The Fischler Report: 3/22/21

Big changes on the horizon for the Sabres; checking out The Hockey Time Machine; Mark Messier's water, and exploring one of the largest hockey book collections.

OBSERVATIONS:

* KEVYN ADAMS' week of Sabre-rattling leaves more questions than answers as The Good Ship Buffalo Hockey continues floundering in NHL waters. There is, however, a lesson or two for both owners Terry and Kim Pegula as well as for rookie G.M. Adams as well.

Lesson No. 1 is do not hire a loser as a head coach. Ralph Krueger had been an abject failure the first time around in Edmonton and there was no substantive evidence to suggest that he would be a winner in Sabreland.

Lesson No. 2. Ownership never should gamble on inexperienced hires for big jobs. Every one of the Pegulas’ three general managers arrived with an empty NHL dossier.

Whether it was  Jason Botterill or Adams, we are talking inexperience-to-the-radical-50. In other words, ownership had to be lucky with each hire and each one failed miserably. (On the other hand, Jim Rutherford has all the experience in the world; and he is available.)

* BILL ZITO, on the other hand, proves there are wise hockey men out there who could walk into an empty g.m. office and be a whiz-bang success. A player agent in an earlier life, Zito was hired by the Panthers but only after he had paid his dues as assistant G.M. in Columbus. In no time at all he revamped the roster, shunning unproven potential for grit and defense. All you need to know is check the Panthers’ place in the standings and the manner in which the Cats have climbed in the standings.


GOSSIP:

  • The Capitals general staff will be keeping an eye on Henrik Lundqvist's medical updates. The last report from Hank's camp had him still mulling the possibility of a late season comeback, but only with doctor's clearance. The good news in Washington is that Peter Laviolette's sextet is doing just fine in goal with Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek.

  • Sportsnet's list of teams moving toward a trade has Toronto on top with Winnipeg right behind. The tight North Division is one reason for that. Because Islanders captain Anders Lee is finished for the season, Lou Lamoriello acknowledges that he is on the lookout for a forward. Meanwhile, Canes G.M. Don Waddell is another aiming to fortify an already solid outfit.

  • Don't look now but Todd McLellan is in the running for the Adams Award as coach-of-the-year. His Kings were picked 29th in pre-season polling but now are looking very much like a playoff team. Come to think of it, Rob Blake could wind up as G.M. of the year. Drew Doughty and  Anze Kopitar are playing as if they have a mortgage on The Fountain of Youth.

  • By contrast, the Blues -- picked sixth overall at the start -- have disappointed. G.M. Doug Armstrong should be re-thinking the big, fat deal he gave Jordan Binnington. Do not forget that this is the same goalie who had a poor post-season.

  • Just wondering, since when did a goal post become a "pipe?"

  • Robin Lehner has a good gripe with those who charged that his absence from the Vegas crease had anything to do with mental heath issues.

  • Sabres will ask Taylor Hall to waive his "No Trade" clause while Hall, no doubt, can't wait for the question and a very rapid, "Aye, Aye, Sir!"

  • Hockey News columnist Ryan Kennedy has a pair of North Dakota stickhandlers -- defenseman Matt Kiersted and left wing  Jordan Kawaguchi -- leading among NCAA free agents.

  • A good reason for Quinn Hughes' lack of a sophomore slump has been the advice he received from coach Travis Green: “I'm going to let you play your game and we will teach you as you go along."

  • Nathan MacKinnon on Cale Makar: "He's had games where he was the best player on the ice by a mile."

  • Looking past Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak, the Bruins have begun prepping 6-5. 185 pound Dan Vladar as the Beantowners next top goaltender. He was the first B's goalie to make his NHL debut in the playoffs.


WEEKEND WRAP WITH ROB TAUB:

If you did not know who the best goaltender in the NHL is by now, let the Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy provide you with a slight reminder. Saturday afternoon marked the 11th straight win for the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner. It also put him in the history books for both his team and the league. Vasilevskiy tied Louis Domingue for the longest streak in Lightning history and his streak is the ninth-longest in NHL history. Bolts' captain Steven Stamkos did not mince words when speaking about why Vasilevskiy is regarded as the best.

"It was one of those games where, especially in the second period, we relied on [Vasilevskiy] a little too much," he said. "There are going to be games like this throughout the course of a season, but you just want to try to minimize them. We know we have the best goalie in the world, he showed it again tonight."

