Evander Kane seeks Bobby Hull’s approval to wear No. 9 with the Winnipeg Jets

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Despite being a player who only received limited exposure during his first two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, Evander Kane has already made a positive impression on hockey fans. It’s pretty tough to dislike a player who was named after Evander Holyfield (and who lived up to that billing when he scored a karmic one-hit knockout on Matt Cooke). Now it seems like long-time hockey fans will also associate Kane with legendary goal scorer Bobby Hull.

Before the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets, few people cared that Kane wore No. 9. It’s a number he’s worn for much of his budding hockey career. That situation became very different once the team took on the Jets’ name, though.

In case you’re not a hockey history buff, Hull wore No. 9 during his foray with the World Hockey Association’s incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. He played parts of eight seasons with the Jets, scoring more than 300 goals and over 600 points in about 400 games with Winnipeg.* Hull’s peak season came in 1974-75 when he scored a stunning 77 goals and 142 points at the age of 36.

Looking at those lofty numbers, it makes sense that Kane is a little nervous about wearing No. 9. If this story in the Vancouver Province is any indication, he’s more concerned about offending Hull’s sensibilties than he is about the pressure that would come from wearing that iconic number.

“It’s almost like asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage,” says Kane, who plans to speak to Bobby Hull about wearing No. 9, the sweater the Golden Jet made famous in Winnipeg and had retired by the previous incarnation of the team.

“I’ve read somewhere on Twitter that he had done an interview and said that he wanted me to wear it proudly. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to speak to him soon. If he doesn’t have an issue with me wearing it, I’ll do my best on and off to live up to wearing that number. If I have to change, I’ll change.”

(snip)

“I’m excited to play in Canada, to play under a microscope. I like the pressure. I perform better under the pressure. If you can embrace the pressure and embrace the expectations that will come from playing in a city like Winnipeg, it can only lead to good things for you, both on and off the ice.”

If nothing else, Kane seems like he has at least some of Hull’s famous swagger. He has a long way to go before he even approaches Hull’s prolific scoring ways even relative to these lower scoring times (Kane scored a career-high 43 points in 2010-11, his second season in the NHL), but it seems like he might have the moxie to live up to wearing that number. If nothing else, he came into the league expecting some scrutiny as the fourth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

This dilemma ultimately comes from the fact that True North is allowed to use the Winnipeg Jets brand even though the “history” of that franchise is technically tied up to the Phoenix Coyotes organization. If you ask me, Kane should be able to wear the number (and Winnipeg fans are embracing the idea, at least judging from this poll) as long as he’s willing to handle the heat that comes with it.

* The exact numbers are a little foggy. The Vancouver Province lists his goal total at 303 and so does hockey-reference.com, yet that might have left out the four goals he scored in an abbreviated 1979-80 season. Whether it’s 307 or 303, that’s still a ridiculous amount of goals in a bit more than 400 games.

(H/T to Puck Daddy.)

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.