NHL 2016-17 Season Third Quarter Report

The majority of the teams have now reached the 60 game mark and again the pattern of wins and losses changed from the second quarter. Mostly it reverted back to what occurred in the first quarter: Two steps forward, one back, two steps back, one forward, etc. Gone was the dramatic long winning streaks that marked the second quarter. Some teams like Chicago, New York Rangers, St. Louis, and Washington managed to put together modest winning streaks of 5-6 games. What else was notable during the third part of the current season?


Namely coaches’ blood. Jack Capuano of the New York Islanders, Ken Hitchcock (who was going to retire from coaching anyway at the end of this season) of the St. Louis Blues, Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, and Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens joined Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers who was fired in the first quarter of the season on the unemployed list. But the Canadiens immediately gave Julien his old coaching job back after ten years in Boston.

Out Of The Picture

Probably it can be safely said that the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes, and Detroit Redwings have joined the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes as being out of the playoff picture for this season unless they start one of those dramatic long winning streaks that occurred in the second quarter.


1. Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers had a ten game winning streak in the second quarter and seemed comfortably assured of a playoff spot in the middle of the Eastern Conference. But they played so badly during the third quarter that they have tumbled out of a playoff position.

2. Montreal Canadiens

Montreal played so well during the first quarter that they were comfortably ranked as one of the “big 5″ teams in the Eastern Conference, along with Washington, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, and Columbus. But they have played so poorly since then that they fired their coach and tumbled down to one of the bottom four playoff positions. If they do not rally around new coach Claude Julien, and some of their pursuers get hot during the last quarter, incredibly they could miss the playoffs again just like last year.

Hung In

Ottawa is still holding a playoff position in spite of the long absence of number one goaltender Craig Anderson, and the Los Angeles Kings are just out of a playoff spot and now have number one goaltender Jonathan Quick back.

On The Rebound

At one time the New York Islanders looked like the first Eastern Conference team to be declared out of the playoff picture. But they have played so well since their poor start that they now have a real chance to make the playoffs. The Islanders also got some good news when star forward John Tavares declared that he wanted to remain an Islander. Now if only they could get some good news about a new, larger arena being constructed in Queens, so that they can get out of the tiny Barclay’s Center, the only NHL arena that has obstructed view seats…

Speaking About Arenas

Those loveable Arizona Coyotes announced that host suburb Glendale was so sick of them that they would rather have an arena without a team than see a Coyote uniform for much longer. So the Coyotes tried to move across Phoenix town to the suburb of Tempe into a projected new third-smallest arena in the NHL. But the joyful news of this “progress” was terminated when Tempe decided that they did not want the Coyotes either. So now the Coyotes are unwanted on both the east and west side of Phoenix. Since then they have denied that they were seen flirting with both Seattle and Portland. Stay tuned for the next episode.

On a less hilarious note, Detroit will be getting a new arena next year and there is talk of building new arenas in Calgary and Ottawa.

Breathing Easier

If you see a happy hockey player with a smile who is no longer playing with a bag over his head, it is P. K. Subban of the Nashville Predators. Subban had been singled out by Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin as the main culprit for the collapse of Montreal last year when Carey Price got hurt and traded Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. By the end of the second quarter of this season, Montreal was at the top of the Eastern Conference, Weber was thriving, Subban got hurt, and there was a real chance that Nashville might not even make the playoffs. But since then Montreal tumbled down the charts while Nashville rose. Incredibly Subban may get the last laugh, something nobody would have dreamed of only two months ago.

Sad Times

The Detroit Redwings have lost their greatest player Gordie Howe, and owner Mike Ilitch who played a key role in the rebirth of good hockey in Detroit in less than one year. Boston Bruins lost legendary star Milt Schmidt and fired the coach who had the most victories in Bruin history, Claude Julien.

All Quiet On The Quebec City Front...

There is still no news about whether Commissioner Gary Bettman has found a suitable owner for a new Quebec City team instead of the unwanted Pierre Karl Peladeau.

And The Olympics

The NHL has still not decided about participating in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Several NHL players have declared that they will play there anyway whether the NHL participates or not.

Coming Up

The Great Trade Deadline and the home stretch.

What The Canadian Census Means For NHL Expansion Part 2

In part 1 of this series on the results of the new Canadian census as far as its effects on the NHL (and CFL) are concerned, the positive results are clear. If suitable arenas and owners can be found, the NHL could add second Toronto, second Montreal, Quebec City, and Hamilton franchises right now. But are there any other things that can be discerned from the results? This part probes a little deeper into possible NHL consequences including new franchises, arenas, etc.

Nothing has changed

Before the 2016 census, the greater Toronto area could have welcomed back a returned Toronto Toros (WHA) if another arena could be built and a suitable owner found. The new census merely confirms it. Toronto, Chicago, and the California bay area are North American metropolitan areas that could probably support a second NHL franchise just like Los Angeles and New York.


1. Montreal

Metropolitan Montreal has cracked the 4 million barrier which should be proof enough that it has joined the above three metropolitan areas that could support a second NHL franchise. Build a new arena, find a suitable owner and bring back the Montreal Maroons.

2. Calgary

No large Canadian city is enjoying the rate of growth that Calgary is experiencing right now. It has surpassed Ottawa as Canada’s 4th largest city and is pulling away from both Ottawa and Edmonton, its closest rivals. It is too early to consider it as a challenger to Vancouver as Canada’s 3rd largest city but it is on the distant horizon if this rate of growth continues. The real significance of this growth is not for another NHL franchise but for a new arena to replace the Saddledome. “Calgary Next” is on the table right now. Since the city is growing so quickly, NHL tickets will become a hot commodity, and a new arena should be in the 19-20,000+ range for seating. “Calgary Next” also includes a new domed stadium for the CFL Stampeders. And Calgary is big enough and is growing fast enough to also consider getting an NBA team and a MLB franchise before making a final decision on both an arena and stadium.

3. Quebec City

Metropolitan Quebec passed the 800,000 mark and with its new Videotron arena, it is the leading Canadian city to get Canada’s 8th NHL franchise. Unfortunately it has not been able to resolve the ownership factor which includes racist issues. Find a suitable owner and Quebec gets the Nordiques back.

4. Winnipeg

After being in the doldrums, metropolitan Winnipeg is now nearly 780,000. That’s good news for the Jets who need a larger market to sell more tickets and merchandise. But the old Winnipeg arena which was around in 1980 when the Jets joined the NHL was only 15,000 seats for a population of around 500,000. The new Winnipeg arena which was designed for a minor league franchise seats the same 15,000. With a population that is now over 50% larger, when is the size of the Winnipeg arena going to become an active issue and a new, larger arena built?

5. Hamilton

Compared to the growth of Winnipeg and Quebec, metropolitan Hamilton’s growth to 750,000 is disappointing. But since the Hamilton market also includes the cities of Kitchener, Burlington, Oakville, Guelph, London, St. Catharines, etc., Hamilton like Quebec could be awarded an NHL team right now. The Hamilton arena has over 17,000 seats and the city is willing to spend $50 million to upgrade the arena to 18,500. Unfortunately the large expansion fee and additional financial compensation to Toronto and Buffalo is a deterrent to investors. Show some generosity and get this city into the NHL as soon as possible.

6. Kitchener

Metropolitan Kitchener including Waterloo and Cambridge has clearly established itself as Canada’s 10th largest city. It passed the 500,000 mark during the latest census. The longer Hamilton and Toronto remain without a team, the more a rival Kitchener becomes for a second or third southern Ontario NHL franchise.

7. Oshawa

Perhaps it maybe too early to consider Oshawa for an NHL franchise with a metropolitan population of near 380,000 but putting the third southern Ontario franchise on the east side of Toronto is a feasible option. Oshawa is one of the fastest growing smaller cities in Canada. Actually the idea has been raised before, decades ago when the small town of Port Hope was considered. It may seem laughable but building a new arena in that town as an Oshawa franchise means that no financial compensation has to be given to Toronto and Buffalo. And an Oshawa team can get fans and ticket holders from eastern Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Peterborough, Belleville, and Kingston.


1. Saskatoon

It grew by more than 33,000 residents which is more than what Oshawa and Kitchener gained but it would have been better if Saskatoon had passed the 300,000 barrier which is what Statistics Canada had predicted. Nevertheless it is still one of the highest growth rates among smaller cities in Canada. Saskatchewan as a whole remains a mostly rural province. There are 9 more NHL franchises to be had for the NHL to reach the symmetrical number of 40, probably within the next 20 years. Maybe by the end of the second decade, Saskatoon will be big enough to grab the last franchise.

2. London

Recently at one time London had a population larger than Kitchener’s and they were neck and neck together in 2011. But London experienced dismal growth during the last half decade, failed to even crack the 500,000 mark and now sits nearly 30,000 behind Kitchener. London, which is farther away from Hamilton, and Toronto would make even more sense as an NHL franchise than Kitchener but it will not be close to getting one if its population growth remains in the doldrums.

3. The Maritimes

The good news is that Halifax finally passed 400,000. The bad news is that New Brunswick actually declined in population. So much for a CFL franchise based in Moncton. The Maritimes still remain the poorest region in Canada with small population growth. Putting an NHL franchise in a Maritime city remains a sentimental, romantic dream. For now, the best the Maritimes can hope for is that the NHL restores the Quebec Nordiques and that they market and pose as the Maritimes team as well. Hockey wise, the Maritimes are already bound to Quebec through its junior league and adding the four Maritime provinces to its overall market is good business sense for the owner and management of a returned NHL Quebec team.