While we are talking about streaks and being on top, Is there anyone who can stop the Colorado Avalanche? They smoked the Minnesota Wild 6-0 Saturday for their third straight win and threw a whopping 42 shots on net at rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. Their victory marked the end of a dominant week where they notched 19 goals and only allowed five.

It has been an up and down season in the desert for the Coyotes, but one big positive has been the play of Derick Brassard. The 14-year veteran added to his solid campaign Saturday notching a hat trick in the Yotes' 5-1 win in Anaheim. The three-goal performance incredibly also marked the first-ever hat trick for the Hull, QC native. "It's a special night," Brassard said. "I'm just happy that we won the game because the last few days have been tough for our team, just being at the hotel waiting, not winning any games. I was just at the right place at the right time tonight,” he added. Two other milestones from Arizona's triumph was Phil Kessel hitting the 500-assist plateau and Jacob Chychrun recording the 100th helper of his NHL career.

The Islanders were not playing around at all once the puck dropped against the Flyers in their second of three straight meetings on Saturday evening. Head coach Barry Trotz's attack exploded for four goals in the first period, marking the third time this season they have scored four or more goals in one period. The final score read 6-1, but it was the opening stanza that was the whole story of the game.

If you were looking for the exact same game between the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets Saturday, well you got what you wanted. After the Blue Jackets defeated Carolina 3-2 in OT Thursday on a Seth Jones game-winner, the two clubs played Saturday to the same score, except this time it ended in a shootout. Columbus came out on top thanks to Patrik Laine and Oliver Bjorkstrand. They should also thank Jones who forced overtime by scoring with 29 seconds left in regulation. The two teams play again on Monday and Thursday. We can all take a guess at what the score might end up being for both contests.

Tom Wilson made it abundantly clear after his latest suspension he wants things to be different moving forward. "At the end of the day, it can't happen," Wilson said over the weekend. "I can't be missing seven games. I can't be missing one game. I've got to be in the lineup. … I just have to worry about helping the team win playing good hockey." The 26-year-old made his return to the lineup against the Rangers on Saturday following sitting out the last seven games.

Time will tell if Wilson's words ring true.


THE HOCKEY TIME MACHINE

George Grimm gives an inside look on the production of The Hockey Time Machine — a weekly podcast worth a listen for any NHL buff. Read on:

While the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a long, dark shadow on everyone’s lives, one unexpected bright spot has been the weekly ‘Hockey Time Machine’ broadcasts featuring a host of former players, coaches, announcers, referees, trainers, and team executives

The episodes are produced by long-time hockey researcher and author, Paul Patskou, and photographer Lora Evans and began when the pandemic forced everyone back inside their homes. 

“Prior to the pandemic, we hosted an alumni luncheon the first Monday of every month with players from the 50s to the 70s,” said Patskou.

“Everybody looked forward to getting together. I would do a video presentation on one of the alumni, and we would have a special guest. The last one we did was in March 2020, with Dave Dryden and that was right after the Zamboni driver had to play goal and beat the Leafs, Dryden had performed a similar role in 1962, It was a great session.

“Then COVID came along and we weren’t able to get together after that. But we wanted to keep the group in contact because we’ve been losing some of the older guys lately. We started meeting on Zoom, just among our luncheon group and then one thing led to another and we started expanding it.”

The sessions became so popular that they soon outgrew their Zoom license, which limited them to 100 attendees. “We recently moved to StreamYard, which has worked out well,” says Patskou. “It allows unlimited numbers to watch and we were able to add vintage videos as well.”

Themes and topics are decided by Paul and a panel that includes Suzanne Primeau (granddaughter of "Gentleman Joe Primeau'), Dan Lancione, Wayne Gillespie and Bill Williams. Editor and frequent guest host Glenn Dreyfuss adds a professional touch to the final product.

Themes have included “Captains,” with Rick Vaive, Yvan Cournoyer and Scott Mellanby, “Hockey Night in Canada,” with Brian McFarlane, Dick Irvin, Bob Cole, Don Cherry, Ralph Mellanby and Scotty Bowman, “The 1994 Rangers,” with Mike Keenan, Nick Kypreos and Glenn Healy, “Indigenous Hockey” with Fred Sasakamoose, Reggie Leach, Ted Nolan and Theo Fleury and “The Summit Series” with Paul Henderson, Yvan Cournoyer, and Rod Seiling.

“Don Cherry is huge up here in Canada and Ralph Mellanby, who hired Don for Hockey Night in Canada, arranged the appearance. Stan Fischler has also been a great guest,” said Patskou.

