NHL still has long way to go until hockey is truly for everyone


NHL still has long way to go until hockey is truly for everyone

On Thursday night, as part of a league-wide initiative, the Sharks will host “Hockey Is For Everyone Night” against the Vancouver Canucks. For the second straight season, the NHL designated February as “Hockey Is For Everyone” month, which sets out to ensure that:

“[H]ockey programs - from professionals to youth organizations - should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.”

The NHL deserves credit for this, and this is an extension of previous efforts. They were the first league to partner with the “You Can Play Project,” an organization “dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety” for LGBTQ athletes. The league has also long made efforts to bring hockey programs into disadvantaged communities, with Willie O’Ree, the former Boston Bruin and the league’s first black player, often leading the charge.

These efforts have, and should, earn praise and commendation. In many ways, the NHL is ahead of the curve in fostering inclusivity.

In plenty others, the league is far behind.

For instance, the NHL opted to fine, not suspend Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf last spring when he directed a homophobic, sexist slur at an official in the postseason. It was not the same slur that earned Andrew Shaw a one-game suspension the previous postseason, and the NHL still condemned his language as “inappropriately demeaning and disrespectful,” but Getzlaf’s punishment failed to meet the league’s own precedent.

When the rubber meets the road, it’s difficult to say that hockey is truly for everyone.

If hockey was truly for everyone, black players wouldn’t be inundated with racist abuse on social media for scoring a game-winning goal in and against Boston, one of the league’s ‘original six’ teams and the first to integrate 60 years ago.

If hockey was truly for everyone, indigenous children would not be forced to quit, rather than wear a logo they find offensive, that happens to look an awful lot like the logo worn by another one of the league’s ‘original six’ franchises -- the Chicago Blackhawks.

If hockey was truly for everyone, Chicago, the Winnipeg Jets, and the league wouldn’t continue to honor Bobby Hull, an all-time great player with a history of domestic violence who once reportedly said, "Hitler, for example, had some good ideas. He just went a little bit too far."

If hockey was truly for everyone, teams would not employ low-paid, scantily-clad “ice girls,” and make the objectification of women a part of the in-game experience.

If hockey was truly for everyone, the NHL’s commissioner would not compare fans chanting ‘Katy Perry’ to Corey Perry, a chant that hinges on the notion that being a woman is inferior to being a man, to “[calling] a goaltender a sieve.”  

It may seem unfair to highlight seemingly disparate occurrences, especially as the league is making concerted efforts to combat their spread. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia are problems that plague the world, not just the NHL or the hockey world, after all.

But as the world’s best, most-popular hockey league, the NHL is a standard-bearer, and taken together, these instances speak to a sport’s culture that is far from inclusive. Dedicating a month to celebrate diversity and inclusivity, but hosting nights across the league and selling rainbow-colored merchandise simply isn’t enough.

The league’s players are still overwhelmingly white and no players are publicly out, but many have taped their sticks with rainbow-colored pride tape in order to send a message of inclusion this month, just as many (if not all of) the Sharks surely will on Thursday night. But tape is only temporary.

Once it peels away, they’re just left with the same old sticks.

All the key dates for the Sharks this offseason


All the key dates for the Sharks this offseason

The offseason inched along on Monday, as the Sharks announced their preseason schedule. San Jose will play six games, two each against a trio of division rivals in the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and Vegas Golden Knights.

The Sharks’ preseason slate is bookmarked with games against the Sharks’ playoff opponents from this spring. It starts with a first-round rematch with the Ducks at SAP Center on Sept. 18, and concludes with a second-round rematch with the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Sept. 30.

The full schedule can be seen below.

The preseason schedule announcement marks the beginning of a busy couple of weeks leading up to the start of free agency on July 1. Here are the important dates to keep in mind as the offseason progresses, courtesy of the league’s collective bargaining agreement and CapFriendly.

Now until June 30 (2 p.m. PT)

All 31 teams are allowed to buy out players’ contracts during this stretch. A buyout is worth one-third of the value if the player is under 26, and two-thirds of the value if they’re older than 26. The buyout amount is paid out over double the remaining length of the contract, and teams are on the hook for a salary cap hit dependent upon the player’s age and the remaining salary.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, citing a league source, reported on June 9 that there’s a “strong possibility” the Sharks will buy out veteran defenseman Paul Martin’s contract. Martin is signed through 2019 with a $4.85 million cap hit. If San Jose buys him out, the Sharks will carry a salary cap hit of $1,416,667 over the next two seasons, per CapFriendly’s buyout calculator.

June 20

The NHL will announce home openers for all 31 teams at 10 a.m. PT. San Jose’s opened its home slate against 14 different teams, but will a 15th join the mix this season?

At 5 p.m. PT (NBCSN), the league holds its annual awards show. One of Drew Doughty, Victor Hedman, and P.K. Subban will succeed Sharks blueliner as the Norris Trophy winner, and Hedman is the only potential first-time winner.

