The visor debate has begun to really rage in NHL circles, after the eye injury suffered by New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal a few days ago. It’s somewhat ironic that the entire issue bubbled to the surface as the result of a game between the Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers.
I still recall two significant eye-related injuries from Rangers-Flyers games that actually ended careers back in the helmetless days of the 1970’s. In 1974, Flyers defenseman Barry Ashbee suffered a career-ending eye injury after getting hit by a slap shot from Dale Rolfe of the Rangers. In 1979, Rangers left wing Don Maloney and Flyers defenseman Jimmy Watson tangled for position in front of Philadelphia goaltender Bernie Parent. As they tumbled to the ice, an errant stick clipped Parent in the eyehole of his old-style, fiberglass mask, and caused him to have a career-ending eye injury.
Now, another Rangers-Flyers game has produced another eye injury, this time to a member of the Broadway Blueshirts. It has also brought up the idea of making visors mandatory.
While the NHL has encouraged this progression, the NHLPA has maintained a desire for player choice in the matter. But should we be reactive or proactive on this issue? Should we take that issue out of the players’ hands, or should a player make that choice himself?
If I were playing professionally, I’d certainly wear, at minimum, a visor. But I wouldn’t necessarily use force of a mandate to remove the choice of a player, not yet. But what is needed is a continued coordinated effort by both League and NHLPA to strongly encourage their players to wear eye protection. The marketplace of information should be enough to cause the transition to continue as it has been, as we have seen a sharp rise in the use of visors in the last decade in the League.
Today, there is zero controversy about wearing a helmet. The NHL mandated a phase-in after it seemed as if the transition wasn’t happening fast enough. I’m not convinced that the natural visor phase-in that we are seeing in the NHL isn’t fast enough, but we do need continued education and encouragement.
No one would accuse Marc Staal of lacking courage if he returns to the NHL wearing eye protection, and I hope that he does. The best news of all, of course, is that his doctors are saying that he is expected to make a full recovery, and that’s the most important thing.
Now, on to solving the next mystery: why does this particular type of injury keep cropping up in games involving the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers? I’m sure that no one has the answer to that question.
I was watching the “Top Chef” finale this morning between two great chefs, Brooke and Kristen. The margin of difference between the two chefs was so infinitesimal, and the difference between winning and losing was so razor-thin, it reminded me of the challenges that NHL clubs like the San Jose Sharks are facing these days.
In the competition, it turned out to be the sous chefs, line cooks, and other team members who played a huge part in the decision. Brooke was a great chef, but her personally selected team member, C.J., burned pig’s ears because of a moment of indecision, and maybe a momentary loss of composure. That led to her losing to eventual Top Chef winner Kristen, whose team converted on all of its major opportunities, despite the fact that they were also human beings who undoubtedly made a few errors during the matchup.
It sort of reminded me of a couple of 2-on-1’s in the Detroit game just a couple of days ago where a single millisecond changed the complexion of the game from a Sharks perspective. Detroit made some mistakes in the game, too, but they not only were able to overcome them, they had their group clicking together at the critical moments of the game.
Perhaps the theme of the remainder of the Sharks season should be, “Don’t burn the pig’s ears.” Sticking to the game plan, and forging ahead in spite of a human being’s penchant for making errors, is all part of how a championship team is built.
Last season, the Los Angeles Kings played 13 consecutive games in which they scored 2 goals or less in 12 of them. The stretch ended with an 8-2 defeat at Joe Louis Arena against the Red Wings.
In 23 of their last 48 games, L.A. scored 2 goals or less. But they did something else: they allowed 2 goals or less in 35 of their last 48 games (72.9%). You may also remember that the Kings, built around the defensive excellence, stopped burning the pig’s ears, picked up a bit of offensive help, and won the Stanley Cup.
Right now, the Sharks have scored 2 goals or less in 11 of their last 12 games, and 14 of 19 total games played. But they’ve also allowed 2 goals or less in 8 of their last 12, and 13 of 19 total games played (68.4%).
