1. Connor Brown bowed his head and built a reputation as Toronto’s Maple Leaf.
Defensive striker. Penalty killer. Checker. Hard worker. Straight lines. Blue-collar workers.
He was not supposed to be the playmaker who led the forwards in assists and points among the team’s leaders, as he was last season in Ottawa. For his first three NHL seasons, Brown’s efforts were made to find a niche, not the net.
“I think I’ve been trying to carve out a role for myself. I’ve seen so many guys in Toronto, and I’ve tried to assert myself in that formation. And, sometimes, looking back on it, I think I would have almost exaggerated, explained Brown this week on the Connor Carrick Podcast.
“I would have liked to have regained my confidence and found my skills that I found this year. And to make games and be more than just being that role player. I think I had more to offer.
“I was trying to do my best to play this role as I felt this team needed me.”
It’s an honest reflection from one ex-Leaf to another, and the kind of franchise that makes Carrick podcast a strong listener.
Brown, remember, was once a 128-point machine with the Erie Otters (yes, he had a decent linemate). Senators coach DJ Smith saw a guy who was able to play in the top six, not just create goals.
After the “emotional shock” of being traded away from his childhood team passed away, Brown felt a jolt of optimism and self-confidence before training camp in 2019, just based on his support of Smith and gm Pierre Dorion.
“With the guys and the culture we’ve worked on in Ottawa, it’s definitely the best thing for me in my career and my happiness. So it was a big change,” Brown said.
“Motionnellely, I have come a long way.”
Covering Brown in his final season with the Leafs, you could feel he had lost a little bit. Struck at the fourth line, he was himself and shrunk from the spotlight light. He was well aware of commercial speculation.
Brown is now a proud “dog dad.” He’s getting married next summer and will negotiate the biggest contract of his life before that. Listening to it this year, there is an assurance, a sense of humor and a joy that is great to see.
“I really felt like it was the right time to move to Ottawa. It was good for my relationship, my happiness on and off the ice. It was really positive,” Brown said.
“Eighty per cent of the game is between your ears once you play. That’s how you feel about yourself that night — wanting the puck. And it was just something I definitely lost a bit. I don’t think I was playing badly or hurting the team or anything when I was in Toronto, but I certainly wasn’t maximizing my potential. So it was nice to find that in me and find that in my game. And I think a lot of that is just the belief in me that was given.
Some more brown chat goodies with Carrick:
On William Nylander, spontaneously: “He’s probably the most laid-back guy I’ve ever met in my entire life. But have you ever seen a guy on the ice more than he does in your life? Right? I mean, he’s on the ice 25 minutes before practice, he hooked himself through the lined pucks.
On his 20-goal rookie season in 2016-17: “Bozie still lets me know I had four empty nets, though.”
In his 2012 draft: Brown said he had interviewed only three teams, Toronto, L.A. and New Jersey. Everything seemed interested. Number 156 had always been considered a lucky man in the Brown house. It was their street number in Etobicoke. Connor’s grandfather was a great horse player who always had 1-5-6 box when he bet on the ponies. Grandpa also shouted “156!” as he passed any address stamped with that number.
With the Browns watching the draft on television, Connor’s mother noticed in the fifth round that the Leafs held the 156th pick in the sixth round. Of course, Brown’s team selected him 156th overall.
“It was an emotional and surreal day. My parents and my brother, they’re almost more emotional than me,” Brown said. “It’s really just going to show that it’s a team. It’s a family effort to accomplish something like this.
2. The fact that Colin Kaepernick jumps on a Zoom call and shares his wisdom with the all-new Hockey Diversity Alliance means the world is on its seven-member executive committee.
“He’s been the leader of this whole movement since he got down on his knees for the first time,” Kane said. “He shared some of his experiences, the ups and downs he went through. It was great to get advice on things we could perhaps avoid that he wasn’t able to because he was the first to do it. [He] also gave us real positive information on how to do what we wanted to do. A real good voice and a leader for our group in terms of our initial conversations.
Asked what the brave quarterback said to the hockey players, Kane held back.
