NHL

Another Philadelphia Franchise Cuts Ties With a Fan Favorite, Team Captain

In all levels of professional sports, the team captain is an extension of the coach. The respect level the skipper garners is well deserved. He is the man that gives guidance, encouragement and rallies the troops in times of need.

Apparently in Philadelphia, the opposite is the case.

After trading the Philadelphia Eagles most successful quarterback since Ron Jaworski in the early 1980s, Donovan McNabb was sent packing to division rival, Washington.

Now, the Flyers have followed suit after cutting ties with star-youngster Mike Richards. Oddly enough, the Flyers’ brass is well aware of the fact that Richards is a stud on the ice.

In 453 career games in the city of “Brotherly Love,” he scored 133 goals and added 216 assists. All of those totals, and Richards is only 26-years-old.

The Flyers loss is the Los Angeles Kings gain.

Kings General Manger Dean Lombardi had this to say at the press conference: “Mike Richards is not only one of the top players in the league, he’s also universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors.”

Once the announcement was made, the Kings solidified a solid core to build around and pursue the Stanley Cup. The Kings now have an extremely formidable front line offensively with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Kopitar led the Kings with 73 points, while also adding 25 goals.

Dustin Brown, the current Kings team captain, led the squad with 28 goals.

Chemistry will be key to their success. However, once their passing and shifting is second nature, the Kings could find a place in the Stanley Cup finals sooner rather than later.

Now, who will get the “C” on their chest?

Published on June 24, 2011 

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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All Fans are Attracted to Big Hits, But Where is the Limit?

One sporting ideal that all casual fans adore is the rugged, barbaric nature of sports. Oftentimes, football is compared to the great roman battles at the ancient coliseum.

Hockey is certainly relevant in this analogy. If you forgot, two men, or in many cases, group-fighting is allowed. If anything, the risk for injury intensifies due to the slippery-slope nature of the icy sport.

Recently, no news has been bad news for the NHL. One of the league’s biggest stars—if not the biggest—Sidney Crosby has been sidelined with a concussion. All concussions are serious and should be treated as such.

Although, some concussions and steamroller hits in hockey have a much more critical outcome, as we found out this week.

The severity of the recent collision was brought to light after the Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara and the Montreal Canadians Maxi Pacioretty came together. Needless to say, the 6’8” 265-pound Chara came out unharmed.

Of course, that does not include his game misconduct penalty and ejection.

Anytime another player’s head and neck make first contact to the boards, the outcome will leave plenty to be desired. A major concussion and a broken vertebrae bone leaves Maxi Pacioretty’s career in the balance.

This is a growing trend in all mainstream contact sports. The hits are not intended to be malicious, but when herculean athletes of all sorts are galloping at full speed, contact is inevitable.

As casual sports fans, who doesn’t like contact? That alone is a big factor in the entertainment value and the fans’ expectations before watching a hockey or football game.

So far, the NFL has kept up with the evolving safety precautions necessary to maintain a brutal sport.

The NHL, as a game, has not changed much since the inaugural season in 1917. With players performing on razor-sharp skates, shooting a hockey puck in excess of 100 mph and laying out punishing body checks, the equipment needs to evolve.

Remember, this is a sport that allowed their players to wear zero protective headgear until 1979.

Each season, both Riddell and Schutt seem to unveil a new style of protective headgear that is scientifically tested at the highest standards. Riddell’s newest helmet, Revolution Speed, received tremendous reviews over the last two years.

In hockey, the evolution of the helmet appears limited. In football, most players’ chinstraps are tightly secured. Without correctly buckling the chinstrap, the purpose of the helmet goes out the wind.

Helmets are form-fitting, so the head and more importantly, the brain does not rattle on impact.

Look at all of the NHL players and their helmets. The chinstrap is loose and leaves the helmet ineffective.  Most of the times, hockey players are adjusting their helmets after routine hits throughout the game.

As we saw this week, a routine hit, with over-sized bulldozers on skates, a player was injured. Witnessing a player or teammate leave the ice on a stretcher is a difficult sight to take in.

Maybe better-suited protective helmets might have limited the severity of Pacioretty’s injuries, but that is unknown until advancements are made to the helmets.