“When you first approach some of the older guys, they say they don’t know the technology and would rather not do it,” said Patskou. But when Lora Evans and others help get them on, you cannot get them off. They love it. Dick Irvin, at first said no but then his daughter got him on, same thing with Bob Cole. Scotty Bowman and Brian McFarlane were first on as guests and now they are regular audience members. They love to hear the old stories.”

The first 90-minutes of each episode is structured with the host asking the guests about their careers or the topic of the night. The session then reverts to Zoom so the audience can interact with the guests and each other.

The audience is a mix of fans, former players, and other people in the hockey industry and is a tribute to Paul’s network of people he has interacted with through the years.

But the real treat is for the fans who for the most part would not have the opportunity to hear the likes of Scotty Bowman, Brian McFarlane or Yvan Cournoyer tell their stories for 90 minutes. The format allows for an up close and personal view of the guests and makes you feel like you’re in an exclusive kind of club that allows you to rub elbows with some of your hockey heroes.

New episodes are streamed live on Thursday nights at 7pm on the Hockey Time Machine Youtube channel as well as the Hockey Time Machine Facebook page.

George Grimm is the author of two books about the New York Rangers: We Did Everything but Win, and Guardians of the Goal.


MARK MESSIER: FROM SUPERSTAR TO SUPER SALESMAN

The multi-Cup-winning center has demonstrated that he can be a success off the ice as well as on the rink. This knack is vividly articulated by the Hall of Famer in this interview with our Coby Maeir.

HOW HE FOUND AKESO WATER, WHAT HIS ROLE IS, AND WHAT INSPIRED HIM TO GET INTO THIS ROLE POST HOCKEY:

“I was first approached by Todd Waks, the CEO and founder of Akeso Water. I think everybody has seen the development of CBD over the last few years, with a lot of people verifying that CBD product has really helped them in inflammation, in soreness, stress release. … You know playing hockey for myself, up until I was 43-44 years old, was not easy. I was lucky that I played most of my career injury free, I took my fitness very seriously for the obvious reasons: I wanted to play at a high level, I wanted to stay injury free, but I also wanted to be able to run around after my career and play with my kids and lead a healthy life after hockey.

“So, I was always interested in technology in the sporting world and training methods, techniques, obviously nutrition became a big part of it throughout my career, and as we know hydration can make cowards out of us all. We do all this training in our whole life and the biggest moment of our lives is presented and we’re not hydrated properly, all that training goes for naught. So if you look at what Akeso’s been able to do is to infuse 10 mg of CBD into a perfectly refreshing glass of water with zero taste, and then get all the benefits of CBD. … So now I’m an equity partner and of course helping with the branding and marketing of the product.”

HIS THOUGHTS ON AKESO PARTNERING WITH NHL PLAYERS/TEAMS:

“There’s no question about that. I think that everyone’s going to be able to see the benefits of being able to infuse 10 mg of CBD in just a drink of water and get all the benefits from it. You know there’s a lot of inflammation that obviously all the athletes have to deal with and reducing inflammation is critical to being able to perform at the highest level. So how are we gonna get reduced inflammation?

Of course, we can do it many different ways, but CBD has been one of those products that has been able to show some relief in that regard, along with the stress after games and being able to relax, calm yourself down, and make sure you’re getting a great night’s sleep without the benefit of sleep-aids and whatnot, it’s all 100% natural. There’s no question that there’s a spot for this in sports certainly in hockey and I think as we continue to talk about the Akeso Water and the benefits of it, I think you’ll see a big penetration into the sporting world.”

HIS OTHER BUSINESS VENTURES:

“We’ve got some super exciting projects coming online in the future, not to mention Kingsbridge National Ice Center up in The Bronx, we’re really excited about that, we think that’s an amazing game changer for the kids in the Metropolitan Area to give them access and opportunity, and of course through the Mark Messier Foundation, trying to help kids to be able to fulfill their dreams, to live their dreams, to have the ability to pick an ice sport and be able to go out there and figure out a way to do it, and to get the coaching, get the ice time, get the equipment that they need in order to inspire themselves to be the best they can.

“The Mark Messier Foundation has done a great job I think we’ve put over three or four thousand kids through the learn to skate program called ‘In-line to Ice’ up in the PS 86 just across the street from the Kingsbridge Armory, so that’s been super successful. We’ve bought the rights and all the branding rights to ‘Game Seven’ with my partner Isaac Chura, we’re super excited about that. We’re looking at a whole health and wellness space called ‘Honeycomb’, we’re excited about that. We’ve got a small hotel down here in the Bahamas, called ‘Runaway Hill Inn’ on North Eleuthera, so that’s been a fun project and of course I’ve got a small vodka called ‘Spring44’ that has done really well.”

