The Erste Bank Eishockey Liga is on the verge of landing its first big name of the NHL lockout.
According to Sky Sport News, Austria’s premier hockey circuit will soon have Buffalo Sabres sniper Thomas Vanek in the fold. The news outlet reports Vanek will join the Graz 99ers on Thursday.
Vanek grew up in Graz and is one of just three Austrian-born players currently in the NHL (he’s also the highest-scoring Austrian of all time.)
From a heritage standpoint, it’s easy to understand why he’d choose the EBEL — but from a competitive standpoint, well, it’s a little more difficult.
The Austrian league is a mid-level European circuit with teams based in Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic. The most recognizable squad is EC Red Bull Salzburg, coached by Pierre Page and featuring a slew of ex-NHLers (Alex Auld, Rob Davison, Ross Lupaschuk and Steve Regier.)
The 99ers don’t exactly have the same cache, though they do employ former Flyers, Sabres, Predators and Blue Jackets defenseman Andy Delmore. So that’s something.
Well, the NHL’s two new initiatives for ’15-16 seem to be going swimmingly.
Not long after Ottawa successfully made the second-ever coach’s challenge, fans got their first look at 3-on-3 overtime.
And what a look it was.
In the span of 137 seconds, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers combined for eight shots on goal, a few breakaways, some tremendous saves — including one on a penalty shot — and, finally, Jason Garrison‘s game-winning goal on a breakaway from center, giving the Bolts a 3-2 win.
It was, in a word, fun.
Lots of fun.
A quick sampling of reviews:
Of course, not everybody was a fan:
Now, to temper things a bit — this was the first time we’ve seen 3-on-3 with something on the line, so there was a novelty factor at play. There’s also no guaranteeing future OT sessions will be as exciting as this.
But none of that takes away from the fact 3-on-3 made for appointment viewing, and immense entertainment value. The prospect of future games like this? That’s pretty exciting.
Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.
Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:
Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).
The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.
Update: Bergeron stayed in the game, but B’s head coach Claude Julien was none too pleased with the hit. Following the game, he called for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to look at it…