Blackhawks' Ladd questionable for Game 1 of Stanley Cup finals; Commish Bettman's anger toward IIHF beyond question
Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd, who suffered an upper-body injury in the finale of the team’s Western Conference sweep of San Jose, missed his third straight practice Friday. Tomas Kopecky replaced him alongside Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland during practice at the United Center, Chicago’s final full workout before opening the Stanley Cup final Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville said Ladd is day to day and was expected to return sometime during the series. “We’ll see about tomorrow,” Quenneville said.
Kopecky, lured away from Detroit as a free agent last summer, has played in 11 of the Blackhawks’ 16 playoff games so far. But he’s used to that, having played in only 12 postseason games the past two seasons during Detroit’s 2008 Cup run and its seven-game finals loss to Pittsburgh last spring.
“I’ve been on a team that was really talented up front and you have to find a way to help the team,” he said. “Right now we’re going to be a checking line and that’s fine with me….
“It’s going to be fun. Bollie’s the kind of guy that likes to get under your skin and I like that, too. We’re just going to be pests out there.”
The Commish Speaks
Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the Penguins will play host to the Washington Capitals in the next Winter Classic outdoor game, to be played Jan. 1, 2011 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, and said a second outdoor game will be played next season between Montreal and Calgary at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium, likely on Feb. 20.
Bettman said the league isn’t diluting the unique features of outdoor games by staging two of them next season. The second one will revive the Heritage Classic, first played between Edmonton and Montreal in 2003 in Edmonton.
“I believe, based on the sense we’re getting in particular north of the 49th parallel, there is real interest and desire for us to have another outdoor game,” Bettman said.
He also firmly denied a recent report that said the Kings are for sale — a club spokesman recently dismissed that report as speculative — and said the league isn’t considering expansion. The Phoenix Coyotes will remain in place this season, he said, but added that prospective owners who want to move the club to Winnipeg are in the background and "they’re prepared to be patient."
He broke from his usual calm lawyerly demeanor only once, when he was asked about a column written by International Ice Hockey Federation staffer Szymon Szemberg and posted on the IIHF web site — but later removed — that criticized Sidney Crosby and other prominent NHL players for not playing in this year’s World Championships.
The IIHF has all but begged the NHL to allow players to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but players’ involvement must be negotiated between the league and the players’ union and no accord has been reached about the hockey tournament in the next Games.
The IIHF makes big money off the Games, but the NHL does not receive compensation. Bettman called the players’ participation in the Vancouver Games "a mixed bag," in keeping with his hesitance to commit to suspending the season for the Sochi Games. In the end, it’s all a bargaining ploy, but Bettman clearly was irked that the IIHF was critical of players who opted out of this year’s world tournament in an Olympic season.
He recalled that during the Vancouver Games, during a news conference in which IIHF President Rene Fasel proclaimed how badly the federation wants NHL players to compete in Sochi, he remarked that the IIHF doesn’t respect NHL players yet is eager to profit off their labor.
"As soon as I saw the article I put a call in to Rene Fasel and told him what he said was inappropriate, out of line and simply wrong and that he needed to make a public apology, which he did,” Bettman said. “I’m not happy with the way the IIHF somehow feels it has entitlement to these great athletes who risk their careers and put themselves out on their own time without anything but love of country to be belittled by the IIHF.”
More later from the Flyers’ practice and from Bettman at www.latimes.com/sports.
-- Helene Elliott, reporting from Chicago