Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Hockey Show - Episode 248

The Hockey Show hits the airwaves at 5:30pm CT tonight with a ton of stuff to talk about from the last few days. There are new uniforms in the NHL that we'll dissect as we go over the NHL's deal with Adidas. There were some awards handed out to some pretty good players. There's a whole draft class of kids looking to join the ranks of the NHL on Friday. And there was some other draft thing happening last night that seemed to catch the attention of the hockey world. Who, what, when, where, and why will be answered as The Hockey Show dives into all sorts of topics tonight!

Teebz and Beans will go over all the happenings in Las Vegas yesterday with the NHL Awards being handed out and the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights assembling a team from the unprotected players of the other thirty teams. We'll tackle the NHL jersey situation with our thoughts on teams that may have designed something worse than before, and we'll talk about the draft class with Winnipegger Nolan Patrick trying to become the first Winnipeg-born player to go first-overall. Dallas added to their coaching staff and has a tie to Winnipeg, the Manitoba Bisons posted the hockey schedules for the men's and women's teams, and we have an announcement about the show! There's lots to talk about, so feel free to get your thoughts in by calling us at (204) 269-8636 (UMFM)!

Speaking of, there's no reason you should ever miss the show because you should have already downloaded the UMFM app. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows!

If you're all over social media, we try to be as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans discuss the expansion draft, draft picks, picking good uniforms designs, designing a coaching squad, where the Bisons squads will play, and more only on The Hockey Show found on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Adidas Is Here

The NHL and Adidas unveiled their new looks for tonight as 31 teams are getting the three-stripes treatment. Having been through this once with the Reebok experience, I wasn't holding my breath for anything that blew my mind, but I was expecting some letdowns. That happens when ever new designs are submitted, and twelve NHL teams made some adjustments to their looks. How dramatic were the adjustments? Let's go through these new jerseys. Some will be great, some will be not-so-great. All will be seen on the ice next season in the NHL.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

No real surprises in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa makes a few small tweaks, the Panthers have football numbers atop the shoulders, and the rest seem pretty similar. With four Original Six teams, one team that looks like one in Tampa Bay, one that originally modeled their uniform after the Maple Leafs, one that used the US Army as its template, and a Senators squad which has done well in red, the Atlantic Division should look pretty good next season.

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

The Metropolitan Division decided to throw a couple of curve balls at fans. Pittsburgh, the NY Rangers, and the NY Islanders all remain respectable in their clothing choices. Three of eight isn't bad, right?

Columbus decided to go back to their minimalist roots as they did when they switched to Reebok, employing the same piping as the only way of breaking up their monochromatic look. Carolina ditches the shoulder yoke, but brings back a faint hurricane warning flag on the hem stripe. Washington decides to toss a little white into their red while following the Columbus piping idea. New Jersey squared up the shoulder yoke, discarded the hem stripe, and refused to bring back the green. Philly adds white down the arm and under the wrist for a unique variation on the arm-length stripe.

I'm not a fan of what Columbus did, especially after they moved away from the monochromatic look in recent years. Carolina looks off as well, introducing black stripes where the silver stripes used to reside. Washington really should have stuck with their classic look, and New Jersey shouldn't have ditched their traditional elements either. I can live with Philly's look, but the Metropolitan Division really took a step back with the change to Adidas.

CENTRAL DIVISION

For a division that features an Original Six team, an original expansion team, three relocated teams, and two more expansion teams, I am shocked that the best team in the division looks like it's starting over. Chicago, Dallas, and Winnipeg remain unchanged, while St. Louis makes a few striping changes.

Minnesota decided to move the hem stripes to the chest which leaves the jersey feeling somewhat incomplete. Colorado brings back the peak in the hem stripe, and goes pretty vanilla with the yoke-into-arm-length stripe. And that leaves Nashville who really decided to kill their amazing contrasts between yellow and navy blue. Lemme blow this up for you.
Look, there's minimalist, and then there's a complete do-over. Nashville seems to have chosen the latter after seeing the most success their franchise has ever had in the jersey on the right. This looks like some sort of base model on which teams can add additional features. I don;t know why Nashville would agree to this design, but this is awful. Officially, Nashville now is the worst-dressed team in the NHL. And we still haven't seen the Pacific Division. Yes, that's how confident I am of this proclamation. This is not how a Stanley Cup finalist should look in the following season.

