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Hockey Notes

With Hulsizer, Coyotes appear to be in business

By Kevin Paul Dupont
October 24, 2010

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It looks as though Matt Hulsizer, once the captain of the Amherst hockey team, will be the new owner of the Phoenix Coyotes.

“Solid guy,’’ according to one of the game’s highly regarded agents, who is familiar with some of Hulsizer’s business dealings and acquaintances in Chicago. “He knows the game, and that will allow him to understand the big picture as well as the hockey side of the business. Overall, a pretty good day for the NHL.’’

A league official who contacted Hulsizer Friday at the Globe’s request said the 40-year-old hedge fund manager “politely declined’’ to be interviewed for this story. Clearly, Hulsizer is opting for the low-key approach, a prudent play given that his acquisition has yet to be approved by the league’s Board of Governors.

Many club owners are still smarting over Jim Balsillie’s attempt to buy the Coyotes, load them into a van (search: “NFL, Colts’’), and plop them in Hamilton, Ontario, within ticket-selling distance of both the Maple Leafs and Sabres (not something that Staples would offer on its “Easy Button’’ menu).

It has been widely reported that Hulsizer agreed to buy the Coyotes for approximately $170 million, some $30 million more than what the league paid to take possession of the club when ex-owner Jerry Moyes grew tired of burning his cash in the desert sun. The deal is expected to close in late November.

Reports out of Glendale, Ariz., where the Coyotes are currently housed in Jobing.com Arena, have Hulsizer establishing a new lease agreement that will keep the team in the city and in the building.

For a 4-2 win over the Kings in Glendale last Thursday, an announced crowd of a mere 6,706 showed up to see Lee Stempniak’s hat trick. Provided Hulsizer takes ownership, he’ll have to come up with a few tricks of his own to recapture what was initially a strong fan base when the Jets flew out of Winnipeg for the promise of sun, fun, and profits in the Southwest.

Hulsizer, Amherst Class of ’91, was an English major and a 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound defenseman during his four years with the Lord Jeffs. According to the school’s sports information office, Winnetka, Ill., is his hometown and he attended the Peddie School in Highstown, N.J., prior to college. In 99 games on the Amherst blue line, he collected 23 goals and 57 points. He was team captain when the Lord Jeffs lost the ECAC final in 1991.

Once out of Amherst, he started on the floor of the American Stock Exchange and saw his career take off with O’Connor and Associates, commonly referred to as “the biggest security firm that no one ever heard of.’’

In 1997, he co-founded PEAK6 Investments, a financial company that, according to its website, built its success on “relentless innovation, flawless execution, and fierce entrepreneurialism.’’

We remind everyone that past performance does not guarantee future success. But if Hulsizer brings all of that to the Original 30, just as a tree once grew in Brooklyn, maybe the desert really can have a hockey team.

HOME-GROWN SAVES
Pucks getting flagged down
Americans may not have superior hands when it comes to putting pucks in the net, but the Yanks sure have the hot hands when it comes to keeping pucks out of the net.

Proud Michiganders Tim Thomas (2009) and Ryan Miller (2010) captured the Vezina Trophy the past two seasons, the first time in NHL history that Americans won the award back-to-back.

Headed into Friday night’s action, four of the five best goals-against averages in the league belonged to men who were (cue “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ here), yes, US-born and -bred:

1. Thomas, Bruins (Flint, Mich.), 0.75

2. Jonathan Quick, Kings (Milford, Conn.), 1.48

3. Brett Johnson, Penguins (Farmington, Mich.), 1.49

4. Dwayne Roloson, Islanders (Simcoe, Ontario), 1.65

5. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (Syracuse, N.Y.), 1.69

Oh, and let’s not forget that Johnson was the only one of the bunch who did not play top-flight NCAA hockey here in New England. Thomas spent four years at Vermont. Quick signed with Los Angeles after two years at UMass. Roloson played four years at UMass-Lowell. And Howard, who last year supplanted Chris Osgood as Detroit’s No. 1 stopper, turned pro after three years at Maine. Johnson opted to play for Owen Sound (OHL) instead of going to college.

Meanwhile, the only two Americans among the game’s top goal scorers were the Maple Leafs’ Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis.) with five goals and the Wild’s Matt Cullen (Virginia, Minn.) with three.

FUTURE EARNINGS
Parise should score in 2011
The Devils have recovered slightly from their flat-line start, in part because they were able to make a few AHL callups after shelving the injured Brian Rolston and his $5.062 million cap hit. The biggest looming financial issue remains star winger Zach Parise, whose $5 million this year is roughly $100 million short of the guarantee that ownership handed Ilya Kovalchuk this past summer. Parise is due to become a restricted free agent next July (think Phil Kessel, summer 2009), and no doubt some general managers would bump him to the Eric Staal pay grade ($8.25 million cap hit). The Devils already have $50 million committed in 2011-12 payroll, with the likes of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner (combined cap hit $7.3 million) on track to be UFAs July 1. All of which makes Parise prime pickings for a club willing to pay him and surrender the compensation package. For a club willing to go as high as Staal money, that would mean yielding four first-round picks to the Devils. But a club could offer Parise up to $7.533 million and the package would be two first-rounders, one second, and one third.

