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Last Night’s News 📰
BOUNCING BROOKS: Adam Brooks has been claimed off waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs, returning to the team that drafted him. Brooks’ return to Toronto marks the third time in four months the 25-year-old changed teams after brief stints with the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights.
EICHEL MAKES HIS DEBUT: Jack Eichel skated in his first game with the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, but it was Darcy Kuemper who stole the spotlight. Behind his 29 saves and back-to-back shutouts, the Colorado Avalanche spoiled Eichel’s desert debut with a 2-0 victory.
GOLDEN GALS: Led by Sarah Nurse and Marie-Philip Poulin’s historic offensive output, Team Canada won its fifth gold medal in the last six Olympic tournaments. Poulin became the first hockey player—male or female—to score a goal in four straight gold medal games, while Nurse set the record for most points in a single Olympics with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists).
O’REE ON “THE DAILY SHOW”: Last night, Willie O’Ree joined Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show” to discuss breaking the NHL color barrier. O’Ree, the first black player in the league, told how he lost his sight and almost didn’t make it in the first place.
Top-Shelf Thursday – Our Favorite Hockey Books
February is the shortest month of the year, and with colder temperatures, the motivation to leave your house is at an all-time low. That’s why this is the perfect time to pick up a book and enjoy a cozy night by the fire. There’s plenty to choose from, and here at the Morning Skate, we decided to share our favorite hockey-related books.
Kristy’s Pick – The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
There is no better time to read about the Miracle on Ice than February. The book is comparable to the 2004 Disney movie and tells an in-depth story of each team member. If you enjoy the movie, you will love the book that utilizes both Jim Craig and Ken Morrow to help bring the stories to life. Coffey provides a detailed behind-the-scenes account of what happened in Lake Placid on that memorable night on Feb. 22, 1980, that will make you want to play “Dream On” by Aerosmith and pull up old clips of Al Michael’s famous “Do You Believe in Miracles? Yes!” call.
Ben’s Pick – Crossroads: My Story of Tragedy and Resilience as a Humboldt Bronco by Kaleb Dahlgren
It was tempting to go with one of Ken Dryden’s brilliant works, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to highlight a lesser-known piece of hockey literature. Humboldt bus crash survivor, Kaleb Dahlgren, will always be associated with a tragic accident that killed 16 young representatives of the Broncos hockey team. The York University alum’s eloquence, storytelling, and remarkable upbringing make a hockey story you need to read from an author with experience to share.
Grant’s Pick – Z is For Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier (Illustrated by Melanie Rose)
I need to get back into reading books, and I might start by checking out the others listed here. When thinking of what to put here, I initially couldn’t suggest a piece of literature mainly about hockey. Then I searched online and immediately recognized the cover of this educational publication. Not only does it have vivid illustrations, but it is also chock full of information about the game of hockey, including rules, positions, and historic players. Although the book leans toward kids looking to learn more about the sport, I recommend it to hockey fans, young and old.
Kyle’s Pick – Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches by Craig Custance
I thought for sure Ben would pick “Scotty” by Ken Dryden, as he recommended the book to me earlier this year. It is a fantastic read about one of the greatest coaches in NHL history and his journey through the sport told through stories and recollections between Scotty Bowman and Dryden. However, as much as I enjoyed “Scotty,” the book I absolutely could not put down was Custance’s “Behind the Bench,” primarily because the approach he took felt like something out of a dream scenario. Custance sat down with Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, Dan Bylsma, Joel Quenneville, Todd McLellan, and Ken Hitchcock to watch and discuss a film from a significant win or loss in their career. As a perpetual student of the game, I love the in-depth breakdown of the games within the game that come with each Stanley Cup Final, Olympic gold medal game, or World Championship tournament.
The NHL’s First All-Black Broadcast Booth
Tonight, history will take place during the Seattle Kraken at Winnipeg Jets game, but it won’t be on the ice. Everett Fitzhugh and J.T. Brown will call the game for the road team on Root Sports Northwest. With Fitzhugh running play-by-play and Brown as the color commentator, they will make up the first all-black broadcasting team in NHL history.
