Marc Savard

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Marc Savard and the art of taping your hockey stick

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“Take care of your sticks and they’ll take care of you.”

That’s the advice that Marc Savard stresses to viewers in his YouTube videos where he recreates how various NHL players tape their hockey sticks.

The long-time NHLer, who announced his retirement in January, is obsessed with the finer details of a tape job and was known to retape the sticks of teammates if he was displeased with how they prepared it for games.

This leap into the world of YouTube was inspired by Savard’s Jan. 23 appearance on the “31 Thoughts” podcast with Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. Savard told the story about how he would retape the sticks of former teammate Jason York. A few days later, he sent out a Tweet to his 57,000-plus followers asking if his they would want to watch a video of how he prepares his sticks.

There was plenty of interest, and “Taping Twigs with Savvy” was born.

“It’s amazing. We had no idea how this would ever go,” Savard told Pro Hockey Talk on Thursday. “Me and my wife just went upstairs in our game room one night and shot a video and 40,000 viewers later we decided to do another one. Now people are writing in what they want to see.

“It’s just kind of taken off. We’re having a lot of fun with it. We’re going to keep doing it until it runs out of steam, but right now there’s plenty more tape jobs to do so we’re looking forward to it.”

As of Friday, Savard has over 4,500 subscribers to his channel and has made eight videos featuring the tape jobs of current players like Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak and William Nylander, and ex-NHLers like Mario Lemieux and his former New York Rangers teammate Wayne Gretzky. The sticks used are from his personal collection, which were acquired during his career or through connections he still has in the hockey world. The McDavid, for example, he received from Milan Lucic and there’s an incoming John Tavares stick, thanks to Johnny Boychuk.

The increase in popularity has also earned Savard a sponsor in Howie’s Tape, who hopped onboard with the latest installment.

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The videos are simple. Savard takes the viewer through every roll of the tape job, from the knob to the shaft to the blade, and explains in detail the how and why of it all. The obsession dates back to his youth street hockey days when he would play goal. It wasn’t odd to find him in the basement painting his pads to get the right look. He’d focus on every aspect of his equipment, and eventually that attention shifted to his sticks, which continued as his hockey career took him to the NHL.

(He’s so passionate about it that he used to tape the sticks of every kid on his son’s hockey team.)

Savard has two simple rules for a great tape job:

• Keep the tape nice and tight — a phrase you’ll hear him say often — as you go around the stick. Make sure there are no crevices or wrinkles.

• When you find yourself with excess tape around the toe, trim it neatly with sharp scissors. That can make or break a tape job, he stresses.

Some of the tape jobs Savard saw up close and in person, like the Gretzky or Phil Kessel. Others are based off what he sees from watching a game on television. He picks up the finer details and is then able to recreate it as close as possible on the sticks in his collection. “I’m not always bang on but I’m definitely always very close if you ask players,” he says.

It’s not just fans who are watching. Players check out Savard’s videos as well, according to some notes he’s received since his first video hit Jan. 29. The entire process is also a family affair. His wife films each episode while his son runs the YouTube channel.

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So whose hockey stick tape job does Savard admire these days? For one, he’s a fan of Artemi Panarin’s look, which he featured in episode two. The Panarin, which is black tape along the blade and white tape on the toe, he also uses in men’s league. Then there’s Jamie Benn, whose tape job Savard likes because it’s simple, right on the middle of the blade, and Kessel’s for his candy cane look.

Which ones drive him crazy? For one, David Pastrnak’s — just look at it:

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Then there’s McDavid. “His tape job is not that bad it’s just that he continues to do the same tape job throughout the whole game, which is amazing to me how he doesn’t in-between periods to retape it because it starts peeling up at the bottom. I don’t know how he uses it, but he does it.”

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When Savard announced his retirement in January, he also announced his desire to get into coaching, with junior hockey being his preferred starting point. There weren’t many gigs available in the middle of the season, so in the meantime he’s entered the world of broadcasting having appeared on Hockey Central at Noon on Sportsnet, Fan590 radio and he has a weekly spot on SirusXM’s The Power Play every Wednesday.

“I’m kind of going in the broadcast direction right now in hoping that something jumps up for me in the coaching area,” he said.

For now, Savard will continue answering requests and tape sticks in the fashion of current and former NHL stars. Maybe down the line he’ll get into other hockey gear-related topics, but he’s happy to share this passion with others and educate players and fans on the dos and don’ts of a fine tape job.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Marc Savard ready to take coaching experience to the next level

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It’s been seven years since Marc Savard last suited up as a player, but as he continues his recovery from concussions that ended his career he’s kept one regular routine from his playing days.

“Not so much a set schedule, still a set nap. An hour and a half, two-hour nap at 12 o’clock — so I’ve kept that schedule alive,” Savard told Pro Hockey Talk on Wednesday.

