How Will the NHL Honor Gordie Howe?

Earlier today, Twitter user @KevinParker12 posted (and Winging it in Motown later ran with) that shop.nhl.com was offering up Detroit Red Wings jerseys for new signee Steve Ott carrying the number nine.

I joked that this is the NHL’s promised tribute to Gordie Howe, letting Ott take his retired number.

It’d be easy for the NHL’s online store to ignore retired numbers.  I know because I’ve already written code for that.

It’s a mistake that has already been fixed.  Ott is no longer listed with a number.  It can be assumed he’ll go with #29 as he’s worn it for much of his career and it’s available in Detroit.

But I want to go back to that promised tribute.  On June 16, in the aftermath of Howe’s passing, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league would “come up with something that’s an enduring testament to Gordie.”  He later called it “special and enduring and permanent.”

Specifically, that was in response to the idea of retiring Howe’s #9 league-wide, an idea that had been circulating and gained the support of none other than Wayne Gretzky, the only NHL player who currently has that honor.

The statement seems to shoot down the idea of a league-wide number retirement.  As someone who doesn’t think #99 should be retired, either, I agree with this.  It does, however, raise the question of exactly what honor the league will bestow.

The words from that statement that stick out to me are “enduring” and “permanent.”  I think it leads to two options.

One is renaming a conference or division after him.  The divisions were just renamed three years ago and the inclusion of the awkwardly-named “Metropolitan” Division (which includes Columbus and Carolina) and an Atlantic Division that extends inland to Detroit was met with derision.  Renaming the conferences and divisions after legends of the game would get around the issues that arise from geographically naming a division that stretches from Montreal to Miami.

That said, the NHL had the opportunity to eschew the geographical division names when they realigned in 2013 and opted not to.  They were the last major league in North America to go to geography-based names in 1993 and seem to have no desire to give them up.

<troll> Besides, the awkward names of the Eastern Conference can be resolved by relocating the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec City, moving them and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the current Atlantic Division, moving the Florida teams to the current Metropolitan Division, then renaming the Atlantic to the Northeast and giving the Metropolitan the Atlantic name.  </troll>

I think the more-likely honor is renaming one of the league’s current awards after Howe.

There’s been a push on and off over the last several years for renaming the awards after more relevant personalities.  In most cases it has faced strong backlash as yet another example of the league choosing to ignore its own history.  I know that I’ve said the league should focus on educating its fans on who James Norris was rather than removing his name from its award for best defenseman in favor of Raymond Bourque or Bobby Orr.

However, if the league wanted to put Gordie Howe’s name on the MVP award, I think even those of us who prefer to preserve the historical names would have a hard time arguing against it.  Similar to the NHLPA’s renaming of the Lester B. Pearson Award after Ted Lindsay, I think the most-negative reaction you’d see is begrudging acceptance.

Of course, thinking cynically, by picking players like Lindsay and Howe to start, you get people used to the idea of renaming awards.  Then when it comes time to change the Frank J. Selke Trophy after Guy Carbonneau, then do it again for Patrice Bergeron ten years later, there’s less room for complaint.

If the league is going to honor Gordie Howe in a truly meaningful way, I’d be willing to bet they rename an award after him.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

Wings, Leafs Announce More Alumni Showdown Additions

The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced seven more players who will appear in the Alumni Showdown between the two teams in December on Thursday.

The Red Wings added Aaron Ward, Red Berenson, Jimmy Carson and Dennis Polonich.

Ward started his career with the Red Wings in 1993-94 and played seven seasons with the team, winning the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998 before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001.  He won another Cup with Carolina in 2006.  He closed out his career with four seasons split between the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, another stint with Carolina, and the Anaheim Ducks.

Berenson, the legendary University of Michigan head coach, spent parts of five seasons with the Red Wings in the 70s.  He also played for the Montreal Canadiens, Rangers, and St. Louis Blues over 987 career NHL games.

Carson played part of four season with the Wings in the early 1990s.  He started his career with the Los Angeles Kings before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the Wayne Gretzky deal.  The Oilers traded him to the Red Wings early in the 1989-90 season and the Wings sent him back to LA in 1993.  He closed out his NHL career with stints in Vancouver and Hartford, then retired from hockey after two years with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers.

