32 Thoughts: Martin St. Louis weighs in on his plans, his approach ... and his critics

Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis, right, looks on during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Newark, N.J. (AP/file)

Aleko Sdrakas, 19, a forward with the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s Peninsula Panthers, wears the same light-blue suit to every game. Earlier this season, teammate Grant Gilbertson took notice.

“Grant was a big prankster,” Sdrakas said, laughing. “He’s the one who would unscrew guys’ bottles or put sock tape on your skate blade. I went to shower, and when I came out, he’s wearing my suit. He’s a bigger guy, so it was skin-tight on him.”

“He told me, ‘If you were a minute longer, I’d have been in the parking lot.’”

The two sat next to each other in the Panthers’ dressing room. On Jan. 3, Sdrakas was recovering from a dislocated shoulder and not practising. Gilbertson was late. Teammates texted. Sdrakas called him, receiving no answer. Owner and general manager Pete Zubersky phoned. Again, no answer.

Gilbertson, 18, lived in Sooke, B.C., about an hour’s drive from North Saanich, where the Panthers are based. It was an icy day, conditions the RCMP said contributed to the one-car crash that claimed his life. 

Three months later, on April 1, the Panthers defeated the Oceanside Generals 4-3 in overtime to win the VIJHL championship. In the celebration, Sdrakas skated off the ice.

Grant’s mother, Darcie Colgrave, and brother, Garett, were vacationing in Maui. Four thousand kilometres away, they were driving along the remote road to Hana, trying to watch on Garett's cellphone as the signal faded in and out. 

“Garett burst in tears,” Darcie said. “I burst into tears. We knew exactly what (Aleko) was doing.”

She pauses. 

“I’m in tears, now. Just talking about it.”

“I had to go get Grant’s jersey, because he should be there with us,” Sdrakas said. “It was electric in the arena. Everyone started cheering, players banging their sticks. I didn’t want Grant to miss any of it.”

“One of those moments I’ll never gorget,” Darcie continued. “How we got cell reception there, we were meant to see it.”

“We were in trouble in that series,” Zubersky said. “But it wasn’t fair to (Oceanside). We had an angel on our roster. They weren’t going to win.”

What does everyone remember about Grant Gilbertson? The celebrations. He loved to score. Everyone interviewed for this piece mentioned something as simple as a backdoor tap-in produced a massive yell. If he scored, he was going to enjoy it.

Zubersky criticized himself for one thing: how he delivered the news. The team was practising when they found out.

“I called everybody over, and told them, ‘We’re going to play the rest of the season for Grant Gilbertson, he died in an accident.’ I like to think I’m a tough guy, I was a cop for 30 years. But I made a mistake, I was hurting too. I should have stayed there with them, helped the coaches.”

“I feel bad that he feels bad,” Colgrave said. “It was happening so fast, there’s no right or wrong way to do anything. You don’t know how you are going to react. I hope he doesn’t ever feel bad about that. He’s done so much for the boys, from providing counselling to just being there. He was always there. We wouldn’t be where we are without him and everything he’s done.”

Players fell to the ice, devastated. 

“I still remember it happening,” said 18-year-old defenceman Evan Crawford. “I started skating away, bawling my eyes out. I had my mother pick me up, because I didn’t feel safe driving."

The organization provided counselling, both individual and group sessions. As the next few days went by, the players gravitated to one another. 

“The accident happened on a Monday night,” Sdrakas said. “We were supposed to practice Tuesday, but didn’t have it in us. Instead, we went out to the parking lot and talked for two hours. Then there was counselling (the next two days). It was productive, we really opened up. We basically lived at one of the houses. Always, four or five guys were together.”

“Having the group, being able to talk to them every day, was so important,” said defenceman Griffin Gilmour, who turned 19 five weeks after the accident. “Being alone felt like the world was coming down on you. That group of brothers is so important."

