Russia Defeats Canada in Another Epic

  • Tuesday, January 3, 2012 10:08 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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When the puck drops between Canada and Russia you just never know what will happen. At Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta tonight another magnificent chapter was written between these two hockey-loving nations and intense rivals. In the World Junior Hockey Championship semi-finals the Russians dominated the Canadians 6-1 into the third period until the Canucks mounted a furious comeback attempt to cut the lead to 6-5 with just under five minutes remaining to send the sold-out, red-clad partisan crowd into a frenzy.

The fifth goal lead to a netminder change and with less than a minute to go Ryan Strome hit the post and Russia hung on for the victory despite being outshot in the game 56-24. They will face Sweden in the Gold Medal game while Canada will play Finland for the Bronze.

Washington Capitals prospect and Russian captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov scored a hat trick and 2012 NHL Draft projected number one pick Nail Yakupov had four assists.

Even though these are the junior teams, the epic nature of the game still adds to the storied rivalry between the two nations. It seems only appropriate that this dramatic match took place only a day after Versus relaunched its brand as NBC Sports Network by airing the documentary "Cold War on Ice: Summit Series '72" celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. Of course that series was all the more dramatic because it took place at the height of the Cold War and political tensions added to the heated action on the ice.

Ten years ago I visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto with my father and we were treated to the 1972 Summit Series 30th Anniversary festivities. At a press conference we got to see Phil and Tony Esposito and other Team Canada legends speak about the dramatic series. That moment really crystallized for me how much hockey means to these two countries. In Canada they say hockey is religion and the mystical bond between a nation and a sport is really seen at the National Cathedral in Toronto, otherwise known as the Hockey Hall of Fame's Great Hall, where the domed ceiling features stained glass windows reminiscent of old European churches and Canadians file past the Holy Grail -- Lord Stanley's Cup. Even in French the building at the corner of Front and Yonge Streets has religious connotations, as it is called Temple de la renommée du hockey.

For the citizens of Russia and Canada tonight the almost miracle comeback (another religious reference) was another glorious chapter in this storied rivalry. For the rest of us it was simply one of the most entertaining games of the year. And it builds anticipation for the next time Russia and Canada battle on the ice.

Russian Plane Crash Devastates Hockey Community

  • Wednesday, September 7, 2011 11:19 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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In a summer already tainted by the untimely deaths of professional hockey players Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, comes the tragic news today that nearly the entire Kontinental Hockey League team Lokomotiv -- 43 people in all -- were killed in a plane crash near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia.

A team spokesman confirmed that the entire main roster plus four players on the youth team were among the victims. There were two survivors in critical condition, including Russian forward Alexander Galimov.

It will take a long time to figure out why the Soviet era Yakovlev Yak-42 passenger jet crashed shortly after liftoff. It will take even longer for the world hockey community to heal from this unspeakable loss.

For now, while the pain is still fresh, here are the victims whose lives were cut way too short. Pray for their families and friends. May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

While the official list of victims has not been released, here is the most recent Lokomotiv Yaroslavl roster. There are many familiar names to hockey fans.

57 Anikeyenko, Vitaly D 01.02.1987 Russia

39 Balandin, Mikhail D 07.27.1980 Russia

18 Vasyunov, Alexander D 04.22.1988 Russia

63 Vasicek Josef F 09.12.1980 Czech Republic

35 Vyukhin, Alexander F 01.09.1973 Russia

11 Galimov, Alexander F 05.02.1985 Russia

38 Demitra, Pavol 11.29.1974 Slovakia

20 Ditrih, Robert F 07.25.1986 Russia

74 Kalimulin, Marat D 08.12.1988 Russia

28 Kalyanin Alexander F 09.24.1987 Russia

83 Kiryukhin Andrei F 08.04.1987 Russia

23 Klyukin Nikita F 11.10.1989 Russia

1 Liv, Stefan G 12.21.1980 Sweden

15 Marek, Jan F 12.31.1979 Czech Republic

32 Ostapchuk, Sergei F 03.19.1990 Russia

4 Rachunek Karel D 08.27.1979 Czech Republic

24 Salei, Ruslan D 11.02.1974 Russia

37 Skrastins, Karlis D 07.09.1974 Russia

69 Snurnitsyn, Pavel D 01.10.1992 Russia

13 Sobchenko, Daniil F 04.13.1991 Russia

17 Tkachenko, Ivan F 11.09.1979 Russia

3 Trakhanov, Pavel F 03.21.1978 Russia

21 Churilov, Gennady F 05.05.1987 Russia

52 Shuvalov, Maksim F 04.23.1993 Russia

72 Yarchuk, Artyom F 05.03.1990 Russia

81 Urychev, Yury D 04.03.1991 Russia

Head coach: Brad McCrimmon

Russia Stuns Canada At World Junior Championships

  • Wednesday, January 5, 2011 7:56 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Russia beat Canada 5-3 tonight to win the World Junior Championship Gold Medal at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. In coming back from a three goal deficit in the third period, Russia stunned the Canucks and their red-clad fans, who came in the thousands from across the border to cheer on their countrymen.

