Legendary Oilers Voice Rod Phillips to Hang ‘Em Up

From the Oil website:

Edmonton Oilers radio play-by-play hall of famer Rod Phillips will highlight the 2010-2011 Edmonton Oilers season by calling radio play by play for 10 ‘Rod’s Classics’ games. The ‘Rod’s Classics’ Series will mark the end of Rod’s illustrious career as ‘Voice’ of the Oilers, a career that spanned 37 years.

NHL To Have Two Outdoor Games, Open Season With Leafs/Habs, Pens/Flyers, Hawks/Avs, Full Schedule in June

NEW YORK (May 28, 2010) – The National Hockey League announced today its schedule of signature events for the 2010-11 NHL season. A record number of events are slated for this upcoming season, setting up the NHL’s business for another successful year. Revenue generated from the League’s large-scale events last season was up 22 percent over the previous year and helped propel the League’s fourth consecutive year of business growth, which included record-setting television ratings and digital metrics across its platforms; as well as an unprecedented level of NHL business partner activation.

Kraft Hockeyville

The NHL begins its season with the ultimate grassroots event that gives communities across Canada the honor of hosting an NHL game from their very own local arena. Dundas, Ontario, this year’s winning community, represents the fifth winner of the annual Kraft Hockeyville program.

On Tuesday, September 28, Dundas will host a 2010-11 NHL pre-season game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators at the newly renovated J.L. Grightmire Market Street Arena. Together with the National Hockey League, National Hockey League Players’ Association and CBC Television, Kraft connects family and friends through their passion for hockey and pride for their community. Kraft Canada provides $100,000 in arena upgrades to the winning community and $25,000 to each of the four runner-up communities.

Compuware NHL Premiere

The 2010-11 NHL regular-season will launch on two continents next October with the League celebrating its fourth consecutive year of regular-season games taking place across Europe. An unprecedented six NHL® teams – Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks – will open the season by playing six games in Europe as part of 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere™ and NHL Face-Off™.

The Hurricanes and Wild will play two regular-season games against each other at Hartwall Areena in Helsinki, Finland, on Thursday, Oct. 7 and Friday, Oct. 8. The Blue Jackets and Sharks will square off for two games at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on Friday, Oct. 8 and Saturday, Oct. 9. Meanwhile, the Bruins and Coyotes will play each other at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, on Saturday, Oct. 9 and Sunday, Oct. 10.

VERSUS, as well as local rightsholders will televise the action live to fans in the U.S. In Canada, TSN will provide live coverage.

Prior to the start of the regular season in October, all six NHL teams will square off against European competition in a series of exhibition games spanning across Europe. Included in those games will be the first-ever visits by an NHL team to Belfast, Ireland; Mannheim, Germany; Riga, Latvia; and St. Petersburg, Russia.

NHL Face-Off

NHL Face-Off—the League’s annual launch event in North America—welcomes the beginning of the 2010-11 NHL season in North America on Oct. 7 with the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting arch-rival Montreal Canadiens live on CBC. The League will officially celebrate the start of the season with an opening day hockey and entertainment festival in Toronto providing fans the opportunity to celebrate the coming of a historic NHL season. CBC will present a second game that evening as part of an opening-night doubleheader when the Edmonton Oilers host the Calgary Flames.

In the U.S., the season begins with a special doubleheader on VERSUS. Both Stanley Cup finalists will take to the ice when the Flyers play Pittsburgh, followed by the Blackhawks squaring off against the Colorado Avalanche.

Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame Game will be played on Saturday, November 6, when the Toronto Maple Leafs will face either the Buffalo Sabres or Chicago Blackhawks. The Hall of Fame inductions will take place on Monday, November 8. CBC’s “Hockey Night In Canada” will once again provide full coverage of all of the festivities that evening.

Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

The much anticipated Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic lands at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2011—home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin lead their respective teams in the outdoor classic when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals in the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic™ on New Year’s Day. The NHL’s fiercest rivalry will face-off at 1 p.m. ET in the classic, which Forbes magazine calls the best new sporting event of the last decade. NBC will provide live broadcast coverage of the game in the U.S. In Canada, CBC and RDS will televise the event live. NHL Radio and Sirius XM Radio will provide radio coverage and NHL.com will have extensive digital coverage. Fans can be first in line to receive the updates and alerts on ticketing, news and other information by visiting NHL.com for its continuing coverage on all things related to the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic.

NHL All-Star Game

The League’s mid-season spectacular returns when the Carolina Hurricanes and the city of Raleigh host the 2011 National Hockey League All-Star Celebration on Saturday, January 29 and Sunday, January 30 and will include Honda NHL SuperSkills® and the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center. The action from both nights will be covered live by VERSUS, CBC and RDS. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game will mark the first time Carolina has hosted NHL All-Star activities. The 2011 NHL All-Star Game will feature various hockey-themed events, entertainment and activities. Further details on the 2011 NHL All-Star Celebration, including ticket and broadcast details, will be released at a later date.

