Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I’m taking my annual holiday break from Dec. 24 to Dec. 27, 2021. The next update to this site will be Dec. 28. Happy Holidays, everyone!

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 23, 2021

The fallout from the NHL’s withdrawal from the 2020 Winter Olympics, questions over the league’s plans to address the current COVID outbreak among its teams, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NOTE: The NHL expanded its annual holiday break to begin on Dec. 22 and ending on Dec. 26.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr believes it’s a “real shame” NHL players will miss out on another Winter Olympics. However, he acknowledged the inevitability of Wednesday’s decision to withdraw from the Games due to the COVID-19 outbreaks around the NHL and the “profound disruption” to the league’s schedule.

While the decision was out of the players’ control, Fehr said they were devastated and frustrated by the news. He declined to say whether current or former players would still attempt to participate in the Olympics. There’s also no indication whether the Bejing Games would be postponed to 2023.

NBC SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane are among the notable NHLers to lament the league’s decision to withdraw from the Games.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports the decision caused some internal strife with the NHLPA ranks. A player agent told Murphy the players he spoke to were “ticked off”. Murphy also cited Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck telling the Winnipeg media he believed the league’s COVID protocols were “a little overkill”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those players who are “ticked off” are likely in a minority. This wasn’t the NHL yanking the rug from beneath their Olympic aspirations for spite or a change of heart. The recent COVID wave and its effect upon the league’s schedule is the culprit.

This decision was based on the effect this wave could have on hockey-related revenue. Two weeks ago, league commissioner Gary Bettman projected revenue for 2021-22 could reach $5 billion, an increase over the initial projection of $4.8 billion earlier in the fall.

Rising COVID numbers around the league, however, threaten those projections. With 48 postponed games to be made up (and possibly more if the outbreaks are sufficiently contained), the league also risked being unable to complete a full 82-game schedule on time. Going to the Olympics would eat up three valuable weeks in February that can be put toward staging those postponed games.

Shortening the schedule isn’t an option here, especially for the players. They still have to repay the owners for the overage of their share of the HRR they collected last season. That’s because the salary cap was set artificially high to ensure teams could maintain their rosters. However, it didn’t reflect actual revenue.

Under Bettman’s recent projection, the players would pay that share back in two years’ time. Shortening the season to accommodate Olympic participation would see those HRR projections fall short, meaning it would take another year for the players to pay that money back. That also means continued marginal increases in the salary cap until such time as that debt to the owners has been repaid.

The players may be disappointed in not getting a shot at Olympic gold in February but they care more about their paychecks.

The NHL’s withdrawal from the Olympics also meant a change of management and coaching for Canada and the United States. St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong has stepped down as GM of Team Canada while Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin did the same for Team USA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong hands the reins over to Hockey Canada to find suitable staff to ice a Canadian team of amateurs and former NHL players at the Beijing Games. USA Hockey will also be finding replacements for Guerin and his staff.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL and NHLPA have discussed the potential reimplementation of the taxi squad and adoption of salary-cap exemptions for COVID-related roster issues for the remainder of this season.

Brooks believes ESPN is the reason why the 2022 All-Star Game remains a go in February. He also thinks the league and the PA will have to consider whether there will come a time to allow asymptomatic players who have tested positive to continue playing.

TSN: The NHL could consider rescheduling some of the Montreal Canadiens home games in January to later in the season if they cannot play in front of fans in their home arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The province of Quebec has banned fans from indoor sporting events until the end of January. The Canadiens would lose considerable revenue without fans at those games, in turn affecting the league’s hockey-related revenue for this season.

SPORTSNET: has a daily updated COVID tracker of all NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane were the latest notable players to enter COVID protocol.

TSN: Salim Valji wonders if there’s a glimmer of hope of keeping the Calgary Flames arena deal alive. According to Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek, the club’s ownership walked away from its partnership with the city of Calgary over a projected $9.7 million increase in the projected cost of the $600 million project. However, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation CEO John Bean claimed there were $19 million in additional infrastructure costs that he said were introduced after their July 2021 agreement, with the city seeking an additional $10 million in funding from CSEC.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valji indicated Mayor Gondek said the city wasn’t closing the door on the deal. “We’re simply waiting for them to come back and say they found the money,” she said. By the sound of things, CSEC isn’t going to come up with it.