The house they gravitated to was captain Riley Braun’s. They’d hang out, play video games, table tennis and pool. (The players joked Braun and brother Payton, who also plays for the Panthers, took advantage of a table slant to win at billiards.) The parents ordered pizza. Garett Gilbertson was invited to be part of the group.

“It was very helpful for Garett,” Colgrave said of her son, who took leave from the BCJHL’s Okanagan Lakers, although he plans to rejoin next season. “He’s a 21-year-old kid, he doesn’t want to be with a group of adults. He played with some of those boys.”

“The only people we wanted to be with were each other,” Sdrakas said.

“At one point, they wanted to go out and give (Darcie Colgrave) a gift,” Zubersky said. “They were a little scared to go, scared to see his mom. We told them, ‘As soon as you get there, you will feel like a million bucks. You’ve got to go there.’”

“We drove past the road where it happened,” Sdrakas said. “That made us super-nervous and super-upset. But we were glad we did it. It made her very happy and we hung out with (Garett).” 

“I don’t know how to express how wonderful that young group is,” Colgrave said.

Four days after the accident, the Panthers resumed their season. A 5-2 loss to Prince George included a 45-minute memorial service. The team gave out candles to the fans. There was a video tribute featuring Dave Tippett (whose brother Brad coached the Panthers at the time), Connor McDavid, Tyson Barrie and Washington’s Matt Irwin – who is from the island. The Victoria News reported that Gilbertson’s girlfriend, Sadie Fitzpatrick, presented each player a rose and note that read “#26 Grant Gilbertson: A Panther Forever.”

Gilbertson’s stall was kept empty, aside from his jersey. On Jan. 15, eight players went to get various tattoos as a tribute. Some put them on their chests – others or their wrists, or ankle.

“About 10 days after the accident, I heard a couple of guys laughing in the dressing room,” Zubersky said. “I was hoping I’d hear that sound again.”

“A lot of us felt guilty for smiling and laughing,” Sdrakas said. “Grant would want us to be happy and laugh. So, we kept that mode. I’ve been on a bunch of different teams. It’s crazy how close we are.”

Peninsula entered the season with championship hopes, refocusing to finish second in the league’s Southern Division — fourth overall — with a .667 points percentage. The Panthers defeated the Westshore Wolves 4-2 in the first round and the Kerry Park Islanders 4-2 in the second. That put them in the league final against Oceanside. 

Fifteen minutes before puck drop every home game, Peninsula’s full roster was announced to the crowd. Grant Gilbertson would always be included. Before Game 2 of the final, it didn’t happen – an honest mistake.

“I wasn’t angry, but I felt, ‘He needs to be up there,’” Colgrave said. “Pete went above and beyond.”

For the remaining home games of the final, Gilbertson’s name was read with the starters’ – right at puck drop. “First in our hearts and thoughts.”

Peninsula won the first three, one victory from glory. But they were reeling, with the Generals snaring Games 4 and 5. Then, Oceanside scored twice in the first 96 seconds of Game 6. Sdrakas and teammate Logan Speirs tied it in the next seven minutes. Oceanside went back ahead, but Speirs sent it to overtime with a goal at 18:17 of the third.

Oceanside had an overtime power play where Peninsula captain Riley Braun saved the game with a timely blocked shot. 

“It sounds insane,” Sdrakas said, laughing, “but I thought it was going in. And it didn’t. It felt like Grant was there saving us.”

At 1:36 of the extra period, Speirs won it, completing a hat trick in the process. In the jubilation and bedlam, Sdrakas charged off the ice to get Gilbertson’s jersey. 

The league championship put Peninsula in the Cyclone Taylor Cup, which invites champions of three British Columbia junior leagues and one host team. The Panthers’ charge ended with losses to the Langley Trappers (6-2), Delta Icehawks (8-7) and Revelstoke Grizzlies (2-1 in a shootout after two overtimes). A rematch with Revelstoke for the bronze medal ended in a 3-2 defeat.