ETC.
Shoe doesn’t seem to fit
Vancouver center Rick Rypien, en route to the Canucks dressing room after being assessed a double minor and 10-minute misconduct in St. Paul Tuesday night, shoved a yapping fan as he made his way down the runway. Three days later, the league suspended Rypien for six games. Such fan interaction is a no-no, but six games for a shove? Back when Mike Milbury went over the wall at Madison Square Garden (Dec. 23, 1979) and hammered a fan (John Kaptain) with his own shoe, NHL president John Ziegler tagged Milbury with six games and a $500 fine. OK, we have to consider inflation here, but a push today is the equal of a leather-soled slapdown of 30 years ago? Seems a little excessive, and not nearly as entertaining.

Familiar refrain
Alex Kovalev, his effort questioned in every one of his NHL ports-of-call — including New York, where he won a Cup with Mike Keenan’s Rangers in 1994 — was called out again last week, this time by frustrated Senators general manager Bryan Murray. Kovalev just isn’t skating to the GM’s liking, which he later said he found odd because, you know, he thinks he is skating better this year than last (and the wheels on Kovy’s bus go round and round, round and round . . .). Sublimely talented, entering last night’s game Kovalev stood an anemic 0-1—1 and a minus-4 after seven games for the bottom-feeding Senators. All of which had coach Cory Clouston pairing Kovalev with fourth-liners Ryan Shannon (ex- of BC) and Jesse Winchester. Kovalev, with 991 career points, will reach the 1,000-point plateau this year. It may take until mid-March, but he’ll get there, roughly 3-4 years later than expected.

Follow your blockers
As of Friday, two former Bruins defensemen ranked 1-2 in the NHL in blocked shots. Nick Boynton, now with Chicago, led the way with 26, followed by Steve Montador, now in his second year as a Sabre, with 21. Detroit’s Brad Stuart, part of the you-know-who trade, was tied for sixth with 18 blocks. Boston’s best shot-blocker was Mark Stuart with 15, tied for 16th with another ex-Bostonian, Milan Jurcina (Islanders).

A hunt for October
Prior to Thursday night’s Leafs-Bruins matchup at the Garden, Toronto GM Brian Burke and Bruins boss Peter Chiarelli will pick up arms and head out for some early a.m. pheasant hunting. Burke’s son, Patrick, a local law student and Boston-based scout for the Flyers, is expected to join the hunt. Sounds like a blast. Our moles at the Bass Pro Shop report that all three prefer Whoop Ass Barbecue Sauce and plan to dress up as Dick Cheney for Halloween.

Tale of two cities
Jim Balsillie’s idea for a seventh NHL team in Canada was not without merit, but the likeliest landing spots remain Winnipeg and Quebec City. And though Quebec City is the far more romantic of the two — with a heated rivalry with Montreal there to be rekindled — Winnipeg is the leader in the clubhouse because it has an arena.

Rusty Razor
Ex-Bruin goalie Andrew Raycroft was the backup in Vancouver last season, and has a similar role this year in Dallas, where ex-Thrasher Kari Lehtonen is the No. 1. Thus far, though, Razor hasn’t had a sniff of the net. Headed into last night’s game with Nashville, Lehtonen had played every minute for the 5-1-0 Stars.

Leafs not in peak form
One week after benching Phil Kessel for much of the third period, Leafs coach Ron Wilson made a similar move Thursday when he yanked center Tyler Bozak off the No. 1 line, shifted Kris Versteeg to pivot, and promoted Nikolai Kulemin to Kessel’s opposite wing. None of it prevented the Leafs from losing at home, 2-1, to the injury-riddled Rangers. “You don’t stand around and wait,’’ Wilson said.

Loose pucks
Ex-BC goalie Cory Schneider picked up a 5-1 win over the Hurricanes last Sunday. Three-plus years since leaving The Heights, it looks as if Schneider will stick as Roberto Luongo’s backup in Vancouver . . . Apologies for the note here last week regarding the Jeff Finger acquisition in Toronto. The signing was made by Cliff Fletcher, not John Ferguson Jr. . . . Rocker Rod Stewart, now 65 years old, has a 16-year-old son, Liam, who is a hockey whiz kid in California. Good bet that young Liam doesn’t have to hunt for equipment at the “Handbags and Gladrags’’ second-hand equipment store . . . Entering last night’s game, former BU defenseman Ryan Whitney led the Oilers in scoring with 0-5—5 and in average ice time at 26:21 . . . Within days of agreeing to a three-year, $21 million contract extension, Sharks captain Joe Thornton sank to a minus-7, one of the six worst plus-minus ratings in the league . . . After two years with the Tampa organization, ex-Bruin winger Brandon Bochenski signed last May with Barys Astana in the Russian KHL. Late last week, Bran Bo stood an impressive 9-5—14 in 18 games with his new club, just slightly better than another Boston alum, defenseman Kevin Dallman, now in his third season with Astana after averaging 50 points in his first two KHL seasons . . . Former Bruins PR chief Nate Greenberg, whose grace and good cheer are dearly missed on Causeway Street, will be inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame Nov. 10, along with ex-UVM coach Mike Gilligan and referee Ned Bunyon. Tickets are still available for the soiree at Lombardo’s in Randolph. For more info, contact Jim Prior at jimprior@easternjunior.com or call 781-938-4400. Party doesn’t end until Greenberg tamps out the last stogie or Petr Klima jumps off the bench.

Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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