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The NHL season starts today. There Are 4 Stories To Follow When Hockey Begins NPR

Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar are two strong MVP contenders playing as returning champions for the Colorado Avalanche.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

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Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar are two strong MVP contenders playing as returning champions for the Colorado Avalanche.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Will the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup? Or is this finally Toronto’s year? Will hockey’s previous record ever be broken, and how will the NHL respond to the wave of allegations and concerns about sexual assault?

The NHL season starts tonight. The league is about to have a full uninterrupted season for the first time since the pandemic began. (The 2020 and 2021 seasons were cut short due to scheduling issues, and last year’s season was interrupted by a one-week break as the Omicron variant infested nearly every team in the league.)

This year’s notable stories include:

Will the Colorado Avalanche Drive It Back?

Last year’s Stanley Cup winners, the Colorado Avalanche, start the season as favorites. They returned most of the core that helped propel the team to their first Stanley Cup in 20 years, and did so by defeating returning champion Tampa Bay.

In hockey, it has become common in recent years for the winner to repeat. The Tampa Bay Lightning won back-to-back titles in 2020 and he in 2021, following the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and his 2017.

The Avalanche have lost several key players since winning the Cup, including goalkeeper Darcy Kemper.

But they have two MVPs in top-tier center Nathan McKinnon and outstanding defenseman Kale McCur who is at or near the top of the league in scoring stats for virtually every defensive player. Returning Candidates. Makar could become the first defenseman to win the award in over 20 years.

Or will this be the year of the long unlucky maple leaf?

Maple Leafs have long been the joke of the NHL. The team has the second-most Stanley Cups in league history, but the last time he won was in the 1960s.

Since then, the Leafs have had 54 seasons, the longest drought ever in league history, and counting without a championship. The team has not won a playoff series in his 17 years.

Now they trail Avalanche in cup winning odds. They have 25-year-old center Ouston Matthews, the league’s top scorer with 60 goals last season, and six-time All-Star center Jon Tavares leading the attack.

The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, are the Maple Leafs. They have been playoff material for years and have yet to win a series, including last year when he had the fourth-best record in the league.

But if they can pull it off, it will be the first time a Canadian team has won the Cup since 1993.

Will Ovechkin rise to second on the all-time scoring list?

Baseball isn’t the only sport with a historic track record.

General forward Alex Ovechkin, who has led the Washington Capitals since 2005, has scored 780 goals in his career.

Last March, Ovechkin moved up to No. 3, reigniting interest in the possibility of catching hockey GOAT Wayne Gretzky, who holds the all-time career record.

Ovechkin now stands 114 goals behind Gretzky, who retired in 1999 after a 20-season career. Ovechkin, 37, has played 17 seasons so far. Last year he scored his 50th goal in his 77th game. If he can maintain this pace, he could be 20 ahead of Gretzky if he retires after the season.

Barring major injuries, Ovechkin is almost certain to move up to second place this season, becoming just the third player in history to score over 800 career goals. And he could lead next year, or more likely in the ’23-’24 season.

How does hockey address the issue of sexual misconduct?

The season begins at a moment when the sport of hockey is in renewed turmoil over sexual assault allegations, with questions and criticism about “hockey culture” and whether the sport fosters an environment of misogyny, assault and racism. are digging up

Here are the latest deployments: Hockey Canada, Canada’s hockey governing body, is currently embroiled in a scandal for paying a multi-million dollar settlement to victims of sexual assault by past members of the country’s junior national team. This included an incident in 2018 when eight players whose names were sealed by a court were alleged to have sexually assaulted a woman who later sued the organization.

The accused man’s name has not been released, but many players who played for the 2018 team They are now active in the NHL and the league is investigating their involvement.

Separately, on Friday, a Twitter user named “Emily Smith” accused Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ian Cole of grooming and sexually assaulting him as a teenager. The person’s identity has not been confirmed.

Cole denies the allegations. Tampa Bay suspended him while authorities conducted an investigation. “Our organization takes these allegations very seriously,” the team said in a statement.

Several smaller cases, including the Montreal Canadiens acquisition of a rookie convicted of secretly photographing a sexual partner and sharing the photo with teammates, and the Edmonton Oilers Development League. joined this. athletic trainer Dismissed due to misconduct.

It all comes less than a year after the Chicago Blackhawks settled a lawsuit against a former player who was sexually assaulted by an assistant coach during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup season. .