By Lori Bennett
The Vancouver Canucks had their turn in the sun this week. On Monday, Jan. 24 the team named Émilie Castonguay as their Assistant General Manager. Castonguay became the first female AGM in Canucks history, and is well qualified for the role. She became the first female NHLPA certified player agent in Canada in 2016 and represented numerous NHLers in her role at Momentum Hockey.
In its press release, the Canucks stated that Castonguay attended Niagara University in New York State, where she played four years of NCAA Division 1 hockey and studied finance. She also possesses a law degree from l’Université de Montréal and is a member of the Quebec Bar Association. In 2020, Sportsnet name Castonguay one of the 25 most powerful women in hockey.
President of Hockey Operations and Interim GM Jim Rutherford said he expected Castonguay to “play a lead role in player contracts and negotiations, managing the collective bargaining agreement and her voice will be heard in all aspects of hockey operations.” This marks a huge culture shift in the NHL.
Two days later on Wednesday, Jan. 26 Rutherford removed his own Interim GM tag when he named Patrik Allvin as the 12th GM in the franchise’s history. Allvin becomes the first Swedish GM in NHL history. Allvin has been the AGM in Pittsburgh since November of 2020, but spent 16 years with the Penguins.
While Rutherford and the Canucks were busy painting the town progressive, the dinosaurs emerged in other parts of the hockey world. Over the past week and more there were two occasions where a racial slur – the monkey gesture – was used in the heat of a hockey game.
Last Friday the AHL suspended Krystof Hrabik of the San Jose Barracuda for 30 games for the slur directed at Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners in a game on January12th. A day after the suspension, a similar gesture occurred in an ECHL game.
This time the gesture was directed at Jordan Subban, the younger brother of NHLer PK Subban. The offender, Jacob Panetta was released from the team.
The incidents have drawn much attention to a long-standing racism issue in hockey, led by PK Subban who tweeted, “They don’t call the east coast league the jungle because my brother and the other black players are the monkeys!”
Several teams released public statements of support, including his current and former teams – the New Jersey Devils and the Montreal Canadiens, respectively.
These events are unfolding during an extremely busy time in the NHL. We are just seven weeks away from the NHL trade deadline for the 2021-22 season. We know the Habs will be busy sellers, but I’m keeping an eye on two other Canadian teams to be buyers.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a team they like a lot and can’t point to a giant hole they need to fill. But they must avoid another first round exit, so they will be looking to add quality over quantity. I’m expecting a top-4 defenceman is their focus.
Jacob Chychrun is probably appealing, but the cost is high, and they will have competition. I see John Klingberg as the best fit, but Kyle Dubas may be a little dubious about his status as an unrestricted free agent at the end of season.
The Calgary Flames have been hot, perhaps hotter than they expected. They will be looking to add a goal-scorer to their forward group. The Canadiens have a few guys that would make Darryl Sutter’s tail wag – Ben Chiarot, Artturi Lehkonen, Tyler Toffoli and even Brendan Gallagher come to mind – but the cap would have to work.
The Edmonton Oilers got in on the action early. After being cleared by the NHL on allegations that he had breached COVID-19 protocol in December, Evander Kane agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Oilers. This could get very interesting.
The Toronto Raptors continue to lurk around the .500 mark and firmly in a play-in spot. Fred VanVleet missed a couple of games this week and the Raptors got a chance to see how the team manages without their leader.
It was less than ideal.
On a lighter note, it’s CBC is reporting that Coach Nick Nurse will be featured in the January 31st episode of Murdoch Mysteries. I haven’t recorded a Raptors game since they won the Championship in 2019, but I’ve already set my DVR for this one.
The IIHF stole some thunder from Team Canada this week when they prematurely released the Men’s Hockey roster. A ceremony had been planned to introduce the guys who would represent Canada in hockey in China.
The most recognizable name on the roster is NHL veteran Eric Staal, who finished last season with the Montreal Canadiens, but has been unable to land a contract this season. He is joined by several other former NHLers, as well as a slew of young players who have not yet turned pro and are therefore eligible to play. Netminder Devon Levi (Panthers), Defenceman Owen Power (Sabres) and Forward Mason McTavish (Ducks) are the youngsters who will head to Beijing.
They might not be household names, but these guys are excited to represent their country and when the games start in February, we’ll be cheering them on like they’re all Hall of Famers.
Let’s hope they get to participate in another ceremony in a few weeks – one where they can hear their anthem play while wearing necklaces with giant gold pendants.