Polonich played his entire NHL career in Detroit, serving as team captain during the 1976-77 season while Danny Grant was injured.  He was famously injured by Wilf Paiement of the Colorado Rockies in a 1978 game when Paiement smashed him in the face with his stick.  Polonich was sent down to the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings in 1983 and never made it back into the NHL.  He closed out his career with two season’s with the IHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks in 1986 and 1987.

The Maple Leafs added Tie Domi, Brad May, and Dave “Tiger” Williams.  May and Williams also spent time with the Red Wings over their careers.

The following players are confirmed to appear at the Alumni Showdown:

Red Wings
Red Berenson
Jimmy Carson
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Kris Draper
Sergei Fedorov
Joe Kocur
Martin Lapointe
Igor Larionov
Ted Lindsay
Kirk Maltby
Darren McCarty
John Ogrodnick
Dennis Polonich
Mickey Redmond
Luc Robitaille

Chris Chelios
Paul Coffey
Mathieu Dandenault
Jiri Fischer
Viacheslav Fetisov
Mark Howe
Vladimir Konstantinov
Larry Murphy
Aaron Ward

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon

Maple Leafs
Dave Andreychuk
Wendel Clark
Russ Courtnall
Vincent Damphousse
Bill Derlago
Tie Domi
Ron Ellis
Doug Gilmour
Gary Leeman
Kevin Maguire
Brad May
Lanny McDonald
Gary Roberts
Darryl Sittler
Darcy Tucker
Rick Vaive
Tiger Williams

Dave Ellett
Jim McKenny
Bryan McCabe
Bob McGill

Johnny Bower
Curtis Joseph
Mike Palmateer
Felix Potvin

Red Wings Winter Classic Jersey Concept #3

Now that things have quieted down following Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, I’m going to take a look at another possible sweater design for the Red Wings in the 2013 Winter Classic.

I’ll continue with the “vintage” theme I visited in February and May by going with another sweater design the team has worn in the past, only recolored to fit modern standards. As suggested by George Malik, this one is another familiar look, based on the sweaters of the 1927-28 Detroit Cougars, which the Wings wore during the 1991-92 season.

Why I started with the ’27-’28 sweater as a basis:
This one has been a fan favorite since the team wore it for the NHL’s 75th anniversary in 1991-92. It was re-released by CCM in 2004 as part of their vintage series. Wayne Gretzky himself liked the design enough that it was used for his touring all-star team during the 1994 NHL lockout.

Why I made the changes I made:
As with my last design, a color swap was necessary to make up for the fact that home teams now wear dark jerseys at home in the NHL. To be perfectly honest, I don’t like the red lettering on a white background, but it doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would.

I added the Winged Wheel to the shoulders because the Wings did that for their 2009 Winter Classic jerseys. I think for branding, they’ll want that logo on there somewhere.

Other design decisions:
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a lace-up collar (not shown due to limitations of my template) but the Wings didn’t wear one with this design in 1991-92 so they might not this time either.

Additional reasons I think this could be worn:
Like the last design, by carrying forward a look they’ve used before, the Wings keep some brand consistency.

Bonus Design:
As I mentioned, I don’t like the red text on a white background. I tried to get around that by keeping a red stripe and changing the striping pattern overall but ended up liking that even less. Here was that attempt:

Disclaimer:
I have no advance knowledge of what the Red Wings or the Maple Leafs will wear on New Year’s Day, this is just a concept of something Detroit could wear. I know my template isn’t perfect. I’m admittedly too lazy to fix it. I know the Reebok vector would be replaced by their wordmark, for example.

Red Wings – Coyotes: Series Preview

It’s been a long regular season, an odd regular season for most Red Wings fans, but here we are on the opening day of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Six weeks ago the Red Wings were out of the playoffs. Today they’re the Western Conference’s fifth seed, with a record better than six of the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference (and only a point back of the New Jersey Devils). That jump came courtesy of a 16-3-2 run after the Olympic Break, including a stretch of twelve games in which they earned at least a point.