Fitzhugh, normally the Kraken’s radio play-by-play announcer, is filling in on the TV side for John Forslund, who is working the TNT game, while Brown will man his regular spot as Seattle’s TV analyst. Here is a little background on the two NHL broadcasting pioneers who will make history tonight.
It is the second time Fitzhugh has made history. He became the NHL’s first black full-time broadcaster when the expansion Kraken hired him in 2020 to do play-by-play. The 33-year-old is currently the only black play-by-play announcer in pro hockey.
Before joining the NHL’s 32nd franchise, Fitzhugh worked his way up the broadcasting ladder, first as the play-by-play announcer for his alma mater, Bowling Green State University, from 2009-12. The Detroit native then worked as Manager of Communications for the USHL from 2012-14 and as Director of Media Relations/Broadcasting for the league’s Youngstown Phantoms from 2014-15.
For the five years before being hired by Seattle, Fitzhugh was Director of Public Relations and Broadcasting for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL. In his positions with Youngstown and Cincinnati, he also handled the play-by-play for all the team’s games.
Brown took a much different, but not uncommon, path to broadcasting. As a forward, the 31-year-old played 365 games in the NHL between 2011-2019, primarily with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The son of a former NFL running back, Brown was a star at the University of Minnesota Duluth, winning Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 Frozen Four.
Despite going undrafted, Brown caught on with the Lightning playing five seasons with Tampa Bay. He then played for the Anaheim Ducks in 2017-18 and the Minnesota Wild in 2018-19. The North Carolina native played 19 games in Sweden in 2020-21 before retiring.
On June 21, 2021, the same day he announced his retirement, Brown was hired by the Kraken as the franchise’s first TV analyst. He and Fitzhugh both hope that the representation of two black broadcasters calling an NHL game inspires others to follow in their footsteps.
Olympic Men’s Semifinal Preview: Why North Americans Should Care
Yeah, we know—the men’s hockey Quarterfinals in Beijing proved pretty deflating for Americans and Canadians alike. Unless you happen to have European ancestry or carry a passion for Olympic hockey regardless of nationality, it can be pretty tough for North Americans to get fully invested in a final four involving Russian, Finnish, Swedish and Slovakian players outside the NHL.
But fear not! Even with Teams USA and Canada sent packing early (in the men’s event, anyway!), there remains reason for Semifinal excitement from any hockey fan, including those residing on this continent.
Prospects to Watch
One of the foundational thrills of watching the World Junior Championships has become an integral component of the Olympic tournament, with collegians and prospects outside the NHL representing their country. Although blue-chip youngsters like Owen Power (Canada) and Matty Beniers (USA) are gone, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) boasts promising Carolina Hurricanes draftee Alexander Nikishin and Sweden features Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Pontus Holmberg. Meanwhile, Slovakia has 17-year-old phenom Juraj Slafkovský, a top prospect in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, leading the tournament with five goals.
While many ex-NHLers at the tournament would probably just as soon be suiting up for league play right now, an Olympic gold medal is suddenly just two wins away, and, hey, why not get psyched if one of your team’s former players is on the cusp? I mean, why wouldn’t Detroit Red Wings fans root for Finland’s Valtteri Filppula, who spent 10 years across two separate stints in Motown? Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with Chicago fans being happy for Sweden’s Marcus Kruger, who played more than 500 games with the Blackhawks.
Here’s the part where I remind American and Canadian readers who probably don’t want to hear that balance and parity is favorable for hockey. The first Olympic men’s semis without the US or Canada since Turin 2006 will see Finland vie for its first-ever hockey gold and Slovakia attempt to reach the medal podium in ice hockey for the first time as an independent nation, despite a strong track record at the World Championships (one gold, two silvers, and one bronze).
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- Today’s newsletter was edited by Kyle Knopp, with contributions by Ben Fisher, Kristy Flannery, and Brooke LoFurno.
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