Friday, January 30, 2009

Bettman addresses state of the game and state of the economy

While much of the focus of 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend was on the city of Montreal and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens franchise, a great deal of attention was also paid to the state of the economy and its potential impact on league revenue and thus the salary cap. On Friday of All-Star Weekend, Paul Kelly, the head of the NHLPA, officially announced that the Union would opt not to reopen the CBA, but instead operate under the existing one through the 2010-11 season. This decision was made largely due to the spiralling economy and the belief that things will get much worse before they get better. Under the new (post-lockout) CBA, players have seen the average salary steadily increase as well as a multitude of young players sign long-term, lucrative contracts; "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Nonetheless, players began the 2008-09 season, having 13.5% of their paychecks put into escrow in the first half of the season, with speculation that this escrow percentage will increase. Gary Bettman directly addressed this issue from Montreal in an intriguing article, written by Toronto Star sports columnist Damien Cox.


Economy not that bad, says Bettman

Disagrees with union on need to take bigger salary bite

Jan 25, 2009 04:30 AM

Damien Cox

MONTREAL–Gary Bettman sees no reason why NHL players should have one-quarter of their paycheques withheld in the second half of the season.

Then again, it's not entirely his call.

Bettman was responding to an apparent request by the NHL Players' Association to increase the escrow amount withheld from every player to 25 per cent from 13.5 per cent for the second half of the season.

"I don't think that amount is necessary," Bettman said yesterday.

On Friday, players' union boss Paul Kelly said that deteriorating North American economic conditions will likely force players to give back more than $217 million (U.S.) in salary this season, the amount over the 56 per cent limit in total league revenues the players are expected to earn.

Part of the reason the union wants to now increase the amount each player pays to the escrow account is to make sure the players' association isn't left holding the bags for millions of dollars in monies owing to the league at the conclusion of the season. Salaries increased more than 13 per cent this season. Bettman and Kelly both agree revenues will grow slightly this season, but not enough to compensate for the increased wages.

"If the players' association is concerned there's a risk of a shortage, that's something we can discuss," said Bettman. "I do understand their desire to err on the side of having more money there."

Partly, the NHL commissioner might be worried that increasing the escrow sends out a bad signal that the union believes the NHL's projections of slight growth are overly optimistic, and thus indicates a lack of confidence.

On other fronts, Bettman seemed to indicate little interest in a number of union proposals, including that the players' association be given a say in future franchise relocations and expansion.

Bettman denied that the troubled Phoenix Coyotes are on "life support," although he acknowledged there are significant problems.

"Phoenix needs an infusion of capital ... and I believe that's going to happen," he said. "We have a pretty good track record of fixing teams that get into trouble."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rinne and Backstrom get together for a special weekend in Montreal

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne and Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom had an opportunity to spend some time together this past weekend in Montreal over All-Star Weekend. writer Dan Rosen has an interesting piece on this as both goalies have had very successful years thus far. Rinne earned his 11th win of the season last night, making 24 saves in a 5-3 win at Vancouver.

Saturday, 01.24.2009 / 1:52 PM / 2009 NHL All-Star Game

Montreal the reunion point for Backstrom, Rinne
By Dan Rosen - Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- You might as well call Niklas Backstrom and Pekka Rinne the Finnish version of Laurel and Hardy.

They're pretty darn funny when paired together in an NHL dressing room, but that's only because they practiced their shtick for three years in a Finnish National League locker room.

Backstrom and Rinne were together again Saturday, four years removed from when they were last teammates for Karpat, Rinne's hometown team, in the SM-liiga. Karpat plays in Oulu, where Rinne was born. Backstrom is from Helsinki.

"He's more cocky now," Backstrom told "He used to be a real nice guy. . No, no. He still is a nice guy."

Rinne, who at 26 is three and a half years younger than Backstrom, tried to convince us that he was the starter for Karpat from 2002-05 when the duo was together.

"He was my backup goalie," Rinne said, smiling.

Backstrom just stared at him. It didn't take long for Rinne to back down.

