Top 5

Kyle Clifford

Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford is known for taking — and receiving — some of the most punishing checks in the NHL. He lists teammates Dustin Brown and Matt Greene among the hardest hitters in the game. Who are his hardest-hitting opponents?



  1. Ryane Clowe

  2. Milan Lucic

  3. Niklas Kronwall

  4. Cal Clutterbuck

  5. Alexander Ovechkin



NHL Confidential

Brad RichardsonVancouver Canucks forward Brad Richardson, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, recommends John Elway's restaurant in suburban Denver. "It’s the best prime rib I’ve ever had," Richardson says. "Have it with the creamed corn."

JP

On mascots, nicknames, and why something is better than nothing.

I was talking to a former NHL executive Wednesday afternoon about mascots. We tossed around the question of where to draw the line between a mascot and a character. What separates the woman dressed up as Snow White at Disneyworld from the Leprechaun at Notre Dame? Are they mascots or characters? What about the Atlanta Braves’ Chief Noc-A-Homa?

Somehow the Spanish word for “pets,” mascotas, entered the discussion, and that rekindled my gut feeling about what a mascot should be: Furry and non-human. But that’s just my opinion. A team doesn’t need a mascot, though they are always popular with the kids. I once covered a minor-league hockey team that had three mascots, turning each game into a Disneyland-type experience and proving that a team can have too many. In the NHL, the Stars, Oilers, Rangers and Flyers have zero mascots. That might be too few.

UND logo

At the bare minimum a team could use a nickname, which brings us to the curious case of the University of North Dakota. Officially, UND is just UND. No nickname. Its logo is an interlocking ND, similar to the more famous University of Notre Dame logo. In 2005 the NCAA decided the nickname in use at UND since 1930 – the Sioux (since the 1960s, the “Fighting Sioux”) — was “hostile and abusive.” In June 2012, state voters collectively banned the nickname, and the accompanying mascot and logo, at the polls. A few days later, the state’s Board of Higher Education officially banished the Sioux nickname to the history books. The university is prohibited from adopting a new team name until 2015.

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And then there were four: How Boston College will win its sixth NCAA title.

Boston College hockey

The Boston College hockey team, lead by Johnny Gaudreau (13), is aiming for its sixth national title. (Dave Arnold | New England Hockey Journal)

There’s been quite a bit going on over the past two weeks since the NCAA Regionals, most of the big stories being players leaving school early for the NHL.

Two stories stand out above the rest.

The first is that longtime Colorado College head coach Scott Owens resigned. Owens has been at the helm since taking over for Don Lucia in 1999. During that span, the Tigers made the Frozen Four in 2005 on top of six other NCAA appearances. No reason was given for his resignation, but my theory is that maybe the powers that be wanted to move in a different direction, like Denver was last year with George Gwozdecky. The Tigers haven’t made the NCAA tournament in three years and just went through their worst season in 20 years. Whatever the reason, it’s a sad day because Owens is a talented coach who kept a small school competitive on a national stage. I’m sure he’ll be missed by the Tiger faithful.

The other is that NCAA seems willing to reconsider its idea to stage the Regionals at neutral sites. On paper it seemed like a sound plan; it isn’t fair for one team to have a distinct home-ice advantage over the other teams in the region. The plan backfired because attendance at the Regionals has been terrible. Attendance turned around a little this year, but it’s still bad. A total of 8,893 fans for a regional championship between Minnesota and St. Cloud State sounds fine — except that the game was in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center, which holds more than twice that number (18,568).

If the NCAA is smart, they will return the games to campus sites. Yes, it gives one team an advantage, but a good team overcomes that. I’ve seen it happen. Miami beat Minnesota-Duluth in 2009 in front of a loud, very partisan crowd at Mariucci Arena. (How partisan was the crowd? I was cheering for both teams and when the Redhawks scored first, I cheered and pumped my fist. I was the only one in the arena to do so outside of the Miami pep band. It was weird).

Both of those stories pale in comparison to the Frozen Four, which starts Thursday. This year features three powerhouse progams and one on the rise. I got three out of the four teams correct with my predictions two weeks ago, which was my best performance in the Regionals so far. Let’s see if I can keep my luck going.
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The Frozen Frenzy has arrived.