I’m not saying that the San Jose Sharks are on the same path as the Los Angeles Kings are, but I am saying that the margin between victory and defeat, which is so razor thin, can and will be turned. All that it takes is a little synchronicity between the sous chefs and the line cooks, and making sure that you don’t burn the pig’s ears.
I’ll shift from folksy imagery to plain mysticism for my final thought: Given that the scoring outage began with the very first game against the Nashville Predators on February 2nd, it stands to reason that it will all end with the final game against Nashville, which is being played tonight.
It's always great to get together with Sharks fans, but Monday's "Sampling With The Sharks" presented by Citrix at Club Auto Sport in San Jose is always a highlight of the year.
A gourmet wine and dinner experience with Douglas Murray was "auctioned off" to two separate groups, and along with many other great auction items, thousands of dollars were raised to benefit the Sharks Foundation and the Rotary PlayGarden project at Guadalupe River Park.
It's events like these when we are all reminded of the greatness of our community. Here is a photo of coach Todd McLellan with Richard Parnell and Joe Keller of Citrix, presenting sponsor of the event.
Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening!
It's always fun to visit Chicago. It's a big city, with plenty of character and just as many characters.
A case in point: the practice facility that the Sharks are skating at today has a homespun name: Johnny's Ice House. It's on the second floor of a building that's between the United Center and the Magnificent Mile.
On the walls of Johnny's are a few written sayings that I thought I'd share with you:
"To win the game is great. To play the game is greater. To love the game is greatest."
"Don't judge those who try and fail. Judge only those who fail to try."
"Success is a journey, not a destination."
"If you lose,say little. If you win, say less."
"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."
"If there is no one in your way, then you're not going anywhere."
It's always interesting to see what people are saying about the game (and how they say it) as we travel around the country.
The St. Louis Blues have finally landed at 6:33 a.m. Central Time today, just in time for rush hour traffic, after being stranded all day yesterday at the Vancouver airport due to mechanical difficulties. They will face the San Jose Sharks tonight in the very first meeting between the two clubs since winning the Western Conference Quarterfinal round, four games to one, this past spring.
It is highly ironic that the Sharks are on the other side of this challenge, but the backdrop of the game is not the source of the irony. To find it, you have to go way back to 1991, and the very first season of Sharks history, and when you do, you’ll discover a travel snafu that sounds eerily similar to what The Note is going through right now. Some of the details are clearly different, but the essence of the challenge is similar.
It was October 22, 1991, and the Sharks were a brand-new arrival in the NHL. The Cow Palace was still home, the players lived and practiced on the Peninsula, and all team flights were based at Oakland International Airport. It was there that the Sharks, 1-8-0 in their first season, all gathered to fly across the country to start a seven-game road trip in Hartford against the Whalers.
As fate would have it, the pilot of the charter aircraft charged with the trip was a relative newcomer to the Boeing 737, so before the Sharks were slated to arrive, he was practicing touch-and-go landings with the aircraft. On one such approach, he came in a little hot, struck the runway a little hard, and blew a tire.
It was former NHL right winger Ron Stewart who was credited with saying something like the following: “If you’re in a game and you’re down, 4-1 or greater, and there are five minutes or less remaining in the game, take a penalty. That way, the folks back home will look at the summary in the newspaper the next morning, and they’ll know that you played.” The calls on Douglas Murray and Adam Burish at 19:25 of the third period last night don’t fall into this category, because they were called for coincidental minors with two Blackhawks. But on Tuesday in St. Louis, the Sharks will play for each other, for the logo on the front of their sweaters, and for the city embossed in their team’s name. After all, it’s the first time that they’ve faced the team that sent them to their earliest playoff exit in franchise history. I’m expecting a great game against the Blues.
What’s it like traveling on the road with an NHL team? Well, it is interesting, exciting, unexpected, routine, unexpected, and exhausting, sometimes on the same day and at the same practice. It’s never dull.
After a good season-opening win against the Flames, it was all of the above for the Sharks. There was a trip to the hotel, but not the one in Calgary. No, it was off to the airport, and a trip to Edmonton in a practice where some say that landing instructions need to be radioed for as the plane is taking off. The flight is less than an hour, but it’s all business for the coaching staff, the training staff, and the players themselves.