"No, just kidding," he quickly said. "It was the other way."

"The only bad thing I could say about him is maybe he was too tired a couple of times (when we played together)," Backstrom added. "He was always the guy we were waiting for."

All kidding aside, these two were obviously happy to be back together, especially in an NHL All-Star dressing room in Montreal.

Since the rookies playing in Saturday's YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck dressed in the Western Conference locker room, the four goalies, including Roberto Luongo and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, were all put together in a row on one wall.

Rinne was in the corner by the door with Backstrom right next to him.

"It's pretty funny when I got to the rink and I saw he was sitting next to me. It brought me back," Backstrom said. "We have both come pretty far and it's fun to be in the same locker room again. We shared the same locker room for three years. We had a great time and worked hard together and now it's really cool to be in an All-Star locker room with him."

Rinne said he felt his confidence rising because of his location in the locker room.

"We got to know each other pretty well and he had some great years in Oulu and it was a great learning experience for me watching and learning from him," Rinne said. "We won a couple of Finnish championships, so it was great."

Rinne actually made it to the NHL ahead of his older and former teammate, but he played in only two games for the Predators in 2005-06, when Backstrom was still playing for Karpat.

Backstrom came over the following season and quickly immersed himself as the Wild's No. 1 goalie. He played in 41 games as a rookie who celebrated his 28th birthday during the 2006-07 season.

Rinne played in just one game last season for the Predators, but after three seasons and 145 games with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, he's now he's trying to steal ice time away from Nashville's perceived No. 1, Dan Ellis.

"He spent three years in the minors after playing for his hometown, so for sure you are going to grow up when you go to a different country with a different culture all by yourself," Backstrom said. "I think that was a good learning experience for him to move out of home and see the world. He's the same hockey guy, but maybe he's a little more grown up."

Rinne and Backstrom try to stay in touch, mostly by text messages, throughout the season. They have yet to face each other in a game.

"We were together when he was a young guy and now it's really fun to see him playing at this level and making it," Backstrom said. "I knew he would be a really good goalie, so it's not that big of a surprise. You always need a little bit of luck to get the chance and he got the chance this year and he's making the best of it."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ottawa Senators happy to have Volchenkov back in action

The Ottawa Senators received good news on Monday afternoon when they learned that top shutdown defenseman Anton Volchenkov would return to the lineup when Ottawa faces New Jersey tonight at Scotiabank Place. Senators coach Craig Hartsburg said about Volchenkov, "He gives us that physical edge defending and penalty killing. His energy in the game ... he brings that energy on the bench and he's a real competitive player." Tonight's game begins a crucial stretch for Ottawa as they look to make a second-half playoff run. The Senators are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference and trail 8th place Carolina by 12 points, but are thrilled to know that the "A-Train" is back on track.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009



"You're probably getting sick of hearing it, but we're taking it one day at a time now. We had a real good practice, and now we're going to continue to try and stretch (good play) 60 minutes. I still don't think we've done it over 60 minutes."

As for the deep, 12-point hole his team is in, Hartsburg added: "That's there. That's not going to go away unless we cut into it. We can't be looking at that every day. We have to just continue to win hockey games."

Returning to the Senators' lineup tonight will be defenceman Anton Volchenkov, who has missed the last eight games with a shoulder injury. The return of the team's most physical blueliner means that -- judging by yesterday's pairings -- Hartsburg will likely make either Brendan Bell or Jason Smith a healthy scratch.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pekka Rinne to be a part of 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend

Pekka's fine season continues as he is invited to 2009 NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal. At this rate, the 26 year-old will definitely receive some consideration for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL's Rookie of the Year.

January 23, 2009

Rinne to play in YoungStars game

By John Glennon

Shea Weber won't be the only member of the Predators enjoying the atmosphere of the NHL All-Star game this weekend in Montreal . Rookie goaltender Pekka Rinne will represent Nashville in the NHL's YoungStars game, which will be played Saturday.

