I swear every time I delay my column by a day all hell breaks loose. Thankfully, that’s a good thing. For this week’s takes, I’ll walk you through my trip to the United Center when I watched my Red Wings lose to the Blackhawks. I’ll also cover the World Junior Championships and take a look at how the Dallas Stars are the league’s most unlucky franchise.
1. My Trip to the United CenterOn Sunday, I took a trip to the United Center in Chicago for my first Blackhawks game. A buddy and I went because they were playing our hometown Red Wings. It was my first time seeing the Wings on the road. Here are my thoughts on my first hockey game at the United Center:
- Blackhawks’ games are hella expensive. I paid $60+ (including fees) for standing room only tickets. The view wasn’t terrible (see picture) but that’s absurd to see two last-place teams face-off, even if it was an Original Six matchup.
- People get weirdly hype for the National Anthem. I’ve gone to hundreds of sporting events and people’s excitement for the Anthem is usually about the same. I thought it was strange.
- The United Center has Honey Butter Fried Chicken. One of my buddies told me before I got to the arena so I made a beeline for it (you all know I love food). It was amazing. Without a doubt the best part of the experience.
- Chicago fans know their hockey.
- Filip Zadina is going to be a frickin stud and I’m so jacked for it.
- The Red Wings are very bad.
- The United Center actually has an efficient system to call an Uber. That was surprising.
2. Kovalchuk Lands in Montreal
The Ilya Kovalchuk saga continues. After parting ways with the L.A. Kings, Kovalchuk signed a two-way contract with the Montreal Canadiens for the league minimum. He will make $700,000 in the show and $70,000 in the AHL. What I would give to play in the AHL.
Kovalchuk made his debut last night against the Winnipeg Jets wearing the number 17. He notched his first point with Montreal, an assist on this sweet goal by Ben Chiarot.
3. Pavelski Plays His 1,000th Game
Last week, Joe Pavelski was the latest player to join the 1,000 games played club. He did so with the Dallas Stars against the Detroit Red Wings.
First off, a special congrats to Pavelski. He’s been a gamer his entire career and is so much fun to watch. He deserves this.
Second, I find it so funny that the Stars are on the hook for another player’s 1,000th game. Often players celebrate a big milestone like this with a team they played the bulk of their career with. It’s a nice moment for the player, the team, and the fans as they all get to enjoy it together. Both Pavelski and new teammate Corey Perry achieved the honor in their first season in Dallas.
This must suck for the Stars’ ownership because honoring a player playing in their 1,000th game isn’t cheap. Pavelski received the traditional Silver Stick, a crystal trophy, and an all-expenses paid golf trip for four to Scotland.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 4, 2020
I’ve since learned from listening to the Spittin Chiclets podcast, often, a player’s teammates will chip in to help get them something special. Imagine having to chip in to buy a gift for a player you might have only known for weeks?
Thankfully, it looks like Pavelski’s old Sharks teammates did pony up some money to get him a nice gift.
Don’t worry Biz, we got him something nice…rollyrollyrolly https://t.co/bQhjAYUG5b
— Logan Couture (@Logancouture) January 4, 2020
Again, congrats to Pavelski on his achievement. Let’s hope the Stars make the playoffs so ownership can recoup some of the money they spent this season on their lavish gifts for Perry and Pavelski.
4. Canada Wins The World Junior Championship
The 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic ended with Canada winning their 18th gold medal. Their first since 2018. They defeated the Russians 4-3, avenging the 6-0 rout they suffered earlier in the tournament. All thanks to a stunning third period goal from Kings’ prospect, Akil Thomas.
AKIL THOMAS. GO-AHEAD GOAL. HOW??? 🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/qT1eq2Oxw3
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 5, 2020
Sweden beat archrival Finalnd to claim the bronze medal.
The tournament had a bevy of highlight moments, including Nils Hoglander’s lacrosse style goal and Thomas’ game-winner. But, all eyes were on the presumptive 2020 first-overall pick Alexis Lafrenière. After suffering a scary injury in Canada’s first game against the Russians, Lafrenière bounced back and played in the medal rounds. He finished the tournament tied for fourth in points with 10 (four goals and six assists).
Congrats again to the Canadians for bringing a gold medal back to North America. And thank god Lafrenière was able to return to full health. I was hoping for that most. He’s going to need to be healthy to carry the Red Wings next year.
5. Laviolette Out in Nashville
The coaching hot seat continues! On Monday, Predators’ GM, David Poile, announced that head coach Peter Laviolette and assistant coach Kevin McCarthy were fired. Laviolette had been with the Predators since the start of the 2014 season. The Predators made the playoffs every season since under his leadership. They also won the Presidents’ Trophy and reached the Stanley Cup Final. Laviolette finished his tenure in Nashville with a 248-143-60 record.
This is huge news. Yes, the Predators have underachieved so far this year. They are currently fifth in the Wild Card race, sitting five points behind the second-place Jets. The Predators had large expectations for this season after trading P.K. Subban to make room for free-agent Matt Duchene. Duchene, as well as other players, have been subpar this season, resulting in a poor record.
This proves that GMs are continuing to follow in Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong’s footsteps by realizing that it’s never too late in the season to make a change, refusing to quit on a season. As much as it sucks to see Laviolette get let go if the Predators are able to improve as the Leafs did, it’s exciting and is good for the game. I’m sure Laviolette will land on his feet and I’m excited to see how the Predators finish the season. ■