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National Hockey League had humble beginnings 100 years ago

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MONTREAL (AP) The five men who met on Nov. 26, 1917, to form the National Hockey League could not have dreamed of the 31-team, multi-billion-dollar enterprise it is a century later.

That day the owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs, along with league president-to-be Frank Calder, drew up a document at the posh Windsor Hotel in Montreal that established the NHL out of the ruins of the strife-torn National Hockey Association, which had been founded in 1909.

World War I was raging and most of the best young players were serving in Europe. Professional hockey had not yet eclipsed the amateur game in popularity. Top players earned about $900 per season.

The owners had met twice earlier in the month and announced they would suspend play due to scarcity of top-level players, although it turned out the real plan was to form a new league that did not include Eddie Livingstone, the combative owner of the Toronto Blueshirts who had repeatedly been in disputes, even lawsuits, with other clubs over rights to players or arena leases.

Elmer Ferguson, sports editor of the defunct Montreal Herald, was the only journalist at the Windsor that day. When it ended, he asked Calder what had happened and was told “nothing much.”

But Canadiens owner George Kennedy told Ferguson the new league was “like our old league except that we haven’t invited Eddie Livingstone to be part of it.”

Livingstone filed for an injunction and tried unsuccessfully to start another league, but it was hardly smooth sailing for the NHL in its early days.

Before the season started, Quebec announced it didn’t have the resources to begin play until the following season, so its players were divided up among the other clubs. Toronto took the Bulldogs’ place under a more cooperative owner, Charles Querrie.

On the new league’s opening night, Dec. 19, 1917, only 700 fans were on hand as the Wanderers beat Toronto 10-9.

It was to be the only victory for the team founded in 1903 out of clubs that stretched back to 1884. After only four games, the Westmount Arena that housed the Wanderers and the Canadiens burned to the ground, destroying all their equipment.

The Canadiens were able to replace their lost gear and moved into the 3,200-seat Jubilee Rink, but the Wanderers folded, leaving only three teams. The Canadiens had won their opener, officially the first NHL game because it started 15 minutes earlier, on five goals from Joe Malone, who had been picked up from the Bulldogs.

It took less than a month for the first rule change, which allowed goalies to drop to the ice to make saves where they previously had to remain upright. The new rule was inspired by Ottawa’s Clint Benedict, a master at “accidentally” losing his footing when shots were being taken.

The game was different in many ways that season. There were no forward passes or lines on the ice. Minor penalties lasted three minutes instead of two. Goaltenders served their own penalties, leaving skaters to guard the net.

And the Stanley Cup was not NHL property. Toronto got the O’Brien Cup for taking the first league championship, then had to win a five-game series against the champions of the rival Pacific Coast league, the Vancouver Millionaires, to claim the Stanley Cup. It did not become an exclusive NHL trophy until 1926-27.

By then, a rapidly growing NHL had reduced the Pacific Coast and Western leagues to insignificance. While Quebec City had rejoined the league, moved to Hamilton, and then folded, the NHL was booming in the United States.

Boston joined in 1924, the same year the Forum was built to house the Canadiens and the new Montreal Maroons. The New York Americans joined in 1925-26 along with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Teams in Chicago and Detroit soon followed. In Toronto, Conn Smythe bought a team called the St. Pats and renamed them the Maple Leafs.

In New York, promoter Tex Rickard was angling for a franchise and the local joke was they would be Tex’s Rangers. Rickard liked the name and the New York Rangers were born. His coach and general manager was Lester Patrick, who brought stars Bill and Bun Cook from the Pacific Coast league.

More iconic rinks were built. The Detroit Olympia in 1927, Boston Garden in 1928, Chicago Stadium in 1929 and Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.

Player salaries shot up.

But the Great Depression was too much for some clubs and after 1941-42, when the Americans folded, the league was down to what came to be called the Original Six, even though the 1930s had brought major rule changes to speed up play and boost offence, including forward passing across lines, icing, penalty shots and flooding the ice between periods.

Then came an extended period of stability, marked by the rise of powerhouse teams in Detroit, Montreal, Toronto and then Montreal again. Massive stars emerged like Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe.

A year after Bobby Orr debuted with the Bruins in 1966-67, the league finally expanded by six teams – Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas), St. Louis, Los Angeles and Oakland. Then came Buffalo and Vancouver in 1970; New York Islanders and Atlanta (now Calgary) in 1972; Washington and Kansas City (now New Jersey) in 1974; and four clubs from the defunct World Hockey Association – Edmonton, Quebec (now Colorado), Winnipeg (now Arizona) and Hartford (now Carolina) in 1979.

San Jose joined in 1991; Ottawa and Tampa Bay in 1992; Florida and Anaheim in 1993; Nashville in 1998; Atlanta (now Winnipeg) in 1999; Columbus and Minnesota in 2000; and Las Vegas in 2017.

Since 1917, when teams were valued in five figures, the NHL has become a business with an estimated $4.5 billion in revenues in 2016-17 and three teams – the Rangers, Leafs and Canadiens – worth more than $1 billion.

