Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

Here are the West Finalists for Kraft Hockeyville

The nominations are in, and we have a Top 10 for Kraft Hockeyville — watch the videos below to see the five rinks from the western half of the United States who will now vie to make the Top Four.

Pepsi Ice Center: Bloomington, IL

Douglas Ice Arena: Douglas, WY

Maysa Arena: Minot, ND

Bloomington Ice Garden: Bloomington, MN

Riverside Arena: Austin, MN

Those are your five from the West. To find out more, visit krafthockeyville.com.

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    Shawn Thornton ready to call it a career

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    SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) For Shawn Thornton, getting to the NHL was not easy.

    Same goes for leaving.

    The last game of Thornton’s 20-year pro career – the first half spent grinding in the minors before he got to the NHL for good – comes Saturday night, when he and the Florida Panthers play host to the Buffalo Sabres. The Panthers play their season finale Sunday in Washington, and Thornton isn’t making the trip.

    He’s going out on his terms, on home ice, with a tall glass of celebratory scotch in his postgame plans.

    “A lot of years, a lot of punches in the face, a lot of miles on the bus,” Thornton said. “But then a lot of charter flights, a lot of filets on those charter flights. It’s the best job in the world.”

    And now it’s ending.

    He is one of two players to play more than 600 games in the American Hockey League and at least 700 games in the National Hockey League. The first was Jim Morrison, who logged 704 NHL games in a career that ended in the early 1970s.

    Thornton’s last game will be his 705th.

    “It’s been a good run,” Thornton said.

    He’ll get a bit of a break after the season but he’s staying with the Panthers, in a somewhat still-to-be-determined capacity on the business side of the operation working with team president Matthew Caldwell. Thornton considered trading his skates for suits last year when he was weighing an offer to return to Boston – where he won one of his two Stanley Cups – and work in television and community relations.

    Florida interim coach Tom Rowe raves about Thornton and knows the end of his playing days is an emotional time. Rowe paid tribute last week when he sent Thornton out for the opening shift in Boston so he could hear an ovation from Bruins’ fans one final time.

    “I think he’ll be great,” Rowe said when asked about Thornton’s looming transition to front-office life. “The thing that’s impressed me the most about him is how intelligent he is. He’s a very, very smart guy and he’s got a real passion for business and I think he’s going to pick it up quickly.”

    Thornton’s career was not a glamorous one, with far more fights than goals. Drafted 190th overall in 1997, he was a fourth-line guy, an enforcer, someone whose job it was to protect his teammates by any means necessary.

    He never scored more than two goals in a game, never even had more than two points in a game. Thornton’s first fight came in his second NHL contest, and he once told an opponent – while trying to bait him into a fight – that he could pick which hand to punch with.

    “He’s the epitome of a hockey player,” Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck said.

    But off the ice, Thornton is a mild-mannered sort. He started a foundation that works with people affected by cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and is someone who was humbled by being nominated again this year for the Masterson Award that honors the player who best combines perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

    “Definitely no complaints,” Thornton said. “I tried to give back when I could. Hopefully when it’s all said and done I’m remembered more for than the antics on the ice, because that was just a job.”

    His next job awaits.

    His parents and some close friends are coming in for Saturday night’s finale, and that glass of scotch – a bottle he’s been saving for a couple years – awaits afterward.

    It’ll be a toast to a career well done.

    “Saying he’s been a heart and soul guy, even that does him an injustice,” Panthers goaltender James Reimer said. “He’s beyond that. His whole career, he’s played the game the right way. He’s battled hard, he’s fought hard, he’s stuck up for his teammates. He’s just been the ultimate pro, the ultimate teammate.”

    Bolts farmhand Taormina wins AHL d-man of the year

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    Matt Taormina, the 30-year-old journeyman that’s spent the last two seasons with the Lightning organization, scored a nice accolade on Friday by capturing the Eddie Shore Award, given annually to the AHL’s most outstanding defenseman.

