By Lori Bennett
The NHL season is officially open with rookie training camps getting underway this past week. This is an enjoyable time of the season as fans get a first look at this year’s version of their favourite teams, and some loose ends get tied up.
The Montreal Canadiens kicked off the season with their annual golf tournament and made news when they named Nick Suzuki as the 31st captain in franchise history. Suzuki just turned 23, and that makes him the youngest captain to ever serve the Habs.
This marks a dramatic changing of the guard for the Canadiens. Just two seasons ago they went to the Stanley Cup Final led by veterans Carey Price and Shea Weber. Since then, Weber has effectively retired while Price has played a handful of games that may have been the last of his professional career. The youth movement is on in Montreal, and Suzuki is at the centre of it.
The Habs are one of a group of teams that gathered in Buffalo for a rookie tournament. The Sabres also welcomed the Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils for the tournament that ran from Thursday through Monday. The event is an opportunity for participating teams to get a look at their young players in game action.
Several teams have entered professional tryout contracts with players hoping to stick for the season. The Sens got their veteran forward depth taken care of when they signed Tyler Motte to a one-year contract and then added Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle on PTOs. Defenceman Danny DeKeyser is trying out with the Vancouver Canucks, and the Edmonton Oilers have defenceman Jason Demers and forward Justin Bailey at camp working for a job.
Defenceman Michael Stone and forward Cody Eakin have entered PTOs with the Calgary Flames. The Toronto Maple Leafs have added forward Zach Aston-Reese and goalie Dylan Ferguson on a PTO. The Leafs apparently favour quantity over quality where goaltending is concerned.
As of press deadline, several noteworthy unrestricted free agents remained unsigned. Names like Anton Stralman, Sonny Milano and Tyler Ennis were on that list, but perhaps most surprising is P.K. Subban. The 33-year-old had five goals and 17 assists in 77 games for the Devils last season and, while a pay-cut was expected, it’s mildly shocking that he did not find a new home much earlier in free agency.
P.K. is probably not too fussed – reports surfaced this week that he had entered into a contract with the NHL to work on a side project. No doubt more details will come with time, but whether on or off the ice, it sounds like Subban will continue to entertain hockey fans for some time.
As the hockey off-season closes out, it’s a good time to acknowledge the giant steps forward in the NHL with respect to the place of women in hockey.
On Thursday the Seattle Kraken promoted Alexandra Mandrycky to the role of Assistant General Manager. Mandrycky was the sixth woman to be awarded an AGM position this summer, following Kate Madigan in New Jersey, Megan Hunter in Chicago, Hayley Wickenheiser in Toronto, and Emilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato in Vancouver. There is still a long way to go, but we’ve also come a long way.
Now for Pete’s sake. Drop the puck.
Blue Jays Babble
Last weekend the Toronto Blue Jays were in Texas for a three-game weekend series.
On Friday night it was Ross Stripling on the mound in a 4-3 win. Kevin Gausman gave up five runs on Saturday, but the Jays bats still pulled off an 11-7 win. Sunday’s game saw a buffet of pitchers who combined for a 4-1 loss.
On Monday the Blue Birds were back home to welcome the Tampa Bay Rays, a close competitor in the wild card race. Jose Berrios was strong in a 3-2 win on Monday. The teams split Tuesday’s double-header. In the early game, Alek Manoah was due to start but was battling a stomach bug. Mitch White pitched the bulk of the game, giving up three runs in six innings, but the Jays bats couldn’t get going in a 4-2 loss. After a period of rest and some fluids, Manoah battled through the late game and pulled off a 7-2 win.
Stripling was back on Wednesday and the bats were consistent in a 5-1 win. In the fifth game of the series on Thursday afternoon, Gausman got the start and fell behind early, and the Jays were unable to recover in an 11-0 clobbering.
The Jays were due to welcome the Baltimore Orioles on Friday for a three-game weekend series. Going into the series the Jays had 18 games left in the regular season and were in good standing to claim a wild card spot.
The biggest wild card for the Jays may be pitching and whether they can finish the season strong with four starters and a “musical chairs” approach every fifth game.
On Thursday, Roger Federer announced he would be retiring from his Association of
Tennis Professionals (ATP) career. The 41-year-old has battled injuries in recent years and in a recorded message announcing his retirement Federer said, “my body’s message to me lately has been clear.” The Swiss-born athlete has been ranked number one by the ATP for 310 weeks over his career, at one time for 237 consecutive weeks. Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles as well as the Silver Medal in the 2012 Olympics.
This announcement comes weeks after Serena Williams announced her retirement. With the departure of both icons, the professional tennis landscape has changed dramatically in the summer of 2022.