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Deaths of Boogaard, Rypien prompt NHL to examine its support programs

The hockey world was shaken by Monday’s news of Rick Rypien’s death at age 27, which came about two months after Derek Boogaard’s untimely death at 28. Many reacted to Rypien’s death with great sadness, from teammates to fans and even former opponents. Yet there was also sizable contingent of people looking for someone beyond Rypien to blame, with several onlookers casting that gaze at the way the NHL handles players dealing with personal issues.

I believe that it is unfair to cast blame on the league and its teams, especially since the deaths of Rypien and Boogaard were both such personal and complicated matters. Sadly, that’s the way society often reacts to tragedies that are difficult to accept: by finding the easiest target to blame.

While NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was quick to claim that the league’s support program ranks among the best in sports, he admitted that the league and its players association will examine its substance abuse and behavioral health program after those two sad, high-profile deaths.

“My guess is we’ll talk at the appropriate time with the players’ association, making sure that we’re comfortable with all of the mechanisms and programs we have in place, which are extensive,” Bettman told The Canadian Press at the league’s research and development camp on Wednesday. “I don’t think any sports league does more than we do but maybe there’s more, as we focus on it, that we need to focus on. I know it’s always hard for people to accept, but sports is a microcosm of society in general.

“And life isn’t always easy.”

Union executive and former NHL defenseman Mathieu Schneider echoed Bettman’s sentiments.

While referring to the NHL-NHLPA support program as “very strong,” union executive Mathieu Schneider indicated that he shares Bettman’s desire to look closely at ways it might be improved.

“I think there certainly has to be some work done in addressing issues,” said Schneider, the NHLPA’s special adviser to executive director Don Fehr. “If anything could have been done that would have helped those players, if anything can be done to help future players, we certainly need to do it.”

The Canadian Press article states that the league and NHLPA try to limit the amount of details revealed about the program to protect those who undergo treatment, but Schneider said that players are aware of the services made available. Those services include access to counselors and a 24-hour help line.

Both Boogaard and Rypien tried to get help. One of the saddest details about Boogaard’s death was that it reportedly came the day after he left treatment. Rypien took a leave of absence on two occasions – most recently in November 2010 – to try to deal with his personal issues.

To some, that might be proof that the system isn’t working, but it’s also clear that attempts were made to help both players work out their issues. Let’s not forget that the program seemed to benefit Nashville Predators forward Jordin Tootoo, although anyone familiar with these situations will acknowledge that battling personal demons is often a gradual process with ups and downs.

One thing Schneider brought up is a crucial factor for anyone dealing with depression and other issues: communication. That’s an area that Schneider believes players could work on.

“Maybe it would have been better had Rick been able to lean on some teammates and guys there for support,” said Schneider. “But those type of things have always been kind of taboo. You just don’t talk about it.”

Again, these are complicated situations that don’t always have obvious resolutions. That being said, it’s good to hear that the league and its players association will discuss ways to improve the process. It would be wrong to say that the NHL doesn’t care about helping its players, but there’s always room for improvement.

PHT Morning Skate: What superstition? Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz grab the Prince of Wales Trophy

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and touch the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Top)

–Former NHLers look back at their Game 7 battles. (Sports Illustrated)

–A Q&A with the newest Panther Jared McCann. (NHL)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Penguins and Lightning:

Joe Pavelski went from not being able to skate and not being big enough to becoming a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. (TSN)

Bryan Rust accomplished something pretty rare this postseason:

–Some teams still need to sign some of their prospects or risk losing them.

World Championship standout Shipachev named to Team Russia’s World Cup roster

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 21: Tomi Sallinen #51 of Finland and Vadim Shipachyov #87 of Russia battle for the puck at Ice Palace on May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. Finland defeated Russia 3-1. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Team Russia filled out the remaining seven spots on their World Cup of Hockey roster earlier today.

Vadim Shipachev, who was fantastic in Russia’s Bronze Medal effort at the World Championships this month, was added to the team. The other additions to the roster are Ivan Telegin (CSKA Moscow), Evgenii Dadonov (SKA Saint Petersburg), Slava Voynov (SKA Saint Petersburg), Nikita Zaitsev (Toronto), Alexey Marchenko (Detroit) and Alexei Emelin (Montreal) were also added to the roster.

Shipachev was the leading scorer at the 2016 worlds. He finished the tournament with six goals and 18 points in 10 games. A number of teams are reportedly interested in bringing the 29-year-old over to the NHL for the upcoming season.

Former Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (yes, that Slava Voynov) also won bronze with Shipachev at the World Championship earlier this month. The 26-year-old had no goals and seven assists in 23 games in the KHL in 2015-16. He was forced to go back to Russia after spending time behind bars because of a domestic dispute with his wife. There is some doubt as to whether or not Voynov is eligible for the tournament.

As always, Russia will have some serious firepower up front.

