Joe Pavelski is experiencing one of the best seasons of his 15-year NHL career. Although the Dallas Stars are off to a slower than expected start after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, Pavelski is carrying the load – especially as the team deals with the injury absences of Tyler Seguin, Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov. In 28 games, Pavelski has scored 14 goals, six more than any other teammate, and is averaging one point per game, his best pace to date and double that of the 2019-20 regular season.
Off the ice, Pavelsky is gearing up for even more success: He runs a sports media company.
In 2017, Pavelski founded Company 39, a digital platform that helps athletes share their stories, build their brands and better connect with fans. Last week, the company renamed itself TorchPro, thanks to funding, and also announced the purchase of Morning Blitz, a daily sports newsletter. TorchPro has 12 full-time employees, a group of 12-14 interns and eight founding athletes, including Charlie McAvoy, Riley Sheehan and Mike Green. Casey Bellamy, a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team, was the first athlete to register for the event.
The first offering of the site includes several videos made : Pavelski explains his path to becoming a pro, McAvoy talks about the basics of traveling, Sheahan talks about his passion for the guitar and Bellamy talks about his training.
Our goal is to make it work and develop it as much as possible, Pavelski said. As long as we’re talking to the players, it’s exciting. They can take control of their brand and develop it in an authentic way. The culture has changed, people feel more comfortable telling their stories and we think we have the opportunity to create something really meaningful.
TorchPro is the story of a professional athlete who begins to think about what his life will be like after retirement. It’s also a story about hockey culture and the veteran who wants to help adapt it and leave a better legacy for the next generation. TorchPro is based on a story of friends that begins with a friendship forged at an ice rink.
Pavelski met Matt Fornataro at Iowa in 2002 as a teammate with the USHL’s Waterloo Blackhawks. We were just two teenagers chasing our dreams, Fornataro says. They won the championship in 2004 and then went their separate ways. Fornataro played at the University of New Hampshire and then had a 10-year pro career, mostly in the AHL and some in Europe. Pavelski went to Wisconsin and struck out. He earned the nickname Captain America by playing for the San Jose Sharks and Team USA in two Olympics. They stayed friends everywhere.
When Fornataro retired in 2016, he began helping Pavelski manage his social media accounts. He has also been involved in organizing summer camps in Wisconsin. Pavelski appreciated the opportunity to share his knowledge with the young hockey players. When I was growing up, there was no social media to see what other guys were doing, other workouts to see what they looked like, you just watched the games, Pawelski said. One of my favorite players was Brett Hull. Looking back, it would have been so cool to get close to these guys, to see if you were doing something right, to try to match them or just be closer to them.
Pawelski wondered how they could share with the masses what he personally teaches to over 100 children?
With Pawelski’s initial investment, they founded Company 39.
There are great people and great stories in hockey that have not been made public in the way we think they should be, Fornataro said. The modest gene has held the game back in many ways. Hockey is a humble game, it’s about team, team, team. However, there is sometimes a problem in that a player who shares their personality or outside interest somehow becomes a bad person or a me, me, me type of person, and that is not true.
Pavelski, 36, recruits young players for the league. His speech: If you could add a piece [of your life] every year for the next 10 or 15 years, imagine how awesome it would be if a child witnessed your journey?
McAvoy, 23, the Boston Bruins’ No. 1 defenseman, was happy to be a part of it.
We had a conversation with a couple of guys last week to talk about it, and we shared a lot of the same feelings as people who have gone before us, and everybody in hockey, the culture is a little bit reluctant when it comes to having a brand outside of this team, because nobody feels comfortable talking about it : Hey, look at me, McAvoy said. The humble hockey player you see on just about every guy on every team is the mold everyone falls into. I love it, you meet the nicest people, real gentlemen in hockey. But I also think that there are people who are interested in our stories, who want to see other athletes play hockey, and this allows them to do that.
Pavelski, right, has been the driving force for the Stars this season. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Pavelski is still under contract with the Stars through the 2021-22 season. While he’s not sure what his life will be like after hockey, he’s proud that he’s laying the groundwork now.
