The NHL’s 2020-21 coronavirus-altered, regular-season schedule is far from ideal. But it is enticing.
American teams will not face 24 NHL clubs and Canadian franchises won’t play 25. The Avalanche and the West Division’s seven other teams won’t face an Original Six opponent. And make no mistake, playing the Blackhawks, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers, Maple Leafs and Canadiens is always special.
But the NHL’s temporary move to all inter-division games in small series for the regular season is bound to add some Original Six anger to the mix. The league grew from six teams that hated each other, forging rivalries that still exist to this day.
The same-opponent repetition breeds emotion, and feeding that emotion in a small series is what the NHL normally lacks. Yes, the NHL has its seven-game playoff series, but only 16 teams get to that point. Regular-season series of any length should become a staple of the game.
NCAA hockey and many junior leagues play weekend series against the same team. The NHL’s feeder league, the American Hockey League, often does, too. What happens the first night often carries over to the next. And the physical nature of the game breeds contempt.
I’ve covered enough University of Denver-Colorado College or DU-vs.-North Dakota series to become an expert on what guaranteed theatrics look like. In 1997 I covered a DU-CC series that saw the Tigers win the chippy opener 9-1 at the Air Force Academy. The Pioneers won the finale 6-0 in another chippy affair the following night at Denver Coliseum.
It was an emotional weekend. CC couldn’t prevent the beat down it had just delivered, even though the Tigers knew exactly what to expect from the angry Pios in Denver.
Expect to see that regular-season drama frequently with the Avs this season, with or without fans. Expect it to begin Jan. 13 when Colorado kicks off against St. Louis at Ball Arena. The Blues will remain in town and play the Avs on Jan. 15 to complete the series.
It should play out in three stretches where Colorado plays the same opponent four straight times: Jan. 30-Feb. 4 vs. Minnesota; Feb. 14-22 vs. Vegas; April 30-May 5 vs. San Jose. The Avs have never played a team four consecutive times in a regular season.
Their entire schedule features eight games against each of the West Division opponents: Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose and Vegas. All but two games will be part of a two-game series; the Avs’ have a stand-alone game April 3 at St. Louis and April 20 against the Blues at Ball Arena.
The repetitious schedule may seem monotonous to some. But this is how good rivalries begin.
Team Canada. The Blackhawks’ Kirby Dach remains captain for Canada at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton, but the Avalanche’s Bo Byram wore the “C” in Saturday’s opener against Germany at Rexall Place. Byram and Buffalo Sabres prospect Dylan Cozens will alternate wearing the C in replacing Dach, who broke his wrist in Canada’s exhibition game.
Under International Ice Hockey Federation rules, one player must wear the “C” at the under-20 tournament.
The Avalanche, which has an NHL-leading three draft picks playing for Canada, the defending gold-medal winner, was well represented in Saturday’s starting lineup. Boston College’s Alex Newhook (selected 16th overall by Colorado in the 2019 draft) took the opening draw as Canada’s top-line center. In addition, defenseman Justin Barron (25th overall in 2020) was a primary penalty killer for Canada.
Kiz: When superstar Nathan MacKinnon became the latest Avalanche player to be bit by the injury bug, two words immediately sprang to mind. “Ruh roh,” as my old friend Scooby Doo was fond of saying. A Colorado team primed to win the Stanley Cup in the NHL bubble was derailed in its championship quest by more injuries than even a deep and talented roster could overcome. Well, the injury bug seems to be back early this season with a vengeance. Should we be worried?
Chambers: Nah, this is a deeper team. Joe Sakic and his staff have bolstered the depth and, even without MacKinnon, this could be a high-scoring team. The Avs have produced 36 goals in 10 games, ranking third in the NHL behind two teams that have played 11 games. MacKinnon has just two goals, but his absence certainly hurts in play-making ability. He assisted on the Avs’ first two goals Sunday before not coming out of the dressing room for the third period. I watched his last shift in the last minute of the second period and I can’t see any indication of an injury. I have to think MacKinnon won’t be out for long.
Kiz: Captain Gabriel Landeskog thinks it’s better to get the injuries out of the way now, rather than be plagued by them during the playoffs. Who can argue with that idea? Part of the NHL’s great appeal for me is how much the nature of the game and the fortunes of a team can change once the postseason begins. With that in mind, should we really be too concerned about the Avs earning a top seed? And should coach Jared Bednar be more cognizant of resting key players during the regular season?
Chambers: The Avs were ravaged by injuries in the regular season in 2019-20, and then it happened again in the playoffs. I think Landeskog is thinking that can’t happen again. Just too much bad luck. As for playoff seeding, I do believe it’s a big deal. I do believe the Avalanche wants to open against a West Division team like Minnesota or Los Angeles, and not have to face St. Louis or Vegas in the first round. This division is shaping up like most of us expected, with the Avs, Blues and Golden Knights clearly as the top teams.
