Legendary Penguins announcer Mike Lange retires after 46 years with team

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Monday marks the end of an era for the Pittsburgh Penguins as legendary announcer Mike Lange announced his retirement after 50 years in broadcasting, including 46 with the team.

Lange had already cut down his broadcasting duties the past two years for health reasons and because of the pandemic as he awaited a vaccine. Now he is officially retiring with Josh Getzoff, his replacement the past two years, taking over full time duties.

“As many of you know, I have been cutting back on game broadcasts the last few seasons. This year was difficult with the pandemic, but I was still able to broadcast a limited few, which was important to me. That marked 50 years of broadcasting professional hockey – four in the Western Hockey League and 46 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was pretty special for me,” said Lange in a statement released by the team. “I didn’t get cheated in my quest to do what I have always loved. The Penguins have asked me to continue to add commentary and voice work on a limited basis to the current radio set-up and I look forward to staying involved. In the meantime, the best consolation to stepping away is knowing that the broadcast couldn’t be in better hands with the very talented Josh Getzoff, and the Ole ’29-er, Phil Bourque.”

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In his four-plus decades with the Penguins on both TV and radio, Lange was able to become one of the franchise’s biggest icons. If you wanted to go with the played out “Team Mount Rushmore” exercise, there is no doubt that Lange would be on there for the Penguins right up there with Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby as the most significant people in the history of the franchise. His role with the team and impact on the city and its fans is that important.

Being “the voice” of a team for that long is a significant accomplishment, and it is very important thing. That voice tells the story of the team’s biggest moments, both the celebratory and the soul crushing. Fans build a connection with it. It becomes something familiar that is as much of a part of the team as any player, coach, or individual moment.

With that said, some personal story time on Lange’s impact with the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh.

Having grown up in Pittsburgh and starting my hockey viewing experience with the Penguins there is no doubt that Lange played a significant role in helping to grow my love and passion for the game. For Penguins fans of almost any age, Lange is synonymous for his catch phrases and goal calls that entertained almost as often as they confused (who, exactly, is Sam and why are you buying him and his dog a drink? It doesn’t even matter because Jagr just scored another goal!).

As a kid, that stands out to you. It makes you laugh and it brings an added layer of fun to something that is already entertaining.

But as I got older and started to develop a better understanding of hockey and the viewing experience, something else started to stand out about Lange. He is not just somebody that has a bunch of quick catchphrases. He understands the game. He has a feel for the flow of the game, the way it is going, the way it is being played, and an incredible grasp for the moment and the situation. His voice would match the intensity of the moment, or the seriousness of the moment, and you could always tell by the level of excitement when something was about to happen.

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Lange spent most of his career in Pittsburgh calling games on television until 2006 when the local sports network decided to go in a different direction, parting ways with Lange (an extremely unpopular decision). The Penguins quickly acted to make him their radio voice. And while going from TV to radio may have been viewed as, for lack of a better word, a demotion of some sort, radio really did seem to be Lange’s element and play to his strengths as a broadcaster. He could paint you a vivid picture of what was happening.

In covering the NHL for more than a decade I have spent the most time around the Penguins in Pittsburgh. In all of those years I have never encountered a player (current or former) that left me “star struck.” No matter how good players are they always come and go, and you never really know anything about them outside of what they do on the ice. But for someone growing up in Pittsburgh and following the team, Lange was always a constant, and somebody that never changed no matter how much the team or its success did. He told you the story of the game and the team and was as much of a part of it as anybody on the ice. In some ways he is a bigger part of it.

During one of my first years in the press box I found myself riding the elevator down after the game with him and took it upon myself to introduce myself and explain how significant his calls were all of those years, and we had a great conversation on our way out the building. A few times per season I will be asked to be a guest on the Penguins radio broadcasts during the first intermission to talk hockey, and every time I would go into the booth to prepare for the segment he would always have something to say about the game, or just a simple hello, and it was always surreal. Truly a legend.

 

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.