AHL

PHT Morning Skate: NHL won’t restrict coaches if play resumes (even older ones)

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? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

NHL not restricting coaches and other matters relating to COVID-19/return to play

• ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reports that the NHL will place no restrictions on coaches that would entail “prohibiting them from doing their jobs” if play resumes. Coaches with certain at-risk factors (including advanced age) won’t be restricted from coaching teams. Some of this might boil down to the wishes of the NHL Coaches’ Association. I can’t say I’m pumped that masks aren’t an instant requirement, but I’m also not thrilled that players won’t be wearing full face shields. Why not take the precautions that make the most sense, even in a process that might be risky overall?

Anyway, read on for more from Kaplan. [ESPN]

• Speaking of throwing a debatable amount of caution to the wind, the Rangers stated that Kaapo Kakko looks likely to return to play. This is notable, as Kakko is a Type 1 Diabetic. Rangers president John Davidson claims that the team’s doctors are giving Kakko the green light. I don’t know, gang. Perhaps we’ll just have to get used to players “choosing” to roll the dice? [NHL.com]

• For the first time ever, the Hockey Hall of Fame will induct a class without in-person debates. Instead, there will be a “virtual conference call.” TSN’s Frank Seravalli provides details on this rare process. [TSN]

• Adam Gretz breaks down why the Canadiens could be a tough matchup for the Penguins. And, no, Carey Price isn’t the main reason. [Pensburgh]

Darcy Kuemper explains that, after being off the ice for months, “you kind of have to re-teach yourself how to play goalie.” If nothing else, Kuemper faces one of the bigger challenges to regain his past form, simply because he’s been legitimately elite since January 2019, basically. [Arizona Republic]

Departures, Sabres firing fallout, and other hockey links

• Now-former Rochester Americans coach Chris Taylor spoke to Bill Hoppe about getting fired. When word surfaced that the Sabres were firing Jason Botterill, Taylor believed that it would be limited to that. Instead, it was a purge where a stunning 22 people were fired. Taylor admits he didn’t see it coming. That’s pretty understandable, being that the Americans finished second in their division for two seasons in a row, and third during Taylor’s first campaign as head coach. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Lyle “Spector” Richardson notes that Botterill ranks among assistant GMs who couldn’t find big success as GMs. Interesting stuff, although I’d argue that Ron Hextall did a mostly good job with the Flyers, particularly cleaning up their cap nightmares. He just* made the classic mistake of … um, hiring someone with almost the same last name? [Featurd]

* — OK, there were multiple errors, but I’d still give Hextall a “B” or “B+” overall.

• Why a Connor McDavid rookie card auction already surpassed $70K. It’s on its way to becoming the most expensive modern hockey card. [Edmonton Journal]

• EA Sports downplayed rumblings about “NHL 21” being left out of a video hyping future games. [U.S. Gamer]

• Pondering how Reid Cashman’s departure might affect the Capitals. Check this one out if you want to dive into the pool-o-analytics. [Japers’ Rink]

• Nikolay Goldobin bolting from the Canucks to the KHL represents one last departure for this post. There had been high hopes at times for Goldobin, but it didn’t work out. You could probably argue with Canucks fans on Twitter about Goldobin still, though. [Offside Vancouver]

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Beware the bumbling Rumble Bees

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? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Return to play/NHL Playoffs

• Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other officials have expressed some willingness to work with the NHL in the hub city process. Will it be enough, though? Ben Kuzma looks at it from Vancouver’s perspective. [The Province]

• On Wednesday, PHT looked at how the top four teams in the East and West will approach the Round Robin for Seeding. Here’s another chance to check out the article that inspired those posts. [NBC Sports Boston]

Brad Richardson shares his experience being exposed — but seemingly not infected — with COVID-19. The story ends with some optimism about Richardson getting extra time to heal because of the pandemic pause. [Arizona Republic]

Awards talk, Rumble Bees, and other hockey links

• You see, John Carlson wants the Norris Trophy. But he doesn’t need it. I feel like the Rolling Stones should write a song about that feeling. [The Hockey News]

• Carlson missed out on a chance to score 90 points, a rare feat for a defenseman. In David Pastrnak‘s case, he lost a chance to reach 50 goals and 100 points. Which missed milestone bugs him the most? [Bruins Daily]

• Could Mike Sullivan sneak up on Alain Vigneault for the Jack Adams Award? Hopefully Sullivan doesn’t startle Vigneault in the process, right? [NBC Sports Philadelphia]

• Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin remains stuck in a “holding pattern” regarding whether he can join the team from Russia or not. Sorokin’s agent Daniel Milstein explained that frustrating situation. [AMNY]

• Ally Koss went in-depth with Brady Hackmeister on the process behind designing the Henderson Silver Knights’ logo. They discuss how the design breaks with but also evokes design choices related to the AHL affiliate’s parent team, the Vegas Golden Knights. [Hockey By Design]

• Chris Peters tells the story of the Battle Creek Rumble Bees of the Federal Prospects Hockey League. Peters describes the FPHL as “the lowest rung of professional hockey in the U.S.,” so does that make the 1-45-2(!) Rumble Bees the lowest rung of the lowest rung? I’ll need to start doing some counting on my fingers, let me get back to you. (That said, Rumble Bees is a great team name.) [ESPN]

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.

Cooper Marody honors late Colby Cave with tribute song

Two months after the sudden passing of Colby Cave, one of his teammates has honored him with a tribute song.

Cooper Marody, a prospect in the Oilers’ system, released “Agape” on Friday in memory of his late friend. The AHL Bakersfield forward wrote and performed the song, which can be found on Apple Music and Spotify. All proceeds will go to the Colby Cave Memorial Fund.

Cave, 25, died on April 11, days after falling into a coma following a brain bleed. The song was released at 12 a.m. on June 12, another small tribute to the man who wore No. 12 for the Oilers.

“I want to thank Cooper Marody for this song, and specifically for using words that meant so much to Colby and I,” wrote Emily Cave, Colby’s wife. “‘Agape’ was a word that Colby and I said to each other because we felt that ‘I Love You’’never fully described the amount of love we had for each other. ‘Agape’ is the highest form of love. Selfless, sacrificial and unconditional love; it persists no matter the circumstance. I’m so grateful I got to experience this love with my best friend. Getting to love Colb is the best thing I will ever do and continue to do until we see each other again.

“Colb and I started three hand squeezes (meaning I love you) very early in our relationship. He would squeeze my hand in the car, I would squeeze his in the grocery store, we would do it anywhere and everywhere. We did this for years. The four days Colb was in the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to be with him. I got to FaceTime him twice for a few moments. I would beg him to wake up and tell him how much I loved him. I would then ask the nurse to squeeze his hands three times so he felt I was there. I didn’t want him to die alone, so three hand squeezes through a critical care nurse was the closest way I could tell him that I loved him and always will. I wasn’t physically there when Colb went to heaven, but I pray through the nurse squeezing his hand like we had always done, he felt me right there beside him.”

This is Marody’s third and most personal song that he has released.

“Emily texted, ‘Cooper, no pressure on you, but could you write a song, including certain things they did together, in their relationship?'” Marody told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. “When she heard it, she said, ‘I can picture Colby saying every one of those words.’ I was so happy to hear that from her.”

The Colby Cave Memorial Fund aids community programs with an emphasis on mental health initiatives and providing access to sports for underprivileged children.

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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.

Golden Knights introduce AHL affiliate: Meet the Henderson Silver Knights

Henderson Silver Knights
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The Vegas Golden Knights revealed their AHL affiliate’s name and logo on Thursday night.

Introducing the Henderson Silver Knights!

“Today is a momentous day for our organization, the City of Henderson and the entire Southern Nevada community. After years of planning and preparation, we finally get to welcome the Henderson Silver Knights home,” said Henderson Silver Knights owner Bill Foley. “When we started our initial ticket drive to bring hockey to Vegas and create the team we now know as the Golden Knights, it was obvious this community had all the makings of a great hockey city. That being said, the passion and enthusiasm our fans have shown us over the past three years is greater than anything we could have imagined. Now our fans can watch more hockey right in their backyard and keep a close eye on our players’ journeys as they advance through our ranks with the intention of achieving the ultimate goal: Becoming a Vegas Golden Knight.”

The Golden Knights purchased the San Antonio Rampage in February in order to move them to Henderson, Nevada. The sale was approved by the AHL Board of Governors later that month.

The Silver Knights will begin play with the 2020-21 AHL season at the Orleans Arena. In August, workers are expected to break ground on an $80 million, 6,000-seat arena set to open with the 2022-23 season. That project was approved earlier this month.

According to Foley, the Silver Knights already have 7,600 season-ticket deposits and jerseys will be revealed in a few months.

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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.

Pandemic could change landscape of minor league sports

As North America’s pro football, basketball, baseball and hockey leagues try to play again in a pandemic, minor league sports face a more treacherous climb to return.