PACIFIC DIVISION

This division has a brand-new team, so we'll talk about them in a second. The old Pacific Division sees the Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks, the Arizona Coyotes, the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks, and the Calgary Flames remain the same. Calgary actually cleaned up their act by eliminating some black piping around their jerseys, so kudos to them on that despite the fact they should be wearing their classic throwback jerseys full-time. Edmonton, as reported long ago, is indeed going orange with the darker blue which puts them slightly ahead of Nashville in terms of my rankings. I just am not a fan of the orange jerseys.

The one jersey that everyone was interested in, however, was that of the Vegas Golden Knights. I have to admit that the Golden Knights didn't do poorly at all. The colour scheme is unique for hockey, so that's a nice touch. Gray jerseys are rarely seen in hockey as opposed to other pro sports, and these colours seem to work together nicely. I could see myself wearing a potential "Fleury" jersey if he does get picked by Vegas. I'd say Vegas made a few safe bets with this jersey, and it paid off nicely.

Aside from a few misses, Adidas didn't do a terrible job. There's always room for improvement as we know, so let's see what happens in the coming years as well. We should hear news about alternate jerseys in the near future as well, so teams that occasionally wore a different look could have those alternate uniforms return as soon as the 2018-19 season.

The NHL still looks like a professional league, and that's a good thing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 June 2017

Final Counts Have Been Tallied

It's taken longer than I had anticipated thanks to life getting in the way, but I am happy to report that the final standings for the HBIC Playoff Pool have been calculated and we can now crown a winner! The race to the end featured a number of people risking their points to make that last-ditch effort to jump to the top of the leaderboard, but I will end the suspense now: no one called a perfect series in the Stanley Cup Final. There were a few who jumped up the leaderboard with some rather smart predictions, though, so let's take a look at who did what in the last series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

I want to thank my outside counsel of Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe for tabulating the results. Christine and Dave were kind enough to double- and triple-check my math because I err being human. I trust their findings, and I'm certain they represented the firm well. Thanks, guys, for the help in finding our winners this season!

And with that, we turn to the podium. Our overall winner led from wire to wire in this pool, and his 16-point margin of victory showed just how on-the-ball he was in this year's playoffs. It also helped that he was a Predators fan, but that's besides the point. Second-place actually needed a boost from the Stanley Cup Final, and he got that as he leapfrogged two entrants to land in second-place with a nine-point Stanley Cup Final! And our bronze medalist simply needed to keep pace to remain in the prizes, and he did just that. To the victors go the spoils, and here are the victors!

Congratulations to Peter, Neal, and Westin! I do want to throw out an honourable mention to both Justin S. and Katie S. who made runs at the end to try and chase down a top-three spot. While both fell short, this is one of the closest races for the prizes in recent history. Justin is a former HBIC Playoff Pool champion, but rookie sensation Katie came out of nowhere to stare down the boys and register an incredible first HBIC Playoff Pool. I'm hoping she'll be back next season because it would be great to see the fairer sex stand atop the mountain when the dust settles!

If you want to see where you finished, the leaderboard has been updated. If you notice point totals with an asterisk beside them, these were the brave souls who decided to throw caution to the wind and risk a portion of or all of their points to try and win. It may not have worked out, but nothing ventured means nothing gained, right?

Emails will go out this weekend to the three victors above. To all who participated, thank you for another enjoyable playoff pool. My hope is that you'll all join again next season, and who knows whose crystal ball will have the most right answers then?

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Expansion Draft Lists A-Plenty

Today's the day that all NHL teams submitted their lists to the NHL for who would stay and who potentially would get a one-way ticket to Las Vegas in the NHL's Expansion Draft on Wednesday. There are certainly some surprises on these lists as I read over who was left unprotected by their teams, but there were also some realizations that players who are older probably aren't on Vegas' radar when it comes to building a team. If one was truly inclined, though, one could make a very good team out of the veterans that have been left unprotected. Today, I tackle that task!

I'll admit that this team might only have a few years of maximum effort. The ages of some of these players means they're in the twilight of their careers, but that doesn't mean they don't have a few serviceable years left. I'll take one player from every team, and I'll fill out my roster with three goaltenders, sixteen forwards, and eleven defencemen.

