Saturday, 21 April 2018

Losers In Lockouts

If there's one thing that looms on the horizon for the NHL and NHLPA, it's another lockout. I know it's the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and I should be focused on those stories, but I have this sinking feeling that we're headed for another long and bitter hockey stoppage when the current CBA expires. Seattle is looking to get rolling, there are a number of teams who are building towards a better future, and there's a pile of individual achievements to celebrate, but that large shadow enveloping the horizon is closer than it may seem to be.

Everyone talks about loss during the lockout. Owners are losing money, players aren't making money and losing time off their already-short careers, and fans complain about simply losing hockey. If there's one segment of the landscape we never mention, it's the loss for the sponsors of the NHL. We never really consider them because they can still market their products another way, but one particular group of sponsors seems to get hit really hard during a lockout: adult beverage makers.

According to IEG research, the top-five most active marketing groups during hockey broadcasts were quick-service restaurants, auto manufacturers, medical, insurance, and beer producers as of 2015-16. Their spending on marketing during NHL broadcasts was up "6.7 percent from the previous year", and totaled some "$477 million in the 2015-2016 season". As per IEG, "Anheuser-Busch replaced Enterprise Holdings as the most active non-endemic sponsor" - the industry term of non-core brands on which the sports industry relies upon - so it would be fair to say that beer marketing money plays a large part in the total marketing dollars spent during NHL broadcasts, and Anheuser-Busch had 71% of the league's teams broadcasting and showing marketing messages for them.

In Canada, we'll go back to 2012 during the last NHL lockout where Molson Coors, the Montreal- and Denver-based brewer, saw cold weather sales of their products virtually disappear when the NHL decided to go AWOL.

"Whether it's people not actually physically going to the venues and consuming there, consuming in venues around the outlet before that, or indeed having NHL sort of parties at home, all of those occasions have disappeared off the map and you just can't replicate them," CEO Peter Swinburn told The Canadian Press in November 2012.

Swinburn's right when stating that there is really nothing else that can replace the NHL in Canada in the winter months. The NBA's Toronto Raptors are more of a regional draw for southern Ontario, the NFL certainly has the same fans, but not the same marketing tie-in that beer sales have had with NHL teams, and both Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer follow the same course as the Raptors in that they're extremely regional. The NHL's affect on Molson Coors' sales is pretty clear when it comes to the importance the NHL plays in getting people to consume their product.

Swinburn told reporters "that once the lockout ends, Molson Coors will seek financial compensation from the league over the negative impact that a lack of games has had on the hockey league sponsor" and that will help to recoup some of those lost sales, but it never fully makes up for what could have been a solid increase in sales year over year had the NHL simply remained on the ice. When you consider that Molson Coors beat expectations the prior year, there was hope their reported $375 million deal with the NHL would continue to see growth, especially north of the border. Hockey was supposed to be a major driver of that growth, but share prices were already falling just two months into the last lockout.

So why should this concern you and I as hockey fans? Local bars, taverns, and watering holes feel that pinch more than the breweries do. Your favorite place to catch the game would see a loss in sales on what normally would be game nights, and that's contributing to Molson Coors seeing less product being sold.

Local watering holes in Canada rely heavily on the 82-game NHL schedule to help boost sales by broadcasting the games. There's usually a beverage deal during the game that coincides with one of the NHL's beverage sponsors, and as a result of these decisions everyone benefits. The watering hole makes money, the beer producers make money, and the NHL makes money via the sponsorship. The trickle-down of the economics would be felt hardest at the bottom where those watering holes rely heavily on walk-up traffic and regular patrons to keep their businesses afloat.

CBC spoke with Winnipeg restaurant owner Tony Siwicki about the costs that he was forced to absorb after the NHL decided to lockout the players in 2012.
Tony Siwicki of the Silver Heights Restaurant in Winnipeg said since the Jets returned last season, he has bought team gear for staff, hired extra security, and even purchased a bus to shuttle fans from his eatery to home games.

