Open Mike Night - 2/2/09
A week in hockey that is greatly overshadowed by Super Bowl coverage that overanalyzes a single game so well that even the most casual fan is so flooded with knowledge (pseudo or otherwise) that he or she becomes an insta-expert. Despite that, it was an excellent game, especially if you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Congratulations to them.
Now that the obligatory hat tips and high fives are out of the way, let’s get back to the best game on earth. Here’s the week in review:
The Peter Forsberg saga that we are all assuredly sick of, came to an end much sooner than expected when he signed with Modo Ornskoldsvik of the Elitserien. All the best to Peter, and thank goodness that was about as painless of a Forsberg comeback I can remember from a journalistic perspective.
Olaf Kolzig and Robert Lang both suffered season ending, and quite possibly career ending injuries. Lang has been quietly effective on the scoresheet, if nothing else. While Kolzig has had a rough go of it with Tampa Bay and might have been better off riding into the sunset through Beltway traffic as opposed to the heat of the Sunshine State.
Kings defenseman Denis Gauthier has been suspended five games for his cheap shot on Montreal’s Josh Gorges. While Pittsburgh Penguin forward Tyler Kennedy has been docked a game for his role in an altercation with Leafs rookie blueliner Luke Schenn.
No rant or rave this week, instead an interesting and still developing story out of Sweden:
The downturn of the world’s economy, something that is partially exacerbated by those very words, is having an increasingly damaging impact on the game of hockey. In addition to the noted troubles of the Phoenix Coyotes and the midseason fold of the ECHL’s Augusta Lynx, Sweden is also taking the brunt of these tough times.
In Sweden’s second highest division, Allsvenskan, a team called the Malmö Redhawks resides. Founded in February of 1972, Malmö played in Sweden’s top division (the Elitserien, or as many North Americans know it – the Swedish Elite League) from 1990 to 2005 (in Sweden, there is a relegation tournament, where the worst teams in the best league and the best teams in the second best league have a chance to swap leagues).
Malmö made a push into the Elitserien in 2006-07 but were overwhelmed and quickly relegated once again. Narrowly missing promotion last season, Malmö moved into a brand new arena this year with hopes of a return to glory. However, that might be put on hold for even longer than expected.
On January 29, the Redhawks released all of their contracted players.
Yes, you read that correctly. In Sweden, contracts are not guaranteed like they are in the NHL, and to avoid bankruptcy and sinking further into debt, the Redhawks terminated all of the club’s contracts.
“I think we could have received this news a little earlier,” said Mathias Johansson, former member of Malmö, now a member of Leksands (also an Allsvenskan team) and a forward that spent 20 percent of his NHL career in Pittsburgh – which rounds off to little more than a fortnight.
Malmö is a team that is somewhat notorious for throwing money around to buy players from other European clubs. They were expected once again to challenge for a spot in the Elitserien but because of, by most accounts, overpaid and relatively heartless players, they sit in a tenuous seat – tenth out of 16 in the league. Instead of forfeiting games, a series of call-ups and other makeshift roster moves, the Redhawks formulated a roster to play against an admittedly downtrodden Huddinge IK team. A gutsy effort full of heart and vigor saw Malmö come away with a 2-0 victory. Duplicating the performance from the game before, Malmö followed up with a 4-1 victory over Sundsvall IF. Not bad for a team that just released all of its players and dropped 14 of its past 21 decisions.
Who would have thought that dropping roughly a roster’s worth of players would be the spark that turns a team around?