June 21

The NHL will unveil the full, 82-game regular season schedules for all 31 teams at 2 p.m. PT.

June 22-23

The 2018 NHL Draft begins in Dallas. The first round starts on Friday, June 22 at 4 p.m. PT, while the remaining six rounds begin the following day at 8 a.m. PT.

Currently, the Sharks hold five picks: A first-round pick, a fourth-round pick, a fifth-round pick, two sixth-round picks, and a seventh-round pick. Since the NHL moved to a seven-round format in 2005, San Jose’s made five selections just twice (2009 and 2016).

The Sharks are without second-and-third-round picks, both of which (No. 52 overall and No. 83 overall) were traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. If San Jose doesn’t acquire any additional picks, this would mark the first time in general manager Doug Wilson’s tenure that the team did not draft a player in the second or third rounds.

June 24-30

The Sharks can meet with center John Tavares and other pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) during this time. On the flipside, that means soon-to-be UFAs Eric Fehr, Jannik Hansen, Joe Thornton, and Joel Ward can start meeting with other clubs as well.

UFAs are not allowed to sign new contracts until 9 a.m. PT on July 1.

June 25

San Jose can issue qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents (RFAs) until 2 p.m. PT. Defenseman Dylan DeMelo, plus forwards Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney are the team’s only pending RFAs.

All qualifying offers are for one year, worth 105 percent of the player’s base salary for the previous year if the salary was between $660,000 and $1,000,000 and 100 percent of the base salary for anything above. DeMelo ($700,000 qualifying offer, per CapFriendly) and Tierney ($735,000) fall into the former category, while Hertl ($3.2 million) falls into the latter.

June 26

The Sharks can contact DeMelo, Hertl, and Tierney, as well as all other RFAs. RFAs cannot sign a new contract or an offer sheet until 9 a.m. PT on July 1.

A player has not signed an offer sheet with an organization other than their own since Ryan O’Reilly signed one with the Calgary Flames in 2013. This year’s offer sheet compensation is as follows, according to CapFriendly.

San Jose, which signed Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet in 2010, can issue an offer sheet worth up to $4,059,322 annually. The Sharks cannot sign RFAs outside of the organization to a bigger one since they ultimately traded their 2019 first-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres once Evander Kane signed a seven-year, $49 million extension to stay in San Jose last month.

June 30

In addition to the first buyout window closing and the free-agent window closing, the NHL will officially set the salary cap’s upper and lower limits for next season.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told reporters before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final last month that the ceiling will rise to between $78 million and $82 million. The Sharks will have between $10.5 million and $14.5 million in salary cap space at minimum, and at least $2.83 million more if Martin is ultimately bought out.

July 1

Free agency officially begins. RFAs and UFAs can sign contracts starting at 9 a.m. PT.

This is also the day that players entering the final year of their contracts, such as Sharks forwards Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, can first sign contract extensions. San Jose signed defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (eight years, $64 million) and goaltender Martin Jones (six years, $34.5 million) to extensions on this date last year.

July 5

If they choose to file for salary arbitration, DeMelo, Hertl, Tierney, and other eligible RFAs must file by 2 p.m. PT.

At 2:01, teams can first file for arbitration with RFAs if the player has not accepted a qualifying offer and the team’s made an offer that’s equal or richer than the player’s annual average value (AAV) last season.

July 6

The Sharks host their annual prospect scrimmage at SAP Center at 7 p.m. Dylan Gambrell, 2018 AHL All-Star Rudolfs Balcers, 2017 draft picks Josh Norris (first round) and Mario Ferraro (second round) are among the players expected to participate, according to the team.

The deadline for teams to file for arbitration is at 2 p.m. PT on this day.

July 15

Qualifying offers to RFAs expire automatically at 2 p.m. PT.

July 20-August 4

Arbitration hearings between RFAs and teams are held during this period. The two parties can agree to a deal at any point before the hearing, but must agree to a one-or-two-year deal at the awarded salary, but the party that didn’t file for arbitration decides on the term.

Beginning three days after a team’s last salary arbitration award or settlement, they will have an additional 48-hour buyout window.

Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals coach two weeks after winning Stanley Cup

Barry Trotz steps down as Capitals coach two weeks after winning Stanley Cup

Less than two weeks after Barry Trotz helped deliver the first Stanley Cup in Caps’ history, the veteran head coach has chosen to resign in a decision that stunned the hockey world Monday afternoon.

Under the terms of the four-year contract Trotz signed in 2014, winning the Cup at any point during the duration of the deal triggered a two-year extension. But with coaches’ contracts having exploded in value in recent years, Trotz’s representatives sought to negotiate a new extension for a bigger salary and a longer term.

The sides attempted to hammer out an agreement in recent days that would appease both the team and the coach but failed, leading to Trotz’s decision to step down.

Shortly after the team announced that Trotz would resign, the coach released the following statement via his agent, Gil Scott:

"After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals. When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital.

“We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans.  I would like to thank Mr. Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization.  I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success.”

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