Brandon Manning
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AHL suspends Brandon Manning 5 games for using racial slur

The American Hockey League announced on Tuesday that it has suspended Bakersfield Condors defenseman Brandon Manning five games for using a racial slur toward an opponent during their game against the Ontario Reign on Monday night.

The Condors are the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

Manning, currently in his second year with the organization, appeared in nine games with the Oilers this season and has played in 10 games for Bakersfield.

Both he and the Oilers organization released statements on Tuesday.

First, here is Keith Gretzky, the current general manager of the Condors and assistant general manager of the Oilers:

“We are aware of an unacceptable comment directed toward an Ontario Reign player by Bakersfield Condors defensemen Brandon Manning during last night’s game. This is a very serious matter, we are disappointed by Brandon’s comment and we fully support the American Hockey League’s decision. The Oilers and Condors organizations wholeheartedly believe in a respectful workplace and will work to better educate our players on appropriate conduct on and off the ice.”

And from Manning:

“Last night I made comments to an opposing player that were stupid and offensive. After the game I spoke with the opposing player in person, which I’m very grateful for. He allowed me to apologize and I took full responsibility for what I said.”

“To say I’ve learned from this situation is an understatement and I promise to be better.”

The incident apparently happened early in the second period of Bakersfield’s 3-0 loss. The Edmonton Journal‘s post-game recap on Monday night noted the physical nature of the game and the altercation that resulted in Manning being ejected.

It was a hard-hitting, at times dirty affair that featured a number of heavy hits and plenty of after-the-whistle altercations. Three of them resulted in the departure of Bakersfield veterans, notably Brandon Manning who received a game misconduct six minutes into the second period after an altercation with abrasive winger Bokondji Imama, who spent much of the night getting under the skin of various Condors. Manning took the bait, and according to the official gamesheet was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct under AHL Rule 75.5(ii), which states:

Any player who uses obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game. The Referee shall report the circumstance to the President of the League for further disciplinary action. Any player assessed a game misconduct under this section shall automatically be suspended for the next two (2) regularly scheduled games of his team.

Now the question that has to be asked: Is five games enough of a punishment for this? It’s obviously more than the automatic two-game ban that AHL rules call for, but given the ongoing fight to combat racism in professional hockey it seems like it is barely a slap on the wrist. We are just a couple of months removed from Bill Peters resigning as coach of the Calgary Flames after it was revealed that he used a racial slur against Akim Aliu when Peters coached him in the AHL. Now this happens during a game.

In the past, former Washington Capitals forward Chris Simon was suspended three games at the NHL level for a racial slur directed at Mike Grier during the 1997 season, while Krys Barch received one game for a similar incident during the 2011-12 season.

Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended one game for directing a homophobic slur toward an opponent during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf was fined $10,000 for a similar incident during the 2017 playoffs.

UPDATE: On Wednesday the Kings released the following statement from Boko Imama.

“I have taken some time to reflect on what transpired on the ice against Bakersfield on Monday night,” Imama said. “What happened is unfortunate for everyone. No matter how intense or heated a game gets, there is no room for this in our game and no excuse. I am very proud to be an African Canadian hockey player and to stand for all other players that are in the same situation as me.”

“I would like to thank the Los Angeles Kings and Ontario Reign, Edmonton Oilers and Bakersfield Condors for their professionalism in helping me handle this situation. Last but not least, I cannot thank my family and friends for their continued love and support.”

“At this time, I will not make any further statements or comments and I would very much appreciate if those wishes were respected.”

UPDATE 2/8/20: Manning and Imama dropped the gloves in Manning’s first game back. Here’s the story.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hockey Culture: Bryant McBride on Hockey is for Everyone, Willie O’Ree doc

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Welcome to Hockey Culture, the NBC Sports multi-platform content offering dedicated to bringing equality and inclusion to hockey. Led by NBC Sports’ Anson Carter, Hockey Culture addresses contemporary topics within the sport, aim to promote diversity around the game , and increase community engagement.

This week Anson talks with former NHL executive Bryant McBride about the league’s early efforts to become more diverse and his documentary Willie, which chronicles the trailblazing life of Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree.

You can catch Willie on Peacock, NBC’s new steaming service.

Subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

You can watch previous Hockey Culture episodes featuring Ryan Reaves, Darnell Nurse, Kelsey Koelzer, Harnarayan Singh, and more by clicking here.

Doc Emrick looks back at one-of-a-kind 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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How did they pull this off?

During most playoff years, we ask this of the players. And, no doubt about it, the Tampa Bay Lightning showed a lot of perseverance fighting through bubble life to win the Stanley Cup. Doing so while Steven Stamkos played three minutes qualifies as “How did they pull this off?” material.

But, in the case of the 2020 Stanley Cup being handed out following the playoffs, this time we’re talking about the NHL, and everyone involved in keeping the playoff bubble from bursting.

It’s still surreal that we got this far.