The miracle on ice, which took place not far from Lake Placid, where another miracle happened at the 1980 Olympics, is revenge for the thrashing by Team Canada at the most recent Olympic Games in Vancouver. It was the third comeback victory for Russia in the tournament, having rallied against Sweden and Finland to get to the Gold Medal game.

The comeback win was Russia's first Gold since 2003. The win also snapped Canada's three straight victories over Russia in the WJC Gold Medal game from 2005-2007.

So the great rivalry continues as tonight was perhaps the greatest collapse in Canadian hockey history. I can't wait to see what Don Cherry has to say about his farm boys losing in this fashion to the Russkies. One team had a whole lot of heart in this game and their comeback was like the powerful currents of the River Volga sending a message to the hockey world that Russia is back.

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Puck Set to Drop in VanCity

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2010 1:50 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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I love the Winter Olympics. I don't care if it's curling or alpine skiing. It's all good. But men's ice hockey starts today and everything else takes a back seat to the best players in the world facing off for their home countries. Nothing beats it.

Will Sid the Kid deliver a Gold Medal for the host country?

Will Alex the Great and the Russians ruin Canada's medal hopes?

Will goaltender Ryan Miller and team USA deliver an upset or two?

Will Peter Forsberg and Sweden repeat their Torino heroics and win gold again?

And what about Teemu Selanne's Finnish squad? They are no pushovers.

An important factor concerns the size of the rink at these games. Normally for the Winter Games the ice sheet is bigger which generally favors the more finesse play of the skilled European players. But a last-minute decision was made to stick with the NHL-sized Canada Place sheet because of the significant number of seats that would have had to be removed to accomodate an international-sized rink.

The common wisdom is that this favors Canada and the USA because North American players are used to dealing with less time and space to work with and also play the game in a slower, more rough-and-tumble way suited for smaller rinks.

But on second examination, I'm not so sure this applies anymore. With so many European-bred players making the adjustment to the NHL-sized rinks I don't think it will be as big a factor as some pundits proclaim. Players such as Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have learned to change their style of play and have thus been incredibly succesful. And in fact this entire generation of NHL Euro stars has succesfully made the transition to the smaller rink. However, the rest of the non-NHL players on the European teams is another question. Teams such as Latvia and Slovakia may indeed struggle, but I don't think NHL-stacked teams like Russia and Sweden will have much of a problem.

The anticipation has been building for hockey to begin in this puck-mad city and country. It was fitting that national heroes Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky (pictured above) lit the Olympic flame inside BC Place last Friday night. And to see The Great One riding down the streets of a rainy Vancouver on his way to the outdoor flame lighting as the frenzied throngs chased his car was unforgettable.

This is a city and a country that appreciates and loves the game of hockey like no other.

So Game On!

I'll be at The Parlor sports bar in Santa Monica this weekend live-blogging the men's hockey games so be sure to check out SportsFanLive's Olympics live blog page.

I will be leaving for Vancouver a week from this Wednesday and will be attending a couple of hockey games and a speed skating match and will be updating The Hockey Stop blog with my observations from the Olympics so be sure to log on starting Feb. 24 for daily hockey coverage from Vancouver. It is my first Olympics so it should be exciting.

Here is the men's ice hockey schedule:

Tuesday, February 16

12 p.m. USA vs. Switzerland (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group A, Game 1)

4:30 p.m. Canada vs. Norway (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group A, Game 2)

9 p.m. Russia vs. Latvia (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group A, Game 3)

Wednesday, February 17

12 p.m. Finland vs. Belarus (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group C, Game 4)

4:30 p.m. Sweden vs. Germany (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group C, Game 5)

9 p.m. Czech Republic vs. Slovakia (Men's Preliminary Round -- Group B, Game 6)

Thursday, February 18

12 p.m. USA vs. Norway (Men's Preliminary Round - Group A Game 7)

4:30 p.m. Switzerland vs. Canada (Men's Preliminary Round - Group A Game 8)

9 p.m. Slovakia vs. Russia (Men's Preliminary Round - Group B Game 9)

Friday, February 19

12 p.m. Belarus vs. Sweden (Men's Preliminary Round - Group C Game 10)