The 6-foot-5, 206-pound Rinne takes a 10-7-0 record, .916 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average into the contest. He seems to be moving into the Predators' No. 1 goalie slot, as Rinne has started three of the past four games and played in seven of the past eight contests.

This season's YoungStars game will feature a team of rookies taking on a team of sophomore NHL players. The two sides will face off in a three-on-three contest.

"I wasn't expecting it, but it's a great honor," said Rinne, a replacement for Columbus goalie Steve Mason, who's out with back spasms. "I think it will be fun just to be up there in that atmosphere and to see a lot of top players."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Antti Laaksonen's two-goal night paces Lukko Rauma to a 7-3 win over Karpat

Lukko Rauma winger Antti Laaksonen scored goals in a 7-3 win over Karpat last night. Laaksonen, who played 8 NHL seasons with Boston, Minnesota and Colorado, played last season with Fribourg of the Swiss National League and is now back in his native Finland, enjoying a strong season with Lukko Rauma. Entering tomorrow's game against Jokerit, Laaksonen has 13 goals and 17 assists-his 30 points are tied for 22nd in SM-Liiga.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Should the NHLPA opt out of or continue with the current CBA?

Important league news came out yesterday when it was reported in the Globe and Mail that the NHL Players' Association will opt not to reopen the CBA, and instead let the CBA run its course for next two years through the 2010-2011 season. There has been much debate thus far over what is the best for the players and what is best for the league. The general consensus has been that the players will be making the right choice given the current state of the economy and the fact that league revenues have steadily increased each year under the current CBA. As Nick Schultz, the Minnesota Wild's player representative said, "The consensus on our team was, we didn't think it was a good idea to reopen it. That has not changed. With the way the economy is right now, I don't think it's in anyone's best interest to shut it down. I just can't see that happening. Now, I don't know if they have other ideas, but this is our feeling."

NHLPA declines to reopen contract


From Monday's Globe and Mail
January 18, 2009 at 11:03 PM EST

The vote comes Thursday afternoon in a conference call among the NHL Players' Association executive board but already a consensus has emerged:
the player representatives from the 30 teams will decide to carry on with the current collective agreement.

That's the feeling among PA members as they prepare for a vote and announcement before the NHL's all-star weekend in Montreal. With a downturn in the global economy coupled with struggling franchises in Phoenix, Florida and Tampa, to name just three, the players believe now is not the time to reopen the labour agreement and risk either a lockout or strike as a result of protracted negotiations.

"[NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman has been saying there's a 2-per-cent increase [in 2008-09 revenues]," said Rob Davison, the Vancouver Canucks'
player rep. "If that's the way the numbers are leaning, it's another growth period. For the players, absolutely [the collective agreement is working]."

Nick Schultz, the Minnesota Wild's player rep, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "I think it's in our best interest, with how the economy is and how we're just a few years from the lockout, to stick it out. Revenues have grown each year, so I think it'd be pretty crazy right now to reopen it."

The PA was given the right to reopen the agreement after its fourth year providing it notified the NHL of its intentions by May 18. Earlier this season, the PA executive posed the same question to every player, "Should we terminate the CBA at the end of the current season?" The results were stored at the PA office in Toronto and will be tallied for information purposes before Thursday's conference call.

The players enjoy many aspects of the CBA, principally how they share in 57 per cent of hockey-related revenues and how that has pushed the high end of the salary cap to $56.7-million (all figures U.S.) from the original $39-million set in the summer of 2005.

"I don't think many [Montreal] guys will argue with the fact that over the last few years since the lockout it's worked out very favourably for the players," said Canadiens' player rep Mike Komisarek.

There are, however, areas of concern among the players, chief among them having a percentage of their salary held in escrow to cover any shortcomings in the league's projected revenues. The escrow payment so far this season has been set at 13.5 per cent, the highest yet, but there's talk it could soon be raised to as high as 20 per cent.

And with several clubs in financial peril, the PA and its members are eager to have a voice in how the league reshapes itself.

