32 Thoughts: A lesson to learn

After an on-ice fight, South Carolina Stingrays defenceman Jordan Subban (5), left, is held by linesman Shane Gustafson while Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta (15) is face-down on the ice engaged with another player during overtime of an ECHL hockey game in Jacksonville, Fla., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. (Gary McCullough/AP)

• Grind time in Jakob Chychrun trade talks
• Could Giroux be a target for Avalanche?
• Canucks have fielded many calls on JT Miller

Wanted to start this week’s blog with an Instagram post.

It’s from August 2018, at the David Marcoux School of Goaltending, based in Calgary. Marcoux, who is doing the talking, was the Flames’ goalie coach from 2003-09 and Carolina’s from 2014-17. On his right is his son, Adam, who was playing for the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters at the time, and is now a coach himself.

It’s incredibly powerful for me.

The young goalie Marcoux introduces to the group is Anden Bieganowski, then a month from turning 11. As you hear, Anden is on the autism spectrum. (There’s a separate video of Anden being introduced off-ice to another group, really nicely done. But it shows the faces of several minors and that’s dicey to post without permission from parents.)

“When Anden first came to our camp, he was very, very diligent and clearly had fun playing,” David Marcoux said Monday. “One thing we had to improve was his focus. He was distracted too easily, so we put him in a weaker group to start.”

That’s common for people on the spectrum — keeping focus can be a challenge. But Bieganowski loves playing goal so much that he overcame the issue.

“He played so well that we moved him to a higher level,” Marcoux said. “That video is after he won the breakaway competition at the end of practice. We wanted to explain to the kids that Anden learns a little differently, but it didn’t mean anything on the ice.”

According to Anden’s mother, Shelley, at that time in his life Anden was what is known as a “scripted” talker. That means he’s not conversational, but recites phrases or sentences he’d seen that he was comfortable with in lieu of conversations. If you’re not used to it, it can be jarring.

Now 14, Anden plays for the Blackfoot Chiefs, and continues attending Marcoux’s camps.

“Back then, Anden didn’t speak much,” Marcoux said. “He’d show up, get dressed and go out on the ice. Now, he says hello, and talks a bit. If he has any issues, he’ll let us know. A new coach who just met him wouldn’t even notice any difference around the rink.”

“He’s found his place,” his mother says, very proudly.

For anyone who knows someone on the autism spectrum, that video is what you love to see. Brief explanation, don’t make a huge deal out of it, create understanding and a place where Anden can grow. Which, clearly, he is doing.

Three times in the last month, there’ve been incidents where a Black or Biracial player was on the receiving end of the “monkey gesture” in a professional game — Derek Joslin in Europe on Dec. 27; Boko Imama in the AHL on Jan. 12, although it did not reach the mainstream until Krystof Hrabik was suspended last Friday; and, one day later, Jordan Subban in the ECHL.

Imagine the cumulative effect. Three times in 26 days. Pause and think about that for a second. And we’re not even including what happened to Jalen Smereck, which was disgusting.

In all three cases, the players who committed the offence used the same defence: they were making the “tough guy” pose, mocking their opponents for acting like they were going to do something while the referees separated players. In a statement, Hrabik maintained he didn’t mean anything racial, while accepting his punishment and vowing to do better. Jacob Panetta, suspended for the Subban incident, posted an emotional apology, adding video of himself doing the same gesture in previous games as proof he didn’t mean anything racial.

Panetta (and Hrabik) deserve the opportunity to prove themselves right, show their intentions were not how they appeared. But, honestly, how can anyone blame or question Subban — or anyone else of colour, including his family — from being furious that it even occurred? We were barely 24 hours past the AHL suspension.

According to multiple sources, Imama (also the victim of an on-ice racial slur two years ago almost to the day) did not see the gesture when it happened. His teammates reported it, and Imama was first shown the video during a zoom call. His reaction was so powerful that it greatly affected others who were in the meeting. The AHL did not release the video because it was so painful for Imama, which is completely understandable.

I watched the Anden Bieganowski video again on Sunday, and thought, “We needed that here.”

The incident with Derek Joslin did not receive gigantic coverage. But people in hockey knew it happened. That’s the mistake, that’s where this broke down. Everyone — leagues, teams, players’ associations, agents, the players themselves — should have been all over it. There should have been a massive “DON’T DO THIS” warning everywhere: “You may think you’re doing the ‘tough guy’ thing, but that’s not how it’s going to be interpreted.”

And if it didn’t happen then, it should have happened in tandem with the AHL punishment. Everywhere: DON’T DO THIS.