"Now we've got all this money out that we … won't get back. We have to sit on it for, [in] the worst-case scenario, for another year," Siwicki said.

"I hope they come to an agreement," he added. "A lot of people … rely on this kind of entertainment to make money, to survive, to support their families."
While I appreciate that the NHL is a business on its own where financial stability is needed in order to keep it afloat, but there appears to be a major collision coming as the players are unhappy about shared hockey revenues and not playing in the Olympics while the NHL owners certainly don't want to share any additional monies they are required to share. With money being one of the key arguments to resolve in the upcoming CBA negotiations, this is more than likely going to be another ugly and prolonged work stoppage as both sides for every additional cent they can gain.

I don't envy local business owners and Canadian brewery owners when talk of CBA unrest comes up. It means loss of business and loss of profits from normally ravenous hockey fans who indulge in their businesses and products. And while the NHL needs to get its house in order, the longer they ignore these negotiations the more hurt they're doing to their partners who make the games and players popular.

While the CBA negotiations loom, some foresight would do the NHL a lot of good when it comes to helping out the people who do a lot of the groundwork in making the NHL the number-one sport in Canada.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Second Leg Booked

With their victory tonight, the Winnipeg Jets officially booked the second leg of their playoff journey as they dispatched the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in their series. Like the image to the left, I expect the bandwagon to start filling up quickly as more and more fans start cheering for Canada's most exciting team on ice, but, like the photo above, there are lots of seats on this bandwagon. The Jets showed off their depth in eliminating the Wild and will now have a few days for the bumps, bruises, welts, and cuts to heal as they prepare for one of Nashville or Colorado. If you aren't excited for these Jets, you may want to see if you still have a pulse!

Let's go to the Game Five highlights, compliments of Rogers Sportsnet and, mostly, the Winnipeg Jets.

A few things about tonight's win:
  • Jacob Trouba's goal just 31 seconds into the game broke a Winnipeg Jets franchise record for fastest playoff goal from the start of the game that was previously set at 53 seconds by Randy Carlyle back in 1995.
  • Brandon Tanev now leads the Tanev family in NHL Playoff goals. Brandon has a total of one; his older brother Chris, who plays for Vancouver, has zero.
  • After Minnesota anthem singer John deCausmeaker made his plea before Game Four about letting Winnipeg hear the passion of Minnesota fans, the Minnesota Wild scored a total of zero goals over the next six periods in being eliminated.
  • The sellout crowd announced at 15,321 inside BellMTS Place set a new volume record at one point during the night, registering at 114.3 decibels. That's a level 16 times higher than 70dB, and is 4.3dB higher than the average human pain threshold when it comes to sound. It would be equivalent to standing within one meter of a car whose horn is blaring.
  • The Jets haven't lost a game at home, including three in these playoffs, since February 27.
  • It was 31 years and five days since Winnipeg saw their pro hockey team advance to the second round of the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • Preliminary estimates had the crowd outside BellMTS Place numbering over 30,000 (edit: the final number was approximately 36,000).
In the end, the four first-period goals scored by the Jets paced them to the 5-0 win in Game Five, and the game ended with this sequence.

Get your boarding passes ready, folks. The second leg of this incredible flight is now accepting passengers, and you're welcome to join Jets fans in this fun and exciting spring.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 291

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with the first and second of what will eventually be fifteen exit interviews from Survivor: NHL Playoffs sponsored by Lay's and their Show Your Emotions contest. As you're probably aware, both Los Angeles and Anaheim were eliminated in sweeps by the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks, respectively, as the second-round Pacific Division matchup is now set. Like we always do, we'll get in contact with those Survivors to let them know that their Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest is over. Before we do that, though, let's check the board!

