Here’s your annotated history of smoking in the NHL

14 Comments

Sports Illustrated’s Adrian Dater has compiled a great collection of hockey’s best smoking anecdotes.

Titled “When the NHL lit lamps and smokes“, Dater’s piece looks back at the laundry list of legends that routinely hacked darts — Stan Mikita, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy and Denis Savard, to name a few.

Here’s a great bit from the article:

One of the most openly notorious NHL smokers of all was Al “Planet” Iafrate, a defenseman known for his big slap shot and bigger appetite for nicotine.

“I remember my first NHL exhibition game as an assistant with Philly (in 1990),” says Ken Hitchcock, who now coaches the St. Louis Blues. “We were in Washington, and I went to give the lineup to the referees and you had to walk by the Washington dressing room. And Al Iafrate was lighting up with a blowtorch for bending sticks. Coming from junior hockey, I found that rather unique.”

Anyone who covered the NHL when Iafrate played from 1984 until his retirement in 1998 as a San Jose Shark probably saw him sitting on a chair outside the dressing room with his shirt (and sometimes pants) off, puffing away. Legend has it that Iafrate once bummed a cigarette off an Ottawa reporter between periods, lighting it up in his customary blowtorch blaze of glory.

While the number of smokers in today’s NHL has dwindled, you still hear/see evidence of it from time to time. Montreal goalie Carey Price has been spotted burning coffin nails (see here and here), Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff were caught while teammates in Calgary (pictured above) and Alex Semin was busted at the 2010 World Championships (see here).

In a similar vein, there are plenty of players that use chewing tobacco. Todd Bertuzzi seemingly can’t go anywhere without his chaw, but the most dip-friendly team might be the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonas Gustavsson, Tyler Bozak and yes, even GM Brian Burke.)

Finally, there are the cigar aficionados. Former Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Stan Neckar and Dave Anderychuk have taken their love of stogies to the next level, co-founding a line of mobile cigar lounges.

“Me and Dave would always smoke cigars,” Neckar said of his playing days. “The day we won a Cup, we smoked lots of them.”

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

1 Comment

Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
Leave a comment

It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

6 Comments

Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

2 Comments

Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.