Hockey Day In Canada and Hockey Day In America

February promises to be a historic month for hockey in both Canada and the United States. CBC’s 11th annual Hockey Day In Canada will take place on Saturday, February 12 with the following triple header on CBC’s “Hockey Night In Canada”: Ottawa at Edmonton (2pm ET), Toronto at Montreal (7 pm ET), and Calgary at Vancouver (10pm ET). Hockey Day In Canada celebrates Canada’s love and devotion to the game of hockey with celebrations in communities throughout the country.

The NHL and NBC salute roots of the game, its traditions and pageantry with Hockey Day in America on Sunday, Feb. 20. As part of USA Hockey’s Hockey Weekend Across America, presented by Reebok, the day-long event will celebrate hockey with a slate of NHL games that are scheduled to include Philadelphia, New York Rangers, Washington, Buffalo, Detroit, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston.

NHL Heritage Classic

The NHL also hopes to play an outdoor regular season game in Canada next season and will be discussing the plan with the Competition Committee in June. The Heritage Classic would be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, February 20 and would feature the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. CBC and RDS would carry the game in Canada and VERSUS would telecast the outdoor match in the United States. Assuming plans for the game are approved, it will be the first NHL regular season game contested outdoors in Canada since the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at first Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium on November 22, 2003. Fans wishing to follow all the news and information about the NHL Heritage Classic can log-on to nhl.com.

2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin on Wednesday, April 13. The last possible date for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is scheduled for Friday, June 17, 2011.

NHL Awards

A new tradition continues Wednesday, June 22 in Las Vegas when the top NHL stars join forces with celebrities from music, stage and screen for a celebration of hockey’s best at the 2011 NHL Awards at the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. The Awards once again will celebrate the best of the best in hockey on and off the ice. Television partners CBC and VERSUS will return for the latest installment of this renowned event.

NHL Entry Draft

Wrapping up the historic NHL season will take the League to the “State of Hockey” as the Minnesota Wild host the 2011 NHL® Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Entry Draft will be held over two days, Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25. TSN will provide live round-by-round coverage of the draft in Canada, while in the U.S., Friday’s first round will be live on VERSUS and Saturday’s Rounds 2-7 will be televised by NHL Network. The 2011 NHL Entry Draft will be the second-ever held in the state of Minnesota and the first at Xcel Energy Center – a building home to 409 consecutive Wild sellouts. The NHL Entry Draft has grown significantly since the first such event was held in a Montreal hotel ballroom in 1963. In Minnesota, NHL club executives, scouts and coaches will be present on the Entry Draft floor while more than 10,000 fans and more than 500 print, television and radio media are expected.

2010-11 NHL EVENTS

Kraft Hockeyville, Sep. 28, Sabres v. Senators

Compuware NHL Premiere™, Oct. 7-10: Blue Jackets v. Sharks, Stockholm; Hurricanes v. Wild

Helsinki; Bruins v. Coyotes, Prague

NHL Face-Off, Oct. 7, Canadiens v. Maple Leafs, Toronto, ON

NHL Hall of Fame Game, Nov. 6

Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Jan. 1: Capitals v. Penguins, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

NHL All-Star Weekend, Jan. 29-30: Raleigh, NC

Hockey Day In Canada, Feb. 12

Hockey Day in America, Feb. 20

NHL Heritage Classic™, Feb. 20: Canadiens v. Flames, McMahon Stadium, Calgary, AB (pending approval of the Competition Committee)

2011 Stanley Cup® Playoffs, April 13

NHL Awards™, Jun. 22, Las Vegas, NV

NHL Entry Draft, Jun. 24-25, St. Paul, MN

The NHL’s full master schedule will be released Tuesday, June 22.

More on the NHL ‘No Words’ Spot

NEW YORK (May 28, 2010) – The National Hockey League (NHL®) will debut the new “No Words” spot today during the NHL Network™ all-access coverage of the Stanley Cup® Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Philadelphia Flyers. The commercial replays post-game interviews with players who were rendered speechless, minutes after winning the Stanley Cup. The “No Words” spot is an extension of the critically-acclaimed History Will Be Made™ campaign that’s been running throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The spot opens with the on-ice presentation of the Stanley Cup to Jean Beliveau in 1971 then cuts through a series of player vignettes from different years. Bill Guerin can’t find the words to describe the New Jersey Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup win. Detroit Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood finds “it hard to explain” after their 2007 title. Ray Bourque, surrounded by microphones in the locker room, can only shake his head after winning the only Stanley Cup of his 22-year career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. Brett Hull’s smile and shoulder shrugs are all he can muster up in a post-game interview after scoring the game-winning goal for the Dallas Stars in 1999.

Following the New York Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup win after a 54-year drought, Mark Messier can only stare open-mouthed at the microphone in front of him. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Glen Wesley sits wide-eyed and overwhelmed during the 2006 Stanley Cup Final post-game press conference. Darren McCarty of the 2008 Detroit Red Wings and Teemu Selanne of the 2006 Anaheim Ducks are driven to tears. Finally, we see a speechless Bill Ranford after the Edmonton Oilers’ 1990 triumph. The spot ends with a simple title card: “There are no words.”

