My Two Cents for July 21, 2013

The 2013-14 Schedule Is Set- This past Late Friday afternoon the NHL release their schedule for the upcoming 2013-14 season. The regular season begins on October 1st with three games on the slate. The San Jose Sharks season will officially begin two days later on Thursday, October 3rd with a home date against the Vancouver Canucks. With NHL divisional and conference realignment the Sharks will be (and remain) in the Pacific Division. The Sharks will see the usual foes during the course of the season with a number of games against the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes. Joining the new Pacific Division will be the Canucks, along with the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Gone out of the Pacific Division is the Dallas Stars, who will remain in the Western Conference but are now part of the new Central Division (more on division realignment later in the article). The Sharks also entertain the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers in their season opening three game homestand at the newly renamed SAP Center, though many Sharks fans will continue to refer to this facility as "The Shark Tank" (as will I).

The NHL released this upcoming season's schedule after finalizing negotiations with the International Olympic Committee as the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia will be taking place between February 10th to the 24th. The negotiations were for the NHL players to have permission to partake in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. The NHL will take an Olympic Hiatus between February 9th thru the 26th so players in the NHL can participate in the winter games in representing their home countries. The Sharks final game before the Olympic break will be February 7th with a home date against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Sharks will be in hiatus for 20 days before returning to action February 27th against the Flyers in Philadelphia. The NHL's regular season will run from October 1st, 2013 until April 13th, 2014 with the post season to start four days after the regular season concludes.

Breaking Down the 2013-14 Teal Calender- The 2013-14 Sharks portion of the schedule will see team teal play a total of 28 games within the division, facing Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, and Los Angeles five times each, and Phoenix and Vancouver four times each. Additionally team teal will have 22 meetings against the Western Conference's Central Division, facing Colorado Avs four times. The Sharks will face the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets and the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks three times each. As for their rivalries within the state of California, the Sharks will "welcome" to the Shark Tank their arch rival, the Anaheim Ducks on November 30th, December 29th, and March 20th. The Los Angeles Kings will visit the Shark Tank on November 27th, January 27th, and April 3rd. The Sharks will visit Anaheim on December 31st, and April 9th. As for the Kings the Sharks will visit the Staples Center on October 30th, and December 19th. The Staples Center was the "Hard Luck" Center for the Sharks last season as they went a combined 0-6 there including playoffs.

The Sharks will welcome the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks at the Sharks Tank February 1st, while traveling to Chicago on November 17th and January 5th. Former Pacific Division rival Dallas will visit the Shark Tank on December 21st and February 5th. The Sharks only visit to Dallas will be on October 17th. The Detroit Red Wings, who have been moved to the Eastern Conference because of the NHL's realignment will only be visiting the Shark Tank once in the regular season on January 9th. The Sharks only visit to Detroit meanwhile will be early in the season, on October 21st. The Sharks will have two season-long five-game road trips, both are relatively early in the season and almost are concurrent. Team teal will take to the road from October 22nd to the 30th, and from November 10th to the 17th. The Sharks upon the conclusion of their second road trip will have a season-high five-game homestand from November 21st thru the 30th.

Team teal will also take on the Eastern Conference with 32 games in which they will match up against each team in the east twice, once at home and once on the road. For the first time in a long time, each Eastern Conference team will come through "The Shark Tank" once during the regular season. Dates of note for Eastern Conference teams visiting the Shark Tank include:

November 23rd vs New Jersey Devils: The return of Ryane Clowe who this offseason signed a five year deal with New Jersey. Clowe was traded by the Sharks to the New York Rangers before the trade deadline this past April.

December 10th vs New York Islanders: The return of "Nabby", Evgeni Nabokov's first venture into the tank since the end of the 2009-10 season. Nabokov played 10 seasons with team teal as their number one goalie.

January 11th vs Boston Bruins: The defending Eastern Conference Champions come into the Sharks Tank for a visit.

February 3rd vs Philadelphia Flyers: It's always sunny in Philadelphia? Not in the Shark Tank!

The Ides of March: March 6th vs Pittsburgh Penguins: March 8th vs Montreal Canadians; March 11th vs Toronto Maple Leafs; March 22nd vs Washington Capitals ... All high ticket teams from the Eastern Conference.