Still, this could be simply public posturing by Flames ownership to put the squeeze on the city. Perhaps league commissioner Bettman will get involved to sort things out if this drags on.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 10, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 10, 2021

Marc-Andre Fleury reaches 500 career wins, Australian hockey pioneer Nathan Walker reaches a milestone, the sale of the Penguins is approved, the Canucks name Jim Rutherford as team president, the latest on the Coyotes’ arena saga & much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury became the third goaltender in NHL history to reach the 500-win plateau as the Chicago Blackhawks blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0. Fleury made 30 saves for the shutout to join Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy in the 500-win club and sits 51 wins behind Roy for second place on the list. Jonathan Toews and Henrik Borgstrom scored for the Blackhawks. Dylan Strome was a healthy scratch for the Hawks.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (NHL Images).

Nathan Walker tallied his first career NHL hat trick as the St. Louis Blues rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The first Australian player to reach the NHL, Walker was playing his first game of this season after being recalled by the Blues on Wednesday. Blues fourth-string goalie Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves for the win. Robby Fabbri scored both goals for the Wings.

Steven Stamkos had a goal and three assists to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ondrej Palat also scored twice for the Bolts who won their fifth straight game. Tampa Bay forward Anthony Cirelli missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Lightning coach Jon Cooper became the fastest bench boss to reach 400 career NHL wins, doing so in his 659th game. Ondrej Kase scored two goals for the Leafs.

The Minnesota Wild extended their win streak to eight games by dropping the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Jordan Greenway scored twice, Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala each had a goal and an assist and Cam Talbot kicked out 33 shots for the Wild, who sit atop the overall standings with 39 points. Minnesota captain Jared Spurgeon returned to action after missing eight games with a lower-body injury.

Sebastian Aho scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Carolina Hurricanes picked up a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Noah Hanifin scored for the Flames, who’ve lost three straight. The Hurricanes are on a three-game win streak.

The Boston Bruins nipped the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on a late third-period goal by Matt Grzelcyk. Linus Ullmark picked up the win with a 41-save effort. Leon Draisaitl potted both goals for the Oilers with Connor McDavid getting assists on both goals. Edmonton defenseman Cody Ceci returned to the lineup after being in isolation for the past nine days after testing positive for COVID-19.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck turned in a 25-save shutout in a 3-0 win over the Seattle Kraken. Kyle Connor scored twice for the Jets, who’ve won three of their last four contests.

Jonathan Quick made 27 stops for his 56th career shutout as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Dallas Stars 4-0. Kings forward Adrian Kempe netted his 11th goal of the season while Andreas Athanasiou scored in his first game after being in COVID protocol for the past six games.

A late goal by Eeli Tolvanen lifted the Nashville Predators over the New York Islanders 4-3. Predators forwards Ryan Johansen and Colton Sissons each had a goal and an assist. The Isles have lost 12 of their last 13 and still seek their first win in UBS Arena.

Anaheim Ducks goalie Josh Gibson made 33 saves to backstop his club over the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1. Rickard Rakell tallied the winning goal in a shootout. The Ducks extended their points streak to six games.

HEADLINES

TRIBLIVE.COM: The NHL board of governors yesterday voted to approve the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to Fenway Sports Group. The deal is said to be in the range of $900 million.

THE ATHLETIC: The board of governors also approved the Respect Hockey program introduced by league executive Kim Davis to ensure its commitment to inclusion, diversity, safety and respect for its players and employees. Sheldon Kennedy and his Respect Hockey group will also be part of the initiative.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the result of the Chicago Blackhawks sex scandal in which two players alleged they were sexually abused by a former video coach in 2010. One of them, Kyle Beach, came forward with his story following an independent investigation that reveals efforts by senior Blackhawks officials to cover up the allegations.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also present the board of governors with a presentation on the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the league. Daly didn’t rule out the possibility of enhanced protocols beyond what the league is doing now.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes yesterday announced they have paid off their outstanding tax debt of $1.4 million to the Arizona Department of Revenue. This came after the City of Glendale threatened to lock the team out of Gila River Arena if the debt wasn’t paid by Dec. 20.

SPORTSNET: Craig Morgan of PHNX Sports reports the Coyotes still owe the arena operator over $2.7 million in unpaid rent and other expenses. The team will receive a timetable for future payments.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This saga just keeps rolling on, raising concerns about the Coyotes ownership’s ability to meet its financial obligations. The club’s situation will reportedly be discussed during Day 2 of the NHL board of governors meeting on Friday.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks yesterday announced Jim Rutherford has been hired as their new president of hockey operations. He will also serve as interim general manager while a full-time replacement is ongoing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford was general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, guiding both clubs to Stanley Cup championships. He also developed a reputation as a wheeler-dealer, though those moves sometimes came at the expense of each club’s prospect depth. It’ll be interesting to see how well he works with whoever becomes the next general manager of the Canucks.

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens could have a new general manager in place by early January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The front-runners are believed to be Mathieu Darche and Daniel Briere. Darche is director of hockey operations for the Tampa Bay Lightning while Briere runs the day-to-day operations of the ECHL’s Maine Mariners.

THE PHILADEPHIA INQUIRER: The Flyers placed forward Joel Farabee (shoulder) on injured reserve.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt (upper-body) has been placed on injured reserve as he sees a specialist regarding treatment for his injury.

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs traded forward Kurtis Gabriel to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Chad Krys. Both are currently playing in the AHL.

The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame formally welcomed its 2020 and 2021 inductees yesterday. Former NHL player Tony Granato was part of the class of 2020. Former NHL player and former Philadelphia Flyers executive Paul Holmgren, former NHL player and current broadcaster Peter McNab and long-time hockey writer Stan Fischler were members of the class of 2021.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to everyone on their inductions.










What If NHL Fans Don’t Return As Quickly As Expected?

What If NHL Fans Don’t Return As Quickly As Expected?

The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on NHL revenue over the last two seasons. Shortened seasons saw revenues plummet from a high of $5.09 billion in 2018-19 to $4.37 billion the following season. On May 13, 2021, The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro reported the league missed out on roughly $3.6 billion in revenue in 2020-21 due to lowered attendance.

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was optimistic about the league generating $5 billion in revenue barring any interruptions by COVID-19. Earlier in the year, the league signed two new lucrative long-term broadcasting contracts with ESPN and Turner Sports. Teams were able to sell jersey ad patches for the first time plus the league was tapping into other revenue streams such as sports betting and endorsements.

The lifeblood of the NHL remains tickets sales (particularly season-ticket or long-term ticket sales) and the in-arena revenue generated by concessions, merchandise and parking. With teams allowing full attendance with varying COVID protection mandates based on local health and safety protocols, the prospect of reaching Bettman’s $5 billion revenue projection appeared assured.

One month into the 2021-22 schedule, however, attendance is down around the league compared to where it was before the pandemic.

On Oct. 25, Sean Shapiro reported average attendance prior to the COVID shutdown in 2019-20 was 17,423. Through the first 75 games of this season, it had dropped to 16, 256. He also indicated several teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, saw years of sellout streaks come to an end.

As of Nov. 13, ESPN.com reported only five teams (Tampa Bay, Washington, Vegas, Boston and Seattle) were playing to capacity. Attendance in the Canadiens market was down, with Toronto at 99.3 percent capacity, Vancouver 97.9, Montreal 92.0, Winnipeg 91.9, Edmonton 84.2, Calgary 78.1 and Ottawa at 57.8. Other notable NHL clubs also down included Colorado (97.5) St. Louis (95.3), Minnesota (92.5) Philadephia (88.2) and the New York Rangers at 83.5.

Several factors besides the pandemic are partially to blame in some cases. The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, are struggling on the ice while the franchise has been rocked by a sexual assault scandal from 2010. Some, like the Ottawa Senators, can tie their drop in attendance to their efforts in rebuilding their rosters.

The pandemic, meanwhile, still hovers over all aspects of life. Some fans still might not feel safe enough to return to games despite the health and safety measures while others could be put off by those rules.

A worrisome factor could be the cost of attending NHL games becoming too expensive for fans feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. Inflation could push the already expensive cost of attending an NHL game out of reach for the average fan. Some season-ticket or long-term ticket package holders could instead choose from more affordable single game or shorter-term options.

That doesn’t mean the NHL still won’t see a significant increase in hockey-related revenue (HRR) compared to last season. It could reach the $5 billion mark as projected by Bettman.

However, the NHL exceeded $5 billion in 2019-20 under the previous broadcasting deals and revenue streams, and without its new franchise in Seattle. Reaching roughly the same number this season won’t be the kind of improvement the league would prefer under normal circumstances.

Big-market clubs should be able to ride things out until HRR improves. Smaller markets, however, will fill the pinch.

That would also affect the players’ share of HRR and the salary cap. The owners and players share HRR evenly at 50-50, but the cap for each season is based on projections from the previous year with escrow payments from the players to the owners built into each season’s salaries. If the owners’ share of HRR exceeds the players’ share, the players get their escrow payments refunded with interest. Otherwise, the owners retain those escrow payments.

Under the 2020 CBA extension, escrow payments were capped at 10 percent for 2022-23 and six percent for each of the remaining three years of the extension. That was based on the expectation that attendance would return to normal by that point, with the players having already made expensive escrow payments last season and this season to help the owners offset their losses.

The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro pointed out the players still owe the owners nearly $1 billion. The next round of CBA talks could become contentious if revenue hasn’t significantly risen by 2025-26 to enable the players to pay off that debt.

Of course, it’s still early in this season. Attendance could rebound if the North American economy improves as the pandemic subsides and life regains a semblance of normal.

But what happens if that’s not the case? What if those attendance figures are sluggish to return to what they once were? What if there’s yet another wave of COVID-19 that leads to rescheduled games or another shortened schedule? What happens to the players’ debt to the owners?

The fallout from the effects of the pandemic upon NHL revenue could linger for years. That could raise the specter of yet another work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2026.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2021

Commissioner Bettman publicly apologizes to Kyle Beach while attempting to defend the league’s disciplinary actions in the Blackhawks scandal, NHLPA votes for an independent investigation of its role in the scandal, the Rangers re-sign Adam Fox & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

BETTMAN DEFENDS LEAGUE’S HANDLING OF BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL, NHLPA VOTES FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO ITS ROLE IN THE SCANDAL

TSN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman publicly apologized yesterday to Kyle Beach for what he endured since he alleged he was sexually assaulted by former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Bradley Aldrich in 2010 during a video conference call with the media.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman also defended the league fining the Blackhawks $2 million, allowing Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville to be behind the bench during last Wednesday’s game after the report was released regarding his role in the coverup (Quenneville stepped down as Panthers coach following a meeting with Bettman on Thursday), and absolving Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff for what the commissioner considered his minor role in the process.

Bettman said he felt Cheveldayoff, who was the Blackhawks assistant GM at the time, was a “minor player” in the affair who thought the allegations would be handled and properly resolved by his superiors. He believed Cheveldayoff wasn’t in a position to speak out because he didn’t have access to the information about the situation.

Reporters questioned Bettman about the Blackhawks’ fine when the league fined the New Jersey Devils $3 million for violating salary cap rules in signing Ilya Kovalchuk and in docking the Arizona Coyotes two draft picks last year for violation of the draft combine rules. “Different context, different facts,” Bettman replied.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That press conference was certainly not Bettman’s shining moment. He was roasted in the media and on social media for his responses and actions in dealing with this scandal. His answers were beyond disappointing.

Daily Faceoff’s Scott Burnside believes the league seems more concerned with rationalizing their criticized responses rather than having a frank and open discussion about the problems the scandal unveiled. The Athletic’s Sean Gentille felt Bettman’s goal was protecting the league, its owners and its money. “Doing the right thing…is somewhere down the list”, he wrote.

Gentille also took note of Bettman’s response when asked if the league would reach out to Sheldon Kennedy, a former player, sexual assault survivor and advocate against abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination in hockey. “Sheldon’s experience was not at the NHL level,” replied the commissioner. Kennedy told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun the league and the NHLPA has never reached out to him over his two decades of tireless work that has earned him several honors, including the Order of Canada.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox summarized Bettman’s performance: “Manage the situation. Cloud it with lawyer-speak. Move forward.” He also reported deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league had closed its investigation of Bill Peters and had been in touch with the representatives of former player Akim Aliu, who was the victim of alleged racial taunts by Peters years ago. Aliu’s representative Ben Meiselas denied the league has contacted him.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reported NHL players voted for an independent investigation by outside legal counsel in response to the NHLPA’s mishandling of the alleged sexual assault suffered by Beach. PA executive director Donald Fehr made the recommendation for the investigation. While Fehr is reportedly under fire for his handling of Beach’s allegations and concerns, Seravalli said there was little discord among the 80 players who took part in the call yesterday.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Leon Draisaitl had two goals and two assists as the Edmonton Oilers rolled to a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken. Draisaitl (17 points) is tied for the scoring lead with Connor McDavid, who picked up an assist to extend his points streak to eight games.

Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 to pick up their first win of the season. Jonathan Toews collected three assists and Brandon Hagel scored twice for the Blackhawks (1-7-2).

The Tampa Bay Lightning got 31 saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy to hold off the Washington Capitals 3-2. Anthony Cirelli had two points for the Lightning, who snapped the Capitals’ eight-game points streak.

HEADLINES

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed Adam Fox to a seven-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $9.5 million. Fox, 23, became just the second sophomore defenseman to win the Norris Trophy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox left some money on the table. His Norris Trophy win last season gave him ample justification to seek over $10 million annually considering the $9 million AAV Cale Makar accepted this summer with the Colorado Avalanche.