HOW THESE BUSINESS VENTURES GET HIS COMPETITIVE JUICES FLOWING:

“Well I think there is a lot of that. You could be competitive in business as well. You know, I like to win, you know if I immerse myself into any venture I want it to be successful, obviously I think that the same kind of things that are successful in team sports are relevant in business as well, surrounding yourself with great people, everybody taking a role, everybody taking ownership, and having the discipline to get the work done that’s required.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, and we’ve currently got three start-ups going all at the same time, there’s no 8 to 5 or 9 to 5 job, it’s 24/7. But I think for me that’s the exciting part, I love the build, I love building teams, I love building products, I love what we’re doing with Akeso Water, and I think when you surround yourself with great people, a lot of times, and you’ve got a great product, magic can happen.”

ON HIS SISTER, MARY-KAY, WHO IS A SENIOR ADVISOR AT THE PWHPA AND IS CURRENTLY VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL MARKETING AT BAUER, AND WOMEN IN HOCKEY:

“I think it’s critical, you know Mary-Kay ran my off-ice business for years under Messier Management International… you know she’s got a big position [at Bauer], so for us and The Messier Foundation it’s always about giving everyone an equal opportunity. For Women, I can’t tell you how proud I am of where the game has gone, and I think the only thing that’s really missing now is a viable professional league to continue to give the young girls the inspiration to continue to play.

“Of course, we all know they can get a scholarship to go to college, and of course there’s the Olympics, but the Olympics only takes 20 or 25 players. Professionally, girls who want to make a living, is obviously something we need to do a better job of. And as far as being in high-ranking positions amongst teams, women are very capable of filling any one of those spots.

“We’re seeing that now as we move forward, we’re seeing women getting into refereeing in the NFL level there, and we’re seeing women getting into more of the ownership positions, the management positions, the coaching positions, and why not? There’s no reason why they can’t, they just need to be given the opportunity and someone to believe in them to take on those positions and show that they can do the job which is no question I don’t think in anybody’s mind that they can.”

HIS THOUGHTS ON THE STATE OF THE NHL:

“Well I think the game itself, coming out of the last work stoppage in 2005, it’s been super exciting. I keep saying this every year, it seems, but I can’t remember a time where there’s been more actual talent spread out through the entire NHL as there is now. Everybody seems to be a really good player with a lot of skill, we’ve got some dynamic superstars in the game. From a business standpoint, it seems pretty healthy.

“The game has grown incredibly in the last 20 years, maybe even 25 years, from where it was back even when I came to New York, and of course, even when I started in 1979 and came into the league. It’s a different business model now, it’s gained so much traction, TV revenues are up, interest is up. We’ve got great athletes that we can market, brand, and grow our game. I think the biggest challenge that we have as a game now is to grow the game from a diverse standpoint, to get more kids included and to get more kids the opportunity to play the game of hockey.

“You think about when Wayne [Gretzky] went to L.A. back in 1988, and what’s happened down in the southern states with the game because of the recognition and what he was able to do to market the game down there and now we’ve got places in the NHL that probably nobody thought would’ve been successful. And the greatest thing that those teams have done is they’ve grown an amazing grassroots level there so they basically grow on their own fanbase because of what they’re able to accomplish in the community, so I think that is huge and we’re looking at the next 20 years where our game’s gonna go and I think it’s gonna continue to grow.”


COBY’S COLUMN: THE SUTTER EFFECT IN FULL FORM

Our co-editor Coby Maeir will offer his two-cents worth every so often. Here’s Coby’s corner on Darryl Sutter.

Since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, the Calgary Flames are 4-2-0 and trail Montréal by four points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Scotia North Division. Whether or not Calgary needed a culture change, Sutter has instilled that change. That culture of working hard each and every shift comes from a life of farming in the Alberta plains. The change has seemed to work, as the Flames’s two leading scorers, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk, have performed well, posting five and four points, respectively.

This is a team that has all the talent to be a legitimate contender, and the hope is that Sutter will help this team win what the LA Kings won when he took over in the 2011-12 season: a Stanley Cup.

With high level players like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, the aforementioned Lindholm and Tkachuk as forwards and top tier defenders like Hanifin, Giordano and Tanev on the blueline, there is no reason this team cannot make the playoffs.

