November 2, 2012
Cold war between NHL, players continues
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
Top lieutenants for NHL owners and the Players Association spent part of Thursday on the phone, but won’t be meeting face-to-face anytime soon.
On a day when the players’ negotiating committee held a positive affirmation conference call as the lockout approaches 50 days, the Red Wings and Leafs prepared for the league’s anticipated cancellation of the Winter Classic outdoor game on Friday. Waiting any longer would start costing the league a chunk of its $3-million rental fee of the University of Michigan Stadium.
Meanwhile, in Ann Arbor itself, thoughts are already turning to staging the game on New Years Day 2014, with the same teams. Nothing has been discussed, but both Original Six teams would be willing to return, not to mention the 100,000-plus fans who would have set an NHL record.
“To say the game will be sorely missed this January is obvious,” said Diane Keller, president of the Ann Arbor chamber of commerce. “We hope all the people who were going to come still do to spend the holiday in this area. But I think everyone here would be ready to go the extra mile for this kind of event again.”
TOUGH END TO BARONS' WEEK
The Oklahoma City Barons, super-charged farm team of the Edmonton Oilers, had an eventful week, though one that ended on a difficult note.
The good news was that former No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall finally received medical clearance to play from a March shoulder injury. It also meant he was officially locked out, albeit briefly, before signing a separate minor-league contract. Whichever way the paperwork was settled, Hall joins a Barons lineup that includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Magnus Paajarvi.
You’ll remember Schultz as the NCAA free-agent defenceman sought by at least five NHL teams, including the Maple Leafs and Canucks, when he became unrestricted last summer by not signing with his draft team, the Anaheim Ducks. On Thursday, Schultz was named American Hockey League player of the month, with a point in all seven games and three straight two-point games entering November.
But then came Thursday’s announcement that defenceman Brandon Davidson, a sixth-round pick in 2010, has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. He will begin treatments immediately at the University of Oklahoma.
Davidson has a huge cheering section in his home province of Alberta, after making the WHL’s Regina Pats as an undrafted player and eventually becoming their captain.
Leafs’ Phil Kessel is among the NHLers who have battled this type of cancer, as has former Toronto assistant coach Keith Acton.
The Washington Capitals are not letting new head coach Adam Oates get rusty during the lockout. He’s been enlisted as co-coach of their Hershey farm team, joining incumbent Mark French, who already won the 2010 Calder Cup with the Bears.
Caps GM George McPhee told ESPN.com it was vital to get Oates and the farm team on the same page, especially after Bruce Boudreau’s firing in Washington last year and Dale Hunter’s short-lived tenure in his place created uncertainty in what style is best suited for the team. The Hershey experience can only help prepare Oates, though there is concern how the up-and-coming French could be adversely affected in his NHL career plans if the lockout means Oates stays all year.
“It’s all in how we take it,” French said. “I’m still a young coach who has a lot to learn. I’m seeing a different perspective on the game that I believe improves myself as a coach.”
Forward Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings is headed to the Zurich Lions of the Swiss league where he’ll hook up with old coach Marc Crawford ... Anyone have Alexander Radulov in a KHL fantasy draft? The former Nashville Predators bad boy has now returned to the top of the Russian-based league in points (29) and penalty minutes (62) as of mid-week ... Retired NHLer John Chabot is to lead a group of locked-out players on a charity exhibition game tour of the Northwest Territories. The former Hull Olympiques’ junior will have mostly Ottawa Senators in the group, planning to leave Nov. 18 and spend three to four days in Yellowknife ... Canadiens’ P.K. Subban was a guest weatherman on Montreal’s CTV affiliate earlier this week. The loquacious blueliner has also been a guest on This Hour Has 22 Minutes ... Organist Ernie Hays, who played at St. Louis Cardinals and Blues games for years and whose Budweiser theme Here Comes the King was familiar to a generation of NHL players and fans, has died at 77 ... Nov. 1 was a significant NHL anniversary, with Hockey Night In Canada’s first Engish TV broadcast marking 60 years. Foster Hewitt called a 3-2 Leafs win over Boston. Seven years later, Jacques Plante became the first post-war goalie to try out a mask. And Al Arbour, coach of the Isles’ dynasty, turned 80 ... Agent Darren Ferris has left The Orr Hockey Group after 16 years to open his own agency, Arc Sports Group.