Welcome to Dallas, Jiri Hudler!

Dallas Stars recently confirmed the signing of UFA Jiri Hudler to a one-year, $2 million contract. Hudler had been acquired from the Calgary Flames by the Florida Panthers at the trade deadline.

While unexpected, the 32 year old Hudler is a welcome addition to an already stacked offensive roster. The optimists in us can’t help but wonder if Hudler’s signing is a piece in Nill’s move to acquire a goaltender this off-season. It doesn’t help that Valeri Nichushkin has yet to sign a new contract. Regardless, at this point, with 14 projected forwards going into training camp, decisions will have to be made when it comes to roster spots.

Should make for an interesting time in Cedar Park for the training camp.

NHL: JAN 25 Flames at Stars

Team Profile: The Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have made quite the name for themselves recently, winning three Cups in six years. Especially after such a long drought without a Cup before the one that started it all in 2010. An Original Six team, the Blackhawks have quite the history.

Brief Overview:
Western Conference
Central Division
Established: 1926
Arena: United Center
AHL Affiliate: Rockford IceHogs
Owner: Wirtz Corporation
Coach: Joel Quenneville
Notable Former Players: Al Secord, Chris Chelios, Tony Esposito, Denis Savard,
Current Captain: Jonathan Toews
Goalies: Corey Crawford, Scott Darling
Notable Current Players: Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa

Interesting facts:
Frederic McLaughlin named the team the Blackhawks in honor of the military unit, the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 86th Infantry Division, he commanded in World War I that was nicknamed the ‘Blackhawk Division’. The team name was spelled as two words, Black Hawks, until 1986 when original documents of the team name were found and it was spelled as one.

One of the first widely known sports ‘curses’ resulted from a disagreement between McLaughlin and Pete Muldoon at the end of the first season. Jim Coleman, a sportswriter, reported that McLaughlin believed the Black Hawks could have finished their first season in first place instead of third. When Muldoon disagreed, McLaughlin fired him. Coleman reported that Muldoon proceeded to yell, “Fire me, Major, and you’ll never finish first. I’ll put a curse on this team that will hoodoo it until the end of time.” The Curse of Muldoon was born from this event, and though Coleman later admitted he had made the whole incident up, the Black Hawks would win three Cups in 39 years, but never finish first in either the single or multi-division platform they experienced during that time.

In the 1947-1948 season, Blackhawks’ goalie Emile Francis used a modified first baseman’s glove in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. Though Jack Adams, the coach of the Red Wings at the time, protested this, commissioner Clarence Campbell let the usage stand, altering the equipment used by goaltenders permanently all around the league.

In 2004, the Blackhawks were named the worst franchise in professional sports, largely due to several policies implemented by Bill Wirtz who was owner at the time. These policies that angered fans from the 90s to the mid-2000s included Wirtz not allowing home games to be televised to the local area because it was ‘unfair to season ticket holders’ and raising the average ticket price to $50.

Rocky Wirtz, who succeeded his father in 2007, drastically changed his father’s policies, first by allowing home games to be aired locally. He also focused a lot of his effort on rebuilding the team, centering a lot of that on Jonathan Toews (drafted in 2006) and Patrick Kane (drafted 2007).

2010 was the Blackhawks first Cup since 1961. It was the seconded longest Stanley Cup drought at 49 years, behind the New York Ranger’s drought of 54 years (1967 to 1994)

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Team Profile: The Pittsburgh Penguins

Oh wow, Italia is posting something, wow, amazing…

Ok, onto the profile:

Boasting one of the Leagues cutest logos, this season’s Stanley Cup Champions have certainly had a tumultuous history with several years of financial instability that threatened to cause the team to fold or relocate. Luckily, each time, the Penguins have managed to turn things around, with the help of a couple of superstar players…

Here’s the overview:

  • Located in the Metropolitan Division of the Eastern Conference
  • Founded in 1967
  • Located in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Arena: Consol Energy Center
  • Owner(s): Ronald Burkle, Mario Lemieux
  • GM: Jim Rutherford
  • Head Coach: Mike Sullivan
  • Captain: Sidney Crosby
  • Minor League Affiliate: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
  • Stanley Cups: 4

And here are some tidbits about their history:

The Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the original expansion teams that increased the size of the NHL from 6 teams to 12.