There are a lot of guys who don’t think about it until they’re ready, they have a year or two left in their career and they think about it: Okay, what do you want me to do? Pavelski said. This transition, from what we know and what I have seen, is not easy for anyone. To me, it’s not like you have one foot in the door and the other outside, but you gradually learn who you are as a person and what you love, and I hope that helps you when your playing days are over and you can move on to the next phase of your life.
And why has he been so successful on the ice this season? Pawelski has several theories.
Last year was very interesting because it wasn’t the first time we were in San Jose, he said. And I think some of the wounds that I had were coming back that I didn’t think would affect me in any way. There were a lot of little things – with the move, all the new teammates, getting comfortable. I think part of my game is reading the players and spotting trends. I think the game is good, I think the game is unlike flying on the wing and beating guys one on one. But I definitely feel more comfortable with these guys, I’m enjoying myself with them, and I’ve rebuilt some things in the way I wanted to play, I think that all helped.
The tight schedule doesn’t seem to bother him too much – on the contrary, it might make him blossom.
I was talking to Jumbo Joe Thornton the other day and I thought: We play four games a week for the next month! said Pavelski. He’s like this: You know how it is, you and me and a lot of these guys, we like to play games. We like to practice too, but once the games are on, it’s fun. They play the game, rest, recover the next day and are ready to play again. That’s why we love this game: to compete, to perform. You come in every night, you might be a little tired, but when the warm-up starts, there is an enthusiasm to play.
This week’s three stars
What we liked this week
What we didn’t like
Best games of the week
Social post of the week
1. The Boston Bruins are the last team to get a break. Two games were postponed this week after four players were placed on the COVID protocol list. The team hopes to open its training facilities on Wednesday.
The Bruins are fourth in the East Division, and judging by GM Don Sweeney’s mid-season press conference, it seems the team is interested in some offensive help to solve its scoring problem (Boston ranks fourth in the league in 5-for-5 scoring in 28 games). Even if the Bruins want to add a defensive player before the trade deadline, it’s not a huge deal. This is largely due to the fact that McAvoy has taken the #1 position perfectly, while other young linemen have taken on more prominent roles. This is even more impressive considering that the blue line is dealing with a number of injuries.
I don’t feel like there’s anything else to talk about this early in the season other than the loss of Z [Zdeno Chara], Torey [Krug] and the inability to keep the puck out of the net, McAvoy said. And you’ve seen everyone go to committees. I am so proud to be a part of it. To see the boys we have brought into the team develop well, especially after the injuries we had at the back. On the night that Jack Ahkan plays his first NHL game, we call on everyone. It was just the next way of thinking. Everyone comes and does their job.
That’s part of the culture here – no matter who’s in the lineup, we’ve always been strong, we’ve always felt we had what it took to win. It’s so embodied this season.
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2. I asked an NHL pro scout which affordable goalie he would prefer if his team were on the market (there are none). He didn’t hesitate: Jonathan Bernier. The 29-year-old struggled with the Detroit Red Wings, with a save percentage of .918 for a team that wasn’t too good. However, he was injured in Thursday’s win over the Stars and the team is unsure of the severity of his injury. The keep teams are monitoring the situation.
I would just say it’s one of those injuries that can heal quickly or last longer, coach Jeff Blashill said. We’re not sure.
3. More on the Carolina Hurricanes later this week, but first a positive development: Goalkeeper Petr Mrazek has resumed training and his return is imminent. Mrazek, 29, had been employed for 30 years. January out of the running and had surgery on his right thumb. He recently had his pins removed and will return to the team as soon as he feels well.
Mrazek has only started four times this season, but has an exceptional save percentage of .955 and only given up three goals. Carolina has done well without him – thanks in no small part to 25-year-old Alex Nedeljkovic – but they’d love to have their No. 1 back. The Canes have lost three games for the first time this season and have fallen back to third place in the Central Division. Carolina is still three points behind division leader Tampa Bay and has a comfortable 10-point lead in fourth place.
But the injuries are mounting. Top scorer Vincent Trocheck (upper body) has been absent since September 11. March is out, and first man TEVO TEREVEINEN (concussion) has been out since March 4. Get out of the action.