"Why are we keeping Phoenix afloat at the players' expense?" argued one player. "How can [the NHL] justify doing that when we're supposed to be partners but we have no say? ... The only reason the players would vote to reopen the CBA is to get rid of escrow. But what do we have to give up to get that? There should have been a cap on escrow just like in basketball."

With the players having dealt with the CBA issue for now, the next question is how they move forward. Over the past few months, the PA has been negotiating with the NHL on sending more NHL teams to Europe, six at the start of the 2009-10 season, eight the following year followed by a World Cup of Hockey with continued talks on having NHL players compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Some of the money from those international games would go into the PA's pension fund and be used for additional projects aimed at expanding the game at the grassroots level. So far, at least two Canadian teams are likely to be playing overseas. The Calgary Flames have expressed an interest in opening the 2009 season in Europe while the Toronto Maple Leafs are tentatively booked for 2010.

The teams and cities involved, according to report by The Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek, are: the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm; Florida and the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague; Calgary and the San Jose Sharks in Helsinki. Details have not yet been made final.

The NHL and the PA agreed to change some of the wording in the current collective agreement to accommodate the games and how the revenue would be shared and used.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pekka Rinne records his fourth career NHL shutout

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 17 shots he faced last night in a 2-0, much-needed shutout win in Toronto. This was already Pekka's fourth shutout this season, which is tied for fourth in the NHL. The Predators had been reeling of late, losing 6 of their previous 9 games. Rinne, a 26 year-old rookie, improved his record to 10-5 to go along with 2.17 GAA (tied for 4th) and a .921 save percentage (1oth). Nashville travels to Montreal for a Thursday night tilt with Rinne riding a personal three-game winning streak.

January 14, 2009

By John Glennon

Hot hand: Goalie Pekka Rinne picked up his third straight win, and he's stopped 68 of 70 shots in those games. But Trotz was careful to say Tuesday morning that Rinne has not necessarily supplanted Dan Ellis as the team's top goalie.

Ellis had a strong outing Sunday in Chicago, stopping 30 of 32 shots, but the Predators lost 3-1.

"Danny played outstanding in Chicago but right now we're not giving him any run support, like some of the great baseball pitchers,'' Trotz said. "So (starting Rinne) is a little bit of karma and Pekka played outstanding game before that."

"Right now, we're trying to keep them both going into the all-star break. It doesn't matter if it's Pekka or Danny — there's no drop-off in either one the way they're playing right now.''

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ilya Kovalchuk makes his 3rd All-Star team

Though it has been a tough year (to say the least) for the Atlanta Thrashers, they got some good news today when they learned that Ilya Kovalchuk would represent them at the 2009 NHL All-Star Game to be played in Montreal on January 25. Ilya previously played in the 2004 All-Star Game as well as last year's game. Congratulations to PuckAgency client Ilya Kovalchuk! Kovy and the Thrashers face off against the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Prudential Center.

Thrashers’ Kovalchuk named to All-Star team

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Thursday, January 8, 2009

was named to the NHL All-Star team today. The Thrashers forward will compete for the Eastern Conference in the 2009 All-Star Weekend in Montreal on Jan. 24-25.

Kovalchuk has 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) through the Thrashers’ first 41 games this season.

The 25-year-old left wing leads the Thrashers in points and assists. He is currently tied for 13th in the NHL in assists and 18th in points.

Kovalchuk is the Thrashers lone representative this year.

Alexei Morozov's two goals and an assist lead Kazan over MVD; Morozov takes over KHL scoring lead

Ak Bars Kazan center Alexei Morozov had a 3-point night in a 3-1 win over MVD tonight. Morozov now is in sole position of the points lead with 55 (25 G, 30 A). Morozov has one more point than Magnitogorsk's Jan Marek. A few weeks ago, Morozov lost a key member of his line when Sergei Zinoviev left Kazan and signed with Dynamo Moscow. Kazan will have four days off before they travel to Dynamo Moscow Tuesday night.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ilya Kovalchuk voted top Russian athlete in 2008 (Press Release)



NEW YORK, NY (January 6, 2009) -- Ilya Kovalchuk was recently voted Russia’s top athlete for 2008 by viewers of “Sport” channel and the Russian sports website, The selection was made as part of a tournament format featuring Russian superstars including Alexander Ovechkin, Maria Sharapova, and biathlonist Svetlana Sleptsova.