I love hockey. There’s so much greatness about it. I’ve learned so much about what it takes to be successful; it’s made me a better person. I really believe there’s room for everyone in it. But sometimes our wounds are self-inflicted and this was a perfect example.

We should have been more proactive. Instead, we are where we are. An explosive, massively damaging moment for everyone involved, with long-term repercussions.

32 THOUGHTS

1. Calgary’s social media team clowned Justin Faulk following the Flames’ 7-1 win over St. Louis on Monday night. Prior to the road trip, Faulk admitted, “I’m not looking forward to going to Canada one bit. But we’ll play some hockey games and get it over with and then come back.” Faulk doesn’t say a ton — I was surprised he’d be the one to go there — but he’s highly respected among his peers. He said what a lot of them are thinking, and that’s bad news for Canadian teams at the trade deadline. As I’ve written before, there’s at least one big-time rental who’s indicated he won’t come north of the border. Not everyone will be like that, but it’s a challenge. Might be very good news for Canadian sellers.

2. With that in mind, the last time Ben Chiarot was a free agent, Toronto was very interested. It couldn’t work at the time, but it’s something to remember. Calgary, Florida and St. Louis are among the other parties looking into him.

3. If Philadelphia had been willing to take a late-round pick for Martin Jones, it’s possible he would already be an Edmonton Oiler. But the Flyers wanted something better and felt the market will strengthen as we get closer to the deadline. Name a goalie — Alexander Georgiev, Braden Holtby, Ville Husso, Anton Khudobin, Joonas Korpisalo, Vitek Vanecek, Semyon Varlamov — they looked at it. There undoubtedly are others, rentals, non-rentals, you name it.

GM Ken Holland held. He doesn’t want to trade his first-rounder, and multiple teams indicated that the higher it looked the second-rounder could be, he wasn’t thrilled about moving it, either. (That pick or the Oilers’ third will go to Chicago, pending their playoff performance.) Their fourth-rounder already belongs to New Jersey. Dallas prefers moving Khudobin over Holtby, and several people made a good point about Varlamov. If he goes, there’s no Russian on the roster with Ilya Sorokin — not a small thing.

4. If Edmonton does a deal with Columbus, and I’m not convinced Korpisalo is the right move, watch to see if the Oilers also look at Kevin Stenlund. He’s in the AHL on a one-way contract. Big body who can play. Edmonton needs some beef.

5. Not available: Arizona’s Karel Vejmelka, who’s having an excellent rookie season out of nowhere. The Coyotes are starting extension talks. He’s two years from unrestricted free agency.

6. It’s grind time for Jakob Chychrun. There are several teams going hard at this. Florida is there for sure, but I’m not convinced they want to move Anton Lundell. I think Columbus is there. Anaheim, Boston and Carolina have been there. I suspect Colorado is in stealth mode. No doubt there are others. My sense is Los Angeles and the Rangers are out for now — weird stuff happens, you never know. But we’re past the fact-finding stage and we’ll see when it closes.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

7. During All-Star, expect Claude Giroux to sit down with his agent (Pat Brisson) to discuss his future. I think there are Avalanche players who’d love to have him. The question is if the organization decides that’s the move they need to make. The right-hand shot makes sense. But it won’t be easy for Colorado to fit. That means the possibility of a third team, which raises the asset cost. There’s still time for it to play out, and Giroux has control.

8. Arizona, by the way, has indicated it prefers to keep Lawson Crouse.

9. We should prepare ourselves for the possibility of Marc-Andre Fleury, Washington Capital. At the very least, the Capitals are looking into it.

10. No clarity as I write this on Evander Kane’s eligibility from the NHL, but Edmonton and Washington wait to see how things unfold.

11. Another situation to keep an eye on: Filip Zadina, Detroit. Steve Yzerman never tips his hand; you can’t help but look at it and wonder if it’s time for a fresh start.

12. Now that he’s closer to getting his front-office in line, Vancouver president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has indicated he’s getting ready to talk about some things. The local fascination is JT Miller, and the Canucks have fielded so many calls about him the last two years they know exactly what the market is. But there will be others — including Luke Schenn, a perfect piece to help a team.

Halford & Brough in the Morning
Hour 2 - The next chapter in JT Miller trade talks
January 25 2022

13. Rutherford did have a phone conversation with TNT analyst Anson Carter, to gauge his interest in interviewing for a position. The two have a good relationship, but the timing wasn’t right.

14. Angela Gorgone Swartz looked at her twitter feed Monday morning and was overcome with emotion upon seeing Émilie Castonguay hired as the Canucks’ assistant GM. “I read it twice to make sure I was really reading what I thought I was reading,” she said with a laugh from California. “It brought me back to when I was in the league, to how excited she must be. I remember what it was like for me.”

