U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2011

USA Hockey has announced the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2011 and the five new inductees are: Chris Chelios, Gary Suter, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Emrick and Ed Snider. The five new members will be formally installed into the US HOF at a ceremony in Chicago, IL. Details on the event will be coming out soon. Congratulations on your respective careers, gentlemen.

The United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum is located in Eveleth, Minnesota. To date, there are 148 enshrined members in the Hall.

USA Hockey’s Press Release

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College hockey coming to Versus? CHL / NCAA Debate

College hockey could be coming to Versus by next season according to numerous reports over the last week. Some have stated in the media that there have already been discussions with members of the NCAA and television executives about getting a number of games nationally televised on Versus, which is reported to soon be re-branded as the NBC Sports Network. There have been reports that it would be televised as a “game of the week” package, with the game being played on Friday nights. Personally, I think this is great news and could be a huge boost to NCAA and hockey overall in the USA. College hockey could use the increased national exposure to help gain the interest of potential top players down the road. In addition, that just means more hockey in general being televised, which is a huge plus for any fan of the sport. More news should be coming out on this in the near future.

Speaking of college hockey, there’s two links below to some interesting articles covering the great debate between CHL and the NCAA. This is coming on the heels of the recent news of both Jamie Oleksiak and J.T. Miller expected to bolt for the Ontario Hockey League. Arguments are routinely made for both sides, but in my opinion both routes provide a player with great opportunities to succeed. It’s up to the player and their family to decide which route works best for them in accomplishing their future goals. However, I do believe that the college hockey route is looked at unfairly sometimes as a lower tier development league. Those that believe that are grossly misinformed. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the list of NCAA alum in the NHL, it is long and impressive.

NCAA hockey has to work on perception problem

Rhetoric shouldn’t dwarf facts in CHL-NCAA conflab, please

Update: Here’s two additional great pieces by Chris Peters over at “The United States of Hockey”:

NCAA/CHL Battle Heating Up


The Argument Against CHL Players Retaining NCAA Eligibility


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Mark Howe Elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

American defenseman Mark Howe was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Class of 2011, today along with Canadian players Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmore and Joe Nieuwendyk. The four players will be inducted in a ceremony in Toronto on November 14th.

Mark Howe, the son of Red Wing great Gordie Howe, was a three-time runner-up for the Norris Trophy as Best Defenseman and appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals three times in his career. Howe netted 1,246 points over 22 professional seasons split between the World Hockey Association and the NHL. In addition, he was a six-time NHL all-star and was selected to the NHL First All-Star team in 1983, 1986 and 1987.

Howe, already a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, was also a part of the surprising 1972 United States Olympic Team that won a remarkable silver medal in Sapporo, Japan. At just 16 years old at the time, I believe Howe still holds the record as the youngest hockey player ever to win an Olympic medal.

1972 USA Olympic Team, Howe on the top-left

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Americans shine at the 2011 NHL Awards

This year’s NHL Award show was exciting for all fans of hockey and most of all it was a testament to how far hockey has come in the U.S. over the years. Five American born players and one American born coach took home awards Wednesday night celebrating their success in the 2010-11 NHL season. 

Tim Thomas (Flint, MI) of the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins must be getting a work out lifting all these trophies, as he collected some hardware for the second time in a week by winning this year’s Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s Best Goaltender. This was his second Vezina Trophy in three years. Thomas not only shined in the playoffs, he turned in a pretty exceptional regular season too. Thomas led the NHL with a 2.00 goals against average and set a record with a .938 save percentage. He also had nine shutouts, second most in the league during the regular season. Interesting side note, for the past three years the Vezina Trophy has gone to an American born goaltender (Tim Thomas-2009, Ryan Miller-2010, Tim Thomas-2011). That is the first Vezina 3-peat for U.S. born players in NHL History.

Ryan Kesler (Livonia, MI) took home the Frank J. Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. It was Kesler’s third straight nomination for this trophy, and by winning it this year Kesler became the first American born player ever to win the Selke Trophy. After seeing the number of votes he received, it was apparent that he was the runaway candidate this year for the award. Kesler scored 41 goals this season while chipping in 32 assists and was a plus-24 as well. As a key offensive contributor for the President Trophy winning Canucks, it was also his play in his own end that really put him above the rest of the pack this season. Kesler is a fast, fluid skater that plays in every situation imaginable for Vancouver. Whether it be power plays, on the penalty kill, or key face-offs, Kesler was counted on to handle it. Here’s a video of a pretty spectacular goal he scored in the Canucks’ playoff series against Nashville, in which he singlehandedly dominated. 

Dan Bylsma (Grand Haven, MI), coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins took home the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year. Bylsma led the Penguins to a 49-25-8 record this season despite having to deal with prolonged absences of two of the biggest stars in the NHL due to injuries. The Pens were able to overcome these hurdles and earn the second-most points (106) in the franchise’s history. Also, anyone that watched HBO’s 24/7 shouldn’t be too surprised by him taking home this award. I’ve met him in person in the past and he was a gracious guy, but after watching the 24/7 special I truly respect him more than ever as a NHL coach.   

