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A Georgia Memory

by Avry Lewis-McDougall

One day, when I am old and grey I will tell my children about Atlanta, Georgia having a National Hockey League Franchise that turned into the current Winnipeg Jets and then I will be promptly laughed at most likely.

There’s a new generation of Jets fans in the NHL and I’m glad as there should be, but I wonder if their previous incarnation as the Atlanta Thrashers will get any of the nostalgia treatment that other defunct NHL clubs get.

The Quebec Nordiques are looked upon fondly because of a ravenous fan base that saw the game as religion just as much as their provincial rivals in the Montreal Canadiens and had stars in their lineup like Peter Stastny and Michel Goulet.

The Hartford Whalers have a similar story to the Nords and once had Gordie Howe and his sons playing together to create hockey history.

Their old goal song Brass Bonanza still gets played at arenas all over North America and there’s Facebook and twitter groups hoping one day that the NHL returns to the city.

The California Seals/Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals/Cleveland Barons were such a gong show throughout their existence that people remember them and hey, they had some of the nicest jerseys in NHL history.

But where will the Thrashers go in the test of time?

Did they have much playoff luck? Not really. Only one trip to the postseason and they lost in 4 games to the Rangers in 2006-07 but they did win the Southeast Division that year.

Did they have a Hall of Fame worthy head coach? None that I would say destined for the Hall but Bob Hartley found a way to have a record of over .500 while behind the bench with them.

Was the arena at least packed? Negative. Most seasons Atlanta was stuck in the bottom of the league for attendance, with their last year 2010-11 having an average attendance of just over 13,000 fans which saw them at 28th in league attendance.

Atlanta did draft one of the greatest Russian players of the modern era in the form of Ilya Kovalchuck, and a future 50 goal man in the form of Dany Heatley.

Kovalchuck is the Thrashers all time leader in games played, goals, assists, hat tricks, game winning goals and powerplay goals. They really should have just renamed the team the Atlanta Kovalchuks.
The team also struck gold by drafting Dany Heatley from the University of Wisconsin.

Heatley was the Thrashers 1st pick in the 2000 draft and shortly there after tore up the league as a rookie setting the franchise record for points by a rookie with 67 in 2000-01.

2002-03 saw him record his first 40+ goal season to go along with 48 helpers for an 89 point campaign and he truly becoming one of the faces of the league.

There still are some players on those Thrashers who are active on Winnipeg in the form such players as Evander Kane, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Jim Slater.

This was a franchise that also had some great role players and NHL legends throughout it’s history also.

Ray Ferraro spent a year with Atlanta. Kelly Buchberger was the franchise’s first captain. The Thrashers were the final NHL stop for Hall of Fame blue liner Chris Chelios in 2010 when he became the 2nd oldest player in league history at the age of 48.

One of the all time busts in NHL history was also once Thrashers property in the form of one Mr.Patrik Stefan. His playing days may not have been as spectacular as many thought it would have been but he’s thriving in his second career as a player agent.

Just as much as Jets fans were jubilant when they had confirmed word that they were getting a team again, there were fans in Atlanta upset at once again losing the NHL. (The Calgary Flames moved from Atlanta in 1980).

I hope the memory of this franchise does stand the test of time, they may have not been a team that everyone remembers fondly but they left an indelible place in league history.

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Morning gang! March Madness has started, so get fired up about trying to have a perfect bracket by watching my video (I bet the majority of you already have busted ones!)

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Toronto FC kicked off their 2014 MLS season with a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders and their off season signings are looking good!

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Tony Romo and Brandon Weeden. Quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones clearly is a fan of comedy.

Marlies rolling early in lengthy homestand

The Toronto Marlies are currently in the middle of a 10 game home stand at Ricoh Coliseum and it has been smooth sailing for the team after their first two games.

On Wednesday afternoon the Marlies knocked off the San Antonio Rampage 5-4 in a shootout. The game was a back and forth affair with neither team being able to get more than a one goal lead at any point in the game.

Jerry D’Amigo would be the main catalyst to propel the Marlies to the win as he had two goals on the day.

Korbanian Holzer, and Brad Ross would also get onto the scoresheet in this one for Toronto.

San Antonio in this one throughout regulation had an answer for everything the Marlies threw at them, getting goals of their own from Drew Shore, Matt Gilroy, John McFarland, and Ryan Martindale.

In the shootout, D’Amigo also stepped up big with the game winning goal as the Toronto shooters (Spencer Abbot would score the first Toronto goal in the shootout) beat Jacob Markstrom twice while only John McFarlane was able to score for the Rampage.