What The Canadian Census Means For NHL Expansion (And CFL)

Nobody cares about a United States census as far as NHL expansion is concerned because there are too many large American cities without NHL hockey to count. But for Canada with its limited population, the results of the 2016 census that were released on February 1, are critical.

First the established NHL cities in terms of metropolitan population. The only change in rank is that Calgary has now jumped ahead of Ottawa and is now Canada’s 4th largest city. More importantly, Toronto is nearly 6 million and Montreal just over 4 million. So reestablishing the Toronto Toros and the Montreal Maroons again is feasible if an arena can be built and a suitable owner found.

At the secondary level, Quebec is firmly established as Canada’s 7th largest city, finally getting over 800,000 residents. It confirms that it is the logical Canadian city to get a new NHL franchise. Surprisingly, Winnipeg which had been in the doldrums in terms of population growth for some decades, has nearly kept up with Quebec’s growth and now has over 775,000 residents. But Hamilton, which was once close to both Quebec and Winnipeg, has dropped back from them both, but still showed significant growth to nearly 750,000. So a Hamilton team, especially when it is remembered that it can draw fans from significant mid-size cites like Kitchener, London, St. Catharines, and other sizeable southern Ontario towns is probably a feasible choice right now for a second new Canadian NHL franchise.

Long term? Well for a third southern Ontario team if you don’t want to choose both Hamilton and second Toronto, Kitchener leads the way followed by London, St. Catharines, and Oshawa. It would be nice to consider a Maritime team in Halifax which is finally over 400,000, but how wealthy is the Maritime region? British Columbia would likely get a second Vancouver team before it would get a Victoria franchise because the latter city does not grow very much. And the province of Saskatchewan’s growth was disappointing, though in the long term, a Saskatoon or Regina regional franchise is probably feasible.

For those who follow the CFL, the only other professional sports league with a major stake in Canada, if stadiums can be built and suitable owners found, it is a no-brainer to put a team in Quebec City and maybe try experiments in Kitchener and Halifax.

As far as NHL expansion is concerned, Quebec, Hamilton, second Toronto, and second Montreal could all be established right now. In my opinion, Quebec and Hamilton should be granted NHL teams tomorrow. They would be suitable gifts from the NHL on Canada’s 150th birthday.

As The Coyotes Play…

Taking a break from serious issues like coach firings (Boston, Montreal,  and St. Louis), the potential upcoming trade deadline of March 1, whether the NHL plays in the Olympics, and resolving the Quebec City ownership issue, we now return back to our beloved NHL soaper, “As The Coyotes Play”.

In our last episode, our beloved team, currently second last in the whole NHL and saddled with its usual bad attendance, announced that they would be moving into the third smallest arena in the NHL, ahead of only Winnipeg and the New York Islanders to be built in Tempe, Arizona, another suburb of Phoenix. This “encouraging” news came after the announcement in the second-last episode, by the Coyotes current wife, Glendale, when the city council told the team that they would rather sleep in the empty bed of a vacant arena with no tenant and that the marriage was over at last.

“Fine!” said the Coyotes, “We’ve got a new love, Tempe, and we don’t need you either.” But now in our current episode, we find that Tempe doesn’t want a lame-duck lover either and figures that spending that kind of money for a new arena is not worth it. So now the Coyotes are washed up in both the east side and west side of Phoenix. As we move to our first commercial break we end the first segment with the Coyotes publicly denying that they were seen flirting with those western hookers, Portland and Seattle.

When we return to part two of our current episode, we see three eastern beauties, Hamilton, Quebec, and Hartford weeping and consoling each other. That black hearted villain, NHL, led by the cruel Gary Bettman has forbidden any western conference NHL team to move east because it will upset the conference imbalance still further. Hamilton which tried to have a passionate love affair with the Coyotes a few years ago and was willing to spend $50 million to upgrade its arena, is particularly desolate, torn apart like Juliet from Romeo. Hamilton has also been told by two of Bettman’s evil henchmen, Toronto and Buffalo, that any attempt to rekindle that love affair will mean settling with them first to the tune of a pretty penny.

Now we turn to Quebec City, seeking a legitimate owner, after the unsuitable Pierre Karl Peladeau of would-be wooer Quebecor, made unacceptable racist remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson, owner of the Montreal Canadiens and also tried to obstruct the business dealings of one of Molson’s closest friends. We also see Commissioner Bettman sneaking around in the dark shadows behind the scenes, desperately searching for that acceptable French Canadian, non-racist owner who has $500 million to spend. He is also secretly probably willing for Quebec to get an existing franchise that is either having a failing marriage with its fans, or existing in a run-down arena, by relocation instead of expansion, but he remains adamant: A new wife for Quebec City by relocation must be an eastern girl. So the obvious solution for unwanted Coyotes, and love-starved Quebec cannot occur.