Darcie Colgrave is incredibly appreciative. She’s thankful to everyone who contributed to the GoFundMe for financial costs of the funeral; for the outpouring of support from her hometown; for the hockey community; for everyone who messaged her; everyone who kept Garett and herself in their thoughts. She is in the process of starting a foundation in Grant’s honour. 

She is incredibly thankful to the Peninsula Panthers, who, in a special way, made sure Grant Gilbertson was part of their successful playoff run. In that final game, the score was tied 2-2 after two periods. Zubersky went to do a radio interview. Colgrave intercepted him.

She had to leave early to catch the ferry back to Vancouver Island. 

“I told (Pete), ‘Can you tell (the players) after the game how proud I am of them?’ He said, ‘Why don’t you tell them yourself?’”

And she did. 

“I expressed to them, whatever happened this weekend was just icing on the cake," she said. "You’ve already honoured Grant. I am so proud of them. They did it.”

In an open letter on the team’s website, Zubersky wrote of the Cyclone Taylor Cup: “There was a hint of disappointment as we all felt that with a bounce here or there, it could have been a far different outcome. But there was never negativity. I have been in the game a long time and have never seen such an incredible, collective and phenomenal attitude. We all recognized that Grant Gilbertson and his family were bigger than the game.”


From the original clipping: "Hockey great Guy Lafleur signs an autograph at the Saddledome for young Calgarian Cory Gurnsey." (Heather Wilson, Calgary Herald)

1. This is the Calgary Herald’s front page from Dec. 2, 1988. Cory Gurnsey, then 18, grew up a Canadiens fan, as did his mother, Laura. In January 1980, Cory was leaving school, wearing his Lafleur sweater, when he was badly injured in a random stabbing attack. In the aftermath of the traumatic experience, Laura said the local Lions Club reached out to Lafleur and the team. “When Cory was in the hospital,” Laura said this week, “they told me he was going to call. I honestly didn’t know it was going to happen.” Not only did Lafleur call, but he sent a new sweater to replace the one destroyed in the incident and promised to score a goal in Cory’s honour. Montreal’s next game was Jan. 19, 1980, when he had two goals and two assists in a 7-2 win over Toronto. “I was amazed when he scored,” Cory said. (Someone who was at the game says Lafleur fished the puck out of the net after the first one.) That began a lengthy friendship between the Hall of Famer and the Gurnsey family. He flew them to Montreal for a game. At the morning skate, “He flipped a puck into the crowd, where his father caught it and gave it to me,” Cory said. “I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to say.” They went for lunch when he came to Calgary. “How often do you get to meet your superhero?” Laura asked. “He was very polite. Such a nice guy to do something like that. Hard to believe he has passed away.” The 1988 Herald story quotes Cory Gurnsey as saying he thought Lafleur would return to the NHL with Los Angeles, to which he replied, “No, L.A. is too hot.” As happens to so many of us, the friendship grew apart as time passed. But the Gurnseys never forgot Lafleur’s kindness, and, evidently, he never forgot them. In 2014, Lafleur traveled to Alberta for a paid autograph signing. Cory Gurnsey couldn’t attend, but when a photo was presented to the great winger and told it was for Cory, Lafleur remembered his name and told organizers not to charge for it. “It was … beautiful,” Cory said. “I’d give time to talk about him anytime, because he gave time to me.” “He made us so comfortable,” Laura said. (First came across the story re-reading Lafleur’s biography, "Overtime," written by Georges-Hebert Germain. Highly recommended.)