NBC’s own Doc Emrick narrated the unlikely journey that was the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which you can watch in the video above.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

This unlikely journey took us from second training camps, play resuming on Aug. 1, and a field of 24 teams narrowing down to the Stanley Cup champion Lightning. As Emrick says, it felt like a dream, but it came true for the NHL, even if it happened amid a nightmarish time.

Time will tell when the 2020-21 season may begin, but either way, it will be tough to forget the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if you’re not a Lightning fan.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

More on the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup

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.

Lightning had big Stanley Cup heroes beyond Conn Smythe winner Hedman

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If you’re like me, you’re prone to debate just about every Conn Smythe winner. That tradition continued with Victor Hedman winning the Conn Smythe as the Lightning won the 2020 Stanley Cup. And, as usual, you have to be a real nitpicker to actually get mad about Hedman winning it.

Because, again, Hedman ended up playing a huge role in the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s success, as the stupendous Swede has done for most of his already-impressive career.

Victor Hedman topped all Lighting players in ice time during their 2020 Stanley Cup run, and logged 25:01 time on ice (with an assist) in that clinching Game 6. Hedman flirted with a point-per-game (10 goals, 22 points in 25 games), a rare run for any skater, let alone a defenseman.

So you’re really splitting hairs by arguing against Hedman. With that, (powers up hair-slitting machine).

Other Lightning Conn Smythe possibilities after Hedman wins it

Brayden Point

TSN’s Frank Seravalli revealed that the Conn Smythe voting ended up being very close between Hedman and Brayden Point.

That’s like, “Two bad NFL wild-card teams who both probably shouldn’t make the playoffs, but one has to,” close.

Point scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal on the power play in Game 6, yet another example of the small forwards oversized clutchness.

Point finished with a whopping 14 goals and 33 points in 23 playoff games. If his injury(injuries?) carried over from the Islanders series, it was tough to tell.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Interestingly, Point was killer on the power play against the Stars, but otherwise roasted opponents most at even-strength. He generated 26 out of his 33 points when everything was even. In other words, Point often scored points in the toughest situations.

If I were voting, it would have come down to Point and his partner in crime …

Nikita Kucherov

After leading the NHL regular season in scoring during the 2018-19 season, Kucherov topped all point producers during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kucherov grabbed an assist on that Point Cup-clincher, giving him 34 points in 25 games.

Much like Point, it was fair to wonder how healthy Kucherov was during this run. And it was unhealthy for opponents to wonder how much more damage a full-strength Kucherov might have managed.

(Splitting-hairs machine chimes in: that said, if you’re choosing between Point and Kucherov, Kucherov was more assist-heavy [7 G, 27 A]. He also leaned more on the power play than Point.)

( … Speaking of splitting, maybe Kucherov and Point split some votes?)

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Normally, when a goalie manages a .927 save percentage during a Stanley Cup run, that goalie is the talk of the town. Frankly, Vasilevskiy was on the tips of fewer tongues than Stars goalie Anton Khudobin for most (if not all) of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Granted, Khudobin presented a more entertaining underdog story.

Vasilevskiy is as close to “established” as a goalie can get in the modern NHL. He’s the rare contemporary first-rounder. Vasilevskiy boasts prototypical size, and carries the $9.5M cap hit that makes you merely expect great things.

Yet, if you followed goalies, you realize such performances are far from foregone conclusions.

Beyond winning a Stanley Cup, Vasilevskiy pulled off one of the only things he hadn’t done during this run in Game 6: he earned a shutout. Otherwise, his run was almost completely spotless. During a postseason when teams leaned on both of their goalies to an unusual degree, Vasilevskiy played every minute for the Lightning. And they never stared into the brink of elimination during this entire run.

Conn Smythe voters couldn’t have been blamed for choosing Point, Kucherov, or Vasilevskiy, but Hedman was a fantastic choice, too. This rich list of potential winners underscores the Lightning’s daunting power, and is a quick reference as to how they won the Stanley Cup despite Steven Stamkos being limited to about three minutes of playing time.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

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.

Stamkos joins Lightning for Stanley Cup celebration

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After controlling Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning won their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. Beyond repeat Stanley Cup champion Patrick Maroon, winning the Stanley Cup was a first for every Lightning player. Considering the road the Lightning traveled to this Stanley Cup victory, should it be surprising that they decided to mix up the celebration, and create a great moment with Steven Stamkos in the process?

As Gary Bettman noted, the Lightning chose to take that group Stanley Cup celebration photo before the trophy was raised.

In an emotional moment, Lightning captain Stamkos ended up on the ice, becoming the first Lightning player to raise the Stanley Cup, prompting a jubilant celebration from teammates. It all makes that lone goal from Game 3 even sweeter for Stamkos.

Great stuff.

Following Stamkos, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Victor Hedman got his chance to raise the Stanley Cup. Some veterans took their laps, while eventually Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and others celebrated with the Stanley Cup.

Along with the players, Jon Cooper and GM Julien BriseBois received a chance to bask in the glory. Both played big roles in the Lightning getting this far (as did former GM Steve Yzerman, now with the Red Wings).

Watch highlights of the Lightning’s 2-0 win against the Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in the video below:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

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.