Pittsburgh had previously been the home of the NHL Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the American Hockey League’s Hornets. A large group of businessmen, including H.J. Heinz (yes, of the condiment company), and Pittsburgh Steeler owner. Art Rooney, lobbied for the return of the NHL to Pittsburgh. They petitioned votes from owners of the Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings to ensure that Pittsburgh would be included in the expansion.

When they were officially created, the franchise had to pay the Red Wings an indemnification fee since they owned the Pittsburgh Hornets.

A contest was held to determine the nickname of the new team, with Penguins winning. The name was inspired by the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, nicknamed the “Igloo”.

The colors were originally powder blue, navy blue, and white, but were changed in the 80’s to match the gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers and MLB Pittsburgh Pirates. The new gold and black color scheme faced protest by the Boston Bruins since the colors were (are) very similar. The Bruins claimed to own the right to the colors, but Pittsburgh argued that gold is the official color of the City of Pittsburgh. That, plus the fact that the old Pittsburgh Pirates used uniforms based on official Pittsburgh Police uniforms, led to them being granted permission to use the color scheme.

In their early seasons, they found very little playoff success. Due to the financial strain, there were rumors that the team would relocate. Heading into the 1984 Draft, the Penguins appeared to purposely weaken their team in order to finish last in the rankings, below the New Jersey Devils, to draft Mario Lemieux first over all. Devils were not happy about this to say the least…

The arrival of Lemieux immediately improved the team, but it took several years before they made the playoffs consistently.

In 1990 the Pens drafted the legend, Jaromir Jagr. He was the first Czechoslovakian player to be drafted into the NHL without first needing to defect to the West. He and Lemieux became the faces of the franchise. And soon after, they won back to back Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992.

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But like, that hair….? (Source: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

The Penguins were the first NHL team to visit the White House after winning the Stanley Cup in 1991.

Despite being diagnosed with Hodgkins disease and missing several games of the 1993 season, Lemieux won the Art Ross Trophy.

In 1997, Lemieux announced his retirement due to health issues, as well as concerns about NHL officiating. His departure caused the Penguins to enter financial instability yet again. The owners had asked players to defer their salaries to help pay bills, but when it came time to pay up, the organization was forced to file for bankruptcy. Mario Lemieux then stepped up and offered to buy the team. The organization owed him the most in differed salary, already making him the teams’ largest individual creditor. Essentially, the salary was converted into enough equity to give him control over the team. He and Ronald Burkle saved the team by doing this.

In 2000, Lemieux became the first NHL owner that also played for the team when he announced his return as an active player.

The team’s decline, both on the ice and in the front office, led to them being able to draft goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury first overall in 2003. Then in 2004 they drafted Evgeni Malkin 2nd overall (the Capitals selected Alexander Ovechkin first).

Still the team struggled. One of the major issues being that their old Civic Arena was in need of serious remodeling. Lemieux attempted to convince the city of Pittsburgh to build a new hockey arena, but since they were doing so poorly, the city refused. Lemieux at this point considered relocating the team to Kansas City, MO.

The 2004-2005 NHL Season was cancelled due to the NHL lockout. The financial struggles of the Penguins and the Ottawa Senators and their lack of resolutions were one of the reasons of the lockout.

The 2005 Entry Draft order was set by a lottery, conducted behind closed doors. The result was Pittsburgh getting to pick first overall…which became Sidney Crosby. And everyone lived happily ever after.

But really, while Crosby had an amazing debut season which led to increased overall attendance, the team continued to post a losing record. In 2006 Lemieux announced his retirement for the second time, but this time permanently due to his irregular heartbeat.

In 2007, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership group, publicly announced that an agreement had been reached among the parties to build the long sought arena. The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility, the Consol Energy Center, guaranteed that the Penguins would remain in the city of Pittsburgh. Following the announcement of the plan, the Lemieux ownership group announced that they no longer had plans to sell the team.

In 2009 they won their 3rd Stanley Cup by defeating the Detroit Red Wings (the Red Wings had beat them in the final the year prior).

And then of course they just won the Stanley Cup after posting a terrible first half of their season which led to Mike Johnston being replaced as head coach by Mike Sullivan. They had also acquired Phil “The Thrill” Kessel during the previous off-season, and added Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin to complete the “HBK” line that dominated during the playoffs. Trevor Daley, former Dallas Star, was also an integral part of the playoff run, as were the emergence of young rookie players such as Matt Murray, Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust.