Certain injuries are just a fluke coincidence, others are ill-mannered and the remaining knocks come with the nature of the game.

No one knows what improvements can be made until they are made. For now the NHL’s shining star, Sidney Crosby, remains sidelined with a concussion, with no timetable for a return in sight.

Maxi Pacioretty could no longer have a career in the NHL.

That alone should press the issue on stiffer helmet safety protocol. After all, fans of the NHL witnessed nearly 100 years of eroding hits.

Perhaps it is time to elevate helmet safety, once and for all.

Published on March 12, 2011

“Kris Francis On Sports” 

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The Tradition-Rich NHL Could Teach NBA Arena’s About Presentation

As a die-hard sports fan, my eyes have been glued to the television for the entire playoffs—not just for basketball, but both the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League, and every second has been exciting.

That was until a feeling of letdown or disappointment came across my mind. Sitting back to take in the pregame festivities prior to Game One of the NBA Finals, I was left wanting more. In regards to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no such idea raced through my head.

Tuning in to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even from afar, a sense of community, camaraderie, and intensifying excitement electrified the arena. The emotion began to rise from ground level all the way to the rafters, and the excitement of the pregame festivities ultimately spilled over into living rooms across the states watching this spectacle.

Granted, the excitement that was experienced was due to hype and pending start to the game; however, there were certain historical traits and ideals that the NHL focused on and the NBA disregarded ten fold.

The National Hockey League is a very tradition-oriented league, and rightfully so. The NHL brass holds their “Original Six” teams to a much higher esteem than any other mainstream domestic league. Even down to the trophy awarded to the winning organization, “Lord” Stanley’s Cup, is ever-changing but still embodies everything that the NHL powers hold dear: tradition-rich values.

While watching the NBA Finals on Thursday, the only hype about the pregame entertainment revolved around player introductions. Sure, announcing where the player was “educated” is informative, but nothing of the like is going to hype up the crowd for Game One of the Finals. Sure some players add their “personal handshakes” and own flare to introductions, but a ticket holder sitting in the nose bleeds with his son will not be swayed to root on their team because of that.

Liven the environment up! I know the NBA is a players first league, but enough is enough!

The NBA might not have been lucky enough to get their first choice in the finals, LeBron versus Kobe (once again player vs. player); however, a tradition and history-rich series between the Lakers and Celtics is in no way a second rate treat for the fans.

The biggest fumble that the NBA missed on was not intertwining past rivalry moments into right before the tip-off to get the Staples Center crowd jumping from the opening tip. Granted, it is Los Angeles, and fans tend to arrive late and prefer wine and cheese to beer and brats, but this is the NBA finals, and there is a time for off the wall rowdy activity.

Sure, some people might consider more and more tradition and historical flashbacks to Bill Russell, Jerry West, Magic, and Bird to be somewhat over the top, but the NHL and respective teams might hold tradition a little closer to the vest due to superstitions. Nonetheless, superstitions, the spooks, or not, the bottom line illustrates that the “turn back the clock” national anthem tributes rile up the crowd from the inception to final whistle, and the action in between only raises the temperature even further inside arenas.

Crowd excitement and enthusiasm inside the arena sets the stage to a guaranteed epic night of entertainment. Hockey captured that moment with Jim Cornelison singing the National Anthem just as he did back in 1992, the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nearly the same repertoire was in place at Wachovia Center for Game Three.

Kate Smith, a longtime famous singer known for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, is even remembered outside of The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Old video and footage of her was playing in the arena for Game Three, while Lauren Hart, daughter of longtime Flyers’ Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gene Hart, sings “God Bless America” live. The Flyers’ record when “God Bless America” is played stands at a remarkable 86 wins, 22 losses, and four ties as of today.

Certainly, momentum or the final result is not impacted by which National Anthem rendition is superior or which squads’ pregame festivities elevate the crowd’s excitement to a whole separate level. However, going to sporting events is still about entertainment value, but early into the first quarter of Game One of the NBA Finals, the buzz in the arena felt like another regular season game, and in the second half, the performance on the court became one sided, just like a regular season game.

Although, taking in a Stanley Cup Finals game for the fans, spectators, and players on the ice, a regular season feeling will be the furthest from the truth, and that is the way it should be.

Published on June 4, 2010

“Kris Francis On Sports”

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