We doubt Gordon Bombay ever had the urge to go into great detail when talking about the bowel movements of the Mighty Ducks but John Tortorella decided to go where nobody really wanted him to today.
The coach of NHL side the Columbus Blue Jackets was in no mood for mincing his words when quizzed about why star forward Artemi Panarin wasn’t suiting up for the clash against the Montreal Canadiens.
Panarin has been the subject of intense trade speculation in recent days as he wants to explore free agency this coming winter. The Blue Jackets need to decide whether they use him as trade bait to lure another player to the franchise before the February 25 deadline, or hold onto him for a run towards the playoffs knowing full well he’s a huge chance of leaving at season’s end.
His absence from the ice against the Canadiens fuelled speculation there’d been a development in his personal situation but Tortorella was adamant there was nothing sinister about the move.
Simply, Panarin was just too sick to play.
“He’s sick. He’s sick as a dog,” Tortorella said.
But when pressed for further details, the coach got a little more graphic than that.
“I was told that he’s sick, not eating. He s**t his pants, he was puking, he was doing everything. So, enough,” Tortorella added.
You’re right, that is enough.
The blunt explanation for Panarin’s absence wasn’t swallowed so easily by fans, who continued to speculate on social media whether the illness was a ruse to cover up the fact the Russian was going to be traded.
Panarin was traded to Columbus in 2017 after signing a $16.8 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks
The 27-year-old was the Blue Jackets’ leading scorer last season with 82 points from 81 games and is in similar form this season, finding the back of the net 67 times in 56 outings.
The top line is reserved for the best players on a hockey team – they see the most ice and are crucial to the team’s success.
To play just two games after being elevated from the minors, to being inserted into the one of three forward positions on the first line is an unconventional move.
Let’s take a quick step back – Walker is the only Australian in history to play in the National Hockey League, those familiar with the 25-year-old from New South Wales will know he has ticked off plenty of other considerable achievements.
He won the Stanley Cup with Washington in the 2017/2018 season, having made his debut and scored a goal earlier that season.
He also scored a point in the playoffs, a primary assist which line-mate Alex Chiasson buried past Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray – sealing a crucial win in their playoff run.
Fast forward to a few days ago, and Walker finally got his call-up from the minor leagues to play an NHL game for his new team, St. Louis.
On November 29 he stuffed a puck into the net against Dallas – on his debut for the Blues – but the goal was ruled out for offside.
His parents told him not to worry, he’d just have to get one in his next game – he did, slapping a half-volley past Matt Murray of the Penguins to help the Blues to a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Walker was promoted mid game against the Pens to the top line and scored straight away, earning him a ‘first star’ for his performance, akin to three Brownlow votes.
So coach Craig Berube wasn’t going to mess with the formula – come the game against Chicago, Walker remained on the top line alongside Brayden Schenn and Jayden Schwarz.
“Walker can really skate, he gets on top of people. I think he’s going to be good for that line,” Berube said.
He set up a goal for Schenn with a nifty pass, logging 14:24 minutes in ice time.
Being a first liner is a huge step up for Walker – in his time at Washington he was used a depth player and had to fight for scraps with the fourth line.
He’s a role player, which means he can be plugged into any line with any of his teammates and do his job well. That’s what makes him such a beloved teammate and an important part of his club.
The fact that for virtually his whole career he’s represented a Stanley Cup contender shows you that he’s a valuable player.
For the first time, he’s got gun players alongside him on the ice, which means he should be able to add goals and assists to his arsenal of skills – something he’s already doing.
For a man familiar with breaking new ground, this is a whole new kettle of fish for our Aussie trailblazer.
You can catch Walker and the Blues take on Pittsburgh on ESPN2 on Thursday at 12pm AEDT.
Bill Peters resigned as coach of the Calgary Flames on Friday (US time) after allegedly making racist slurs at a Nigerian-born player in the minors and kicking and punching players behind the bench during his time with Carolina.
General manager Brad Treliving said he received a resignation letter from Peters that wraps up a weeklong investigation into the veteran coach’s behaviour. He refused to discuss whether Peters would continue to be paid, saying only, “He’s no longer with the organisation.”
“We consider the matter closed,” Treliving said at a news conference in Calgary, Alberta. “It’s been a difficult time. But we are going to move forward.”
Assistant Geoff Ward takes over as interim coach with the Flames 12-12-4 and in ninth place in the Western Conference.
Peters has not been on the ice or behind the bench with his team since former player Akim Aliu levelled the accusations of racist slurs on Twitter on Monday night.