2. As Dallas grasped for overtime and Chicago won a shootout, the biggest question was: What will this mean for Vegas? Former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president Richard Peddie often repeated the saying “The surest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.” However, there’s no past behaviour to analyze, because the Golden Knights have never missed the playoffs before. Logan Thompson battled his heart out, making 14 of 17 saves in three straight shootouts. In the loss to the Stars, he stayed in despite a hard overtime collision with Vlad Namestnikov that clearly stung him. But Vegas got nothing for it, as its shooters went 0 for 17. (Watch the Knights make a point of consoling a clearly dejected Thompson after Tuesday’s loss in Dallas.) As the Robin Lehner-Vegas skirmish unfolded, one person with a really good handle on the situation kept warning: “Wait. This will evolve.” I think we’re looking at two distinct storylines in Nevada. The first is what are the repercussions, if any, for missing the playoffs? The second is, where is the Lehner story going? So far, we’ve heard brief commentary from head coach Peter DeBoer, clearly trying to make a point: “I’m concerned about the guys that are here, battling with us here tonight,” before the Dallas game, and, “We’ve got a lot of guys playing banged-up and they gave us what they had,” after. We haven’t heard yet from Lehner – who is never shy – GM Kelly McCrimmon, owner Bill Foley or the other players. Where does everyone stand? So, there’s the possibility this gets more flammable before it calms. Remember: Lehner is under contract for three more seasons.

3. Another question about Lehner’s situation: Why did the Knights dress Lehner as backup on Sunday? The NHL and NHLPA created a roster exception in December where if a team was short two healthy goalies and did not have cap space for a recall, they could immediately call up a goalie with a cap hit of $1 million or less. There is no need to play short for one game. Under those rules, there shouldn’t have been a problem with using Jiri Patera, who was called up Monday. That’s a strange one.

4. Vegas is going to have some tough decisions to solve the cap puzzle. Here’s another variable: there were conversations with Reilly Smith about an extension. There were some sources saying it was done, although that was disputed. But they were talking. The injured forward did not play after March 1.

5. It won’t get a ton of notice, but Michael Raffl made a huge play late in regulation of the Dallas overtime loss to Arizona. The Stars looked like they’d iced the puck with about 15 seconds left, but Raffl won a race to negate it. Dallas was reeling. Raffl’s hustle saved them from an in-zone faceoff. Small thing, but a big thing. 

6. Don’t like how that Juuse Saros injury sounds – and looks. It’s a shame; trouble for him and the Predators. I don’t know if I remember a year where so many No. 1 goalies, including Frederik Andersen and Tristan Jarry, got hurt right before the playoffs. There are goalie coaches who aren’t crazy about the skates being used, thinking they contribute to the problem.

7. Hope his non-COVID illness doesn’t rob us of one final Zdeno Chara appearance. The Islanders have two games remaining, Washington and Tampa Bay, both at home. Just in case he thinks it’s time, I hope he gets out there at least once more.

8. Several of the Jets have been blunt in their analysis. Neal Pionk: “When I look in the mirror, I’m embarrassed,” and, “Let’s be honest, it was kind of embarrassing what we did this year. We had a really good roster and totally underachieved.” Nik Ehlers: “I think the easy way to put it is that we're just not playing the type of hockey that the Jets want to play and the type of hockey that, you know, you can hold everyone accountable for. And it's just … it sucks. It absolutely sucks.” Fans want players to care as much as they do, and the Jets players definitely are saying the right things. That kind of self-evaluation is going on up and down the organization. Winnipeg has some tough decisions to make, and I don’t think they’re going to be afraid of them.

9. As mentioned last weekend, Pierre-Luc Dubois is one to watch. Does he have a long-term vision? The Jets prefer term, and locked up some good contracts with it. If Dubois is unwilling to do that, let’s see where this goes.

10. San Jose president Jonathan Becher appeared on the Sharks broadcast Tuesday night with Jim Kozimor. The team is still very early in its GM search. “We’ve created what we call ‘a couple of personas,’ which is categories of the kind of person we are looking for,” Becher said. “There are four or five different categories, from a more experienced GM, to an up-and-comer, to a wild-card – somebody you may not expect. Then we created the long list. We’ve gone through more than 50 people. We’ve started evaluating what they look like on paper. We’ve started to narrow that down and we’re to the point that we’ll probably do about two or three, maybe even four waves of interviews. First wave is probably going to start a week ago from now.” No previous GM experience is required. “We have some with it and some without.” Becher reiterated a willingness to be a public face of the franchise is mandatory, and the search will involve non-traditional candidates.

