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Lindros backing anti-concussion efforts in native Canada

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TORONTO (AP) — Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros is hoping a new campaign launched across Ontario will help amateur athletes, parents and coaches better identify the signs and symptoms of a concussion after his career was cut short by repeated blows to the head.

”You see anything that’s off or someone’s not feeling quite right, let’s pull them (out of the game),” Lindros told The Canadian Press this week. ”Let’s not even question it.”

The provincial government’s ad campaign – called ”Hit. Stop. Sit.” – follows the passing of Rowan’s Law, the first of its kind in Canada and set to take effect July 1. The law is named after Rowan Stringer, a youth rugby player who died in 2013 from second impact syndrome after suffering multiple concussions.

Rowan’s Law establishes protocols for players to ensure they are taken out of action if a concussion is suspected, requires a review of awareness resources and outlines a code of conduct that sets out rules of behavior.

”We’re here because Rowan pushed it,” Lindros continued. ”She had three concussions in six days – that’s an extreme case – and she ended up dying. We don’t want anything close to that happening.”

A commercial featuring a female soccer player receiving repeated blows to the head before collapsing on the field has been shown at movie theatres across Ontario as part of the campaign. The spot made its TV debut during Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Lindros, who was voted as one of the NHL’s 100 greatest players in 2017, suffered at least five concussions during his dominant, injury-shortened career. A jarring Scott Stevens shoulder-to-head hit on Lindros in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference final was legal at the time, and that came two years after Lindros took another devastating hit from Darius Kasparaitis.

Now a 46-year-old husband and father, Lindros said of that blow: ””I got into the showers, and when you’re in the visiting team’s locker room, all the emblems on the towels have the home team’s logo. I truly thought I got traded to Pittsburgh.

”I joke about it now. I thought I was getting a chance to play with Mario Lemieux, but that moment was bad … it was bad.”

Lindros, who doesn’t want the threat of concussions to deter kids from playing sports, does favor a ban on all hits to the head across hockey – including the NHL – and the teaching of body contact at a much later age than the current standard.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has consistently questioned any direct link between multiple concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain condition associated with repeated blows to the head. CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

Lindros sighed when asked about Bettman’s concussion and CTE comments.

”I don’t understand how the NFL can change their tune and speak to CTE in a far different fashion now than in the past, and it not be acknowledged by our guys,” he told CP. ”There are some owners that really want to get ahead of this, get in front of it, support it, and maybe this will happen. I’d really like to think so.”

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Countdown on for debut of Seattle Kraken

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SEATTLE (AP) — Standing on the recently poured concrete that will be the club level floor inside Climate Pledge Arena, Tod Leiweke nodded and pointed toward a corner of the upper deck.

That’s where Leiweke envisions sitting sometime in the fall of 2021 when the Seattle Kraken skate out from the dressing room three floors below, hoping to be in front of a packed building waiting to welcome the NHL’s newest member.

”We’ve gotten a lot done, but now we look up and we say, hey, 12 months out, maybe less, and counting,” Leiweke said. ”This is going to get real.”

Time seems to defy definition right now thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and all the ways it has changed schedules and plans. But after Tampa Bay raised the Stanley Cup on Monday night, the countdown is truly on.

In about a year, the Kraken will gather for their first training camp in a $90 million practice facility that is the anchor of a massive retail redevelopment. Sometime in late summer or early fall 2021, the arena being built under the iconic roof that’s been part of the Seattle skyline for more than 50 years will be finished.

Eventually, the Kraken will play their first game and officially become the league’s 32nd team.

When the puck will actually drop remains unknown. The NHL may be headed toward a January 2021 start for the upcoming season and the league would still like to play a full 82-game schedule that would likely drag into the summer. But the NHL is still hoping to start Seattle’s first season on time next fall, especially since it’s planning to send players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Seattle will be ready regardless, largely because of what it was able to accomplish during the pandemic, highlighted by the launch of the team’s nickname and subsequent merchandise buying frenzy. While the name remains polarizing – most fans love it or hate it – the positive reaction to the slithering ”S” as the main logo, the secondary mark that incorporates the Space Needle and the success in sales can’t be denied. In the days following the name announcement, the Kraken were the top-selling team across all sports on Fanatics.com.