Finally we read that Hartford, that widowed city that lost its husband, the Whalers like Quebec and Winnipeg in the 1990s is willing to spend $250 million to upgrade its arena. Alas, despite Hartford spending all this money on a facelift to regain its attractive looks and revive its supposedly ended marriage, we cannot expect a miraculous transformation of a western Coyote into an eastern Whale for the same harsh reasons given to Quebec. Time for another commercial break.

When we return, we approach the cliff-hanging climax of this current episode. We see that new lovely dessert daughter, Las Vegas about to come to her wedding day with the man of her dreams, the Golden Knights. We see owner Bill Foley, putting down a newspaper after reading about the unhappy, unwanted situation of the Golden Knights dessert cousin, the Coyotes. Is that a look of doubt and fear on his face about his daughter’s future marriage? We cut to a close-up of Commissioner Bettman, formerly full of joy after receiving a $500 million pre-nuptial gift. Is that a look of anxiety in his eyes? The fear of having another Arizona on his hands?

Meanwhile an Arizona senator wants to introduce a bill in the state legislature to help the Coyotes build a new $395 million arena. But where? Who wants this team?

But the episode ends on a happy note. Auston Matthews, the new savior of the Toronto Maple Leafs may be the only good legacy to come out the whole Arizona Coyotes soap opera when the series is permanently canceled.

That fate could happen soon if the Coyotes don’t find a new love somewhere within Phoenix. Keep watching in the future for another exciting episode of “As The Coyotes Play”.

Get French Canadian Racism Out Of The NHL

It has gone on long enough. The issue should be faced honestly for once. Racism, whether French, English, or some other ethnic version should be eradicated from the NHL once and for all. It is hurting the game. It is hurting the fans. The thought occurred to me when I read about the hiring of Claude Julien for the second time by the Montreal Canadiens.

Julien is a good coach and I predicted that he would be back in the NHL quickly though not as fast as this and in such a surreal manner. But Julien is also of French Canadien descent and there lies the problem. He is good but is he the best coach available? As with too many choices made in Montreal Canadien and the would-be returned Quebec Nordique history, the decisions are based on race. Julien actually comes from Ontario but is acceptable to a Quebec based team because he is French Canadian.

When Scotty Bowman was coaching the Canadiens during some of their glory years, he used to complain that the Montreal press would zealously scrutinize every game roster he chose, usually on racial grounds. It is ridiculous to have to coach with that unnecessary racial pressure. The last time Montreal attempted to hire an anglophone coach, Randy Cunnyworth, he was virtually driven out of Montreal. Cunnyworth may or may not have been a good coach, but the language/racial issue may have doomed him before he coached a single game.

In contrast, I remember when that most French Canadian of Montreal goalies Jacques Plante, was acquired by that most English team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. He soon became the toast of the town in some ways BECAUSE he was French Canadian. His successor was the great French Canadian goaltender, Bernie Parent. Maurice Richard, the greatest French Canadian hockey hero ever said he had no qualms about being traded to another team. He hated being a symbol of “French Canadian nationalism”.

Ironically the two teams that suffer the most by French Canadian racism are Montreal and the hope-to-be-returned Quebec.


General Manager Marc Bergevin may have wanted to fire coach Michel Therrien much sooner but there were no good French Canadian coaches around until the Bruins obligingly fired Julien. There may have been good English speaking coaches available who are even better coaches than Julien, but Bergevin has to consider public relations as well as coaching ability and so his choice has to be made on racial grounds.

This unnecessary scrutiny based on race means that other key positions like president, general manager, scouting, public relations, etc. have to made on racial grounds. Montreal may not be able to hire the best employees available. It has not won the Stanley Cup in 23 years. How much has racism hurt the team?


But the city that is currently suffering the most because of racism is Quebec. For the sake of repeating it for the umpteenth time, the NHL turned down Pierre Karl Peladeau’s Quebecor bid to restore the Nordiques because he made unacceptable racial remarks about NHL Board member Geoff Molson and tried to obstruct the business activities of one of Molson friends (Forget the “official” NHL reason about imbalanced conferences and low Canadian dollar).

Now Gary Bettman has to find a suitable owner for a returned Nordiques behind the scenes. But there may not be any suitable, non-racist, rich French Canadians around who want to own an NHL team, especially with an expansion fee of $500 million.

The obvious solution is to get financial help from outside the province like Ottawa and Winnipeg have but nobody from either “English Canada” or the United States wants to step forward and invest in a Quebec City team because they fear the vengeance of French Canadian racists through an elected provincial government. I have mentioned many times that Quebec City with a proper NHL arena is a marvelous investment opportunity, a sure winner, an unquestionable money-maker, one of the NHL’s better franchises. But if a provincial government supported by racists passes legislation making it impossible to operate an NHL team owned by investors from outside Quebec, nobody will come forward to start the Nordiques again.

