Gonzaga’s appearance last Monday in the NCAA men’s basketball championship reminded some of the school’s short-lived hockey prowess led by a future “one-hit-wonder” Stanley Cup winning goalie.
Calgary native Frank McCool backstopped Gonzaga into the 1940 International Collegiate Championship, where the Bulldogs suffered their only collegiate loss that season to the University of Toronto. McCool played three seasons at Gonzaga, which tried varsity hockey for four years to lure more Canadian students but stopped because of costs and the onset of World War II.
McCool earned the nickname “Ulcers” at Gonzaga because he suffered them frequently, due partly to game time nervousness requiring him to drink milk during intermissions to calm his stomach. Later, after playing for a Canadian Army team, McCool got a shot with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were down a goalie entering the 1944-45 season as future Hall of Famer Turk Broda was serving overseas.
McCool played all 50 games that season, going 24-22-4 with a 3.22 goals against average and winning the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year. In the playoffs, his Maple Leafs stunned heavily-favored Montreal, then took down Detroit in seven games to win a surprising Cup — with McCool allowing only nine goals, still an NHL finals record.
The following season, after a contract holdout, McCool returned to play 22 games but his ulcers were flaring up, his performance declined and the Leafs weren’t thrilled he’d asked for $500 more salary. They released him and McCool returned to Calgary, becoming general manager of a local newspaper.
He died in 1973 at age 54, and his daughter confirming ulcers played a role in his death. An arena in Calgary, used for youth and adult recreational hockey, bears McCool’s name. Gonzaga today has an ACHA Division 2 club hockey program.
OK, enough history. On to your questions.
The Mariners and Seahawks often lead their respective leagues in miles traveled each season, are the Kraken likely to experience the same fate in the NHL? — @CHWorldTour
They’ll be nearly as bad off, with the exception of Vancouver, British Columbia, being a half-hour plane hop away. Eastern Conference teams are closer to each other, especially in the Metropolitan Division where the Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils play within the same Metro area while the Philadelphia Flyers are a two-hour drive down the interstate.
Teams typically play 14 road games against division opponents, 12 against other-division opponents from the same conference and then one against each opposing conference squad. But once the NHL hits 32 teams, that formula would equal 84 games and require two games to be dropped — one of those on the road. Speculation has it one of the same conference/other division road games will vanish.
We’ll also see whether the NHL schedules back-to-back games between teams in the same city on different nights to reduce travel.
The Kraken won’t have it bad in their Pacific Division, with Vancouver, then Calgary at 1 hour, 25 minutes away by plane, Edmonton at 1 hour, 40 minutes, San Jose at 1 hour, 45 minutes, Vegas at 2 ½ hours and both Los Angeles and Anaheim at about 2 hours, 45 minutes away.
The Mariners, in contrast, have the Oakland Athletics as their nearest division rival 2 hours, 10 minutes away.
But it’s worse with the Kraken’s same conference/other division games as Central Division locales feature Nashville, at 4 hours, 20 minutes away, Chicago at 4 hours and Dallas and St. Louis at roughly 3 hours, 50 minutes. Minneapolis is 3 hours, 20 minutes away, Winnipeg and Phoenix are about 2 hours, 50 minutes and Denver 2 1/2 hours.
Eastern Conference teams generally fly fewer than three hours to cities within the opposing division.
Both conferences have it rough playing one another as teams typically must cross two or three time zones.
Unlike the Mariners, the Kraken likely won’t have the worst travel. Edmonton and Calgary have longer to go to California and are close to 50,000 miles traveled in any season while the NHL average is about 40,000. The Canucks, a rough Kraken comparison, usually fly about 46,000 miles — similar to the Colorado Avalanche, a team somewhat isolated in the middle of the country.
How much of the salary cap do they have to take in from players in dispersal draft? Can they take players they can non-tender so they have more money for UFA’s and trades w clubs up against the cap? Thx — @wan8iv
The Kraken will select 30 players — one from each team with Vegas exempt — and at least 20 must already be under contract for 2021-22. So, at most 10 pending unrestricted free agents can be signed by the Kraken within a pre-draft window if they’re to count as a team’s relinquished player.
The salary cap hit of all 30 players must be at least 60% of the $81.5 million cap upper limit, meaning $48.9 million. All players taken must spend the 2021-22 season with the Kraken. So, they can’t be non-tendered earlier to free cap space.
If you are going to suggest one candidate for the Head Coaching position to Ron Francis, who would it be? — @CelestialMosh
Three-quarters of my Montreal hometown thinks they can coach the Canadiens. So, I’ll maybe suggest Jean-Francois the mechanic, Thierry the bus driver and Susie the radio phone-in caller to Francis just in case the Canadiens bypass them and keep Dominique Ducharme behind their bench.
Seriously, Francis doesn’t need my help. Though, when I had breakfast with Kraken owner Jerry Buckheimer and CEO Tod Leiweke at the June 2019 draft in Vancouver, they asked me who I’d name the Kraken’s GM and I told them Francis. A month later, they hired him, so maybe Francis does need my help? Nah. I also told both not to name the team “Kraken,” and they ignored me.
All kidding aside, Francis likely knows who he wants already. My money’s on Rod Brind’Amour being his top choice. But if his ex-teammate signs an extension with Carolina, keep an eye on Travis Green of the Canucks. He’s one guy we haven’t mentioned yet, largely because his Canucks made the second round of the playoffs last season and were expected to contend this year. They haven’t and Green, who’d mesh well with the Kraken’s analytics approach, could be fired for something as much his GM’s fault as his own. The Kraken have waited this long partially to see whether a surprise like this could drop in their lap.
New sports venues usually get rewarded with all star games. (Or super bowl if your nfl.) Could we expect the NHL all star game here in the next five years . — @brycetacoma
When NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman came to town two years ago, he said: “We’ve promised an All-Star Game to Seattle within seven years of playing.”
Now, COVID-19 complicated things given the cancellation of this year’s game scheduled for Sunrise, Florida. Next year’s site hasn’t been announced but if it’s someplace else the league has said the Florida Panthers will get near-term hosting consideration and that likely bumps the Kraken to at least 2024.
Also, don’t forget the Vegas Golden Knights next season will have played five years without an ASG so they’re due. Also, you’ve got the New York Islanders opening UBS Arena this fall, with Bettman last summer saying he could see the Isles soon hosting their first-ever ASG.
Getting one inside of five years would be fantastic for the Kraken, given the NHL’s history of awarding these things under Bettman.
The Ottawa Senators waited 19 years for an ASG, the Nashville Predators 16, the Columbus Blue Jackets 14, the Carolina Hurricanes 14, the Dallas Stars 13, the Florida Panthers 10 and the Atlanta Thrashers 10. The Arizona Coyotes haven’t staged one in 24 years since relocating from Winnipeg, though they were given one nine years in before the NHL canceled it when it sent players to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
On the flip side, the San Jose Sharks were supposed to host one after just a three-year wait, but the 1994-95 lockout scuttled that and they eventually staged it two years later. The expansion Minnesota Wild, under then team-president Tod Leiweke, waited only three years to host the 2004 game while the Tampa Bay Lightning waited six years for the 1999 game.
This new Kraken ownership group led by David Bonderman, Bruckheimer and with Leiweke as CEO, should have clout with the league — especially after paying a $650 million franchise fee. That billion-dollar arena won’t hurt either. When the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have serious league clout, opened their new arena in 1999 they had an ASG the following year.
So, while seven years isn’t a relatively long wait, I’ll venture that yes — even with COVID-19 factored in, the Kraken will have the game within five years.