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Thursday roundup: NHL, union launch post-career program

Associated Press
Sharks forward Tomas Hertl celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

The NHL and NHLPA want players to plan for life after hockey long before they hang up their skates.

Now they have an avenue to do so.

The league and union on Thursday announced a new program intended to help players further their education, network and find out what jobs they may be suited for, such as finance and broadcasting. The goal of the Core Development Program is to connect with players early so the transition to life after hockey is easier.

“It’s not just for players late in their careers,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. “It’s going to be focused on players and really raising awareness among even the younger players that the sooner they can start focusing on the longer term, the better off they’ll generally be — as much in their careers as after their careers.”

The NFL, NBA and MLB all have resources to help players transition after retirement, and the NHL Alumni has one with the Break Away program. This new endeavor is closer to the NFL and NFLPA’s Player Engagement department that focuses on continued education, financial stability and career development.

Former Wings defenseman Mathieu Schneider, now the NHLPA’s special assistant to the executive director, said player feedback as far back as 2013 helped spawn the new program. He said he believes players are generally conscious of the uncertainty of life after hockey and many wanted more assistance.

“It’s really to help guys figure out first what they think they’re good at, and then second to help them figure out what they really are good at and to give them the tools to be successful at whatever it may be that they’re interested in,” said Schneider, who called the diversity of the union membership the biggest challenge.

“You have a significant number of players that want to (get a college degree), you have a significant number of players that might want to start their own business, that want to be involved with finance, that want to become agents. While they’re playing, they have incredible opportunities that other people might not have.”

Some players have taken their own initiative in establishing non-hockey interests during their playing days, such as Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara getting his real estate license. Longtime forward Jeff Halpern, now an assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, considers an example such as Chara the best way to sell this program to current players.

“I think it’s easy when guys are ending their careers or at the end of their career for people to become interested because they realize that their window is closing,” said Halpern, part owner of a fried chicken and doughnut shop in the Washington area. Getting through to young players may “be the hardest obstacle for the league and for the PA. I think most guys, they want to hear about other examples, other things that could be made available to them.”

Washington Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt is in the process of studying for his real estate exam and working with an adviser at the University of Minnesota. He said he thinks the program could help a lot of players fill their time and ease their minds.

“A lot of guys, I think, are just scared of what happens after they’re done playing,” Schmidt said. “Even for a guy that has a college degree, I’m kind of nervous for when that day might come.”

Taking away the “What now?” nerves is another potential benefit of the program. In other words, a relaxed player is a better player.

“There have been studies done that show that players that are prepared for life after sports, after their careers, actually perform better during their careers,” Schneider said. “Maybe it alleviates the anxiety or the some of the pressure that might come normally.”

The voluntary program is independent of Break Away, but Daly didn’t rule out collaboration later. More ideas can’t hurt, and players are glad to know they have help coming up with future paths.

“You need to be aware of the opportunity that’s there,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s nice to learn and be more of a well-rounded person because hockey is just one part of your life and it lasts for a year to 20, if you’re lucky, and then you got a whole lot more hopefully to live.”

Penguins 3, Sharks 2

Pittsburgh — Evgeni Malkin, Scott Wilson and Patric Hornqvist scored during a furious third-period rally to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

The Penguins trailed by two goals after two largely lifeless periods in a rematch of last June’s Stanley Cup Final before catching fire late. Hornqvist and Malkin both finished with a goal and an assist. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots and bought the Penguins time until the offense finally got going.

Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau scored for the Sharks, who controlled the first 40 minutes and appeared well on their way to a one-sided victory before falling apart late. Martin Jones made 17 saves but saw the play in front of him break down in the third.

Ducks 3, Flyers 2

Philadelphia — Ryan Garbutt’s goal broke a tie in the third period and sent the Ducks to their first win of the season, over the Flyers.

The Ducks opened 0-3-1 and had failed to score more than two goals in any of those games. Chris Wagner and Corey Perry also scored to help the Ducks spoil Philadelphia’s home opener.

Korbinian Holzer’s angled pass from behind the net led to Garbutt’s one-timer that stunned Steve Mason for the winner.

Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read scored for the Flyers. The Flyers have lost all three games since winning on opening night and dropped to 27-16-6 lifetime in home openers.

John Gibson stopped 20 shots for the Ducks.

Bruins 2, Devils 1

Boston — Patrice Bergeron scored the tiebreaking goal with 75 seconds left in his season debut to give the Bruins a victory over the Devils.

After missing the first three games with an unspecified injury, Bergeron returned to practice on Wednesday and took regular shifts in the home opener against New Jersey. He was on the ice when linemate Brad Marchand tied it 1-all with just under 10 minutes left in regulation, and he was there again to slide in the game-winner at the end.

Tuukka Rask had 28 saves for the Bruins, who fought off a power play for the last 50 seconds without allowing a shot.

Kyle Palmieri scored for the Devils, and Cory Schneider stopped 34 shots.

Capitals 4, Panthers 2

Sunrise, Fla. — Alex Ovechkin scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period to lift the Capitals over the Panthers.

Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams scored goals for the Capitals. Matt Niskanen recorded two assists and Braden Holtby made 26 saves.

Jaromir Jagr became the third player to score 750 goals. He is in third place all-time in the NHL, behind only Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). Michael Matheson also scored for the Panthers.

Roberto Luongo made 25 stops.

Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead 3-2 with 12:27 left in the third. His one-timer from the point got past Luongo, who was screened on the play.

Johannson stretched the lead to 4-2 with an unassisted goal with 1:20 left.

Canadiens 5, Coyotes 2

Montreal — Carey Price made 27 saves in his season debut to help the Canadiens beat the Coyotes.

Price made his first NHL start since injuring his right knee on Nov. 25, 2015. He also missed the first three games of this season because of the flu. Alexei Emelin, Torrey Mitchell, Shea Weber, Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen scored for Montreal (3-0-1).

Jakob Chychrun and Laurent Dauphin scored for the Coyotes.

Playing for the injured Coyotes starter Mike Smith, backup Louis Domingue allowed four goals on 19 shots before being pulled in the second period. Justin Peters stopped 23 of 24 shots in relief. Arizona dropped to 1-2-0.

Avalanche 4, Lightning 0

Tampa, Fla.— Matt Duchene had two goals and an assist, Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for his 21st career shutout and the Avalanche beat the Lightning.

Andreas Martinsen and Carl Soderberg scored for the Avalanche, who are 2-1 on a four-game trip. Colorado beat Pittsburgh in overtime and lost to Washington earlier on the trip.

Duchene scored in the final minute of both the first and second periods. Varlamov made a strong save on Nikita Kucherov’s low right circle shot in the second.

Tampa Bay went 3-1 on a season-opening four-game homestand.

Wild 3, Maple Leafs 2

St. Paul, Minn.— Eric Staal scored twice and the Wild recovered from another deficit to beat the Maple Leafs.

Staal has three goals in his first four games with his new team, and his game-winner with 8 minutes left kept Minnesota unbeaten in its three-game homestand despite allowing the first goal in each game.

Zac Dalpe scored his first for the Wild, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 31 shots.

Toronto let another third-period advantage slip away as No. 1 overall draft pick Auston Matthews continued his scorching rookie season with his fifth goal in four games. The Maple Leafs surrendered a four-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss a night earlier at Winnipeg.

Roman Polak also scored for Toronto. Making his first debut for the Leafs, goaltender Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves.

Kings 4, Stars 3 (OT)

Dallas — Alec Martinez scored 1:20 into overtime and the Kings beat the Stars.

Martinez’s wrist shot from the slot went past a screen by Tanner Pearson to beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

The Kings had lost their first three games. Dallas fell to 2-1-1.

Dallas’ Jason Spezza tied the game at 3 with 2:07 left in regulation with a shot from the left faceoff circle that beat Kings goalie Peter Budaj.

Los Angeles’ Nic Dowd scored the game’s first goal, the first of his eight-game NHL career, on the power play in the first period.

Oilers 3, Blues 1

Edmonton — Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist as the Oilers won their second straight game in a strong start to the season, defeating the Blues.

Tyler Pitlick and Milan Lucic also scored for the Oilers, who improved to 4-1-0 on the season.

Nail Yakupov replied for the Blues (3-1-1) in his return to Edmonton since he was traded to St. Louis earlier this month.

There was no scoring in the first period, with the Blues getting 10 shots on Oilers goalie Cam Talbot and Edmonton directing eight shots on Jake Allen in the St. Louis net.

The Blues got on the board 3:37 into the second as a scramble allowed Joel Edmundson to feed it in front to Yakupov. It was the second goal of the season for the former Oiler.

Hurricanes 4, Flames 2

Calgary — Victor Rask scored his third goal of the season to lead the Hurricanes to a win over the Flames.

Rask’s power-play goal with 3:48 left in the first period made it 2-0 as the Hurricanes built up a lead and never gave it up to pick up their first win of the season. Rask, who played two years of junior hockey with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, leads the team with five points.

Teuvo Teravainen, Viktor Stalberg and Jeff Skinner also scored for Carolina, playing its fourth straight road game to start the season. Noah Hanifin had a career-high three assists.

It was the Hurricanes’ first win at the Saddledome in eight tries, dating back to Dec. 12, 2002.

Troy Brouwer and Johnny Gaudreau scored for Calgary.

Canucks 2, Sabres 1

Vancouver — Jacob Markstrom made 26 saves and Daniel Sedin scored the game-winner in the third period Thursday night as the Vancouver Canucks downed the Buffalo Sabres 2-1.

With the victory, the Canucks (4-0-0) are the NHL’s only undefeated team after Colorado blanked Tampa Bay 4-0 on Thursday.

Jannik Hansen had the other goal for Vancouver, which won its fourth straight game to open the season, tying a franchise mark set in 1992-93. Brandon Sutter had two assists.

Nicholas Baptiste scored his first NHL goal for Buffalo (1-2-1) while Robin Lehner stopped 18 shots.