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Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk stuns NHL with retirement, sparks potential KHL drama

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Ilya Kovalchuk

Ilya Kovalchuk, 30, shocked the NHL world by announcing his retirement on July 11. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

The New Jersey Devils have announced that forward Ilya Kovalchuk is retiring from the National Hockey League.

“This decision was something I have thought about for a long time going back to the lockout and spending the year in Russia,” Kovalchuk said. “Though I decided to return this past season, Lou was aware of my desire to go back home and have my family there with me. The most difficult thing for me is to leave the New Jersey Devils, a great organization that I have a lot of respect for, and our fans that have been great to me.”

New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello issued the following statement: “After many conversations with Ilya over the past year on his desire to retire from the National Hockey League, Ilya’s decision became official today. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish Ilya and his family all the best in their future endeavors.”

HACKEL: Devils paid high price for little from Kovalchuk

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  • Published On Jul 11, 2013
  • NHL free agents: Alex Burmistrov leaves Winnipeg Jets for KHL

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    Alex Burmistrov has left the Winnipeg Jets to play in the KHL

    A top 10 draft pick in 2010, Alex Burmistrov had made it known that he was unhappy in Winnipeg. (Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Just eight Russian prospects were selected at the 2013 NHL Draft. Not because that hockey-mad country has stopped churning out NHL-caliber talent. Because of the Russian Factor.

    And Alex Burmistrov just reminded everyone that it’s a very real thing.

    The disgruntled winger made good on a threat to return to Russia, signing today with Ak Bars Kazan of the Kontinental Hockey League. The 21-year-old center was a restricted free agent and perfectly within his rights to head home.

    “Through our conversations and correspondence with Alex and his agent, it became apparent Alex had a desire to continue his development as a young player in the KHL,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement released this morning through the team’s website. “He remains a very talented player within the Jets organization and we will continue to monitor his progress and development going forward.”

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  • Published On Jul 08, 2013
  • Euphoric Winnipeg ready for the Jets

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    Evander Kane and the Jets will enjoy a hero’s welcome in Winnipeg this season and quite likely beyond. (Fred Greenslade/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    “It’s crazy here,” said Brett MacLean, the 22-year-old leftwinger, about his new city. MacLean has just had his first skate with the Jets, who rescued from him from the AHL on Thursday. On Sunday, he’ll be in the lineup against the Canadiens when Winnipeg begins a new era.

    From every indication, it’s all Jets, all the time in the ‘Peg. Game 1 will likely be the hardest ticket in the history of the city. The Winnipeg Free Press had an item Friday that said Prime Minister Steven Harper had requested 14 tickets for his cabinet members. He was politely turned down and given a pair.

    “Someone told me at school that someone sold a ticket for two grand for the opener,” said Ben Carr, a Winnipeg school teacher who was on the other end of my phone call Friday morning.

    There’s no way to adequately understand what it means to the city to have the Jets back without speaking to a Winnipegger. We thought about calling Neil Young, however CBC got ahold of him first. But Carr certainly qualifies. The 25-year-old native who today teaches Grade Six recalls, “I was in Grade Six when the Jets left town and my kids now, the kids I teach, they get the team back. Full circle. Fifteen years.”
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  • Published On Oct 07, 2011
  • New market study produces some howling

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    According to The Business Journals, Denver leads the NHL’s current “overextended” markets, but there’s very likely nothing wrong with the city’s ability to support the Avalanche that a little winning wouldn’t fix. (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

    By Stu Hackel

    Other than the sadness of Rick Rypien’s funeral on Saturday, a hypothetical exercise by a business publication became the biggest hockey story during an otherwise quiet weekend. Conducted by The Business Journals, which owns various weekly U.S. newspapers devoted to commercial news in their respective markets, the study written by G. Scott Thomas examined 58 North American cities that do not have an NHL team and tried to determine which would be most suitable based on their wealth.