Kiz: With this season’s weird schedule shaped by the unpredictable whims of a pandemic, Bednar takes a philosophical view. “Everyone is rolling with the punches,” he says. Hey, we all know hockey guys are stoic by nature. Spit out the chicklets and get back on the ice. But I’m beginning to wonder: Is this compressed season in the best interest of player health? Playing 56 games in a taxing 116 days limits recovery time. And a schedule that has the Avs playing four straight times against Minnesota invites chippy, dangerous hockey.
Chambers: Maybe that’s why MacKinnon didn’t play in the third period Sunday. Maybe the Avs agreed to not play any guy who isn’t 100%. Maybe MacKinnon said something about a sore groin and one of the equipment managers handcuffed him to his stall. As for the schedule, I love it. I love me a two-game series, and the four-game stretch against the Wild is a beautiful thing. I don’t think it’s going to get too chippy unless we learn one of the Wild players speared MacKinnon in the final minute of the third period.
A brutal thug stamped and kicked an innocent grandfather man to death in a sickening “spectacle” for just £20.
Evil Christopher Walton, 24, dragged total stranger 45-year-old Christopher Hardman from a fish and chip shop and broke his jaw, fractured his eye socket, cheekbone and nose and left him with massive injuries to the brain.
Sentencing him to life with a minimum of 20 years at Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Anthony Cross QC told him he was “satisfied that you were somehow demonstrating to your so-called associates how vicious you could be,” reports the Manchester Evening News .
He added that “Anyone who has had to watch the shocking CCTV footage of what you did to the deceased over the course of 10 minutes would struggle to understand how one human being could descend to the brutal violence that you inflicted on a defenceless man who was doing no more than going to buy some food from his local chip shop.”
The prosecution said Walton, who admitted murder, rained down “a merciless series of stamps and blows” after coming across Mr Hardman and a pal while loitering outside the Seven Acres Fish and Chip shop on Winchester Way, Bolton, dressed all in black.
Walton stopped the friends from going into the chip shop and demanded money, saying “you got my 20 bar”.
Mr Hardman’s mate Anthony Miller sensed something was wrong and that this could be the start of a robbery – but his pal proceeded on into the chippy.
This was when violent, drunken Walton dragged the defenceless granddad out of the store and began his “merciless” attack, knocking Mr Hardman out cold with a punch to the head.
Walton, of Tonge Moor Road, Bolton, then rifled through the pockets of his victim before leaving him momentarily.
Then, as the 45-year-old began to show signs of regaining consciousness, Walton approached him and began kicking and stamping on his head repeatedly in a “ferocious” beating.
He then left him to die, the judge was told.
Opening the case, prosecutor Tim Storrie QC told the court that on July 13 last year, Mr Hardman and friend Anthony Miller had met and decided to get some food from their local takeaway.
“As they went to go into the chip shop, they saw the defendant who said, ‘you got my 20 bar’,” Mr Storrie added.
“Mr Miller felt this was a robbery and didn’t carry on, but Mr Hardman did, and he was dragged out of the shop by the same man who had asked him for money.
“Mr Miller said he gave the defendant all the money he had on his person.
“Those living nearby were distracted by a man who was loud but ‘not out of control’, who was making repeated demands of ‘where is my money’.
“It’s apparent the demands continued to be made even after Mr Hardman was knocked to the ground.”
CCTV footage shown to the court captured an attack comprising of a”merciless series of stamps and blows”’.
Mr Miller is shown to hand money over to Walton, before the thug began to “rag” Mr Hardman about, knocking him to the ground, the court heard.
He then “rifled” through his pockets, before chasing Mr Miller.
As Mr Hardman regained consciousness and moved his head, Walton returned, to kick and stamp on his head as he lay motionless on the ground outside the chip shop.
“It must have been clear during the course of that attack when he was conscious that he was seriously injured,” Mr Storrie, prosecuting,continued.
“The last phase [of the attack] was designed to cause maximum damage to Christopher Hardman.
“It’s the prosecution case that violence was used when others were nearby in order to provide a spectacle to the associates of Mr Hardman.
“During the course of that incident, Mr Hardman must have suffered some significant degree of mental or physical injury over a prolonged period of time.”
Following reports of the assault to the police, officers arrived and found Mr Hardman was unconscious and bleeding heavily.
He was taken to Salford Royal Hospital, but despite the best efforts of medical staff, died on July 21.
In a post mortem report, a pathologist found he suffered a number of blunt force injuries including a jaw fracture, a fractured eye socket, cheekbone and nose, as well as massive injuries to the brain.
Walton was arrested the following day on July 14 and gave a ‘no comment’ interview, telling officers “that could have been f***ing anyone” when he was shown the CCTV footage.
Mr Hardman had battled addiction in his life.