“These are private conversations, so I will respect his privacy,” Kane said. “I will say that the advice he was able to give us was invaluable. And it was great to be able to hear some of the trials and tribulations he went through. Obviously, they have been well documented, the majority of them. But [Kaepernick] also talked about a lot of positive changes that he has been able to make as an individual over the past few years and how this movement will just continue to grow.
Kane firmly believes that change begins at the top. He was emboldened when Sharks billionaire owner Hasso Plattner and general manager Doug Wilson both won their support ahead of the Alliance’s unveiling on Monday.
“Having Hasso feel the same way about needing this change — he’s also a very powerful man outside of hockey — is fantastic, and it just reflects the values of our organization as a whole. And I think that’s important. It took leadership,” Kane says. “I think he’s the only owner — certainly in hockey — who made a personal statement, and I think that speaks volumes. We need more of that.
Similarly, Kane insists that the struggle for equality must begin at the youth level, starting with the heads of minor hockey associations, managers and coaches.
“They’re the kind of people who need to really educate themselves and open their ears and be open to listening and learning about other people’s experiences,” Kane says.
Kane spoke to a young black player who has recently been the victim of racism or racist comments in 20 of his 40 games played.
“For me, it’s amazing,” Kane says incredulously. “What’s amazing is that it was the first time I or someone had heard that. That’s the kind of thing we need to eliminate our game. And these are the kinds of policy changes that obviously need to be corrected. It starts at the top, and it flows down.
Interestingly, when Akim Aliu (another HDA exec) came out the first mid-season with his story of Bill Peters, Kane said “15 or 16 of us” began to link on the calls and discuss the idea of starting their own organization. These conversations had become less frequent. Then raw aliu Players’ Tribune column was published and George Floyd was murdered. Player discussions quickly intensified.
“We felt we couldn’t just talk anymore,” Kane says. “We had to do something.
“We want to take the initiative. We didn’t want to wait for something to happen because, to be honest, I’ve been waiting 11 years since I got into the league. The narrative has always been controlled by the upper echelon. And I think it’s a great opportunity for us to create our own narrative, changing the way people think and the culture of our sport.
That the HDA is independent of the NHL (but willing to work with it) is essential here.
“We give ourselves the power to have control over what we intended to do,” Kane says. “you don’t want it to be something that just looks good, or is a box that’s checked. We really want to establish new policies across hockey at all levels. We want to help create a more diverse game, a more diverse fan base, and make everyone feel comfortable in their own skin.
3. Leafs captain John Tavares sees himself as someone who needs to better educate, understand and be part of the evolution of hockey’s diversity culture.
“I think we all wish we could have done a better job in advance. Starting with myself,” Tavares said Tuesday. “When you look in the mirror, these are the first things you ask yourself. So, definitely, this is going to be a big focal point for me and trying to educate you the best you can and develop a meaningful plan that has a very good goal to eradicate this issue.
Tavares says he contacted his former teammate Kyle Okposo and tried to contact his friend P.K. Subban to talk about the hockey running problem.
“‘is just the beginning of this conversatio,”” Tavares said. “Listen to their experiences and the things they see and how to implement certain things that can be actionable and, as I said, have a really good meaning and a deep purpose to get rid of this issue.
“One case is one too many. That should be our goal, to get rid of it completely and never come back. So I think that’s the approach I’m trying to take, and there’s a lot of work to be done.
4. As he intermed with a handful of Toronto reporters on Tuesday, his 28th birthday, to discuss his appointment to the Masterton, Zach Hyman made a point to share his thoughts on Black Lives Matter:
“Ela should be common sense. Any judgment based on your race, religion, or appearance cannot be tolerated in today’s society. And I think it’s great that people are educating themselves around the issue, and when we talk about racism in North America.
“And the wave started with the murder of George Ford, but it goes far beyond that, and it’s much deeper than that. The demonstrations and rallies reflect not only this incident, but a series of incidents that have occurred throughout American history, and I am sure That Canadian history too.
“‘is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time. I didn’t do a social media post because I just want to make sure I get my thoughts right. It’s a very complicated question.
