Even on record-setting night, Lightning’s Pierre-Edouard Bellemare takes no game for granted

TAMPA BAY, FL – You have to look deeper to see the true impact center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has in the Lightning locker room. An important but often overlooked contributor on good teams for close to a decade, he continues to play that role as he nears his 38th birthday.

When players first join the Lightning, Jon Cooper likes to be one of the first to call them. Typically, he finds himself doing most of the talking as the players try to feel out their new head coach. But when Cooper first spoke with Bellemare two offseasons ago, it was different.

Kevin Bieksa’s hockey home is Vancouver, where his heart always was

VANCOUVER, BC – Kevin Bieksa claims he didn’t need attention and never sought the spotlight.

However, that light always found the feisty and determined former Vancouver Canucks defenceman.

Bieksa played hard and played hurt. He was a physical force, voice of reason, mentor, friend and legendary prankster. 

His charitable endeavours and work with mental-health initiatives endeared him to fans and the general populace as much as imposing his physical and psychological will on the opposition. And scoring that infamous stanchion goal to propel the Canucks into the 2011 Stanley Cup Final only added to the appeal of a 2001 fifth-round draft choice (151st overall) who beat long odds.

 

 

Christian Dvorak Posts 1st NHL hat trick, Canadiens beat Blues 7-4

ST. LOUIS, MO — Christian Dvorak had his first NHL hat trick and the Montreal Canadiens scored three times in a 4:50 span in the second period to rally for a 7-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.

Dvorak completed the hat trick into an empty net with 1:35 remaining in the third period. He broke through after 13 two-goal games.

“That’s nice,” Dvorak said. “I’ve been close a couple times but it’s kind of nice to get it out of the way, I guess.”

 

 

Portland Winterhawks’ Carter Sotheran a “rare talent”

PORTLAND, OR – Sanford, Manitoba’s Carter Sotheran began the season as a relative unknown, but the towering 17-year-old is aiming to change all that.

He was a standout in his first two starts with a Portland Winterhawks, a showing that seems certain to generate interest from NHL scouts.

The raw tools, however, have been there for sometime.

He’s big – a 6’4”, 200 pounder, and still growing – with a good motor, aggressive tendencies and plenty of scoring touch to go with his right-handed shot, a much sought-after attribute.

 

Connor Mackey: “Ready to Take That Step”

CALGARY, AB – It was a task unlike any other in his career to this point.

A mano-a-mano, high-speed showdown.

Fortunately, Connor Mackey is the type that embraces that challenge.

“A couple of years ago, maybe, I was a little hesitant against those players,” Mackey said of his battles with Connor McDavid on Friday in Edmonton. “Now, I’m more up to that challenge and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I want to shut these guys down.’ It’s definitely exciting being out against those players and it’s an opportunity I want to take full advantage of.

“And I think I did pretty well.”

Mackey has been a real bright spot for the Flames to this point, appearing in three preseason games and munching big minutes against top players. The 26-year-old – who’s entering his third pro camp after three years at Minnesota State – has done everything asked of him in his pursuit of a full-time spot on the Flames blueline. That includes Friday’s pulsating workload of 21-plus minutes, with nearly half coming against the NHL’s reigning Art Ross champ and two-time 50-goal scorer Leon Draisaitl.

Mackey defended them well in all situations, including on the penalty-kill, where the Oilers went oh-fer on three opportunities.

But the prevailing image – for this reporter, at least – was the bounty of rush attempts that were casually snuffed out by the stoic rearguard. McDavid, showcasing his unmistakeable and outlandish top-end speed, would gather velocity in the neutral zone, cut across the blueline and look to make a fool of the defenceman with a series of head fakes, crossovers and lively stick work.

But Mackey never bit.

Bellemare using NHL European Player Media Tour to grow hockey in France

PARIS, FRANCE – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was understandably the most excited among the 19 players at the NHL European Player Media Tour in Paris on Wednesday.

Born in the Paris suburb of Le Blanc-Mesnil, the Tampa Bay Lightning forward normally returns to the City of Lights once a year with his family to visit his sister. But like everyone else, he didn’t travel much the past two offseasons because of the coronarius pandemic.