“Sometimes there are no words to describe how it feels to win the Stanley Cup,” said Brian Jennings, NHL Executive Vice President, Marketing. “The emotions can be so overwhelming you’re unable to express them. It has happened to the greatest players in this game. Those superhuman moments required to win take a back seat to the human moment that comes once they’ve won the Cup.”

The “No Words” spot will run across all of the NHL’s national and local broadcast partners, NHL Network™, NHL.com, in-arena, and through digital and social media networking websites.

Creative was developed by the National Hockey League with creative consulting by global advertising agency Young & Rubicam.

To view the spot, visit http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=15&id=70841.

NHL Broadcaster Conference Call Highlights

Q. Just a question on the goaltending matchup. Long-held belief you needed kind of a really good big-ticket goaltender, goaltending was so important. Ken Holland over the last couple of years says you don’t always need to spend a ton of money on your goaltending. I wanted to get your thoughts on this matchup, and is there a shift, maybe a shift in philosophy coming with goaltending?

DON CHERRY: Well, again, Leighton is my guy and everybody’s waiting for Niemi, whatever his name, to falter, and he hasn’t. So it’s really funny, two guys that they thought it’s their weak spot. Philadelphia has always had a weak spot. And everybody’s been saying about Chicago, they’ve got a good team; but their goaltender was suspect. Now here they are in the Finals.

I think it’s going to be which one falters. And boy it’s going to be something. Of course, you know what I think of Leighton.

PIERRE McGUIRE: I think a big part of what’s allowed these goalies to prosper in the post-season is the fact that both teams have unbelievable defensemen in front of them. Just to go to Don’s theory about what Ken Holland said.

The reason why Detroit can get by with Chris Osgood or, quote/unquote, no-name goaltenders is the fact they had Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall, unbelievable depth on defense.

You’ve got the same thing happening with both these teams. While both goaltenders have had great post-seasons, the truth of the matter is the defensive in front of them, and Don and Mike would appreciate this being former defensemen, those guys aren’t getting enough credit on both sides, the defense for both teams has really helped the goaltenders to survive.

Q. You’ve been around a long time, considering this is a Blackhawk team that wasn’t in the Playoffs two years ago and was pretty much deader than dead for most of this last decade. Have you guys ever seen a turnaround, a quicker turnaround in NHL? Can you talk about what’s happening in Chicago.

KEITH JONES: I would say the one quicker is the team they’re playing. The Flyers and Chicago were battling out for lottery balls just three years ago when Patrick Kane was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Flyers was the 30th place team in the National Hockey League. I think Chicago was about fifth from the bottom and was able to win that top choice.

So the only comparable that comes to mind right now is that the fact that both teams have come so far in such a short time; and I think both organizations deserve a lot of credit for making things happen quickly, and the Blackhawks obviously drafting extremely well and building their club for the most part through the draft.

But also making some nice additions this hot season and free agency and adding Marian Hossa and a couple of other pieces, the goaltender Antti Niemi was a nice addition as well.

From the Flyers standpoint, they kept their core, and their drafted players like Claude Giroux who has done a terrific job for them and James Van Riemsdyk is also contributing. They’ve got some youth there, but they really built their team with their blue line.

And Pierre talked a little bit about how good their blue line is. Their top four guys were all traded for or signed as free agents. Kimmo Timonen was obviously traded and signed away right away. Chris Pronger was traded for just this last offseason. Matt Carle was also in a trade and Braydon Coburn was probably in one of the most lopsided trades in franchise history. Paul Holmgren did a great job in building his team from the back end. Didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on goaltenders, but did his homework got quality guys to man the net and took chances in that department as well.

Both teams have done a terrific job in rebuilding quickly, and the one feeling I do have about this series is the fact that I think Chicago’s going to be here again. And I’m not sure that the Flyers are built the same way. So there’s going to be some real desperation from Philadelphia to get the job done right now. For Chicago, I think we’re going to see them in there in the next four or five years on a number of different occasions.

MIKE EMRICK: Yeah, I think Keith pointed out a great deal what athletically the Flyers have done and Chicago has done that, too. You consider the roster they have, aside from Niemi being signed as a free agent in ’08. A lot of those guys have been in the organization and playing their American League team for four, five, maybe six years now they’ve been in the organization and have played.

I think the real contrast is off the ice. I shouldn’t leave Philadelphia behind without saying that on the ice they were 14th right before Christmas, 14th out of a 15-team conference. The fact they could rally and still have some skin left on their teeth by the time they got through the last game on April 11th is a real achievement.

All you have to do is get in. They did and we’ve seen what they’ve done since then. But the Flyers had a great marketing department, and they had full houses, even during the times when their performance wasn’t as good. That’s not the case with Chicago. Four years ago, we used to go in there, and sometimes I don’t know what they did, but there would be 8500 people. It’s been a radical turn in Chicago that’s occurred.

