Former Sharks Forward Joel Ward Announces Retirement – Joel Ward’s playing career was a study in perseverance. Undrafted as a junior hockey player in Ontario, Ward went on to play four years of university hockey in Canada and over a year in the minor leagues before he made his NHL debut in Dec. 2006 at the age of 26. Ward, who went on to play 10-plus seasons in the NHL, including three with the Sharks from 2015-2018, officially announced his retirement Monday in an article he wrote for The Players Tribune titled “726,” reflecting the number of games he played in the league. Ward wrote, “I know I didn’t play the last two years, but I tried. I did. I wish I could have gone out in a bit of a different way. But, you know, just thinking about it all — all 726 games — I realized something. Who am I to wish for any more time? I got what I wanted. I’m one of the lucky ones.” Ward wrote how fatherhood has changed his perspective following his playing career. His son, Robinson, was born a little more than a year ago in the South Bay, where he and his wife, Kathleen, still have a home. Ward, 39, signed a three-year contract with San Jose as a free agent in 2015. He, along with defenseman Paul Martin and goalie Martin Jones, other players also acquired by general manager Doug Wilson that offseason, helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 2016. (Curtis Pashelka)
Blackhawks Fire John McDonough, President Since ’07 – The Chicago Blackhawks released president and CEO John McDonough, the team announced on Monday. McDonough was hired Blackhawks in 2007 and was seen as a major architect of the Blackhawks Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Before that, the team hadn’t won a Cup since 1961. McDonough came to the Blackhawks after spending 24 years with the Chicago Cubs, including as the team president. “Thirteen years ago, I recruited John to the Blackhawks because of his leadership, direction and vision,” Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “John brought all of that to the table and more. His contributions went well beyond leading the team to three Stanley Cup Championships. He rebuilt the front office and helped guide the organization toward a winning vision. As difficult as this is, we believe it was the right decision for the future of the organization and its fans.” Rocky Wirtz’s son Daniel, who currently serves as VP of the Blackhawks, will be the interim president. In a statement, the Blackhawks said that ownership is “committed to ensuring strong executive leadership” and will immediately begin a search for a new president. McDonough oversaw a lot of the business operations, including partnerships, marketing and the fan experience. McDonough was instrumental in getting all 82 of the team’s schedule on television — something that did not exist in the previous regime — and also created the popular Blackhawks Convention, which happens every summer. Within two years of McDonough’s hiring, the Blackhawks jumped from 118th to 21st in ESPN The Magazine’s Ultimate Standings. Under McDonough’s leadership the team also brought back Hall of Famers Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita as team ambassadors. (ESPN)
NHL No Longer Considering Neutral Sites – The NHL has turned its attention away from neutral sites and is focusing on restarting the 2019-20 season at league arenas, sources told ESPN. Venues like the University of North Dakota were rumored to be under consideration for “neutral site” games in less-populated locations that weren’t as affected by the coronavirus pandemic as some NHL cities. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he had discussions with the NHL about hosting games at Southern New Hampshire University and that the option was “on the table.” But NHL sources said the “neutral site” idea never got off the drawing board, due to problems with player accommodations, facilities for league and team staff, and the inability to bring multiple broadcasting crews to cover potential Stanley Cup playoff games. NHL Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said there had been no discussions about specific neutral sites with the NHL either. Instead, the league is looking at regional NHL arenas, aligned by division, where teams could potentially finish their seasons. Sources told ESPN that the current favorites are the home rinks for the Carolina Hurricanes (Metropolitan Division), Edmonton Oilers (Pacific Division) and Minnesota Wild (Central Division). A front-runner from the Atlantic Division has yet to emerge. The NHL’s goal remains to finish the regular season, which had 189 games remaining when it was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12. One concept would be to play multiple games throughout the day at these sites, like one would see at international tournaments. As far as when a league restart could happen, Florida Panthers president and CEO Matthew Caldwell said Tuesday that the NHL has discussed resuming its season in the summer. (Greg Wyshynski/ESPN)
