NFL

Lightning coach Cooper on NHL playoff format, possible games without fans

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Lightning coach Jon Cooper covered an array of NHL playoff-related topics during an interview with Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.”

You can watch the full interview in the video above, complete with some fun razzing. (Even with some ribbing, Cooper’s route to the Lightning really is remarkable.)

Cooper explains qualms Killorn/Lightning had with playoff format

Early on in the interview, Cooper discussed why the Lightning joined the Hurricanes as the two dissenters in the 29-2 vote for the return-to-play proposal. Cooper repeatedly insisted that Alex Killorn and the Lightning want to return to hockey. They just disagreed with the format to do so.

To be more specific, Cooper explains that Killorn & Co. are worried that the qualifying round winners will end up more “battle-tested.” Can you really blame the Lightning for fearing being caught flat-footed? Such thoughts must give the Lightning flashbacks of that Blue Jackets sweep.

For more details, check out Killorn’s explanation in this post.

“ … I don’t know how competitive the games will be going forward where the teams at the bottom will be playing playoff games right away and [would be] potentially more prepared for the real playoffs,” Killorn said.

Different times, but maybe exciting ones?

If you want insight on how the Lightning and others may handle the return to play, Cooper provided interesting thoughts:

  • For one thing, Cooper wonders if the experience might be a little like the world championships. Players from different teams likely would be staying in the same hotels, possibly eating in similar areas. If you’re like me, you’re picturing awkward breakfast buffet run-ins between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian.
  • Another interesting remark is that this feels like a reset for Cooper and the Lightning. Take the rest of an offseason and then factor in how, after most summers, you have to adjust to new players. Instead, the Lightning and other teams have a chance to play at close to full-strength.
  • Finally, Cooper didn’t seem too worried about a lack of fans.

Looking back at typical circumstances, the Lightning would practice without fans. Even without thousands of roaring fans, Cooper explains that Lightning practices could get intense. Now just imagine the intensity against “foes.”

If the Lightning get their chance to make that playoff run, Cooper might just back up Tirico’s quip regarding smoothing out the “parade route” for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Of course, the Bolts have a long way to go to make that happen — even if outside forces don’t shut this whole thing down altogether.

(Note: no, as far as we know, John Tortorella isn’t an outside force.)

More on Lightning, Cooper, and the NHL’s return to play

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.

Like Gronk before him, Patriots’ Edelman spikes puck at Bruins game

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Fresh off the New England Patriots’ millionth (OK, sixth) Super Bowl win, MVP Julian Edelman dropped the ceremonial puck for the Boston Bruins’ game against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Scratch that, he didn’t drop the puck — he spiked it.

Enjoy the video in the clip above the headline, and ponder a few things:

  • Edelman’s rocking an interesting look.

On one hand, the wide receiver rocks a very, very, credible playoff beard. One can only speculate about how much chicken has been lost in it.

On the other hand, a question: does Edelman usually wear sunglasses indoors, or is this a way of obscuring all of the, erm, celebrating over the last couple days? Some pressing questions there.

  • Is Tom Brady too cool to spike a puck?

Remarkably, this actually isn’t the first time a Patriots player celebrated a Super Bowl win by spiking a puck. Professional wrestler/superhuman tight end Rob Gronkowski did it back in 2015, and spiked it into the stands:

  • That Edelman spike video is worth watching just to bask in Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s blinged-out necklace. Just a lot to take in there.
  • As much as this was a celebration of the Patriots’ unending dynasty, it only seems fitting that seemingly ageless Bruins star Patrice Bergeron reached his 1,000th regular-season game in this one.

Boston sports fans: more than a little spoiled.

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.

Report: NHL, Nationals in discussion on Winter Classic venue

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News of the Washington Capitals hosting the 2015 Winter Classic broke almost a year ago in September 2013, but as of this writing, there’s still no decision on a venue.

The Capitals and Blackhawks are scheduled to play outdoors in Washington on New Years Day.

According to a story in the Washington Post, there are still on-going discussions regarding a venue for the game.

NHL officials visited Nationals Park home to the Washington Nationals, RFK Stadium where the MLS’ D.C. United play home games and FedEx Field home of the Washington Redskins.

The report says FedEx Field has already been ruled out due to a Dec. 28 football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins. According to the Post, there wouldn’t be enough time following the football game for an outdoor rink to be assembled for a 1 p.m. puck drop on Jan. 1.

Events DC CEO Greg O’Dell confirmed that the NHL is currently in discussions with the Nationals to host the Winter Classic at the ball park.

“I have not been told definitively by anybody that they have ceased discussions,” he said.

The January game will be the second one outdoors for the Capitals while the Blackhawks played in the 2009 Winter Classic and played against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a Stadium Series game last season.

Related: Blackhawks talk up 2015 Winter Classic

 

Video: Bissonnette kicks it up a notch in ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

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You can always count on Paul Bissonnette to take things to the next level whether it’s through his Twitter or Instagram feed.

Well… he’s done it again. This time with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:


Bissonnette, who is currently an unrestricted free agent after spending five seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, calls out Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, Green Bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers and Super Bowl champion, Russell Wilson in the video.

Rodgers was quick to offer his critique:

Perhaps if he can’t land another NHL contract, a movie career is the next logical step for Bissonnette.

Bissonnette is just the latest NHLer to take the challenge, earlier this month Penguins captain, Sidney Crosby joined in.

Pete Frates is credited with starting the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. Frates was diagnosed with the progressive neurological disease, which slowly affects those suffering from the illness of the use of their muscles, in March 2012. Since then Frates has organized several charity baseball games to raise money for ALS awareness, but its’ his latest creation the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has really taken off.

For those interested, here’s the link to donate to the ALS Association (United States) or ALS Canada.

Canucks owner confirms interest in Bills

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Canucks chairman Francesco Aquilini confirmed The Buffalo News story Friday that he had interest in purchasing the Buffalo Bills.

However, Aqulini told the paper through a statement that he wouldn’t be pursing the NFL club further.

“I’m always exploring potential business opportunities, and I’m passionate about sports. So this is something that interested me. However, we are not planning to pursue the opportunity further.”

According to the report, Aquilini had signed a nondisclosure agreement for access to the Bills’ financial data.

Aquilini, 53, has been the majority owner of the Canucks since November 2006.

The Buffalo News story also reported that John Bitove, the man responsible for landing the Raptors in Toronto, is among those who signed a nondisclosure agreement.

The paper’s sources say as many as 60 nondisclosure agreements were distributed, but just 16 to 20 were signed and returned.

The NFL club is for sale after its founder and owner, Ralph Wilson, died in March.

Related: Report: Sabres’ owner Pegula makes bid for NFL’s Bills