Nordiques fans to have "Blue March" to show they're serious about NHL again

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nordiquesvsjets.jpgQuebec City’s renewed vigor for the NHL is a truly fascinating thing. From the stories about how they’re looking to build an NHL-ready arena in the city to replace the vastly outdated Colisée de Quebec to speculating on which teams they think would be most ready to move out of their current home to move to La Belle Provence it’s incredible to see such interest in pro hockey there once again.

Making things all that much stranger is an event being called the Blue March set to happen in Quebec City and featuring lots of former Quebec Nordiques and Quebec politicians to rally for the return of the NHL including Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny.

“I had my greatest moments in Quebec City,” said Goulet, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. “I had 10 great years so it’s important to show my support to the fans.”

Slovakian scorer Peter Stastny, who played alongside Goulet for a decade in Quebec City and was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same year, says making the trip from Europe will be symbolic for fans and important to him.

“I know how big this will be for the people,” Stastny said from his office in Brussels, where he serves in the European Parliament.

Aside from the former dynamic duo, other former Nordiques who plan to travel to the capital for the rally include Steve Finn, Mario Marois, Alain Cote and Pierre Lacroix.

What’s baffling about this is that this rally is happening 15 years after the Nordiques left Quebec City for Denver where they became the Colorado Avalanche and promptly won the Stanley Cup in their first season in the city. It’s possible that this is just a lot of political grandstanding to help get a new arena built there and improve the standing of the city as a location for a team to move or as a candidate for future expansion.

For everything that went wrong the first time in Quebec, what held the Nordiques down were politics, taxes, a bad Canadian dollar, and rapidly decaying building. While politics and taxes will always be an issue, the Canadian dollar has vastly improved against the American dollar and getting a big, new arena would instantly make Quebec City a great destination as compared to Winnipeg. As for what the Blue March itself, I hope the fans in Quebec City enjoy the day to relive the memories of the Nordiques, but I sure hope they’re not expecting anything more than a politically motivated dog and pony show.

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    Blues to retire Bob Plager’s No. 5

    ST. LOUIS - APRIL 9:  Former St. Louis Blues defenseman Al MacInnis #2 and his family watch his banner being raised during his jersey retirement ceremony prior to the game between the Blues and Edmonton Oilers at the Savvis Center on April 9, 2006 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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    The St. Louis Blues will commemorate their 50th anniversary with a special ceremony on Feb. 2, retiring the No. 5 jersey worn by longtime defenseman Bob Plager.

    More, from the club:

    Plager, who was acquired by the Blues on June 6, 1967 and has been with the organization for all 50 years, will become the seventh player in Blues history to have his number retired, joining No. 2 Al MacInnis, No. 3 Bob Gassoff, No. 11 Brian Sutter, No. 16 Brett Hull, No. 24 Bernie Federko and his brother, No. 8 Barclay Plager.

    Bob and Barclay Plager join Maurice and Henri Richard (Montreal Canadiens) as the only brothers to have their numbers retired by the same team in NHL history.

    Plager played 10 seasons with the Blues, then transitioned to a number of front office and coaching roles within the organization.

    In a unique twist, his No. 5 was never taken out of circulation and subsequently worn by another staple of the Blues organization — Barret Jackman, who recently retired after spending 16 years in St. Louis, appearing in over 800 games.

    Prior to the February retirement ceremony, Blues fans will be able to recognize Plager this Saturday when St. Louis hosts Los Angeles at Scottrade.

    Flames can get back to .500 with win over Sens

    CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The Calgary Flames have won two in a row, but they’re still a losing hockey club heading into tonight’s home game against Ottawa.

    That’s the message head coach Glen Gulutzan has been preaching after encouraging back-to-back victories in Chicago and St. Louis.

    “We’re still below .500,” Gulutzan said. “We can’t rest at all. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’ve played two good games. That’s what we’ve accomplished. You need to get on a roll and you need to keep pushing. Keep the focus and keep pushing.”

    The Flames (3-4-1) did not just get lucky in their last two games. They were especially good Tuesday in St. Louis, outshooting the Blues, 30-24, in a 4-1 win. Meanwhile, goalie Brian Elliott has bounced back after a tough debut for his new team; he’ll get a third straight start tonight.

    Suffice to say, the mood around the team has improved considerably.

    “My lips were getting sore from sucking on the exhaust pipe,” GM Brad Treliving jokingly told the Calgary Sun. “It was never as bad as it seemed, but it’s a stark change to how we played. … It’s a relief to stop the bleeding. We were disciplined, the power play worked, we limited chances, we didn’t turn the puck over and the goalie found his groove.”