Wayne Gretzky Optimistic NHL Will Return This Summer – Wayne Gretzky is optimistic the NHL will be able to resume at some point this summer. Gretzky told The Associated Press on Sunday he is hopeful hockey and other sports will be able to come back from the coronavirus pandemic and serve as a positive sign that conditions are improving. “I really believe somehow, someway, that the leadership in this country and in Canada, that we’re going to figure this out,” Gretzky said. “And I really believe that we’ll see hockey and some sort of other sports in June, July and August, albeit in a different way, but I really see it coming to fruition. I think it’s going to happen.” Gretzky, who holds the records for career goals, assists and points, is self-quarantining in California and trying to help the NHL with content during its pause for the pandemic. He and Alex Ovechkin recently taped their first joint interview to air Monday, and they will play the NHL20 video game against each other Wednesday. The league is considering several options on trying to resume this season, including going directly to the playoffs at several neutral sites. Gretzky believes the NHL will find a way. “Maybe I’m wrong,” he said. “Maybe I’m too optimistic. I think I’m not. I hope that that’s a good sign for everyone that we’re moving on in life, in business, in sports. I really see in the next couple months something good happening.” (Associated Press)
Bill Peters Out Of NHL After Using Slurs, Get KHL Job – Bill Peters has been hired as the head coach of Yekaterinburg Avtomobilist in Russia’s KHL. Peters, 53, resigned as coach of the Calgary Flames in November, days after a former player, Akim Aliu, came forward and said the coach directed racial epithets toward him while they were in the minors 10 years ago. The NHL launched an investigation into Peters at the time of his resignation. “I think as time goes on we all grow and improve and become better versions of ourselves, and I’m no different than that. You learn from all the experiences that you’re in, and you become better,” Peters said during a video conference call with Russian media. “It’s no different right now, going through a very trying time right now in the world with the global pandemic, and I believe we’re going to come out of this, and when we come out of this people are going to be better people for it and more passionate and compassionate towards each other and more patient.” Peters’ deal with Yekaterinburg is for two years. Avtomobilist finished in second place in the Kharlamov Division but lost in the first round of the Gagarin Cup playoffs to Sibir. The league has since canceled the rest of the playoffs because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before his stint in Calgary, Peters coached the Carolina Hurricanes from 2014 to ’18, and he coached Canada at the world championship in 2016 and 2018. Peters acknowledged the incident with Aliu in a letter of apology. Peters said the comments were made in a “moment of frustration.” “Although it was an isolated and immediately regrettable incident, I take responsibility for what I said,” Peters wrote. Aliu said he found Peters’ letter of apology to the Flames “misleading, insincere and concerning.” Perry Pearn, German Titov, Evgeny Shaldybin and Konstantin Vlasov will be assistant coaches for Peters in Yekaterinburg. There are several former NHL players on Avtomobilist’s roster, including Pavel Datsyuk, Peter Holland and Nigel Dawes. Dawes is a free agent this summer.
Colts Sign Pro Bowl Fullback Roosevelt Nix – A punishing Indianapolis Colts running game has added another hammer, a blunt force instrument to blow open holes in front of Marlon Mack, the first Indianapolis running back to break the 1,000-yard barrier since Frank Gore in 2016. The Colts are signing former Pittsburgh Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix, a league source told IndyStar, bringing back an element of the 2018 offense that wasn’t as prevalent in 2019. Nix, a collegiate defensive end who spent a season in the Arena Football League before earning a permanent spot in Pittsburgh, is part of a rare breed in the NFL these days: A fullback who does most of his work as a blocker. The 5-foot-11, 248-pound Nix spent five seasons in Pittsburgh and played 575 offensive snaps for the Steelers, but he rarely touched the ball, carrying the ball just four times and making 12 receptions, never more than four in a season. Nix opens some of those options up, adding a Hewitt-type player back to the offense, provided that the former Steelers fullback is healthy after missing almost the entire season due to a knee injury last year. Nix was designated to return off injured reserve in late December, an indicator that he was healthy at the end of the season. As talented a blocker as Nix is, he’s also an important addition in the kicking game.
Oilers’ Colby Cave, 25, Dies After Suffering Brain Bleed – Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave died Saturday morning after suffering a brain bleed earlier in the week. He was 25. Cave’s wife, Emily, released a statement on Saturday confirming the news. “It is with great sadness to share the news that our Colby Cave passed away this morning,” the statement said. “Both our families are in shock but know our Colby was loved dearly by us, his family and friends, the entire hockey community and many more. We thank everyone for their prayers during this difficult time.” Cave was airlifted Tuesday to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto and had been in a medically induced coma after having emergency surgery to remove a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain. Emily Cave and other family members were unable to visit Cave in the hospital over the past few days because of COVID-19 rules. On Wednesday night, Emily Cave posted on Instagram that the family needed a “miracle.” Many in the hockey community offered support for Cave, including Oilers captain Connor McDavid who called his teammate “one of the toughest guys I know.” A native of Battleford, Saskatchewan, Cave scored one goal in 11 games with Edmonton this season. Originally undrafted, he had four goals and five assists over 67 NHL games with the Boston Bruins and Oilers. (Emily Kaplan/ESPN)
Former Blackhawks Captain Pat Stapleton Dies – Pat Stapleton, a three-time All-Star with the Blackhawks who was a top defenseman on two Stanley Cup finalists, died Wednesday night. He was 79. The Hawks announced the news Thursday, saying he died of complications from a stroke. Known as “Whitey” for his shock of bright blond hair, Stapleton played two seasons with the Bruins before joining the Hawks in 1965. He was the captain of the 1969-70 team and played eight seasons in Chicago, totaling 41 goals and 286 assists in 545 games. Stapleton’s Hawks teams made the playoffs seven times, including the Cup Final in 1971 and ’73. The native of Sarnia, Ontario, was No. 44 on the Tribune’s rankings of the 100 most important people in Blackhawks history in 2017, when the NHL celebrated its centennial season. “The Chicago Blackhawks organization would like to express their deepest sympathy to the family, friends and former teammates of Pat Stapleton,” the team said in a statement. “As a former team captain and valued member of the Blackhawks Alumni Association, Stapleton’s contributions to the organization will forever be remembered by the entire Blackhawks community.” Stapleton left for the Chicago Cougars of the WHA in 1973 and played five seasons in the rival league, adding two All-Star appearances. His son, Mike, played parts of five seasons with the Blackhawks from 1986-92. Stapleton is survived by his wife, Jackie; sons Tom, Mike and Chris; daughter Susan; and 13 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by daughters Mary and Maureen. (Chicago Tribune)
Third Avalanche Player Tests Positive For Coronavirus – A third player for the Colorado Avalanche has tested positive for the coronavirus, the league announced Tuesday. The Avs were told of the positive test Tuesday morning. The unnamed player is in self-isolation, and according to the league, he has not had close contact with any other Colorado players or staff members. He is the eighth NHL player to test positive. The five others are on the Senators. The Avalanche and Senators played games in California in March before the season was paused. The two other Avalanche players to test positive also were not identified. The team said in late March that one was no longer showing symptoms of the virus. The NHL season has been on pause since March 12 amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. (ESPN)
Knicks Owner James Dolan Test Positive For Coronavirus – James Dolan, the owner of the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, has tested positive for the coronavirus, his NBA team said in a statement Saturday night. The Knicks said that Dolan, 64, is experiencing “little to no symptoms” and is self-isolating. He is the first U.S. major pro sports owner known to have tested positive for the virus. The NBA has been on hiatus for more than two weeks, after players tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, the Knicks were 21-45. The Rangers, much like Dolan’s Knicks, are in the midst of a rebuild. But, unlike their NBA counterparts, the Rangers orchestrated a surprising season before the NHL suspended operations. If regular-season play resumes, New York will bring a 37-28-5 record to the ice and will be two points out of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Dolan made headlines during the 2019-20 NBA season for a verbal exchange with a fan who told Dolan to sell the Knicks and a feud with Spike Lee that caused the Oscar-winning director to stop going to games at Madison Square Garden for the rest of the season. Earlier this week, Dolan and the MSG Company formally sold the Forum, in Inglewood, California, for $400 million in cash to LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. The Knicks said in Saturday’s statement that Dolan continues to oversee business operations for the Madison Square Garden Company, of which he is the executive chairman. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other existing health problems. (Malika Andrews/ESPN)