In one of the most memorable games in the World Championships’ 100 year history, Kovalchuk scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals in Russia’s gold-medal victory game at the 2008 IIHF World Championships held in Quebec in May. Kovalchuk’s goal 2:42 into overtime led Russia to victory over Canada and Russia had captured its first gold medal at the World Championships in 15 years.

Kovalchuk was the first Russian hockey player to be drafted #1 overall in NHL history. “Kovy” is currently in his 7th NHL season and is the Atlanta Thrashers’ franchise leader in goals, assists, points, power-play goals, game-winning goals and games played. In 2007-08, Kovalchuk set the franchise single-season record scoring 52 goals, already his second 50-goal season and fourth season of 40+ goals. He is a two-time NHL All-Star and has scored more goals than any other player in the NHL since he entered the league in the 2001-02 season. Kovalchuk was also named Atlanta Professional Athlete of the Year in 2008.

Kovalchuk began his professional career playing for HC Spartak Moscow in the Russian Super League. Kovy has represented Russia in the Olympics, World Championships and World Junior Championships.

“Ilya is extremely honored to be voted the top athlete in Russia. It was a great experience for him to win the World Championships in May and now to be honored in this fashion, is extra special. There are not too many awards that are held in higher regard in Russia,” said Jay Grossman, Kovalchuk’s agent.

# # #

For more information, please contact:

Jay Grossman
PuckAgency, LLC
Telephone: (914) 432-0050

Pekka Rinne goes for his 8th win of the season tonight

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne will be in net tonight when the Predators take on the Colorado Avalanche and try to stop a four-game losing streak. If the season ended today, Nashville wouldn't make the playoffs and they will turn to Rinne tonight to stop the bleeding.

January 6, 2009, 3:29pm

Rinne to start against Colorado

By Jessica Bliss

Pekka Rinne will be in goal against the Avalanche, making his fourth appearance in the last five games.

Predators Coach Barry Trotz said the choice to start Rinne over Dan Ellis was a "personal decision." Ellis had been dealing with a head cold that kept him out of the lineup recently, but he was recovered enough to start the team's most recent game against Calgary on Jan. 3.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Juha Metsola finishes the World Juniors off strong, stopping 25 shots in a 3-1 win over Germany

Finland completed its World Juniors play with a 3-1 win over Germany today. Juha Metsola had 25 saves, finishing a very strong tournament in which he won 3 of 4 decisions and posted a 1.47 goals against average to go along with a .939 save percentage. Niclas Lucenius, a 2007 Atlanta Thrashers draft pick, had a goal and two assists in 6 games and Antti Roppo finished with two goals and an assist in 6 games; Nestori Lahde also had two goals in 6 games.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Juha Metsola continues his strong play with 20 saves in a 7-1 win over Kazakhstan at the World Juniors

Goaltender Juha Metsola started his third consecutive game tonight over starting goaltender Harri Sateri and the results were again good ones for the Finnish team at the Word Juniors. Finland dominated Kazakhstan the entire evening, scoring 3 goals in the 1st period and never looked back. Metsola turned aside 20 of 21 shots he faced en route to a 7-1 victory. Finland was paced by a five-point by Teemu Hartikainen (2 G, 3 A).

Through three games, Metsola has only allowed 4 total goals and his only loss came in a 3-2 shootout on Wednesday nights against Slovakia; Metsola's goals against average is 1.62 to go along with a .931 save percentage. Finland will take on Germany tomorrow afternoon in its final game of the tournament. Meanwhile, Canada, who edged Russia tonight in an epic shootout, will battle Sweden, who took care of Slovakia today, in the Championship game tomorrow night.