”It’s a mark that is the symbol of our brand. But really a brand is made up of 1,000 different pieces that all come together to create a team brand and a feeling of purpose and a soul, and the mark was really important,” Leiweke said. ”I walked into that morning believing that people were going to like it. But I think that the reaction of the public exceeded my expectations.”

Seattle also landed Amazon as its naming rights partner for its arena. The Kraken hired Everett Fitzhugh as the first Black team broadcaster in NHL history and continued to build out their hockey operations and scouting staff.

It’s allowed Leiweke to start thinking about the actual hockey product and the day next year when the foundation of the first team will be established through the expansion draft.

”There’s a terrific amount of work in front of us, but in fact we’re on track, and we’re on plan,” Leiweke said. ”To feel that, given everything else that’s going on, is pretty amazing.”

Everyone involved expects the arena to be ready in time, especially if the start of the 2021 season is delayed. The roof that had to remain because of its historical landmark status no longer rests on temporary supports. Permanent support structures are in place, while a completely new arena is constructed underneath.

The framework of the seating sections is completed in most areas of the arena, with the exception of one corner still being used to haul materials in and out.

”By far the biggest tests are behind us,” said Ken Johnsen, construction executive overseeing the arena.

The timeline for construction was impacted by the early stages of the virus outbreak, but Johnsen said any lag and supply chain issues have been resolved.

Leiweke said dealing with construction issues is just another example of a challenge his organization needed to work through during the pandemic, and thus far been successful at navigating.

”Not to say this project wasn’t already filled with lots of ambition before all of this, but this has made it certainly more challenging and I think people have risen to the challenge,” Leiweke said. ”That’s going to be a great story of this whole thing is how people rose up to meet this challenge.”

Puck already dropped on NHL offseason that could be a frenzy

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Even before the Tampa Bay Lightning returned home to celebrate their Stanley Cup championship, Julien BriseBois was on the phone with other NHL general managers about what to do next.

He is certainly not alone in making calls.

”Although we ended the hockey season officially for the ’19-20 season (Monday) night, I can tell you we’re pretty busy here in Smashville getting ready for the draft, free agency and hopefully for a full season next year,” Nashville GM David Poile said.

There is no rest for weary runner-up Dallas, the Lightning or the 29 other teams because the NHL offseason is already under way and will proceed with at a furious pace. There have already been a handful of trades, two prominent buyouts, the two-day draft starts next Tuesday and free agency opens Oct. 9, little more than a week away.

”There’s going to be some quick moves here and some teams trying to take care of business right away,” Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher said. ”There might be other teams and players that might have to a little more patient for the right fit. Oct. 9, 10, 11, there might be quite a lot of free agent activity and then you might have a lull there for two months.”

Pittsburgh has already traded two-time Cup-winning winger Patric Hornqvist to Florida for defenseman Mike Matheson. Minnesota swapped forwards with Buffalo, sending Eric Staal there for Marcus Johansson. The New York Rangers traded Eric’s brother, Marc, and a draft pick to Detroit to shed salary.

The Rangers, who are expected to use the top pick in the draft on Alexis Lafreniere, continued their youth movement Wednesday by buying out franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after the Ottawa Senators did the same last week with Masterton Trophy winner Bobby Ryan.

Add the 38-year-old Lundqvist and Ryan to an already deep free agent pool, which is complicated this year by a flat salary cap. It remains at $81.5 million because of money lost in the pandemic. Top free agents like St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo, fellow defenseman Torey Krug and 2018 MVP Taylor Hall might get a big payday, but there is no certainty what the market will look like given the cap and a lack of clarity about revenues next season.

”I wish I had the answer to that,” New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said. ”Not only is this year the cap frozen, but I would anticipate that it will be likewise the next year.”

Lamoriello said he thinks there will be more free agents available in 2021, and he and Poile agree there might be more players left on the market in coming months after the initial frenzy ends.

Before that, though, things will be busy. Even Tampa Bay and Dallas have work to do after just wrapping up a season that began a long year ago this week.

To re-sign key restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, the Lightning need to clear some $10 million in cap space -, and that’s not accounting for unrestricted guys like back-to-back champion Pat Maroon and three defensemen who were key additions: Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn.