As you can see, both Los Angeles and Anaheim have been made transparent and the names associated with them - Barry and Amy - have been written in gray as they will now fade to the background in Round One. Barry and Amy are due up tonight for their exit interviews, so tune in for those!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans dig into Game Five here in Winnipeg on Friday without Josh Morrissey in the lineup and how that will affect the Jets, the loss of Zach Parise for the Wild, the Penguins-Flyers series and why Pittsburgh might just three-peat after all, and we'll touch on the other series and their situations. We'll dig into the Aalborg Pirates of the Metal Ligaen being up 3-0 on the first-overall Herning Blue Fox in the final, the Calgary Flames dismissing head coach Glen Gulutzan, Paul Maurice's shout-out to head coach of the Bisons women's team in Jon Rempel, and we may touch on some more changes to Bisons hockey broadcasts again as there have been some exciting developments behind the scenes! All of this happens tonight at 5:30pm CT on UMFM!

How do I listen, you ask? The easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally 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! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there 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 talk suspensions, lineups, injuries, coaches, Pirates, Penguins, and more only on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 19, 2018: Episode 291

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Secrets Coaches Share

I know there's always talk of the bond or fraternity among those who hold the same positions, but I was always under the impression that these people never really crossed over too often into other leagues. Jon Rempel, head coach of the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team, is a well-respected coach among his peers in Canada West and certainly at the national level after winning the U SPORTS Coach of the Year award this spring. I wasn't aware, however, that he and Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice had been chatting over the last few weeks with the Jets getting ready for the playoffs. Apparently, though, they have!

As Paul Maurice took to the podium yesterday to address the media prior to Game Four in the Jets-Wild series, he was asked a very specific question. What surprised was that Paul Maurice gave a very specific response, and it was pretty incredible to think that he mentioned Jon Rempel and something Jon had mentioned about his Bisons women's hockey team this year. Have a watch of the press conference as Maurice singles out what Jon told him.

The transcript of what Maurice said is posted here.
It's funny that Paul Maurice would bring this up because it's something that Jon Rempel said he's really worked on this season with the ladies. He stated that he used to go into the room and yell and scream and rant and rave, hoping that the message he was sending would sink in with the players. Where Jon made a revelation is that while that style of coaching may work for some, it does more harm than good for others. Instead, Jon has been a lot more positive in his messages, worked on getting to know the players a lot better, and encouraged the players to get to know one another so that he can get the best out of them day-in and day-out. You can see real friendships had formed on the Bisons squad this year, and they had themselves a record-setting year in almost all aspects of their season.

Sounds kinda like how the Jets season went, right?

With the Bisons winning the U SPORTS National Championship this season, I'd say that approach has worked pretty well for Jon. The women on the Bisons team literally bled for one another at times this season. They worked doggedly at times to try and pick a teammate up who was in a slump or having an "off game". There wasn't a time this season, having been around the team, where you wondered if they weren't willing to leave it all out on the ice because if someone's night was going poorly, three other women usually rallied that player back to her usual self.

Aren't we seeing that from the Jets right now in these playoffs?

I truly believe in what Paul Maurice said about a close-knit group sacrificing more for one another than a group who may not have those tight relationships. Team-building exercises are one of those things that some players may roll their eyes at, but those exercises aren't done to fill time. They're put in place so teammates get to know one another, chat with one another, and build those friendships with one another. If everyone looks out for everyone else, a team is stronger together.

The Bisons are living proof of that, and I tip my cap to Paul Maurice for giving some credit to Jon Rempel. He didn't have to drop Jon's name in the press conference, but Paul is a coach and he's giving credit to his brother in the coaching fraternity who has had some success. It takes some courage and humility to publicly recognize someone else whose name may not be familiar to NHL reporters, but Paul Maurice did a classy thing for a classy guy in Jon Rempel who may have found the top secret to any team's success.

Well done, Paul.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

On The Precipice

I've never been a slave to the refresh button on my internet browser. I've bid on stuff on eBay and whatnot, but I'm not the guy to sit there and pound away on a refresh button until time runs out. I almost became that guy today as I sat watching the updates on the Metal Ligaen website as the Aalborg Pirates traveled to Herning to meet the Blue Fox in Game Three of their best-of-seven championship series. With the Pirates leading 2-0 in the series in what would be a pivotal Game Three, I needed the updates faster than they were being printed on the website!