Teammate Iain MacIntyre blasted it out of the park with the emotional story about Castonguay’s late sister Valerie, and their conversations about Vancouver. Castonguay added she had a goal to work in the city by age 38, a target she will beat by six weeks. She is the second female assistant GM in NHL history, behind Gorgone Swartz, promoted to that position in Anaheim in 1996.

“Getting that promotion was second only to getting offered a job in the NHL,” she said. “My parents always supported me. What five-year-old says they want to work for a hockey team? Kids change their mind every month, but I stuck with it. Teachers and counselors said to me, ‘You’ve got great grades, you can do anything.’ Yeah I did, but I never changed my mind. That’s how bad I wanted it.”

After watching Bowling Green win the 1984 NCAA hockey championship in quadruple overtime, her heart was set on the school because it combined a good team with a sports management program. Pepperdine, for example, had a great program, but not the hockey team. She asked then-head coach Jerry York to volunteer, and he brought her in to keep stats. She sent letters to almost every NHL team and received two internship offers — New Jersey and Washington.

“I can remember the day I got a letter from the Devils. We went to a Chinese restaurant, and my fortune cookie read, ‘The greatest pleasure in life is doing things others said you cannot do.’” There was a bit of a pause at this point. “That was my life. To be able to see that come to fruition, I know how wonderful that is for (Castonguay).”

15. Gorgone Swartz started with the Devils under the late Max McNab. “I remember walking through the team office with a mix of excitement and sheer terror,” she laughed. “To say I was fortunate to learn from him is an understatement.” She said New Jersey and Washington were the first two teams to start tracking statistics by computer — time on ice was the big one, but also face-offs, hits, giveaways. The original advanced stats, really. McNab was really big on faceoffs, wanting to know results all over the ice and at different strengths. “He gave all of my reports to (Lou Lamoriello). When I finished my internship, I asked (Lamoriello) for a recommendation. He said, ‘Absolutely, but I’d like to offer you a job here.’”

16. Under Marshall Johnston, Gorgone Swartz worked on creating a computer program for inputting scouting reports. Her responsibilities grew, taking off in the summer of 1991, when the Blues signed free agent Brendan Shanahan from the Devils. Under NHL rules at that time, New Jersey was owed compensation, but the two teams could not agree. That meant arbitration. “It helped to change my career trajectory. The mere fact Lou gave me the responsibility to work with outside counsel was really pivotal for me.” In a franchise-altering moment, the arbitrator awarded Scott Stevens to New Jersey. He didn’t initially want to go, but it changed the organization — and really the NHL — forever.

17. During her time, she crossed paths with Jack Ferreira, who went from the Rangers, to the Minnesota North Stars and then the San Jose Sharks. As GM in San Jose, he discussed job opportunities with Gorgone Swartz, but nothing materialized until after he moved on to expansion Anaheim. She started as the Mighty Ducks’ co-ordinator of scouting in 1993. Along with Pierre Gauthier, they wanted to computerize their process even more than New Jersey did.

“I remember the first day of our scouting meetings, the sheer horror on (the scouts’) faces (about using the laptops),” she laughed. “I remember thinking, ‘These guys hate me.’ Like everything else they grew to love it, it made their jobs so much easier.”

Again, her responsibilities grew, and Ferreira eventually offered her a promotion to assistant GM. “It was a wonderful moment,” Gorgone Swartz said. “Being a woman in that business, especially then, was tough. People accepted me and treated me like one of them, but always felt the pressure. It was me putting pressure on myself, to always make sure I worked extra hard, that no one could ever say, ‘Well that happened because she’s a woman.’ If I proved myself yesterday, I always felt I had to prove myself again.”

She moved to Nashville in 1997, helping the Predators prepare for their NHL arrival, and was offered the same opportunity in Columbus in 1999. But by that time, the grind was burning out Gorgone Swartz, and it was time to try something new. She runs a bakery — “Bake My Day” — in Benicia, CA. “I work more hours now than I did in the National Hockey League,” she says.

She still watches games and loves the draft. How does she feel as she looks back? “It was the greatest time of my life. For me this was never about being the first, I loved the sport so much that I wanted to dedicate my life to it and be part of it. I’m grateful to be given the opportunity by forward-thinking people like Lou, Jack and David Poile, given a job based on my merit. I recognize that’s not the same for a lot of other women in the sporting industry, I don’t think everyone gets that opportunity. Hockey people are the best people, they really are. I don’t regret a single moment of it. I’m proud of these women I’ve never met. Maybe they never heard of me, but I hope I inspired one of them.”

