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PHT’s NHL primer for disenchanted NBA fans


Hello and welcome to ProHockeyTalk! This is a blog covering the game of ice hockey. Perhaps you’ve heard of it.

We realize today must be an especially difficult one for you as the NBA season was supposed to tip off. Is that the right term, tip off? The only other basketball term we know is chest pass and “the NBA season was supposed to chest pass” doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, we thought it’d be a nice gesture if we introduced you to the game of hockey. Oh sure, there are plenty of other sports to keep you occupied like professional football, college football, high school football, Pop Warner football or Canadian football, if you’re desperate. But there’s a chance you might want to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. So here’s a quick Q&A to get you up to speed on the wonderful game of hockey.

Who is the best team in the NHL?

The Boston Bruins won last year’s Stanley Cup (given annually to the NHL playoff champion), but they’re off to a bad start this year. In fact, they’ve been overtaken in their division by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, the Maple Leafs are the best team?

Hahahaha, no. They’ve probably got another two, maybe three weeks left in them. The teams you want to focus on are Pittsburgh, Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Boston, San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. Yeah, 11 teams. There’s a lot of parity in hockey.

Who is the LeBron James of the NHL?

If you’re talking about the most supremely talented player with unparallelled skill, that would be Sidney Crosby. If you’re talking about the most polarizing player with a knack for coming up small in the biggest moments, that would be Roberto Luongo. Some people actually call him “LeBrongo.” Seriously.

Boston is the NBA’s most storied franchise, having won 17 championships. Who is the NHL equivalent?

That would be the Montreal Canadiens, who have won 24 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens are one of the most revered franchises in all of professional sports and widely known as the NHL’s classiest organization. Last week they fired their assistant coach 90 minutes before a game.

Has the NHL ever had a similar labor dispute?


What about ethnic diversity? The NBA has tons of international players.

The NHL currently features Canadians, Americans, Russians, Finns, Swedes, Czechs, Slovaks, Austrians, Danes, Germans and Belorussians as well as players from France, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway and Poland. The league is welcoming to all ethnicities, though Raffi Torres’ Halloween costume set the ol’ diversity program back a step or two.

Why, what did he do?

He dressed up as Jay-Z.


With face paint.


Yeah, it was kind of a thing.

Is that really racist though?

Let’s not get into that now.

Do they actually let the players fight in the NHL?

Well, they give them five minutes in the penalty box, so technically it’s penalized.

But it still happens?

Oh yeah, lots.

Why do they allow it?

Mostly because the fans like it. But it also holds players accountable on the ice. If they didn’t have fighting, there’d be all sorts of cheap shots out there.

So there are no cheap shots in hockey?

There are still quite a few cheap shots.

Why does hockey have to be so complicated?

What’s complicated about it? There’s a puck, there’s a net, each team tries to put the puck into the other team’s net.

Explain offside to me.

The puck has to enter the zone first.

Which zone?

The offensive zone.

Is offside like icing?

Maybe we could take this offline.

OK, but I’m still not convinced I’ll like hockey.

Look, just give it a try. If you’re not hooked once the Stanley Cup is awarded, we’ll give you a full refund.

But I never gave you money in the first place.

Then what’s the problem? Watch hockey. It’s awesome.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”