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POSTED ON Wednesday, 06.18.2014 / 2:00 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for every National Hockey League player, but being selected in the NHL Draft is the first dream that comes true en route to that unforgettable achievement. Such a selection is a tremendous honor, and it’s the first sign that a player has a chance to make it to the greatest hockey league in the world.

But the Draft has not always been the main way that players arrived on the scene. In fact, the original draft that was held in 1963, then called the “NHL Amateur Draft,” held the position that today’s free agency holds in one sense: it produced some NHL players, but was not the primary method of procuring the future stars of the world’s fastest game.

For instance, if the San Jose Sharks were in business back in the 1960’s as one of the “Original Six,” the media guide would not have had the following phrase next to Logan Couture’s name: “Selected by San Jose in the NHL Draft (1st round, 9th overall).” Instead, the more likely phrase would have been, “Product of San Jose Sharks organization.”

Now, even though one could use that phrase about many current Sharks, it had a slightly different meaning back in those halcyon years. By the mid-1940’s, NHL clubs were directly subsidizing what are now called “major junior” teams, and had either outright ownership or working agreements with affiliated American Hockey League clubs, and that gave them exclusive playing rights for the players who played on these teams and who had signed a “C-Form” commitment. Once a player signed such a form, he became an apprentice in the trade of professional hockey, and his entire existence was in the control of the NHL team that had signed him.

Transporting a modern player into that era, a young Logan Couture would have likely signed a C-Form after being watched as a bantam and perhaps a midget by Sharks super-scouts. The Sharks would have subsidized a team in, say, the Ontario Hockey League, and Logan would have automatically become property of that club. Invited to an NHL training camp, he would have likely progressed through a team’s system, first to the American Hockey League, and then to the Sharks.

As is the case today, the rare exception would jump directly to the NHL, and that’s essentially how it all happened for one of the greatest players of all time, Bobby Orr. Signed to a commitment by scout Wren Blair and the Boston Bruins when he was just 14 years of age, Orr played junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals, the Bruins-subsidized organization in the OHL. Then, at 18, in 1966-67, he cracked the Bruins roster, and the rest was history.

While this system certainly vacuumed up most of the burgeoning young talent and provided them a competitive place to play, there were always those who developed later or whom the scouts missed. The NHL Amateur Draft was developed as a way to distribute those talented players around the League.

So it was on a quiet summer day in 1963, at a non-public event at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, that the first NHL Amateur Draft was conducted. The first player ever selected was Garry Monahan, a winger who wound up playing in 748 NHL games for Montreal, Detroit, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto.

After the 1969-70 season, the last vestiges of this system slipped into the modern format of what is now the NHL Draft, which today is a hugely public event that is conducted with much pomp and circumstance over two days, including prime national television coverage. It is in this system that the San Jose Sharks will select their future stars, and in which they possess three picks in the top 60.

The Sharks will select 20th this year, based on their ending position in the standings. Over the course of their history, they have selected with the 20th pick only once. It was 2001, at what is now known as the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, and the Sharks stepped to the podium to select center Marcel Goc.

Goc, of course, would have a memorable first run in the NHL during the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs. After spending a full season in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons, he found himself in the lineup for his first NHL game of any kind in Game 5 of the first round against St. Louis, and he picked up an assist on the series-winning goal by Mark Smith. Then, in round two against Colorado, he scored his first-ever NHL goal of any kind in Game 6, on a play that turned out to be the series-winning goal.

Some other notable 20th-overall selections in the history of the NHL Draft include Larry Robinson (Montreal, 1971), Brian Sutter (St. Louis, 1976), Michel Goulet (Quebec, 1979), Martin Brodeur (New Jersey, 1990), Scott Parker (Colorado, 1998), Brent Burns (Minnesota, 2003), Travis Zajac (New Jersey, 2004), and Michael Del Zotto (N.Y. Rangers, 2008).

Who could the Sharks get with the 51st and 53rd selections? Historically speaking, here are a few names for you: Butch Goring (LA, 51st, 1969), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET, 53rd, 1989), Patrick Elias (NJ, 51st, 1994), David Booth (FLA, 53rd, 2004), Mason Raymond (VAN, 51st, 2005), and Derek Stepan (NYR, 51st, 2008), to name a few.

But in every draft, there is always the hidden gem who turns up, and these players are prime examples of that in Sharks history: Marcus Ragnarsson (99th, 1992), Alexander Korolyuk (141st, 1994), Evgeni Nabokov (219th, 1994), Vesa Toskala (90th, 1995), Miikka Kiprusoff (116th, 1995), Matt Bradley (102nd, 1996), Mark Smith (219th, 1997), Mikael Samuelsson (145th, 1998), Douglas Murray (241st, 1999), Ryane Clowe (175th, 2001), Joe Pavelski (205th, 2003), Alex Stalock (112th, 2005), Justin Braun (201st, 2007), Tommy Wingels (177th, 2008), and Jason Demers (186th, 2008).

Beyond that, there are the free agent players who are also scouted, signed, and developed alongside all those who had the “head start” of being selected in the draft. An outstanding example is Andrew Desjardins, who played in the OHL for four years and was neither drafted, nor signed immediately, by an NHL team. His path to the League went through Laredo, Texas (CHL), Phoenix, Arizona (ECHL), and Worcester, Massachusetts (AHL), before getting to the NHL here in San Jose for the first time in 2010.