Where players were once almost exclusively Canadian, now there are nearly as many Americans and many others from Europe.

And there will likely be at least one more team coming soon.

As Ottawa boss Tommy Gorman said on that day in 1917: “Now we can get down to the business of making money.”

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

NHL GMs pleased so far with crack down on slashing

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MONTREAL (AP) — If there are any misgivings about the NHL’s crackdown on slashes to the hands, they are not shared by the general managers.

Teams are scoring about half a goal more since officials made the quick tap to the hands or the top of the stick the NHL’s most frequently called minor penalty. The rule was aimed not only at protecting players after some gruesome hand injuries last season, but also to eliminate it as a tactic to cause skilled players to lose control of the puck.

”It’s still a work in progress but in general I think the standard has been very positive,” the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steve Yzerman said after a three-hour meeting of the league’s 31 GMs.

The meeting was held at the former Windsor Hotel, where the NHL was founded in November, 1917. It was one of several events this weekend to mark the league’s centennial.

There were no major decisions made. The GMs and league officials discussed issues in the game like goaltender interference reviews, offside challenges and the crackdown on faceoff violations.

The talks helped set the agenda for a more in-depth, three-day meeting in March, where rule change proposals are usually made.

The slashing crackdown has seen a parade to the penalty box, but the calls look to be here to stay.

”I think people are a little frustrated when you’re getting those penalties and power plays against, but hopefully it smooths out and everybody adjusts to it,” Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said. ”I think that’s what everybody is anticipating.

”It’s frustrating going through the process, but hopefully we get to the point where it’s effective and it’s not being done anymore and there are not as many calls.”

Former enforcer George Parros, the new director of player safety, made his first presentation at a GMs meeting and much of it dealt with slashing. He is mainly concerned with violent incidents, like the ugly finger injury suffered by defenseman Marc Methot last season and Johnny Gaudreau‘s hand injury. He said the more common ”love taps” can be handled by the officials on the ice.

”I focused on slashes that are done intentionally, behind the play, and landing on the hands-fingertips area,” Parros said. ”It’s a new standard. Everyone’s getting used to it. If it’s behind the play and it’s intentional and there’s some force to it, then it’s a warning. The variable is force.”

Overall, Parros likes what he’s seen on the ice.

”I gave them an update on numbers and stuff from last year and in general, the trends have been downward,” he said. ”We’ve got less suspensions, less injuries, all things like that. ”The game is being played in a great fashion right now and we hope to continue to do that.”

Colin Campbell, the league’s director of hockey operations, said the rise in scoring may spring from more than just a slashing crackdown.

”I think it’s a reflection of younger players in the league,” he said. ”We’re down to an average of 23 and 24 being our biggest segment of players. I think our players in rush reads and down-low coverage are faster and more talented, but older players are more defensive and have more patience. Younger players make more mistakes, but is there anything wrong with that? We always say if you want more goals you need bad goalies and more mistakes.”

Offside challenges is a contentious issue. When brought in last season, there were complaints that coaches were using them too often and were slowing down the games. This season, if a challenge fails, a minor penalty is called. That has cut down challenges dramatically.

But Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said: ”I think the sentiment is generally positive on putting that minor penalty in and reducing the number of challenges.”

Goaltender interference challenges also were discussed, but pinning down a consistent standard in judging whether a player has interfered with or been pushed into a goalie is elusive.

They were also to discuss making penalties called in overtime last only one minute instead of two to boost 3-on-3 time.

One thing there appeared to be no talk of was trades.

”You never see any of that here. There’s not enough time,” Toronto GM Lou Lamoriello said.

Get a place: NHL tradition holds value for young players

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By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey writer)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — It may be the best phrase a young NHL player can hear, even better than being told he has made the team.

Get a place.

Making the opening night roster is certainly an accomplishment, though it can be fleeting. The time-honored tradition of a coach or general manager giving a player permission to check out of the hotel and find a place to live means he is sticking around for a long time, if not the entire season.

”When you’re at the hotel for a couple months, you’re always wondering, ‘When are they going to tell me?”’ former player and current Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said not long after giving goaltender Scott Wedgewood the green light to get a place in Arizona. ”You’re comfortable. You’re not just in a hotel. It really helps you.”

Some young players live with older teammates as a way to learn about the pro lifestyle. Even some who are called up from the minors or earn a roster spot out of training camp get a hotel room because nothing is certain.

The collective bargaining agreement requires teams to pay for 28 days of a player’s hotel stay that can be extended up to 56, at which point he can get a permanent place without seeking permission.

There’s value in getting that message from an organization well before the 28-day mark, as New York Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal found out.

”That kind of just made me comfortable, just knowing I have an opportunity to be here for a little while or they like what I’ve been doing so far,” said Barzal, who has 14 points in 17 games. ”That’s just a confidence thing. That’s just nice having that kind of stress off, just another thing you can check off the list.”

