NHL gets its foot in the door in China

With China hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022, the NHL figured the time was right to introduce the world's most populous nation to the world's best hockey league. The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings faced off against each other twice in the last week as they met on Sept. 21st in Shanghai and then again two days later in Beijing. Both games were beamed back to North America and to millions across the host country. The two-game series was part of the NHL's long-term strategy to reach a new audience in the land which is home to over 1.3 billion people.

China welcomed the games, clinics and marketing events that came as part of the package as the country is committed to expanding ice hockey within its borders along with other types of winter sports before hosing the Olympics. In fact, the government invited the NHL to visit and help promote the sport. Hockey is being developed at the grassroots level across China as more and more children and adults are becoming enamoured with the sport. There were numerous promotional activities and programs throughout the country when the two NHL teams arrived, such as a 21-year-old local goaltender practising on the ice with the Canucks.

The players also enjoyed the trip as it introduced them to a different culture, allowed them to visit historic sites, meet and greet the local fans, and show off their skills to a whole new audience. The last time the NHL visited Asia was when games were held in Japan in 2000. It was the third visit to the land of the Rising Sun as the league also visited in 1997 and 1998. According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, there are just over 1,000 registered players in China and 154 indoor rinks throughout the nation. However, it's believed there are thousands of youngsters involved in the sport unofficially.

With the NHL making the trip it would be assumed that the league will be taking part in the 2022 Olympics, but that remains to be seen. The league has decided to skip the 2018 Games next year in South Korea, but Beijing remains a strong possibility. It also plans more visits to China in the future. As for the two preseason games themselves, The Kings downed the Canucks 5-2 in the first contest in Shanghai with a crowd of 10,088 on hand. Los Angeles also won the second game 4-3 in a shootout in Beijing just less than 48 hours later in front of 12,759 fans.


The two-game series and entire event introduced thousands of new fans to hockey in general and should be considered a success. The future certainly looks bright for the sport in China. Most youngsters appeared to naturally gravitate to it when holding a stick in their hands and trying out their shots and moves on the recently-built ball hockey rinks for the fan-fest events. The NHL Players' Association and the league will now evaluate the trip and decide how to further promote the sport and the league. But it's a good bet that future NHL preseason games will be taking place in China on a regular basis now the groundwork has been laid.

Ottawa's Clarke MacArthur Fails NHL Medical, Five Months After Comeback

Ottawa Senators' forward Clarke MacArthur has failed his NHL medical at training camp, just five months after making a long-awaited comeback. The 32-year-old's career is in limbo once again due to his history of concussions. The winger came back late last season and helped Ottawa reach the
Eastern Conference Final in the playoffs. The failed medical means he won't be able to participate in training camp and will be on the outside looking in yet again.

MacArthur, who was drafted 74th overall by Buffalo in 2003, has had injury problems since the 2014/15 campaign when his season was cut short due to a concussion. However, he appeared to be healthy when the 2015/16 season faced off and was back in the Ottawa lineup. Unfortunately, he didn't last long as he was back on the shelf after playing just four games due to suffering more concussions. MacArthur missed 156 games over the last two seasons before returning in April and appearing in four games before the playoffs got underway.

He played well in the postseason with three goals and six assists in 19 games and going plus-5.
Those numbers gave MacArthur a boost of confidence and he was looking forward to continuing his strong play in 2017/18. To make matters worse though, one of his came during last year's training camp when he was checked hard into the boards by teammate Patrick Sieloff. By the time the playoff races heated up late in January it looked like MacArthur wouldn't play at all in 2016/17 when general manager Pierre Dorion told the press he was out for the season.

MacArthur didn't give up though and was back on the ice with his teammates in March when he started practising with the squad. He made it all the way back on April 4th when he was in the lineup against Detroit and received about 10 minutes of ice time. He played out the season and then inspired his teammates during their playoff run. However, it's obvious something went wrong during the summer months and that has led to his failed medical, after doctors had cleared him to play earlier this year.

There's a possibility MacArthur may now be forced to retire because of his health issues and he admitted that it's something he had to think about last year. He said he headed down to Florida to relax, but soon found himself in the gym as he decided on trying a comeback instead. The player is currently signed to a five-year contract which is worth $23.25. If he can't play, MacArthur will be placed on Ottawa's long-term injury list and his salary will come off of the cap.

Known as a solid two-way player, MacArthur would be missed by the Senators and their fans, but they've basically gotten by without him for the past two seasons. Unfortunately, they've become used to playing with their teammate watching from the stands. If MacArthur does decide to hang up his skates he will have played in 552 games starting in the 2006/07 season. He played with Buffalo, Atlanta, Toronto and Ottawa and racked up 133 goals and 171 assists for 304 points with 343 minutes in penalties. He also added seven goals and seven assists in 30 playoff contests with Toronto and Ottawa.