As is the case with all of the draftees, past and present, “Desi” has worked his way up through the system, and has earned the right to be identified as the earlier players used to be: “Product of the San Jose Sharks organization.”

It is a designation that all home-grown Sharks players have the right to be proud of, and it is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of these players, and that of the staff that discovered them, that deserves to be celebrated this week. Whether they’re drafted, acquired in trades, or signed as free agents, they all become products of the organization that developed them.

Make sure that you pay close attention to each and every selection that is made at this week’s draft. You’ll be reviewing some household names of the future, and some Stanley Cup champions in years to come. But on Friday and Saturday, you’ll also see the first dream of young players coming true, with the chance to achieve the ultimate goal.

See you at Stanley’s on Friday at Sharks Ice at San Jose, for the NHL Draft Viewing Party, presented by Coors Light. For more information on that event, click here.

I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 06.16.2014 / 7:05 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

The FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, an event that occurs every four years, is now underway for the United States, and sports fans from around the world will be following the exploits of their respective nations in what is sure to be a dramatic scene in Brazil. As is the case in international hockey, there are favorites, underdogs, upsets, strange bedfellows, and tremendous competition.

From a hockey fan perspective, it’s interesting to contrast our sport’s premier event, the Stanley Cup playoffs, with what’s happening now in cities like Sao Paolo, Belo Horizonte, and Recife. There is nothing like the World Cup every four years for soccer fans, but there is nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs every year for a hockey fan.

From a San Jose Sharks perspective, of course, there are no smiles over what occurred this past spring, and it seemed appropriate that the final day was Friday, the 13th of June. On that evening, the Los Angeles Kings overcame a 2-1 deficit, tied the game on a power play in the third, and won the Stanley Cup in front of their fan base at the Staples Center. It was the second Stanley Cup championship for the Sharks’ arch rivals, and it capped a spring of disappointment and soul-searching for the Men in Teal.

But beyond the too-early end for the Sharks, the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs were truly a remarkable showcase of the greatest game on earth, and unlike the World Cup or the Olympics, it happens every year, not every four years. Aside from the many remarkable, albeit painful stories that led to the Kings’ championship, there were so many others.

The New York Rangers made it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years, and that was quite an accomplishment for the Broadway Blueshirts, an excellent and improving team over the course of the season. They beat the Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games, fell behind Pittsburgh 3 games to 1 in round 2, and roared back to take Game Seven at Burgh Hockey in a comeback that rivaled any in this post-season. Then, in a traditional Original Six matchup, they took the Montreal Canadiens in six games, setting things up for the Final against the Kings.

The Chicago Blackhawks, like the Sharks , saw their season end too soon, and as was the case with San Jose, they were defeated in Game Seven at home by the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Chicago trailed its series 3 games to 1 before fighting back to force Game Seven. But as was the case for three great teams, they dropped Game Seven at home to the Kings.

One of the most interesting aspects, of course, of the Stanley Cup playoffs is how grueling it is over the span of years. Consider the path of the two Finalists. The Kings have played an NHL record 64 playoff games in the past three seasons, which gives them a grand total of 276 games played. But the Rangers, with 57 playoff contests in the last three years, are not far behind, with 269 games played. By comparison, the Sharks have played in 23 playoff contests in the last three seasons, ranking them 8th among all teams. That’s a total of 235 games overall for the Sharks in that span.

The new season officially kicks off with the NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, with the first round scheduled for Friday, June 27th. The future stars of the world’s fastest game will be selected, and the Sharks will begin their long journey to training camp, looking forward with excitement. The coaches, players, and hockey staff are already doing so.

I’m Dan Rusanowsky for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 05.26.2014 / 12:47 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

I don’t think that there is anyone who believes that the NHL’s conference final series are “over,” but everyone must agree that the hockey that is being played is absolutely spectacular.

The sight of Martin St. Louis taking advantage of an opportunity and scoring a superbly placed OT game-winner for the New York Rangers against Montreal certainly was inspirational for Gotham hockey fans.

Meanwhile, in the LA-Chicago series, the Blackhawks made it close the night before, but the Los Angeles Kings got a big goal from Drew Doughty in the third period and took a 2-1 series lead in their 4-3 victory.

One of the interesting notes about the Kings and the Rangers is that they’re the only teams in the NHL with 50 or more post-season games played in the last three seasons. As of today, here are the top 10 post-season teams in that time span, arranged by winning percentage:

RANK TEAM GP W L PCT GF GA SERIES W L PCT BEST RESULT
1 LOS ANGELES 55 35 20 0.636 150 109 9 8 1 0.889 Won Stanley Cup
2 CHICAGO 44 27 17 0.614 119 103 7 6 1 0.857 Won Stanley Cup
3 BOSTON 41 24 17 0.585 110 89 7 4 3 0.571 Lost Final
4 NEW JERSEY 24 14 10 0.583 60 58 4 3 1 0.75 Lost Final
5 PHOENIX 16 9 7 0.563 37 35 3 2 1 0.667 Lost Conference Final
6 N.Y. RANGERS 50 26 24 0.52 118 107 7 5 2 0.714 Conference Final
7 ANAHEIM 20 10 10 0.5 56 55 3 1 2 0.333 Lost Round 2
8 MONTREAL 20 10 10 0.5 53 61 3 2 1 0.667 Conference Final
9 NASHVILLE 10 5 5 0.5 22 21 2 1 1 0.5 Lost Round 2
10 PITTSBURGH 34 17 17 0.5 110 103 6 3 3 0.5 Lost Conference Final

It really is amazing to note that both Los Angeles and New York are playing fresh hockey, even though they’ve endured so many grueling games over these past three playoff campaigns. They each have played in more than 50 post-season contests in that time span. Chicago has also played in 44 playoff games, while the Canadiens have 20. San Jose, by the way, has played in 23 playoff games, 8th most in the NHL since the 2011-12 season.