The 2020-21 Lightning will look different than the group that celebrates this Cup victory.

”Teams change every year,” said veteran forward Alex Killorn, a potential trade candidate along with winger Tyler Johnson. ”That’s part of being in pro sports.”

Dallas has $15 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, but the Stars need to squeeze in new contracts for restricted free agent forwards Mattias Janmark, Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa and Denis Gurianov, all of whom were influential in their deep playoff run.

They may have to say goodbye to 34-year-old goaltender Anton Khudobin, who is a free agent after taking the Stars to the final – unless they decide to make a surprising move like trading starter Ben Bishop, who missed most of the postseason with injury. GM Jim Nill faces a real challenge to make sure Dallas remains a Cup contender.

”With the new system, I really think the No. 1 goal – and this going to sound kind of maybe funny – but is to make the playoffs,” Nill said. ”And if you make the playoffs, you’ve got a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That’s how close the parity is.”

Lightning celebrate Stanley Cup title with boat parade

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrated their Stanley Cup title with a boat parade and ceremonies Wednesday at Raymond James Stadium.

The boat parade featured forward Alex Killorn on a jet-ski with Steven Stamkos riding on the back as they held up the Stanley Cup and did laps around the boats in the Hillsborough River. The parade was followed by a public trophy celebration at the stadium with a capped attendance of 16,000 people.

“We’re excited to share this with Tampa,” Killorn said. “I know they weren’t here throughout the series and in the bubble, but this is our time to enjoy it with them because (the fans) are a big part of this team.”

Among the highlights of the celebration was a video package of the Lightning’s playoff run and a congratulatory video message from ESPN broadcaster and Lightning season-ticket holder Dick Vitale.

The players returned to Tampa on Tuesday after being in the NHL’s “bubble” in Toronto and Edmonton for the past 65 days. They were greeted at the airport by their families and held a private on-ice ceremony for friends and family.

Lightning owner Jeff Vinik said that the circumstances in which the Lightning won the Stanley Cup make it an even more impressive feat than winning in a normal year.

“This was not only a hockey Stanley Cup,” Vinik said. “This was a mental Stanley Cup to get through that period of time. Kudos to them and kudos to their families for being so supportive. That’s a long time away from home and I don’t think any of us can appreciate how tough that was.”

Which NHL teams should try to sign Henrik Lundqvist after Rangers buyout?

Which NHL teams should try to sign Henrik Lundqvist after Rangers buyout?
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With the Rangers’ long-rumored buyout of Henrik Lundqvist now official, the natural question is: “Which team will sign Lundqvist?” This, of course, assumes that Lundqvist will continue his vaunted career. Just about any hockey fan should hope that the 38-year-old keeps chugging along.

Few know what Henrik Lundqvist wants (beyond Lundqvist)

Ultimately, we can only guess where Lundqvist may sign next. We don’t know his priorities, although it seems reasonable to assume that he would emphasize the chance to win that elusive Stanley Cup.

If Lundqvist followed in the footsteps of other veteran sports stars and took very little money to chase that late-career championship, it would be understandable. After all, Cap Friendly estimates Lundqvist’s career earnings at close to $100 million.

But Lundqvist might want the best chance to play, rather than a platoon or backup situation. Maybe he’d want to stay reasonably close to New York City, being that he played for the Rangers for 15 years?

What Henrik Lundqvist brings to the table at age 38

No doubt, Lundqvist is no longer at his peak, and oh what a peak it was:

By the numbers, it’s fair to wonder what sort of goalie teams would be getting in current-day Lundqvist.

In 2019-20, Lundqvist went 10-12-3 with a .905 save percentage. That marks the second straight season in that range, as he sank to .907 in 2018-19.

According to Hockey Reference’s version of Goals Saved Above Average, Lundqvist was on the negative side of the ledger (from -4.16 to -5.21) in three of the last four seasons.

While some of those stats attempt to correct for the quality of teams in front of goalies, it’s still worth wondering if Lundqvist might enjoy a renaissance in a different situation. To be frank, the Rangers have been abysmal defensively for some time now. And, for a veteran like Lundqvist, it might be tougher to find that fire on a rebuilding team.