On our way into town, we pass a cycling store that has a huge mural of Lance Armstrong holding up seven fingers. I wondered what Oprah Winfrey would think if she were driving by, and whether any cyclists would hold up any fingers as they entered and exited the store during regular business hours.
As it turns out, Ms. Winfrey may very well have seen that very mural, only days after her legendary interview with Mr. Armstrong took place. She likely drove right past it on the same roads that we had just traversed, because she is in Edmonton.
The sad news of the death of George Gund III, the original owner of the Sharks, brings forth a flood of incredible memories and a large share of gratitude on a multitude of levels.
Where do we begin? Without George Gund’s love and passion for the game of hockey, we wouldn’t be referring to San Jose as a hockey city, which it most definitely is. His excitement over the entrepreneurial challenge, his willingness to take a risk, and his overriding desire to make people happy were among the reasons why he jumped (with both skates) at the chance to make Sharks Hockey a reality.
When George Gund is involved, there is always a story, and that seems to be the case in every facet of his life, whether it involves Western art, independent film, ranching, philanthropy, or hockey. It is because of these stories that a smile inevitably appears on the faces of those who are speaking of him.
I’ll always remember the night of October 24, 1998, when the Sharks played the Dallas Stars at their old home, Reunion Arena. In the locker room after the game, I stopped to inform coach Darryl Sutter that I would not be on the team plane back to San Jose, due to the fact that I was going to catch a plane to New York the next morning to help my parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.
Overhearing the conversation, George immediately came over, his famous eyebrows flashing and his eyes twinkling. “I’m going to New York tonight,” he said. “Do you want to join me?”
Welcome to the 2012-13 NHL season! It’s really great to be talking about the sport of hockey, the NHL, and the pursuit of the Stanley Cup which begins for the Sharks on Sunday, January 20th on the road in Calgary.
At this writing, the Sharks are on the ice for their very first practice with Todd McLellan, Larry Robinson, and Jim Johnson directing traffic. From the start, a high-tempo, intense series of practices are scheduled, with lots of skating, little time for rest and recovery, and a few twisty surprises thrown in.
That’s the way it’s going to be for all 30 NHL clubs, beginning this week and sprinting all the way to June, and when I say “sprinting,” I mean it. The Sharks are going to have to party like it’s 1995, the last time that a 48-game schedule was played. For those who remember it, it proved to be a topsy-turvy year with many curves of differing cambers, straightaways featuring blazing speed, and surprises for which few could possibly prepare.
One thing that is different this time around is that the biggest unknown factor will be the existence of the three-point game and how it will affect the inevitable losses of momentum that occur in any NHL season. Back in ’95, the Sharks started the season 5-1-0, and then held on for dear life to make the playoffs with a 19-25-4 record, and 42 points. With a three-point game, it could make a standings turnaround all the more difficult in a shortened season.
If one were to extrapolate the last 48 games of the most recently played season, the Sharks would have a record of 24-18-6 and 54 points. Something tells me that mailing in that number right now would produce a result that will look pretty good in the standings, but who can really tell?
As training camp began, the Sharks had 28 players in camp, and the thin area appears to be on defense for the moment. With Brent Burns and Jason Demers not taking part in the first practice because of injuries, that left 15 forwards, 11 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders participating.
It’s Christmas time, the advent of the holiday season, and regardless of which traditions you and your family choose to celebrate, it’s a time of joy, wonder, reflection, and continued Thanksgiving.
On December 8th, we began with an opportunity to talk hockey with some enthusiastic fans at Stanley’s Sports Bar, located in Sharks Ice at San Jose, with the first of ten “game watching” events put on by the Sharks. With CSN-California tuned to all of the television sets, Jamie Baker and I had an enjoyable night talking hockey with the fans, posing for photos with the kids, and going back in history to December of 1992, when the Sharks ended a 13-game losing streak with a 57-save performance by Jeff Hackett and a 7-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings.