Generally when the Stanley Cup makes it’s annual tour around the world each summer, it’s not uncommon for it to be featured in a parade in a player’s hometown. It’s not every day that a member of a championship winning squad can do something to help reach out to a community in a different way however.
That’s what makes now former Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel’s gesture today so special as he escorted the Stanley Cup in today’s Gay Pride parade in Chicago to honor Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s son, Brendan. Brendan Burke was killed in a car accident in February, just three months after coming out to his friends and fellow Miami University hockey team members. Sopel was only more than happy to dedicate this gesture to the Burke family.
“Anybody who has had to bury a child has suffered a heartbreak and this was the first thing that came to mind,” Sopel said. “Everything that happened last year with Brendan coming out last year and dying three months later, it was a tragedy.”
The Burke family was more than supportive of Brendan in coming out and they were moved by Sopel’s gesture in a huge way.
“Our entire family is touched by the kindness of Brent and Kelly Sopel, and that of the Blackhawks,” Burke said Thursday in an e-mail from Los Angeles, where he was attending the league’s draft meetings.
“This is not a small step — it’s a bold and important one. We are grateful that a statement of this magnitude is being made by the Sopels, the Blackhawks and the National Hockey League.”
Homosexuality in sports, college or professional, is a highly taboo subject to say the least and having anyone either playing or in a management position openly come out and express who they are is extremely rare. Brendan Burke in doing so became an instantly identifiable figure and being the son of such a well known figure in hockey figures helped amplify the story.
For Burke to be as open as he was, sadly, may have been risky considering some of the prejudices that still exist today, but the outpouring of emotion and recognition for Brendan following his tragic death (Miami University wore a patch with his initials on their jerseys) showed that perhaps those bad feelings are becoming less apparent in a more progressive era. With moves like Brent Sopel’s today to not only pay tribute to a friend’s son as well as his life, this can be a step towards eliminating some of the awful discrimination that exists in our world.
Surgery earlier this month to repair a core muscle has put Jamie Benn‘s status for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey in question, however the Dallas Stars captain still aims to be ready to play for Team Canada.
It was announced on July 15 that the recovery timeline for this surgery was six weeks, which certainly makes it possible that Benn could be ready for the tournament, which begins Sept. 17.
“As of right now, yeah. I think this is a surgery that I’m able to come back a little quicker than double-hip surgery. That’s the main focus I’m training towards being able to make it for World Cup. We’ll just see what happens,” said Benn, as per Mark Stepneski of the Stars’ website on Saturday.
“Well, I think I’ll get on the ice later this week and just keep ramping it up a little more each time. I still think that’s a lot of time, enough time for me to be ready to jump into high-level hockey.”
The Arizona Coyotes moved up the draft order to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun at 16th overall. And now, they have signed Chychrun to a three-year entry-level contract.
The Coyotes made the announcement on Saturday.
“We are very pleased to sign Jakob to an entry-level contract,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka in a statement. “Jakob is a highly-skilled player with an all-around game. He has a great work ethic and is very determined. We look forward to watching him continue to develop this season.”
When the 2015-16 season began, it was suggested Chychrun could potentially be a top-three pick in the draft in June. But he fell down the order, despite being the No. 4-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
He was the fifth defenseman taken in the draft.
Listed at six-foot-two-inches tall and 215 pounds, Chychrun brings size and strong skating ability to the blue line. He had 11 goals and 49 points last season with Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League.
“Now he needs to understand he’s been drafted into the National Hockey League and we’re going to put him in a game plan to get him here as fast as we can. He can loosen up and play the way we think he can play. If that happens, there is no reason why he won’t be here sooner than later.”
Don Henderson, the NHL linesman knocked to the ice by Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman, has undergone neck surgery to repair damage from the hit and there are fears his career may now be over, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
According to one of his friends in the officiating business, Henderson’s recent surgery was aimed at repairing two ruptured disks in his neck, the result of the hit. Felled in the second period, he dusted himself off and finished the game the night he was injured.
“I know a lot of people are saying stuff like, ‘Hey, Wideman’s not that type of guy . . . that’s not in his nature . . . he’s a good kid,’ ’’ said one of Henderson’s longtime pals in stripes. “And I say, ‘Yeah, so what?!’ That doesn’t make it any less egregious. He attacked him from behind, the puck was nowhere near the two of them, and now Henderson’s career may be finished. I don’t see much difference between what he did and Wayne Maki cracking his stick over Teddy Green’s head.’’
This is the latest development in a saga that has dominated headlines in the NHL since the incident occurred late in January.
Wideman apologized following the incident, saying the collision was ‘completely unintentional.’ The league later confirmed that Wideman had suffered a concussion from a hit just seconds before he checked Henderson to the ice near the bench.
He eventually received a 20-game suspension, but that was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator, although Wideman had already sat out 19 games when the decision was handed down following an appeal.
When you’re an impossibly young captain of the Colorado Avalanche, it’s probably tough to choose your own health over the best interests of your team.
That scenario presented itself to Gabriel Landeskog, and he decided to fight through the pain. As you can see in the video above, he regrets the decision.
Landeskog shared his story, stemming from an injury in 2013, with “EMPWR,” a charitable foundation focused on concussion awareness. You can watch him discuss that tough period in his life in the video above.
It appears that Landeskog was discussing this hard hit by then-San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart:
NHL.com’s game report notes that Landeskog delivered multiple hits on Stuart after that. While he was giving rather than receiving those checks, those moments still likely left the Avalanche captain vulnerable to further injury.
It’s easy to say “Don’t go back in the game” when you’re not in the situation, but hopefully more players will protect themselves in the future.
Landeskog isn’t the only NHL player to share his experiences, and some weren’t as “lucky” as he was. Take Joey Hishon, whose career unraveled thanks in part to concussion issues: