Times are tough lately, especially if you’re not a Patriots fan, so let hockey be your light in the darkness. This week’s news roundup covers your three most star-worthy players, some of the good stuff going on during Hockey is for Everyone month, the inspiring UAE hockey player Fatima Al Ali’s visit with the Washington Capitals, and pizza. You can’t go wrong with pizza (unless you’re Tyler Seguin).
3 Stars of the Week
This week’s three shining stars are Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes, Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild, and Peter Budaj of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Hurricanes won all three of their games last week, much thanks to Aho, who scored four goals to tie for the League lead. No big deal or anything, but Aho recorded his first NHL hat trick against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 31st. Later in the week, Aho scored the game-winning goal against the Edmonton Oilers.
Granlund’s week wasn’t too shabby either. He tied for first in points, and not to be outdone, also recorded his first NHL hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks. As of the week’s end, Granlund was riding a 12-game point streak.
Budaj pretty much killed it last week with two consecutive shutouts against the Colorado Avalanche and the Philadelphia Flyers, respectively. He closed out the week with a .930 save percentage and 1.62 goals against average, keeping the Kings in the playoff game with the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
You Can Play Ambassadors Announced
In what some might call an unexpected turn of events, hockey becomes a beacon of diversity and inclusion this February. This month, we celebrate Hockey is for Everyone, which “uses the game of hockey – and the League’s global influence – to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.” Hockey is for Everyone is partnering with the You Can Play project, a nonprofit dedicated to combating homophobia in sports and providing support for the LGBTQ+ community. Many teams will host a YCP theme night this month, notable for players’ use of rainbow Pride tape during warm-ups.
Now get this: in 2017, for the first time ever, each NHL team has appointed a player as official You Can Play ambassador. According to NHL PR, being an ambassador means “being a leader in the locker room and in the community on diversity, equality, and inclusion. These players have agreed to lead the way in their markets and fight homophobia in sports.” Pretty dang cool.
Here’s the complete list of your YCP ambassadors:
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Kesler
Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand
Buffalo Sabres: Anders Nilsson
Carolina Hurricanes: Eddie Lack
Calgary Flames: Matt Stajan
Chicago Blackhawks: Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
Columbus Blue Jackets: Scott Hartnell
Dallas Stars: Curtis McKenzie
Detroit Red Wings: Frans Nielsen
Edmonton Oilers: Matt Hendricks
Florida Panthers: Shawn Thornton
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown
Minnesota Wild: Charlie Coyle
Montreal Canadiens: Andrew Shaw
Nashville Predators: Colin Wilson
New Jersey Devils: Andy Greene
New York Islanders: Casey Cizikas
New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello
Ottawa Senators: Dion Phaneuf
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
Pittsburgh Penguins: Chris Kunitz
San Jose Sharks: Chris Tierney
St. Louis Blues: David Perron
Tampa Bay Lightning: Brian Boyle
Toronto Maple Leafs: James van Riemsdyk
Vancouver Canucks: Henrik Sedin
Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby
Winnipeg Jets: Jacob Trouba
So those are your new favorite hockey players, everyone; take note. I’m still side-eyeing Andrew Shaw, though, who got slapped with a one-game suspension and a fine last season for using a homophobic slur during a game. Here’s hoping his stint as a YCP ambassador means he’s grown as a person, and not that he’s just making a really savvy PR move. We’re rooting for you, Andrew; don’t let us down.
Claude Julien Fired by Bruins
The Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, and the Boston Bruins may once again find themselves left in the dust. So what does the organization do? Fires its head coach, I guess. Claude Julien had been with the Bruins since 2007, and in 2011 helped bring the Stanley Cup triumphantly back to Boston. He was the longest tenured coach in the NHL until the Boston club kicked him to the curb.
Bruce Cassidy will hold down the fort as interim coach until a new head coach can be found. General manager Don Sweeney seems optimistic, stating that he believes wholeheartedly in the Bruins’ chances at the playoffs. Maybe so, but I’ve taken the liberty of looking at the Bruins’ records over the past few seasons, and their chances aren’t looking too hot. The Bruins have a painful history of getting really close to the Cup and then dropping the ball – or puck – at the last second. Maybe 2017 is the year all that changes?
Fatima Al Ali Visits the Capitals
Get ready for yet more ridiculously heartwarming news from the world of hockey! Fatima Al Ali of the UAE, hockey player and huge Caps fan, was invited by none other than the Washington Capitals to live out her dream of playing hockey with her favorite player: Alex Ovechkin. She was discovered when a video of her sick puck-handling skills went viral, so heads up everyone: plan to star in a viral video if you want your dreams to come true.
Real talk, though: if you read one article this week, do yourself a solid and read the Washington Post piece on Al Ali and her experience. It’s inspiring, uplifting, and optimistic – sentiments we can probably all use right now. The image of a beaming young woman in a hijab, laughing and talking shop with some of the best hockey players in the world, is such a contrast to what’s been going on in the world lately. It’s so encouraging to see a professional sports team sending such a clear, much-needed message: anyone can play hockey.
Pizza with the Stars
Thursday was National Pizza Day, so Sportsnet got up close and personal with the Dallas Stars to find out what floats their boat – or rather, tops their pizza. It’s almost unsettling how many Stars players are fans of Hawaiian pizza, and even more unsettling is Devin Shore’s aversion to cheese.
But the most unsettling thing of all is Tyler Seguin’s choice of dream pizza-consuming companion. If he could share a slice with anyone in the world? He’d pick Donald Trump. Why, Tyler? To talk about Tom Brady, apparently. I mean, you do you, Tyler. You do you. Just keep scoring goals, and maybe keep your pizza fantasies to yourself from now on.
It's #NationalPizzaDay! We talked ???????????? with the @DallasStars and they (deep) dished on their favourite slices. pic.twitter.com/8P2lA9mrV5
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 9, 2017
‘Hockey News of the Week’ is written by the talented Meg Smitherman. Check out more of her work on Twitter.