When we were there in 1992 in the Final against Pittsburgh, I believe I was with Sports Channel America back then, there were no red banners up and down all of the streets in the city. But this team is very progressive in terms of getting its name out there, showing what a quality product that it has, and of course when you start winning games and putting together 100-point seasons like they have the last two years, I mean that shows that they’re really tremendous.

Q. Doc, you’ve been working with Eddie Olczyk in the series. A Chicago guy played with the Blackhawks, grew up here. How is he containing himself? What’s he like sitting next to him? I know he’s supposed to play it straight because he’s doing the National games, but is he bouncing around in his seat? He’s got to be going crazy up there?

MIKE EMRICK: No, he’s been pretty solid that way in terms of his emotions, and I think the other thing, too, the last two years, we had a Chicago/Detroit series, and he has stepped right out to be critical of Chicago, or to point out things that weren’t necessarily flattering. That’s the role that you accept when you are doing that work telecast, but it’s a challenge to do it.

And I’ve been there as well with some New Jersey games that I’ve done, and you have to call things the way that you see them, and he’s done that right down the line.

Last year, there was a controversial hit. Niklas Kronwall on somebody. I can’t remember who it was. Because he hit somebody big for Chicago every game. And he looked at it and he said, “You know what, that was a legal hit. That was a good hit. Nothing wrong with that.”

Of course, the coaching staff and everyone else was up in arms about the call by the official or the non-call. But as it turned out he was right. He caught Pittsburgh with too many men on the ice for 21 seconds. No one caught it, not the referees, the linesmen or the players or coaches from either team spotted it.

He was the only one in the building who did. So he’s Eagle Eye Eddie, but I guess that would be Eddie Belfour instead, wouldn’t it?

Q. For Don or anyone else, a little bit of a follow-up. If you can talk about the significance or the impact on the NHL going forward with the fact that one of these two teams is going to win the NHL. Obviously, two franchises with a lot of history, and a lot of recognition around the league. I was wondering what the impact might be to the league having one of these teams win?

DON CHERRY: It’s a lot better. Sometimes when you hear, if Nashville had won and some other team like that, Columbus, they would have probably committed suicide. But this is a dream for the National Hockey League. Philly, high profile. Chicago, they’re just jumping with joy with Chicago. They’re happy the way things are right now. Couldn’t have been better.

And I better keep quiet here because I’ll get in trouble. But sometimes I wonder, watching some of those penalties the last game, and I’m only kidding when I say this, but if I was San Jose I’d sure be scratching my head. But, no, the National Hockey League, they’re jumping for joy with this matchup.

Q. Don, obviously one of the focuses on this series comes to 1961 with the Chicago Blackhawks and 1975 with Philadelphia. And the thing about that Philadelphia team that won in ’75 is that they were the last team that had an exclusive born-in-Canada lineup. And I want to ask you about your thoughts about does it seem it’s that long ago. And the other part there’s been so much focus in Canada about having a Canadian franchise win the Stanley Cup again. But these two teams have more Canadians on the roster than either Vancouver or Montreal?

DON CHERRY: The theory, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a setup.

MIKE EMRICK: It is a batting practice.

DON CHERRY: No, this is built like Anaheim. If you remember, Anaheim had 16 Canadians and North Americans on it. And again you’ll see the captain who raises will be a Canadien. And I forget how many goals are scored, but North Americans have scored every goal in the semifinals except two.

And we in Canada, I know a lot of people are listening in the states you think: Oh, we’re gnashing our teeth out. We don’t have a Canadien team there. We don’t feel that way because half the people up here love Chicago and Philly, and that’s the way it goes here. It’s like you’re NFL football. You get a team and you love it.

And besides that, most of the players, the coaches are Canadians. So we’re happy anyhow.

Q. Keith, being in Philadelphia for so long, I mean, you’ve seen the way fans have gone crazy in Philadelphia the last couple of years when the Phillies made it to the World Series. I was wondering, do you think the passion the fans have for the Flyers matches that? If you kind of feel the intensity of a Stanley Cup is similar to, like, the World Series, like the NBA Finals, or something like that?

KEITH JONES: I would think it’s ahead of the NBA Finals, and it’s a couple notches below the World Series. And I just know that from doing morning radio in Philly for as long as I have.

The baseball has taken over the town. And obviously when you win the World Series, that’s what happens. They just came off a phenomenal parade that followed the World Series Championship that some would say even was bigger than what the Flyers had in 1974 and ’75.

But hockey is back on the map. The good news is that there’s conversation about it in the mornings. There’s excitement. The building has just been hopping. And the block parties before the game have attracted numerous fans. And more importantly, from the Flyers’ perspective, the way they’ve done it has really built an excitement amongst their fan base and some casual fans that have now begun to tune in.

And I think when you win a shoot-out to get into the Playoffs you attract a bunch of people to Game 82 of the regular season. There was a lot of eyes in that shootout against the Rangers, then to come back and beat your nemesis in the New Jersey Devils in the first round and beat out Marty Brodeur who has basically cut the Flyers’ throat on numerous occasion that was huge.