ANA: Sami Vatanen - defence
ARI: Radim Vrbata - forward
BOS: Adam McQuaid - defence
BUF: Matt Moulson - forward
CAL: Dennis Wideman - defence
CAR: Lee Stempniak - forward
CHI: Brian Campbell - defence
COL: Calvin Pickard - goaltender
CBJ: William Karlsson - forward
DAL: Cody Eakin - forward
DET: Petr Mrazek - goaltender
EDM: Kris Russell - defence
FLA: Reilly Smith - forward
LAK: Teddy Purcell - forward
MIN: Eric Staal - forward
MTL: Charles Hudon - forward
NAS: James Neal - forward
NJD: Mike Cammalleri - forward
NYI: Casey Cizikas - forward
NYR: Michael Grabner - forward
OTT: Fredrik Claesson - defence
PHI: Michael Del Zotto - defence
PIT: Ian Cole - defence
SJS: Brenden Dillon - defence
STL: David Perron - forward
TBL: Slater Koekkoek - defence
TOR: Brendan Leipsic - forward
VAN: Derek Dorsett - forward
WAS: Philipp Grubauer - goaltender
WPG: Toby Enstrom - defence

if you're doing the math, I'm probably pretty close, if not over, the ceiling of the $75 million salary cap set for next season in the NHL. I feel like this team will score, but defence may be a bit of an issue while goaltending features Mrazek, Grubauer, and Pickard - three young netminders who may be the Achilles' heel of this team. I like the scoring depth, but there aren't a lot of players who seem to break out of their one-dimensional style of play.

On Wednesday, we'll see who the Golden Knights choose for their team, and I have a feeling there will be a number of younger players taken so that the Knights grow as they move forward. There will be trades made as some teams will want to protect those they couldn't fit under the protected roster, so I imagine there will be multiple picks sent to Vegas to give them an incredible draft class this year.

George McPhee's going to have a big night on Wednesday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

You're Part Of The Problem

Having been around the game for some time, I can tell you that there's one group that has emerged who gives me cause for concern about how this game is covered. While mainstream media has always been in the game for one reason, they have generally avoided women's hockey for the most part outside of the major tournaments. Part of this is due to their apparent knowledge of their own market, but some may be due to a non-acceptance of the women's game as viable entertainment. This is where bloggers have picked up the gauntlet and made the women's game their own. While this effort is commendable, there still remains a major problem within this segment of the population.

The problem, as it is, stems from the fact that the women who are covering the game seem to believe that a tried and tested business model that values building a sustainable and viable market should be eradicated in place of paying players. The CWHL's announcement of their expansion into China was groundbreaking and monumental, yet some writers covering the game still had the audacity to ask the Commissioner of the CWHL where was the money for the players. Dollar bills, yo!

This fascination over the money being paid to the women is something I don't understand. And let me be very clear on this issue: the women should be paid as much as they can be paid without risking the sustainability of the league. As any business owner will tell you, if there's no market for your product, there's little in the way of take-home so you better have something people want before you start handing out raises and pay hikes.

There's a women's hockey league struggling to pay its players after slashing salaries and taking a major PR hit because said league thought they could simply show up and play and everyone would come and watch. The slashing of the salaries was not only dramatic, but it was admittedly done to save the league from folding mid-season which would have been a major blow to the sport in the US. Demands from the players for explanations were met after a rather ugly back-and-forth in the public's eye with the league unable to restore salaries for this upcoming season.

They would exclaim, "We have Olympians!"
They would proclaim, "We're paying players a livable wage!"
They would declare, "We're the only league to pay players!"

In the end, the market screamed back, "We don't care!" as virtually empty rinks made up the majority of seats. Except those empty seats didn't make up any difference in the bottom line, and there have been a number of players who have opted to move to the CWHL this season after their take-home pay went from livable wages to peanuts.

As it was stated over and over by Commissioner Brenda Andress at the announcement of the expansion Kunlun Red Star team, all teams would follow the same financial plan as set out by the league. Yes, she avoided the "are you paying players" question at the outset, but she never explicitly said that the CWHL was NOT going to pay players this season. This is where a vast number of that contingent of women's hockey bloggers went out and lost their minds.

I'm not going to post the commentary here made by those who seemingly lead the way in this area, but I'm shocked how quickly they began to bite the hand that feeds them. Forget that the CWHL has posted profits as a women's hockey league in recent years by building a market in cities where they know there is a market for women's hockey. Forget the fact that the CWHL has successfully attracted sponsors and partners who have bought into this business model so that they could survive for a decade against all odds and a rival league. Instead, focus on gettin' paid, yo, because apparently that's all that matters.

Well, this happened. And it happened outside of the expansion press conference. And it happened on its own after ten years of sustainability, good business practices, and good management.
I give full credit to Robyn Flynn for her work on this front because instead of standing there and performing the "making it rain" motion as seen at the top of this piece, she went out and asked questions like a true journalist would. Logically, based on what Miss Andress said at the introduction of the Kunlun Red Star team, the goal to pay players in the 2017-18 season would be met, but it's always nice to hear that directly from the source. Miss Flynn went and got that confirmation like a good journalist would.