Goals early in the second period from Martin Lefebvre and Jeppe Jul Korsgaard put Aalborg out in front 2-0 just 5:07 into the middle frame, forcing Petri Skriko to use his timeout to gather his troops and have them refocus as the Pirates absolutely dominated the opening minutes of the second period. Things settled down for the remainder of the period, but it was clear that the better team was on the visiting side of the scoreboard in the second stanza.

Things were rolling along nicely until Herning's bench decided to run a fire drill by sending too many men over the boards seven minutes into the third period, and the Pirates would make them pay for that impromptu exodus from the bench. Peter Quenneville struck at the 7:37 mark on the power-play, and it was 3-0 for the Pirates in what was as close to a must-win game for Herning if they wanted to stay in the series. While Herning's Branden Gracel would find the next with just over four minutes to play, this game was never in doubt as the Pirates won 3-1 to extend their series lead to 3-0.

Before we start handing out championship trophies prematurely, let's dig into the numbers as these two teams prepare for Game Four in Aalborg's Cool East Arena on Friday night. The Pirates, in these Metal Ligaen playoffs, are 7-0 on home ice while outscoring their opponents 26-11 in those seven games. The closest game was a 5-4 overtime game against Esbjerg in the last series. Every other game has had a two-goal difference or more including a 3-0 win against Herning two days ago. I don't want to jinx anything that's happening here, but it might be time to get those cases of champagne chilling on ice if the trend at home continues for the Aalborg Pirates.

The second-best team in the Metal Ligaen has now won three-straight games over the best team in the Metal Ligaen by a combined score of 10-2. The highest scoring team in the Metal Ligaen this season has been held to one goal on home ice in two games and was shutout on the road. Herning, who rolled through the Herlev Eagles and Rungsted Seier Capital by 4-1 series finals, has yet to even lead in a game in the final as Aalborg has been entirely dominant in three games. To suggest that things will get easier on Friday night for Herning with Aalborg playing at home and looking to end 37 years without a Metal Ligaen Championship to their name would be entirely unfathomable.

The hole that Herning has dug for themselves in this series is more closely resembling a grave right now as Aalborg continues their work-like effort in shoveling dirt on top of Herning. The two goals that Herning have scored have both come in the third period of the game after Aalborg has built a comfortable lead. Again, they were shutout in their most recent visit to Aalborg two days ago, so we're talking about a Herning team who needs every ounce of desperation to try and extend the series, but will walk into an arena where they have yet to light the lamp in the playoffs. Ouch.

Tadeas Galansky has stared down the high-powered offence of the Herning Blue Fox and laughed. Ok, he hasn't literally been laughing, but he has been everything and more that Brandon Reid has asked and expected from his goaltender. In the final, Galansky is sporting a 0.67 GAA and a .972 save percentage - numbers that are almost inconceivable when you consider the offensive talent and scoring that the Blue Fox boasted this season. Branden Gracel has been in both goals for the Blue Fox thus far, but the likes of Toni Kalella - one assist - and Lasse S. Lassen - no points - seem to be caught in suffocating defence that the Pirates are playing. Right now, if you're head coach Petri Skriko, there is no shortage of frustration after watching your amazing regular season in which you finished fifteen points ahead of the rest of the field vanish like a chest full of treasure at the hands of the skillful Pirates.

Friday night is going to be a party that the city of Aalborg hasn't seen for a while as I expect a capacity crowd to be inside Cool East Arena as they look to erase 37 years of "next year" as the Pirates attempt to sweep the regular-season champion Herning Blue Fox out of the playoffs. At the end of the night, Herning will have had to played one helluva game to escape Aalborg for a Game Five, but everything we've seen in this series thus far has suggested that the Pirates will probably lay waste with another blitz of offence to the Blue Fox defence as they siege the goal once more.

I'm not saying to get your eye patch out, but this could be the best Friday night to be a Pirate!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!