Hockey Day in America: How a “mini-Winter Classic” raised money for Sandy relief

Today is Hockey Day in America, an all-day celebration of the sport throughout the United States. NBC will air nine hours of live coverage across its networks; here at PHT, we’re taking a look at stories of hockey’s impact across the country.

One of the events lost to the NHL lockout was the annual Winter Classic, which was to be held in Detroit on New Year’s Day.

While the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will now have to wait until 2014 to lace ’em up outdoors at Michigan Stadium, the idea of playing outdoors spurred one young hockey fan (and player) to do a great thing for charity — this season.

Eight-year-old Christopher John, a player in a Tier 1 league in New Jersey, was inspired to make sure he and his teammates had a Winter Classic of their own if the NHL wasn’t going to play one.

Only this time, they were going to do it to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy, as John Schiumo of NY1.com reported.

“I was at home talking about hockey with my dad, and I was like, ‘Hey, it would be a great thing to come up with our own Winter Classic because we could raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims,'” John said.

“A lot of people lost things that they really loved, like pictures and toys and all that type of stuff,” John said. “I felt sad for the people because they lost a lot.”

John’s team, the North Jersey Avalanche, set up a game against another team affected by the storm, the Long Island Royals. With both of their home areas in tatters thanks to the hurricane, they set their sights on playing outdoors in Central Park.

The players all worked to raise pledges and gain interest in the game by spreading the word about the event.

Little did they know how far the word would get.

On Dec. 23, 2012, their dream became a reality as the teams squared off right smack in the middle of Manhattan, with a couple of famous fans in attendance to help them raise money.

New York Rangers Carl Hagelin and Ryan McDonagh dropped in to show their support for the cause and, as Dan Marrazza from HockeyPrimetime.com shares, they couldn’t wait to help out the kids.

source:  “When we had the opportunity to see these kids play and say ‘hi’ to them, it was a no-brainer for us,” said Hagelin. “We got to go in the locker room to meet the kids on both the teams.

“Both teams were really excited to play the game, and they seemed happy to meet us.”

That day, the teams combined to raise $12,000 for victims of Hurricane Sandy and since then they’ve helped raise another $13,000.

Avalanche coach Tom Duhamel was moved by what the kids did to raise so much money, as Deborah Francisco of NHL.com reported.

“All the kids were affected by the hurricane in one way or another — whether it be as simple as they didn’t have school for a week or whether they had material losses,” Avalanche head coach Tom Duhamel said. “I live in Hoboken where there was $100 million of damage, the kids were affected, too, so they understand how important it was to do this.”

Hockey for healing. That’s not such a bad idea.

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The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.