Habs Eyes on the Prize shares an article that captured the politically charged fervor.

The people of the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec itself were thunderstruck. The Canadiens and Detroit were tied for first place in the league and were to meet that night in the Montreal Forum. The fan reaction was so immediate and furious in the city that the police commissioner warned Campbell, whose office and that of the league were located in Montreal, that it would be inadvisable for him to attend the game as was his usual custom. Public attitudes were so poisonous that his staff begged him not to even think about entering the Forum.

Hours before the opening face-off, crowds, most of whom did not have tickets, gathered on St. Catharines St. and adjoining streets around the Forum, and they were in a surly mood. At the Montreal Gazette, the editor, sensing that the usual number of reporters staffing a Canadiens game would not be sufficient to cover what might happen, assigned a young sports writer named Red Fisher (Fisher worked for the Montreal Star in 1955, not the Gazette.) to rush to the Forum, not to cover any aspect of the game, but to handle whatever other newsworthy event might occur.

Fisher, who was to become a journalistic legend in Montreal, had never before covered anything at the Forum, but as soon as he arrived he sensed that what was growing among the crowds, both inside and outside the building, was a possible riot. He was correct.


Considering the near-fatal missteps of the elder Clarence, modern NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell doesn’t seem quite as clueless, does he? (Though it is funny that, once again, a man named Campbell suspended a fiery and unforgettable goal scorer. Heck, Ovechkin’s number is 8 and Richard’s was 9.)

Hockey has a rich and fascinating history, with equipment, stick and rules changes sometimes camouflaging profound cultural and political events. Few sports teams – let alone hockey teams – can match the history of the Montreal Canadiens (you should absolutely read Ken Dryden’s excellent book “The Game” for instance).

The Habs Eyes on the Prize article is huge, but it’s well worth a read. The blog also has more great suggestions for extended reading, including a collection of newspaper clips on the riots as well as archived articles from the New York Times and Detroit News.

(H/T to the Montreal Gazette blog Habs Inside/Out.)

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    Agent says Kucherov blasted Bolts out of frustration from missing playoffs

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    Quite the situation developing in Tampa Bay.

    Earlier today, the translation of Nikita Kucherov‘s interview with Sovietsky Sport hit social media and caught a number of people by surprise. In it, Kucherov said some of his Lightning teammates “got their money and stopped working” this season, then complained about a lack of consistent linemates.

    And that’s not all. (See below).

    When reached for comment, Kucherov’s agent — Dan Milstein — didn’t deny the remarks were made. Instead, Milstein told the Tampa Bay Times they came out of frustration after Kucherov and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs.

    More:

    Here’s the full text of Kucherov’s remarks to Sovietsky Sport (translation courtesy the Times):

    “Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.

    “We had great chemistry with [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Steve] Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really really well. And then Stamkos was injured, I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had a lack of understanding of each other and there were some problems. I was suffering torments all season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury. We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good. But coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”

    It’s unclear who Kucherov is referring to in the opening graph. He had numerous linemates this year, as mentioned in the second graph. As for the money angle, the most recent Tampa Bay forwards to get lucrative paydays were Alex Killorn (seven years, $31.5 million) and Stamkos (eight years, $68 million), both of whom were signed last summer.

    Kucherov, as mentioned above, signed a three-year bridge deal at $4.766 million annually in October, then went out and provided the Bolts with terrific value. He emerged as a Hart Trophy candidate down the stretch, finishing the year with 40 goals (second only to Sidney Crosby) and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL).

    But while Kucherov had a great individual effort, the same couldn’t be said for the Bolts. Injuries and inconsistency derailed what was supposed to be a promising campaign, given the club advanced to the Cup Final two years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

    If there is a bright side to any of this, it’s that Milstein told the Times Kucherov wants to remain in Tampa Bay long term.

    Related: Yzerman won’t blame injuries for Bolts’ playoff miss

    2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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    The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

    After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

    Here’s what you need to know:

    Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

    Time: 8 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

    Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

    Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

    Network: NBCSN (Stream online)

    Green will be judged on progress of Canucks’ youngsters

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    Expectations have officially changed in Vancouver.

    Whereas the last few years the Canucks have tried to stay competitive and make the playoffs (failing miserably the last two seasons), the plan now is to develop their youth with an eye towards the future.

    “I’m not sitting up here and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to win the Stanley Cup next year,'” new head coach Travis Green said today.

    “But I will tell you we’re going to get better.”

    Green was hired after four seasons as head coach of Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica. He understands that the Canucks need to keep injecting youth into their lineup. He knows that’s why he was hired, despite his lack of coaching experience in the NHL.

    “We need to get younger, that’s no secret,” he said.

    So, for Green, it will not be wins and losses that he’s judged on for the next year or two. Instead, it will be the progress of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, Brendan Gaunce, Olli Juolevi, Jonathan Dahlen, and any other youngsters in the organization.

    A veteran of over 1,000 NHL games as a player, Green is not expecting this to be a smooth ride. Young players make mistakes. They are inconsistent. They can be immature. Sometimes they progress, only to regress.

    “You have to let them learn on the fly, some of them,” said Green. “You have to give them rope. You want them to swim, you don’t want them to sink. (But) you want them to go through adversity as well. I think it’s good for young players to go through adversity.”

    Green started his coaching career in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. Combined with his AHL experience, he believes he’s learned a thing or two about getting through to younger players.

    Not that he’ll be Mr. Nice Guy all the time. He intends to push his players. He’s more than willing to make them uncomfortable, if that’s what he thinks is required.

    “I want my players to be accountable,” he said, “in what they do, how they prepare, how they practice. But I think if you build relationships and you communicate with players, they appreciate it — especially today’s player. I don’t play a lot of mind games. They always know where they stand. At the end of the day, when I was a player, you always wanted to know where you stood.”

    The end goal — whether it’s two years down the line, or even three or four — is to produce a winning team that can compete for a championship.

    “We know where we’re at,” said Green. “I know the management group understands that, I feel confident in that. But hey, I want to win. No one likes winning more than me. I want to see our team get better. I want to start the process and push the envelope with these players, and see improvement.”

    Related: Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

    Report: Vegas’ first-ever game will be preseason tilt in Vancouver

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    The Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to be busy this fall, and they’ll reportedly start their work north of the border.

    Per the Review-Journal, Vegas has finalized its preseason schedule and, pending league approval, will play its first-ever game on Sunday, Sept. 17 against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

    The Golden Knights have submitted a loaded, compacted preseason schedule, which makes sense. The players selected in June’s expansion draft will have little to no familiarity with one another, meaning head coach Gerard Gallant has a massive task in trying to build chemistry.

    More, from the Review-Journal:

    On Sept. 19, they’ll travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche at Pepsi Center followed by a trip to San Jose Sept. 21 to face the Sharks at SAP Center. The road portion of the preseason concludes at Anaheim against the Ducks Sept. 24.

    The first of the three home games at T-Mobile will be Sept. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings. The other home games are Sept. 28 against Colorado and Oct. 1 vs. San Jose.

    Vegas team officials wouldn’t comment to the Review-Journal about the preseason schedule. According to the report, the timing of the Vancouver game hinged on the dates for the Canucks-Kings games in China this fall (Sept. 21 in Shanghai, and Sept. 23 in Beijing.)