Cam Tucker

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 12:  Joe Pavelski #8 of the San Jose Sharks shakes hands with Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins after losing Game Six 3-1 and the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Penguins-Sharks Stanley Cup Final was most watched non-Original Six series in 15 years


The 2016 Stanley Cup Final matched Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins up against the San Jose Sharks, becoming the most watched non-Original Six series in 15 years, according to NBC Sports PR.

The Penguins returned to championship status, taking the series in six games thanks to a road win Sunday in San Jose against a Sharks team that had made its first franchise appearance in the final.

As per NBC Sports PR, the six-game series averaged 3.948 million viewers, making it the most watched Stanley Cup Final without an Original Six team since 2001, when the Colorado Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils.

Viewership was up 31 per cent from the 2012 final, which was the last time two non-Original Six teams — the L.A. Kings and the Devils — battled for the Stanley Cup.

This series also drew increased ratings in Pittsburgh, where anticipation for another championship had been growing before fans eventually got to celebrate the team’s second Stanley Cup title in eight years.

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Report: Letang had surgery before Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final


So, remember when Kris Letang missed practice and then didn’t take part in media day before the start of the Stanley Cup Final? A bit unusual at the time.

Given the time of the season, virtually no details as to why were provided, so uncertainty about his status began to grow. The next day, Letang held a press conference prior to Game 1. Asked if he was playing, Letang was brief: “Yup.” Asked about any problems, he replied: “Nope.”

OK then.

Not only did the Penguins’ best defenseman play in Game 1 and the series, Letang was solid, with five points in six games as Pittsburgh claimed the Stanley Cup over the San Jose Sharks.

Since the victory, details of his aforementioned absence — both brief and peculiar at the time — have emerged.

Letang finished the playoffs with 15 points in 23 games, while averaging 28:52 of ice time for the Penguins. His point total finished second behind only Brent Burns for defensemen in the 2016 playoffs.

Hurricanes sign prospect Aleksi Saarela, acquired in blockbuster Eric Staal trade

LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 03: Aleksi Saarela #16 of Team Finland skates against USA Blue during the 2014 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 3, 2014 in Lake Placid, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The Carolina Hurricanes and prospect forward Aleksi Saarela have agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract, the team announced Monday.

It’s a significant move for the Hurricanes, who acquired the 19-year-old Saarela — plus a pair of second round picks, one in 2016 and the other in 2017 — in the blockbuster trade that sent Eric Staal to the New York Rangers prior to the deadline.

Here is the breakdown of the contract — which came with a signing bonus of $277,500 — at the NHL level:

— 2016-17: $625,000

— 2017-18: $675,000

— 2018-19: $750,000

“Aleksi is a talented, offensive-minded player who we were excited to acquire at the trade deadline,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in a statement.

“He took a big step forward last season and led his team in goal scoring as one of the league’s younger players, and we look forward to seeing his game continue to grow.”

Saarela played in 51 games for Assat Pori in the SM-liiga this past season, scoring a team-high 20 goals and finishing third on the team with 33 points.

Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes signed top prospect Sebastian Aho to an entry-level deal.


Legendary Michigan State coach Mason passes away

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02: Ron Mason Jr. , winner of 924 men's college hockey games over a 36-season head-coaching career, talks to the media at a meet and greet prior to his USA Hockey Hall of Fame induction at the Motor City Casino on December 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Ron Mason, the legendary Michigan State University hockey coach who spent 23 seasons behind the Spartans bench, has passed away at the age of 76.

Mason has the second most wins in college hockey history with 924 victories over a 36-year career, which included an NCAA national title in 1986. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in December, 2013. Over the span of his career, 50 players have moved on from his hockey program to play in the National Hockey League, the school said in a statement.

In 2001, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association re-named its playoff trophy to the Mason Cup in his honor.

Following his coaching career, Mason took over the title of athletics director at Michigan State from 2002 to 2007.

“Coach Mason defined what it means to be a Spartan,” Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon said in a statement.

“His relentless quest for excellence on and off the rink made everyone around him better. He truly created a Spartan hockey family in which the focus was on collective success rather than worrying about who received credit. That drive translated into great accomplishments on the ice and in life for all those fortunate enough to work with or play for him.”

A number of former Michigan State players, like Justin Abdelkader, 2001 Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Miller and Torey Krug, have passed along their condolences on social media.

Kessel’s ‘years in this league haven’t been easy, but now he’s got his name on the Cup’


We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the blockbuster Phil Kessel trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kessel was at the center of trade rumblings heading into last summer, as the Maple Leafs entered full-on rebuild mode. When the deal went down, it ended a relationship that seemed fraught with tension.

On Sunday, Kessel, who was at the center of controversy during his tenure in Toronto, raised the Stanley Cup above his head, as the Penguins defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games.

“He’s a special player,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said. “It’s hard to score goals in this league, and we wanted to add a goal scorer. When (Evgeni) Malkin got hurt, when we were going down the stretch and still with a question of who would make the playoffs, Kessel really was an impact player for us, and then all through the playoffs again.

“I’m so happy for him, because his years in this league haven’t been easy. Now he’s got his name on the Cup.”

Kessel, also left off Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, had 22 points in 24 postseason games and was in consideration for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Sidney Crosby was eventually named the winner.

But Kessel was instrumental in the Penguins playoff success, playing the right wing on that speedy and talented “HBK Line” with Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin.

What did all three have in common, apart from giving opposing teams fits most times they were on the ice? All three players were traded from three separate teams to the Penguins within the last 12 months.

Together, they formed one of the most dangerous lines in these playoffs.

Kessel described the past 12 months as a “long year, but it’s the best year I’ve ever had.”

“I mean, it’s an unbelievable feeling, obviously it’s special,” Kessel continued.

“It was way heavier than I thought it was going to be. It’s so special. You dream your whole life for this.’’