While the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball can run on television revenue, it’s virtually impossible for many minor leagues to survive with empty stadiums. The possibility of no games in 2020 could put some teams in jeopardy and change the landscape for attendance-driven sports in the short- and long-term future.

“There’s no future for minor league sports with empty stadiums. There’s zero,” said Gary Green, who owns Triple-A and Double-A baseball teams and an expansion franchise in the United Soccer League that plays in suburban Omaha, Nebraska. “If some of the teams don’t have deep-pocketed ownership groups or owners, I don’t know how they’re going to pay their bills.”

It is by far the most pressing question facing Minor League Baseball, the American Hockey League, ECHL, USL and others. The minors are deeply baked into the North American sports landscape as talent developers for the majors and cheap, family-friendly entertainment in towns big and small. Experts are divided on how they will survive and how soon they can bounce back.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred estimated a 40% loss of revenue if baseball is played with no fans and Herrick Feinstein sports law group co-chair Irwin Kishner estimated it is probably twice that for minor league sports. As it is, Green doesn’t expect minor league baseball this year, while both the ECHL and the AHL canceled the rest of their hockey seasons.

Plans for 2020-21 include the grim possibility of empty or near-empty arenas.

“There’s a million questions that need to be answered,” minor league hockey player Nathan Paetsch said. “What’s next season going to look like? What’s the possibility of it starting? What type of season is it going to look it? Is there going to be fans or no fans? Is it going to be the same length of the season?”

Smith College economics professor Andrew Zimbalist agreed with Green that ownership will affect which teams survive. He also pointed to the ill-fated second attempt by the XFL as a cautionary tale.

“Some of the younger leagues that are out there I think are really, really fragile,” Zimbalist said. “I suspect that we’re going to see a lot of organizations and some leagues going out of business.”

There already were 40 minor league baseball teams scheduled to lose their MLB affiliations before the pandemic under a restructuring plan that would have to try to make it independently.

Beyond those teams, Syracuse University sports analytics professor Rodney Paul is worried about the status of others as the crisis goes on. He said there could be a redistribution of teams in multiple sports around the U.S. and Canada — and perhaps smaller leagues.

“Maybe it’s the same number of teams, but it’s in different cities based upon how things have changed over time,” Paul said. “Some of those areas that can’t afford that level of team because of either population change or income change in the area or something like that changes to a different area. But my guess gets to be that the longer this goes out, the fewer of those minor league teams in total we’ll have.”

That worries Professional Hockey Players Association executive director Larry Landon because jobs will be lost if teams fold, and players like Cameron Gaunce might be left trying to make ends meet.

“I think you’d be naive if guys weren’t worried about it,” Gaunce said. “I’ll make sure that I plan far enough in advance and I’ll have a contingency plan in place, whether that’s getting something to supplement my income or whether that is playing in a league that is going.”

Pro leagues elsewhere could be operating, providing other opportunities to baseball, hockey and soccer players short of the elite level. Foreign prospects could stay home longer to play.

Or North American minor leagues could discover different ways to make money. Kishner suggested mascot, coach or player appearances or selling ad space outside stadiums or arenas, and Paul pointed to gambling or daily fantasy game possibilities as potential sources of revenue.

AHL Rochester Americans GM Randy Sexton said he thinks minor league hockey teams can get going as long as 1,000-2,000 people are allowed in buildings. It might not be a full season, either.

“I think it may force us to be more creative,” AHL president and CEO David Andrews said. “I think we need to be really flexible as we look ahead as to what the league might look like and be open to whatever we need to be open to to do the best we can.”

Green already has thought ahead to what “socially distanced” crowds might look like and hopes that treatments and a coronavirus vaccine gets things back to normal eventually. But the end of the pandemic may not be enough to pack minor league arenas and stadiums if Zimbalist is correct about the situation and economic downturn changing people’s behaviors.

“It’s just going to take several years to get through it all, in my view, and while that adjustment or recuperation is happening, it means that there’s going to be higher rates of unemployment, lower rates of income and people are going to be more careful about how they spend their free income, their leisure income,” Zimbalist said. “So I don’t expect the leagues to really start flourishing again for several years.”

Paul, whose parents are season ticket holders for the Single-A baseball Daytona Tortugas, is more bullish on minor league sports in the near future because of their affordability and value to communities.

“Those types of entertainment experiences, we’re still craving those type of things,” he said. “Hopefully this doesn’t destroy that for the super long term or forever.”