To go down 3-0 against the Boston Bruins to come back and win a very Rocky-Balboa like in this town. If you want to win fans, play hard, lose a few teeth, play with blocking shots to your face like Ian Laperriere has, and you’ll get some big-time support.

So the way they’ve gone about it is not only the older Flyer fans talking, but the younger fans are now getting involved, and that’s just fantastic from their perspective. And with that HBO series coming out, that one-hour special on the Broad Street Bullies, I’ll tell you the timing could not have been better.

And I think it’s bonded together the younger fans who have now had an opportunity to see it through the eyes of their parents and what they watched and witnessed when the Flyers won those Cups and that brings out a lot of passion.

So the fan base is much improved. It’s still a notch below the Phillies, but it’s gaining momentum as we speak.

Q. Pierre, I was hoping to ask you about our mutual friend Scotty Bowman. A lot of people forget he’s on the map of the Chicago Blackhawks, and I know he’s not involved in the day-to-day operations, but as somebody who’s worked for Scotty, is it almost – I mean can you believe it. Here he is again, a chance to get his name on the Stanley Cup again? There’s no coincidence to this thing, is there?

PIERRE McGUIRE: No, there really isn’t.

DON CHERRY: And Stan and how he brought him in and how happy, I’m sure you think he is for his own.

PIERRE McGUIRE: Scotty is there for the Chicago Blackhawks and for the family. I’m not surprised Don is in this role. Scotty worked for Scotty during the ’70s and tell you about the compete of Scotty Bowman, but the big thing about his hockey IQ, talk about players’ hockey IQ. I’m not sure there’s a manager in the league that has their finger on the pulse not just American players, but players around the world, and players that can make your team better. His big thing is about team building and understanding what parts have to fit.

You look at Dave Bolland and the job he’s done and how easily Marian Hossa has fit in here and how they’ve developed Brian Campbell a little better, and I know Scotty had a big role with what happened with Mike Babcock. But he’s had a big role here with what’s gone on with Joel Quenneville and the Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s difficult times for the Bowman family. I’m sure they’re excited about what’s going on with the Blackhawks, but they have a son that’s extremely ill right now and his expectancy is not very good in terms of life. It’s a real difficult time for the entire family, but they’re obviously taking some solace in the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks are doing so well.

Q. I’m looking at the fact in Vegas the Hawks three and one favorites to win the Cup, any place you read it, any hockey pundit analyst, pretty much everyone has given them the Championship already. And this is open for anyone. Do any of you feel that this is, giving the Hawks too much credit or Philadelphia is underrated and do the Flyers have any chance in hell of beating the Hawks in seven games?

MIKE MILBURY: If you go down the list of players on each roster, it’s pretty interesting matchups. There’s the Niemi, sort of unknown, and Leighton unknown. Both of them, Don put it rightly, will one of them crack. Could be a big difference.

You see the Chicago Blackhawks’ defense with Keith and Seabrook and Campbell and Hjalmarsson. They’re a quick puck moving group, contrasted with a bigger, stronger Philadelphia group, maybe not as mobile, but still very conservative, get-the-puck-out-of-the-zone kind of stuff. They match up pretty well, I think.

You take a look at the forwards. If you say Toews, I might say Richards. If you say Kane, I might say Briere. You say Byfuglien, I say Carter. You go down the list like that, start to match things up, this will be a longer series I think than people realize. I think the one fact that shades it in favor of Chicago is their team speed. It’s outstanding throughout the Playoffs.

Gave fits to San Jose and were able to establish the forecheck when they needed to because of their team speed.

I’ll finish with, we’ve gone without a quick mention about Pierre and Joel Quenneville. Both of these franchises turnarounds stem from not flags on the sidewalk and the street poles but from good coaching decisions, I think. The Hawks hired Joel Quenneville who has been around the block a time or two and immediately there’s a difference in the way the Chicago Blackhawks play and come together.

In Philadelphia, John Stevens can’t get it right for a while. And in comes Peter Laviolette. And all of a sudden there’s a team concept. There’s an image and a belief they can get it done. I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out two pretty outstanding coaches that will make it interesting for one another as the series progresses.

DON CHERRY: We talk about Chicago. We should talk about Dale Tallon. Dale Tallon, if you want to put it honestly, he’s the guy that got everyone in there. He doesn’t know how to use the fax and that. I’ll tell you one thing, if you take a look at the players that were drafted and everything, I think it was done by Dale Tallon.

PIERRE McGUIRE: This series will go a lot longer than people think. There hasn’t been enough credit given to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Chicago Blackhawks are a great team. Everybody knows that.

I think most people before the season started thought Chicago would get to the Finals. They are about where most people thought they would be.

For Philadelphia, their best players are just starting a round in the forum. Look at Simon Gagne and the effect he’s had on the lineup. The return of Jeff Carter and the effect he’s had on the lineup. The return of Ian Laperriere and the effect he’s had on the lineup.