In a victim personal statement, his mother Lynn, said: “Chris had a warm and lovely heart. He made friends with people easily and was a respectful and polite adult,” she said.
“He didn’t always make the best choices, but he was a much loved son, brother, father, grandfather, nephew, cousin and friend.”
Walton was said to have previous convictions for interfering with a vehicle and attempted burglary from when he was a youth.
In mitigation, his defence lawyer Richard Littler QC said this would be his first significant sentence of imprisonment.
“This was very sadly the kind of incident that unhappily happens in our streets in the evenings,” the defence barrister said.
“It’s an example of drunken thuggery, it’s an example of the defendant looking for trouble and trying to start a situation.”
Sentencing him to life in prison, with a minimum of 20 years to serve, Judge Anthony Cross QC said: “Anyone who has had to watch the shocking CCTV footage of what you did to the deceased over the course of 10 minutes would struggle to understand how one human being could descend to the brutal violence that you inflicted on a defenceless man who was doing no more than going to buy some food from his local chip shop.
“The Crown are right to describe this ‘a merciless series of stamps and blows’.
“What makes your conduct even more grave is to be found in the fact that you would leave the prone body of your victim and then return to it and inflict more harm.
“I am satisfied that you were somehow demonstrating to your so-called associates how vicious you could be.
“After you had finished with him you left him for dead.”
A mother-of-one has died more than 20 years after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she had just six months to live.
Michelle ‘Shelly’ Edwards, 51, passed away at Clarendon Hall care home in Humberston, North East Lincolnshire, after her battle with bone cancer.
She was just 30 years old when first diagnosed with the terminal illness and lived on for an incredible 21 years.
Her daughter, Jessica, said: ‘Even in her last days she was not giving in.’
Michelle ‘Shelly’ Edwards (pictured above), 51, passed away at Clarendon Hall after her battle with bone cancer. She served as a special constable for Humberside Police
She added: ‘Because it affected her spine it affected her walking and her mobility went because she had no feeling in her legs. It wasn’t long until she was paralysed.
‘But at Pinderfields hospital they taught her to walk again. Even in her last couple of years when she went for treatment she was in the ward inspiring the other patients in the oncology ward, showing them how to keep going.
‘She would have a laugh in the hospital. The doctors thought she was incredible and were led by her and were impressed how strong she was.
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‘Her mum (Ann) was the one who gave her all the care because she was a specialist nurse. Gran was the one who kept her going.’
Shelly, as she was most popularly known, served as a special constable for Humberside Police from the age of 19 until her diagnosis.
She was also a volunteer steward at Grimsby Town FC.
Shelly pictured on her 50th birthday. She was just 30 years old when first diagnosed with terminal cancer and lived on for an incredible 21 years
Jessica said: ‘One of her passions was seeing the police horses at the stadium. So we have arranged for a horse-drawn hearse to carry her to the crematorium on Thursday.’
Shelly was one of three children to the late Ann Edwards, a former special children’s nurse, and Terry Edwards. Shelly lived most of her life in Cleethorpes and was renowned for wearing her favourite colour red.
She had red hair and always wore a red coat, shoes and red lipstick, told her daughter. Her coffin will be covered in red roses to reflect her love of the colour.
Jessica said: ‘She loved going out on Cleethorpes seafront and going to the North Sea Lane chippy.
‘She was a great swimmer in her youth and swam with the Santa Marina club.’
Shelly was one of three children to the late Ann Edwards, a former special children’s nurse, and Terry Edwards. She lived most of her life in Cleethorpes
She added: ‘She was happy, bubbly and lots of fun. She adored horses.’
She paid tribute to the care her mother received at the nursing home in Humberston in the final months of her life.
Despite her illness, Shelly trained to be a social worker but was unable to complete her qualifications.
Jessica said her mother enjoyed visits to Cleethorpes nightspots Flares and Reflex where she enjoyed listening to music from the Eighties.
Her family have chosen Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ’69’, Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’ and Nena’s ’99 Red Balloons’ for the invite-only service at the funeral from 1.30pm on Thursday.
She is survived by her father and brothers, Martin and Malcolm and her daughter.
What is bone cancer?
Primary bone cancer begins in the bones. It is a rare form of cancer and approximately 550 new cases are diagnosed in the UK every year.
It is set apart from secondary bone cancer, which spreads to the bones after emerging in another part of the body.
The main types of bone cancer include osteosarcoma – the most common type – Ewing sarcoma and chondrosarcoma.
Symptoms (of primary bone cancer) include:
- Persistent bone pain that worsens over time
- Swelling and redness (inflammation) over a bone
- A noticeable lump over the bone
- Weakness in the bone (ie. breaks/fractures more easily than normal)
To treat bone cancer, depending on the type and severity, most people have a combination of:
- Surgery to remove the cancerous bone