While the players, coaches, and staff at Heinz Field are busy preparing for the Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, there’s another group that’s already well into the game and doing their best off the ice.
The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
The Feds seized shipments of counterfeit Winter Classic merchandise that was on its way to Pittsburgh to be sold around the city for the New Years Day event. If this seems like it’s not that big of a deal, you’d be very wrong.
In the past month authorities in Pittsburgh scanned incoming packages for counterfeit goods and intercepted shipments from overseas of almost 800 fake items. The counterfeits included NHL and National Football League jerseys, hats, T-shirts and other souvenirs worth an estimated $100,000, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said.
Recently, the NHL shared information saying that over 38,000 Winter Classic jerseys alone have been sold in advance of the game and after walking around Pittsburgh the last couple of days, I almost think that number is grossly under reported. Much like a rock concert or any other big pro sporting event, there’s always going to be some shady characters selling questionable merchandise for well under market value in the vicinity of the venue. It is, however, good to see that the number of brutal fakes will be less than anticipated.
There won’t be a shortage of places to get Winter Classic gear at Heinz Field as there’s numerous booths inside and outside the stadium including this truck from Dick’s Sporting Goods that’ll be setting up shop next to the stadium.
If you want the real stuff, just stick to the guys selling from the booths. If you want shoddy, sketchy merchandise I’m willing to bet there’ll be guys with duffle bags and cardboard boxes to feed your need.
The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN features the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers.
Both teams have been stumbling a bit here and there. The Flyers only have three wins since Jan. 31, though one of them came in their last game on Sunday. The Capitals lost both games since returning from their bye week.
The cost of struggles are easier for Washington to stomach, naturally. They’d rather make their Metropolitan Division lead insurmountable, but even so, they’re at least three points ahead of everyone else and have played the same or fewer games as their divisional peers.
The Flyers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Right now they’re on the outside looking in.
So both teams want this one, but the desperation level is higher for Philly. We’ll see how that impacts the game on NBCSN tonight. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.
Click here for the livestream.
— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.
— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)
— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)
— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)
— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins. (Canadian Press)
— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)
Enjoy the games!
Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan, who’s only played 18 games this year while recovering from offseason hip surgery, has undergone a follow-up procedure and will be sidelined indefinitely.
The Bolts made the announcement on Wednesday, just hours after a big 4-1 win over Edmonton. Callahan wasn’t in the lineup to face the Oilers — he hasn’t played since early January, when he skated just under 15 minutes in a loss to Philly.
The nature of this ailment has to be concerning.
Callahan, who turns 32 next month, is in the third of a six-year, $34.8 million deal with a $5.8M average annual cap hit. And this lingering hip problem comes on the heels of a disappointing ’15-16 campaign, in which Callahan scored just 10 goals and 28 points — the lowest marks since his rookie campaign.
As such, Tampa Bay is now bracing for an immediate future without a huge part of its leadership group. Captain Steve Stamkos has resumed skating, but there’s no set date for his return from major knee surgery.
Callahan, who’s been an alternate captain in each of the last three seasons, won’t be playing anytime soon either.
Toronto forward Nazem Kadri drew the ire of Jets d-man Ben Chiarot on Tuesday night for a big — albeit questionable — hit in the Leafs’ OT win.
Chiarot was visibly displeased following the game and alluded to getting even.
“It’s not the right time or place to chase him down, but there will be a time down the line,” he said, per Sportsnet. “Might not be this year, might not be next year.
“But there will be a time where the shoe will be on the other foot.”
Today, Kadri responded.
“I’m not worried at all,” Kadri said, per TSN. “I’ll be here for hopefully a few years. But like I said, if that was one of my teammates getting hit like that, I probably wouldn’t be too happy, so I expect that kind of reaction.”
Kadri’s hit, which went unpenalized, drew the ire of Chiarot’s head coach as well. Jets bench boss Paul Maurice was also visibly displeased following the game.
“He’s six inches in the air when he makes contact,” Maurice said, per Sportsnet. “In my mind, from the rear view, the first thing that moves on Benny is the helmet. Didn’t like it.”
Kadri’s been involved in a few high-profile collisions this season. He pasted Sabres captain Brian Gionta in a game earlier this month, and avoided suspension for a controversial hit on Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin back in November.