11. Calgary GM Brad Treliving to Scott Oake and Cassie Campbell-Pascall last weekend on After Hours, about Johnny Gaudreau: “We made a comment at the beginning of the year, we weren’t going to talk about his contract publicly. … That by no means should be taken as any indication we (don’t) want him back. We want him back here. We’re going to move heaven and earth, and do everything we possibly can to get Johnny back here. … We’re going to do everything we humanly possibly can to have him be back here and be a Flame for a long, long time.”

12. During our podcast interview with Canadiens interim coach Martin St. Louis, we badgered him about returning next season. “It’s definitely my intention,” he replied. “I love hockey. I love helping people, I love being on a team.”

13. St. Louis wouldn’t go into them, but he has some rules about the way he wants the Canadiens to play. “I know my players, what’s important to them, and they know what’s important to me.” But he made it very clear what he considers critical from a mental point of view: “The most important day in this league is the next day. Even if it’s a day off.” His first game as coach was a 5-2 loss to Washington, the team’s eighth in a row. “I was really happy with their effort, but they had lost another game,” he said. “They did that a lot. And I could feel it. I could feel the weight. So, you can feel crappy about the result, but you’ve got to let it go once you go to bed. You’ve got to wake up and go win the day. I used to call my dad all the time after games, just to vent. Or talk to my wife. … Let out all the negative energy, so that next day you can win the day. In anything you do in life, to be successful, if enthusiasm is not part of it, it’s going to be really hard to sustain success.” Another thing he’s got an excellent handle on is how hard it is, not only to win, but to keep your place. “The one thing I guess I talked to my team – the biggest thing – was it’s a battle out there. It’s not just a battle out there on the ice, it’s a battle internally. If you don’t understand that, it’s going to be hard to be successful. The battle in the locker room is for trying to move up the depth chart, to get another contract. The internal battle is important. If you don’t have internal battle, I don’t think you grow as team.” He said that when they practised one-on-one drills with the Lightning, “I wanted to get against Vinny (Lecavalier) all the time. I want to go against the best. On the ice, it’s the same thing. You might block a shot, you might be tired – and the league doesn’t care how you feel. The league’s hard. It’s hard to be successful. They don’t care if you’re tired. If you check out because you’re tired, you’re exposing your team, you’re probably getting scored on. I want my players to understand how hard it is to be successful in the NHL. It’s not just your opponents you’re playing with, but the inner battle in your locker room too.”

14. The whole interview is recommended, as St. Louis is incredibly insightful throughout. For example, practice: “You’re trying to plan practice, but you’ve got to talk to your staff first because there’s maybe 3-4 guys that are 50-50. That might change what you want to accomplish that day. Not that you completely have a new plan, but when practice starts, you’ve got to be ready as a coach. As crazy as it sounds, at the youth level, I always had practice planned. I never went and winged it. I took it very seriously, ‘What are we going to attack today?’ Be purpose-driven, don’t just go out there to get a sweat. … The very few amount of practice days we have based on the condensed schedule, you want to maximize your time with the players. Knowing who is going to be able to participate in practice – or not – definitely helps guide how you’re going to construct your practice.” It was funny when he talked about the now-automated lineup system, entered on an iPad. Several coaches have said they miss the old method of writing them on a sheet. “I always feel I’m going to mess up. I (get) so stressed pressing buttons,” he said, laughing. “In my first game, we pressed the right buttons, and they announced it wrong.”

