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Opportunity allowed Taylor Accursi to fall back in love with the game – and turned her into an NWHL all-star

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The disparity between what the record book will remind us about the result of any given contest and the lasting memory of that same outing can be a funny thing.
Take the game in which Wayne Gretzky scored his 802nd goal. That’s the marker that made ‘The Great One’ the greatest goal scorer in NHL history. It was the goal followed by Gretzky’s iconic running-man celebration, and it was met with the entire Los Angeles Kings bench streaming onto the ice, a center ice celebration that included a Gretzky speech and a more than 10-minute stoppage in play. But you know what else the record book says about March 23, 1994? It says Gretzky’s Kings were walloped, losing 6-3 to the Vancouver Canucks. But hey, it makes sense we often gloss over that part of the story.
This is to say that, sure, when fans look back on the NWHL’s Buffalo Believes Classic in a few years’ time, some will recall it as the circuit’s inaugural outdoor regular season contest, one that pitted the hometown Beauts against the visiting Metropolitan Riveters. Some may also recall the visitors skated away with a 7-4 victory. But the memory that will stand out in the minds of those who were there or watched from afar won’t be the final score or who ultimately won. Rather, it will be Taylor Accursi’s third period performance.
It’s a performance that started rather innocuously, of course, with Accursi and the Beauts failing to find the scoreboard through the first 51 minutes of the outing. But roughly nine minutes into the final frame, Accursi got Buffalo on the board. And then little more than five minutes later, after the Riveters had restored their three-goal lead, Accursi struck again. This time, she toe-dragged around a defender before stuffing home a second attempt. Two minutes after that, Accursi completed the hat trick, picking up and rifling a loose puck past Riveters goaltender Sam Walther. But it’s what happened next – 25 seconds after play had resumed and all the hats had been cleared from the ice – that Accursi really put her stamp on the game, stunning everyone with a seeing-eye blast that eluded everyone for her fourth goal in a hair less than seven and a half minutes.
“I literally was like, ‘Holy crap, we tied it up,’” Accursi laughed. “After that split second, I was like, ‘Holy crap, I also scored four goals.’”
Shocking as it may have been, the four-goal game is a testament not just to the effort Accursi put in that night, but what she has done throughout the entire season.
Amid the changing women’s hockey landscape and the departure of many notable Beauts, Accursi, who had 10 goals and 17 points in 28 games with Buffalo in her two prior NWHL campaigns, has transformed into one of the most lethal scorers in the league by grabbing onto every opportunity she’s been provided and molding it into a breakout campaign. Powered in part by her four-goal outing, the 24-year-old’s 15 goals are tops in the NWHL, her 23 points fourth-best in the circuit and first among Beauts skaters and her career-best single-season output – to which she continues to add – is proof positive what she can do if given the chance.
“I’ve had the ability to put the puck in the net my entire career,” Accursi said. “It’s just this year I’ve been being used a lot more and in different situations, and that’s allowed me to be more successful than I have in past seasons…This year, I guess, more or less, I’ve definitely been given the confidence to believe in myself and what I’m capable of doing and it’s showing.”
Where Accursi has seen the change and begun to truly feel it is in her play with the puck. In seasons past, when she was utilized primarily as a power play specialist and less an offensive focal point, her mindset was to move the puck along, get it to someone who can produce or make a play or who is “stronger or smarter with the puck,” she explained. “But now it’s more or less that I am (that) player. Do something with (the puck) in an positive way. I guess the mentality has changed for me.”
At times, that belief in herself is subconscious, an intuitive trust in her ability to make something happen. And that’s something Accursi admits she needed. Speaking frankly about her time in the NCAA, Accursi said she didn’t “exactly have the most positive…experience,” finding herself on the bubble instead of in the top six as she had expected when she was recruited. She felt she wasn’t being put in a position to succeed. And though she gradually earned her place and managed a career high 23 points in her senior season, she still felt she could provide more. Joining the Beauts allowed her to do that. But it’s this season, in her newfound role as a centerpiece of Buffalo’s attack, that has meant the most.
“It’s definitely allowed me to fall back in love with the game,” Accursi said.
Through her rekindled love of the game, which has been constructed on top of the opportunities she’s been afforded, Accursi has also earned the right to call herself something she hasn’t at any point prior in her NWHL career: all-star.
When the NWHL announced the rosters for the February event in Boston, Accursi was selected to join Team Dempsey alongside fellow Beauts defender Marie-Jo Pelletier and goaltender Mariah Fujimagari. Over the moon about the selection, Accursi said she “felt like a kid in a candy store” when she found out about the all-star nod. “That puts me in a category with players that are in this league and have been in this league from the start,” she said. “It’s an honor to be a part of something like that.”
Of course, if this is only the beginning of Accursi’s rise, chances are this won’t be the last time she receives the honor. Matter of fact, if this season is any indication, there could come a time when an all-star selection becomes old hat for the Beauts’ standout scorer. And maybe that will come around the same time we stop remembering who won the Buffalo Believes Classic and instead recall it only as the night Accursi scored four.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Tags: women’s hockey, nwhlConnect: About the AuthorJared ClintonJared Clinton is a writer and web editor with The Hockey News. He’s been with the team since 2014. He was born, raised and resides in Winnipeg, where he can be found missing the net on outdoor rinks all over town.