The remaining teams are all strong in goal. With Carey Price out the Canadiens have been going with Dustin Tokarski, who won the Memorial Cup in 2008 and MVP honors with Spokane, won the World Junior Tournament for Canada in 2009, and added the Calder Cup championship in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals to his resume. Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford have Stanley Cup championships, and are looking for another, while Henrik Lundqvist is an elite netminder looking for his first Stanley Cup crown.

All four teams have excellent defensemen who are firmly in the prime of their NHL careers. All have been doing an admirable job in both ends of the rink. When considering this position, think Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Ryan McDonagh, and P.K. Subban.

Up front, each team is configured slightly differently, but even though the road has been grueling, players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Thomas Vanek, and Lars Eller have been making tremendous offensive contributions.

The role players, as is usually the case with teams that advance this far, are all significant with the four clubs.

Here is a tip of the hat to the NHL and the clubs still competing for the Stanley Cup. It’s been quite an amazing ride for them. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 04.14.2014 / 5:15 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

The regular season has come to an end, and we are about to throw all the stats out the window. The Sharks have finished up with a two-game winning streak, and the pump is primed for what is sure to be an epic first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.

Here are a couple of notes:

• With his 2 goals in Phoenix, Joe Pavelski became the fourth Shark to hit the 40-goal mark, winding up with 41. He’s the first Sharks 40-goal man since 2009-10.

• The other 40 goal scorers in Sharks history are Owen Nolan (44 in 1999-2000), Jonathan Cheechoo (56 in 2005-06), and Patrick Marleau (44 in 2009-10).

• Two assists in the Phoenix game put Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle officially over the 200 assist mark in a San Jose uniform. Boyle is the only defenseman to record 200 career Sharks assists. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (134) and Brad Stuart (132) are next on that list.

• Boyle (201 career Sharks assists) is only the 6th player to reach the milestone. He’s now tied with Jeff Friesen. Players ahead of them: Joe Thornton (567), Patrick Marleau (493), Owen Nolan (245), and Joe Pavelski (224).

• Pavelski’s 40th goal came on the power play. It was his 16th power play goal of the year, which is second only to Alexander Ovechkin (24). His 41 goals ranks him 3rd overall, behind Ovechkin (51) and Corey Perry (43).

• Penalty killing is an important factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and so is the concept of staying out of the box. The Sharks allowed just 33 power play goals by opponents, which is the lowest number they’ve allowed in a full-length NHL season. They were only shorthanded 219 times, which is also an all-time team low.

• Scoring balance is also important when preparing for a long playoff run. The Sharks have 10 skaters who have scored 10 or more goals this season, 4 with 20 or more, and 2 with 30 or more. Four players have 50 points or more.

• In goal, Antti Niemi had a very strong night in the desert, capped by his terrific stop on a breakaway by Shane Doan in the second period, when the Coyotes outshot the Sharks 16-13 in the middle frame. He wound up tied for 2nd in wins with 39, and the Sharks are in the top 5 in goals-against average.

Tomas Hertl is back to health, and the two games that he played will be very valuable preparation benchmarks for the playoffs.

Now, it’s time to throw those stats out the window, and get ready for a series that everyone concedes will be an epic one: the San Jose Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings. Let’s get started!

I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.31.2014 / 11:54 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

At this time of the year, the hard work and extra effort that the San Jose Sharks have put in really starts to pay off.

It starts at the top with the management, hockey operations, and scouting. All have to work together to properly field a team, take care of the budget, deal with injuries, and prepare for contingencies. It continues with the coaching staff, in the area of managing players’ ice time during a difficult, condensed schedule, developing players in practice, and getting results on game nights.

But perhaps the greatest area of importance lies in the players’ conditioning base, body maintenance, and sheer resolve during the difficult grind of the season. That’s something that begins in the early summer, when the Sharks work out their individual training programs with Mike Potenza, Ray Tufts, and the staff. Sometimes they train with specialized coaches, whether it’s for off-ice training, or for skating edge work. But summer is no longer a leisurely time for hockey players. It’s the time when hard work is banked for future dividend collection later.

“Later” is now. Sharks Hockey has just finished a stretch of playing 14 games in 26 days, with travel to and from three of the four time zones on the North American continent. As for the one time zone they didn’t play in, the Central Time Zone, they had to fly through it to get to where they were going. They’ve had to face the likes of top rated clubs like the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, desperate clubs like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, a few teams out of the hunt but with a lot to prove like Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, and a few afternoon games thrown in to boot. In addition, the team put together an 8-3-3 record in those games.

That’s a schedule that is being played out throughout the National Hockey League, and we are starting to see a few injuries, some serious, as a result. Through the process, fatigue sometimes results in a fluky play. That was the case on Saturday, when Colorado’s Matt Duchene was injured on an unfortunate collision with his linemate, Jamie McGinn, just 32 seconds into the game.

Later in the contest, McGinn, who had the lighting rod attached to his body for most of the day, threw a body check on James Sheppard, who fell awkwardly into the boards. It was another scary moment, but it was great to see Sheppard return to action and make another tremendous contribution to the team’s effort.

Sheppard’s story is an excellent story. He essentially missed two full seasons after seriously injuring his knee in the summer of 2010. Provided a chance by the Sharks, who acquired him from Minnesota for a third round selection in the 2013 NHL Draft, Sheppard has worked diligently on restoring his health and has transformed his game, and in the stretch drive, he has provided lots of value to his team. In his last 5 games, he’s scored 2 goals and added 3 assists, and has looked very comfortable at center along with his usual linemates, Tommy Wingels and Marty Havlat, who have shown good chemistry together.

When called upon, Alex Stalock’s solid goaltending has been another show of depth on the squad. Stalock, another amazing story of medical recovery, has pushed Antti Niemi to be at his best and has provided 11 wins, 2 shutouts, and a 1.91 goals-against average to the table. He and Niemi are always working on their game.

With Adam Burish out indefinitely after hand surgery, the Sharks depth was showcased when Andrew Desjardins was put together with Mike Brown and Tyler Kennedy. Even though the Sharks lost in Colorado on Saturday afternoon, this unit succeeded in drawing two penalties, including one that led to a power play goal by Joe Pavelski. This line is not simply “eating up minutes,” it’s also providing important value to the team.

It’s in games like these, coming up, that are really showcasing the hard work of players such as these. They set things up for the top scorers like Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture, and are important parts of any championship club.

All of us can’t wait until the playoffs begin, but the final stretch of the regular season should prove to be a dramatic and spectacular roadway to that exciting time. How will the Sharks do in their final six games of the season? Where will they finish up? Who will be in the playoff lineup for Game One, and what team will the Sharks face?

All questions will be answered soon, but one has been answered already. The San Jose Sharks have been preparing for this time of year for a long time. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.24.2014 / 3:03 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites
What fun we’re having in the drive toward the Stanley Cup playoffs!

It’s an exciting time of the year.  There are 10 games remaining in the regular season, beginning with Monday night’s game at Calgary. 

Here is a breakdown of what’s left:
Mar. 24 at Calgary
Mar. 25 at Edmonton
Mar. 27 WINNIPEG
Mar. 29 at Colorado
Apr. 1 EDMONTON
Apr. 3 LOS ANGELES
Apr. 5 NASHVILLE
Apr. 9 at Anaheim
Apr. 11 COLORADO
Apr. 13 at Phoenix

As of March 24, here is what that schedule brings:
Games vs. Teams in Playoff Position: 5 (2 home, 3 away)
Games vs. Teams out of Playoff Position: 5 (3 home, 2 away)

Games vs. Pacific Division: 6 (2 home, 4 away)    
Record vs. Pacific Division: 14-6-2 (H: 9-2-1 A: 5-4-1)
Games vs. Central Division: 4 (3 home, 1 away)    
Record vs. Central Division: 11-5-2 (H: 8-0-0 A: 3-5-2)

Top Scorers Facing Sharks in Final 10 Games:        
Calgary  Jiri Hudler (15-31-46)        
Edmonton  Taylor Hall (24-41-65)        
Winnipeg  Blake Wheeler (24-35-59)        
Colorado  Matt Duchene (22-45-67)        
Los Angeles  Anze Kopitar (22-36-58)        
Nashville  Shea Weber (18-28-46)        
Anaheim  Ryan Getzlaf (29-47-76)        
Phoenix  Keith Yandle (8-42-50)        

Top Goaltenders Facing Sharks in Final 10 Games:
Calgary  Karri Ramo (12-10-4, 2.60)
Edmonton  Ben Scrivens (6-7-0, 2.67)
Winnipeg  Ondrej Pavelec (20-24-6, 2.97)
Colorado  Semyon Varlamov (34-14-5, 2.48)
Los Angeles  Jonathan Quick (23-15-2, 2.01)
Nashville  Pekka Rinne (6-9-1, 2.75)
Anaheim  Jonas Hiller (27-11-6, 2.40)
Phoenix  Mike Smith (27-21-10, 2.65)

The Sharks are poised to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for a 10th consecutive season.  When they do, they will have a chance to be the only team in the National Hockey League that can say that.

There is one other team in the NHL that might have something to say about that. The Detroit Red Wings are in the heart of a tremendous battle within the Eastern Conference of the NHL, and for the first time in a long time, there is a real possibility that they could miss post-season action. With 12 games to play, Detroit is in the final playoff position in the East. Given the spirit with which they have been playing, I’m not betting against them.

The Sharks and the Red Wings have benefited from tremendous contributions from their coaching staffs to solve a variety of challenges. In Todd McLellan’s case, he and his staff have done a remarkable job in managing through several serious injuries to important players, have set up young players to succeed, including a handful who have spent most of the year in the American Hockey League and have also done amazing work in the area of ice time management to set things up for the final drive and the post-season.

While Detroits head coach Mike Babcock’s challenges have been distributed differently, it is clear that he and his staff have really excelled as well.  These are two coaches who deserve some serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award, handed to the NHL’s Coach of the Year, along with a reasonably large pool of candidates who will be considered.

Over the last 9 years, the Sharks and the Red Wings are the only teams to qualify for every playoff year, and they have each advanced beyond the first round a League-high 7 times.  Only Philadelphia (5 advancements) , Boston (4), NY Rangers (4), Pittsburgh (4), and Vancouver (4) have come close.

Now, since the 2003-04 season, when San Jose began its current run of qualifying for the post-season, there have been eight different Cup winners, with Chicago the only team to win twice. There have been nine different losing Finalists.

But, here is where it gets interesting.  There have been only 5 teams to advance to the Conference Final or further a minimum of 3 times.  Those teams are: Philadelphia (4 times), Pittsburgh (3), Chicago (3), Detroit (3), and San Jose (3).

I think that the Sharks see this year as a year of great challenge and tremendous opportunity.  They have been prepared extraordinarily well by an outstanding coaching staff.  They have built their depth, and have proved that they can handle adversity.  As of this moment, they are in first place in their division, with a chance to capture that banner by the end of the season.

Now, all that remains is to play the final portion of the schedule, and get to professional sports’ ultimate playoff championship, the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Let the games begin!  I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com
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POSTED ON Wednesday, 02.19.2014 / 9:00 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites
A TALE OF TWO LETTERS --

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying the hockey competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Once every four years, it’s worth it to see the best players in the world represent their countries on one of the largest stages in sports.

Both the Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena have seen some great action, with inspiring play, excellent goaltending, world leaders in attendance, and some old fashioned drama. But the best is yet to come, starting with Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchups between the United States and the Czech Republic, Russia and Finland, Canada and Latvia, and Sweden and Slovenia. Just about anything can happen, and if you’re not tuned in, make sure you either DVR it, record it, listen to it, or stream it on the internet when you get the opportunity.

Some observations of what’s happening so far:
  • Latvia, with 41-year-old ex-Shark Sandis Ozolinsh captaining the team and with Buffalo Sabres’ coach Ted Nolan directing the action from behind the bench, has been one of the great stories of the tournament. With their victory in the preliminary playoff round against favored Switzerland, 3-1, the Latvians advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in that nation’s history.
  • The Latvians now will face powerhouse Canada in quarterfinal action. It’s the first meeting of these nations in Olympic play in 78 years. Back in 1936, Canada beat Latvia, 11-0, but given the way that the Latvians are grinding it out, don’t expect that kind of game in the quarters.
  • Latvia has Ozolinsh (875 NHL games), Oskars Bartulis (66), Herbert Vasiljevs (51), Martins Karsums (24), Kaspars Daugavins (91), Zemgus Girgensons (51 games w/Buffalo this year) among players with NHL experience.
  • Slovenia, with only LA’s Anze Kopitar (581) and former Red Wing prospect Jan Mursak (46) on the roster, have put together a solid team effort. They qualified for the preliminary round by virtue of their victory against Slovakia, and then, with a 4-0 win against Austria, earned the chance to reach the quarterfinal round against Sweden.
  • Slovenia, which has a population of about 2 million, counts Kopitar among its biggest sports heroes. If the Slovenians are able to use their solid team game against Sweden and advance, they’ll be just as popular as current double gold medal winner Tina Maze, the Lindsey Vonn of her country.
  • Sticking with Slovenia, they have two players with the last name “Rodman” and one with the last name “Kuralt” on the roster. I wonder if they have any interest in either basketball or the evening news?
  • One more Slovenian note: did you know that former Shark Todd Elik played two seasons in Ljubuljana, the capital of the country, just before he retired at the age of 44?
  • It’s also interesting to see how some of the names have changed on the backs of the players’ jerseys in this tournament. For instance, note that Ozolinsh’s last name is spelled “OZOLINS,” without the “H.” Back in the early days, the “h” was added to ensure its pronunciation by the unknowing North American crowd, but nowadays, as in the case of pronouncing Tomas Hertl’s first name “toe-mash,” we are getting used to simply pronouncing the names in the way that the player and his family want them pronounced.
  • Of course, that isn’t ALWAYS true. For instance, the technically correct pronunciation of Teemu Selanne’s last name is like most Finnish names, with the stress on the first syllable. That would be “SELL-uh-nay,” which differs from the North Americanized “suh-LAHN-ee.” It simply became “suh-LAHN-ee,” and so it remains, an uncontrollable force of nature in the hockey pronunciation world.
That little note of pronunciation oddities in the hockey world brings us to the title of today’s missive, namely, the Tale of Two Letters:

When you watch the Russia-Finland quarterfinal on Wednesday, you may notice a few players on the Russian team that you recognize, but who possess strange name spellings when you consult the backs of their respective jerseys. Here are the ones that you should check out:

No.
Pos.
As NHL Spells It
As NHL Says It
As IOC Spells It
As IOC Says It
72
G
Sergei BOBROVSKY
Bob-ROV-skee
BOBROVSKI
Bob-ROV-skee
51
D
FEDOR Tyutin
FEHD-uhr
FYODOR
FYO-duhr
28
F
Alexander SEMIN
SYEH-min or SEH-min
SYOMIN
SYO-min
41
F
Nikolai KULEMIN
KOOL-uh-min
KULYOMIN
kool-YOH-min


What in the knick-knack-paddywhack-give-a-dog-a-bone is going on here?

Well, first things first: yes, these are the same players, but the reason why these players have different spellings to their last names, with different pronunciations, is due to several factors:
  1. The fact that the Russian language uses the Cyrillic alphabet while English uses the Roman alphabet, and one must be transliterated to the other.
  2. The fact that Russian publications confuse everyone when they identify two separate letters of their alphabet in one way instead of two.
  3. The fact that the hockey world has relied more on the publications and not the official rules of transliterating the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet. But like the U.S. State Department, the International Olympic Committee relies on the official rules of transliteration.
  4. The fact that, unlike Tomas Hertl this year, many players don’t care how you pronounce their name, as long as they’re on the team and in the NHL.
So, nobody asked me, but: here is the “Tale of Two Letters,” which turns the pronunciation of Russian players’ names into a situation that is the best of times, and the worst of times, to all on the North American side of things:

In the Russian language, the two letters are written and pronounced as follows:

E, e -- “Ye,” soft e pronunciation is used, as in, “Yeh.”
Ё, ё -- “Yo,” stress is always on this letter

To borrow from my German friends, there is an umlaut over the second letter that indicates its difference from the first letter. So, that’s why when these letters are translated into English, the first one is written as “ye,” and the second is written as “yo.”

Here is where the problems start. For reasons known to only those who wish to save typeface and ink, Russians virtually never write or print the umlaut, thereby confusing the situation entirely! You’re simply supposed to know the difference, usually by osmosis, and similar to some of our crazy rules in English.

All of this, of course, causes many mispronunciations that live on in hockey. Some of these names can be saved , but some simply fall victim to the masses, similar to the Brett Hull-toe-in-crease-moment-that-was-illegal-all-season-turning –into-a-Cup-winning-goal-that-could-not-be-called-back-when-all-of-the-media-and-families-were-streaming-onto-the ice, and the Selanne example already cited.

If you’re a Dallas Stars fan, relax. Your team would have won the Cup anyway had the goal been called back. Sorry, Buffalo. But I digress.

So, yes, Alexander Semin, Nikolai Kulemin, and Fedor Tyutin technically should have the names in question pronounced as “SYO-min,” “kool-YO-min,” and “FYO-duhr.” Don’t forget to roll your r’s.

It’s also why the Sharks’ 219th overall selection in the 1994 Entry Draft had his name spelled “YEVGENY Nabokov” (or YEVGENI, in some cases) instead of the “EVGENI” that we see today.

It’s also why you saw the State Department refer to Russian economist and diplomat as “Boris FYODOROV” in the mid-1990’s, and why the NHL referred to one of their top stars as “Sergei FEDOROV,” with different pronunciations, even though they had the same last name. Just check their Wikipedia pages and you’ll see that the umlaut is printed in each of their Cyrillic last names.

Of course, when I met Sergei Fedorov and introduced myself, he said, “Hi, I’m Sergei Fedorov (FEHD-uh-roff),” thereby indicating that he was fine with the pronunciation change. So, it has stood the test of time.

Well, that’s the Tale of Two Letters. It’s the biggest conundrum in the broadcasting world since brothers Tomas and Frantisek Kaberle told their respective teams that they wanted to pronounce their last names differently (KAB-uhr-lay and KAB-uhr-luh). Or perhaps, since some broadcasters said “MAK-uh-rov” and others said “muh-KAR-ov” for former Shark Sergei Makarov. Or, perhaps, since some called Islanders goaltender Roland Melanson as “MELON-suhn,” while most others called him “mel-ON-suhn.”

George and Ira Gershwin wrote a song about it in 1937: “Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, let’s call the whole thing off.”

Enjoy the rest of the great Olympic hockey tournament, and let’s get everyone back healthy and raring to go for what will surely be a great run to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 01.27.2014 / 11:52 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

One day, not too long after Dustin Brown ended Tomas Hertl’s consecutive games-played streak and Kellan Lain played 0:02 and picked up 15 penalty minutes in his NHL debut, just as the finishing touches of Sharks captain Joe Thornton’s and alternate captain Patrick Marleau’s contract extensions were finalized and Anze Kopitar prepared to play at Dodger Stadium against Ryan Getzlaf in front of over 55,000 spectators, a seemingly unthinkable event occurred.

The Vancouver Canucks center, Henrik Sedin, was held out of a game against the Edmonton Oilers, and his lengthy ironman streak came to an end at an amazing 679 games.

I immediately wondered whether Patrick Marleau’s current ironman streak would graduate into the top 5 among active NHL players, and after counting it up positively, we got the folks at the organization we fondly refer to as the “Patrick Elias Sports Bureau” to double check it for us.

We were correct. Marleau is currently 5th on the active NHL ironman list, behind leader Jay Bouwmeester (686), Andrew Cogliano (512), Antoine Vermette (363), and Keith Yandle (355). It’s the second longest such streak in Sharks history, right behind Thornton’s 379 games, which was set between the day the captain was acquired from Boston and March 27, 2010.

The subjects of speed, stickhandling ability, hand-eye coordination, balance, checking ability, and shooting ability often get discussed when talking about the cream of the NHL’s crop. However, there is another subject that needs to be considered when truly understanding the impact of what players bring to the table in the NHL today.

Imagine the schedule, the challenges of travel, the sheer toll that the game places on an individual player’s body each season. Tack on the fact that the top players in question are playing against the best players on the other team nearly all of the time, and knock on every piece of wood possible, because durability is one of the most important qualities of any NHL superstar.