4:30 p.m. Czech Republic vs. Latvia (Men's Preliminary Round - Group B Game 11)

9 p.m. Finland vs. Germany (Men's Preliminary Round - Group C Game 12)

Saturday, February 20

12 p.m. Norway vs. Switzerland (Men's Preliminary Round - Group A Game 13)

4:30 p.m. Latvia vs. Slovakia (Men's Preliminary Round - Group B Game 14)

9 p.m. Germany vs. Belarus (Men's Preliminary Round - Group C Game 15)

Sunday, February 21

12 p.m. Russia vs. Czech Republic (Men's Preliminary Round - Group B Game 16)

4:40 p.m. Canada vs USA (Men's Preliminary Round - Group A Game 17)

9 p.m. Sweden vs. Finland (Men's Preliminary Round - Group C Game 18)

Tuesday, February 23

12:00 - Men's Playoffs Qualifications - Game 19

Scheduled 4:30 - Men's Playoffs Qualifications - Game 20

Scheduled 7:00 - Men's Playoffs Qualifications - Game 21

Scheduled 9:00 - Men's Playoffs Qualifications - Game 22

Wednesday, February 24

12:00 - Men's Playoffs Quarterfinals - Game 23

Scheduled 4:30 - Men's Playoffs Quarterfinals - Game 24

Scheduled 7:00 - Men's Play-offs Quarterfinals - Game 25

9:00 - Men's Playoffs Quarterfinals - Game 26

Friday, February 26

12 p.m. - Men's Playoffs Semifinals - Game 27

6:30 p.m. - Men's Playoffs Semifinals - Game 28

Saturday February 27

Medal Event Scheduled 7 p.m. - Men's Bronze Medal Game - Game 29

Sunday, February 28

Medal Event Scheduled 12:15 - Men's Gold Medal Game - Game 30

Breaking News: Don Cherry likes Alex Ovechkin

  • Monday, December 14, 2009 1:08 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Could there be a thaw in the Cold War between Canadian commentator Don Cherry and Russian hockey player Alexander Ovechkin?

In a shocking revelation during the first intermission of the Leafs-Caps game last Saturday night on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada," Cherry actually had some positive things to say about the Great Eight. The comments came after Ovie's 87 mile-per-hour cannon that scorched the back of the twine at Air Canada Center.

For those who aren't familiar with the plaid suit-wearing personality, Cherry has a jingoistic view of hockey players. In other words, he prefers farm-bred boys from Saskatchewan over finesse-bred boys from Sweden.

And he has gained a reputation for having a particular dislike of Ovechkin. This was evident after Ovechkin's celebration following his 50th goal last year in which he pretended his stick was on fire and was too hot to touch. On CBC, Cherry defended the "Canadian way" and derisively compared Ovie to the "goofy" celebrations soccer players make after scoring a goal. He then predicted that someone was going to hurt Ovie by "cutting him in half."

Fast forward to last Saturday night.

Cherry still went on his same tired routine about the curve of Ovie's stick (as if the stick is the reason for AO's lighting the lamp every five seconds) and that Ovechkin is getting a "free ride" because he plays a physical game and finishes his checks but never has to drop the gloves (as if there is a correlation between the two).

But then the anti-Euro provocateur actually had something positive to say about Ovie when the topic turned to his two-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit. When asked if Ovechkin should change the way he plays Cherry said this:

"You don't get it, I love the way he plays. I love that he is hell bent on banging and smashing and everything. I think he's great. I hope he keeps it up. All I'm saying is he's going to get hurt doing it. But you can't change your bull terrier. Your bull terrier's got to play like a pit bull. That's the way he is, that's the way he plays -- like a pit bull ... don't get me wrong, I like Ovechkin."

And considering how popular Ovechkin and the European-stacked Caps are in Canada, Cherry would be wise to tone down his inflammatory and provincial comments. The demand to see Washington is so high that they were featured on "Hockey Night in Canada" four times in the past five weeks, which is more than the Canadiens, Senators, Flames, Oilers and Canucks.

Swine Flu Hits Hockey

  • Thursday, October 29, 2009 1:03 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Hockey players are supposed to be some of the toughest guys on the planet. I mean when you are from towns such as Moose Jaw, Canada and Moscow, Russia then you are likely to have Superman-like immunity.

However, a recent rash of Swine Flu victims is challenging that notion.

The four cases reported so far have NHL teams scrambling to prevent the H1N1 virus from spreading.

Washington Capitals left wing Quintin Lang joins Edmonton's Ladislav Smid (pictured above), Colorado's Peter Budaj and Doug Weight of the New York Islanders in being diagnosed with the dreaded virus.

