NHL schedule humor: Coyotes take on Jets in home opener

2 Comments

The Jets are flying south to Phoenix. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

You know someone in the league’s scheduling office has to have a sense of humor to arrange that kind of matchup for the home opener. The old Jets vs. the new Jets faceoff while the old Jets fight to stay in their new town. Did you catch all that?

In a way, the rivalry isn’t what it would have been at this time last season. For years, there were a portion of Winnipeggers who relentlessly hammered fans in Phoenix because they didn’t think they deserved an NHL team. Reading comments on Coyotes articles was a virtual how-to course for people learning how to troll effectively on the internet. There was plenty of hate to go around.

But things are a little calmer now. Since Winnipeg got an NHL team, the trolls aren’t as active these days. It probably has something to do with the fact that those pesky fans finally have a team of their own to follow. In Phoenix, the ownership problems aren’t any closer to being settled. No owner, no owner in sight, and the City of Glendale paying the bills. But here’s the difference: without Winnipeg chomping at the bit for a team, there’s less tension surrounding the Coyotes as they look for a new owner.

Still, these two teams have the potential to be rivals right out of the box. Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun expects an interesting dynamic in the stands on Saturday night:

“The mood at the Jobing.com Arena, Saturday, should be an interesting mix of Phoenix fans eager to heap derision on the Jets, and by extension, the people of Winnipeg, who almost stole their team last spring, and Winnipeggers taking advantage of an easy chance to see the Jets in a building that’s almost never full.”

On the ice, the Coyotes finished their season opening three-game road trip with a 1-1-1 record. They’re looking to build on Thursday night’s impressive 5-2 victory in Nashville as they play 9 of their next 12 games at home. For a team that hopes to make it back to the playoffs for the third straight season, every point matters in the tough Western Conference.

For Coyotes captain Shane Doan, facing off against the Jets will be an odd turn of events. He was originally drafted by the Jets in 1995 and has never been traded throughout his entire career. Yet, on Saturday, he’ll be playing against the Jets. It’s an oddity that isn’t lost on the Coyotes veteran who is looking for his 300th goal on Saturday:

“It’s a unique situation in the fact that it’s Winnipeg. Our team and our organization is connected to them and that makes it pretty special. They gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunity to play there.

“Being from Western Canada, it meant so much for me. It’s pretty unique to have a chance to play against them. I signed every contract, never asked to be traded and have never been traded. Now I’m playing against the team that drafted me. But it’s different now, they’ve got a whole different organization. A great group of guys that are in there, the management and you hear such rave reviews about it and it’s exciting for the city I’m sure.”

It’ll be the Jets job to make sure Doan doesn’t feel too much at home with the Winnipeggers in attendance. Winnipeg is 0-2 in the early going and new incarnation of the team is still looking for its first win. If they could get it against Phoenix, it would make it that much sweeter for fans in Winnipeg.

And that much more bitter for fans in Phoenix.

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

Leave a comment

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

Leave a comment

Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

2 Comments

Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

NHLPA board approves 24-team, return-to play-format

11 Comments

We have our first step towards resuming the 2019-20 season with the approval of the return-to-play format by the NHLPA Executive Board.

The 31 NHL team representatives voted and a majority gave the thumbs up to the 24-team, conference-based proposal.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the vote was 29-2 in favor.

Now the plan moves on to the Board of Governors for their approval.

From the NHLPA:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

If the BOG green lights it, the next steps would include figuring out proper safety protocols for all involved and how the hub city plan would work, among numerous other details.

Based on points percentage at the time of the March 12 NHL pause, the top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will receive a first-round bye. Round 1 will feature eight play-in matchups in a best-of-five series.

As the play-in round takes place, the eight conference leaders could potentially take part in a mini tournament that will determine the seeding for Round 2. Reseeding after the play-in round is another topic likely to be discussed.

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Bruins
• Lightning
• Capitals
• Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

Games would be played without fans with teams based in hub cities potentially located in both the U.S. and Canada. Columbus, Las Vegas, and Edmonton are a few of the cities that have shown interested in playing host to playoff games.

Since the 24-team format entered the rumor mill, it’s received a mixed reaction from players.

“Twenty-four teams sounds like a lot of teams to me,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told Mike Tirico on Thursday. “You have to make sure there is some level playing field in terms of intensity…So while 24 teams sounds like a lot, maybe due to logistics, that makes the most sense.”

“I will say that when it comes to the format I think it is almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Lars Eller of the Capitals said via the Washington Post. “It is far from perfect. We are going to manage the best we can and I do think we will come together and find a solution regarding that. It is not going to be easy.”

Kris Letang told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that Penguins players voted “yes” on the proposal citing “greater good for everyone.”

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

MORE:
Predators’ Duchene: ‘You don’t want to have a COVID Cup’
Our Line Starts podcast: Evaluating fairness of 24-team NHL playoff

————

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.