Joel Ward

Predators draft picks Jonathon Blum, Chase Balisy lived on the same California street

Life often brings along some truly bizarre coincidences. Just ask two players in the Nashville Predators system. The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper writes that current Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum and 2011 sixth round pick Chase Balisy grew up just a few houses apart at Via Encaro in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, making it “the most prolific hockey playing cul-de-sac in the Golden State.”

The stranger part might be that the two say that they don’t even know each other that well. Balisy said that he’s only met Blum “two or three times” and didn’t know that someone else played street hockey there when he first moved to the area. Blum says that they’ve never stepped on the ice with each other before.

One might assume that two players who were drafted by the same organization and who lived on the same street would share a inexorable bond and a lot of similarities. Instead, the two took very different hockey paths.

Cooper describes Blum as a “typical California hockey product” who started playing hockey on the street and played locally until he joined the WHL’s Vancouver Giants when he was 16 years old. On the other hand, Balisy would shuttle off to Toronto during winter months by age 10, coming back to that California street during the summer.

Balisy moved to Toronto at age 10 with his mother and sister to pursue his hockey career during the winter months. He would return to Rancho, to his father’s house, during the summer. Even the idea of rollerblades makes Balisy cringe.

“I didn’t play any roller hockey at all,” he said. “First time I was on rollerblades I was 10, and I could barely skate.”

Aside from occasional training camps, it might take unusual circumstances for Blum and Balisy to play on the same ice surface very often. As a first round pick (23rd overall in 2007), Blum has already made an impact on the Predators defensive corps, playing 23 regular season games and all 12 playoff contests in 2010-11. Balisy’s a long way from making it to the NHL level as a sixth round pick, as the team hopes that the forward can get bigger and stronger at Western Michigan and maybe get a shot at the NHL level.

Balisy only needs to look down the street (at least when he’s in California) to find an example that someone can make that happen.

When Blum went home after the season — before the draft — he bumped into Balisy’s father, walking his dog on the street. They stopped and chatted about Chase’s pro prospects, unaware that the Predators were high on the younger Balisy.

“It’s pretty cool he got drafted to the Predators,” Blum said. “His parents and my parents will hopefully go to each other’s houses and watch games together.”

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
1 Comment

The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
Leave a comment

The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?