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The NHL is going to the Sunshine State for the All-Star Game next year. Any way they can shoot it into the sun instead?

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Everything about the All-Star Game, from the Skills Competition to the low-effort 3-on-3 tournament, is broken and the event does nothing to showcase the best game in the world.The Pacific Division All-Stars|Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty ImagesST. LOUIS – It’s pretty clear that F-bombs were the underlying theme of the 2020 NHL All-Star Game and that didn’t even include the chorus of millions of viewers who were sitting at home and likely saying something like, “(Expletive), this is god awful.”
Even by All-Star Game standards, where the bar is basically set on the ground when it comes to competitiveness and entertainment, this was putrid. Four teams played the equivalent of one full 60-minute game of hockey and scored a total of 38 goals. Think about that for a minute. The Canadian and American women’s teams, who actually played as though they cared about the game, produced just three in 20 minutes.
And for the second straight year, the female players saved the weekend. Which is great for women’s hockey, but says about as much about how bad this event is as it does about the excellence of the women’s game. For those of you who care, and will need to refer to the written word when the results are wiped from your memory bank 10 minutes from now, the Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 5-4 in the championship game and split $1 million in prize money. David Pastrnak, who was named Least Terrible Player™ and won a car for his efforts, scored six points in the tournament. So did Leon Draisaitl and Quinn Hughes, which would represent a pretty good week for all of them.
The night was not without its controversial moments. Green Day lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong kept the censors busy by dropping three F-bombs during the band’s in-game performance. As one observer noted, with their performance, Green Day gave more (expletives) than the players.
And on the ice, the heated rivalry between Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames got a little bit of juice. On the second goal of the second game, which came 2:59 into the game, Tkachuk made a no-look, between-the-legs pass to Draisaitl, who buried it. Tkachuk didn’t even look toward Draisaitl and made for the bench, while Draisaitl appeared to say “(expletive) you” to Tkachuk.
“I hope everyone realizes I was just joking around,” Draisaitl said. “I guess I expected (Tkachuk to skate after the bench). I probably would have done the same.”
As far as his part in the exchange, Tkachuk said he didn’t hear anything from Draisaitl and as far as skating back to the bench, said he wasn’t about to do a major celebration for an assist in the All-Star Game. “I don’t know if anyone else was celebrating goals tonight,” Tkachuk said. “You guys read too much into that. I have zero idea (if Draisaitl said anything). It was my first shift of the game and I was going back to the bench and we had just made it 2-0. You have to ask everyone else if they celebrated after goals. I didn’t see too much of it.”
Tkachuk has a point there. Had these guys celebrated after every goal, there might have been a spate of rotator cuff injuries among the best players in the league going into the home stretch. “It was a nice play by him,” Draisaitl said about the Tkachuk pass. “Like I said all along, we’re all here to have fun, we’re all here to have a good time and things like that, they happen in the game. This is not the time to be grumpy about anything. Our team, everyone here had a great time.”
Of course they did. They all held hands, sang Kumbaya and went out and put forth minimal effort. Over the three games, Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens was the only one to record a hit. It becomes clearer with every passing year that this event is essentially a mid-season waste of time. You can’t make players care about this game. Not even a $90,000 reward is enough to do it. The NHL has already said that next year’s game will have more of an “international flavor” to it, which might help. But this thing, from the Skills Competition to the three-game tournament, is broken. Badly. It’s embarrassing and it does absolutely nothing to showcase the best game in the world.
So to recap, the highlights of the weekend were the women’s game and seven-year-old Alex Letang, son of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris, who was adorable and engaging in the post-game interview area. Aside from that, nothing about this spectacle was memorable. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Saturday that having the league shut down for two weeks every four years for the Olympics is, “extraordinarily disruptive.” Meanwhile, half the league is off for five days before the All-Star Game and the other half puts its feet up for the five days after. And the league takes a four-day break to put the event on. But it’s apparently too much for the league to take a two-week break every four years.
Next year’s All-Star Game is in Florida. Instead of going to the Sunshine State for the game, perhaps the NHL could just shoot this whole event into the sun.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Tags: all-star gameConnect: About the AuthorKen CampbellKen Campbell, The Hockey News’ senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League’s Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