During his 15 seasons as coach of the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, Barry Trotz has gotten to tell plenty of players to get a place. Because of the CBA rules and how tenuous a player’s grip on a job is, it’s not always an easy call.

”In the past I’ve had it where we went the distance, we went the 28 days and then we have to make a decision,” Trotz said. ”Other times you knew that a player was going to be on your team and he had to be on your team and you said, ‘Hey, go get a place,’ right or wrong. … Usually I check with management on that just because I don’t want to be paying their rent.”

After telling Barzal he can find a place to live, Islanders coach Doug Weight called it ”a great reward.”

”It means a lot: obviously that we have a confidence that he’s an NHL player,” Weight said. ”The more confident, the more comfortable you are within the room, within the system, within the coaching staff, the better you’re going to play.”

Capitals veteran Brooks Orpik remembers his own experience in 2003-04 when he and several other Pittsburgh Penguins rookies played the waiting game.

”I think we had like eight guys in the hotel until like Thanksgiving,” Orpik said. ”I think there were like eight of us that were rookies, so we weren’t going to dare complain. We were just happy to be there.”

Barzal is happy about his status, but he knows nothing is truly permanent.

”Anything can really happen,” Barzal said. ”I’m a young guy. I’ve got to prove myself every night. Whether I have the housing letter or not, I’ve still got to prove myself every day.”

Ex-NHL enforcer John Scott tries acting, ponders next move

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By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey writer)

Not a lot of things rattle John Scott.

Come on. He was a 6-foot-8, 260-pound NHL enforcer.

Then he tried acting – and was terrified.

”It’s a different kind of nerves,” Scott said. ”I’ve been in front of big stadiums, I’ve fist-fought tough guys and that’s nerve-wracking. It’s so much different walking on to a stage where you’re the new guy and you don’t really know what to do.”

The lovable lug who made headlines for fans voting him into the 2016 NHL All-Star Game and then winning MVP honors is now 35, retired and considering his next move. Although Scott enjoyed taping an episode of the CBS drama ”S.W.A.T.” and will likely make a cameo appearance in the movie about his story, ”A Guy Like Me,” he won’t star as himself or pursue an acting career.

”I don’t even know if I’m good, so I could just be terrible,” Scott said by phone Monday. ”I think it went well, but I was super nervous and uncomfortable for the first like hour and a half, so we hopefully scrapped all those takes and used the good ones. But it was weird.”

Right now, family is his focus after his wife, Danielle, gave birth to the couple’s fifth child in late August. Scott said he’s ”just changing diapers, man,” while he does some book signings and speaking engagements.

Scott’s brief foray into acting came as a random happenstance when a current NHL player friend couldn’t do the ”S.W.A.T.” episode because of training camp. A relationship with a producer’s brother got him an audition. The veteran of eight NHL seasons and 44 fights nailed his lines and then taped the episode in which he played a hated opposing player who needed protection while in town.

”I had no idea the amount of work that goes into doing a television show,” Scott said. ”I just figured you wrote the script and there was a couple of guys with cameras and you just go on set and then you go. It’s amazing the amount of people and the amount of work and the effort that goes into doing even one take.”

Scott plans to rent out a room at a bar or restaurant to watch the episode with family and friends when it airs Nov. 30. Beyond that, he hasn’t thought much about where life will take him.

”That’s the question of the day my wife’s been asking me about that for the last two months,” Scott said. ”I’m just trying to find something where I can stay at home and be with the kids. … I don’t really know. I’m just trying to take it as things come.”

Another former enforcer, George Parros, recently became head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Similar to the Princeton-educated Parros, Scott has an engineering degree from Michigan Tech and was long considered by teammates and coaches as one of the smartest guys in the locker room.

Scott being voted by fans into the All-Star Game was followed by a trade from Arizona to Montreal and a demotion to the minors. His wild ride had a happy ending as he was carried off on teammates’ shoulders after winning the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament, yet Scott doesn’t think he’s a favorite at NHL offices.

”I don’t think the league’s going to hire me, to be honest with you,” Scott said. ”I would like to maybe get into coaching, but I’m still so many years off. I couldn’t leave my wife with these five kids, so that stuff is a pie in the sky right now.”

In other words, stay tuned.

Coyotes trade Domingue to Lightning for McGinn, Leighton

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have traded goalie Louis Domingue to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Tye McGinn and goalie Michael Leighton.

The trade, announced on Tuesday, ends Domingue’s mixed tenure with the Coyotes.

Domingue played well at times as Mike Smtih’s backup last season, but struggled this season when new No. 1 goalie Antti Raanta suffered a pair of lower-body injuries. Domingue went 0-6 with a 4.33 goals-against average before Arizona acquired Scott Wedgewood in a trade with New Jersey.

McGinn has nine goals and eight assists in 89 career NHL games with three teams, including Arizona in 2014-15.

Leighton has appeared in 110 NHL games with four teams, going 37-43-14 with a 2.98 goals-against average.