The NHL season is back and we are underway. There were so many storylines to pick from and choosing only five was a tough ask. This week, I’ll give my two cents on two of the NHL’s newest captains and a few instances of positive change on the diversity front.
For a few teams in the NHL, this week was monumental. It was also huge for the league as a whole as they successfully returned to play amidst the ever-present coronavirus for the second time.
1. Larkin Minted as Red Wings’ Newest Captain
Competitive. Driven. Dedicated.
Our captain. pic.twitter.com/p4NZonVzAP
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) January 13, 2021
Before the start of the season, Dylan Larkin was named the 37th captain of the Detroit Red Wings. The captaincy was left vacant after Henrik Zetterberg retired at the end of the 2017-18 season. Larkin has served as one of the team’s assistant captains and it had long been rumored Wings’ GM Steve Yzerman would name him as the next captain.
One of my favorite parts of this story is that Larkin is the first Red Wings captain that grew up in the metro-Detroit area. Larkin grew up in Waterford, MI, about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Farmington Hills, both suburbs of Detroit. Larkin played his youth hockey in the area and attended the University of Michigan (yuck) for one year before joining the Red Wings.
Other than being the quarterback to lead the Detroit Lions to a Super Bowl victory (which will never happen) this is what every single kid growing up in the Detroit area dreams about. I love everything about this decision and I’m so happy for Larkin.
However, if Larkin truly wants to go down as a Red Wings legend like his GM, he’ll have to bring a Stanley Cup to the city. The Red Wings have retired the numbers of eight players, all eight won Stanley Cups with the organization, and are in the Hall of Fame. If Larkin wants to join that elite group, he has a long way to go.
2. Voracek Flames Media
Jakub Voracek provided us with the most entertaining moment of the young season after he ripped into a reporter after he was asked a question on a video call. Watch it below:
Voracek is a Savage part 2 pic.twitter.com/klYJrCsVQK
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) January 16, 2021
For some, it probably seems like Voracek was too harsh on this reporter, Mike Sielski. However, sometimes comments like Voracek’s are what it takes to keep reporters honest and make them realize they can have a negative impact on a team or individual players.
From what I’ve read, Voracek took exception to something Sielski wrote about him last year. According to this article, this is where the feud started.
Sielski, in an interview with the Philadelphia-based website Crossing Broad, suggested Voracek’s anger may have stemmed from a column he wrote last season when the Flyers were 5-5-1 and coming off back-to-back lopsided losses.
Sielski wrote that Voracek and teammate James van Riemsdyk were laughing while head coach Alain Vigneault urged his “top players to lead the way for us.”
Sielski and other reporters have jobs to do and most players and coaches accept that. I don’t have a problem with players getting upset at reporters if they don’t think they’ve been treated fairly. Voracek’s comments on Friday were hilarious and I hope he isn’t reprimanded for them.
Oh, Voracek had two assists for the Flyers in their 5-2 win against the Penguins on Friday. That’s a mic drop if I’ve ever heard one.
3. Stone Named First Captain of Golden Knights
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Mark Stone was named the first captain in Las Vegas Golden Knights history last week. Stone became the fifth player to be named captain this offseason. He follows in the footsteps of Ryan O’Reilly of the Blues, Jared Spurgeon of the Wild, Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins, and of course Larkin.
The Golden Knights spent their first three seasons in the NHL without a captain and felt the 28-year-old Stone should be their first.
Stone is a great pick for them. He’s arguably the best two-way player in the league and is signed with Vegas through the 2026-27 season. As I’ve said before, GMs don’t like to name captains that won’t be sticking around. Considering Stone’s level of play and contract, it’s safe to say he’ll be in Vegas for a long time.
It is surprising that William Karlsson wasn’t picked as the captain. He broke out with Vegas during the team’s first season and scored 43 goals that year. He’s come back down to Earth since that campaign but has been a staple in the locker room. Regardless, none of that stuff matters when you’re winning, and the Golden Knights have one of the most talented rosters in the NHL.
4. Fry Makes History
Lyndsey Fry has been hired as the Arizona Coyotes’ newest radio analyst. Fry is now the fourth woman to have been hired in that role for an NHL team. Fry will return to work for her hometown club, having been born in nearby Mesa, AZ.
Fry was a standout player at Harvard, scoring over 30 points in a season twice in her career. She also represented the U.S. National Team, winning a silver medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
This is quite a landmark moment for hockey diversity. Of course, women aren’t typically hired as analysts because those roles frequently go to former NHL players, who are all men. It’s great to see Fry break that mold as she is clearly qualified to serve as an NHL analyst. Fry follows in the footsteps of her former teammate, Kendall Coyne-Schofield, who also served as an NHL analyst with the San Jose Sharks last season.
It’s been a rocky year for diversity in hockey. Thankfully, progress is being made at the NHL level.
5. Bruins to Honor O’Ree
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The NHL will take another step forward on the path to diversity on February 18th when the Boston Bruins retire Willie O’Ree’s number 22. O’Ree was of course the first black player to play in the NHL when he suited up for the Bruins during the 1957-58 season.
O’Ree only played 45 games for Boston, scoring 4 goals and adding 10 assists. However, he dominated every other league he played in, having scored 328 goals in the old Western Hockey League, when it was a pro circuit.
O’Ree will become the 12th player to have their number retired by the Bruins, the first since Rick Middleton in 2018.
Again, this is another large step forward for the NHL and Boston Bruins in increasing diversity in the sport. The NHL has taken a lot of heat over the last year or so for failing to improve diversity. They have made major strides but have also dropped the ball on many occasions. Let’s hope this moment inspires many young people of color to lace up the skates and keep making history. ■