A stop in wonder land before season begins
Some of the things that I wonder about, make me go, "Hmmmm," and otherwise occupy the empty, echo-filled practice rinks of my mind here on the eve of another NHL season:
Doughty, training of late with the London (Ontario) Knights, is expected to play in the Kings' season opener Friday night in Stockholm vs. the Rangers.
Dancing into a new arena
Bryan Berard, No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft, spent his last hockey days in Russia, playing for Chekhov Vityaz in 2008-09 after finishing up his NHL career a year earlier with the Islanders.
These days, Berard, 34, can be found twirling in Canada, but on figure skates as one of seven ex-NHLers appearing on the TV show "Battle of the Blades," broadcast by the CBC. The seven NHLers, along with Tessa Bonhomme, a member of Canada's 2010 women's gold medal Olympic hockey squad, are teamed with accomplished figure skaters in what is a frozen form of "Dancing with the Stars."
The other ex-NHLers who have swapped slapshots for sequins: Cale Hulse, Boyd Devereaux, Curtis Leschyshyn, Todd Simpson, Brad May, and Russ Courtnall. For the record, the seven logged a career total of 6,536 penalty minutes, more than a third (2,248) by May, whose dossier also includes one killer playoff goal (May Day!) against the Bruins.
"To do something outside my comfort zone is good," May said before the show's third season kicked off Sept. 18.
Berard, the pride of Woonsocket, R.I., is paired with Montreal-born ice dancer Marie-France Dubreuil. She skated in the show's debut season with ex-Canadien Stephane Richer, then took last year off.
The last we saw of Bonhomme and her Team Maple Leaf sisters, they were enjoying beers and cigars at the Rogers Center in Vancouver, celebrating their win over Team USA in the Olympics.
Flier on Jagr may pan out Headed into weekend play, Jaromir Jagr had four goals in three preseason games with the Flyers. Back in the NHL after a three-year KHL tour with Omsk Avangard, the 39-year-old winger keeps cautioning everyone not to expect too much. But he still flashes those sublime talents. And he is a horse at 6 feet 2 inches and nearly 250 pounds. If he stays healthy and doesn't tire out, the ex-Penguins superstar could still produce 30 goals and 60-80 points. If so, that will make his $3.3 million among the top bargains of the summer signings. Jagr loves being fed passes by Claude Giroux, whom he calls "a little genius," similar to Mario Lemieux with some of his moves.
Cranky ankle Ankle woes persist for ex-Thayer/Boston University standout Ryan Whitney, who needed surgery last season and was out for more than half of the Oilers schedule. "No clue," he said when asked if he would be ready for the season opener. Only 28 years old, the 6-foot-4-inch backliner is vital to the Edmonton attack, especially when quarterbacking the power play. Prior to his injury last year, they were 12-16-6, then went 13-29-6 over the final 48.
Crime show They lack the right music - in fact, they are without any music - but the NHL.com videos with Sheriff Brendan Shanahan explaining the many suspensions he has handed out of late are appointment web watching. The big ex-winger stares straight into the camera and stoically explains, with video to support his points, why he's sending these guys on vacation. I find myself ever more eager to see the next installment of "CSI: NHL HQs." I've also grown tired of the miscreants later saying, "Gee, five games, that's way more than I think it deserves ....." Blah, blah, blah. One of the game's true assets over the decades has been the honesty of most of its players. Cheap comments only make the cheap acts worse.
Easy street The Maple Leafs are excited about the training camp turned in by Jake Gardiner, the 21-year-old Minnesotan acquired from Anaheim with Joffrey Lupul when the Leafs shipped Francois Beauchemin to the Ducks. At 6-2, 190, Gardiner looks as if he can be a legit puck-moving defenseman, with good speed and the sense when to jump into plays. The highway that brushes by Air Canada Centre in Toronto is the Gardiner Expressway. Unfair, handing the Leaf media corps such an easy nickname. When the Capitals come to town, they'll have Dennis "BMW" Wideman (Big Money Wides) to counter the Gardiner Expressway.
Pivotal decision It didn't work before, but the Blackhawks are taking another look at using Patrick Kane at center, possibly between Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette. Once beyond Jonathan Toews, they don't really have a No. 2 pivot.
"If it works, it works," said Kane, sounding very much like a guy who'd rather hang at right wing.
Staios is staying Old-timers Owen Nolan (San Jose) and Michael Nylander (Philly) couldn't land contracts with their tryout attempts. But ex-Bruin Steve Staios caught on with the Islanders. Originally drafted by St. Louis, Staios began his NHL career with the Bruins after he was acquired in the Steve Leach deal. He is only 64 games away from reaching the 1,000 plateau.
Belmont Hill's Paul Mara remains in search of work for 2011-12. He split last season between Anaheim and Montreal and suited up for only one game against the Bruins in the playoffs ..... Team owner Pete Karmanos Jr. told a lunch gathering in Raleigh, N.C., Monday that his Hurricanes "really have a strong shot at winning the whole thing." We're not sure of the beverage selections at the luncheon. The Tropical Depressions have missed the playoffs four of the last five years ..... Drew Doughty's eight-year deal in Los Angeles will start with a $6 million payout this season and reach $7.65 million in its final year, 2018-19. His $7 million average annual value will rank third this season among NHL backliners, behind Nashville's Shea Weber ($7.5 million) and Florida's Brian Campbell (7.14 million). Campbell is the only one to have his name on the Cup ..... Nordiques Nation, a hockey-loving bunch of Quebec crazies, say they'll be here in the Hub for the March 3 game against the Islanders. Their mission is to convince the NHL to bring a franchise back to the land of Le Colisee. Upward of 2,000 of them typically come to games, often sporting Nordiques bleu ..... Christopher Bourque, back after a year in Russia and Switzerland (Lugano), again failed to make the Capitals roster. He'll start the year in Hershey, where both the hockey and chocolate no doubt will be less than what he wants ..... Ex-Bruins pivot Jozef Stumpel, who had two tours here in the Hub, is now 39 and playing this season with Moscow Spartak. Stumpy stood a lackluster 0-1-1 and minus-6 in his first six games. And while we're on that side of the hockey planet, old pal Glen Metropolit is in Zug (Switzerland) for a second season, after his 15-38-53 in 47 games last year. The 37-year-old pivot stood 2-7-9 in his first seven games ..... Congrats to Dale Arnold, named NESN's studio host for Bruins games this season. Kathryn Tappen has moved on to the NHL Network. Mike Milbury also will not return to Good-Times-Nothing-But-Good-Times NESN. Most of his work schedule will be devoted to his NBC gigs, rumored to include a web-only show that will have him riding with Thelma and Louise. We hope.