So having the NHL use Paris for the first time as the European site to promote its upcoming season was a welcome opportunity for Bellemare to come home and bring more attention to the sport he loves in his native country.

“I think it’s pretty cool. I love it,” Bellemare said. “The only downside of it is the French media is not aware. I would’ve loved to have French media so we could use it also for growing the game in France because it’s needed.”

Bellemare, who lives in Skelleftea, Sweden, in the offseason, is one of three players born in France who played in the NHL last season, along with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Alexandre Texier and Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Roussel. He’s one of 13 born in the country to play in the NHL in its history.

With hockey rarely in the spotlight in France, the NHL is exploring ways to change that. In fact, the European Player Media Tour might be the start of the League having more of a presence here.

“Part of the reason we decided to come to Paris was in part another short summer, and we’re asking our players to make a commitment to capture media content to promote the game,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “In making that request you want to pick a location in Europe that players want to spend time in and bring guests to. Part of it is about accommodating player interests, but do we have an interest in making hockey bigger in France generally? Of course, we do.

“That starts at the grassroots level, more participation in hockey.”

It could eventually lead an NHL game in Paris.

“Obviously a very mature, wealthy economy here in Paris,” Deputy Commissioner Daly said. “It would be great to bring teams over here at some point in the future and play a game. Probably a preseason game at first, but that’s certainly on the radar screen, although maybe a longer-term radar.”

Kyle Turris Retires After 776 NHL Game Career, Joins BCHL Team in Front Office Role

BURNABY, BC -Kyle Turris is taking his talents to the front office for next season.

In a surprising bit of news, the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express unveiled a new hiring on Wednesday evening, announcing that former NHL forward Kyle Turris would be joining their front office as a special advisor to the GM while also serving as a development coach for the club.

The Express confirmed that Turris retired in the off-season.

“I am really excited to have Kyle joining the team on the management side of things and with the players,” said Express chief operating officer and GM Tali Campbell in a statement on Wednesday.

“Anytime you can get your Alumni involved at any level is great but for someone like Kyle to jump on board in this big way, is fantastic and will help us to grow our program and bring the Fred Page Cup back to Coquitlam.”

Turris last suited up for the Edmonton Oilers in the 2021-22 season, appearing in 23 games while racking up one goal and three assists for four points while logging a little over eight minutes in nightly ice time. A veteran of 776 games, Turris was once a useful top-six centre at the height of his powers, scoring 168 career goals and 257 assists for 425 points while playing for the Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, and Nashville Predators.

Currently a free agent, it’s unclear as to whether the 33-year-old is indeed stepping away from the NHL for good now that he’s set to join the Express for this coming season. But after being bought out by the Predators in 2020 and spending the past two seasons on the fringe of the Oilers’ lineup, Turris seems to be putting the gears in motion for what his career will look like after hanging up the skates.

“The Express organization played a key role in my personal and professional growth,” said Turris in a statement following the announcement.

“I am excited about having the opportunity to work with Tali and Patrick as they help each player develop individually, while pursuing the Fred Page Cup as a team.”

Jacob Trouba named New York Rangers captain, first since McDonagh in 2018

NEW YORK, NY – Jacob Trouba was named captain of the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

He is the 28th player to be named captain in Rangers history. Mark Messier held the position twice, from 1991-97 and again from 2000-04.

“It’s a huge honor and something that means something, especially here in this organization with the history and the past players that have been captain before me,” Trouba said. “As a kid I grew up watching [Brian] Leetch and Messier, [Chris] Drury and [Jaromir] Jagr. … You come here and you learn more about the history of the guys that were before them. You see pictures, you see jerseys around this place.

“It’s now my turn to carry that legacy on for those guys.”

The 28-year-old defenseman is the Rangers’ first captain in more than four years, since defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 26, 2018.

“It was just the right time,” said Drury, who was captain from 2008-11 and has been general manager since May 5, 2021. “As a lot of our players have said publicly the last couple days, ‘Jake’ was basically doing the job for the last couple of seasons. We just felt it was appropriate and now is the time. We’re excited to see the ‘C’ on him, that’s for sure.”