Former NHLer Brendan Bell reflects on KHL training camp, getting to know Jaromir Jagr

brendanbellott.jpgIt’s been no secret that the mid-level talent exodus of players from the NHL to the KHL has been a growing storyline for the league, particularly this summer. Brendan Bell fits into that category, as the moderately productive offensive defenseman moved to Omsk, Russia to play for Avangard Omsk, a KHL team that happens to employ future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.

The Ottawa Citizen features a great story on Bell’s early experience in training camp overseas. First, here’s a quick description of the KHL style of play.

“I haven’t had the four-a-day workouts, the one-hour bag skates of pulling tires and things that some of the others have to go through,” Bell says.

“I talked to Marty St. Pierre (of Embrun) the other night, he’s over here as well (with Neftekhimik). He had one practice where there were tractor tires on the ice, and players on top of them and you had to pull them up and down the ice.”

[snip]

“There’s lots of skill. Even the fourth-line guys are very skilled. There are no big hits because the ice is so big, and there’s so much room out there.”

“The pace is very, very high. There’s not a lot of dumping the puck, everybody is constantly moving. Everybody is always swinging, guys are darting in and out of holes. So, as a defender, you’ve got to be very aware of what’s going on around you, and as an offensive player, you’ve got to be very creative.”

In many cases, the toughest adjustment for a player in a foreign country (whether it be a European assimilating to North American hockey or vice versa) is breaking the language barrier. Bell says that Jaromir Jagr has been a big help in that process, showing him where the good restaurants are and generally “acting like a kid.” Whether it’s fooling around by making STD jokes at a clinic or showing his obsession with hockey by skating on off-days, the former NHL scoring leader has left quite the impression on Bell.

While Bell has had a few “what have I gotten myself into?” moments – particularly in noting a sharp difference between the middle class and lower class in the geographically isolated Russian region – it seems like Bell is enjoying his time in the KHL. So far, at least.

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    Lightning strikes: Bolts even series with Islanders

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    Tyler Johnson began the playoffs as a game-time decision for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their series with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s now among the top point producers this post-season.

    Needing a win to even the series before it shifts north to Brooklyn, the Lightning earned a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Series tied, 1-1. As for Johnson, the diminutive but skilled forward, he led the Bolts with a three-point night and is up to 10 points in the playoffs.

    He opened the scoring versus the Islanders and finished it with an empty-netter to negate any late comeback attempt.

    Still without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning got another strong game from Jonathan Drouin, who entered this series without a goal. But he changed that, giving the host team a two-goal lead in the opening period of Game 2. That goal would be the eventual winner.

    Corey Perry: ‘I take a lot of blame for what happened’ after Ducks bounced in first round

    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 11:  Ryan Getzlaf #15 and Corey Perry #10 of the Anaheim Ducks watch from the bench during the first period of the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on April 11, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    After a first-round playoff loss that resulted in the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, players were forced to answer for such a disappointing end to the Anaheim Ducks’ season.

    The Ducks were last in the West at the holiday break but went flying up the standings in the second half of the season, claiming the Pacific Division. But they couldn’t close out the Nashville Predators in the opening round, despite a 3-2 series lead, and Boudreau was sent packing.

    Ducks GM Bob Murray then let the players have it, blasting the core group and their performance, especially in the first two games of the series, and strongly suggesting there would be some big changes in Anaheim leading up to next season.

    “I take a lot of blame for what happened,” said Corey Perry, as per the Ducks’ website. “I didn’t score a goal. I take a lot of responsibility. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform.”

    In seven games, the 30-year-old Perry, who just concluded the third year of an eight-year contract with a cap hit of $8.625 million, had four assists. But, as he said, no goals.

    On Boudreau’s dismissal, Perry added: “He did a lot for my game. It’s tough when you know the reason somebody got fired is because we as a team and as individuals didn’t perform to where we needed to perform, and that’s the hardest thing. You lose four Game 7s at home, and he has nothing really do with what we did on the ice. We’re performing, we’re playing and we have to hold ourselves accountable. And I think a lot of guys are doing that.”

     

    Marquette, Michigan is your Kraft Hockeyville 2016 winner

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    Huge congrats to the community of Marquette, MI and the Lakeview Arena — after an exciting voting process, Marquette has been named the winner of the Kraft Hockeyville 2016 competition.

    As a result, Lakeview will receive $150,000 in arena upgrades, and will host an Oct. 4 preseason game broadcast on NBCSN between the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes.

    More, from the NHL:

    Marquette is rich in hockey heritage and Lakeview Arena stands as a pillar of the community, stimulating the local economy since it opened in 1973. Lakeview Arena’s semi-pro Marquette Iron Rangers signed the first female professional hockey player in North American history, Karen Koch.

    Lakeview Arena will prioritize energy efficiency updates with the grand prize money in addition to other arena upgrades to ensure future generations of Marquette players are able to enjoy skating at Lakeview Arena for years to come.

    “We’ve seen amazing participation across the country in Kraft Hockeyville USA’s second year,” said Nina Barton, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Kraft Heinz. “This year’s contest led to millions of votes from passionate hockey fans, and we’re so proud America has chosen the spirited, well-deserving community of Marquette as Kraft Hockeyville USA 2016.”

    Marquette was just one of more than a thousand communities across the country that submitted stories showing their hockey spirit and passion.

    The runner-up, Rushmore Thunderdome of Rapid City, S.D., will receive $75,000 to use toward arena upgrades.

    For more on this year’s Kraft Hockeyville competition, click here.

    2016 Lady Byng finalists: Barkov, Eriksson and Kopitar

    Slovenia forward Anze Kopitar, left, and Sweden forward Loui Eriksson battle for the puck in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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    The low penalty minutes and high point totals are in, and thus we have the 2016 NHL Awards’ three finalists for the Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Loui Eriksson and Anze Kopitar.

    OK, the actual definition for the award is that it goes “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    Same difference, eh?

    Barkov really made a breakthrough this season with the Florida Panthers, scoring 59 points versus just eight penalty minutes. He only has 34 PIM in 191 career regular season contests.

    You can see Eriksson and Kopitar representing their respective countries in this post’s main image. Eriksson enjoyed his best (and maybe last?) season with the Boston Bruins while Kopitar hopes to win the 2016 Selke as the Los Angeles Kings’ defensively adept – yet apparently courteous – forward.

    It’s unclear who wins this “fight,” but one would assume it wouldn’t be a dirty one.