15. St. Louis was also good talking about how he ended up where he is. “I told (my wife) before, the only way I’d ever leave before my kids are out the house – and my youngest is 14 now – it would have to be a head coaching job in the NHL. And I said, ‘Don’t worry, it will never happen,’” he said, laughing. “When (Jeff Gorton) got the job, I knew relationship his with Kent (Hughes), ‘This could be a domino effect.’ I started really thinking about it, that it could happen. Having been home for seven years, I felt my kids were in a really good place, in terms of their growth as teenagers and in a good place with their hockey.” Hughes, who played at Middlebury College, was a counsellor at a hockey school St. Louis attended. “When the call came, it was a pretty easy decision, to be honest. I grew up a Habs fan. My dad knows all the old Canadiens’ teams. Every year they won the Cup, he knows exactly what year, who scored the winning goal. It’s been a big part of our life, the Montreal Canadiens. … There’s opportunities in life you just can’t pass. But, after saying that, it’s not because an opportunity arises that you’re going to be ready for it and you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. But I felt that I was ready. I felt that I’ve been preparing for this. I know I was coaching youth, but to me hockey is hockey. I’ve been watching a lot. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to (think), ‘What am I going to do when I get an opportunity?’ So, I’ve been writing stuff down. I’ve always been hockey nerd, so to speak. I told my players that there is no way, that if I didn’t think I was ready for this, that I would expose myself. (Not to) me, the Montreal Canadiens or my family. Why would I say yes to an opportunity if I don’t think I’m ready for it?” Did St. Louis feel disrespected by anyone who called him a “minor hockey coach? “No, because I understand …and I laughed at it. Yeah, I was a bantam coach this year. I was coaching bantam and I was coaching prep. So, I get it. But I don’t think people really understand what I’ve been doing the past seven years. Nobody sees what I’m doing on weekends, nobody sees what I’m doing on Monday/Tuesday. At one point, I was running 6-7 practices a week. Back-to-back, building plans, coaching teams. And not just coaching teams, coaching individuals. Because every kid has different flaws or things they need. Now that I’m a coach, I’m not going to be judged by how I was as a player. How do I coach? How do I show some growth on my team? Can I win? All that, time will tell. I’ve never been a guy that has all the answers, but the one thing that I’m comfortable and confident with is that I usually find them. Might not be immediately, but I’m willing to put in the work to find the answers. To me, the answers are everywhere, you’ve just got to find them.” Who’s betting against him?

16. One exec who recently watched Buffalo: “Owen Power, Rasmus Dahlin and Mattias Samuelsson on the blueline is going to be a problem.” And not for the Sabres.

17. It happened Wednesday night, so there’s lots still to be learned. But the timing of David Morehouse stepping down as CEO of the Penguins sure caught people by surprise.

18. He hasn’t been discussed as much as Brock Boeser or J.T. Miller in the public sphere, but I do think extending Bo Horvat is as big a priority for Vancouver as anything. He’s also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer. 

19. I’m all for expanding the playoffs, I’ve pleaded this for years. But I wonder if 2021-22 – as much of an outlier as it is – will make it harder to gain momentum for the idea. The biggest argument against has always been “a team earns its right over 82 games.” If the Islanders (18 points out of the playoffs) or Columbus (21) knocked out Boston or Pittsburgh or Washington in a one- or two-gamer, people would be screaming bloody murder. Bah. Go for it anyway. 

20. What a season for Steven Stamkos, who hit 100 points for the first time. For everything he’s been through, you sometimes forget he’s 42nd all-time with 1.051 points per game. The other thing that’s been forgotten is Tampa’s reliance on him as a true centre once again. Last year, he took just 260 offensive-zone faceoffs and 416 overall. This year, it’s 801 and 1,042. His percentage isn’t as high (57.2 to 50.9), but still strong. He won’t make my Hart ballot, but I thought about him. His peers are thrilled for him, and if it is Tampa Bay-Toronto, it’s going to be wild seeing him against his hometown team in the first round. Not that a Lightning-Leafs series needs any more hype.