“ersonnelleally, I don’t know what it’s like to be judged by your color. I’m a white man. But I know what it’s like to be judged by your religion. I’m Jewish. I’ve experienced anti-Semitism, so I can empathize on that wavelength.
“Our me, it is very clear that racism then any kind of judgment based on your race, religion or gender, or something like that, is not tolerated. I am one of the ambassadors of hockey, it is for everyone. I think in hockey, especially in today’s world, we are making progress in trying to make it more of a possibility. As I get older — I am married and I intend to have children — you want your children to grow up in a better world than you have grown up.
5. In the middle of filling out my ballot at the NHL Awards — hands down, one of the greatest privileges of this position — I received two press releases “for your consideration” of franchises pushing a candidate.
It is not a common practice, but I like enthusiasm.
Despite popular belief, PHWA is not being courted to the same degree as Academy voters.
The fact that the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals are openly pushing for the bid of Roman Josi and John Carlson in Norris is indicative of the proximity of this race. The feeling is that this could be the tightest individual trophy race since Taylor Hall beat Nathan MacKinnon for the Hart in 2018. (Although the Calder 2020 race could be just as close.)
Interesting to see the Preds dig beyond boxscore stats to make Josi’s case, noting how he led all blueliners, per game, in zone outs (8.4), zone entries (5.4) and offensive zone possession time (0:55).
Washington’s graphics and graphs argument hammered Carlson’s incredible offensive output (1.09 points per game) and made a direct comparison with Josi in terms of shots, blocked shots and catches per 60 minutes. Carlson is ahead of Josi in all these categories.
I have one-two, but won’t be angry anyway. (Fun fact: Boston Torey Krug “loved” Josi champion Hal Gill’s tweet for victory.)
6. Tony DeAngelo unveiled his unofficial NHL awards bulletin at the premiere Look at your tone, another new podcast launched by an active NHL defender.
Norris: Roman Josi. “Dominant force. Worn Nashville. »
Vezina: Connor Hellebuyck. “Started nearly 60 games for the Winnipeg Jets, lost the entire right side of his defense and continued to be one of the best goalies in the league.”
Selke: Sean Couturier. “It’s been in the race for a long time. Another great year. I think he deserves it.
Calder: Cale Makar. “Sorry, Foxy, but I have to go with Makar.”
Jack Adams: John Tortorella. “The only Italian coach in the league. Columbus has suffered a lot of injuries this year and has found a way to get straight back into the playoff hunt.
Hart: Artemi Panarin. “My opinion, it’s not even close. And I’m not biased. Best player I’ve ever seen live.
The subject of the Carolina Hurricanes’ vote against the play-in format that will see them face New York Rangers DeAngelo in a best-of-five came on the podcast. A great opportunity for some display documents.
Instead, DeAngelo offered a sly “no comment.” He noted, however, that the Blueshirts have beaten the Canes in all four games this season.
7. Following another brutal Sabres hockey season, I was invited to the Buffalo WGR 550 AM last week to discuss the club’s problems. You build good teams from the net, so I harpooned a little bit on the goalkeeper.
At point-blank range, Carter Hutton’s .898 save percentage and 12-14-4 record simply weren’t enough for the highest-paid goalie in the lineup.
The first step in building a more favorable group around Jack Eichel would be to stop the puck. Upgrade between pipes. Over the past three seasons, Buffalo has ranked 22nd (.900), 22nd (.901) and 29th (.896) in team save percentage. No wonder the playoffs were a struggle.
Well, maybe I should cut Hutton, 34, a little soft instead of measuring his ceiling as a solid No. 2 netminder.
It turns out that Hutton was diagnosed in November with a vision problem. (Again, he is a goalkeeper.)
« [Therapy] part of my daily routine,” Hutton revealed at the Buffalo News Monday. “I would do a ton of different eye training and things to improve myself. At the time, it was obviously difficult. Now, to move forward, I’ve learned a lot of skills to help improve this area and make my eye strength better and work on things. We weren’t sure what it was. It’s something I’ve been doing all season.