Savard officially announced his retirement this week following an 807-game NHL career with the New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Boston Bruins. He finished with 207 goals, 706 points and one Stanley Cup ring. A second concussion in less than a year forced him to miss the Bruins’ 2011 championship run, but the team successfully petitioned to have his name engraved on the trophy.

Health-wise, Savard is doing great. “It’s the best it’s been in a long time,” he said. He’s staying active and keeping his mind occupied while spending plenty of time with his family.

Part of what’s keeping Savard busy these days is coaching minor hockey in Peterborough, Ont. The experience behind the bench teaching kids, including his youngest son, Tyler, has inspired him to want to move up the ranks and into junior hockey.

“I’d like to coach in the [Ontario Hockey League] or maybe move up at some point,” he said. “My real focus is the younger generation. Been doing a lot of AAA hockey here in Peterborough. We have the OHL Petes. I played for the [Oshawa] Generals. I would look into doing something like that to move my career forward. Right now, I’ve been doing the kids hockey and I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s a lot of fun. I love giving back and it’s been great.”

To find the biggest influence on Savard’s coaching spirit, you have to go back to his days with the Thrashers. Two months after he was dealt from Calgary to Atlanta, the team hired Bob Hartley as their new head coach. Fifteen years later, Savard still remembers Hartley’s impact.

“He really gave me the opportunity to be the best I could be,” Savard said. “The first day he came in we had a meeting and he told me flat out that he was going to give me a great opportunity. Everything worked out excellent from there and I owe a lot to him.”

Hartley knew, even when he was coaching in Colorado, what kind of player Savard could be. In Atlanta, the head coach unlocked that potential, which helped Savard’s offensive game in his final season with the Thrashers and first year in Boston where he posted 97 and 96 points, respectively.

“He gave me 20 minutes-plus ice time every night and he really stayed on me and made me believe in myself like I had before the down times in Calgary,” Savard said. “He was very supportive and made me really realize how good I can be.”

Those lessons Hartley taught on the ice in Atlanta stayed with Savard as he entered the youth coaching world. He remembered the importance of communication; how there are numerous personalities to manage and how to find out the right buttons to push in order to get a player going. For example, Savard recalled Hartley being tough on Ilya Kovalchuk to improve his defensive game, while later showering him with praise after every goal.

“It was really something to see and something that I’ve taken,” he said.

Savard is a regular hockey watcher on television, especially when it comes to the Bruins. And now that he’s wearing a coaching whistle and track suit, you’ll often find him jotting down notes during games, picking out certain aspects of a power play or penalty kill that he liked.

“That’s just having an eye and trying to pick up little things here and there,” he said. “I’m always watching for things, trying to learn. Every day you could learn something, we all know that.”

What does the future hold for Savard and could it involve an NHL return in a coaching capacity? He’s not thinking that far ahead and is just enjoying the moment.

“We’ll see where this road takes me, but right now I’m really focused on the OHL or doing something with the younger age just to get some reps in and get used to being behind the bench a little more,” he said.

“I’m not going to put any limits on anything as I did as a player, so we’ll see what’s down the road.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The dangerous line Brad Marchand sometimes skates with the NHL

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On Tuesday night Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand made some headlines again when he tripped Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman in the neutral zone with his skate. He did not receive any additional punishment from the league for the play.

As an isolated incident involving two nameless, faceless players it probably wouldn’t have been a play that received anywhere near as much attention as it did. It would be easy, and perhaps somewhat reasonable, to conclude that it was simply a hockey play that involved a player turning to move in the direction of the puck, and at the very least, being guilty of a tripping penalty.

But the play did not involve nameless, faceless players.

It involved Brad Marchand.

On one hand, he is a tremendous player that over the past two years has blossomed into one of the game’s best forwards after getting an increased role in the team’s offense. He is a player that the 29 other general managers outside of Boston would absolutely love to have on their team.

If one of them said they would not want him on their team, you can just assume they are lying. Or are really, really bad at their job.

But he is also player that skates a very dangerous line with the league.

He is a player that had just been fined $10,000 in his previous game before the Stralman incident for a dangerous trip on Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Kronwall. He is a player that has an extensive history of plays in his career that involve him taking out his opponent’s legs.

He was already warned once this season for slew-footing (a play that is very different than a trip), an act that has earned him a suspension (two games in 2014-15) and a fine ($2,500 in 2011-12) previously in his career.

He has been suspended twice for clipping (three games in 2015-16 and five games in 2011-12).

In total, those five incidents, all plays that targeted the legs of an opponent, have cost him 10 games and more than $377,000 in lost salary (between fines and forfeited salary during suspensions) since the start of the 2011-12 season.

That is a lot, and still, the message does not seem to be getting through.

