IIHF president would 'fight like hell' if NHL pursued European expansion

While it isn’t spine-shattering news like the NHL rejecting Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract, it does seem like the World Hockey Summit had its first bit of pizazz-infused banter today. International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel made no mistake that an often-rumored but seemingly impractical European NHL expansion would be met with serious opposition.

Here is more from Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail.

“I will fight like hell and not allow anybody to come from abroad,” said Fasel Tuesday, when asked about the much-rumoured, but never actually articulated idea that European expansion is the NHL’s next frontier.

[snip]

“I don’t think an NHL division in Europe would fly,” said Fasel. “If they have a lot of money to invest, they could try, but as long as I’m sitting in my chair, I would never allow it to happen.”

Instead, Fasel imagines in the future, “a European league, where we have five, six teams from Sweden and the KHL together with the Finns, the Germans, the Swiss and then try to have a European champion and having this European champion play the Stanley Cup winner. That would be, for the hockey fans, music.”

Whether Fasel is breaking character or not, I think he makes a valid point. Even if European leagues wouldn’t resent the NHL encroaching on their territories, the concept of a European division seems impractical once you consider how costly travel is for hockey teams in North America alone. After all, you’re not going to want to totally isolate those European teams, are you?

(Of course, the NHL might decide to expand in the year 2700, a time when we clearly will already know how to teleport and drive hover cars. Or the human race will be extinct. It’s one or the other; I’m unwilling to conceive of any other possibility.)

Anyway, Fasel also discussed the fact that the NHL would have a larger presence if the league continued to be involved in Olympic hockey. He stated that the $3-$4 million the IIHF might be able to raise to encourage NHL to participate would be “pocket money,” which I think is another good point. (Read the article for more details.)

Again, we’ll keep you informed during those maybe-rare times when something interesting will pop up from the World Hockey Summit.

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    Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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    The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

    San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

    The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

    Here’s the goal:

    Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

    Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

    Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

    Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

    The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

    Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

    The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

    Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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    It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

    After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

    In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

    You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

    Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

    It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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    You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

    After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

    “Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

    “I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

    After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

    “We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

    And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

    Related:

    Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

    Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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    Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

    Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

    Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

    “Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

    To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

    This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.