By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
The best professional sports tournament began all over North America. As the National Hockey League continues Lord Stanley Cup playoffs, many believe it is the toughest tournament to win. The number one-seeded Boston Bruins breezed through the regular season and clinched the Eastern Conference, breaking records on the way.
The Boston Bruins continue to break records in the East with the most wins and most points and the Vegas Knights win the West getting by the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche by two points. The Pittsburgh Penguins did not play in May as the 16-year playoff run ends along with the 8-year runs of the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators. The Philadelphia Flyers could not score and dropped like a stone this year after the holidays. The New Jersey Devils made one of the biggest turnarounds in National Hockey League history from out of the playoffs to third place in the east and the New York Islanders finally get another playoff spot. Lastly, this will be the first time the Seattle Kraken play in the hockey tournament in their second year of existence.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are still searching for their Stanley Cup Championship since 1967. The Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Las Vegas Golden Knights stand in their way. It would be nice if a Canadian team won the Cup that has not happened since 1991 with the Montreal Canadiens. It will not happen this year the Edmonton Oilers lost to the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Maple Leafs lost to the Florida Panthers. All three Canadian teams in the playoffs did not make the conference finals. Toronto, Edmonton, and Winnipeg will have to try again next year. It is going to be tough with the Golden Knights, Seattle Kraken, and Dallas Stars in the west, and the hot Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Jersey Devils, and New York Rangers in the east.
THE CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
This year the Chicago Blackhawks are turning the page on their three-time Stanley Cup Championship teams with the trade of Patrick Kane to the New York Rangers in March and the retirement of Jonathan Toews at the end of this season. The team is contemplating a complete makeover for the 2023-24 season. The hawks made a good run and had a few good black players with Big Buf, Dustin Byfuglien, Johnny Oduya, goalie Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers, Andreas Athanasiou, and Trevor Daley. In the West, the Los Angeles Kings are in the same boat with veterans
Biggest disappointments were the Calgary Flames in the west and Buffalo Sabres in the east who did not make playoffs. At the beginning of the year, the Flames were expected to challenge for the Western Conference finals and battle for the Cup in 2023. Buffalo never got started with injuries at the beginning of the season and never recovered.
While the biggest surprise was the Seattle Kraken following the blueprint of the 2017 expansion Vegas Golden Knights model and the revamped Edmonton Oilers. Reminding many of the #99-Gretzy days in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
BLACK PLAYERS IN THE LEAGUE
The numbers have increased over the past five years with over 30 on the ice in 2023. The Tampa Bay Lightning made history by starting a complete Black scoring line with forwards this season Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith, and Daniel Walcott the first week of the season.
Former player now executive Mike Grier became the first black executive with the San Jose Sharks as General Manager and he has his work cut out as the Sharks are one of the worst scoring teams in the NHL. Hope the other executives of the Men of Teal give Grier time to straighten this mess. The Sharks are just two points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division.
BLACK PLAYERS IN THE 2023 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
This is the highest number of Black players in the championship with 14
Tampa Bay Lightning- Daniel Walcott– drafted by the New York Rangers and made NHL History by starting an all-Black front line. He will be fine once he stops riding the bus back and forth from Syracuse
Carolina Hurricanes- Jalen Chatfield– had the best year with the big club with six goals and eight assists. Chatfield also hits players on the ice when they have the puck a Simmonds clone. He is also one of the best two-way players like P.K. Subban as a model.
Seattle Kraken–Christopher Gibson– One of the few new black goaltenders drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2011. This man is big and quick and covers the net with his wingspan. He came from the Tampa Bay Lightning who had a plethora of goalies at the time. Gibson really played well in New York with the Islanders in 30 games but they too had a number of goalies. Gibson has found a home with the expansion Kraken.
Vegas Golden Knights-Keegan Kolesar– This is Kolesar’s best season with 20 points in Vegas and makes himself at home. He is currently on the grinder 4th line so he creates scoring chances with his limited ice time.
New York Rangers- K’Andre Miller- The Blueshirts better not trade this Southpaw. He protects the Ranger net while scoring nine goals and starts many rushes from the blue line with 34 assists. The first-round draft choice has become a Madison Square Garden fixture on defense.
Los Angeles Kings – Quinton Byfield– The highest-drafted black player in the league in 2020 the second player picked in the rebuilding process in Los Angeles. This young Southpaw can score too. He has doubled his production this year with 22 points. Byfield is very quick on the ice and uses that speed to his advantage.
Tampa Bay Lighting- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare- This may be his last year, being the cagey veteran and playing on multiple Stanley Cup Finals and was part of the expansion Vegas Knights 2018 run to the playoffs. Bellemare generates scoring rushes for the Bolts. This could be the last party for Bellemare.
Edmonton Oilers- Evander Kane- The San Jose Sharks did not allow this man to bloom into the scorer that he is now. Joining Conner McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Kane has become one of the best things that ever happened. He was the first Black player to score 20-plus goals for three different teams and is currently the best black player in the league. America misses its ice talent.
Edmonton Oilers-Darnell Nurse- One of the best defensemen in the league and can score goals if needed. This is his ninth year in the great Northwest, and this was his best plus-minus season with the Oilers with 43 assists. He is continently buzzing around the net even though he is a defenseman
Minnesota Wild – Ryan Reaves- He is still one of the best enforcers in the league as he helped the Knights to the Stanley Cup Finals protecting the young stars years ago. He is doing the same job, a little older for the Wild this year as they have become a tougher team on defense this year. This was the sleeper team in the playoffs that nobody knew.
Minnesota Wild- Matt Dumba- The 2012 first-round pick finally has settled down in the Twin Cities missing only three games this season. He has 80 goals and 160 assists in ten years wearing Evergreen. Dumba is also carrying the Filipino Flag on the ice. The Iron Man of the Wild with 14 points and strong defense on the right side teaming up with Jake Middleton
Florida Panthers- Anthony DuClair– The old man of the league and the All-Star continues to shine with pushing his team to the top of the Atlantic Division. They defeated the Boston Bruins in the first-round upset.
Florida Panthers- Givani Smith- The forward needs to get more playing time for the Cats. Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round and traded to the Panthers in 2022.
END OF PART I-NEXT EASTERN CONFERENCE
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad News Network Disabled Community Activist. Email at
©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod