Will Shea Weber Be Suspended For Zetterberg Head Slam?

  • Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:28 AM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The National Hockey League playoffs are under way, and the first test of the NHL's more aggressive action in enforcing the rules against hits to the head occurred in the waning seconds of Nashville's Game 1 victory over Detroit at Bridgestone Arena. Preds defenseman Shea Weber, his team shorthanded and clinging to a one-goal lead, slammed Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass twice.

Luckily, Zetterberg didn't appear to be seriously injured by the malicious attack. But regardless, this is a big test for the NHL's head disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. Does he suspend Weber for one or two games to send a message that pro wrestling moves won't be tolerated in professional hockey? But this isn't the regular season. This is the playoffs where every game matters and the loss of a key player on the blue line for even a game could cost the series for the Predators.

But while Shanahan needs to be aware of the consequences for Nashville, he could also want to send a strong message to the league that these antics simply won't be tolerated. The fact that Weber is a repeat offender could weigh heavily on the decision. Weber was fined $2,500 last October for a boarding penalty on Vancouver's Jannik Hansen.

What makes the head slam even more curious is the fact that Weber is a recent concussion victim. He suffered a concussion this past December after a hit to the head from Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric and was sidelined four games. Now Weber might sit out as the perpetrator instead of the victim. You would think Weber would have learned a lesson about how dangerous hits to the head can be, but apparently not. Weber and his team might pay a heavy price for his unsportsmanlike play Wednesday night.

The New Cold War: NHL vs. KHL

  • Thursday, July 23, 2009 6:31 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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Could the rivalry between North America's National Hockey League and Russia's Kontinental Hockey League escalate into hockey's new cold war?

That remains to be seen. For now, to many observers the KHL is the equivalent of Major League Soccer -- a growing organization able to nab a star player once in a while such as the L.A. Galaxy's David Beckham but no legitimate threat to the powerhouse leagues in Europe who have the money, history and fanbase to attract the world's top players.

Still, with the report today that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told local sports newspaper Sovietsky Sport that he hopes the KHL expands into central and western Europe, the budding league is certainly giving notice to the executives at NHL headquarters in New York City.

After all, the league is only two years old and seems to have no shortage of rubles to snatch big-name talent from the NHL. With the Kremlin behind the league and Gazprom -- the world's largest extractor of natural gas in the world and the largest Russian company -- as its biggest benefactor, the KHL has already nabbed Jaromir Jagr and is making a play for another Czech -- Jiri Hudler.

However, the fate of Hudler is still up in the air because the NHL is arguing that even though he signed with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL, his election to file for salary arbitration obligates him to play for the Detroit Red Wings. A hearing is set for July 30 in Toronto. Also, the KHL experienced a tragic setback last year when New York Rangers' first-round draft pick Alexei Cherepanov died after an Avangard Omsk game.

But back to Putin's comments. He said the KHL should expand beyond the Former Soviet Union (currently teams are in Russia, Belarus, Latvia and Kazakhstan) and "become a pan-European league" with clubs in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Switzerland possibly joining.

If this expansion takes place, the KHL could become a formidable foe to the NHL in terms of the top talent, particularly from Russia and the rest of Europe. Perhaps that is one reason why the NHL is taking a stand in the Hudler case. It is one thing when veteran players like Jagr and Sergei Federov defect to the KHL, but a player in his prime such as Hudler?

For hockey fans such as myself who have enjoyed the renaissance the NHL has enjoyed of late thanks to the many skilled players from Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and other European and Former Soviet Union countries, I hope the NHL does everything in its power to retain these players who favor finesse over fighting.

Otherwise, no offense to Don Cherry, but without Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg and players of their ilk the NHL will regress back to the boring North American style of the past.

A new cold war on ice? Not yet. But the Kontinental Hockey League has proven it is here to stay.

Will Game 7 score TV ratings record?

  • Thursday, June 11, 2009 8:08 PM
  • Written By: Josh Marks

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The NHL just might redeem itself this Friday night despite the league's best efforts to keep viewers in the penalty box by scheduling Game 6 the same night as the NBA Finals on ABC and showing Games 3 and 4 on Versus instead of NBC.

There are several reasons to believe Friday's Game 7 matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins could at the very least set a record for the most-watched Game 7 in NHL history. It will almost certainly draw a large amount of viewers. The question is, how many?

Before listing why this game might go down in ratings history, it helps to put the telecast in perspective. Game 4 of the Cup Finals averaged 3.45 million viewers on Versus in comparison to the NBA Finals Game 1 on ABC which drew 13.4 million. Game 6 of hockey's Stanley Cup Finals on NBC nabbed 5.81 million viewers while 14.2 million viewers tuned into Lakers-Magic Game 3.

So, obviously the NHL won't be competing with the NBA anytime soon in terms of ratings. But, there are some encouraging signs that point to a potential ratings bonanza for Game 7.

-- Despite all my complaints about the inaccessibility of Versus as a niche network not on basic cable, the sports channel did have a reason to boast as Game 4 was the most-watched telecast in the network's history and overall viewership was up 42 percent from Games 1 and 2 of last year's Final. Also, Game 4 earned the highest cable ratings for an NHL playoff series since 2002.

-- Game 6 on NBC earned the best numbers for the 2009 series despite competing with the NBA Finals on ABC, which bodes well for Friday night's coverage. Game 7 will be televised on NBC to a national audience and will have the night to itself as the NBA Finals series doesn't resume until Sunday. The game also falls on a Friday night when many people are welcoming the weekend at bars, many of which will be reluctantly forced to turn the game on.

-- Fridays are a weak ratings night for general programming which is why networks don't usually schedule the big shows that night. At the 8 p.m. puck drop (5 p.m. West Coast time) the hockey game will be going up against "Reba" on ABC, "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" on Fox, "Surviving Suburbia" on ABC and a repeat of "Ghost Whisperer" on CBS.

-- For the first time since 2003 there will be two American teams battling for the championship in Game 7. The 2003 game featured the New Jersey Devils shutting out the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 3-0. Since then there have been two more seventh games, both with at least one Canadian team, which means an entire city not on the ratings map -- Tampa Bay-Calgary in 2004 and Carolina-Edmonton in 2006.

-- Both the Penguins and Red Wings are marquee franchises with big-name stars. The Red Wings are one of the most recognizable franchises in professional sports and Forbes magazine recently rated the Penguins the fasted-growing team brand in hockey and third in the four major sports. With names such as Crosby, Malkin, Zetterberg and Osgood on the ice at Joe Louis Arena Friday there will be no shortage of star power and intrigue to draw viewers in.

-- There is high drama in this series which should hopefully make for some heart-pounding moments in Game 7, especially if it is close or goes into overtime. The Wings beat the Pens in six games last year so Pittsburgh has a chance to redeem themselves on enemy ice and prevent Detroit from winning its second straight Cup in front of the home crowd. Who will be the hero? Crosby? Malkin? Zetterberg? Datsyuk? A lesser-known player? Will Fleury and Osgood stand tall in front of the net or buckle under the pressure?

-- Lastly, the young Pittsburgh team has an opportunity to win a rare Game 7 Cup Final on the road. History is not on their side: only two road teams have won the Cup in a Stanley Cup Final Game 7. Montreal won 3-2 in Chicago in 1971. The other time? Way back in 1941 when Toronto beat the Red Wings 2-1 in Detroit.