And it is fitting that the first prospect who we covered this year Casey Cizikas is going to play in that last game of the year. Give us a team full of Casey Cizikas and we will win championships because nobody is going to out work us.
For Ranger and Islander fans, the one thing that we can say about 2010-2011 is that it offered up a lot of promise for a better tomorrow. Both teams got very good performances from not just their top draft picks but from those out of the lower rounds as well.
The NHL needs both the Rangers and Islanders to make the playoffs at the same time; nothing would be better for the NHL than the Rangers and Islanders going at it with something like a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
Fans from both teams will not say it aloud but we can as if there is any way to take this rivalry to new heights then meeting in the conference finals would do that.
The biggest story of the day actually happened off the ice as our friend Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note reported that Hockey Canada has adopted a zero tolerance towards head shots.
The note which can be found here says
“In minor and female hockey, a minor penalty shall be assessed for all accidental hits to the head, while a double minor penalty, or a major and game misconduct at the discretion of the referee based on the degree of violence of impact, shall be assessed for any intentional contact to the head;
“In junior (Junior A, B, C, D) and senior hockey, a minor and a misconduct or a major and a game misconduct shall be assessed for all checks to the head, at the discretion of the referee;
“A major penalty and a game misconduct, or match penalty, shall be assessed to any player who injures an opponent under this rule.”
Sadly at the moment it does not cover the 3 leagues that make up the CHL. Right now the WHL does not even have a rule regarding hits to the head (both the OHL and QMJHL do) but the WHL is expected to have a rule in place for next season,
One thing is for sure that there is now going to be a lot of pressure put on the junior leagues to follow this change to the rules. And is gives College Hockey Inc. another weapon to since NCAA schools do have rules regarding hits to the head.
At the very least any player who hopes to play for any of the Canadian Junior National Teams will have to abide by these rules. The IIHF already have rules in effect for head shots which cover international competitions but having Hockey Canada taking the lead for harsher penalties will make it easier for the IIHF to match those rules.
But as Drinnan wrote while the CHL does not have to follow these rules; there will be an immediate impact on the feeder leagues to the CHL-
The fact that Hockey Canada has made this decision means it immediately will begin educating the youngest minor hockey players and they should move through the system playing the game the right way.
And we have to hope as the younger players make their way up to the NHL that the day will be sooner rather than later that the NHL too will adopt the "zero tolerance" stance as well.
It was the 1997-98 hockey season when I first discovered junior hockey which for me was the Portland Winterhawks. It was a true honest case of jumping on the bandwagon for me because it was 1998 and we all know how great the Rangers were that year.
The 1998 Memorial Cup was held in Spokane Washington and the Winterhawks represented the WHL while the Guelph Storm were the OHL champions. In the first matchup between the 2 teams the Winterhawks spanked the Storm 6-2.
But in the Final the 2 teams would meet again and there was this lanky skinny kid who nobody really knew how to pronounce his name. But by the end of the Final (a 4-3 OT win for Portland) Manny Malhotra was well known name.
Malhotra was a one man gang for the Storm and almost stole the Cup for them. Portland was a loaded team back then with Marian Hossa and Brenden Morrow. Malhotra was the show stealer winning the Sportsmanship trophy and making the All-Star team.
So imagine the happiness when the Rangers selected Malhotra in 1998 draft. Yes the Rangers had got themselves a really good player and I was so looking forward to his making the Rangers.
It was also my first experience with how not to develop a prospect as both Neil Smith and John Muckler just royally screwed up Malhotra's development. Malhotra was the victim of a tug-of-war between the two and it hurt his development almost derailing his career totally.
He was not NHL ready but this was 1998 and the first Post-Messier era so the Rangers wanted to show that they were rebuilding (which they never did) and kept a totally unprepared for the NHL Malhotra rather than let him spend another year in the OHL.
That Manny has become a solid defensive forward in the NHL was no surprise to me and he will remain a personal favorite since he was technically my first draft pick. So despite my dislike of the Vancouver Canucks I am going to be cheering for him to win the Cup.
The news of his being cleared to play was a pleasant surprise as that eye injury looked more like a career ender. So while I curse the Canucks when he is not playing I will be so cheering for Manny to get the championship he deserves.
Good guys can finish first.
(Cizikas/Aaron Bell-OHL Images, Malhotra/New York Rangers)