NHL Introduces Minor Penalties for Failed Offside Challenges

The NHL introduced coaches' challenges for offsides a couple of years ago and this campaign the league will be introducing minor penalties for a failed challenge. The main reason for this is the lengthy delay that many challenges result in when video replays are checked over and over again. This is because some offsides are simply too close to call even with the help of modern technology. With players' feet often being in the air when they're crossing the blue line, it's almost impossible to tell if they were onside or offside by a skate lace.

The league and Players' Association got together in June to discus potential rule changes for the upcoming 2017/18 season and one of the hottest debates involved the offside challenge. It was proposed that a team which challenges an offside call and then loses that challenge, will be assessed a two-minute minor penalty. The thinking is that coaches will only make a challenge on a blatant missed call or if they're certain of winning the challenge. This allows the NHL to leave the offside rule as it is without having to alter it or do away with it completely.

According to league statistics, there were 131 challenges to offside calls by NHL coaches in the 2016/17 season. That was an increase of 32 per cent over the 2015/16 campaign, which was the first year the challenge was introduced. But the NHL found coaches were often challenging calls just for the sake of it if they had one remaining late in in a game and were scored against. With these offside calls being decided by a fraction of an inch, it took far too long for game officials to come to a conclusive decision. They were also using small I-Pad type screens to watch the replays on at ice level.

The offside challenge was brought in to help rectify obvious missed calls by the linesmen, but since this so rarely happens, the spirit of the rule has been abused. Blatant missed calls can be reviewed and reversed in a matter of seconds via instant replay, but when a player was possibly offside by a toenail it was becoming increasingly difficult to spot. With a two-minute penalty at stake, the NHL is hoping the number of challenges will dramatically decrease this season and fans won't have to sit through lengthy delays. In addition, a team doesn't need to have its timeout remaining to challenge an offside call this year.

Other than the penalty for failed offside challenges, the NHL has yet to announce any other major rule changes for the 2017/18 campaign.

Shane Doan hangs up the skates after 21 years in the NHL`

Forward Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes has decided to hang up the skates on his NHL career after more than two decades in the world’s best hockey league. The 40-year-old may not be completely done with hockey though. There’s always a chance the former Arizona captain could suit up for Canada at the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Doan, who hails from Halkirk, Alberta, was one of the few players to spend an entire 20-plus year career with just one franchise. He was drafted seventh overall by the original Winnipeg Jets club back in 1995 and remained with the team when it relocated to Phoenix just a year later.

Doan was an unrestricted free agent this summer and was told by the Coyotes that they wouldn’t be re-signing him. However, it may have surprised some fans that another team didn’t take a chance on the veteran right-winger, especially considering his excellent leadership qualities. Doan actually announced his retirement via a notice in the Arizona Republic newspaper and claimed it was a very difficult decision to come to. He completed his final NHL season earlier this year with six goals and 27 assists for 33 points in 74 games in his 13th campaign as the team’s captain.

In total, Doan appeared in 1,540 regular-season NHL games and racked up 402 goals and 570 assists for 972 points and served 1,353 penalty minutes. Those numbers make him the all-time franchise leader in points, games played, goals, assists, game-winners and power-play goals. He played in just 55 playoff contests though as he was often a member of relatively-weak squads and chipped in with 15 goal and 13 assists for 28 points and spent 85 minutes in the penalty box.

Only eight other NHL players have managed to suit up for 21 years with the same club with just three of them playing more games than Doan. These were Alex Delvecchio, Nicklas Lidstrom and Gordie Howe, who were all former Detroit Red Wings. Doan’s 1,540 games splayed currently ranks him 14th all-time in league history. The Coyotes thanked their former captain for everything he did off the ice and achieved on it for the franchise by releasing a media statement shortly after he retired.

Doan was never a high-scoring superstar, but was a consistent scorer and playmaker who always stood up for his teammates. He reached the 20-goal mark 13 times and broke the 50-point barrier on 11 occasions. Doan also represented the Coyotes in two All-Star Games and he was awarded the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for the 2009/10 campaign, which goes to the player who shows the best leadership qualities both on and off the ice and who has also contributed significantly to humanitarian causes in his community. He also won the Mark Messier Leadership Award for 2011/12.


Doan admitted that he wasn’t the most skilled player on his team, let alone the league, and thanked the fans for sticking by him through the Coyotes’ ups and downs. He said he greatly appreciates and loved and respect he received in Arizona and will certainly miss his teammates, club employees, friends, the fans and the community in general. Ironically, the only player from the 1995 draft to score more points than Doan is Jarome Iginla, and the free agent forward may also wind up on the 2018 Olympic squad with Doan.