Dustin Brown (Ithaca, NY) of the Los Angeles Kings was presented with the NHL Foundation Player Award for his dedication to charity and his dealings with the community. This was the third consecutive year he was nominated for the award. A tough player on the ice, but a true beauty off. Here’s a link to learn more about all of Dustin Brown’s countless community-benefiting endeavors.

Doug Weight (Warren, MI) the recently-retired Islanders’ forward was presented with the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for leadership qualities on and off the ice. Unfortunately, injuries limited Weight to playing in only 18 games in his final season, but the Islanders’ captain treated his ailment as an opportunity to become an even stronger leader for the Islanders off the ice. While unable to play in games, Weight took on a coaching role with his teammates during practices and maintained his veteran leadership role as captain in the locker room.

Cory Schneider (Marblehead, MA) was part of the Vancouver Canucks tandem in net that captured the William Jennings Trophy, as the goaltenders on the team allowing the fewest goals this season. In 25 games played, Schneider went 16-4-2 with a 2.23 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.

With another successful NHL season in the books, it looks like USA Hockey is in great hands moving forward.

Rock, Flag & Eagle

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Dates Announced for Hockey Weekend Across America 2012

USA Hockey announced that the fifth annual Hockey Weekend Across America will be back in full force February 17-19th, 2012. This nationwide initiative began in 2008 to help celebrate the game of hockey and to expose it to potential new audiences. This year’s updated logo is a nice improvement over year’s past and I look forward to USA Hockey releasing additional details in the coming weeks.  In the past, HWAA has scheduled daily themes and developed promotional materials and prizes to help go along with them. One of my favorite things offered during this special weekend, is the “Try Hockey For Free” events that happen around the U.S. What a great way to introduce young kids to the sport for the very first time. I believe in 2012, that event will take place on Saturday, February 18th. Last year, over 6,000 kids tried hockey for free!

Check this link for future announcements and details on the great events surrounding this weekend.

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Tried-and-True, Tim Thomas Steals the Show

Tim Thomas and his journey to get to the NHL has been well documented this season and during the playoffs, but now the legend of Thomas has reached new heights after last night. The Bruins’ 37 year-old goaltender back-stopped the team to their first Stanley Cup victory in 39 years and took home the Conn Smythe, as playoff  MVP, in the process. Thomas became the oldest player ever to win the Conn Smythe Trophy and he’s only the second American  born player ever to be selected for the Award.

The Flint, Michigan native set NHL records during the long road to the Cup. He stopped 798 shots total, which is now a single post-season record and he also set a record for saves in a Stanley Cup Final by stopping 238 Vancouver shots in the 7 game series. What is even more remarkable, is that he only gave up 8 goals in those 7 games. Which is also a new NHL record for fewest goals allowed in a 7 game Stanley Cup Final. In the Finals, Thomas’ stats are borderline absurd posting a 1.15 GAA and a .967 save %, with 2 shutouts in the series. His game 7 shutout to win the Cup over the Canucks in Vancouver, made him the only goalie ever to post a road shutout in a game 7 final.

The stat line for Thomas for the playoffs overall is as follows, 25 GP, 16 wins, 9 losses, 1.98 GAA, .940 save %, and 4 shutouts… NHL playoff MVP = well deserved! It’s hard for anybody not to like Tim Thomas at this moment. Seeing the way he shined on the big stage and the way he sincerely talked with media, makes me think they’ll be a few more kids sporting a #30 trying to play net in the USA in the coming years.   

Congratulations, Timmy! Fans of the Boston Bruins and USA Hockey are very proud of you.

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2011 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp Roster

The invite list for the 2011 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp has been announced and out of the 40 names more than a few stick out. Eighteen of the 40 invited skaters participated in last year’s camp and it’s no surprise to see Tyler Biggs, Rocco Grimaldi and Co. on the list. Other names that grabbed my attention were some of the representatives from the non-traditional hockey markets, Emerson Etem (Long Beach, CA) and Jason Zucker (Las Vegas, NV). In all, the Evaluation Camp roster includes five kids from California,  two from Texas, and one from Nevada. Goaltenders were not announced at this time to the camp, but USA Hockey states that they’ll be named later this month.

The 2011 National Junior Evaluation Camp will take place in Lake Placid, N.Y. in August. The players invited will be auditioning for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team that will take part in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. This team will be comprised of the top Under-20 players from across the country. The 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship will be played on, December 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012, in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

As a side note, Dan Bylsma, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Mike Sullivan, assistant coach of the New York Rangers, will also participate in Lake Placid as the camp coaches.

Here’s the complete 40 man invite roster.

For more info on the camp, click here.

**Update 6/17/11**

USA Hockey announced the four goaltenders invited to take part in the National Junior Evaluation Camp. The four invitees are Jack Campbell, John Gibson, Andy Iles and Mac Carruth.

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