Let’s look at a recent accounting of some of the top players in the game today:

Player, Team GP Since 2005-06 Pct. Team Total GP GP Since 2007-08 Pct. Team Total GP
Joe Thornton, SJS 668 99.10% 505 99.00%
Patrick Marleau, SJS 659 97.80% 500 98.00%
Ryan Getzlaf, ANA 606 89.90% 467 91.60%
Anze Kopitar, LAK     502 98.40%
Henrik Sedin, VAN 672 99.70% 508 99.60%
Daniel Sedin, VAN 643 95.40% 480 94.10%
Sidney Crosby, PIT 522 77.50% 362 71.00%
Evgeni Malkin, PIT     421 82.50%

When you count the fact that Joe Thornton has currently skated in 251 straight contests, which ranks fourth all-time in Sharks history, it’s absolutely remarkable to note that in his nine seasons with the team, he has missed a grand total of only 5 regular season games. Over the same span, Marleau has missed only 15.

When you compare and contrast that with other top stars in the game, the Sharks duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are miles ahead of most, doing it in the ultra-competitive Western Conference with all of the travel considerations therein. It really is a remarkable achievement to date, and it really gives Sharks fans cause for celebration to learn that they have agreed to extend their time in Silicon Valley three additional years.

Let’s not take their contributions for granted. They are true NHL stars, and it’s a privilege to watch them work toward their ultimate goal of bringing a Stanley Cup to San Jose.

Thank you, Joe and Patrick. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 01.13.2014 / 9:00 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

With the San Jose Sharks in our nation’s capital, it’s always interesting to hear the perspectives of the American citizens on the team’s roster, especially as they consider some free time after practice at the Verizon Center today.

Whether it’s Joe Pavelski’s special memories of visiting the Library of Congress and national archives, where he saw some historically significant items, or whether it’s Justin Braun’s anticipation of strolling to the Lincoln Memorial, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of patriotism and good fortune that we are either Americans or simply living and working in the United States. It is, indeed, our good fortune to be doing so.

But as we reflect by the Reflecting Pool, it’s also important to note that the Verizon Center is a memorable place for a couple of Sharks who played the biggest game of their lives there before they ever thought seriously about donning an NHL uniform.

It was April 11, 2009, and the NCAA Frozen Four hockey tournament was being played at the Verizon Center. In the national semi-finals two nights earlier, Boston University defeated Vermont, 5-4, and Miami University defeated Bemidji State, 4-1, to earn the way to the championship game. B.U. trailed, 4-3, in its game, before scoring two goals in 1:13 midway through the third period to advance, with the winning goal scored by future Nashville Predator Colin Wilson. Miami had rolled through Bemidji on the strength of a two-goal, one-assist performance by future San Jose Shark Tommy Wingels.

But now, it was for all the marbles. 18,512 college hockey fans jammed into the Verizon Center, hoping for a night to really remember, and what they got was an incredible game with a crazy ending that provided some evidence why holding a two-goal lead is “the worst lead in hockey.”

After the teams exchanged goals in the first two periods, Wingels put Miami in front, 2-1, with 7:29 to play. Trent Vogelhuber made it a 3-1 Miami lead with 4:08 to play, and with one minute to play, it appeared as if Miami’s longstanding quest to win the national championship was about to happen.

But on the other side of the ice, Boston University was refusing to fold its hand, and with one minute to play, they had goaltender Kieran Millan on the bench for an extra attacker. It was time for the crazy ending.

Current Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino, who had been drafted 173rd overall by the Sharks in 2007, was on the ice, and along with Brandon Yip, now playing in the Phoenix organization, got the puck to Zach Cohen for an extra-attacker goal with 59 seconds to play. Miami still led, 3-2.

Forty-three seconds later, with the extra attacker on the ice, Bonino tied the game, 3-3, on passes from Matt Gilroy, currently playing in Florida, and Chris Higgins, who is currently playing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Instead of a handshake at the end of regulation, the national championship game was headed to overtime.

In overtime, Boston University would complete its incredible comeback, with Colby Cohen notching the winning goal at the 11:47 mark. The assists went to Kevin Shattenkirk, now playing for the St. Louis Blues, and Chris Connolly, currently splitting time between Tampere, Finland and Iserlohn, Germany. Boston University had won its fifth national championship, and the NCAA championship game had gone into overtime for the 13th time in history.

Fast-forward a couple of years later to February 13, 2012, back at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Sharks were playing the Capitals in NHL action on this occasion, and Wingels was back in the building for the first time.

As it turned out, the hotel rooming list had Wingels coincidentally put together with John McCarthy. As many know, McCarthy was a co-captain of the winning team from Commonwealth Avenue, and was named “Unsung Hero” of that particular Boston University team by his school.

Well, in the game played on that night, the roommates and teammates were on the winning side. On the strength of a two-goal, two-assist performance by U.S. Olympian Joe Pavelski, and two more goals from Canadian Olympian Patrick Marleau, not to mention three assists from Joe Thornton, and 39 saves from Thomas Greiss, the Sharks took a 5-1 lead with 12:57 to play, and held on to win, 5-3. Alex Ovechkin played 26:45 that game, and was held off the scoresheet by the Sharks netminder, despite putting 6 shots on goal.

Fast-forward to the present. The Sharks are back at Verizon Center for practice, and I’m reading an account of an exciting college game played at Madison Square Garden this past weekend between Yale and Harvard in front of 15,524 spectators and won by Yale, 5-1. It reminded me of the old ECAC Holiday Hockey Festival, also played at Madison Square Garden and featuring my alma mater, St. Lawrence University, in many of the games played between 1962 and 1977.

I have three unrelated thoughts:

  1. The Sharks are looking for inspiring performances on this road trip, and here, at the site of one of their most memorable moments, it would be really great to see Wingels and McCarthy pick up some points in a Sharks victory against the Capitals on Tuesday.
  2. Given that Hockey East plays its championship tournament at TD Garden, I’d like to see if the rival ECAC could somehow schedule its championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, where the tournament is currently held and where my alma mater played in another NCAA championship game that went to overtime. But to have TD Garden host one Eastern college championship and Madison Square Garden the other would be great for the sport, excellent cooperation with the NHL arenas, and an enhancement of the Eastern league rivalries.
  3. Given the appearance of the NCAA Frozen Four in NHL buildings, including Washington, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see it come to SAP Center at San Jose? Over the years, there has been definite interest, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Attention, NCAA: it would be a great success in Silicon Valley if it came to pass.

Now, it’s back to the Reflecting Pool to reflect some more, as Tuesday’s game awaits. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 01.06.2014 / 8:03 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster / Great White Bites

PROVINCIAL OLYMPIC TEAMS: A NEW PARLOR (PARLOUR) GAME

Following a spectacular 3-2 victory in Chicago, a great goaltending performance by Alex Stalock, some pressure goals by Jason Demers and Brent Burns, a shootout performance worthy of note from Stalock, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski, the San Jose Sharks headed to the airport to brave what they’re calling a “polar vortex” that has enveloped much of the nation’s midsection.

In the midst of the travel to Nashville, and the warm confines of the hotel, the news of Olympic team announcements has started to trickle out, with the big news coming tomorrow with Team Canada. Of course, I have been hoping that all of the Sharks who are still candidates for Olympic play will be selected by their respective nations. The parlor game (or, “parlour game,” as it may be spelled) of picking your version of each country’s team has become a fierce sport in many homes.

But for some reason, while pondering the entire topic, I suddenly started thinking about one of the greatest soccer stars in history, George Best, and wondered how his situation would apply to hockey.

Best was one of the most dynamic soccer players ever to lace on boots. He dazzled fans the world over, first with Manchester United, then with a variety of other teams, including the original version of the San Jose Earthquakes. For his highlight goal in a Quakes uniform, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8wGN5uDaVg

But Best never was able to play on world soccer’s greatest stage, the FIFA World Cup. The reason is due to the way that the teams were assembled, by country. While Great Britain and its larger umbrella, the United Kingdom, produces many of the most successful soccer programs anywhere, FIFA splits teams up into sides from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Since Best was from Northern Ireland, he played for that side a number of times in attempts to qualify for the World Cup, but given the depth of overall players there, his teams never made it to the tournament.

With the Olympics coming up, and more specifically, with Team Canada about to be named, I wondered just how competitive things would be if Canada were split up into smaller groups, similar to that of Great Britain (ok, the UK). What would it be like if teams from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, etc. were fielded for the Olympics?

Canada is deep enough to consider such a scenario. In the United States, we have growing pockets of state representation, but not nearly enough to field 50 separate teams. But an attempt to do so for Canada is pretty interesting.

Ontario and Quebec, of course, would have many of the same selection difficulties as Canada itself, but consider how a team from Manitoba might be from the goal out, with NHL and AHL players available for selection:

James Reimer

Chet Pickard (Ok City)

Calvin Pickard (Lake Erie)

Duncan Keith - Michael Stone

Travis Hamonic – Justin Falk

Aaron Rome – Dylan McIlrath (Hartford)

Joel Edmundson (Chicago) –Colby Robak (San Ant.)

Dustin Penner – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp

Ryan Garbutt – Cody Eakin – Eric Fehr

Cody McLeod – Travis Zajac – Colton Orr

Frazer McLaren – Dale Weise – Ryan Reaves

IR

LW Alexander Steen

C Ryan White

LW Matt Calvert

Also Under Consideration

D Drew Bagnall (Roch.)

D Corbin Baldwin (Iowa)

D Brett Skinner (Rockford)

D Chay Genoway (Hershey)

Yes, they’d be better if the injured guys were healthy, and they’d rely heavily on Duncan Keith and Michael Stone to log lots of minutes on defense. But it would be interesting to see how these guys would represent their province, wouldn’t it?

Then, consider Team Nova Scotia. It would likely have Joey MacDonald in goal, and although he’s no Roberto Luongo, he has NHL experience, including this year. They’d have some pretty top quality guys up front in Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, James Sheppard, Brad Marchand, and Alex Killorn, and they’d have some grinding toughness in Eric Boulton and Zach Sill. But the number of NHL level players from Nova Scotia is lower than that of the larger provinces, so would their fate go the way of George Best if they had to qualify for the Olympics?

I think I’ve come across another parlor (or, perhaps I should spell it “parlour”) game. Have at it, folks!

UNRELATED NOTE: Tuesday not only places the Sharks in Nashville for an important road game against the Predators. It also marks the anniversary of the loss of Katie Moore, wife of former Sharks center Dominic Moore. Take a moment to remember those who have left us, and see what Dominic is doing to remember his wife by going to www.katiemoore.org.

See you on the radio! I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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