Frequent Flyer Miles- The Sharks will also travel the most miles of any NHL team in the 2013-14 season, with the total travel estimated to be well over 57 thousand miles during the course of the season. Gone forever (and thankfully) is the "Tennis Road Trip" which came along each February and evicted the Sharks from their home arena for up to three weeks. Hopefully those in charge of scheduling events at the SAP Center will truly treat the Sharks as the main tenant going forward and schedule the non-hockey events such as tennis tournaments, concerts, indoor football (football on a basketball court), hacky sack and other junk food entertainment items for during the offseason. The Sharks will be on hiatus for three weeks in February because of the Winter Olympics. This would actually be a good opportunity for the Sharks and the people who book events at the SAP Center to allow the San Francisco Bulls of the ECHL to use the arena for a game, perhaps another game between the Bulls and Stockton Thunder (just an idea). Maybe the Golden State Warriors of the NBA could play a game there too while the Sharks on on hiatus, maybe against the Sacramento Kings (again, just an idea using regional rivalry teams).

NHL Realignment- The NHL will have a different look as the it has realigned both conferences in an attempt to create more natural rivalries within the league along with fan interest. The realignment is also intended cut the travel for teams such as Detroit in Columbus, who in the past were in the Western Conference despite being in the Eastern Time Zone. The Red Wings and Blue Jackets will be in the Eastern Conference yet will not share the same division. The Red Wings will be in the NHL Atlantic Division while the Blue Jackets will play in the newly created "Metro Division". Here is how these divisions will break down:

Western Conference: Pacific Division-  San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks. Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Western Conference: Central Division- Chicago Blackhawks, St Louis Blues, Colorado Avalance, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Dallas Stars.

Eastern Conference: Metro Division- New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes.

Eastern Conference: Atlantic Division- Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lighting, and Florida Panthers.

NHL Hot Stove- The Los Angeles Kings have rewarded their team captain Dustin Brown for all of the hard work he has done to advance their franchise. Browns' efforts in being a huge contributor on the ice which ultimately led the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup title last year was rewarded with an 8-year $47 million contract extension. With the deal, Brown joins Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Slava Voynov and goalie Jonathan Quick as members of the rival Kings who are signed through the next six seasons or longer. Dustin Penner however will not be one of them. A free agent, Penner returned 30 miles to the south to join his original team, the Anaheim Ducks for who he won a cup with seven seasons ago. Penner's deal with the Ducks is one year at $2 Million. In his career, Penner has two Stanley Cup rings, 137 goals and 138 career assist. In addition to Brown, the Kings also signed Jordan Nolan to a two year contract extension, then acquired Dan Carcillo in a trade from the Blackhawks in exchange for a draft pick as well. Los Angeles also made an addition to their front office by adding Rob Blake to become their Assistant General Manager. Blake, who retired as a player three years ago as a member of the Sharks, will be an assistant to former Sharks General Manager Dean Lombardi.

The Colorado Avalanche have signed center Matt Duchene to a five-year extension worth in the neighborhood of $30 Million. Duchene, just 22, has probably one of the more promising careers ahead of him of any NHL player out there today.  Duchene has scored 82 goals, tacked on 111 assists in 266 games with the Avalanche. Duchene is every bit as important to the fortunes of the Avs going forward as Logan Couture is to the Sharks.

NHL Olympic Deal- The NHL released their 2013-14 schedule Friday afternoon only after hammering out an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to send NHL players to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games which begin on February 10th. The Olympic Hockey Tournament will take place from February 12th thru the 23rd when the gold medal game is played. The deal to allow NHL players to participate in the Olympic Games next February in may ways was nothing more than a mere formality really. Many players had long expressed their desire to participate in the games. Alex Ovetchkin had already informed the Washington Capitals before this deal was reached that he was going to Sochi with or without Commissioner Gary Bettman's permission or blessings. NBC, which holds the rights for NHL national broadcasts in the United States as well as the Olympics no doubt also has a vested interest in getting the best players on the ice. For the NHL players it rightfully is a matter of national pride and nobody would ever argue against it. For NBC, it all about the ratings (honestly when isn't it?). At the end of the day that is the business they are in. For Gary Bettman, it's just the right move in a stewardship that has not had too many. With Sochi being 8 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone (11 hours ahead of the Pacific Time Zone), those who want to see the Olympic Games live (including the hockey tournament) will do so likely during breakfast. Then again, if you are a die hard hockey (or Olympic Games) fan, hockey with bacon, eggs and coffee sounds very appetizing. Thrown in some bobsledding and down hill skiing and you have a full day right there.