Another women's writer made the quick connection that the same people who own the KHL's Kunlun Red Star will be funding the CWHL's Kunlun Red Star. And while she's not wrong about where the money is coming from, using the shady practices of the KHL teams' financials - which has been pointed out on this very blog - to cast doubt on the Chinese team's owners is, well, underhanded. The problem with Russia's KHL is that there are no rules on conflicts of interest, it seems, and the Russian-based teams take full advantage of those breaks. Case in point? The same ownership group owns both Finalnd's Jokerit Helsinki and Russia's SKA St. Petersburg and is tied heavily to the Russia government through both business and personal factors, hence why "Jokerit's new owners were put on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department 'due to their actions on behalf of the Russian government'".

Kunlun Red Star, however, operates in China and they do not own any other KHL teams. They have one goal, it seems, and that is to grow the game within China as the leader of that movement. As Vice's Sheng Peng wrote in regards to Kunlun Red Star's first KHL game,
"As for the game itself, official attendance was 7,832 for an arena which seats 14,000 for hockey. To their credit, it was an enthusiastic mob. Just a couple minutes in, speedy Kunlun winger Oleg Yashin rushed the puck through the neutral zone, backing off the Admiral Vladivostok defenders, creating a surge in the crowd... and he dumped it in, which was exactly the right thing to do because the Red Star were on the penalty kill. They're still picking up the beats of the sport here."
Like the CWHL, they are working to create a market for the game while trying to develop players faster than any other program on the planet has or may ever will. Both the men's game and the women's game is literally in their infancies in China, and the KRS group has been tasked with accelerating those programs to become relevant on the world's stage by 2022.

How are they doing that, you ask? The same way any other program would - paying heavily for it. The hiring of players such as Noora Raty and Kelli Stack weren't just coincidence. These women are being paid as hockey ambassadors to help the CWHL team become competitive quickly as winning teams see growth in their respective sports at the grassroots level and to go out into these Chinese communities and introduce the people of China to hockey with the hopes that they can attract a few players who may not have considered hockey as an opportunity. That "ambassador" role is the definition of growing the game, a phrase that another league enjoyed using while promoting the latest new drinks from their coffee sponsor.

"But they're being paid as ambassadors in China, not as players!" was a retort. Does Sidney Crosby get extra money from the Penguins for hand-delivering season tickets to fans? Being paid as a player means that you accept the ambassador title with your hockey job because you're selling the game every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year. So while Noora Raty might be making a pile of dough this season as an ambassador, she's doing it as a hockey player. If you demand pay for players and then split hairs over what they're being paid for, you might be missing the bigger picture as to why these players are playing in China.

Look, people may lose their minds over me writing this article, so humor me by saving me from your subtweets and chatter behind the scenes. There have always been questions as to when the CWHL would start paying players, and it was escalated in ridiculous ways when that other league introduced payment for players despite no one knowing where the money was coming from to pay said players. It's clear that the markets in which they exist either can't or won't support the model that was introduced which led to salaries being slashed dramatically mid-season while the CWHL focused on building their brands within their markets. If people don't want your product, there is no business. If there is no business, there is no pay. This is simple economics.

With Kunlun Red Star handling the majority of the costs associated with the expansion into China, there would be no change to how the business model of the CWHL is run. All five teams would still be on-track to seeing players being paid since KRS is handling their side of the equation. Yesterday, through Robyn Flynn, that goal that was always stated by Brenda Andress became a reality with the framework of how players are to be paid still being finalized.
"The pay structure has not been finalized yet," a league spokesperson said. "But as Brenda [Andress] said at the press conference [announcing the expansion to China], it has always been the strategic plan to compensate the players this year. The details and specifics are still being worked out."
The CWHL has always been about sustainability to ensure that the best hockey players in the world have some place to play. Their strategic plan wasn't based entirely on capitalism, so I understand why there may be some confusion as to why players weren't being paid in the past. Socialism - working for the good of all regardless of status - has allowed this league to remain in business for ten years and beyond. With the league achieving a sustainability not ever seen before in women's hockey, the profits being realized can now be returned to the players for their efforts in growing the league and developing a successful product in five current markets and attracting one massive, new market to its fold where the opportunities may be endless for new sponsors and new investors.

That's how you get paid, yo.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!