But the problem is deeper than the current crisis. Take away the racial issue and what could have happened? Go back to 1995 when Quebec City lost the Nordiques. Even back then, Quebec City with a proper NHL arena and a good owner would be a winner. But no rich French Canadian stepped forward to save the team and the Nordiques moved to Denver.

But with no racism, an investor(s) from outside the province might have stepped forward and solved both the ownership and arena issues. Then the future Videotron might have been built back then without a single taxpayer dollar being spent and Quebec would not have lost its team at all.

Go forward through the years when the NHL expanded and there was no proper arena and no rich French Canadian investor for Quebec City. An investor from outside the province might have come forward and Quebec could have been restored on each of these occasions. It may not have been up front, but behind the scenes, racism has been hurting Quebec City’s chances at returning to the NHL all along.

The irony is that probably the majority of Quebec Nordiques fans in the Province of Quebec are not racists at all and just want their team back to cheer for again. Probably the majority of people from “English Canada” want the Nordiques back too. But a narrow minded minority – it has happened with different things all through history – has imposed its will on what most people want, and fears, bigotry, elitism, and ignorance are winning again.

It Didn’t Take Long, Julien Is Back

I said in my previous article about Claude Julien that he would become one of the three most sought after coaches for rehiring, but the speed with which he returned to the NHL leaves me a little breathless. And to be hired by Boston’s most hated rival, Montreal -for the second time- there’s a lot of surrealism here.

It makes sense. Julien simply is a better coach than Michel Therrien who could not take either the Montreal Canadiens or the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens collapsed last year after goaltender Carey Price got injured and the players, notably P K Subban took the blame. But this time, with Montreal seemingly about to collapse again, this time with an uninjured Price and Therrien still at the helm, General Manager Marc Bergevin removed his coach.

Even though it is over a decade, there is something hilariously surreal in Julien’s personal professional career. To be the coach of the Canadiens, then to be fired and hired by arch-rival Boston, and then to be rehired by arch-rival Montreal… it reminds me of the Duke of Clarence in the Wars of the Roses who switched from the Yorkists to the Lancastrians and back to the Yorkists again. What`s next on Julien`s calendar, to be rehired by the Bruins when he gets fired by Montreal again?

The immediate task is to get the Canadiens out of their current slump and play like they did at the beginning of the season. Bergevin made major changes during the off season, most notably the trading of Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. He certainly showed himself willing to put his own neck on the chopping block to get the Canadiens turned around.

The hiring of Julien also raises two major questions. First, are there going to be more major changes to the Canadiens roster before the trade deadline? If the trading of Subban and the hiring of Julien is not enough, what other changes have to be made? What if Julien cannot turn the team around this year?

Second, what is an acceptable finish to the Montreal season this year? The only obvious fact is that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. But how far does Julien have to take the team in the playoffs for the fans and management to agree that this was a successful year, that there was a major improvement and they are on the right track? Put up a good struggle in the first round against a superior opponent and lose? Win one round? Two rounds?

An unacceptable finish could mean sweeping changes to the roster next year like the Subban trade this year. It could mean realizing that the current set of players are just not good enough and a major rebuilding job, starting from scratch is in order. For these reasons, Montreal will be closely watched for the remainder of this season.

Will An Era Of Glory Come To An End In Detroit With The Death Of Mike Ilitch?

In my previous article, I mentioned that it was not a good year to be year to be a Boston Bruin fan with the death of Milt Schmidt and the firing of the franchise’s coach who won the most games in the team’s history, including a Stanley Cup, Claude Julien. It has also not been a good year to be a Detroit Redwing fan which has seen the team lose the greatest player in its history, Gordie Howe, and now the man who was mostly responsible for saving the franchise from ridicule, owner Mike Ilitch.

When Ilitch bought the team from the Norris family in 1982, the Redwings were a far cry from their glory years in the early 1950s, Howe’s greatest years. They had not iced a contending team since the end of the 1960s and were mired in possibly the worst part of their history. Since 1970 when Detroit began its descent starting with the “Darkness with Harkness” years, the Redwings had become the laughingstock of the NHL, even eclipsing Harold Ballard’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

So bad were the Redwings that it would take Ilitch and the management which he carefully built up as well as the team roster, 15 years to become a Stanley Cup champion again. Rebuilding the Redwings was a slow and painful process that could be frustrating. It took a great effort to rescue the team from the depths to which they had fallen.

But when the glory years came, they were big. Ilitch’s Redwings would win four more Stanley Cups, tying the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place behind Montreal on the all time victory list. The Detroit Redwings are unquestionably the best American franchise in NHL history. And during most of these years, if Detroit did not win the Stanley Cup, they were at least a top contender. Detroit has now gone 26 years without missing the playoffs. If they miss them this year, it will only be because they have been so good for so long that have not been able to draft top juniors for such a long time.

On the ice, probably the two key players who brought Detroit its second period of glory were Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom. The Redwings were probably also the first NHL team to make good use of Russian players, newly freed with the fall of the Iron Curtain. European players would play key roles in reviving the franchise to its former glory.

Ilitch also bought the Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball but he has not come close to the success he has had with the Redwings. His best legacy with the Tigers was mostly financing the baseball park they now play in.

How important was Ilitch? Since 1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs suffered two extensive periods of bad ownership, first under Harold Ballard, and then under the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund whose record somehow eclipsed even Ballard’s worst years. The result has been the current longest streak of 50 years without even making the Stanley Cup Finals. That was depths to which the Detroit Redwings had fallen. Good ownership is vital to a sports franchise and Ilitch provided it. He was crucial to Detroit’s success.

Once the current ceremonies for Mike Ilitch are over, the crucial question of running the Detroit Redwings will arise. Besides praying for Ilitch, Detroit Redwings fans should be praying for a new owner who will be as good or better than Ilitch. Whoever it is will have a tough act to follow and big shoes to fill.

It’s Almost Unanimous: Firing Claude Julien Is An Unpopular Move

Just days after one Stanley Cup winning coach, Ken Hitchcock lost his job, another Stanley Cup winner, Claude Julien, got fired by the Boston Bruins. Hitchcock was going to retire from coaching at the end of the season anyway but it was not the way he wanted to go out. Nor did Julien want to leave the Bruins.

He had been coaching the Bruins for ten years and had become the franchise’s all time leader in coaching wins. In 2011, he finally got the Bruins over the hump and won the team’s first Stanley Cup since the Bobby Orr-Phil Esposito years of 1970-72, a drought of 39 years. He would also bring the Bruins back to the Final in 2013 which they lost after a tough struggle to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Julien seems to have lost the favor of Bruins management, President Cam Neely, and General Manager Don Sweeney long ago. There have been rumors of his firing for the past few years after the Bruins began to slip from the top ranks. The last straw for Sweeney and Neely was a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice, a team that Julien’s teams used to beat easily and regularly with different personnel, in the same manner as the crushing defeat of Toronto (the Leafs blew a three goal lead in the few minutes of the third period of the seventh game) a few years ago when the two teams last played each other in the playoffs.

The news of the firing has not been taken kindly by either the local press or Bruins fans. They are not likely to forget that Julien finally got the Bruins over the hump that other coaches could not do and ended the long drought since 1972. Or how close he came to victory two years later. One article I read listed all the Bruins players whom Julien once coached when he was winning the Stanley Cup and the current roster of “inferiors” with whom he now tried to find a way to win with.

As with Hitchcock, the coach can win with only the material management supplies him with and the high turnover on the Bruins roster since 2011 shows that Julien was now coaching a much different team. It will be left to his successor, Bruce Cassidy, to see if he can do something with the current Bruins roster.

Julien was once the coach of arch-rival Montreal, the team that has heaped the most humiliations on the Bruins in its history. Using the old cliche philosophy of if you can’t beat them, join them, the Bruins hired the French Canadian, ex-Montreal coach and it paid off in 2011. For once Montreal is now waiting in a longer drought for victory than Boston.

There was particular anger by Bruins fans that the firing was timed to coincide with the victory parade of the New England Patriots. It was almost that the Bruins were trying to usurp and disturb the euphoria of the Super Bowl victory. But whereas the Patriots are still built around Tom Brady and much of the past New England champions, the team that Julien leaves is much different from his championship year.

In firing Julien, Sweeney and Neely now put themselves on the line. If the Bruins do not improve within the next year or two, they will have no one to hide behind. They are already suspect because of the roster changes from the championship year. They better hope that the new coach can get something out of the Bruins and that they make the right draft choice next year.

This is not a good year to be a Bruins fan. Recently the franchise lost one its greatest players, legendary Milt Schmidt. Now the coach with the most victories in team history is gone too. Julien now joins Gerard Gallant (fired Florida coach), and Ralph Krueger (Team Europe coach) as one of the three men who will be most sought after to coach another NHL team next year.

Bringing Back The Quebec Nordiques Is More Than A Sports Issue

Recently some of my articles on Not Your Average Hockey Blog (NYAHB) have received a big boost in readership thanks to the referrals of ZoneNordiques.Com. So I checked out their website as well, pushed the translation button, and noted some of the articles and issues they like to read about. Before proceeding further with this article, I’d like to thank ZoneNordiques for recommending me. Hopefully their readers enjoyed my articles whether they agreed with me or not and that they will continue to read and enjoy articles on NYAHB.