The Wings come into the playoffs on a roll but in an unfamiliar position. They haven’t started a postseason run on the road since 1991, when they were the Norris Division’s third seed facing the second-seeded St. Louis Blues. They lost that series, 4-3.

Detroit hasn’t been the lower-seeded team in any series since the 2000 Western Conference Semifinals, when the fourth-seeded Wings lost to the third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in five games.

Additionally, the Red Wings haven’t headed into a playoff riding a rookie goalie since 1994, when Chris Osgood took over for Bob Essensa as Detroit fell to the San Jose Sharks, 4-3, in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

While six weeks ago no one knew if the Red Wings would be in the playoffs today, a year ago no one knew if the Phoenix Coyotes would even exist right now.

The Coyotes are the NHL’s Cinderella story, finishing fourth in the Western Conference despite a year of ownership by the league itself after the team declared bankruptcy last spring.

Wayne Gretzky was replaced as head coach by Dave Tippett, the favorite to win the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best coach. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had a Vezina Trophy-worthy season.

The Red Wings were unbeaten in regulation against the Coyotes this season, going 2-0-2. However all four of those games came while Detroit was battling injuries and before Phoenix added veteran depth at the trade deadline.

Detroit has added forwards Justin Abdelkader and Brad May back to their roster but head coach Mike Babcock won’t be making any lineup changes for tonight’s Game One, choosing to ride a winning lineup.

Phoenix, meanwhile, is expected to start the series without former Red Wing Robert Lang, out with an upper-body injury.

Game time tonight is 10:00 on FSD and Versus.

End of an Era: Yzerman retires after 22 seasons

Longtime Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman announced his retirement at Joe Louis Arena on Monday, ending a 22-season career spent entirely with the Red Wings.

At a press conference attended by Red Wings greats including Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, Yzerman calmly said, “I’ve decided to retire… Hang up my skates.”

Drafted by the Red Wings with the fourth overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, Yzerman was named captain of the team after just three seasons, making the 21-year-old the youngest team captain in NHL history to that point. At his retirement, he was the longest-serving captain in NHL history.

Yzerman said that his plan throughout the 2005-06 season was to retire at the end of the year but that Ken Holland tried to get him to return.

“[He] almost had me convinced that I was coming back this year.”

Throughout the 1980s, Yzerman consistantly ranked with Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux in scoring. He changed his game to embrace a more defensive style in the 1990s, adding to his arsenal the tools needed to lead the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup.

The Yzerman-led Red Wings claimed Stanley Cup Championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002. Yzerman was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after the 1998 run.

In 2002, Yzerman earned an Olympic gold medal skating with Team Canada at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Red Wings to Face Oilers in First Round

The Detroit Red Wings will face the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Edmonton had been battling with the Colorado Avalanche for the seventh seed in the Western Conference but the Avalanche earned a point in their overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, lifting two points ahead of the Oilers.

Edmonton and Colorado face off against each other on Monday but the most the Oilers can do is tie the Avalanche for points; Colorado holds the tiebreaker with more wins than Edmonton.

The Red Wings have never beaten the Oilers in a playoff series. The two teams met in the Campbell Conference Finals in 1987 and 1988 with the Wayne Gretzky-led Oilers picking up 4-1 series victories each time.

Combined with San Jose’s win over Anaheim earlier in the night, it means that two of the conference’s four matchups have been determined. The Sharks locked up the fifth seed, meaning that they will be hosted by the Nashville Predators.

The Avalanche are now one point behind the Mighty Ducks and hold the tiebreaker over them with one game remaining for each team.

Week 2: October 9-15

Sure, the Red Wings can beat a St. Louis team which added a new goalie and lost two all-star defensemen, but what does that mean?

Detroit had a light first week this season with only two back-to-back games, the same way they started out the 2003-2004 season. That year, they quickly beat the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators for a 2-0-0-0 start. They have won the season opener for six straight seasons, and have finished the regular season in the top five of the Western Conference for a long time. There isn’t much you can take from the first two games, but here are a few notes:

The new guys are contributing already. Mikael Samuelsson and Brett Lebda have more points than Kris Draper and Nicklas Lidstrom. Jason Williams isn’t new, but he’ll get more ice time this year and had three assists on Thursday.

There should not be a goalie controversy. Manny Legace has proven himself as a great goalie no matter how often he plays, and you can bet on Chris Osgood to win 30 games every year if healthy. Jim Howard might get in a game or two this month, but he looked good in preseason and is well liked so far by the other goalies.

Draper and Kirk Maltby will have to go above and beyond what they’ve normally done as defensive forwards. The Wings were shorthanded 11 times in Thursday’s game at St. Louis, and these two are the best penalty killers on the team.

With the signing of Jason Woolley, the Wings can make the decision to either rest the veterans Chris Chelios and Lidstrom a bit or take time away from youngsters Lebda and Jiri Fischer. These players are all going to have to adjust with the penalties being called, and a deep defensive core will help.

This Week’s Matchups:

October 9 vs. Calgary – Steve Yzerman may not play, but you can be sure Darren McCarty will. He won’t take it easy on his former team, but claims his heart is still wearing red. Many are picking Calgary to once again win the Western Conference, so this should be a good game. (Update: Detroit wins 6-3)

October 10 vs. Vancouver – Finally knocking Colorado off the top of the Northwest Division, Vancouver remains dangerous. Like Detroit, they’ve had good regular seasons and that doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. They usually give the Wings a hard-fought game; the teams split four games last season.

October 13 at Los Angeles – The Kings may have lost the biggest offensive output of any team in the off-season, parting ways with Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, Jason Allison and Martin Straka. To counter, they did sign Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick. If the Kings want any chance of making the playoffs, goalies Mathieu Garon and Jason Labarbera have to immediately make an impact. Lababera won his first game, stopping 27 of 29 shots against Phoenix.

October 15 at Phoenix – Call it the sequel to the Wings’ Red vs. White game in training camp. Lots of familiar faces are in Phoenix now: Brett Hull, Curtis Joseph, Boyd Devereaux and assistant coach Barry Smith. Speaking of coaches, Wayne Gretzky is still in the spotlight – not for what he has done, but what he can do. There have been reports of the players being intimidated by the presense of The Great One, which may explain their 0-2 start. The Coyotes are re-tooling quickly, acquiring Geoff Sanderson from the Blue Jackets in a five-player deal.

Season Still Cancelled after Weekend Meeting

The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association each blamed each other after a Saturday meeting yielded no results in an attempt to “un-cancel” the 2004-05 NHL season.

Leading up to the meeting, it was widely reported that the two sides were close to a deal that had been hammered out by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. At the meeting, it appears that neither side actually offered a proposal and both the league and the players left frustrated.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman placed the blame for the rumors fully on the shoulders of the NHLPA.

“I think this was a setup, I think it was done intentionally to try and cause the type of reaction that we saw all weekend.”

Bettman said that the league did nothing to deny the rumors circulating on Friday because the league had nothing to do with starting them.

Bob Goodenow, NHLPA chief executive, responded by noting that the league called the meeting and that the NHLPA never suggested that they were going to make an offer.

The league will regroup on March 1 when the Board of Governors meet. The Players’ Association is scheduled to meet next week.

Un-cancellation?

Representatives from the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association will meet on Saturday, even though the season has already been cancelled. Reportedly, an agreement in principle on a salary cap already exists and the Saturday meeting would clear up other loose ends.

Both sides denied that an agreement had been reached, dispite the intervention of Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, two of the greatest players of all time who are now owners.

“The report is absolutely false,” a spokesman for the NHLPA said.

Bill Daly, NHL vice president, who told Canada’s TSN that the report was “entirely untrue and without foundation.”

If an agreement is reached, the season will be un-cancelled and a 28-game, intra-conferecne schedule will be played.

Hull Signs Two-year Deal with Coyotes

Former Red Wing Brett Hull signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday. The contract’s financial terms were not disclosed.

Hull, who ranks third all-time in NHL goals scored behind Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe, played for the Red Wings for three seasons. He won his second career Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002.

“He is a dynamic player who creates excitement every time he enters the offensive zone,” Phoenix general manager Michael Barnett said.

Hull has scored 741 goals and added 649 assists in 1,264 career NHL games. He has also scored 103 goals and 87 assists in 202 career playoff games.