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Yzerman will ask all Lightning players to wear visors next year

On the heels of Manny Malhotra’s frightening eye injury, NHL players and the use of visors is back in the minds of hockey people. In what seems like an annual debate, the question of whether or not visors should be mandatory has been debated on blogs, talk radio, and on intermission shows over the last week. Some players think they should be able to use whatever equipment they choose, while others think the visors should be grandfathered into the league like helmets were in the 1980s. Until the NHL speaks out and implements a comprehensive bylaw on the subject, the debate will rage on.

In Tampa, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is attempting to be proactive on the situation before a catastrophic event forces his hand. In the wake of watching his captain narrowly escape serious injury, he will ask every player on his team to consider using a visor for the start of next season. He explained his intentions to Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times (h/t to Kukla’s Korner):

“We don’t want people getting injured. We want to keep their eyesight and noses in place, so it’s something we would like to push moving forward.”

Early returns amongst Tampa’s players have been mixed upon hearing their GM’s intentions. Vincent Lecavalier said he’s going to put the visor on during the offseason so he can get used to it before starting next season. That shouldn’t be a surprising development considering he just narrowly avoided a serious eye injury on Sunday in Chicago. He suffered a bruised cornea and a pretty severe scratch—but nothing serious. In this case, a bruised cornea was a “best case scenario.”

On the other side of the fence, Lightning winger Ryan Malone will be a little more difficult to convince. When asked how he felt about visors, he wasn’t as open-minded to the idea as his captain.

“When I’ve worn a visor in the past, at the Olympics and so forth, it’s more of a pain. I feel like I’m wasting more energy cleaning it.”
“I probably should [wear a visor]. But we all are in this from the beginning knowing, knock on wood, there’s a lot of crazy things that might happen out there with blades, sticks and pucks. It comes with the territory.”

Sure, those might not be words of wisdom, but you can’t question the man’s honesty. His argument is a version of the same argument that has been used by players for years. Invariably, the justification revolves around inconvenience for the players. Either the visor fogs up, they lose peripheral vision, or they feel like they lose their “ice awareness.” It’s just more convenient to play without a visor and risk injury.

Whether the Lightning players take Yzerman’s pleas to heart or not will be answered in September. But even if they don’t, the GM has opened up another avenue for safety in the NHL. In the past, it was always the players who would unilaterally decide to put the visor on and fans would say the NHL needed to introduce a league mandate. But with Yzerman, a new solution has been introduced. It only makes sense that a team would want to protect their players (read: investments). If a team asks the player to play with a visor, it will help players from the AHL/juniors to keep the visor on their helmets.

Further, it provides an excuse for the players who have been hesitant to put on the visor because of a perceived lack of testosterone when wearing a visor. Then again, back in the day it was the same story with helmets. Perhaps this is the first step to get all the players in the league on board one day—whether they’re mandatory or not.

Top prospects Tkachuk, Mitchell power London to 2016 Memorial Cup

RED DEER, AB - MAY 29:  JJ Piccinich #84 of the London Knights (OHL) collides with Jean-Christophe Beaudin #16 of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL) during the Memorial Cup Final on May 29, 2016 at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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The London Knights feature a line full of players with interesting NHL futures, and all three of those forwards came up big on Sunday.

Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak combined forces to pull London to a 3-2 overtime win against the Rouyn-Naranda Huskies, winning the 2016 Memorial Cup.

Things looked pretty shaky for London; its winning streak looked like it was in danger with Rouyn-Naranda taking a late 2-1 lead. The Knights failed on what seemed like a golden 5-on-3 opportunity, but they didn’t let that deter them.

Tkachuk scored two goals, Dvorak generated a goal and an assist and Marner was named tournament MVP as the Knights’ 17th consecutive win wrapped up the Memorial Cup for that special group.

Tkachuk (a high-end prospect for the upcoming draft) and Marner (the fourth pick to Toronto back in 2015) are the bigger names, but Dvorak – the 58th pick back in 2014 – came up big, too.

Yes, Thornton and Marleau have been dreaming of a run like this

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 07:  Joe Thornton #19 of the San Jose Sharks celebrates after Patrick Marleau (not pictured) scored the game winning goal against Kevin Bieksa #3 (L) and the Vancouver Canucks in overtime of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 7, 2013 in San Jose, California. The Sharks defeated the Canucks 4-3 to sweep the series 4 games to 0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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After seeing them suffer some ignominious playoff defeats, plenty of people are happy for Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton as they enter their first Stanley Cup Final.