If you’re a contender and Lundqvist isn’t asking for the moon, maybe you can picture another glory run? Goalies are unpredictable, and Anton Khudobin was no spring chicken (34) in leading the Dallas Stars to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

So let’s consider the NHL teams who may at least consider signing Henrik Lundqvist after that Rangers buyout.

Contenders going through changes may target Henrik Lundqvist

Heading into what’s almost certain to be a turbulent off-season, Lundqvist, Khudobin, and other free agent goalies must contend with a flooded market. Teams might prefer a more established name at-or-near their prime ages (Robin Lehner, Braden Holtby) or someone with less name recognition who could deliver Khudobin-type gains (Thomas Greiss).

So, beyond knowing what Lundqvist wants, it’s up to the teams to decide if Lundqvist is their preference.

In the case of contenders, the most sensible situation would be for Lundqvist to provide insurance at a low price, while Lundqvist gets to chase that Stanley Cup. These teams stand out in that category:

  • Capitals – How cool would it be for the Capitals to sign Lundqvist after facing him in, by my calculations, 5 bajillion playoff series?* With Holtby most likely to move on, the Capitals could provide Ilya Samsonov with a well-coiffed safety net. After all those barbs and battles, it would be a blast to watch Alex Ovechkin and Lundqvist team up.
  • Penguins – A fairly similar situation. Matt Murray is a UFA who struggled badly in recent times. Like with Pheonix Copley, the Penguins might have a logjam in that scenario, as Casey DeSmith is under contract. But pairing Lundqvist with Tristan Jarry could be appealing.
  • Flyers – Carter Hart could use a backup upgrade over Brian Elliott. There would be so, so many “Lundqvist mentoring Hart” stories.
  • Maple Leafs – If Toronto moved on from Frederik Andersen, could they roll with Lundqvist and Jack Campbell? Hmm.
  • Stars – In the event that Khudobin priced himself out of Dallas, picture a very old goalie duo in Lundqvist and Ben Bishop. Lundqvist might not know what to do with himself during games when the Stars really put the defensive clamps down, honestly.
  • Blues – After employing Martin Brodeur for a few unthinkable games, maybe the Blues land Lundqvist? They traded away Jake Allen, even after Allen quietly (vastly) outplayed Jordan Binnington in 2019-20.
  • Jets – Winnipeg asked a lot of Connor Hellebuyck last season. It might be wise to find someone to ease that burden in 2020-21.
  • Golden Knights – If they trade Marc-Andre Fleury and sign Lehner, they might need a backup. This would be weird … and fun?

* – Five series.

Hopefuls who might offer more starts?

If Lundqvist wants to thread the needle between having a chance to win a Stanley Cup — but maybe a lower chance — and also maybe getting in a platoon/1B/or even starting situation, there are some scenarios.

  • Flames – Calgary’s been searching for goalie help and that extra push for some time. If it weren’t for David Rittich, the Flames could’ve pulled off the amusing scenario where maybe Lundqvist would be the backup to his former backup, Cam Talbot. But Lundqvist on the Flames would be fascinating.
  • Oilers – Another year, another situation where the Oilers face comparable goalie uncertainty to their Alberta rivals. Imagine the star power of Lundqvist on a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Imagine the angst if that all goes bust again.
  • Canucks – Thatcher Demko + Lundqvist rather than breaking the already-broken bank to bring back Jacob Markstrom?
  • Wild – Minnesota’s been one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. They’ve also made a ton of moves already. What if they found someone who’d actually make some stops?
  • Coyotes – If they moved on from Darcy Kuemper, maybe Lundqvist could sustain them if they play low-event hockey? Lundqvist could at least enjoy the weather, depending upon how the 2020-21 season might play out.
  • Sharks – Hey, they want to get out of the cellar, and their goaltending can only get better. Right?

Max money, minimum wins?

Let’s throw bad teams with a lot of money in this category. One could picture scenarios where the Senators, Red Wings, and other rebuilding franchises might value Lundqvist’s presence and name recognition. Lundqvist, meanwhile, might get more money and start more games.

The most devilish scenario would be if the New Jersey Devils snatched Lundqvist from their local rivals.

Marinating on that almost troll-like situation seems like a good way to close this off. Which teams would be best served to sign Lundqvist, and which destinations make the most sense for him? Do tell.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.