“Worst kept secret in sports”: NHL announces 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia

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The inevitable has finally come to pass: The NHL made the 2012 Winter Classic in Philadelphia official.

Today at Citizens Bank Park in Philly, the Rangers and Flyers each joined NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on the field at the home of the Phillies to make the announcement of the long known Winter Classic matchup official. Commissioner Bettman helped make things go nice and easy by admitting that the announcement of the Winter Classic was, “the worst kept secret in sports.”

With a Monday, January 2 date set for the two teams to square off, the Winter Classic will round out the New Years holiday by playing a day later so as to avoid conflicts with the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles who will host the Washington Redskins at home on January 1. Commissioner Bettman also hyped up this year’s game in typical fashion playing up the rivalry between the two teams and cities.

“The Rangers-Flyers rivalry is one of our very best,” said Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner.  “It is only a short distance from Broadway to Broad Street, and over the years, these not-so-neighborly teams have provided an assortment of memorable games. I have every expectation that the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will provide more great moments to remember.”

The two teams have collided in the past two seasons to play some memorable games that affected each others standings in the playoff race including seeing the Flyers clinch their own playoff spot and knocking the Rangers out two seasons ago. As if the two teams needed any fuel to the fire, Rangers general manager Glen Sather made it clear that the Rangers were coming to town to win and then some.

“We’re going to come to Philadelphia, and we’re going to win… At the end of the year, we’ll be carrying the [Stanley] Cup just like the Yankees will the World Championship.”

Nothing like trolling the entire city of Philadelphia and doing so across two sports on top of it all.

Also included this year, once again, will be HBO’s 24/7. We knew that HBO was already filming some shots in training camp so this too was no surprise. What will be worth watching is to see who embraces the spotlight of the HBO cameras. Philadelphia has Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Pronger, Daniel Briere, and Jaromir Jagr to mug for the camera for them while the Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist, Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, and Sean Avery to eat up the spotlight.

While last year’s Winter Classic had Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby to draw in the superstar firepower, this year’s game and HBO documentary series will have a host of other players to bring in attention. For our own liking, we’d love to see Bryzgalov, Pronger, and Avery get followed around every day just to see what shakes loose. Getting to see how Rangers coach John Tortorella works the room could bring footage that would make Caps coach Bruce Boudreau blush.

Some may complain that the game won’t be the same since it’s not being played on New Year’s Day, but avoiding competition with the last week of the NFL schedule on top of a game being played in the same town makes a world of sense. Getting a full day dedicated to the Winter Classic itself has always been the point and January 2 will be a holiday for most fans. Besides, it won’t matter what day the game is played to get Flyers and Rangers fans to be at each others throats.

Devils’ Zajac out 4-6 months after pectoral surgery

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As much as the New Jersey Devils have made gains in trading for Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson, they’ll still need some familiar faces to fight their way out of the cellar.

It looks almost certain* that they’ll begin the 2017-18 season without one common fixture, as the Devils announced that Travis Zajac will miss about four-to-six months after undergoing surgery on his left pectoral muscle.

The injury occurred during Zajac’s off-season training; the Devils didn’t share exactly how that occurred, though.

Zajac, 32, has generally been quite sturdy for the Devils. He played in 80 games in 2016-17, collecting 45 points. He also appeared in 80 games in 2013-14 while playing 74 in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. He also played all 82 games for four straight seasons early in his career, so this must be frustrating for the veteran center.

* – Yes, four-to-six months would mean missing a significant chunk of the regular season … but sometimes hockey players make downright shocking recoveries. Just saying.

Lightning join effort to move Confederate monument

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The Tampa Bay Lightning joined the Rays and Buccaneers in releasing a joint statement regarding their efforts to help move Confederate monument Memoria in Aeterna from downtown Tampa Bay following last weekend’s awful events in Charlottesville, Va.

This effort gained steam as Hillsborough County government officials announced that $150K in private funds would be needed to make the change, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Go Fund Me drive is currently over $50K as of this writing. If funding goes through, the monument would reportedly move from downtown Tampa Bay to a family cemetery.

Here’s that joint statement:

As Shutdown Corner’s Jay Busbee reports, it’s likely that former NFL head coach Tony Dungy brought wider attention to the matter, challenging sports teams to contribute while donating $5K himself.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reports that Lightning forward J.T. Brown has personally donated $1,500. The donation was inspired in part by the birth of his daughter Lily.

“How would I explain why someone doesn’t like her?” Brown said, via Smith. “Or why is this going on in the world?”

This is what the monument looks like:

This isn’t the only case of NHL teams being connected to those tragic events, as the Detroit Red Wings and NHL announced that they may pursue legal action after the Red Wings’ logo was used by white nationalists during the weekend.

Busbee has more on the Tampa Bay monument situation here.

Penguins shouldn’t rush to replace Bonino

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Nick Bonino was an important player for Pittsburgh the past two years. So when he signed with Nashville on July 1, it was natural for Penguins fans to want an immediate replacement.

But for GM Jim Rutherford, finding a new third-line center may take some time. The Penguins might even start the season without knowing who it will be.

What Rutherford wants to avoid is panicking and being forced into a mistake. All the other general managers are well-aware of what he needs. He’s probably been thrown a few anvils already.

“There’s a couple of guys I could acquire right now,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday. “I feel like there’s another group of guys that could possibly be available here soon. Kind of just waiting to see if that happens. Something could happen in the very near future or this could drag on for a little while.”

If nothing is done by the start of the season, the Penguins could give someone like Jake Guentzel a chance to take over Bonino’s role. Or, if they’d prefer to keep Guentzel in the top six, maybe a youngster like Daniel Sprong or Zach Aston-Reese would be game to try, at least on a temporary basis.

It should be noted that Rutherford has proven a savvy mid-season trader. In 2015-16, he brought in Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, a couple of veterans who played big roles on the way to a Stanley Cup title. And then, last season, he acquired Ron Hainsey, who likewise played a key part in a championship.

Perhaps owing to that experience, Rutherford says he’s more comfortable waiting to unearth a solution than “trading for somebody where I’m not sure whether they can help us or not.”

In fairness, it’s not easy to just replace a productive third-line center whose salary was a bargain. The Penguins had Bonino for a cap hit of just $1.9 million, and he turned his time in Pittsburgh into a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators.

One potential target that’s come up in speculation is the Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bozak, who just so happens to be Phil Kessel‘s good friend and former center.

Bozak, 31, has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, a status that naturally lends itself to trade speculation.

But with a $4.1 million cap hit, making room for Bozak could be a challenge for the Penguins. And on top of that, the Leafs are bound to ask a fair bit for a guy who had 55 points (18G, 37A) last season.

That’s why it’s so hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in today’s NHL. The Penguins were lucky to bring back mostly the same roster last season.

Things will be different in 2017-18.

Related: Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

“The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

“I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer