NBC

WATCH LIVE: Hockey Day in America Special on NBC

Leading into Hockey Week in America, NBC will air three hours of hockey programming this Sunday, beginning with a 2020 Hockey Day in America special at 12 p.m. ET that will be a collection of feature stories from NBC Sports’ day-long broadcast last month.

Feature stories that will air on NBC include:

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships – This year marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, the ultimate event in grassroots hockey. This year’s tournament featured 300 teams and 2,400 players, including a team with an intercontinental flair, and a Nashville-based squad that recruited a player in a pinch via Instagram.

• Nashville Sled Preds – United States Marines Ben Maenza, Joseph Woodke, and John Curtin met while recovering from serious injuries sustained in the line of duty in Afghanistan. After leaving Walter Reed Military Hospital and going their separate ways, Joseph and John moved to Nashville to bring the group back together. The trio fully committed to sled hockey playing for the Nashville Sled Preds and have gone from novices in the sport to Paralympic hopefuls. From the hospital bed to the elite ranks of American sled hockey, the men share a bond that looks a lot more like family than close friends.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12 P.M. ET – NBC]

• Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Kirsten Welsh, and Kendall Hanley – Katie Guay, Kelly Cooke, Kirsten Welsh, and Kendall Hanley have played hockey their entire lives and after college, they weren’t ready to hang up their skates. All four turned to officiating, and in September, became the first women to officiate an NHL-affiliated event at the preseason NHL rookie tournaments. Most recently, they officiated the Women’s U.S. vs. Canada 3-on-3 game as part of the NHL All-Star Skills. As Katie, Kelly, Kirsten, and Kendall seek further opportunities for themselves, they also hope to inspire young girls along the way.

• Saywer and Sim Seidl – In 2009, Steve and Molly Seidl adopted two brothers, Sawyer and Simon, then ages 5 and 3, from an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After settling in their new home of Stillwater, Minnesota, the boys began to play hockey, garnering attention with skills few would have anticipated. While this hockey family has dealt with some unwelcome attention due to the color of Sawyer and Simon’s skin, that has not affected their passion and love for the game. In fact, it’s motivated them to push forward. The brothers hope to be an example for others, removing labels and barriers to allow everyone an opportunity to play.

• Black Girl Hockey Club – At the beginning of the 2018 NHL season, Renee Hess founded the Black Girl Hockey Club to create a comfortable atmosphere for black women to watch hockey games together. Hess became interested in hockey years ago when she ran into a crowd of excited Penguins fans following a game when she was in Pittsburgh for work. She was hooked after attending her first game but couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t a lot of people like her in the stands. Hess found a handful of other black female hockey fans on Twitter and they created a group – the Black Girl Hockey Club – where they could discuss the sport and meet in-person at games across the country. With membership now exceeding 200, they are focused on building awareness as proud members of the hockey community.

• “Capalbo Stronger,” One Year Later – Last year, NBC Sports shared the story of Charlie and Will Capalbo, goalies and brothers from Fairfield, Conn. Charlie was in his second battle with cancer and this time he needed a bone marrow transplant. His brother, Will, would be the match but there was no guarantee of success. Charlie is now in remission, and NBC Sports went with Charlie and his family for a bucket list trip to the 2020 Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, and later to a local rink to see the brothers take the ice together, just like old times.

• El Paso Strong, Part II – Hockey has always had a way of bringing people together by transcending cultures, nations, and borders. In the fall, NBC Sports visited a junior hockey team in El Paso, Texas to see the positive impact the El Paso Rhinos were making in their city following the tragic Walmart shooting in August. In this new feature, NBC Sports spotlights how hockey took root – and now thrives – in this non-traditional market. And like many homegrown stories in Texas, this one starts in a barn.

***

As we wait for the NHL to return, NBC Sports will be filling your hockey fix next week with Hockey Week in America on NBCSN. We’ll be reliving some of the top games and moments from the last decade, including Stanley Cup clinchers, Game 7 overtime thrillers, outdoor games, Olympic hockey moments, and the very best of the Sidney CrosbyAlex Ovechkin rivalry.

NBCSN will feature 12 hours of hockey programming from March 23 through March 26 from 3 p.m. ET – 3 a.m. ET with each night focusing on a specific theme. From March 27 through March 29, NBCSN will showcase seven hours of hockey programming in primetime from 8 p.m. ET – 3 a.m. ET.

Here are themes for each day of Hockey Week in America:

Monday, March 23: Game 7 overtime thrillers
Tuesday, March 24: Notable playoff rivalry games
Wednesday, March 25: NHL outdoor games
Thursday, March 26: Stanley Cup Final clinching games
Saturday, March 28: Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin playoff showdowns
Sunday, March 29: Game 7 overtime thrillers

More information and a full schedule of Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

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ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

PHT Morning Skate: NHL vs. viruses; Flat salary cap pain = Avs’ gain?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Lafreniere, COVID-19 hockey concerns, and how Avs may benefit from a flat salary cap

• Rank Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen among those expressing some misgivings about playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [TSN]

• Breaking: Alexis Lafreniere is not a defenseman. In all seriousness, a look at some Maple Leafs possibilities … which might be complicated at No. 1 because of that positional point. Maybe? [Pension Plan Puppets]

• Speaking of those Maple Leafs, Buds fans are not pleased about the idea of a possible flat, $81.5M salary cap. There are teams who might take advantage of this situation, though. Here’s why the Avalanche could be one of those teams. [Mile High Hockey]

• A look back at the NHL’s “rivalries” with viruses. Does the history of the NHL’s dealing with such issues — even the Mumps — be a cause for concern amid COVID-19 outbreaks? [Arctic Ice Hockey]

• Earlier this week, PHT selected the best landing spots for Alexis Lafreniere. What about getting even more specific? Andrew Berkshire shared his picks for some of the lines that would benefit most from adding the consensus No. 1 pick to their left side. [Sportsnet]

Other hockey links

• Sean Gentille put together an oral history for the Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece “Sudden Death.” If you haven’t heard of the candidate for “so-bad-it’s-good” designation, how about the elevator pitch: “Die Hard at a hockey game.” [The Athletic (sub required)]

• On face value, this article focuses most on Rudy Gobert and Novak Djokovic and athletes feeling invulnerable to COVID-19. But it’s a really good read for hockey fans, players, and executives as cautionary tales with a return-to-play picking up steam. [The Score]

• Joe Pelletier of Greatest Hockey Legends wonders why the bar is set so high for goalies to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not an awful point when you consider that they play the most important position in the sport, and all. I wouldn’t mind Ron Hextall making a future cut, to name just one worthy goalie. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

• Five crossovers between hockey and Todd McFarlane. Yes, the “Spawn” guy. [PuckJunk]

• Taking a run at putting together the Sabres’ roster during the upcoming offseason. It gets elaborate, including potential trades. Yes, this scenario includes trading away Rasmus Ristolainen. Don’t they all? [Die by the Blade]

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.

Our Line Starts podcast: NHL, NHLPA nearing agreement; hub cities, Olympics, CBA

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Liam McHugh, Keith Jones, and Patrick Sharp react to the reports that the NHL and NHLPA are nearing the completion of a massive agreement that would not only cover this year’s Return to Play protocols, but also serve as an extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The guys discuss Edmonton and Toronto emerging as hub city favorites, as well as what it would mean for the NHL to return to the Olympics. Plus, a breakdown of the Qualifying Round series in both conferences.

Start-4:45 Edmonton, Toronto new hub city frontrunners
4:45-8:45 NHL, NHLPA nearing CBA extension, including Olympic participation
8:45-13:00 Other return to play details
14:00-23:00 Eastern Conference Qualifying Round preview
23:50-End Western Conference Qualifying Round preview

Where else you can listen:

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/id1482681517

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/nbc-sports/our-line-starts

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/7cDMHBg6NJkQDGe4KHu4iO?si=9BmcLtutTFmhRrNNcMqfgQ

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

Mrazek vs. Reimer and other Hurricanes lineup questions readying for Rangers

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Beyond obvious outliers like the Penguins, the Hurricanes rank among the most legitimate of the NHL’s Qualifying Round teams. Yet as stable as the Hurricanes are compared to a field full of erratic teams, Carolina faces many of the same lineup questions as the Rangers, the team they’d face in a best-of-five series.

Some might argue that the Hurricanes face tougher questions than the Rangers. (Though, the Rangers aren’t off the hook in that regard.)

In particular, the Hurricanes may need training camp to find answers in net and on defense. For all we know, Hurricanes lineup questions could even persist beyond “Phase 3.”

Let’s glance at both the goalie and defense questions for the Hurricanes.

Who should start in Hurricanes playoff lineup: Mrazek or Reimer?

Reimer, Mrazek, Hurricanes Rangers lineup questions NHL playoffs
(Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Henrik Lundqvist jousting with two young upstarts, some might wonder if the Rangers have too much of a good thing in net. The Hurricanes don’t enjoy quite the abundance of options.

Even so, coach Rod Brind’Amour faces a decision, as they lack a clear No. 1. Should the Hurricanes go with Petr Mrazek — who helped them during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs — or James Reimer (who boasts superior numbers this season)?

If Brind’Amour knows, he’s putting on a poker face.

“It’s easy to say right now, ‘OK, I’m going to go with Petr,’ but I don’t know,” Brind’Amour said in a recent interview, via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “He may be in rough shape. I don’t know until I get to see them and see what they’re like.”

It’s unclear if that last playoff run explains why Mrazek would be the “easy” choice, or if that came down to Reimer entering the pandemic pause with injury issues. (The Hurricanes may also be concerned about Reimer’s rather lengthy run of injury hiccups, too.)

Because, again, Reimer performed at a higher level than Mrazek in 2019-20. Reimer boasts a better save percentage than Mrazek this season (.914 to Mrazek’s .905) and over their careers (.914 to Mrazek’s .910). Reimer takes most/all goalie “advanced stats” between the two this season, as well. Generally speaking, we’ve seen more from Reimer over the past few seasons than Mrazek, whose career was teetering on the edge here and there.

(But, to be fair, Reimer’s had his issues, too.)

Regardless, just about every team should take a long look at how their goalies are performing during training camps. Even teams with clearer No. 1 options.

Honestly, with the NHL not expected to limit the number of goalies at training camps, maybe the Hurricanes should even look at options like Anton Forsberg or Alex Nedeljkovic?

An unexpectedly crowded defense

Dougie Hamilton Hurricanes Rangers lineup decisions playoffs
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

During the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, the Hurricanes acquired Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen. As you may remember, those moves hinged at least partially on injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce. After the twists of those bad-luck injuries, the pandemic threw off Carolina’s rhythm once more.

The best news is that it sounds like Hamilton will be available. Don’t let the museum talk fool you. If Hamilton maintained his hot pace and didn’t get injured, he would have been a go-to choice for those making arguments against John Carlson‘s Norris credentials. Either way, Hamilton provides an enormous boost to the Hurricanes lineup — one they weren’t expecting during the deadline.

On the other hand, Brind’Amour told NHL.com’s Rosen that Pesce remains unlikely to return. However …

“It’s going to be a long shot, but the longer this goes the shot gets a little shorter,” Brind’Amour said.

(Anyone else visualizing that after that rather literal description from Brind’Amour? No? OK.)

So, Hamilton stands as probable while Pesce looks unlikely. Beyond that, the Hurricanes have two still-new faces in Skjei (just seven not particularly impressive games played) and Vatanen (who was injured and didn’t even get to suit up). Let’s say that represents three defensemen for the Hurricanes. Here are the other contenders for spots in the Hurricanes defensive lineup:

  • Jaccob Slavin, a lock.
  • Jake Gardiner, who dealt with a tough season, averaging only 16:40 TOI. Still, Gardiner is experienced, played in 68 games this season, and may have benefited from the break.
  • Joel Edmundson (68 GP like Slavin and Gardiner, averaged more TOI than Gardiner with 18:27 per contest).
  • Trevor van Riemsdyk (49 GP, less than 15 minutes per night; still, Hurricanes are very familiar with TVR).
  • Haydn Fleury (45 GP, averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game).

Realistically, Brind’Amour could have eight options on defense, and possibly nine if Pesce makes unexpectedly rapid progress. Being that some of those options are quite good, there are worse problems to have.

But it still adds to the notion that training camp could be quite important for Hurricanes lineup decisions. With both goalies and defense, Brind’Amour emphasized a wait-and-see approach. So … we’ll see?

More on the Hurricanes, Rangers, return to play, and similar subjects:

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.