"A Run of Thoughts" One Year Later- A year ago Saturday one of the worst mass tragedies (before Sandy Hook) took place in Aurora, Colorado. A crazy idiot and domestic terrorist walked into back door of a theater showing the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" and began an unforgivable rampage that took 12 lives and severely damaged or altered several more. The idiot and coward responsible for this tragedy who will never mentioned here by name still awaits justice. This is NOT what this is about however.

One of the people lost in this shooting was Jessica Redfield Gawhi. She was an aspiring sports journalist who had moved to the Denver area from her hometown of San Antonio. She was an avid fan of the game of hockey and a fan of the Colorado Avalanche. Jessica had a huge larger than life passion for what she did. She was known by those who knew her in both Denver and San Antonio as a hard worker who was more than willing and eager to get any task done and completed. She was someone who was rare but also someone who many had felt had the right stuff to make it into the broadcast journalism field. Frankly, Jessica from all accounts was in fact well on her way. Had it not been for this tragedy, Jessica could very well had been one of the sports reporters on one of the local stations in the Denver market and would have been an excellent addition. She was already doing reports on 104.3 The Fan in Denver for the Colorado Avalanche as well as being involved with Altitude, the Colorado based sports network which carries the Avs games in the Denver market.

Ironically, Jessica several weeks earlier was in Toronto and had just left an outdoor mall area shortly before another nutjob opened fire there. Shortly after this had happened and perhaps realizing the close call, Jessica had penned an article called "A Run of Thoughts". It was very well written and was a piece that made you think, reflect and made you realize how lucky we all are to be here. Here is a link this article:

In Jessica's memory, the Redfield Scholarship Foundation was established. The idea behind the foundation is to establish a scholarship for aspiring female sports journalists who want to make sports journalism their life's work. Christine Williams, a student at Elon University was recently named the first recipient of the Jessica Redfield scholarship. Hopefully she will be the first of many women that will follow in Jessica's footsteps and be able to realize their dream of making it in the sports journalism industry. The foundation is ongoing and is supported by funding. Anybody can make a contribution to this fund at any time. I always have the fund mentioned at the end of each of my articles along with the link to it through the San Antonio Area Foundation.

It should be pointed out that there were others who lost their lives through this tragic event and they are all every bit as important and should never be forgotten either. Amongst those lost were a six year old girl, a couple of incredibly brave men who took bullets in an effort to save their wives, girlfriends or other loved ones. There however is also a small piece of good that came along on Saturday afternoon despite the anniversary of this tragic day. Eugene Han and Kirstin Davis, a couple who were amongst the injured in the shootings, decided that they were going to take back the date of July 20th. The couple was married Saturday in Aurora.

I just remember myself when I heard this news last year my own first thought was knowing I had a niece and nephew in Northern California who are regular movie goer's and would go to the occasional midnight show to see a movie such as this one. They are both around Jessica's age. One of my first thoughts was asking my wife where this had happened since she first saw the news reports. Though I was glad to hear this wasn't in their area, I felt just sickened to my stomach that this happened anywhere at all. Lives are probably the one thing that can truly never be replaced. You feel terrible knowing there is nothing either yourself or most others can really do about it. As far as Jessica goes, all any sports writer or journalist can do is what I mentioned in my column last year right after this tragic event happened. All we can do as carry on as writers and do our best in her memory to honor her by working hard, working smart, and to do our best knowing we are now one person down. Everything I do when I write any story regarding the Sharks, this column or any story in general, Jessica (despite the fact I never had the honor to meet her) is always in the back of my mind. We all owe it to her to do the best job we can here to honor her. My pledge since this date one year ago is to do that always here and in every day life. This is not a burden. This as a matter of fact is an honor.

...just my two cents...

The Kingshark

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The Jessica Redfield Ghawi Foundation:

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*This article is dedicated to the memory of Jessica Redfield Ghawi (1987-2012) ...

*Note to Readers: Next My Two Cents Column will appear August 4th