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Olympics give goalies chance to paint country all over masks

Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The top of Florence Schelling’s goalie mask looks like a red toque, or boggan, with a gondola climbing the sides over the Matterhorn. A train chugs along the jaw line, while chocolate, cheese and a watch decorate the back.

Then there’s the Swiss cross over the chin and ”SUISSE” across the forehead.

Somewhere else that might be too much. Not for Schelling.

”I’m here to represent Switzerland, so it has to scream Switzerland all over,” Schelling said.

Goaltenders are the only players in Olympic hockey allowed to get truly creative with such things. Their teammates are stuck with helmets featuring basic colors, uniform numbers and a small flag decal representing their country. Goalies decide what they want, then turn to artists who can air-brush their visions onto the hard-plastic helmets used to protect heads from those screaming pucks and wayward sticks.

”Anyone who plays goal, it’s our second Christmas,” said Canadian goalie Ben Scrivens, whose second helmet features a custom black-and-red maple leaf mask for the Olympics.

Playing in the Olympics means representing an entire nation, so International Olympic Committee rules limit exactly what goes on a helmet and anything deemed political, religious or racial propaganda is barred. The IOC tells athletes the rule is intended to keep them focused on their performance, limit commercialization and prevent the games from being used for protests.

All that aside, issues still come up.

There were questions whether changes might be in store for U.S. goalie Nicole Hensley, who has the Statue of Liberty covering the left side of her helmet, or fellow goalie Alex Rigsby, who also has an image of the statue on her helmet. U.S. officials said the masks had been approved and required no modifications.

Others have had to make changes, either to the helmets being worn at the Pyeongchang Games or during the design process. A handful of men’s goalies like Slovenia’s Gasper Kroselj are wearing blank white masks with Pyeongchang 2018 stickers, and goalie Nadezhda Morozova’s helmet is white with red tape across the forehead with the Russians competing only as Olympic athletes from Russia in these games.

Korea goalie Shin So Jung has white tape over a picture of her late father on the back of her helmet, though a beloved late dog remains visible. U.S. men’s goalie Brandon Maxwell wanted to honor former NHL goalie Mike Richter and simply change the New York Rangers to USA. The rules wouldn’t allow that.

”I just kind of wanted to do a little tribute to him, but the IOC’s pretty strict on what goes on the goalie mask, which is fine,” Maxwell said. ”I’m really happy with how mine turned out. I have stars on my pads, so I wanted to stick to kind of a star cluster theme on my mask and throw in some different stripes and colors.”

American goalie David Leggio wanted ”Land of the free, home of the brave” emblazoned on the side of his mask, but that wasn’t allowed. A buffalo to represent Buffalo, New York, was among the ideas he pitched for his helmet.

”You’re a little limited at the Olympics with what you can put on there, what kind of content,” Leggio said. ”We had tried some different stuff that was rejected. I just wanted it to be unique and definitely be patriotic. I think those were the two words I told the designer. I’m really happy with how it came out.”

Leggio does have a feature that could draw the attention of his fellow goalies: Paint on his helmet changes color when the temperature dips below 70 degrees.

”So that was a really nice addition,” Leggio said.

Japanese goalie Nana Fujimoto designed her own helmet using a basic white base to show off Mount Fuji and plum blossoms. Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados’ helmet features the traditional maple leaf, and teammate Ann-Marie Desbiens says she tried to fit as many items from their country onto her helmet as possible.

”As a goalie, we get an amazing opportunity to showcase everything in Canada, so I try to do my best for that,” Desbiens said.

Schelling designed her helmet with fans voting on social media , while Swedish goalie Sara Grahn wanted a yellow handlebar moustache on the right jaw for a little style.

Hensley said U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter had the Statue of Liberty as the centerpiece of her mask at Sochi in 2014 and that they had sent in the design for her helmet.

”As far as I knew, it had been approved, so we put it on there,” Hensley said.

Tossing in the five Olympic rings is another no-no for the IOC that stymied U.S. goalie Ryan Zapolski. So he brainstormed for about a week or so with the artist who painted his mask, mixing in some stars and stripes.

”It’s pretty simple, but I think it goes well with our uniforms and everything, so I just wanted to kind of be simple and not stick out too much,” Zapolski said. ”It’s about this team. It’s not really about me, so I’m happy to have just our team logo on it and the stars and stripes. It’s patriotic, I think, to have that, and hopefully we can do some pretty cool things here.”

AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.


Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

#MelnykOut billboards go up in Ottawa as Senators fans urge change

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The billboards in Brooklyn want the general manager out. The billboards in Ottawa, which went up Monday morning, are calling for the owner to sell.

As the dissatisfaction with the state of the franchise continues to intensify, Ottawa Senators fans have come together to purchase four billboards calling for Eugene Melnyk to get “out.”

The campaign was started by Spencer Callaghan, who raised $5,000 in the first 24 hours after the GoFundMe page was opened.

“What I want to accomplish mainly is for people to just start asking questions, like why is this organization in such turmoil,” Callaghan told CTV News in February. “It’s at the point where if we need a change of ownership to get this organization back on track then that’s what we need to push for.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the four billboards will be up for two weeks and a fifth will go up for one week on April 2.

It’s been a strange year in Senators land. They went from being within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final to having their owner threaten to move the team to then having him walk that back a few months later to now looking at the NHL draft lottery and coming to the realization that captain Erik Karlsson may be dealt in the off-season.

So you can see why they might be ready for some change.