If the NHL’s department of player safety has shown us anything in its existence, it is that players with a history tend to get hammered when the message does not get through. When Matt Cooke kept getting called in for hearings and getting suspended for hits to the head, he eventually ended up crossing the line so many times that he finally got hit with a 17-game ban during the 2010-11 season (10 regular season games and the entire first round of the playoffs, which turned out to be a seven-game series).

When Raffi Torres couldn’t control himself from hitting his opponents in the head, he ended up losing half of a season.

Now, Marchand’s history of incidents aren’t quite on the same scale as those two, but the point remains: He has an extensive track record of a certain type of play, and it would seem reasonable to assume that at least one of these latest incidents would have warranted more than just a fine.

But this is where the NHL is in a tough spot with Marchand.

A player’s history does not become a factor until it is determined that a particular play is worthy of a suspension, and if there is another thing we have learned about the DoPS at this point it is that there are certain plays they do not tend to suspend for. Those are typically the plays that Marchand is involved in.

During the playoffs last year I went back through every suspension and fine the DoPS has issued since the department was formed at the start of the 2011-12 season and compiled a list of what does — and does not — tend to result in a suspension. I updated it to include this season’s 10 suspensions and five fines.

This does not include fines for embellishment or incidents not handled by the DoPS.

Notice where slew-footing and tripping, highlighted in yellow, sit.

suspensionsfines

Marchand’s borderline acts tend to be those that do not typically result in suspensions, mainly because one of the biggest goals of the DoPS in its development was to focus on direct hits to the head, or plays that could involve the head (boarding, elbowing, etc.).

Of the eight slew-footing incidents that have risen to the level of player safety, only two, including one for Marchand, warranted a suspension (and they were just a few weeks apart during the 2013-14 season). Six resulted in fines.

Astonishingly, two of the three clipping suspensions the league has handed out belong to Marchand.

The NHL, under the DoPS, has never suspended a player for tripping, and that is a precedent they are probably not going to break in the middle of a season unless it is an extremely egregious incident. Had the NHL suspended him for one of these past two plays (specifically the Kronwall one) he probably would have had a reason to appeal based on that, and would have stood a good chance of winning it.

There are two things that maybe the NHL as a league needs to consider here during the offseason.

The first is that maybe it should take into account a player’s history as soon as it looks at an incident. It might not be entirely fair, it might create the mindset that a particular player is getting picked on or targeted, but if it’s a player that has an extensive track record of similar plays it is probably a player that needs to be targeted.

The other is that the league — including the 30 general managers — need to set a new standard for what should happen on plays that target player’s legs like the ones we’ve talked about here. At this point it doesn’t seem to be a primary concern, perhaps because a slew foot or a trip (like the one involving Marchand and Kronwall) has not really resulted in a serious injury, whether it be to their leg or something worse after falling to the ice.

If it eventually did, you could bet that it would start to get more attention. Take, for example, the aforementioned Matt Cooke. When he wrecked Marc Savard‘s career with that horrendous hit a few years ago he did not receive a suspension for a play that everybody in the league — including his own team — wanted to see him suspended for because the league had a long-standing precedent that it was a legal play. Dirty. But legal.

When there was enough of an uproar, specifically because of that hit by Cooke a couple of other similar hits that season, it finally led to the creation of rule 48 and the development of the DoPS.

In the end, this is the fine line that you get with Marchand.

He is a great player. A top-line, possession driving scorer whose on-ice performance appeals to be the analytical and eye-test senses.

But he also skates a fine — and in certain areas reckless — line that makes him a thorn in the side of the NHL as much as it does his opponents.

Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are defended and treated

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There has always been a perception among fans — and sometimes even among people within the game — that the NHL’s star players “get all of the calls” and get some sort of preferential treatment from the league.

Just think of how many times you’ve heard somebody say something along the lines of, “Well, if that had happened to Sidney Crosby, what would the response be? He would be suspended forever!”

And that’s not just message board fodder among fans, either.

That is a sentiment that has been shared by actual players and coaches in the NHL (Alain Vigneault literally made that exact argument once) . The likely answer to that question is that nothing would happen because in Crosby’s career he has been on the receiving end of exactly one play that resulted in a suspension. It was one game to Brandon Dubinsky for breaking a stick over his back on a cross-check.

While star players do tend to draw more penalties, that has more to do with the fact that they tend to have the puck more often than most players, and are usually defended “harder” than most players. All of that attention will eventually result in some penalties. But probably not as many as there could be. And it’s not because of some sort of bias from the league’s officials or preferential treatment.

If anything, the rest of the players in the league get an even longer leash against them than they would other players. It’s almost as if the skill works against the stars because there is a belief that they should be good enough to play through it, or that the playing field is somehow being leveled.

We were reminded of this when Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau was sidelined with a broken finger this past week, an injury that the team believes was the result of a slash from Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal (it was one of many slashes Gaudreau was on the receiving end of during the game).

