12th January: Sunday Overtime – Three on Three

Listen, I should probably start calling this Monday Overtime instead. I have no excuse for my lateness this week, other than sheer laziness. After a day of intensive spring-cleaning, I had no desire to open my laptop. But that doesn’t mean that all was quiet in the NHL last week – far from it. Here is this week’s Three on Three.

The header image comes from the Nashville Predators’ Twitter account.

01. Proud.

So, here we are, again. The long dark teatime of NHL teams’ pride nights. Some commit more than others. Some players commit more than others. Personally, I’m a little tired of players not doing the bare minimum of taping up their sticks with pride tape but I’m also not surprised, these days. We can make excuses for players from Russia, but should we? I don’t think so (especially when we know that, two years ago, Evgeni Malkin donated his suite for the use of local school gay-straight alliances.)

Every year, each NHL team names a Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador and I sometimes think we’re too eager to read into it. Yes, there are certainly players with a track record of openly supporting LGBT* people, such as Braden Holtby, but I’m not sure what the actual function of these ambassadors is. They have, apparently, pledged to be leaders in the community and in the locker room.

This week, I want to focus on a HIFE ambassador who has been a leader. He is none other than our most recent ‘Babe of the Week’, the Ottawa Senators’ Mark Borowiecki.

Last week, the Ottawa Senators played in DC, on the Washington Capitals’ pride night. Not alone did he use pride tape on his stick for warm-ups, he went that extra step and posted about it on his instagram, and then he went further again: he responded to those members of the LGBT* community who reached out to him, with thoughtful words.

Borowiecki is a tough customer on the ice but what he’s done this week has made him a favourite amongst so many hockey fans. Pride is not the word we’re looking for.

02. Not Mad, Just Disappointed.

So, on this side of the Atlantic, anyone who’s followed local sports to any degree will very much be aware of the significance of a local derby. I’m an Arsenal fan, so you better believe I harbour the appropriate resentment towards Spurs. The Manchester and Liverpool derbies are amongst the most historic in the Premier League, while the rivalries north of the border, in Scotland, often carry a dark edge, related to sectarianism.

Rivalries in hockey seem to be based on a variety of things, and not just proximity, although the Battle of Pennsylvania can extremely fun for the neutral fan.

This week, though, I want to talk about the Battle of Alberta, and what the fuck. So, it’s the NHL equivalent of a local derby and, excitingly, both teams are jostling for playoff positions, so this season’s games carry some importance. The final score ended up being 4-3 to Calgary, but the real drama is what transpired between Zack Kassian, of the Oilers, and Matthew Tkachuk, of the Flames.

Tkachuk targeted Kassian with two hits and then Kassian turned on Tkachuk and began to beat the tar out of him, even though Tkachuk wouldn’t engage. The NHL has subsequently issued a statement to say that both were legal hits but there is a great deal of controversy about that. The Edmonton Journal summarises the league-wide reaction well in this article.

Kassian is awaiting a hearing with the Department of Player Safety, which is reasonable, but there’s definitely room for Tkachuk to face some discipline too. These were not exactly hockey plays, particularly the first hit.

One of the things I like about hockey discipline is that there can be penalties doled out to both sides on one play. For example, there might be a blatant high stick but if the victim of said high stick dives, he’ll get done for embellishment and let me tell you, after years of watching football (soccer), I am absolutely here for people being penalised for diving. By that logic, why can’t Tkachuk not be disciplined for stirring it up unnecessarily and targeting Kassian with borderline dangerous hits?

03. Unsurprised

Finally, this week saw the end of voting for Last Man In, for this month’s NHL All-Star Game. Each team put forward a player to be their ‘last man in’ and, from each division, a final player was sent to the All-Star Game. Yes, it’s a gimmick, but so is the entire weekend. For a more entertaining approach to the ASG, and a little bit about the fun things that have happened, I recommend reading Micah’s latest newsletter here.

Anyway, from the Metropolitan Division, we saw TJ Oshie finally get his chance to be an All-Star. As a Caps fan, I’m happy to see him attend, especially as it’s in St Louis, where he was a well-liked player. I do understand that he’s not a wildly popular choice, though. From the Atlantic Division, Mitch Marner is finally an All-Star, too, and that should be fun. Give the kid some Mountain Dew and let him go, I say. The Pacific Division sees Quinn Hughes beat his brother, Jack, to becoming an All Star, and the Central Division sees David Perron roll out of bed in St Louis to be an All Star. (Listen, I voted for Jonathan Toews but I’m genuinely surprised that Cale Makar didn’t get the most votes in that division…)



So, at the end of the month, we’ve got the All Star Game to look forward to. We will see some of the best women in the world play each other in a three-on-three game, between America and Canada. Now, all we can do is hope that the NHL rises to the occasion.

Maybe we could do with a reality TV show survival-type event? I’m an NHL player – get me out of here!

(For what it’s worth, my money would be on Travis Konecny to win that event…)

+1. And now to the shoot-out

Obviously, I can’t finish this post without mentioning that most special of accomplishments. That’s right, folks. This week, we saw a goalie goal. Pekka Rinne, of the Nashville Predators, scored a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks.

This is the first goalie goal, since Mike Smith scored for the Phoenix Coyotes, back in 2013. Now, goalies, you know what you must do.

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