Friday, October 10, 2008

PuckAgency client Brian Leetch to be inducted into US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Denver

Tonight will be very special for former New York Rangers defensemen Brian Leetch, as he will be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Denver. Leetch, along with Mike Richter, Brett Hull and Cammi Granato, will be given one of hockey's greatest honors. All four inductees were also honored last night prior to the Colorado Avalanche's home-opener versus Boston, which was one of 4 games on opening night of the North American portion of the NHL schedule. PuckAgency sends its congratulations to Brian, who will go down as one of the best defensemen in NHL history.

Hall class of 2008 in a class all its own

By Terry Frei
The Denver Post

Article Last Updated: 10/08/2008 06:12:44 PM MDT

At the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, a young Cammi Granato watched with great interest as she attended the opening ceremony at McMahon Stadium.

I was there, too, sitting in the stands. Mainly, I remember that I rarely have been that cold in my entire life as pigeons flew, Gordon Lightfoot and k.d. lang sang, children danced and 12-year-old figure skater Robyn Perry lit the Olympic flame.

Somewhere in those seats, as winger Tony Granato, defenseman Brian Leetch, goalie Mike Richter and their U.S. hockey teammates were back at the Olympic Village preparing for a game that night against Austria, Cammi Granato turned to her mother, Natalie.

"I was saying to my mom . . . 'I want to be an Olympian, and I want to represent the USA, and how can I do it?' " Cammi recalled. "There was no women's hockey, and I'm a 15-year-old kid thinking I can conquer the world."

She said that she next asked her mother, "Can I play for the men's team?"

The answer: She didn't have to.

Cammi Granato played in the women's program at Providence College, a Dominican- run university that was ahead of its time, then was ecstatic when women's hockey was added to the Olympic program for the 1998 Games in Japan, where she won the first of her two gold medals.

"The biggest change for hockey I noticed was when we returned from Nagano in '98, because all of a sudden our sport had credibility," Cammi said. "If we carried a hockey bag into the arena, people didn't look at us funny, and there was now a respect to our sport. It's been growing steadily since then."

It wasn't scripted, but the weird intersection of circumstances will be obvious Friday night when Cammi Granato, Brian Leetch, Mike Richter and Brett Hull are inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame at the University of Denver's Magness Arena.

The four-person class also will be introduced and saluted at the Avalanche's regular-season opener tonight against Boston at the Pepsi Center.

The Hall of Fame Museum is in Eveleth, Minn., but USA Hockey — based in Colorado Springs — last year took over the Hall of Fame voting and induction dinner. The U.S. Hall membership has a pronounced NHL flavor, and that's still true with the induction class this year, especially considering that Cammi Granato's brother was a longtime NHL player and now is a coach; and her husband, Ray Ferraro, played 19 seasons in the league.

Leetch, one of the prototypes for the modern hybrid defenseman, and Richter were longtime teammates with the New York Rangers, including on the 1994 Stanley Cup champions. Adding to the degrees of separation, Tony Granato was Richter's roommate at the University of Wisconsin and also spent the outset of his NHL career with the Rangers.

"Having my teammate for so many years, Mike Richter, go in at the same time is going to be a lot of fun. It always was a pleasure to play in front of him in net for both teams," Leetch said.

"And certainly Cammi, I've been following her, because of my relationship with her brother, since she was at Providence College in the '90s. To have her go in at the same time and to be able to watch her kind of lead the way with women's hockey in the U.S. and follow that up with the gold at Nagano and continue being such an ambassador, it's a great honor, and I look forward to a fun (induction) weekend."

Richter, born and raised in Pennsylvania, had 301 wins in his Rangers career, which ended prematurely because of concussion problems.

"It's flattering to be put in this position to go in, but particularly with this class," Richter said.

Hull, born in Canada, essentially is an adopted member of the USA Hockey program, but legitimately so because his father, Bobby, played so long with the Blackhawks and Brett was an unproven young player the USA program first invited him to play for the Americans at the 1986 World Championships, after his sophomore season at Minnesota- Duluth.

