Stanley Cup saying goodbye to names like Richard, Hull, Howe

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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BOSTON (AP) — So long, Gordon Howe.

Bye-bye, Robert Hull.

Au revoir, M. Richard.

Those Hockey Hall of Famers and the rest of the players who won an NHL championship from 1954-65 are being stripped off the Stanley Cup this spring to create room for a new layer of names without making the trophy too big to be skated around the ice by the winning captain or checked on an airplane for its next journey.

”People in Saskatchewan are a little upset Gordie’s name is coming off, but that’s the tradition,” said Mike Bolt, one of the Hall of Fame staffers assigned to escort the Cup around the world. ”It can’t get any bigger. … We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

Perhaps the most iconic trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup is unique among major prizes because the NHL passes it from team to team instead of producing a new one for every champion. It’s also the only one that includes the name of every player to win it in each season – though the names come and go.

Since it was first donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley, the governor general of Canada, the Cup has grown from a 7-inch-high bowl to a 3-foot trophy more the size of a large wedding cake, with three small layers under the original bowl and five more bands under that that fit about 13 years of champions apiece.

The top one of those bands, honoring much of Toe Blake’s Montreal Canadiens dynasty and three of Punch Imlach’s four titles in Toronto, will be removed in a matter of weeks. It will be flattened and displayed along with two previously retired rings – covering the 1927-40 and ’41-53 championship teams – at the Hall of Fame in Toronto. (In place of the name-by-name listing, teams are engraved on the upper rings).

The process will need to be repeated every 13 years, meaning a player’s name lasts on the Cup a maximum of 65 years.

”I run into some of the older timers, like from the ’70s, even the ’80s. They’re always like, ‘Hey, Mike. How many years have I got left on the Cup?”’ Bolt said. ”Some guys start doing the math, ‘Oh, I won’t be around anyway.’ But if you win it when you’re young, you’re going to be around when your name comes off.”

On tour to promote the start of the NHL playoffs April 11, Bolt stopped at The Associated Press bureau in Boston this week after visiting a children’s hospital and before going to a hockey arena to surprise another group of kids. He dons white gloves and unsnaps the latches to reveal the Cup in its form-fitting, blue velvet travel sanctuary.

The black base is chipped and dinged from years of celebrations by joyous champions. There are also a few misspellings, and one name is crossed out. Still, seeing the trophy remains a thrill for many fans; earning a spot on it is the ultimate goal for every NHL player who has ever laced up a pair of skates.

”That’s the best part of the job, watching the reaction. That’s one of the things that does not get old,” said Bolt, who accompanies the Cup on its travels for the traditional summer tour that allows every player on the winning team to spend a day with it – often in his hometown, no matter where on the globe he grew up.

”I’ve seen grown men cry; They can’t believe they are this close to it,” Bolt said. ”It’s like a celebrity. Everybody’s always happy when the Cup’s around.”

Players like Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Maurice ”Rocket” Richard might not have known that their immortality has an expiration date, but modern players realize getting one’s name on the Cup isn’t forever any more.

”We knew it’s going to be there for about 40 years,” said Patrice Bergeron, a member of the Boston Bruins’ 2011 championship team who is hoping to extend his time on the Cup with another title this year. ”It’s still pretty special.”

Brad Marchand, who also won it all in 2011, was consoled by the knowledge that the band with his name will go on permanent display at the Hall of Fame after it is removed.

”You can’t take away the fact that we won,” he said. ”We’ll still have all the memories.”

VULCANIZED RUBBER SOUL

Fans in Nashville have come up with a way to pass the time while waiting for video reviews. When the referees skate over to check on a Predators goal, the in-house public address system plays the Beatles song ”Let It Be.” Fans sing along, waving their cellphone flashlights as if at a concert.

ZEBRA FAREWELL

Referee Tom Kowal worked his last game on Saturday when the Bruins played the Panthers in Boston. When the milestone was noted in the arena, fans gave him an ovation and both teams gave him the customary salute by banging their sticks on the ice or boards. After the final buzzer, the players remained on their ice to shake hands with him.

Kowal, who worked 1,094 regular-season games and 12 in the playoffs over 18 years, is the third and last official to retire this season, according to the NHL Officials Association. Thirty-year linesman Shane Heyer worked his last game on Friday, and referee Dave Jackson hung up his skates after 25 years in Los Angeles on Thursday.

LEADERS (Through Monday’s games)

Points: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), 103. Goals: Alex Ovechkin (Washington), 46. Goals-against average (minimum 40 games): Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas), 2.14. Save percentage (min. 40 games): Fleury, .931.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Tantalizing matchups with postseason positioning and outright berths at stake in the final week of the season include: Pittsburgh at Columbus, Thursday, and St. Louis at Colorado, Saturday.

AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker contributed to this story from Nashville, Tennessee.

More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

avalanche injuries
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.