Despite his frustrations with puck tracking, Hutton promised to perform better in 2020-21, a year of contract.
“I’ve been playing in the league for a long time. “I didn’t just forget how to play,” he said. “‘I’ve had a tough time with stuff, and we’ll come back to it.’
8. For the fourth consecutive season, David Pastrnak won the Golden Hockey Stick, awarded to the best Czech hockey player of the year. The Bruins sniper took first place out of 51 of 52 ballots cast by Aboriginal journalists and coaches. (Dominik Kubalik, the series leader, finished second.)
Pastrnak has now matched Jaromir Jagr for the most wins which is an impressive feat. (Just as impressive: The size of the actual trophy, which stands about half as big as the pasta itself.)
“This is a pure individual trophy. I am very honoured to have him. It’s an inspiration to me. But I don’t play golf or tennis, so I won’t favor myself until my team,” Pastrnak said, taking a hit at all those selfish golfers and tennis players.
One more Golden Hockey Stick win and will tie the legendary Dominik Hasek (five) for the second-highest number of career wins. Jagr has raised the thing a ridiculous 12 times during his career.
9. One of the messages that comes out of this month’s racism conversation is that people — privileged whites in particular — need to make an effort to educate themselves.
As the question concerns hockey, I suggest watching Damon Kwame Mason’s superb 2015 documentary Black Ice (preview and link below) to start.
I interviewed Mason here about his film and the whitewashed story of black hockey players.
Did you know that the All-Black Coloured Hockey League, founded in Nova Scotia, gave us the first slapshot and butterfly goalkeepers?
10. Congratulations to Braden and Brandi Holtby, who launched an auction called Get Off the Bench for Racial Equality for Black Lives Matter DC and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
In addition to donating $5,000 to each organization, the couple will match the funds raised through the auction. A collection of autographed Capitals jerseys, pucks, helmets and artwork (featuring items by Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and Holtby) brought the total to $39,400.
The Holtbys were glued to the protests and felt compelled to act beyond the well-written tweets.
“A big part of the reason I don’t go on social media too often is that I think it’s flooded with people who say things before they think, before I really believe the words they’ve said,” Holtpar said. “I’ve been thinking about what to say for over a week and I’ve been trying to echo the black community for what I think the white community should take responsibility for.
“Something I’ve been passionate about for some time is trying to educate myself and learn as much as I can so I don’t get so naïve. Especially growing up as a child in a small town in Canada, where the situations that manifest themselves today, I have never dealt with. Every day I became more depressed, upset and angry. I felt I needed to say something.
Holtby acknowledges the tendency of hockey players to remain silent on issues that do not involve in-depth pucks.
“e don’t know why it was taboo to speak your mind or stand up for what you believe in. I think there’s always this gap between sport and social issues,” Holtby said. “you want to make sure you know what you’re talking about. You don’t just use your platform to try to be popular. I don’t know why it’s like that in hockey. I think that’s changing. I think it’s getting better.
“We’re obviously behind as a sport, and everyone realizes that. The real personalities will manifest themselves as long as we continue to push him.
11. When I covered the U.S. team’s training camp for the 2016 World Cup in Columbus during the heat of Kaepernick’s protest, no story attracted more attention than coach John Tortorella’s threat to bench a player who dared to protest in his team.
So it was refreshing to read in Athletics that Torts went from hitting the podium to opening his ears.
“I’ve learned over the years, listening and watching, that men and women who choose to kneel during this period don’t mean disrespect for the flag,” Tortorella said at the exit this week.
“I hope that if one of my players wanted to protest during the anthem, he would bring it to me and we would talk about it, we would tell me his thoughts and what he wanted to do. From there, we brought it to the team to discuss it, a bit like we are talking about in our country right now.
“How can we fix some of these problems?”
Tortorella suggests adding a moment before the anthem for fans to reflect on the country’s history of racial injustice.
Back four summers ago, Tortorella could not have been more stubborn in his position. (Here’s a refreshment.)
Minds can be changed.
12. “What happened to all the black angels when they took the pictures?” — a young Muhammad Ali