I think most teams can recover from short-term injuries, but when you have long-term injuries, it’s hard, coach Rod Brind’Amour told me Friday. We had a few this year. Without Peter, someone had to take over. Nedeljkovic did very well. We were lucky that the boys could take over, because those are three big shoes to fill.
Three Star Week
Mika Zibanejad, C, New York Rangers.
For starters, Zibanejad was the only player besides Islanders legend Brian Trottier to score six points in one period; he was the offensive star of Philadelphia’s wild 9-0 win over New York on Wednesday. (Trottier was the only record holder for 42 years). Then he scored the winning goal against the Capitals with a great individual effort :
Mika Zibanejad pushes away a defender and scores the equalizer late in the third period #NYR pic.twitter.com/zmyvr3vzNx
– Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 21, 2021
The 27-year-old, who crashed earlier this season, is definitely on the mend. In his own words: I’ve been feeling pretty good for a few weeks now, feeling like myself again.
Philip Grubauer, J, Colorado Avalanche
Right now, no goalie in the league is better than Grubauer, who has three wins (including his fifth screamer) while having a save percentage of .985. He also got help because, well, why not? During Colorado’s six-game winning streak, he allowed just three goals on 136 shots for a .977 save percentage.
One of Grubauer’s performances this week took the pressure off Hunter Miske (who gave up four goals on seven shots) and confirmed that Colorado is looking for a solid backup, even beyond the Jonas Johansson trade.
Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers.
A new week, another dominant performance from the Oilers’ captain (four goals, including two game-winners, and four assists) in four games. He is now the fastest player to score 60 points since Mario Lemieux in 2002-03 (who also did it in 34 team games).
This is a good time to return to that story I wrote a few years ago to remind you that McDavid, despite all his efforts on the ice, is actually human.
What we liked this week..
1. It has been 716 days since Thomas Hickey last played in an NHL regular season game. The 31-year-old defenseman was benched as the Islanders needed a spot on the roster for their young blueliner. When the opportunity presented itself for Hickey, he was injured.
But on Saturday, the time had come: Hickey returned for the first time since the 3rd. May 2019: Back in the NHL. He had two assists in the Islanders’ 6-1 victory over the Flyers and said it was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time.
Hickey’s journey has not been easy. Just over a year ago, he lost his older brother Dan to brain cancer. Dan, who lived in Calgary, leaves behind his wife and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Hickey said we struggled a lot on Saturday. I thought about my brother, I always wanted to do good while he was struggling and fight and show him that you can play for him. I think even when he’s not with us, it’s in the back of his mind. … The road was tough, but I think it was worth it. It’s worth the wait.
2. We are pleased to announce that Devante Smith-Pelly has returned to North America after signing a professional tryout contract with the Ontario AHL Board. Smith-Pelly, 28, played in the 2018 Stanley Cup series. Smith-Pelly spent last season with Kunlun Red Star in the KHL.
3. It has been a disappointing season for the Anaheim Ducks, and they are looking to the future. The good news is that there are some bright spots among the young core that fans can look forward to. Jamie Drysdale (6th pick in the 2020 draft) and Trevor Zegras (9th pick in the 2019 draft) scored their first NHL goals in the same game in the Coyotes’ overtime victory.
Trevor Zegra’s first NHL goal on a shot by Troy Terry pic.twitter.com/IVlz9hcfyN
– Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 19, 2021
What we didn’t like this week
1. We never like it when a coach loses his job, but the split between the Sabres and Ralph Kruger was inevitable after things went downhill for Buffalo (it has now lost 13 games and the goal difference is minus-33).
The questions are certainly not just about coaching, but the Sabres can’t answer why they went through so many gears. Interim bench boss Don Granato is the Sabres’ seventh coach this decade. I mean, I understand why the decision was made, said Rasmus Ristolainen, an eight-year veteran. It’s business. I’ve been here before. I’ve seen so many coach changes and generators, but especially with most of the coach changes we’ve had here, I feel like it’s the players that are most important. But you can’t fire the players, which means the coach still has to take responsibility.