    Related: The Flames are still learning their new system, and it shows

    Goalie nods: Kinkaid makes season debut for Devils

    New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid (1) watches a shot on goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in Newark N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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    There’ll be a new look in goal for New Jersey this evening, as backup Keith Kinkaid gets his first start of the season as the Devils host the Blackhawks.

    Kinkaid will give Cory Schneider the night off, after Schneider started New Jersey’s first six games of the year.

    This promises to be a game worth monitoring. Kinkaid spent last year as Schneider’s backup — going 9-9-1 with a 2.81 GAA and .904 save percentage — but, this year, had to beat out Scott Wedgewood for the gig during training camp and the exhibition campaign.

    What’s more, Kinkaid is being thrown into a difficult matchup, taking on a Chicago team that’s averaging 3.43 goals per game this season. The ‘Hawks are busting out new lines tonight, too, as Patrick Kane will skate alongside Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.

    Corey Crawford will start for Chicago.


    Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes, who are playing their first home game of the season. Henrik Lundqvist goes for the Rangers.

    — It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Semyon Varlamov as the Jets take on the Avs in Colorado.

    Andrew Hammond, now Ottawa’s No. 1 with Craig Anderson away dealing with a personal issue, gets the nod in Calgary. He’ll be up against Brian Elliott, who has rebounded from a poor start to win both of his last two starts.

    — The red-hot Cam Talbot goes again for Edmonton tonight in Vancouver. The Canucks will counter with Ryan Miller.

    — No confirmed starters in Anaheim yet. Sergei Bobrovsky played in last night’s loss to San Jose, and John Gibson has been carrying the load lately with Jonathan Bernier out injured.

    Marchessault, Pirri providing great bang for buck

    SUNRISE, FL - OCTOBER 13: Jonathan Marchessault #81 of the Florida Panthers celebrates a goal during Opening Night of the 2016-2017 NHL Season against New Jersey Devils at BB&T Center on October 13, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    This summer’s free agent class was highlighted by a number of big-money deals.

    Yet through the first month of the season, the real highlight has been the guys that came on the cheap.

    Nowhere is this more true than in Florida, where Jonathan Marchessault — signed to a two-year, $1.5 million deal with a $750,000 cap hit — has been a revelation. The undrafted free agent, who spent time with the Rangers, Blue Jackets and Lightning, has five goals and 10 points through seven games with the Panthers.

    Marchessault is playing on the club’s top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr, and leads the Panthers in scoring.

    “It’s been a wonderful find for us,” team president Dale Tallon told Sportsnet. “He’s real tricky and good down low. Sees the ice well. He’s not the biggest guy. Some guys slip through the cracks. Some guys are late bloomers.

    “It’s not necessarily a bad thing to not get drafted.”

    In New York, one of Tallon’s ex-players is providing equally good value.

    Brandon Pirri, who went most of the summer without a contract before signing with the Rangers in August, is off to a terrific start. Inked to a one-year, $1.1 million deal, Pirri has four goals and six points in seven games, and leads the team in power-play markers.

    “I’m glad we’re the ones who got him,” Derek Stepan said, per the Associated Press. “He’s got a knack for the net. It’s not easy to score goals in this league and he seems to be in those areas to score.

    “That’s a difficult thing and, to me, that’s a skill. If you have it, it’s special and it’s rare.”

    Some other under-the-radar signings that have stood out:

    — The backup goalie position in Montreal was a disaster last season, so full credit to GM Marc Bergevin for solving it on the cheap. Al Montoya was brought aboard for $950,000, and all he’s done is go 3-0-1 with a .955 save percentage and 1.47 GAA. He also provided crucial stability at the start of the year, too, when Carey Price was sidelined with the flu.

    — In Dallas, Adam Cracknell has capitalized on the opportunity provided by all the club’s injuries at forward. Signed to a two-way deal with a $600,000 cap hit, 31-year-old has two goals and three points through seven games, appearing in every contest for the Stars this season while averaging over 10 minutes per.

    Patrick Wiercioch, who didn’t even get a qualifying offer from Ottawa, signed with Colorado for $800,000. The 26-year-old d-man has been great offensively, with five points through five games, leading all Avs blueliners in scoring.

    — Speaking of Ottawa, GM Pierre Dorion did well to sign Tom Pyatt out of the Swiss League. Inked to a one-year, two-way deal worth $800,000, Pyatt returned to the NHL after two years abroad and “has been really good for us on both sides of the ice,” according to head coach Guy Boucher. Pyatt has three points through six games and is one of the club’s top penalty killers.