This move ensures the Rangers have their best blueliner under contract through the prime years of his career. It also leaves the Blueshirts with a bit of a salary-cap crunch for next season. The Post indicates they’ll have about $11.6 million available under a projected $82.5 million cap for 2022-23. They’ll need to re-sign or replace second-line center (and pending UFA) Ryan Strome and backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Meanwhile, promising winger Kaapo Kakko is in the final season of his entry-level contract.

NHL.COM: Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Ottawa Senators forward Drake Batherson, and Lightning winger Alex Killorn are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 31, 2021.

NBC SPORTS: Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson will be sidelined for about six weeks with a broken foot. The Golden Knights have already lost forward Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Nolan Patrick to injuries.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the Golden Knights’ rumored trade talks with the Buffalo Sabres for Jack Eichel.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Max Domi is quarantined in New York after a positive COVID-19 test.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Domi can’t catch a break. He returned sooner than expected from offseason shoulder surgery and from a fractured rib suffered earlier in the season.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks added Kevin Labanc to the COVID-19 protocol list. Currently, seven Sharks players, including Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, are on the list along with head coach Bob Boughner.

It was a busy day for the Montreal Canadiens. They sent struggling winger Cole Caufield to the minors, announced defenseman Joel Edmundson suffered a setback in his recovery from an undisclosed injury and is 10 -14 days from returning, and learned Cedric Paquette received a two-game suspension for boarding Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield entered this season considered a favorite to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year following his strong performance in the 2021 playoffs. He and his teammates have struggled to score thus far. The Habs are hoping the 20-year-old winger can regain his scoring touch with their AHL affiliate in Laval.

THE PROVINCE: Travis Hamonic has returned to the Vancouver Canucks lineup after missing training camp and the start of the season dealing with a personal issue. He’s expected to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the near future.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2021

The league will enforce stricter rules for cross-checking, the Olympic schedule is set, plus the latest on Ryan Johansen, Erik Johnson, Joe Thornton and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: The NHL intends to crack down on cross-checking this season. The focus will be on three specific areas of the rink: along the boards, in front of the net, and in open ice.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rule changes are drawing a mixed reaction from players. As always, I’m skeptical as to how tightly enforced these changes will be. I fear we’ll see the usual pattern develop whenever such changes regarding on-ice infractions are implemented: closely called early in the season before drifting back to the previous standard over the course of the schedule.

NHL.COM: The men’s hockey schedule for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been released. It begins on Feb. 9 with Russia (also known as the “Russian Olympic Committee”) versus Switzerland, the Czech Republic facing off against Denmark and Sweden taking on Latvia.

Feb. 10 sees Canada squaring off against Germany, the United States against China, Finland going up against Slovakia, and Denmark taking on the “Russian Olympic Committee”.

The tournament ends on Feb. 19 with the medal games. The gold medal game begins at 11:10 pm ET.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canada vs Germany features Edmonton Oilers teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl facing off against each other for the first time in Olympic hockey. That’s an early must-watch for me in this tournament.

The “Russian Olympic Committee” will hereafter be referred to as the “ROC” by me throughout the Olympics. The gold medal game starts after midnight my time, meaning my Keurig will be getting a workout that night.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Joe Thornton and Anton Lundell were absent from Florida Panthers training camp yesterday. Thornton was dealing with a minor sprain while Lundell missed his second straight day with an undisclosed ailment.

THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen is hoping for a big bounce-back year following two sub-par seasons.

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson and goaltender Pavel Francouz are trying to put their lost seasons’ behind them. Injuries limited Johnson to just four games in 2020-21 while Francouz was sidelined the entire season.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider hopes to make his NHL debut this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A highly-touted prospect, Seider could be a Calder Memorial Trophy candidate if he cracks the lineup and plays well in 2021-22.

TSN: Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An unfortunate setback for Samberg, who was expected to become a regular on the Jets blueline this season.

Calgary Flames prospect forward Connor Zary is listed as week-to-week with a fractured ankle after blocking a shot in a rookie game earlier this week.

TVA SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract. Earlier this week, the 24-year-old Niku agreed to a mutual termination of his contract with the Winnipeg Jets.

THE ATHLETIC: The New Jersey Devils hope to convince their one unvaccinated player to change his mind and join their other 49 players in camp who are vaccinated against COVID-19.

THE SCORE: The Washington Capitals will be the first NHL club to feature ads on their jerseys starting in 2022-23 after agreeing to a multi-year deal with Caesars Sportsbook.