21. Last year, hardest awards vote was the Norris. This year, it’s the Hart. The league asks us to delay revealing our votes to keep the suspense (although remember all votes are made public after the announcement). There was a group of eight for the five spots on my MVP ballot: Sidney Crosby, Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Roman Josi, Kirill Kaprizov, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Igor Shesterkin. Ultimately, it will come down to Matthews or McDavid. But it was not easy to pare that list.

22. For all of Ryan Getzlaf’s talent, both teammates and opponents said he never got enough credit for his passing ability. So, it’s fitting that his final NHL point came on a brilliant assist to Adam Henrique. The Ducks hit it out of the park with a fantastic event; you know you’ve scored big in the gift department when Getzlaf’s kids went wild at the sight of the dune buggy. In his retirement media conference a couple of weeks ago, Getzlaf discussed how hard it was on him and wife Paige last season at the trade deadline. His agent, Gerry Johannson, was on the podcast last week. “The discussion with (then-GM Bob Murray) was, ‘If you can make a deal that helps the team, then Ryan would consider it,’” Johansson said. “But he didn’t want to leave. We made that clear the whole time. ... It just never came together. There just wasn’t anything compelling enough for Anaheim to go to Ryan with. So, really, as close as it might have seemed in Ryan’s mind ... it probably never got that close. Still, the stress and anxiety is real for his family.” He did confirm that, in addition to Vegas, Montreal and Dallas asked about the possibility, but more of a “checking-in” than anything substantial.

23. Zoom interviews with teams interested in KHL free agent Andrei Kuzmenko – and there are many – will begin after the Under-18s. Several executives need to return from that event in Germany.

24. Another European with a decision to make is Rogle’s Anton Bengtsson. He’s a little older (29 in two weeks) and scored 20 goals this season in Sweden. He’s got NHL interest in a bottom-six role. 

25. The NHL recently signed a new transfer agreement with Sweden and it contained an interesting change. Previously, a player selected in the second round or later who also had a contract in Sweden had to be 21 before being allowed to be sent to the AHL. If younger, it was back home. Now the age is 24, a victory for the Swedish league. First-rounders are exempt. They can be sent to the AHL without protest.

26. Evander Kane’s grievance will need more time, but it’s going to wait now that the Oilers are in the playoffs. What’s interesting is that, according to a few sources, there’s been almost nothing in the way of settlement talks. That can always change, however.

27. Does one of the U.S. TV networks try to start Keith Yandle’s television career during the playoffs?

28. Rocky Thompson, who left San Jose at the start of this season, coached the under-19 Little Caesars women’s team to its first National Championship. They defeated the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers 4-1 in the final.

29. Spent part of last week at the American Hockey Coaches Association convention in Florida. Enjoyed the interaction, lots of good questions and people. Spent a few minutes trying out the Sense Arena virtual reality training tool before heading home. This is something I’ve had an interest in since a conversation during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final with Philipp Grubauer. He’s a VR believer. Among others who use it: Elvis Merzlikins and Devon Levi; team clients include Arizona, Los Angeles, New Jersey and Vegas. I really enjoyed it, although some of my “decision-making” was atrocious. Included here are two drills, so you can have an idea of what you “see.” The first one is a transition drill, where you’re on defence and the puck comes to you. Can you make the proper decision with it? The second is called “teamshot,” where you try to score on a rebound. The third is you in goal, defending against a 5-on-3. I enjoyed it. Good challenge. Poor airplane passengers as I sweated through the clothes I was wearing.

30. Thinking about Jim McCrossin, Sal Raffa and Tripp Tracy. 

31. During the second week of April, five Canadians lived atop five 40-foot flagpoles for 100 hours. The significance of that length is 100 years ago, Sir Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best discovered insulin, to help manage diabetes. One of those five was Wilson Gaglardi, the 16-year-old son of Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi. To donate toward a cure, please go to canadacuresdiabetes.ca

32. Don’t forget that the blog runs after every round in the playoffs. So, next one will be when we start the four division finals. Podcasts will increase to three per week during the postseason, but you’re going to have to put up with the carcasts once again. (I love them. Amil, not so much.)

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