On Friday the Grand Rapids Grffins were in town and even though they had a tremendous shot advantage over the Marlies of 42-27 they would go down 4-1 with the lone goal for the Griffins coming from Landon Ferraro.

Toronto’s TJ Brennan became the first defenceman in the AHL since 2008-09 to score 20 goals in a season, showing why he was named to the AHL All Star team for the All Star Classic in St.John’s.

Josh Leivo, Brandon Kozun and Jerry D’Amigo would round out the Toronto scoring as they helped out their netminder Drew MacInytre who made 41 saves for his 21st win of the season.

The Marlies are back at it again on Sunday afternoon to take on the Hamilton Bulldogs at 3PM Eastern time.

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Check out how a fedora can fix some off the issues at the Winter Olympics!

Martin St.Louis needs to replace Steve Stamkos on Team Canada

As we’ve all learned by now Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos’s broken right leg has not recovered enough for him to receive medical clearance to return to the Tampa Bay line up or to play in Sochi at the Winter Olympics for Team Canada.

It must be truly crushing for #91, this very well may have been his only shot at playing in the Olympics since the NHL appears to not be in favour of sending players to the Olympics beyond 2014.

The sentiment from the league is that they would rather revive the World Cup of Hockey in the summer instead of taking a weeks long break in the middle of the season.

The question now goes to, who replaces Stamkos? I believe that the only option for Hockey Canada is Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St.Louis.

With the way that St.Louis has been playing this year he should have been a lock for this roster, in 2013-14 he has 25 goals, 29 assists for 54 points and he also leads Tampa Bay in scoring. He is also coming off a season where he was the oldest scoring champ in NHL history at 37 years old.

There certainly are other players that may get the call, Claude Giroux is one, after starting this season slow he’s currently leading the Philadelphia Flyers in scoring with 55 points (17 of them came after he was left off of Team Canada). Giroux is a versatile player and could be used either at Centre or on the wing on Team Canada.

Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers is another player who’s name has come up at replacing Stamkos on the Team Canada roster.

Hall this year has set career highs in goals, assists and points for the Orange and Blue, with the speed that he has playing on international ice could take him to another level that we have never seen him play at before.

I still believe that the choice has to be St.Louis because over players like Hall or Giroux since he does have Olympic experience over both men. St.Louis was apart of that incredible 2010 team that knocked off the Americans in the gold medal game in Vancouver.

St Louis also has the hardware which include….

-A Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.
-Hart Memorial Trophy winner in 2003-04
-Lester B Pearson Trophy winner in 2003-04.
-2 time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy in 2009-10 and again in 2010-11.

The respect for St.Louis around the NHL is incredibly high, David Perron of the Edmonton Oilers even tweeted out that he hopes that he is named to replace Stamkos.

People on twitter did ask why he did not say his teammate Taylor Hall but Perron did say he would “absolutely” love to see him named he believes that “Hallsy will be at many Olympics”.

If the NHL does continue to send it’s players to the Olympics beyond 2014 then what Perron said will be very true, Hall’s time to represent Canada on the highest stage possible will come soon enough.

I could not imagine the situation in the Lightning locker room if Hockey Canada and Steve Yzerman passed on St.Louis again, he deserves to be on this team once again so he can continue to show that age is nothing but a number.

Another trip to the Olympics would just add to legacy of one of the hardest working players in hockey.

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Canada beats Switzerland 4-1 in the WJC quarterfinals! Next up is Finland, this this video for some reason I throw a touchdown pass to myself. I know, I’m perfect.

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Team Canada stepped up with two big wins over Slovakia and Russia! Have a look at another vid breaking it down and me getting ready to throw down with some fisticuffs!

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The 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships are underway and Canada beat Germany 7-2 in their first game! PS: Bonus interrupting primate midway through this video.

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The youtube version of my interview with Vic Michaels from this week!

A class for the ages

This past weekend, the Hockey Hall of Fame welcomed another crop of Hockey legends to be immortalized in Toronto.

This was my first time covering these inductions, so needless to say I was quite giddy at covering one of the marquee events in the hockey world!

The red carpet for the induction ceremony alone was nuts! Over 60 NHL legends on it (one of them being Oiler nation’s Jason Strudwick, I held off on cracking jokes on his hair somehow).

Brendan Shanahan, Geraldine Heaney, Chris Chelios, Scott Niedermayer and the late Fred Shero were among the 2013 class to go into the Hall.