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Owners Terry and Kim Pegula want to win, and hopefully this final season of disappointment will give them pause. In the early years of the league, the Peguls listened to the league’s recruiting recommendations, but when things didn’t work out, they picked people they knew (that’s why longtime Sabres employee Kevin Adams got the GM job). But Adams needs help and seems to be the first to hire an assistant GM. As I wrote last week, the Sabres are facing serious problems; their scouting department was hit with budget cuts during the pandemic. They still have many of these positions to fill and plan to rely heavily on wideouts in this draft round.
According to Cap Friendly, the Sabres could have $34.95 million in cap space this summer with the contracts of Taylor Hall, Carter Hutton, Jake McCabe, Brandon Montour, Tobias Rieder, Riley Sheehan and Linus Ullmark. The Sabres have tried to address their Free Agency issues with money in the past, but it hasn’t worked. It’s time for a complete reboot.
2. The Philadelphia Flyers are in trouble. They’ve scored 13 goals in their last three games, their worst three-game differential since November 2002. Needless to say, the 9-0 loss against the Rangers (and their backup coaching staff) was embarrassing.
An uncomfortable thing to say in the context of flight season: They just haven’t been the same team since the fight against COWID-19 was defeated and they had to take a break in early February. Since then, they are 7-8-1 in the bottom five of the NHL and allow 3.94 goals per game, penultimate in the league (ahead of Anaheim), over that span. Carter Hart isn’t himself (and he’s now the worst player in the league with a minus-17.61 goals-per-game statistic), but there are too many outliers for him on defense.
This week, GM Chuck Fletcher will consider whether his team can be a top performer this year, or whether it is better to write off this season as a developmental season. Don’t forget: The Flyers were one of the most dominant teams in the second half of last season. From the 2020 All-Star break to the March break, Philadelphia went 14-4-1 and led all teams in scoring with an average of 3.89 goals per game. Such a turnaround is possible, and the playoffs are still within reach.
3. Timur Faizutdinov, the 19-year-old captain of Dynamo St. Petersburg, was part of the team for the past two years. Petersburg, died in Russia last week after being hit in the head by a puck. The horrific accident sent shockwaves through the hockey community. It was nice to see Evgeni Malkin honor Fayzutdinov with a sticker on his helmet.
Evgeni Malkin wears the number 77 sticker on his helmet in memory of Timur Faizutdinov, who tragically passed away after suffering a head injury during a hockey game. He was 19 years old and captained the St. Louis Dynamo. St. Petersburg. Our thoughts are with Timur’s family and his teammates pic.twitter.com/qIhSv1GXm5
– Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 16, 2021
Unfortunately, Malkin, who is still in the early stages of the season, is now listed with a lower-body injury that he sustained this week.
Best games of the week
Message: Always oriental.
Thursday 25. March: New York Rangers – Philadelphia Flyers at 7 p.m. (ESPN+).
The last time these teams met, the Rangers won 9-0. The return game is an important preview.
Thursday 25. March: Vegas Golden Knights – Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m.
The cars are warming up, driving on a six-lane and looking at the best spot in Vegas to the west. He could also start two of the most dominant goalies in the league right now, Grubauer and Marc-Andre Fleury.
It coincides with the resurgence of the Colorado River: Cale Makar is back.
Cale Makar is so effective pic.twitter.com/TLhfY5fCCr
– NHL (@NHL) March 20, 2021
Saturday 27. March: Tampa Bay Lightning – Carolina Hurricanes at 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
The Central Division is the toughest and perhaps the toughest division in the NHL this season. The Canes have three more games against the Lightning (2-3 so far), which could have a big impact on the standings.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay’s point total (767) is tied with the Stanley Cup defending champions after 30 games and is the highest since the 1985-86 Oilers.
Social Media Post of the Week
With his #718 goal last week, Alex Ovechkin passed Phil Esposito for sixth place on the NHL all-time scoring list. With 720 points, he is now just 174 points behind Wayne Gretzky. The tradition of players congratulating other players on their records will never bore me. (Gordie Howe followed Gretzky on the road when Gretzky was ready to break his record, and Gretzky vowed to do the same for Ovechkin).
And now, a message from the great Phil Esposito for Alex Ovechkin on the occasion of his sixth all-time record! #ALLCAPS | #Gr8 pic.twitter.com/8NydChJFE8
– Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 17, 2021
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