It would be premature for fans to get excited now, but the World Junior Championships could be coming to a town near you. USA Hockey confirmed last week that Buffalo would be on the list of cities as possible sites for 2010 if the tournament is held in the United States.
The possibility of having the most prestigious junior tournament here has been rumored for weeks in Western New York and beyond. It appears the U.S. hockey governing body will take a serious look at Buffalo because it's a very good hockey community that borders Canada.
USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said last week that the International Ice Hockey Federation, which oversees the tournament, would first need to decide whether the 40-team tournament should shift to the United States in three or four years. That decision was expected during the world championships in late April and early May.
"I'm not surprised you've heard banter about the potential of the World Juniors coming to Buffalo," Fischer said by telephone last week. "Certainly, if we're able to secure the World Juniors from the IIHF, Buffalo would be in the running, but we're a long way from that happening."
USA Hockey called the Sabres, who immediately expressed interest in bringing the tournament to Buffalo. Managing partner Larry Quinn acknowledged any talk now would be preliminary. Still, Western New York has a way of rallying around events that become a focal point. It was held in Sweden this year.
"The next step would be putting together a good package and identifying potential locations across the U.S.," Fischer said. "Certainly, Buffalo is one that would be considered for many reasons, obviously [being] the great hockey community that it is and certainly its proximity to Canada."
The World Junior Championships have evolved into a 10-day festival in Canada. Games involving Canada are televised across the country. It received more local attention than usual this season because South Buffalo native Patrick Kane, expected to be a top five pick in the NHL draft, was among the best players in the tournament.
Grand Forks, N.D., was the last U.S. city to stage the World Junior Championships, which it did in 2005. They were mostly swallowed in Boston in 1996. Buffalo would seem a better fit. Detroit would be another good site for many of the same reasons.
One question about Buffalo would be where the games would be played. Obviously, HSBC Arena is capable of staging any hockey event. Several games would be suited for Rochester. Games of less interest could be moved to smaller venues, such as Niagara University, Buffalo State or perhaps Jamestown.
If the University at Buffalo had a Division I hockey program, as it should, there might already be an adequate arena in place. Yes, UB, that was a hint.
Rumors were swirling last week that Montreal was ready to make a deal with Chicago for defenseman Adrian Aucoin, especially when Habs winger Sergei Samsonov and defenseman Craig Rivet watched the Vancouver game from the press box.
The Blackhawks best think twice. Samsonov had just seven goals in his first 47 games, had a 17-game scoring drought and was kicked down to the third line. He and Rivet combine to make about $6 million while Aucoin is pocketing $4 million.
Another rumor making the rounds had Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin going back to the Lightning. Tampa Bay already has mediocre goaltending. Why would it unload a superstar or the role players required to offset Khabibulin's $7.5 million salary?
Chicago needs healthy forwards who can finish. Montreal needs more production from Samsonov, who should be much better under the rules given his speed and skill. Other than more offense from its bottom three lines, Tampa Bay needs a puck-moving defenseman. Vinny Prospal is among the players available.
The Wild had everything going in the right direction with winger Marian Gaborik scoring five goals in three games after coming off the injured list and with a three-game road winning streak after an 11-game skid away from home. Then, disaster.
Pavol Demitra, Todd White, Kurtis Foster and Keith Carney were injured within minutes of each other in the first period last week against Edmonton. It made for a busy night for the remaining players, not to mention trainer Don Fuller.
"I've never seen anything like that," veteran Wes Walz said. "It was like they were cutting down trees out there. We lost about four guys in six minutes. Usually on the bench when we have a full crew, we have to tell guys to slide right and left. There wasn't much sliding right and left."
The Wild had been shopping fourth-liner Pascal Dupuis via league-wide fax, but he's probably not going anywhere until his injured teammates return. The energetic winger has been in the doghouse and can't leave fast enough.
Stars ride out storm
The NHL All-Star break couldn't come soon enough for Dallas, which expects most of its injured players back in the lineup next week. The Stars were forced to promote from Iowa five players who made their NHL debuts this season and six rookies in all.
Centers Mike Modano, Steve Ott and Jeff Halpern and defensemen Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher should be in the lineup immediately after the break or shortly thereafter. It could force them to trade center Patrik Stefan, who has been less productive than rookie winger Loui Erikson.
"The league is about development," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "You have to develop your own players now. You have to have a facility and a team that gives you the best chance of that fast-track development. . . . We're seeing the results -- some more than we'd like."
Flames defenseman Rhett Warrener on the sleek, tighter-fitting NHL uniforms, which will be unveiled at the All-Star Game: "Anything that can make me faster, I'm all for it."
Around the boards
*Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella on defenseman Dan Boyle being left off the All-Star team because the NHL wants a representative from each team: "It's a joke. He's one of the best players in the National Hockey League. To be left out because of logistics, then don't have an All-Star team." He's right.
*Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson tried at least 15 pairs of skates before checking out a pair worn by teammate Chris Kelly. He ordered the same pair and produced nine goals and 24 points in 15 games. He also scored the winning goal in four straight games.
*Say goodbye to the third jersey for a while after this season. The league is expected to get all the mileage it can from its new sweaters next season. It means the Sabres will not be wearing the fashionable old-style sweaters. The good news is the Bruins can put their third jersey where it belongs, in the trash.
*Minnesota goon Derek Boogaard confirmed why Andrew Peters isn't always wasting space on Buffalo's bench. Boogaard knocked Edmonton star Ales Hemsky from a game last week with a blindside shot, leaving the forward woozy. It wouldn't have happened had the Oilers still had Georges Laraque.
*Teemu Selanne becoming the first player this season to reach 30 goals is more remarkable when you consider 29 were scored in 37 games. He started the season with just one goal in his first 12 contests.