Having a pressure group to get the Nordiques back is not something new. When I was writing for Bleacher Report, I used to feud with the Winnipeg Jets pressure group, the Manitoba Mythbusters over the size of the new Winnipeg Arena which I considered too small (I still do). Nevertheless I was a booster of Winnipeg getting back into the NHL and I am a supporter of Quebec and Hartford getting their teams back too. All three cities did not lose their franchises because of lack of fan support. They lost their teams because of ownership and arena issues. I’d like to see cities that really love hockey get an NHL franchise instead of doubtful franchises like Arizona, Miami, Columbus, etc. where the game has to taught.

As anyone who has read NYAHB since I’ve joined knows, I’ve written lots of articles about the Quebec Nordiques situation. Unfortunately, in Quebec’s case, there are other factors besides ownership and arena that are preventing the Nordiques from returning. The main reason why the NHL is stalling on Quebec is that the owner of Quebecor, Pierre Karl Peladeau has made bad enemies on the NHL Board. He was already a suspect owner in the eyes (certainly for the Canadian franchise owners) of many Board members by his political support for the separatist provincial political party, Parti Quebecois. Then when his company competed with Molson Breweries to own the Montreal Canadiens and lost, Peladeau made inappropriate racial remarks about Geoff Molson, the new owner and also tried to obstruct the business dealings of one of Molson’s associates.

That finished Peladeau with the NHL long before construction started on the Videotron, or even when Quebecor announced it would try to bring back the Nordiques. Unless he publicly apologized to Molson and showed repentance like St. Paul, the NHL wanted no part of him, no matter how much money he is offering. They cannot afford to have a public racist on the Board. The recent election of Geoff Molson to the NHL Executive Committee shows that the Board is prepared to back Molson to the hilt.

It was a stupid thing for Peladeau to do, considering he has extensive dealings with “English Canada”, especially through the Sun Media chain which Quebecor owns. One wonders if he was ever really serious about bringing back the Nordiques. While doing research on the Nordiques situation, I came across an article in Macleans Magazine on the Internet which described Peladeau’s relationship with Molson. Immediately upon reading it I discarded the fiction of the NHL’s “official” position, that Quebec was rejected because of league conference imbalance and a low Canadian dollar. You don’t turn down $500 million without good cause. The NHL is rejecting Quebec because they find the potential owner unsuitable.

Hopefully Molson is only anti-Peladeau and not anti-Quebec City. The league may have shown its real attitude to Quebec by allowing it to host an exhibition World Cup game. Molson has no need to be anti-Quebec City where his company sells a lot of beer. He also wants a chunk of that $500 million expansion fee. Gary Bettman and the NHL’s reputation is also on the line after offering terms for readmission to Quebec, Hartford, and Winnipeg. What they want is either Quebec to be owned by a non-political, non-racist, French Canadian, or someone from the United States or “English Canada” that Quebecers will accept. The NHL wants Quebec City but not Peladeau or anyone like him.

That brings me to the main point of this article: Quebec was turned down for non-sports reasons. They were turned down because of social and racial issues. The Quebec Nordiques situation is simply the tip of the iceberg. The very future of Quebec City is indirectly wrapped up in this issue.

First a brief history. Quebec City has always been a hinterland with few direct dealings with “English Canada”. When the Loyalists started “English Canada” just after the American Revolution, few settled in the Quebec City region. The “melting pot” where English and French citizens intermingled was mostly Montreal. Quebec City remained a homogenous French Canadian city and remained suspicious about English Canadians and “English Canada”. This is reflected in the Quebec separatist movement. Most of the separatist support comes from the interior of Quebec that has few dealings with the rest of Canada. The movement has largely been built on suspicions, fears, ignorance, myths, and people not knowing about each other.


There is a precedent for this situation, American blacks and whites. Watch any documentary about 1950s rock music and you will hear people talk about how  rock and roll, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, etc. broke down racial barriers and brought people together. Music, sports, and other common hobbies and pleasures always has the potential to do this.

Quebec City had little dealings with the rest of Canada until the Nordiques came along and Quebec City sports fans got a taste of WHA and NHL competition and loved it. When the Nordiques left they yearned for the team to return from day one. The Sakics, the Goulets, the Stastnys, the Hunters, were Quebec’s version of Elvis, Chuck, Jerry and Buddy. Through the Nordiques. Quebec City is opening itself to a different world.

That world means professional sports played by multi-racial teams in cosmopolitan, not homogenous cities. That means that “foreigners” will not only play in Quebec City but live there too forming their own “Westmounts”, “Little Italys” and “Chinatowns”. Are French Canadians prepared to accept and tolerate these “foreign communities” within the walls of Quebec? Furthermore, many of these new residents may not like the restrictions that Quebec provincial governments have placed on minority languages and other rights and react against them.