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom has been their MVP this season, and other than letting up seven goals against Edmonton has performed well in the five games since the Sutter hire. If he can raise his save percentage from its current .903 mark to around .915, the Flames will be a dangerous team.

After back-to-back first round exits and an underwhelming start this season, it is up to the players to buy into the culture that Sutter brings. So far, it appears they have done just that. This upcoming week will be a measuring stick, as they have two games against Ottawa, a team that has taken six of 10 points despite being in last place in the division. They also have a three-game set against Winnipeg, which is playing the best hockey in Canada right now.


KRAKEN CORNER: ARENA NAMING RIGHTS AND MORE

With just months separating Seattle from the conception of its new NHL franchise, Glenn Dreyfuss provides insight on the Kraken’s brand-new home arena.

Financial institutions are most likely to have naming rights to your favorite NHL arena. Eight buildings display a finance brand; when the Islanders move into UBS Arena next season, that number will jump to nine. Five NHL sites each are named for communications and automotive-related companies. The rest are divided among airlines and insurance (2 each), with one each for businesses representing software, paints, energy, casinos, office supplies, pizza, and containers/aerospace. Madison Square Garden is the lone naming-rights holdout.

This brings us to Climate Pledge Arena, which represents... what, exactly? We know it is the facility currently under construction to be the home of the NHL's 32nd entry, the Seattle Kraken. While the arena name might be a head-scratcher, you have surely heard of the Seattle-based business which paid an undisclosed fee for the naming rights: Amazon.

In a press release, Amazon explained, "The Climate Pledge calls on signatories to be net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040 - a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement. With significant investment from Amazon and Oak View Group, the venue is expected to be the first net zero carbon certified arena in the world and set a new sustainability bar for the sports and events industry."

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO (for a few more months), added, "Instead of naming it after Amazon, we’re calling it Climate Pledge Arena as a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change.” The "Pledge" includes these features: power from 100% renewable electricity; "zero waste" with durable and compostable containers; an ice surface made from reclaimed rainwater; 75% of food sourced locally; and support for local environmental initiatives.

The former Seattle Center/Key Arena is being rebuilt on the site of the 1962 World's Fair, near the Space Needle. To preserve the iconic original roof, the 22,000-ton roof was lifted and suspended, while the ground underneath was hollowed out! When completed, the privately-financed $1 billion project will seat 17,100 for hockey. The facility is on track for completion by this autumn... in other words, in time for first puck drop.


THE MAN WITH THE BIGGEST HOCKEY BOOK COLLECTION

Nathan Lajoie is unique among hockey collectors. He has more books about the ice game than anyone in the world. Our co-editor, Coby Maeir has the story.

Is it possible that there have been 1,100 books written about hockey?

More to the point, is it possible that one man owns every one but two of them?

The answers are, yes and yes.

Nathan Lajoie of Chatham, Ontario can attest to that since he holds the distinction of having the most extensive hockey library in the world. 

“The collecting is strictly for fun, all because of my passion for hockey and its incredible history,” Lajoie said.

That collecting has resulted in 1,100 individual books, not counting the doubles, complete volume of The Hockey News from the 1947-1948 season up to present day, and other magazines and guides which brings the total collection number just shy of 4,000.

Quite incredible for someone who is just 32 years old.

“My love for hockey started at a young age in the early 90’s, brought on by my father and I collecting hockey cards and trying to complete our Panini sticker books. That helped drive both my desire to collect hockey related items, as well as grew my love for the game,” he elaborated.

As a child, he would draw crowds at the local corner store to watch him rattle off trivia questions. His family played a huge role in his love of hockey, as he “can remember being so excited to watch Hockey Night in Canada with my grandfather, every single Saturday night,” Lajoie recalled.

Throughout his grade school years, he would read the weekly issues of “The Hockey News” in addition to any and everything hockey related, but the pinnacle of his collecting desire had not come yet.

On the way to a trip to The Hockey Hall of Fame, Lajoie’s father bought him a copy of “The Hockey News” “Century of Hockey” special edition magazine. “It was undoubtedly the catalyst to my love and passion for hockey’s history,” he explained.

About a year later, his father showed him a pair of decade old copies of “The Hockey News” – one with Eric Lindros gracing the cover and the other with their idol, Mario Lemieux, gracing the 1992 yearbook. “It was because of that my desire grew to collect as much historical hockey material that I could get my hands on, especially issues of ‘The Hockey News,’” Lajoie said.

Lajoie has filled his library through over 20 years of collecting. “It is truly a dream come true,” he declared.