The two veteran San Jose Sharks forwards aren’t playing coy about it, either; they’ve been picturing such scenarios for ages.

Both Thornton and Marleau seemingly uttered the same things as Game 1 approaches against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

“This is everything I’ve been dreaming about for a long, long time,” Marleau said.

It’s hard to believe that we are months removed from a time when it seemed like one or both of these longtime Sharks were in the thick of seemingly legitimate trade rumors. Marleau, in particular, sounded like he might be on the verge of moving on.

Instead, they’re as deep in the postseason as they have ever been and Thornton is talking about his beard.

Life is good.

Joel Ward believes NHL should retire No. 22 in honor of Willie O’Ree

RALEIGH, NC - MAY 15:  NHL ambassador Willie O'Ree talks with the Capital City Crew and the Raleigh Youth Hockey Association during a clinic, Hockey is for Everyone, sponsored by the NHL and the Carolina Hurricanes at the Cary Ice House on May 15, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.   (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images for NHL)
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Sometimes players wear a jersey number as a tribute to a childhood favorite. Sometimes it’s merely to mark their birth year and other times it’s merely what was handed to them.

For Joel Ward, his 42 has a lot of meaning, and it brings to mind black athletes who were pioneers in their respective sports.

Yes, indeed, Ward wears No. 42 to honor Jackie Robinson. As the San Jose Sharks forward told ESPN, he’d love it if the NHL discussed retiring No. 22 in honor of its first black hockey player, Willie O’Ree.

“I definitely think Willie should be recognized for sure,” Ward said. “The league obviously does that with task force but I do think that Willie should definitely be a big part of the league for sure for what he did. It’s a no-brainer. Without Willie, it would be tough for me to be sitting here today. I definitely think Willie should be a big part of this.”

Sounds like a great idea, one that would echo the MLB doing the same with Robinson’s No. 42.

For more, check out that great ESPN story.

Sharks and DeBoer ready for Pittsburgh, ‘the fastest team in the league’

SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 10:  Head coach Peter DeBoer talks to his team during their game against the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center on October 10, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — The San Jose Sharks are one of the NHL’s best skating teams.

Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette, who watched his Predators get bounced by the Sharks in Round 2, said as much.

So too did St. Louis bench boss Ken Hitchcock, whose Blues were eliminated by San Jose in the Western Conference Final.

“They’re a fast team,” Hitchcock said. “They skate fast. They skate fast, they support the puck. They might look faster than they are, but they’ve got a lot of quick players.

“They’ve got a lot of aggressive skating players. They got a lot of guys that can motor.”

Yeah, the Sharks are quick.

But according to their head coach, maybe not the quickest.

During today’s Stanley Cup media availability, Peter DeBoer called the Pittsburgh Penguins “the fastest team in the league,” adding this series wouldn’t be just about skating, but the possession game as well.

“If you control the puck,” DeBoer explained, “it’s harder to create speed.”

And with that, the 2016 Stanley Cup Final blueprint took shape.

To be fair, the speed-versus-speed angle had already been established. Almost immediately after beating Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final, Pens captain Sidney Crosby was asked about his club’s looming matchup with the Sharks.

“It’s going to be fast hockey,” Crosby said. “Two teams that want to play the exact same way, that want to get their D involved (and) their power play is really dangerous.

“It’s going to be quite the series.”

On defense, both teams feature good mobility, highlighted by a star offensive defenseman: Brent Burns for San Jose, Kris Letang for Pittsburgh.

“Both have great shots and get pucks through,” Pens d-man Justin Schultz said, per the Tribune-Review. “Both are always jumping up. And great skaters. Both are very mobile.

“Tanger is for sure a lot smoother [as a skater]. But Burnsy is still fast. And more powerful, maybe. He’s a big boy, and he’s going to be tough to handle.”

Each respective blueline plays a big role in the generation of team speed. Both the Pens and Sharks have excellent transition games featuring quick, speedy forwards, so it makes sense — the defensemen, tasked with getting those forwards the pucks, need to be mobile too.

Up front, there’s speed across the board. Pittsburgh’s Carl Hagelin won fastest skater competition at All-Star weekend four years ago. Last week, Sharks d-man Brenden Dillon said 36-year-old Patrick Marleau is “still one of the fastest skaters in the league.” Phil Kessel and Matt Nieto can fly, too.

So when previewing the Stanley Cup Final, don’t be fooled when you read predictions of a “quick series.”

That doesn’t mean it’ll be over quick.

Just means it’ll be quick.

Related: Need for speed: Sharks, Pens brace for ‘fast hockey’ in Stanley Cup Final