There are broader implications as well. There were petty little things like racists complaining when Paul McCartney was chosen to play in Quebec City during its 400th birthday in 2008. If Quebec wants the Nordiques back, that kind of behavior and thinking has to go. What if Quebec City decides it wants the CFL, the NBA, and MLB? None of these leagues are going to expand to Quebec if it means getting involved in social, racial, and religious controversies. And certainly Quebec will not be awarded top international competitions like the Olympics if it has an image of restricting minorities. And other potential money-making events like international conventions and a World’s Fair will not happen if Quebec gets a bad image.

Nevertheless this is the new world that the Nordiques symbolize, that Quebec wants to enter. It can be quite a traumatic experience. It may mean constant interracial interaction. It can mean interracial marriages. It can mean neighborhood integration with French Canadians who may have never even spoken to an English or foreign Canadian in their entire lives suddenly living next door to someone with a strange language and customs. It can mean French Canadians sharing provincial and municipal political power with others. A French Canadian community that has been for the most part insular for its entire 400 year existence will be opening itself for wide social change by getting the Nordiques back and other cultural and sports events. There will be more direct dealings with “English Canada” and the United States through the Nordiques. There will be more attempts to market Quebec City in the United States and “English Canada” to get tourist dollars and investment. Quebec will have to project itself as a friendly, inviting city to come and visit, not a narrow, forbidding one that restricts minority languages and rights.

There are serious implications even with just a new revived Quebec Nordiques. For starters, you can forget that the Nordiques are just “Quebec’s team”. The Nordiques have fans from every part of Canada and even in the United States. It would not surprise me to find out that the majority of “English Canadian” hockey fans are in favor of a returned Nordiques. And a smart Nordiques management are not going to be just marketing to French Canadians. It will probably be decades before the Maritime provinces get an NHL team of their own, so it makes sense for the Nordiques to pose as the Maritimes team as well. The Maritimes are already tied to Quebec hockey through the Quebec junior league. There will probably be seats reserved in the Videotron for Maritimers to buy and come to Quebec City to spend tourist dollars, and that means more direct contact between native Quebec City residents and the outside world.


So Quebec City is at a crossroads. If it wants to remain the insular, French Canadian community of its past, then bringing back the Nordiques could be a real threat to its existence. Many cherished ideas and behaviors will indeed be challenged. For the pure Quebec City non-racist sports fan who just wants a local team to cheer for and identify with, there will be no problems and a returned Nordiques will be a day of joy. But for those who want to use the Nordiques as a symbol of “French Canadian Quebec nationalism” and wish to maintain the “purity” of the city and the province, a returned NHL franchise might prove to be a mixed blessing.

Hitchcock Pays For Management’s Mistakes

Ken Hitchcock was supposed to retire from NHL coaching at the end of this season and Mike Yeo take over next year. Instead the St. Louis ownership and management speeded up the process by firing Hitchcock after the Blues tumbled out of a playoff position.

What was not said was that during the off season, the St. Louis Blues like the New York Islanders lost significant talent and therefore could not play at the level of last year. When the two coaches could not repeat last year’s breakthrough success, they lost their positions, becoming the second and third coaches after Florida’s Gerard Gallant to be fired during the current season.

There is a similar parallel in both the Blues and Islanders story. Last year for the first time in eons of seasons, the Islanders won a playoff round. Last year for one of the rare occasions in their history, the Blues won two playoff rounds and made it to the Western Conference Final where they put up a good struggle against the San Jose Sharks.

It seemed that all management had to do was add some significant talent to take the Islanders into the ranks of the true contenders in the Eastern Conference and to get the Blues over one more hump and into the Stanley Cup Final, a round they had not reached since the first three years of their existence. Instead both teams lost talent and now are struggling to make the playoffs. That is hardly the coach’s fault.

Additionally for the Blues, management decided to trade Brian Elliott and hand the goaltending job to Jake Allen who has given the Blues subpar goaltending. That is not Ken Hitchcock’s fault either.

The Blues took Hitchcock’s firing out on the Toronto Maple Leafs, ironically the team they are tied with for longest streak without winning the Stanley Cup, 50 years. The St. Louis Blues are the only team from the first six-team expansion; Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas (Minnesota) Stars (California-Oakland Seals no longer exist), to not win the Stanley Cup. But whereas the Maple Leafs with new ownership, management, a Stanley Cup winning coach, a new young star in Auston Matthews, look like a team on the rise, the Blues with their established stars with whom they failed to build a champion, look like a team going downhill and will have to be rebuilt.

How close were the Blues to being a champion? They finally broke through to the third round last year. Admittedly they would have to add more talent to get beyond San Jose and San Jose was no match for Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh. Obviously management and ownership did not believe that they were close with last year’s roster and allowed significant talent to leave. That left Hitchcock to play out the string this year which management saw fit to shorten by three months.