Heroes and Heels is a weekly NHL column highlighting the heroes and villains of the last week of hockey. This week, Mika Zibanejad joins a historic club of goal-scorers.
Over the weekend, NBCSN hosted the first-ever NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the United States to celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday. The day saw Kate Scott, AJ Mleczko and Kendall Coyne Schofield take on broadcasting duties during Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, while countless other women worked behind-the-scenes in production or in-studio throughout the day.
Overall, the day went off without a hitch — despite what the internet commenters might say — and it was refreshing to hear an all-women crew call an NHL game for the first time… ever.
Hockey’s lack of diversity in all forms has been well documented over the years, as while the NHL’s slogan bleats that “hockey is for everyone,” the sport has more often than not been anything but that. Sunday’s all-women broadcast was a nice moment, to be sure, but the addition of women into NHL broadcasts should be the norm now — not an outlier on one specific day.
Let’s hope the national and local broadcasting companies were watching how successful Sunday’s broadcast was, and that they strive to make our hockey watching experience reflect its audience a little better.
Hero: Mika Zibanejad
While the New York Rangers’ playoff hopes are fading in the East — though we still believe! — Mika Zibanejad put up a performance no one will forget on Thursday against the Washington Capitals. In a heart-stopping 6-5 overtime win against Washington, Zibanejad netted five (yes FIVE) goals in the game — including the sudden-death winner — to secure a much-needed two points for New York.
Twitter lost their minds. Rangers announcer Sam Rosen lost his mind. The Capitals, upon surrendering six goals and various lead changes, likely lost their minds, but for a different reason.
The night was magical for Zibanejad, who joined a club of 45 other players in the NHL to hit five goals in a game since 1917. The last time the NHL saw a five-goal game from a player was Patrik Laine‘s five-spot against the St. Louis Blues in November 2018.
After the game, Zibanejad was — predictably — “speechless” about his performance in the victory, though did offer a bit more insight when asked by Rangers reporters.
“The puck followed me today, I guess. You look at the goals and it’s unbelievable plays being made and today I was at the right spot at the right time,” Zibanejad said.
“It’s a night I’ll remember for a long time.”
Zibanejad’s performance was a sole bright spot for the Rangers over the last week, who have lost four of five games and have seen their playoff odds plummet from 40 percent at the end of February to just 14 percent, according to Money Puck.
“It’s a night I’ll remember for a long time.”
While there’s still hockey to be played, it seems as if the Rangers playoff hopes have run its course with their recent stretch of games. Even so, Zibanejad’s milestone on Thursday is a moment to be celebrated. Zibanejad is second on the Rangers this season in points with 72 and a career-high of 39 goals. He’s set to surpass last season’s career-year of 74 points over 82 games, and he’s doing so after missing an entire month of play between November and December.
Zibanejad carried the Rangers on his back with his five-goal performance last week, lifting New York to a much-needed win. Though most of his goals in that game came off of being in the right place at the right time, that’s just how the game of hockey is played sometimes. Zibanejad got the lucky bounces he needed to put together an iconic five-goal performance, and the Rangers have a little bit of fight left in them as the season nears its end.
Heel: The circus that is the Ottawa Senators franchise
It seems as if a day does not go by in the NHL without the Ottawa Senators reminding us of their presence.
(Ottawa fans, we love you and we want you guys to get help, we promise.)
Over the last week, the Senators — and owner Eugene Melnyk — have seen themselves embroiled in another scandal in a long list of issues and problems the franchise has faced in recent years. On Wednesday, the Senators announced that CEO Jim Little — whom they hired eight weeks prior — had been fired due to “conduct inconsistent with the core values of the Ottawa Senators and the National Hockey League.”
That same day, Little released a statement about the firing, blaming a spat with Melnyk during a meeting on Valentine’s Day, which included swearing seemingly directed at the Senators owner.
More information trickled out about the dispute between Little and Melnyk, which included details that the entire office could hear the argument, and also that the former CEO was incredibly blunt when talking to Melnyk about his relationship to the team.
Over the weekend, the story went from another funny incident in a long line of Senators’ screw-ups to a more serious one, however. According to The National Post, Little was not fired due to the dispute with Melnyk but was instead let go because of allegations of domestic abuse towards his ex-wife that surfaced in an internal investigation.
With this new information, Little’s firing brings up a whole host of questions, many of which can be lobbied at the Senators’ vetting process that brought Little into the fold in the first place.
Then on Monday, news broke that the Senators’ Vice President of Communications and Community Relations, PJ Loyello, was put on leave the same day Little was fired, dragging another person into the mix as the Senators’ organizational chaos continues.
It’s hard to state just how much of a circus the Senators — and Melnyk — have been over the last few seasons. Every few months or so, the Senators seem to pop back into the news again for some bad press, whether it be an Uber video that caught Ottawa players trashing coaches or Melnyk himself stating he would move the team if they became a “disaster” on the evening before the franchise was hosting an outdoor game.
The Senators, and Melnyk, cannot get out of their own way when it comes to bad PR in some form or another. These incidents have gone past laughable to the point of being nearly unbelievable with how often the team has surfaced in the news unrelated to the game of hockey itself. The firing of Little is just the latest episode in the ongoing Senators saga with Melnyk at the helm, and it certainly will not be the last.
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