    More, from the AHL:

    [Taormina] established career highs in goals (14), assists (42) and points (56) in 66 games with Syracuse thus far. He is tied for the league lead in scoring among defensemen and is first in power-play points (29), and shows a plus-9 rating for a Crunch team that has been battling for the top spot in the North Division all season.

    Taormina was named a 2016-17 First Team AHL All-Star earlier this week, and played in his third consecutive AHL All-Star Classic back in January.

    Undrafted out of Providence College, Taormina has appeared in 59 career NHL contests with the Bolts and Devils. He’s also spent time with the Senators and Sharks organizations.

    Several AHLers have used the Shore award to catapult themselves to the next level. Chris Wideman, who won it with Binghamton in 2015, has spent the last two years playing in Ottawa. Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz won it in ’13, and the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk captured it in 2009.

    Last year’s winner, T.J. Brennan, appeared in seven games for the Leafs during the ’15-16 campaign, and has played all of this year with Philly’s AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

    ‘Ultra-competitive’ Lagesson leaves UMass-Amherst, signs with Oilers

    William Lagesson, Edmonton’s fourth-round pick in 2014, has signed his three-year, entry-level contract, the club announced on Friday.

    Lagesson, 21, has spent the last two years at UMass-Amherst, serving as an alternate captain under head coach Greg Carvel.

    “It’s my first year as the head coach and I was brought in to rebuild the program and one of the first things I was told was how much I’d enjoy coaching Willy Lagesson because he’s just an ultra-competitive kid,” Carvel told the Oilers website last month. “I have not been let down.”

    Lagesson has also twice represented Sweden at the world juniors (in ’15 and ’16).

    Listed at 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, Lagesson has good size and developed a reputation as a physical, defensively responsible blueliner. No word yet if he’ll head to AHL Bakersfield.

    Klingberg rips Stars for ‘terrible’ home effort, says they’re going to lose fans

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    It’s tough to pick one particular low point for the Stars this year — there have been a bunch — but it’s fair to suggest Thursday’s 7-3 blowout loss at home to Nashville is right up there (or down there, I guess).

    The Preds raced out to a 4-0 first period lead, chasing Antti Niemi in the process. Kari Lehtonen came in and allowed five goals on 21 shots, including the seventh, which bounced in off d-man John Klingberg and led to Lehtonen smashing his stick in frustration:

    Speaking of frustration, check out what Klingberg had to say in the aftermath. From the Dallas-Morning News:

    On the start to tonight’s game:

    “I think we gave them the game. It’s just embarrassing. From the first shift we were not in the game at all. The whole first period was just embarrassing. We came back in the second and did pretty well, but it was the same thing. We let those easy opportunities slip in there and it’s just how the season has been. It’s been pretty frustrating.”

    On if frustrations from the whole season culminated tonight:

    “Maybe, but we have to stay professional. This is embarrassing. This is our own arena and we are playing in Dallas, it should be way better than this. There are no excuses for this one. It was just really bad. Terrible.”

    On playing for the fans in the last game of the season on Saturday:

    “That’s what we need to do. We wanted to do it today too, but, like I said, we have to stay professional and play for the fans. It’s going to be the last game of the season. This was the second to last game and we can’t put up a game like this in our own arena. We are going to lose people coming to the games and it’s not good at all.”

    As those words suggest, the season has been a huge disappointment. The Stars haven’t just failed to live up to last year — when they won 50 games and advanced to the second playoff round — they’ve almost completely bottomed out, and won’t even crack the 80-point plateau after racking up 109 in ’15-16.

    Klingberg alluding to possible attendance problems is interesting. The numbers are down, albeit slightly — Dallas currently sits 16th in the NHL in attendance (18,090) after finishing 15th last year (18,376). In terms of the big picture, this is the seventh time in the last nine campaigns that Dallas won’t be in the playoffs. That’s not good.

    This was also a wasted season for the dynamic Tyler SeguinJamie Benn duo. Seguin will be 26 next season, Benn 28, and while they’re hardly long in the tooth, these are also considered “prime” years for both.

    The Stars do have a final shot at ending the year on a positive note. They’ll host Colorado at American Airlines on Saturday in their season finale.