The Canadian Press reports that Smid did indeed test positive for the Swine Flu, but the 23-year-old defenseman didn't miss a game and was back on the ice after resting for two days. Other Oilers players have been hit harder by the seasonal flu. The players are taking the initiative to stay away from the rink if they feel sick.

After Avs backup goalie Budaj came down with H1N1, the team put a plan into effect, reports The Denver Post. If a player is diagnosed he will be isolated while preventative medications will be given to his teammates.

Newsday reports that Weight has returned to the Isles lineup following his bout with the Swine Flu, in which he missed three games. Weight chose to isolate himself from his family and teammates while he was recovering.

According to The Washington Post, some of the precautions the Caps are taking include hand sanitizers being placed around their Arlington, Virginia practice facility. But when hockey players share the same locker room, water bottles, equipment, towels, sweat and blood, is it really possible to stop the flu from spreading?

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said the following to the Post's Capitals beat writer Tarik El-Bashir:

"I'm hoping to shake fewer hands. It gets in your hands and fingers, and germs get in your cuticles. Everybody you meet is nice and wants to shake your hand. You don't want to be rude and say no, but . . ."

Injury News Update: The latest injury news comes from Pittsburgh where it was revealed today that Penguins star Evgeni Malkin will be sidelined 2-3 weeks with a strained right shoulder. The loss comes soon after it was announced that defenseman Sergei Gonchar will be out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist.

Obama praises Ovechkin

  • Tuesday, July 7, 2009 6:02 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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It turns out President Obama is a hockey fan after all.

On his first official visit to Russia as commander-in-chief, Obama singled out Washington Capitals star left winger and Moscow native Alex Ovechkin as "outstanding."

Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg reports that Obama, speaking to students at Moscow's New Economic School Tuesday morning, said the following:

"As a resident of Washington, D.C., I continue to benefit from the contributions of Russians -- specifically, from Alexander Ovechkin," the President said. "We are very pleased to have him in Washington, D.C."





Hockey fans might remember the president chose Canada for his first official foreign visit, raising hopes that the Hawaii native might have picked up L.A. Kings games on the airwaves and became a closet puckhead while growing up in Oahu. These hopes were dashed when during a CBC interview he admitted he had never attended a professional hockey game.

However, he did say at the end of the CBC interview that he would like to see a game at some point. And this morning when NBC political correspondent Chuck Todd pressed the prez on having never been to a hockey game, Obama responded by saying he has watched hockey (presumably on TV) and has seen Ovechkin play, but then drew the "born in Hawaii" defense for being more of a basketball guy then a hockey guy.

But these are all encouraging signs and the fact that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has already invited Obama to a game hopefully means that he will be paying a visit to the Verizon Center next season to see Alexander Ovechkin in person.

Whether Obama attends a Caps game probably has a lot to do with the chances of the Chicago Blackhawks visiting Washington (Obama attended a Bulls-Wizards game last season).

Memo to NHL schedule-makers: It's not too late to pencil in Hawks @ Caps next season!

Most watched NHL game in 36 years

  • Monday, June 15, 2009 3:14 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Friday night's Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on NBC was the most-watched NHL game in 36 years with an average of 8 million viewers.

The network's press release said the previous mark was a 1973 Stanley Cup Final Game 6 between Montreal and Chicago on NBC which drew 9.4 million.

The game earned a 4.3 rating, the best for a series-ending Final game since Anaheim-New Jersey's 4.6 rating in 2003.

NBC Sports' broadcast finished No. 1 for the night in every category including viewership and household ratings.

The closing minutes of the game, which saw Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury make a spectacular last-second save to preserve the 2-1 win (pictured above), drew about 10 million viewers.

These figures are likely higher because Nielsen only reports home television sets tuned into the program and since the game was on a Friday night there were many sports bars, airport lounges and hotel rooms tuned into the game.

Also, when CBC's Canadian coverage is factored in, plus international broadcasts in hot spots such as Russia and Sweden, the total audience grows even bigger.

In related news, Puck the Media blogger Steve Lepore reports that the NHL is on the verge of announcing a broadcast deal with NBC for the next two seasons. The revenue-sharing deal is great news for those hockey fans wanting more exposure for the league, as Game 7 on NBC clearly demonstrates the potential of the games being aired on network TV as opposed to specialty channels such as Versus.

The deal should hopefully include all seven Stanley Cup Finals games on NBC. Also, when the contract with Versus expires in 2011 the NHL should not renew but instead air regular season and playoff games on one of NBC Universal's basic cable channels, the most obvious fit being USA Network.