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Black Hockey History Tour Arrives Just When the Sport Needs it Most

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The mobile museum celebrates hockey’s trailblazing black players – and reinforces the ‘hockey is for everyone’ message during a turbulent time.|Matt Larkin/The Hockey NewsST. LOUIS – The trailer, decked out and converted to a mobile museum, was packed to capacity, adorned with images of black NHL players, information about their legacies and artifacts, including recreated St. Louis Blues jersey stalls for Grant Fuhr, Ryan Reaves and Jamal Mayers. A crowd gathered around a roulette-style trivia wheel, taking turns answering questions about the history of black hockey players. Among the people answering were black people and white people, kids and adults, men and women. This was the latest stop on the NHL’s Black Hockey History Tour, and it means a lot to many different people for many different reasons.
Firstly, for any person of color who has played the game or dreams of playing the game, seeing the images of and facts on black hockey players, whose history in the game dates back as far as the 1800s, is inspiring and moving. Retired NHL right winger Joel Ward, attending the exhibit Saturday in St. Louis, was visibly energized by the sight of it.
“As you can see, we’ve been playing hockey for a long time – we’ve been at it,” Ward said with a proud laugh. “What a cool thing to do. For me, growing up, there weren’t too many black players. Kevin Weekes in our family was the end-all of superheroes. So for the kids to come out here and get a glimpse and learn a little more about history and all the brothers that played, it’s really cool.”
The exhibit also carries far more weight today than anyone could’ve expected even two months ago. After right winger Akim Aliu came forward in November with revelations of racist comments by his former AHL coach, Bill Peters, it sent a shockwave through hockey that culminated in Peters’ resignation as coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. It was a watershed moment for the game that led to the NHL, with help from Aliu, tabling the idea of a code of conduct and zero-tolerance approach to hate speech in the sport. The initiative won’t change the landscape overnight, however. Retired NHL goalie turned NHL Network lead analyst Weekes, who was also on hand Saturday, said the exhibit shouldn’t carry extra weight right now, but that it does given the sad stories still coming out. We learned how far the game still has to go less than a week ago when AHL defenseman Brandon Manning was suspended five games for using racial slurs against the Ontario Reign left winger Boko Imama.
For Kwame Mason, director of the documentary Soul On Ice and the museum’s co-curator, the exhibit does an important service of offsetting all the upsetting stories in the hockey world today with some tales of wins for inclusivity.
“Because the atmosphere of hockey is fighting to be more inclusive, to be more welcoming, museums like this will show people that there is that idea of hockey being for everyone,” Mason said. “This is why it’s important. It counteracts the negative stories that are out there. For every negative, we have to have a positive.”
Lastly, seeing all the different types of people taking in the exhibit this weekend – which included all types of races – really underscored the point of the museum: it’s a way to bring attention and respect to the trailblazing black players, from Willie O’Ree to Angela James, but also a decidedly inclusive project designed to invite all types of people to learn about black hockey history. That philosophy is exactly what the NHL hopes to bring to the game as a whole – to eschew the antiquated idea that hockey is a sport for the old guard and no one else, that it can’t be shared with minorities, women or people of different sexual orientations. To drive the point home, Weekes came up with an illuminating analogy.
“I’ve been to Italy numerous times, I have a lot of Italian friends in Toronto and New Jersey, and they never say, ‘Pasta’s our food, it’s just ours. Nobody’s allowed to eat it. You can’t have it. You can’t have marinara sauce. You can’t have buffalo mozzarella. It’s just for us,’ ” Weekes said. “Nobody says that! So we can’t be saying that in hockey. We can’t. It’s the most ludicrous thing in the world.”
So while the NHL and the sport have many years worth of work left to establish that Hockey is For Everyone, the black hockey history museum didn’t exist a couple years ago, so it’s a clear sign of progress. Just as young women watching the 3-on-3 game on TV Friday might have been inspired to pick up a stick and play, any minorities visiting the museum could experience the same kind of inspiration.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
Tags: nhlConnect: About the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior writer at The Hockey News and has been part of the team since 2011. He’s your one-stop shop for deep-dive player interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy player rankings, player safety and hair tips. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey News Live and The Hockey News Podcast.

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