This is a much Philadelphia team than people are giving him credit for. The one thing, I agree with Mike Milbury wholeheartedly, the team speed of Chicago is unbelievable. Where there’s a separation point over Philadelphia, it’s not much of one, but it’s a little bit of one. They had this same combination over San Jose: Depth down the middle. Toews, Sharp, Bolland, Madden. That’s tough to beat out. It really is.

Q. Don and Pierre, just wondering if you think the Blackhawks’ forwards, they’re on the smaller side, are going to be able to hold up to the abusive style the Flyers like to play, and thoughts on the Pronger/Byfuglien match-up?

DON CHERRY: I’ve never met anybody in the Playoffs so far that play like Philly, not that they’re afraid or anything like that. But Richards takes no prisoners.

They’ve never played a guy that hits like that. And they’re a mean club. And you’re right that this is going to be a little, Pierre is right, it’s going to go a lot longer than people think because on one side Philly has not played anybody with the speed and the talent.

But on the other hand, Chicago has not played anybody that takes no prisoners like Philly. So it’s going to be interesting to see who survives.

PIERRE McGUIRE: I’m really looking forward to the Pronger/Byfuglien matchup. Byfuglien’s yet to play against a player like Chris Pronger. And Chris is going to lean on him and cause problems.

Don Cherry is absolutely right when he talked about the savage hitting ability of the Philadelphia Flyer forwards. The one thing, the turning point of the Flyers post-season was a Mike Richard’s hit on David Krejci in Game 3 of the Philadelphia/Boston series. That was the beginning of the end for the Boston Bruins.

It was a clean, hard hit, bordering on vicious. But that’s how Mike Richards plays. He doesn’t have to make any apologies or excuses for the way he plays.

He’s the ultimate leader. Much like Jonathan Toews is the ultimate leader here for Chicago. This is going to be a whole lot of nasty here.

There’s going to be blood on the ice in this thing. There’s going to be some vitriol. There’s going to be some anger. It’s going to be great hockey. It’s everything you want. You’ve got two sizzling caldrons here in Chicago and back in Philadelphia. It’s going to be a ton of fun to watch.

MIKE MILBURY: I’ll chime in on the Pronger/Byfuglien match-up. I wish it was 1975 so I could watch the match-up. Because the way the rules are now if Byfuglien goes to the front of the net, Pronger can’t touch him.

He can have action when the pucks are around the crease. But if Byfuglien wants to go to the front of the net all he has to do is stand there.

The League has to be on notice that Pronger can’t take off his gloves and start beating him over the head. They’ve done it before. They’ve suspended him before in the Playoffs. I think it’s going to be interesting to see if Pronger can do anything about Byfuglien because the way that the rules are, you’re not allowed to touch the damn guy anymore.

DON CHERRY: I laugh at what Pronger said, he said the rules, I see guys standing in front of the net. I didn’t even know was in the league.

Q. Just wanted to pass on a question for maybe Don and Pierre or whoever else wants to jump in. You guys know Buffalo is a hockey hotbed, the type of following it has here and with connections with Pat Kane, Buffalo and Danny Briere, former Sabre, could you assess each of the guys and the impact they’ve had on their team?

PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, for Briere this playoff season he’s been phenomenal. He’s been a major reason, a lot like why Mike Richards they’ve been able to survive, especially when they were undermanned without Gagne and Carter in the Boston series.

It was Briere that elevated offensively that made the difference. In terms of Patrick Kane and the chemistry he has with Jonathan Toews is phenomenal.

There’s tough love that goes on in that relationship. Jonathan Toews is a no-nonsense kind of leader. I’m down there between the benches and I can tell you right now that Jonathan Toews challenges Patrick Kane to be his very best, shift in and shift out. And to his credit, Patrick Kane has responded to that very well.

And obviously Patrick’s one of the pure scorers in the league. In terms of another Buffalo connection, already, Scotty Bowman and Stan Bowman, Stan Bowman grew up in Buffalo when his dad was running the Sabres, obviously running the Blackhawks now.

And obviously Scotty is still living in Buffalo. There’s a lot of Buffalo tie-in in this thing and it’s going to be very interesting to watch how both Kane, I think, and Briere respond, because there’s two of those guys. They might be undersized, but they’re two of the guys that have to make a difference offensively for their respective teams.

KEITH JONES: The one thing I would add is the fact Danny Briere moved back to center just before the Playoffs because of Jeff Carter’s injury, of course Carter returning and playing in a few games before breaking his other foot.

And the Flyers were hesitant all year long to put Briere at center because of the defensive responsibility that comes with playing in your own end. Briere has lived up to that and more and looks much more comfortable. Looks much more Buffalo Sabre-like back from his days when he was lightning it up offensively as a center ice man.

Carter’s injury might have been real blessing in disguise for the Flyers from the standpoint that they got Danny Briere in the position where he’s much better offensively and he’s been stable defensively.

So we’ll have to see if the Blackhawks try to find a way to exploit some of his size issues and his defensive zone or whether or not Danny Briere continues to light it up like he has.

Carter’s return to the lineup meant Carter was going to the wing and not back to center, and played with Mike Richards in the last couple of games of the previous series and that’s really based or predicated upon the fact that Briere played so well at center ice.