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Notable Players:

  • Mario Lemieux
  • Jaromir Jagr
  • Michel Briere
  • Randy Carlyle
  • Paul Gardner
  • Kevin Stevens
  • Bryan Trottier
  • Sergei Gonchar
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Evgeni Malkin
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Pascal Dupuis
  • Kris Letang
  • Phil Kessel

I personally love the Penguins. They are my second favorite team by a large margin (although the margin between them and the Dallas Stars as my absolute favorite team is quite large…). I am very proud of them for winning the Cup, considering all they had to overcome to get to that point (seeing Dupuis skate onto the ice in his uniform for the last team still brings me to tears). I wish them the best this next season, unless they are facing the Stars, of course…

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Team Profile: Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks are only 4 years away from reaching their 50th anniversary. Though they have yet to win a Cup, the team definitely inspires loyalty from their fans. And from looking at their history, Vancouver has no chill when it comes to hockey.

Team breakdown:
Western Conference
Pacific Division
Established: 1945 (Pacific Coast Hockey Association/Western Hockey League) 1970 (NHL)
Arena: Rogers Arena
AHL Affiliate: Utica Comets
Owner: Canucks Sports & Entertainment
Coach: Willie Desjardins
Notable Former Players: Mark Messier, Kirk McLean, Pavel Burel, Thomas Gradin, Roberto Luongo
Best known line: Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, Todd Bertuzzi: “West Coast Express”
Current Captain: Henrik Sedin
Goalies: Ryan Miller, Jacob Markstrom
Notable Current Players: Daniel Sedin, Alexander Edler, Loui Eriksson, Ben Hutton

Some facts and history:
Vancouver Millionaires established in 1911 as one of three teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey association. The Millionaires played in an arena that, at the time, was home to the world’s largest artificial ice rink until it caught fire in 1936.

The Millionaires disbanded in 1925, leaving only the WHL Canucks playing in Vancouver.

After bidding in 1967 to buy the struggling Oakland Seals to move them to Vancouver and being denied, the NHL promised that Vancouver would get a team in the next expansion draft.

Vancouver Canucks came into the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres in 1970.

The Canucks made their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982 where they lost to the New York Islanders.

They played for the Cup again in 1994, losing to the New York Rangers in seven games, resulting in the riots in downtown Vancouver.

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         Canucks logo from 1994

When they lost again in 2011 to the Bruins on home ice, there were also riots in downtown Vancouver. These are the riots people tend to talk about in relation to the Canucks.

Roberto Luongo served as captain for the Canucks from 2008 until 2010, but because the NHL does not allow for goaltenders to be captains, he could not act as an on-ice captain for the team. They had three alternates to deal with the officials and ceremonial face-offs in his place. And because he was not allowed to wear a ‘C’ on his jersey, he had a ‘C’ in the design on one of his mask.

Team Profile: San Jose Sharks

As one of the youngest teams in the league, the Sharks have managed to make quite a name for themselves in their short tenure. With several playoff appearances marked by an impressive ability to beat the top seed team (only to fall in round two), their popularity is completely understandable.

Overview:
Western Conference
Pacific Division
Established: 1991
Arena: SAP Center
AHL Affiliate: San Jose Barracuda
Owner: San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises
Coach: Peter DeBoer
Notable Former Players: Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov, Doug Wilson
Current Captain: Joe Pavelski
Goalies: Martin Jones
Notable Current Players: Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Joel Ward, Patrick Marleau

Quick facts:
Gordon and George Gund wanted to bring a team back to the Bay, after having been part of the decision to move the California Golden Seals to Cleveland and then have them merge with the Minnesota North Stars, so the League told them they could have the expansion team if they sold their share of the North Stars to Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin, who was looking to get a team into San Jose.

The first choice name for the new team was ‘San Jose Blades’ but the potential negative connotation to weapons lead the Gund brothers to go with the second choice of ‘Sharks’ instead. The name was reportedly inspired by the number of sharks living in the Pacific…. Who would have guessed?

The Sharks played their first two seasons in ‘Cow Palace’.

Despite their struggles to win, in their second season they sold the most merchandise for the NHL teams which accounted for nearly thirty percent of the League’s total revenue.

In their third season, they made a record 58 point jump in the standings from their last season to make the playoffs for the first time with 82 points.

1995 saw the only ever rain-out in NHL history when the rain in California flooded the Guadalupe River in March, making it impossible for fans to get to the arena to see the Sharks play the Red Wings.

Despite their many appearances in the playoffs, they have only managed to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals once where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Patrick Marleau and his family adopted Jo Pawvelski, the stray cat that ran across the ice during the playoffs.

Jo Pawvelski