"Just having them show the faith in me, that they wanted me part of the program, was all I needed," said Hull, now the co-general manager of the Dallas Stars. "I've never forgotten that, and I never will."

After that, Hull was a regular on U.S. national teams with Richter and Leetch, including at the Olympics, and on the championship team in the 1996 World Cup.

It's a class with a lot of it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Jersey Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela to make NHL debut on Friday night

New Jersey Devils blueliner Anssi Salmela will be paired with Colin White when he makes his NHL debut on Friday night at the Rock versus the New York Islanders. Salmela made the team out of training camp, which even he was not expecting to do. However, Salmela impressed head coach Brent Sutter so much, that he Sutter was left with no choice. "If we thought he wasn't capable of playing here regularly, development would be the right thing for him because it's his first year over here," Sutter said. Every day he's gotten better. He's adjusted to a lot of things here very quickly."

The Newark Star-Ledger's Devils beat writer, Rich Chere provides some interesting information regarding Salmela's debut.

Anssi Salmela ready to reach the Finnish line

by Rich Chere
Tuesday October 07, 2008, 9:32 AM

Jukka Porvari was the first. Anssi Salmela is poised to be the latest.

When Salmela makes his Devils debut as early as Friday night against the Islanders, he will become the 10th Finnish-born player in Devils history. Porvari made his debut on April 14, 1982, against the Montreal Canadiens. That was the fifth game in Devils history and was played in the Meadowlands.

Tapio Levo, who played more games for the Devils that 1982-83 season, made his debut Oct. 16 in Pittsburgh. Both Porvari and Levo had played for the Colorado Rockies the previous season.

Here's a closer look at the Devils and their Finnish-born players:

Tim Blomqvist (20 games 1986-87) no goals, two assists

Hannu Kamppuri (13 games 1984-85) goalie was 0-1-1

Tapio Levo (73 games 1982-83) seven goals, 40 assists

Olli Malmivaara (two games 2007-08) no points

Janne Ojanen (98 games 1988-89 to 1992-93) 21 goals, 23 assists

Tuomas Pihlman (15 games 2003-04 to 2006-07) one goal, one assist

Jukka Porvari (eight games 1982-83) one goal, three assists

Reijo Ruotsalainen (31 games 1989-90) two goals, five assists

Esa Tikkanen (nine games 1995-96) no goals, two assists

The information was provided by Devils senior VP of communications Mike Levine.

Monday, October 6, 2008

G Juha Metsola's 39 saves lead Lethbridge over Swift Current

Lethbridge goaltender Juha Metsola stopped 39 shots in last night's 5-2 win over Swift Current, improving his record to 5-2 with a 2.40 GAA and .928 (10th in the WHL) save percentage. Metsola has picked up exactly where he left off last season, having already posted two shutouts on the season. Metsola had 33 saves the night before in a 7-3 victory over Kelowna.

Last year with Lethbridge, won CHL Goaltender of the Week twice in the 2nd half of the season and led the Hurricanes to the WHL finals. Metsola is eligible for the 2009 NHL Draft and will be a goalie to keep an eye on for the future.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Devils' Salmela continues to impress

Finnish import Anssi Salmela recorded his first goal of the pre-season last night in a 3-0 victory over the Islanders. Salmela scored with the Devils up 2-0 and a little less than six minutes remaining in the game. The Devils' coaching staff has been impressed with the Nokia, Finland native, and have rewarded him with consistent ice time in his four games. Through four pre-season games, Salmela has averaged over 17 minutes per game while managing seven shots on goal. Salmela has exhibited versatility, showing the ability to be physical and also play point on the power play. After last night's game, New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur praised Salmela, "He's pretty slick out there. He's not a huge guy (5-11, 195), but he's pretty physical and sees the ice real well. He turns on a dime. It's amazing. The quick move he made when he got the puck kind of threw the defenseman off. He's got a decent shot. He just overpowered the goalie."

With only two pre-season games remaining, Salmela appears to have the inside track on a roster spot. The Devils open the regular season on Friday, October 10 at home vs. the New York Islanders.