Peters went from helping the Flames win 50 games and the Pacific Division title in his first season to perhaps having his career and future in the sport come to an abrupt end over questions about his coaching methods.
Treliving said he had been in regular communication with the NHL this week. The league on Friday said its review is still ongoing and is scheduled to meet with Aliu and others in the coming days.
The allegations about Peters began during Calgary’s 2-1 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday.
Aliu alleged Peters “dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music.”
It happened during the 2009-10 season while the two were with the Chicago Blackhawks minor league affiliate in Rockford, Illinois.
“That type of behaviour just has no place,” Treliving said Friday. The allegations led to stern rebukes from team officials and the NHL even before concluding their investigations.
Treliving called the “repulsive,” and said, “This is subject matter that has no place in our organisation.” The NHL called the alleged behaviour “repugnant and unacceptable.”
In a letter addressed to Treliving, Peters said he regretted such conduct and apologised to anyone harmed by it. Aliu called Peters’ statement “misleading, insincere and concerning.”
Also this week, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour confirmed Peters physically abused his players behind the bench while in Carolina. Brind’Amour, who was a member of Peters’ staff, said “for sure that happened” in backing former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan saying the coach kicked him and punched other players.
Brind’Amour said Peters abuse stopped after players and support staff voiced their concerns to team officials.
Treliving oversaw the investigation this week and spoke to Aliu at least twice, among others.
Aliu acknowledged he rebelled against Peters and said the coach eventually asked Blackhawks executives John McDonough and Stan Bowman to send him to a lower minor league level.
The Blackhawks said in a statement nothing had previously been brought to their attention regarding Peters and Aliu before Monday. The team added it had no effect on any player personnel decisions involving Aliu.
The 54-year-old Peters made the jump to Rockford after leading the Western Hockey League Spokane Chiefs to a Memorial Cup championship in 2008. Aliu played under Peters during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. He was demoted to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL during the 2009-10 season. Aliu, who was born in Africa but raised in Ukraine and Canada, later played seven NHL games over two seasons with Calgary.
The 30-year-old Aliu has had a transient career since being selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2007 draft.
He’s not playing this season after appearing in 14 games with Orlando of the ECHL last year. The Solar Bears were Aliu’s 11th team over a six-year span, which included stops in Russia, Sweden and Slovakia.
Aliu’s tweets came after reports surfaced of how poorly Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock dealt with his players in Toronto before he was fired several days ago. Forward Mitch Marner confirmed that during his rookie season Babcock asked him to rank Maple Leafs players in order of how hard they worked. Babcock then shared Marner’s list with numerous players.
“That’s about as low as you dig a pit, really,” Gudbranson said. “It’s a bad thing to do. It’s something you just don’t do in a game, and he did it.”
Hathaway was given a match penalty for spitting in the latter stages of the fracas late in the second period. Gudbranson got a 10-minute misconduct, Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie was also ejected for being the third man into a fight and a total of 50 penalty minutes were doled out.
Fists, spit… Wild NHL brawl
“These games can get physical and they can get nasty,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said.
“These guys’ll throw down, drop their gloves, that stuff goes on in the game, but what I saw there I haven’t seen – I think I’ve been in pro hockey 30 years maybe – and I’ve never seen that before. It’s just something you don’t see in the game.”
After some off-and-on hostilities in the first 39 minutes, Washington’s Brendan Leipsic incited the brawl by bulldozing Anaheim’s Derek Grant just before Chandler Stephenson scored to make it 3-0 Capitals with 33.4 seconds remaining in the second. Almost all 10 skaters on the ice got involved, and Hathaway fought Gudbranson, Grant and Ritchie in a matter of minutes.
Officials were attempting to separate players when Gudbranson rabbit-punched Hathaway, who then spit in his face with referee Peter MacDougall a few feet away. Officials checked the video before confirming a five-minute match penalty and game misconduct on Hathaway for spitting, which carries an automatic ejection.
“Unfortunately, spit came out of my mouth after I got sucker punched and it went onto him,” Hathaway said.
“It has no place. It was an emotional play by me. You don’t plan any of that stuff in your head, and it was a quick reaction and unfortunately the wrong one for me to a sucker punch.”
Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle had been agitating much of the night, almost dropping the gloves with Tom Wilson and tripping up Leipsic in various incidents. It all paved the way for the brawl.
“It just escalated,” Guhle said.
“It for sure was in the works. There were scrums all night. Guys were going after each other. That’s how it goes sometimes.”