Panarin and Melting Ice: An eventful weekend in Hockey


The brilliant idea and beautiful views of Lake Tahoe were thwarted by the NHL’s poor consideration of the climate. (Courtesy of Twitter)

This was a very eventful weekend in the NHL with the Lake Tahoe games taking place out west on both Saturday and Sunday. Drama ensued surrounding the ice, but the breaking news that came out Monday morning overshadowed it all, at least locally.

The New York Rangers have gotten off to a tough start this season but have recently put together two straight wins with Artemi Panarin’s return. Things were finally looking up for the Blueshirts as they were getting healthy. That all came crashing down on Monday morning when Larry Brooks from the New York Post tweeted this: “Breaking news: Panarin is taking a leave of absence from NYR in aftermath of political hit piece against him from Russia alleging that he beat up an 18-year-old girl in Russia in 2011.”

This comes on the heels of an Instagram post from Panarin’s official account on Jan. 21. The post was supporting Opposition Leader in Russia, Alexi Navalny, saying “Freedom for Navalny.” This clearly was a statement against the current president Vladimir Putin, and while it is unproven that Putin was behind the piece, history would lead the dots to be connected here. 

The Rangers released a statement later Monday morning, stating, “Artemi vehemently and unequivocally denies any and all allegations in this fabricated story.” The statement continues, “Artemi is obviously shaken and concerned and will take some time away from the team.” 

The Panarin news comes on the heels of a PR nightmare for Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL. 

This weekend was supposed to be a celebration of sport at Lake Tahoe, but it quickly turned into a complete disaster. Allow me to start with a disclaimer: This was a phenomenal idea. It was a true back-to-the-roots view, and the game was the best outdoor product the NHL has thought of since the inception of the Winter Classic in 2008. While they needed to start while the sun was up to show the full view, starting at high noon Pacific time proved to be a huge mistake. 

Throughout the entire first period, people were falling all over the place. The ruts in the ice provided a dangerous surface for both Colorado and Vegas. In the first intermission, they announced a 30 minute break instead of the usual 18 minutes, and the Bruins-Flyers game the next day was moved from 3 p.m. Eastern to 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Later in the intermission, Bettman announced that the game would be postponed and resumed at midnight Eastern. Eight hours later, the game began, and the final two periods went off without a hitch. However, the issues were still the main storyline. 

The NHL had finally picked two relevant, fun and good teams instead of the Blackhawks and Red Wings again. There was an amazing background. And they went to midnight on cable instead of 3 p.m. Eastern on broadcast TV. 

While Saturday (into Sunday) was disastrous, Sunday’s game between Boston and Philadelphia was amazing. The sun was setting in the third period, leading to a great mountain view, and the game finished under the lights. 

All in all, I would give the NHL a B- this weekend. It was a great idea, and Sunday was fantastic but Saturday was a PR nightmare that it might take a little bit to recover from.