2014 Frozen FourAs every college hockey fan knows, March is the best month of the year.

A long, exciting season is approaching its conclusion. It’s going to be a fun one. I’ve spent the past couple days trying to come up with a name for the NCAA tournament. Playing off off “Frozen Four,” I came up with the Frozen Frenzy. I think it fits.

The field is set and just like its basketball equivalent, the Frenzy is prime for upsets. Who will pull them off might surprise you. Let’s get started.

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Hockey is alive and well in Sochi at the Paralympics.

There is such a thing as the Paralympic Torch. Like most things concerning the Paralympics, you probably didn’t know that.

That’s OK. The flame symbolizes something bigger, and that’s something you should know about.

Fame and corporate sponsorships and Wheaties box covers are hard to come by for Paralympians. Bob Costas will not summarize their exploits every night on network television. A Paralympian’s flame – his internal, burning passion for sport and country – isn’t on display throughout the months leading up to the Games, which will be renewed today in Sochi, Russia.

Yet the flame is there, literally and figuratively, which makes it a story worth telling.

For Taylor Lipsett, the flame was lit at a grapefruit store in Mesquite, Texas.
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One through 12, our pre-Olympic hockey power rankings.

Sochi 2014 hockey

At some point, we’ll stop reading about stray dogs accepting kickbacks while sitting on tandem toilets in Sochi, Russia. That’s what’s going on at the Winter Olympics, right?

Whenever that point comes, we’ll be able to watch the best hockey players in the world competing for gold medals on an unusually large (by North American standards) sheet of ice. Team-by-team, here’s how the entrants stack up:

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Five Olympic tournament MVP candidates.

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler was at his best at the 2010 Winter Olympics playing for Team USA | Photo by Dan Hickling

Ever since the Winter Olympics featured NHL players for its 1998 edition, four men, including three goaltenders, have taken home the honor as the tournament’s best player:

1998 (Nagano, Japan): Dominik Hasek, Czech Republic
2002 (Salt Lake City): Joe Sakic, Canada
2006 (Turin, Italy): Antero Niittymaki, Finland
2010 (Vancouver): Ryan Miller, United States

Who will be top player in Sochi, carrying his team to glory? Here are five names to keep an eye on:
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Five first-time Olympians poised for breakout performances.

Matt Duchene

Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene will be competing at his first Olympics for Team Canada. | Photo by Dan Hickling

In the spring of 1998, Dominik Hasek was 33 years old. He’d never won a playoff series in his career, almost all of which was spent playing for the small-market Buffalo Sabres.

He wasn’t an overnight star at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, but he was close. When Hasek led the Czech Republic to the gold medal, he went from a recognizable NHL player to the best at his position in the world.

Who will be this year’s Hasek? Here are five possibilities.
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Ten amazing facts about the Sochi Olympics.

You might know which 12 countries are going to be playing hockey in Sochi in February.1

You might even know who’s coaching Team Slovenia.2

Here are ten facts, courtesy of financesonline.com, that you probably didn’t know about the Winter Olympics:
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Five veterans poised for one last Olympic hurrah at Sochi.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi mark the end of an era. A few eras, actually.

These players might not be the most integral to the final medal standings, or even play the most minutes on their team. But for some, 2014 will be their final Games. Let’s take a minute to appreciate all they’ve done while they’re still roaming the ice.
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How many gimmicks can the NHL cram into one hockey game? Let’s count.

Dodger Stadium NHL game

What’s an outdoor hockey game in Los Angeles without a little pregame pyrotechnics? Probably quite entertaining, and it would be great to find out. (Photo by J.P. Hoornstra)

LOS ANGELES

I hadn’t lived in this city for more than a month when a shouting match erupted as I walked through my new neighborhood one afternoon. I looked up to see a man running away from a woman on a sidewalk in front of a newsstand across the street. Something was odd about the unfolding scene, however: Both the man and the woman were badly overdressed for the weather, and the man wasn’t running very fast. He stopped when he could go no further. A couple more strides, and he would have run into the cameraman.

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