The NHL has two new teams (the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild), two groundbreaking coaches (the Blackhawks' Alpo Suhonen and the Penguins' Ivan Hlinka, the first European head men) and a new director of officiating ( Andy Van Hellemond), who will preside over an unprecedented era in which two referees will oversee each game.
The league is still searching for a new ambassador (perhaps a young stud like the Lightning's 20-year-old Vincent Lecavalier or the Bruins' 21-year-old Joe Thornton?), a post vacated when Wayne Gretzky retired 18 months ago. The Great One is also onto something new: running a team. That is, if his deal to buy 10% of the Coyotes finally closes, as expected.
Even the contenders have a fresh look. The heretofore creaky Stars are becoming more youthful, the Blues and the Maple Leafs have added veterans, and the Devils have a new owner. In the end, though, the champion will include the oldest defenseman in the game, 39-year-old Raymond Bourque, whose Avalanche will upend the Leafs to win the Stanley Cup, the oldest team trophy in pro sports.
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