    It’s a limited, one-dimensional study, of course, so when the results indicated that the best places for a new or relocated NHL team included not just major markets like Houston, Las Vegas, Orlando and Seattle, but also Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, Bridgeport, CT, Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA, Honolulu and even good ol’ Atlanta while Hamilton and Quebec City were considered borderline, well, you haven’t heard such howls since Chester Burnett recorded for Chess Records in the mid-20th Century.
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  • Published On Aug 22, 2011
  • A day to celebrate in Winnipeg

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    Winnipeg’s hockey history is proudly linked to the Jets of captain Lars-Erik Sjoberg, here with the WHA’s Avco Cup after beating rival Edmonton in 1979, that pioneered the current NHL’s fast-paced style. (AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Forks is a beautiful and historic public park, commercial area and meeting space where the Assiniboine River flows into the Red River. It’s where Winnipeggers gathered in 1996 while rallying to save the Jets. Today, thousands gathered there again in celebration of the return of the NHL to their city.

    Wearing Jets jerseys and carrying Canadian flags, they streamed into the park. Big screens were set up so people could watch the announcement from the MTS Centre and start the party on the spot, although long before the official word was heard, street hockey games had already broken out at The Forks. One of the players was reportedly Thomas Steen, the former Jets star.
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  • Published On May 31, 2011
  • Playoff notes: Sharks face tough task, Bruins get their game on, Winnipeg goes wild

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    Sharks forward Ben Eager is taking some real heat in San Jose for his antics that helped cost his team Game 2 and created a more charged and distracting atmosphere for Game 3. (Harry How/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Sharks play their biggest game of the season — perhaps a franchise-defining game — tonight when they host Vancouver in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. San Jose’s demolition in Game 2 was so one-sided at 7-3 that it had the Versus postgame show derisively playing “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the Harlem Globetrotters theme song, under the highlights of the Canucks snazzy puck movement. That would make the Sharks the Washington Generals, the stooges.

    The lack of respect accorded the Sharks is, unfortunately, part of their image as a good regular season team that’s never quite good enough in the postseason. They’ve never gone beyond the third round and, while no shame should be attached to dropping four close games to the eventual Stanley Cup champs, as they did last season, they are indeed chronic underachievers.

    At some point, however, if you want to be champs yourself, you have to win a series against a strong opponents and unless the Sharks find the next gear to make it a 2-1 series and then do it again to tie things up, there will be another long summer of questioning at the Shark Tank.

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  • Published On May 20, 2011
  • Thrashers’ plight stirs relocation threat

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    There may be nothing about the Thrashers’ attendance woes that a little winning (in the postseason) wouldn’t fix, but then again, Atlanta’s fans are notoriously fickle. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Hockey traditionalists — and I am one — frequently criticize the NHL for locating teams in the Sun Belt and claim their problems are simply a matter of their location. But the easy explanation isn’t always the right explanation, and in the case of the Atlanta Thrashers, ownership’s legal entanglements and team’s competitive futility during the course of its existence have easily contributed as much, if not more, to the franchise’s failings.

    Chris Vivlamore in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday that if the current owners, Atlanta Spirit, don’t find additional partners or a buyer for the whole franchise that are willing to keep the Thrashers in town, the team may go the way of its predecessor, the Flames, and move.
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  • Published On Feb 16, 2011
  • Who’s happy: Eastern teams at the break

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    While Matt Carle’s Flyers have soared, Dustin Byfuglien’s Thrashers have seen the air steadily go out of their surprisingly strong start to the season. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s the All-Star break and the stretch run is nearly upon us. Each NHL team has played in the neighborhood of 50 games, a fairly strong sample to gauge what kind of club it has this season. The trade deadline is about a month away, so things could change, but let’s pose a simple question today: How happy are the fans of each NHL team at this point in the season?

    Here’s how the fans of the Eastern Conference teams might be feeling. (Click here for my take on the West.)
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  • Published On Jan 28, 2011
  • Two under-the-radar teams worth a look

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    Trading with the Capitals for forward Tomas Fleischmann has proved to be a savvy move for the surging Avlanche. (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Pop Quiz: Who is the general manager of the Colorado Avalanche? (No peeking below)

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  • Published On Dec 20, 2010
  • Light Flashes: Weekend preview, Quebec fans invade the Isles, and more notes

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    Get out your glasses: the Habs and Leafs will coming at you in 3D. (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Televised hockey in 3D makes its debut in Canada this weekend when the Maple Leafs host Montreal on Saturday, and Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette wrote Thursday in that paper’s Habs Inside/Out blog, “It begged my question on Twitter last night, ‘Do the Leafs even have 3D?’ But Dion Phaneuf is back in Toronto’s lineup tonight, so I guess they do.”

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  • Published On Dec 10, 2010


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