And Pierre talked about the strength of the Blackhawks down the middle. The Flyers center ice men are really a major reason why they’re still playing right now. And Don talked about Mike Richards and that kid’s heart and soul, the way he can come up with the big-time plays, much like Jonathan Toews, Briere, another guy and Claude Giroux, the other center ice man, that’s come out of nowhere at the midway point of this season has really been a major reason why the Flyers are still pushing around on the ice.

DON CHERRY: Why would you put Briere on the wing. He’s a little guy. I’m not saying he’s timid or anything, but he’s got to go in the wing. Keep him at center ice and you keep them out of the corner. It only stands to reason. And Kane, I’ll tell you, we had him at the Prospects before we talked, and I said this guy is the smallest guy.

He’s so thin, I said is he going to make it. And, man, did he turn it around. And he’s got that cocky attitude. And he thinks he’s the best. And, you know, but I never could understand why they put Pierre on the wing, gotta go in the corner. Keep him at center, out in center, and nobody’s going to touch him there.

Q. Question for Keith as a connoisseur of Flyers hockey, wonder if you could break down Chris Pronger against Chicago’s top line. And do you think it’s going to be a Pronger/Byfuglien match-up five-on-five, or do you think he might be more focused on one of the other players in the top line?

KEITH JONES: I think it will be Pronger/Byfuglien. I think the only thing that I can add to what’s already been said on that, from that standpoint, is I remember watching Pronger last year against the Red Wings and I believe a couple of seasons prior to that.

And what he did so well was he fronted, got in front of the great Red Wing forwards like Tomas Holmstrom, who do such a nice job in front of the net and really demonstrated the great ability to adjust. And he didn’t try to get tied up with them.

He would use good body position, get himself in the shooting lane and then send the puck the other way.

And I remember a couple of instances where he was actually coaching players on his own team on how to defend against that. I think it was James Wisniewski last year that was playing with them, and I just remember seeing him kind of instructing him saying: Here, you don’t want to play it this way; you want to get in front of them. And really using that veteran leadership and that great awareness that he has to make sure other players kind of figured a way to stop what has been such a great weapon for the Red Wings for so many years.

Byfuglien very similar in his approach except bigger. That’s where Pronger’s height and size is really going to become beneficial.

So I’d be very surprised if it’s not Pronger versus Byfuglien, but, of course, Joel Quenneville gets the last change at home for the first two games. And it is something to really keep an eye on.

Q. If Jonathan Toews wins the Stanley Cup, he will accomplish the Triple Gold Club younger than anyone else. He already has won the Juniors, the Worlds and the Olympic golds faster than anybody else. Is it hard to put him and his young hockey career into historical perspective because he’s only 22 years old?

PIERRE McGUIRE: I don’t think so. Not at all. People talk about Sidney Crosby being the youngest captain to ever hoist the Stanley Cup.

But I also saw Jonathan Toews do something at the World Junior in Sweden that very few people could ever do. And that’s score in three different shootout situations, three different ways against Team U.S.A. to put Canada in the gold medal game, which they eventually won. That was one of the most phenomenal individual performances I’ve ever seen in a hockey game.

I talked to Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky about that after that whole thing. And I asked what did you think. They were like that was unbelievable. Talking about two of the greatest scorers in the game. They had the respect of Jonathan Toews at that point as well.

So I don’t think it’s very difficult at all. I think Don would agree with this, and hopefully Mike and Keith and Doc Emrick will, we’re talking about one of the most dynamic players in the league. His performance at the Olympic games playing with Rick Nash and Mike Richards was unbelievable.

It was a swing movement for Team Canada when Babcock put that line together to play against the Russians and Toews was the go-to guy. He was the engine that drove that line. So I don’t think it’s very difficult historically to put them into a very high level category.

MIKE MILBURY: Well, you mention the guy on the wing there, Richards, you talked about it earlier, Pierre, with Krejci. This guy, as good as Toews is, this guy is just as good in terms of coming up big.

He reaches down and grabs you where you need to be grabbed when you’re playing for big stakes. And I would love to see these guys on a couple of shifts against one another, because it would be entertainment at its best, as far as I’m concerned.

DON CHERRY: I like Toews when I think it was Willie Mitchell come out of the penalty box and leveled him, and he went down, but he got up and got off. That’s a good sign for me.

MIKE EMRICK: The good thing is there’s nothing new to this. He was the same way when he played in the World Juniors which you got to see firsthand, Pierre. But I think the other thing is what his coach said about him then, that there’s no panic in his game whatsoever. And he’s talking about a teenager.

Now we’re talking about a guy that’s 22. Yeah, he had a great Olympics, but he was a terrific player and I think had a lot of recognition even before that.

Q. We have two very young captains leading the charge for their respective clubs. Obviously Jonathan Toews is the front runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Chicago being the favorite, Flyers being the underdog. Do you feel maybe the experience level the Flyers have with Pronger and Laperriere and Briere and so on and so forth could help them lead Philadelphia to victory over the favored Chicago?