Here’s the full roster:

G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

D Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens 
D Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers
D Alexey Marchenko, Detroit Red Wings 
D Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
D Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals
D Slava Voynov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) 
D Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs 

F Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks
F Evgenii Dadonov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) 
F Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders
F Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals
F Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks
F Vadim Shipachev, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) 
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Ivan Telegin, CSKA Moscow (KHL) 

It’s no surprise that Oilers forward Nail Yakupov isn’t on the roster. After their Bronze Medal win at the worlds, Russia’s head coach Oleg Znarok said not having Yakupov on the team was “addition by subtraction”.

Hemsky, Faksa and the Michalek brothers added to Czech Republic’s World Cup roster

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 18:  Ales Hemsky #83 of Czech Republic celebrates after scoring in the first period against Slovakia during the Men's Qualification Playoff Game on day 11 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
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Team Czech Republic announced their full 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Like every other team, the Czechs named 16 players to their roster back in March. Joining the likes of Jakub Voracek, Tomas Plekanec, Ondrej Palat and David Krejci are Milan Michalek (Toronto), Dmitrij Jaskin (St. Louis), Ales Hemsky (Dallas), Radek Faksa (Dallas), Jakub Nakladal (Calgary), Zbynek Michalek (Arizona) and Michal Jordan (Carolina).

Hemsky posted 13 goals and 39 points in 2015-16 and added a goal and four points during the Stars’ postseason run.

Milan Michalek has represented his country a number of times, including in the last Olympics where he had no points in five contests. The 31-year-old was traded from Ottawa to Toronto as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade, but he didn’t have a good season, as a finger injury derailed his year. He finished the season with seven goals and 16 points in 45 games.

Milan’s older brother, Zbynek, has also represented his nation a number of times at the international level. He took part in each of the last two Olympics.

Nakladal completed his first season in the NHL in 2015-16. The 28-year-old had two goals and five points in 27 contests with the Flames.

Former St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka, who was named to the team back on Mar. 2, is the only player on the roster who isn’t currently in the NHL.

Here’s the full roster:

G Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings
G Michal Neuvirth, Philadelphia Flyers
G Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

D Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers
D Michal Jordan, Carolina Hurricanes *
D Michal Kempny, Chicago Blackhawks
D Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes *
D Jakub Nakladal, Calgary Flames *
D Roman Polak, San Jose Sharks
D Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars *
F Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames
F Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes
F Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars *
F Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks
F Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues *
F David Krejci, Boston Bruins
F Milan Michalek, Toronto Maple Leafs *
F Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning
F David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
F Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens
F Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL)
F Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers

Earlier this week, Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr announced that he wouldn’t be taking part in the World Cup event.

In a surprising move, Jagr’s teammate in Florida, Jiri Hudler, was left off the roster. The 32-year-old had 16 goals and 46 points in 72 games with the Flames and Panthers in 2015-16. Radim Vrbata (Canucks), Tomas Fleischmann and Andrej Nestrasil (Carolina) also didn’t make the cut.

Laine makes Team Finland for World Cup, Puljujarvi doesn’t

Patrik Laine of Finland celebrates scoring against Russia during the 2016 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championship final match between Finland and Russia in Helsinki, Finland, Tuesday Jan. 5, 2016. (Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva via AP) FINLAND OUT
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The Finns rounded out their 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster on Friday morning, and two of the country’s brightest young prospects received decidedly different news.

Patrik Laine, the reigning World Hockey Championship MVP and likely No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft, was named to the squad. Jesse Puljujarvi, the 2016 World Juniors MVP and presumptive No. 3 pick, was left off.

Puljujarvi, 18, was edged out for a spot at forward by Laine, Minnesota’s Erik Haula and Sebastian Aho, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect that spent last season playing for Karpat of the SM-liiga.

Aho, another 18-year-old, played alongside Laine for Finland’s silver medal-winning squad at the Worlds and finished the tournament with seven points in 10 games.

On defense, Finland added three more skaters to the roster: Calgary’s Jyrki Jokipakka, Chicago farmhand Ville Pokka and Sami Lepisto, who plays in the KHL.

In goal, another KHLer — SKA Saint Petersburgh’s Mikko Koskinen — was selected, and will compete for minutes with Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

The Finnish roster, in full:

G Mikko Koskinen, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) *
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

D Jyrki Jokipakka, Calgary Flames *
D Sami Lepisto, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL) *
D Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars
D Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins
D Ville Pokka, Rockford IceHogs (AHL) *
D Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres
D Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks

F Sebastian Aho, Karpat Oulu (SM-liiga) *
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks
F Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild
F Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild *
F Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers
F Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
F Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Lauri Korpikoski, Edmonton Oilers
F Patrik Laine, Tappara Tempere (SM-liiga) *
F Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues
F Teuvo Teravainen, Chicago Blackhawks

* named to roster today

Among the notable “snubs” for Finland? Detroit’s Teemu Pulkkinen, Vancouver’s Markus Granlund (Mikael’s brother), Winnipeg’s Joel Armia, former Boston Bruin Joonas Kemppainen and Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki.

In addition to Puljujarvi, it’s also worth noting two of the country’s brightest young prospects failed to make it: Kasperi Kapanen, who made his NHL debut for the Leafs this year, and Mikko Rantanen, the promising Colorado forward taken 10th overall in ’15.