18. One final story from Angela: she grew up a Rangers fan. Her first game working for the Devils was against the Rangers, and her father was in the crowd. The Devils scored and her dad turned to the press box to see her cheering. It was a funny moment between them. She was at Ferreira’s house in June 1994 when the Rangers beat Vancouver to win the Stanley Cup. “I was dying inside. I didn’t want to cheer, I was in the home of a GM from another team. Jack could tell, and finally he said, ‘It’s okay for you to be happy.’”

19. During Castonguay’s media conference, there was a Canucks “22” jersey placed next to her. I wondered if somewhere, Daniel Sedin was saying, “Does the team remember my number is retired?”

20. On Dec. 28, 1975, Moscow Red Army scored three power play goals in beating the New York Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden. Three nights later, CSKA showed up in Montreal for one of the greatest games in hockey history, a 3-3 tie with the Canadiens. Red Army didn’t score on the power play that night, and one of the reasons was 20-year-old rookie Doug Jarvis consistently winning faceoffs while Montreal was shorthanded.

Jarvis was drafted by Toronto, but on the advice of Roger Neilson, his junior coach, the Canadiens traded for him. He won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens and played an NHL record 964 consecutive games, a streak scheduled to be broken Tuesday night by Keith Yandle. One of the things teammates said about Jarvis was how his demeanour changed at game time. When not playing, a nice, friendly, approachable person. When the puck dropped, nasty and unrelentingly competitive.

21. Daniel Briere sat with Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr during Monday’s 3-1 loss to Dallas. Now that he’s not going to Montreal, there could be an increased role in Philly.

22. 2021 first-overall draft pick Owen Power with another big leap on Tuesday, named to Team Canada for the Olympics. Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams, asked Tuesday about Power joining the Sabres after Michigan’s season, said, “We’ve had those conversations and we’re getting excited for sure.” Put it this way: it would be a surprise if it didn’t happen.

23. It sounds like there were some conversations about Josh Ho-Sang officially signing with the Maple Leafs when the team was battling injuries and COVID. But, by that time, it was known Ho-Sang was on the Olympic radar, and going on an NHL contract would end the opportunity. If it was known he’d be up for good, maybe it would have happened. But, it wasn’t worth the risk without a guarantee, and the team decided to wait. We will see what happens after.

24. Speaking of happening after, this sure looks like an end-of-season test run for Eric Staal. The Canadiens thought he was very valuable last year. Particularly when things called for calm.

25. Wanted to mention 22-year-old Columbus defenceman Jake Christiansen. He was also on Team Canada’s radar, but couldn’t go because he’s on a two-way deal. Christiansen’s played his first three NHL games for the Blue Jackets, adding 20 points in 26 games for AHL Cleveland.

26. I think Zdeno Chara goes to All-Star. Not sure he’s going to play, but compete in hardest shot and be around. Hope that’s right, would be great.

27. In case you missed it last weekend, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri has a new agent — now represented by Darren Ferris. Right now, he’s the biggest free agent on the market.

28. During last weekend’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, Alexander Ovechkin talked about skating with his son Sergei. Ovechkin said his son loves hockey. Asked if he’s his son’s favourite player, he smiled sheepishly and said Sergei loves John Carlson and TJ Oshie.

29. Minnesota and Montreal are scheduled to meet again on April 19. That one could get spicy. The Wild had their big guys out on the power play with a 7-2 lead in the third period, which doesn’t always go over well, but were annoyed Michael Pezzetta ran at Matt Dumba with 10 seconds left in a six-goal game.

30. In between laughing at tweets guessing what drug I was on while doing the 2016 re-draft with Anthony Stewart, I was glad to see him recognize New Jersey’s Jesper Bratt. That’s a good player deserving of acknowledgement.

31. A great moment last weekend as AHL Hershey broke its own world Teddy Bear toss record, with 52,341 thrown after Axel Jonsson-Fjallby opened the scoring against Hartford. Whenever this happens, I think of Vancouver’s Michael DiPietro. From Dec. 8-11, 2016, while with OHL Windsor, he shut out three straight teams on Teddy Bear toss night — Barrie, Sudbury and North Bay. It’s really incredible, when you think about it.

32. A lot of great memories of the late Clark Gillies last weekend, but the one I’ll always remember is the photo of he and Kelly Hrudey with the Islanders’ bowling championship trophy. It’s not what you do at work, it’s what you do with your family and friends outside of work.

Real Kyper and Bourne
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