KEITH JONES: I would say that they’re fearful of not getting there again. And that’s going to serve them well. Because some of those players that you mentioned had some injury problems.

They’ve had some real ups and downs over the last couple of years. Briere and Gagne, two of those guys that stand out to me in that department. You’ve got a couple of A-quality defensemen in Pronger and Timonen, in that both are getting a little older.

I think there’s a desperation to the Flyers, but at the same time, I think there’s something that is driving them. And the more that they are looked upon as being the underdog, the better that it serves them.

And even going into that shootout against the Rangers where Lundqvist obviously had such far greater numbers than Boucher, the fact that the Flyers won that shootout, they kind of got themselves on the bonus plan and have really used that to their advantage.

And they’ve got that never-say-die attitude that comes from Mike Richards and Chris Pronger being there, but the fact that the Flyers realize how difficult it is to get here when many pick the Flyers to be in the Stanley Cup Finals at the start of the season, but by Christmas nobody was picking them to be in the Stanley Cup Finals.

They’ve got a second-life attitude. And I think that’s really going to serve them well in the Finals.

DON CHERRY: I think it’s going to be, too, the referees, how the referring is going to be. If they’re going to start calling penalties like they did against San Jose, it’s really going to be tough on Philadelphia, I’ll tell you that.

I’m not saying letting them goal, but if they let them play hockey, it’s in Philadelphia’s favor, because let’s face it, they’re a lot tougher. I say if they start calling penalties like that game with San Jose/Chicago, then Philadelphia is in for a tough time.

MIKE EMRICK: Last year during the Stanley Cup Final, the power plays went from eight down to five total in the game. I think everybody marveled at what a wonderful Final series it was. And they also talked about the officiating, for the very reason you mentioned, Don.

It was traceable. It just dropped off and neither coach knew it was coming. And some of the players said they didn’t know it was coming either. But there weren’t any that were critical of it.

One player did tell me, I think if they refereed the games this way during the regular season we’d have a lot more injuries than we had. But no one was critical about the way the game was called in the last year.

SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: I want to thank all our participants.

Stanley Cup Final Ratings Card Sharks: Higher or Lower Than ’09 Rematch?

Before going on, I’m sure some of you were curious, so I found out: Dan Patrick will host Games 5-7 of the Stanley Cup Final for NBC, if necessary.  He will not be there for Games 1-2.

So after a seemingly interminable layoff, we’ve reached the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, starting tomorrow on NBC here in the states.  My Canadian readers may want to ignore this post, because this one’s for the Yanks.

This season’s Stanley Cup Final is considered not as television friendly as the rematches of the last two seasons.  They say the teams lack star-power and that there won’t be as much viewer interest.  I have to ask anyone thinking this way: What the hell kinda drugs are you on?  Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are two ready-made stars from the Olympics.  Marian Hossa remains familiar with audiences from his unsuccessful attempts to win the Stanley Cup the past two seasons.  Plus, hockey’s greatest villain, Chris Pronger is involved.  There’s plenty of starpower.

As for viewer interest, the NHL is driven by two things: Local ratings and traditional powers.  There’s the potential for the league to draw more local viewers than it did either of the last two season.  The cities of  Chicago and Philadelphia will each draw close to 20.0 ratings for all the games of this series, guaranteeing the NHL at least a million viewers right off the bat, something they couldn’t do with Detroit and Pittsburgh, due to the smaller market Pittsburgh is.  Having two top ten markets is a boost, if anything.

As for tradition, well, where else are you going for tradition.  The Blackhawks are an Original Six team that has gone nearly 50 years without winning.  The Flyers have a tradition so proud that HBO devoted an hour-long documentary to it, and have gone 35 years without winning.  You have everything you want with this series.  In my opinion, it’ll start a tad slow, but I think that the ratings will be potentially a little better than the 4.9 million viewers a game average when you count in the greater familiarity with VERSUS (and don’t forget that Philadelphia and Chicago are two cities where VERSUS has a large penetration level).

Last season, I did predictions in terms of viewers for each game of the Stanley Cup Final, assuming it’d be a seven game series.  I don’t think that’ll happen this year, but I’m going to do that again.  My prediction: Blackhawks in 6.

Let us look at how good my predictions were last year:

Game 1 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 3.8 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 4.4 million viewers

Game 2 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 5 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 5.4 million viewers

Game 3 (VERSUS)

  • Prediction: 2.8 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 3 million viewers

Game 4 (VERSUS)

  • Prediction: 3.2 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 3.4 million viewers

Game 5 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 4.3 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 4.4 million viewers

Game 6 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 5.2 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 5.8 million viewers

Game 7 (NBC)

  • Prediction: 8.0 million viewers
  • Actual Viewership: 8.0 million

So, I was fairly conservative with my picks last season.  I’m going to predict each game, and break down what the game is facing in terms of primetime competition and whether or not the ratings will be higher or lower than last year.  Hence the Card Sharks theme.  Take it with me after the jump:

Read more of this post