The Wild’s approach to defending Gaudreau, by far the Flames’ most dangerous offensive player and one of the most dangerous in the entire NHL, wasn’t anything out of the ordinary when it comes to defending top players. Teams will be willing to do whatever it takes to slow them down, and it usually involves everything from tight checking, to “playing them tough,” to some active stick work like we saw on Gaudreau.

One of Gaudreau’s own teammates, veteran forward Troy Brouwer, didn’t seem to be as upset as his team’s general manager because of the way he himself goes after other team’s star players.

“I know in my game I give a lot of top players good whacks and stuff,” Brouwer said via the Calgary Sun. “You obviously don’t want to let it be happening to your team, but star players are going to be keyed on. It’s no different than what we do (to the opposition).”

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane argued on Friday that it is a method of defending that really doesn’t serve much of a purpose, and that it needs to be called more.

“I don’t like the play, I don’t like the slash to the hands,” Kane said, via TSN, referring to the Gaudreau injury. “I don’t know what it’s real purpose is, even as a defender, slashing the hands of another player. I don’t know what you can really accomplish with that play. We are always taught in here to keep our stick on the ice and go after the puck instead of slashing the hands. Only thing it can result in is maybe breaking a stick or taking a penalty. I’m not a big fan of the play. I’ve dealt with it in the past  where your fingers get slashed, and I know a lot of guys have dealt with it in the league, it’s just something that, I don’t know if you can really do anything about but it’s something that should be called more and it should be a penalty if you’re going to do that.”

He added that it’s come to the point where a star player had to get injured for everybody to take notice and that perhaps it will now be called more often.

But that seems like a long shot because, again, this stuff has been happening for years (generations, even).

For a while there was a thought process that the teams themselves could do the job of the league and put a stop to it by employing enforcers that would serve as a deterrent (the Gretzky-Semenko/McSorley strategy). But teams eventually realized that along with wasting a valuable roster spot on a player that wasn’t actually helping all that much, the enforcer didn’t really prevent that sort of physical play from happening, and if anything, helped create even more violence. When the Bruins employed Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic for all of those years they seemed to be on the receiving end of more cheap shots than any other team in the league (you surely remember Matt Cooke on Marc Savard and John Scott on Loui Eriksson).

The enforcer or team toughness didn’t stop it or prevent it.

Oilers coach Todd McLellan was recently asked on more than one occasion about the treatment Connor McDavid receives from other teams, and seemed to accept that it is simply the reality of the NHL. He added that they can not always have a bunch of guys going over the boards to fight every time their star player gets touched.

And even if they did, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

The game is too fast and decisions are made too quickly for a player to stop themselves from using their stick on an opponent because they are fearful that somebody might respond physically. If a player has it in his mind that he has to take a couple of extra whacks at Johnny Gaudreau, or Patrick Kane, or Sidney Crosby in an effort to slow them down, they are going to do it no matter who is lurking on the other team’s bench.

In the end, the only thing that stops it is a more emphatic crackdown from the league when it comes to the way the game is officiated and supplemental discipline is handed out.

As long as things remain the same in those areas, the league’s star players are going to keep taking extra abuse.

‘I just miss the competition’: Marc Savard discusses the abrupt ending of his playing career

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After a few years away from the game, Marc Savard is back in hockey.

Savard, who was forced to step away from the NHL at 33 years old because of concussions, is now coaching his son’s bantam hockey team in Peterborough, Ontario.

He says he’s feeling better (he still has short-term memory loss and anxiety), and although he’s enjoying his new role in hockey, there’s no doubt that he misses competing at the highest level.

“I’m 39,” Savard said in an interview with the Boston Globe. “I still should be playing, right? I miss it. I was an intense player when I played. I just miss the competition.”

Most people will remember this hit that Matt Cooke delivered on Savard back in 2010. Even though he was able to return to action after that, it still led to a pretty dark time in his life.

“That’s the main one, because I never felt like that in my life,’’ Savard said. “I’ve had concussions; I remember in Calgary I slept for a week straight. But the one from Cooke was a nightmare. I went through a lot of dark days there. For a good three months I was a zombie.”

It was the concussion he suffered 10 months later, against Colorado, that ended his career for good. Even though it was the final blow for him, Savard can admit that the hit by Matt Hunwick was far from dirty.

While he was down on the ice that night, Savard admitted that he was afraid because his eyes were wide open, but he couldn’t see anything.

Savard is still under contract to the New Jersey Devils and the 2016-17 season is the final year of his last NHL deal. Because he’s been on long-term IR since 2011, his rights have been traded a number of times to teams looking to take on an additional cap hit.

Once his contract with the Devils officially comes to an end, Savard says he has his heart set on retiring as a Bruin.