Brendan Shanahan

Right now to many he his sheriff Shanny, giving out suspensions and making sure that justice is served across the NHL!

Before he became the NHL’s head of discipline he spent 21 years in the NHL playing for 5  teams racking up three Stanley Cups and two Olympic medals.

Shanahan is also is the only NHLer with 600 goals and over 2000 penalty minutes in his career.

Shanahan was one of the game’s greatest power forwards as well as one of the game’s all time greatest quotes in a career that spanned 3 decades.

Even though he’s now a guy that hands out the suspensions in the league he had a laugh when asked this weekend on if he would have changed his style of play, saying he’d have played the same and been suspended.

Chris Chelios

26 years as a player. A runner up for the Norris at 40 years old. This is a dude that once considered quitting hockey before he played Tier 2 in Moose Jaw.

The story of Chris Chelios is truly a unique one, going from being one of two Americans on the Moose Jaw Canucks to being the second oldest man to ever play in an NHL game at age 48.

Chelios was a rock on the blue line for Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta as well as one of game’s most complete players.

The Chicago native won Lord Stanley’s Cup three times, the Norris Trophy three times and played in 11 all star games. He also made most over 40 people wonder why they didn’t have a six pack.

Chelios never took a day off and prided himself on always getting better at his craft and staying in the best shape on any team he played for.

The playing days for Chelios are not even over! He said that when his two sons graduate from Michigan State next year he would like to play with them somewhere in Europe.

Chelios admitted that he had really good fortune getting into the game in Chicago growing up.

“You don’t play hockey in that time frame, growing up in Chicago in an Irish neighborhood.

I was just fortunate at the time that my family had enough money to put me on a team.

That was probably the biggest issue, none of the kids could afford it, so times were good at the time.”

Geraldine Heaney

Quite simply she has been described as the Bobby Orr of women’s hockey.

Gerlandine Heaney was a rock on team Canada’s blue line for 12 years and was a pillar in the growth of women’s hockey on the national stage.

Heaney is also the all time leader in games played for a Team Canada defender with 125 games played as well as points with 93.

Heaney in her career won two Olympic medals, seven World Championship medals and four national titles with the Toronto Aeros.

Winning was a way of life for her.

Her impact on women’s hockey helped Canada’s rivalry with the US become the premier rivalry in women’s hockey but she hopes that as the women’s game grows other rivalries emerge.

“It’s the biggest thing everyone wants to see, Canada playing the US like it was years ago with the Canadian men playing Russia years ago. I think down the road that the other countries in women’s hockey will start catching up and we will see other rivalries with other countries”.

Another player in this group also knew a little something about winning on different stages also..

Scott Niedermayer

If he played on your team during an international tournament you were probably going to win.

Heck if you had him on your team during a ball hockey event the organizers would just give you the trophy.

The blue liner is the only player in hockey history to win the Memorial Cup, the Stanley Cup, the World Juniors, the World Cup of Hockey, an Olympic gold medal and the World Hockey Championships.

In a long career with the New Jersey Devils and the Anaheim Ducks, Niedermayer was a d-man that was able to easily burn a team with an end to end rush that would end with him celebrating a goal.

Niedermayer also won the Norris in 2003-04 with the Devils and the Conn Smythe Trophy with Anaheim in 2006-07 as he led them to their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

The 2006-07 Cup to Niedermayer was something that he found very special as he was able to win it playing with his brother Rob after beating him in 2003 which he talked about on Monday night (Scott was on New Jersey, Rob on Anaheim).

“As tough as it was shaking hands after the 2003 Cup finals, it made passing you the Cup in 2007 more memorable. You were an important part of that team and I couldn’t be more proud to call you my brother”.

Fred Shero

The late Fred Shero, created the Broadstreet Bullies and made the Philadelphia Flyers a force in the 1970s.

With names like Bobby Clarke, Dave “the Hammer” Schultz, Bob Kelly and Bernie Parent in net, they became the first 1967 expansion team to win the Stanley Cup.

Shero, was also an innovator being the first head coach to have a full time assistant coach and introducing morning skates to North American hockey.

His son Ray who is also the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins spoke glowingly of his father and how he made the Flyers the kings of Philadelphia and the NHL in the 1970s.

Shero talked about how his father valued education and to laughter among those in attendance said that his dad claimed when he played  he was the only member of the New York Rangers to have a New York Public library card.

Five names in hockey history, forever enshrined in the game’s grandest building.

The class for 2014 should be equally as impressive with players like Mike Modano, Curtis Joseph and Phil Housley among the names for consideration.