NHL Review: More scandal and a push for Penguins

Clark Donatelli was sued over sexual assault (PHOTO: NHL)

by Georgia McCann

A lot has occurred in the past two weeks in the NHL and it was quite a mixed bag. On the ice records have been broken, but off the ice it seems it was more law and conduct rules. Let’s have a look at what made headlines.

SKALDE SCANDAL BEGINS IN COURTS

The biggest story this fortnight was unfortunately another sexual abuse scandal, this time with the Pittsburgh Penguins organisation.

For background, in November 2018 Erin Skalde then Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli of sexual assault whilst on a road game in Providence, RI. If the name sounds familiar, she is the wife of current Cardiff Devils head coach Jarrod Skalde, who was Donatelli’s assistant at the time.

This week Donatelli was indicted on four counts of sexual assault. He entered a not guilty plea and released on a $10,000.00 bail. Conditions of his bail include a no-contact order with Erin Skalde and he is next due in court for a December pre-trial hearing. 

In addition to the criminal charges, the Skaldes filed a lawsuit against the Penguins for ‘negligently retaining a known serial harasser’ and for Donatelli’s retaliation against Jarrod Skalde, after he reported the incident. The Penguins and the Skaldes have since come to a settlement, the terms of which are undisclosed. 

MURRAY MOVES AWAY FROM ANAHEIM 

Another scandal in the NHL saw the Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray resign.

Initially the Ducks announced Murray was suspended for professional misconduct pending an independent investigation. Sources then revealed it was like ‘daily mental warfare’ to work for the Ducks organisation due to Murray, who reportedly threatened job security and berated staff repeatedly.

Shortly after the announcement, Murray confirmed to be entering an alcohol related substance abuse program. It was at this point Murray’s resignation was confirmed, with assistant general manager Jeff Solomon promoted to interim GM.

John Henry, founder of FSG, who own Liverpool FC are reportedly interested in buying Pittsburgh Penguns (PHOTO: Liverpool FC)

TALKS HELD OVER POTENTIAL PENGUINS PURCHASE

The US-based group that owns Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Sports Group, are reportedly in talks to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Although not too much is known at this point, the Pennsylvania side is worth approximately $900m and is likely seen as an excellent addition to FSG’s portfolio of high profile teams, with a generational talent captaining the squad and a passionate fanbase. 

For those concerned Mario Lemieux could be departing, it is believed he will be keeping his minority stake in the franchise, with Ron Burkle the selling party.

NICHUSHKIN DOPING ALLEGATIONS 

In recent times we have all come to know Russia’s poor track record with doping and the issue has reared it’s ugly head again, with the Russian Hockey Federation has accused Valeri Nichushkin of doping in 2013.  

The RHF has claimed the World Anti-Doping Agency has raised questions over a sample provided in 2013. The sample was obtained in WADA’ 2019 investigation into Russia’s doping programme and testing showed a banned substance.

It has not been confirmed if the Colorado Avalanche forward responded or what this may have been, with the deadline now passed. However if a ban is imposed, the suspension would only be related to IIHF games and as such, only international participation would be effected. 

McDAVID, OVECHKIN & GETZLAF INCE AGAIN BREAK RECORDS

Three greats doing what they do best. Last week Alex Ovechkin scored his 742nd goal to move past Brett Hull for sole ownership of fourth in NHL all time goal scorers.

By scoring against the St Louis Blues this week, Connor McDavid became the sixth fastest player in NHL history to reach 600 points. Taking only 421 games to do so, the 24-year-old is bettered only by Wayne Gretzky (274), Mario Lemieux (323) Peter Stastny (394), Mike Bossy (400) and Jari Kurri (419). 

After surpassing Teemu Selanne for the most points in Ducks history, Ryan Getzlaf scored his 1,000th point this week. Coincidentally Getzlaf achievement took place during the California side’s 1000th win

COMETS CALL OUT CAUFIELD 

This week in the AHL, the Utica Comets took the rather bizarre decision to call out Laval Rockets’ Cole Caufield.

During a game between the two sides, the Comets’ social media team tagged the Canadiens prospect in the following now deleted tweet: 

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It is unusual for a team to take such a personal swipe at a player, especially a 20-year-old trying to rebuild his confidence. Even more so is to tag the player, with the knowledge he would directly see it.

Caufield’s father accused the Comets of bullying his son and wants ‘someone to be held accountable’. Whilst no serious action has been taken, The AHL have warned the team that further tweets of this nature will not be tolerated.

The young winger was able to get his revenge however. Literally a few minutes after the tweet was sent he assisted on a Laval goal and has been sent up to the big team.

NASH’S NUMBER TO HANG AT THE NATIONWIDE ARENA

It has been confirmed that Rick Nash will become the first Blue Jacket to have his jersey number retired. Arguably the best Columbus has had to date, Nash’s number #61 will be hanging from the rafters as of 5th March in a ceremony against another former team, the Boston Bruins.

TRADES, SIGNINGS & DEPARTURES

  • NHL veteran Leo Komarov has had his contract terminated by the Islanders to allow him to sign with SKA St Petersburg. The KHL heavyweights and Komarov have already agreed a two year deal. 
  • Nic Dowd and the Washington Capitals have come to a three year extension worth $1.3m AAV
  • Kyle Clifford has been traded from St Louis Blues to Toronto for future considerations 
  • Dion Phaenuf has retired from professional hockey. The defenceman, was selected 9th overall by the Flames in 2009 and also spent time with who spent time with the Maple Leafs, Senators and Kings. A Calder Trophy finalist and three time All-Star, Phaneuf racked up 494 points in 1,048 NHL games.
  • Troy Brouwer has also hung up his skates. Scoring 363 points in 851 games, his career saw him call Chicago, Washington, St Louis, Calgary and Florida home. Drafted 214th overall in 2004 by the Hawks, the winger won a Stanley Cup in the Windy City. 
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek is out for the next few weeks (PHOTO: NHL)

KEY INJURIES

Once again here is a quick summary of all those injuries involving key players:

  • Leafs goalie Petr Mrazek is out for four weeks with a groin strain
  • New Jersey’s Miles Wood has undergone surgery on a right hip injury. He is out indefinitely 
  • In a massive blow for the Avs, Nathan Mackinnon is on injured reserve with a lower body issue. He is expected to miss around three weeks
  • Young Senators defenceman, Erik Brannstrom will miss between six to eight weeks with a broken hand. Surgery is also a possibility, which could extend the Swede’s recovery time
  • Rangers forward Sammy Blais is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Blais’ absence will cause problems for New York’s depth and rumours are already swirling as to whether a replacement may be brought in
  • Ryan Pulock, a cornerstone of the Islanders’ defence, will be out for 4-6 weeks with a lower body injury 
  • Maxime Comtois will miss around six weeks with a hand problem

AND FINALLY…

After been selected 36th overall by the Canadiens in 2013, Zach Fucale finally made his NHL debut at the age of 26, making a resounding impression.

Having spent time with 9 different minor teams, the Quebec born goaltender recorded a 21-save shutout playing for the Capitals against the Detroit Red Wings. Fucale became the first Caps goaltender in franchise history to achieve such a feat and the 11th to win on his debut. He is also only the second goalie in NHL history to blank a team at the first attempt. You have to imagine he will be in line for more call-ups should the opportunity arises!

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