More reaction to the sudden death of Wade Belak…Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien arrested for BWI…Steven Stamkos on the pressure he’ll face this season…A list of “under-the-radar” players who could have an impact this season…Voice of the Kings gets a two-year contract…Niklas Kronwall ponders his future…Joe Nieuwendyk talks about his team’s ownership situation.
CALGARY SUN: Steve MacFarlane interviewed former NHL player (now analysts) Chris Dingman, who believes it’s difficult for players like Wade Belak to seek the help they need because of the difficulty of getting over the macho mentality of refusing to admit weakness, as they fear being mocked and ridiculed.
YAHOO! SPORTS: Nicholas J. Cotsonika interviewed leading sports neurologist Jeffrey Kutcher, who calls for the NHL to become more involved in mental health, with emphasis upon education, screening, diagnosis and treatment.
TORONTO SUN/NATIONAL POST: Steve Buffery and Bruce Arthur called for league critics not to rush to judgement or conclusions over assessing blame for Belak’s untimely death, and those of Rick Rypien, Derek Boogaard and former player Tom Cavanagh, who also committed suicide earlier this year, before all the facts are in.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable why folks have been rushing to judgement, and link the fact those four were fighters to their deaths. People who love this game, and loved those players, are shocked, hurt and angry. They want answers, and want to determine who, or what, is at fault. Sadly, there are no easy answers. As Buffery and Arthur point out, that doesn’t mean the league shouldn’t do anything, or that changes shouldn’t be considered, but all the facts must be considered carefully, to ensure the right changes are made. To the league and the NHLPA’s credit, they’ve had programs in place to help players, and in the wake of the deaths of Rypien and Belak, intend to review those programs to determine if improvements can be made. But they’re not clairvoyant, and can only help players in need if they come forward and seek that help.
There’s been calls to reduce or eliminate fighting, or at the very least, the role of enforcers. For years I’ve been in that camp and will continue to be so. But I also admit I’m in a minority. Fights, and enforcers, are part of the NHL, and pro hockey as a whole, because the fans want it in the game. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t see it. The fact those four made their living in the NHL with their fists may have been a contributing factor in their deaths, but we don’t know that for sure. Using their deaths to call for the elimination of fighting might bring about change, or not. I agree with Buffery and Arthur that we must approach this carefully, ensure all the facts are in, determine for certain what led to their deaths, and how best to address the situation to prevent similar tragic events.
WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien is off to a rough start after being recently arrested and charged with boating while intoxicated, as well as the fact he weighed in at 286 lbs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien’s weight has garnered more attention than his BWI charge, inspiring lots of jokes and photoshop pics. The former however is more troubling, as it carries the possibility of jail time. He’ll probably receive a hefty fine and a warning the next time will result in jail time.
TAMPA TRIBUNE: Erik Erlendsson reports Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is shrugging off pressure to play up to his new, lucrative contract, which will pay him $7.5 million per season over five years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos is now an established star. The only thing that will hold him back is injury, and hopefully he can stay healthy.
ESPN.COM: Scott Burnside listed ten players he considers “under the radar” who could have an impact this season. On the list: Carolina’s Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart, Colorado’s J.S. Giguere, Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano, Detroit’s Ian White, Pittsburgh’s James Neal, Nashville’s Niclas Bergfors, Tampa Bay’s Mathieu Garon and Washington’s Roman Hamrlik.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Did you spot the similarity among those players? If you said, they all changed teams since last February, you’re right. Of those who could make the most impact, Neal could top the list, if he plays with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: reports Bob Miller, the long-time voice of the Kings, has signed a two-year contract, which will take him up to 40 seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Miller, and as the report noted, 40 years in broadcasting will be a remarkable achievement.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who’ll be eligible for UFA status next summer, will not only be eyeing a new contract with the club, but is considering the possibility of spending his entire career as a Red Wing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Kronwall wants to remain a Wing for life, there’s a very good chance that’ll happen. He’s currently a key member of the Red Wings, and it’s a safe bet management will work hard to get him re-signed to a long-term deal that’ll keep him off the UFA market next summer.
NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Matt Reitz noted Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk recently told a Calgary radio station the drawn out process of the Stars sale hasn’t affected his off-season plans. While the club lost star center Brad Richards to free agency, Niewendyk also bolstered the club’s depth by adding veterans Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler, Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak and Adam Pardy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Stars had the kind of deep-pocketed ownership they once did, they probably wouldn’t have lost Richards to free agency, or at the very least, could’ve competitively bid to retain him. Hopefully the sale of the Stars is resolved soon, which would allow Nieuwendyk greater freedom to make moves that can help his team.