Meanwhile, it will be a very interesting off-season for the New York Islanders. They are going to miss the playoffs for a second straight season and have to worry about whether John Tavares will decide to re-sign with the organization. Fans upset with GM Garth Snow’s lack of progress with the franchise put up their own billboards in February calling for his removal. Head coach Doug Weight doesn’t seem to have any answers, so will ownership decide to clean house and start fresh as the franchise begins to split games between Barclays Center and a renovated Nassau Coliseum next season as they wait for their new home to be built near Belmont Park?

If the campaigns in Ottawa and New York succeed by reaching their ultimate goals, how much of an inspiration will they be for other fanbases who are sick and tired of the lack of direction with their teams?


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Wild continue pursuit of important points

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Monday night when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Minnesota Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

If there’s one thing the Kings need right now with 10 games left in the regular season, it’s some consistency. John Stevens’ charges have alternated wins and losses in their eight games in March, leaving them in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference with 84 points.

LA is tied with the Dallas Stars in points, but have the ROW advantage (37-34) while also owning a game in-hand. The Kings are battling on two fronts. Not only are they in the mix for a wild card, but they are on the heels of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division’s third seed.

So as the Kings begin a four-game road trip Monday night with three games against playoff teams (Minnesota, Winnipeg, Colorado), the road doesn’t get any easier. After a disappointing 3-0 loss at Staples Center on Saturday, they need to rebound quickly.

“You lose a game, you move on and get ready for the next one,” said Stevens via the Orange County Register. “We’ve got an important week coming up this week, so we’re in playoff mode. We’re thinking about Minnesota now, and we’ll get ready for the game after that when that comes.”


The Wild have a little bit of a cushion in the Central Division’s third spot and are looking at four days off following their meeting with the Kings before they host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. Minnesota grabbed four huge points with back-to-back road wins over the weekend against Vegas and Arizona. In their favor is a very strong record at Xcel Energy Center (24-6-6) and the fact that they’ve taken points from 24 of their last 26 home games.

A victory would give Bruce Boudreau his 500th as an NHL head coach and make him the 26th bench boss to reach that milestone. In his 10 seasons as a bench boss, he’s won eight division titles and one Jack Adams Awards.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL GMs to meet; Lamoriello’s future with Leafs

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Joe Thornton’s long-lost brother was apparently at the game Saturday night. [Instagram]

• Goalie interference will be a big topic at this week’s NHL general managers meetings. [The Star]

• Lou Lamoriello’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs remains up in the air. “Any decisions about the organization won’t be made until after the season is over,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told Elliotte Friedman. [Sportsnet]

• The NCAA men’s bracket is set with St. Cloud State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Cornell grabbing top seeds. [College Hockey News]

• For the third time in five years, Clarkson’s women’s team won the NCAA title. The overtime goal, which was scored by Elizabeth Giguere (No relation to J.S.), was a terrific one. [NY Times]

• Daryl Watts, freshman forward at Boston College, took home the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s top women’s collegiate player. [USCHO]

• With Ilya Kovalchuk interested in an NHL return this summer — and his rights no longer being owned by the New Jersey Devils — the New York Rangers should be all-in on the forward. [NY Post]

• A good look at how these Winnipeg Jets have been built into a contender. [ESPN]

• This season’s Hart Trophy race is quite the crowded field. [Tampa Bay Times]

• The New York Islanders have really wasted what could be John Tavares‘ last season with the franchise. [Sporting News]

• We’re coming up on a full NHL season without any head coaches being fired. [TSN]

• General managers around the NHL muse about the Detroit Red Wings and rebuilds. [Freep]

• Should the Carolina Hurricanes continue the changes and move on from Bill Peters? [Section 328]

William Karlsson doesn’t look like he’s going to slow down as he continues this surprising season. [Toronto Sun]

• How a minority hockey program helped one man become an officer in the Marines. [Color of Hockey]

• Finally, Declan Farmer was the hero for the U.S. Paralympic hockey team, who won their third straight gold with a 2-1 win over Canada. [NBC Olympics]


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: William Karlsson’s wild night; Hart Trophy race intensifies

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Players of the Night: 

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: MacKinnon’s MVP campaign got a serious boost on Sunday, as he picked up two goals and an assist in a win over the Detroit Red Wings. The Avs forward is now riding a 12-game point streak. He better start making room on a shelf for a Hart Trophy.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights: Karlsson continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2017-18 season. His natural hat trick against the Flames puts him at 39 goals on the season. Who would’ve thought that we’d be talking about him as a 40-goal scorer?

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning: Even though MacKinnon is rolling right now, Kucherov won’t go away quietly in the race for the MVP crown. The Lightning forward picked up two goals in Sunday’s win over the Oilers. Kucherov has 36 goals and 93 points in 70 games this season.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks: DeBrincat scored his third hat trick of the season in a losing effort. The rookie has 25 goals and 45 points in 73 games this season. He has a chance to score 30 this year.

Alex Pietrangelo and Vincent Dunn, St. Louis Blues: The Blues came away with a huge comeback win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrik Berglund scored the game-winner in overtime, but Pietrangelo and Dunn each had four points in the victory.

Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets: Laine has been a scoring machine of late. He found the back of the net twice in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Stars. He’s now scored 43 goals in 72 games this season. Laine’s picked up at least one point in 15 consecutive games.

Highlights of the Night: 

A wicked one-timer from Wild Bill:

That’s an incredible backhander from MacKinnon:

Here’s an unorthodox save from Fleury

Factoids of the Night: 

Dunn Deal


Oh and Laine is a teen sensation

DeBrincat’s having an impressive rookie season:


Avalanche 5, Red Wings 1
Golden Knights 4, Flames 0
Lightning 3, Oilers 1
Hurricanes 4, Islanders 3
Flyers 6, Capitals 3
Blues 5, Blackhawks 4 (OT)
Jets 4, Stars 2
Ducks 4, Devils 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.