Lightning to unveil bronze Phil Esposito sculpture

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tampa Bay Lightning joining the National Hockey League.

So what better way to commemorate it than with a life-size bronze bust?

That’s exactly what the Lightning plan to do on Dec. 31. Prior to their game against Carolina, the Bolts will unveil a statue of franchise founder Phil Esposito. More, from TBO.com:

“I’m very excited,” Esposito said Monday. “I’ve seen the sculpture and the guy did a real good job. My only regret is we should have put a pair of hockey skates off to the side.”

The life-sized sculpture, created by local artist Steven Dickey, portrays Esposito in a jacket and Lightning tie, grasping a hockey stick. Esposito brandishes a Lightning Stanley Cup ring on the finger of one hand and a ring from Boston’s 1969-1970 Stanley Cup champions on the other hand.

In 2008, Dickey crafted a bronze sculpture of former Tampa mayor Dick Greco that sits across from the Tampa Convention Center.

Should point out that, very soon, Tampa will have gigantic bronze statues of Phil Esposito and Dick Greco. I assume the marble bust of former Buccaneers safety Sabatino “Sabby” Piscitelli is next.

Anyway, it’s cool Tampa is celebrating one of the most colorful personalities in NHL history. He’s certainly left his mark on the Lightning organization, though two of the numerous Espo anecdotes stand out from the rest.

The first was when he signed Manon Rheaume to become the first woman to play professional hockey. She appeared in a preseason game against St. Louis, played a period, made seven saves and allowed two goals.

“I’d be a liar to say I wasn’t using this for publicity,” Esposito said at the time. “But I don’t care if she is a woman. If there were a horse with skates and it could stop a puck, I’d put it in there.”

The second was how Esposito lured a consortium of Japanese businessmen to invest in a Tampa expansion team (the Japanese deal was key after one of his chief backers bailed on the idea.) The group was headed by golf course and resort operator Kokusai Green — so, how did Espo get the deal done?

“The more we drank, the more it made sense,” Esposito said. “I said ‘hockey.’ They thought I said ‘sake’.”

Here’s what deal between women’s team, USA hockey is reportedly worth

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It’s great news that the U.S. women’s national team and USA Hockey came together on a deal for the upcoming world championships.

Still, all we really know is that the contract lasts four years, as the two sides decided to keep the dollar figures between each other.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell laid out a lot of the possible numbers on his Twitter feed, giving us an idea of what reportedly sealed the deal.

First things first, Campbell reports that the deal is worth $3.7-$4 million overall.

That’s quite the impressive number on face value, but what does it mean for players over a four-year contract?

Campbell reports that earnings will range between $850K and $950K, depending upon how they perform in the tournament:

They’ll also receive the same travel and other miscellaneous amenities as the men’s team, but what about years that are more about training than competition?

Interesting stuff. Definitely check out Campbell’s feed for additional details.

This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

“Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience: