Friday, 19 July 2019

Still Pitching

I have to give the ownership group of the Calgary Flames a little credit: they're persistent. If you haven't been following the saga happening in the Alberta city, the Flames have been trying to negotiate, demand, blackmail, and extort the city of Calgary into building them a new arena. Opened in 1983, the Scotiabank Saddledome is one of the oldest buildings in the NHL currently, but has been retrofitted and updated a number of times since it opened 36 years ago. Today, however, it was announced that the Flames will sit down with Calgary city council once again as a tentative deal has been reportedly reached between the two sides.

Look, I'm going to preface this by linking back to articles written in 2015 about the use of public funds to build new arenas and stadiums and in 2017 about the Flames' current ownership situation and why they shouldn't get a sweetheart deal to exist. Both articles are still applicable today when it comes to building this proposed new arena, but it seems that deals were sweetened and palms were greased just enough for both sides to come to this agreement.

Where we should toss a few grains of salt onto that above paragraph, however, is that it seems someone is finally listening to the arguments being made about the use of public funds to fund the sport paid for by billionaires.

"I look forward to continuing conversations," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters today. "I know a lot of folks have been working very hard to see if there is something there that meets the criteria that we've talked about — the most important criteria, of course, being public money must have public benefit. And I really look forward to seeing where people are at."

Yes, you read Mayor Nenshi's words as he stated them - "the most important criteria, of course, being public money must have public benefit." This is a massive shift in the discourse for any new stadium or arena negotiation, and it's the right call by the Calgary Mayor. Perhaps this is the first step in a major shift towards having billionaires stop asking for tax breaks and handouts when cities, states, and provinces cannot afford to be sacrificing millions of dollars that could be used elsewhere to help social needs? Wouldn't that be something?

According to the report, this "new arena is projected to cost between $550 million and $600 million, according to estimates provided by CMLC. The projections are based on an 18,000-seat arena with retail space, a community rink and 40,000 square feet of underground parking," making this new entertainment district in Victoria Park a center that will bustle with people and events. While I'm not against the idea of including retail space or underground parking, I do fear that there may be congestion in the area on game nights or event nights depending on how the city of Calgary and the arena project team work out the infrastructure for moving people out of the underground parking quickly.

If there is one thing that won't please a segment of the population, the animal rights activists will likely be disappointed in that this arena deal will likely ensure the long-term viability of the Calgary Stampede considering the land in question is owned by by the Stampede. They're not going to shut down the Stampede when it seems to be on-tap to benefit from the sale of this land, but I'd like to see these activists continue to demand better treatment and care of the animals involved in the Stampede's events.

Another segment of the population that likely won't be very excited about this deal depending on the details? The people of Calgary. At the meeting on Monday, one of the topics that is scheduled for discussion is a vote on a $60-million cut to municipal budgets. If there's a pile of public money involved in this arena deal, you can bet that the people of Calgary will be heated.

"Heads are going to explode over this because you had the property tax revolt a month ago and now you're dealing with service cuts," said Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt told Meghan Potkins of the Calgary Herald. "I'll be interested to see the breakdown around support for this because there are all sorts of fiscal conservatives on council who want lower property taxes and they believe that services should be cut — but also want money thrown into an arena."

This is precisely why the use of public funds to build an arena shouldn't even be on the table nor should there be any sort of tax break on property taxes. The building of this arena would generate millions of dollars in property taxes which could go towards reducing property taxes for everyone else, but those monies could also be a huge boon for the services that are on the table to be cut. Either way, the city of Calgary can't play both sides of the fence here in reducing services while offering monies or tax breaks that will take money out of their coffers. If there was a revolt before this deal was reached, there could be chaos if a large swath of money goes into funding this new arena-and-shopping complex.

"It would be very cowardly for us not to engage Calgarians in a meaningful way when we're talking about potentially hundreds and millions of dollars of public money going to one private business," Councillor Evan Woolley said to Potkins. "We have seen significant challenges in terms of tax increases on all of our small business community and so how we rationalize giving hundreds of millions of dollars to one business while letting every small business in the city suffer with the tax burden that we've put on them is unacceptable."

While an agreement has been reached tentatively, it sounds as though citizens of Calgary should - and if Councillor Woolley has any sway, will - get a bigger say in how their tax dollars are being spent if they're seeing services cut while funding a billionaire's wants. Politically, this could end some people's careers if they vote with their civic pride versus the wants and needs of their constituents, and the voters in Calgary should remember this when the next mayoral and city council elections take place. At the end of the day, not everyone is a Flames fan or a hockey fan, and their services will cut just like everyone else's if these cuts happen. That's a fine line for politicians to walk when promising millions of tax dollars to a billionaire.

At the end of the day, this deal is only tentative. While it's promising to see the city and the Flames come to an agreement after months and years of battles and negotiations, it may still be further away than it appears if the people of Calgary see $60 million of services cut while millions of dollars are spent on new retail and hockey complexes.

Selling this idea to the citizens of Calgary might be the hardest sell of all.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 July 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 356

It's been a pretty busy month, hasn't it? And we're just past the halfway point! If you've missed some news stories, don't fret as The Hockey Show, Canada' only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with all of the news, info, stories, and highlights you may have missed! Can we squeeze everything into one hour? Beans and I will certainly try, and we may even bring a guest along for the ride tonight depending on scheduling! What I do know is that we have a lot to go over, so let's not waste any time!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans go over everything that's happened since the NHL Entry Draft back in June as we take a one-week break from the Summer of Interviews. That means we'll talk about the draft and who did what, all the free agent signings, all the trades, and any other player and personnel moves from across the NHL and around the world. We'll also look at some key stories that have news you need to know, some changes to the sport we follow so closely, and some weird and wacky stories that may have climbed into the news. We also have some previews of upcoming shows, and we'll talk about some things The Hockey Show will be involved in as the dog days of summer give way to the autumn season shortly! We're not worrying about that stuff just yet, though, so join us tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM to hear all the news!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans go over all the hockey stories that made the news, should have generated more news, were missed by the news, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 18, 2019: Episode 356

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Wednesday Quick Hits

There was a lot of little newsworthy notes put out today by various media outlets, so it's time to do a little compiling of all these stories. It's not just going to be NHL coverage today as there are stories from the WHL, some U SPORTS news, and more. On days where there is a lot of small news stories being generated, I usually pick one and expand on it if you've been following this blog for any length of time. Normally, there's something I feel needs more in-depth examination, but today's multiple quick hits really are just information hits that require neither explanation nor examination. With that being said, let's get into it.

  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Newly-signed free agent defenceman Anthony Bitetto will wear #2.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Newly-signed free agent forward Mark Letestu will wear #22.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: I've never seen anyone with one of his jerseys, but defenceman Dmitry Kulikov will swap his #5 for #7 this season.
  • JETS JERSEY NUMBERS: Sami Niku, who wore #83 with the Jets, opts to go with #8 this season with the big club just as he wore with the Manitoba Moose last season. Of course, Jacob Trouba of the NY Rangers wore #8 last season with the Jets.
  • PAPERLESS: The University of Alberta announces today that all Golden Bears and Pandas game tickets will be completely digital through an agreement with Ticketmaster. The agreement will also provide key metrics for the institution when it comes to ticket sales. This partnership is the first of its kind for a Canadian university.
  • EMOJI ME: As you can see to the right, there was some quiet celebration at Bisons Sports at the University of Manitoba as their social media team discovered that a Bison emoji is included in the new emoji proposals for Unicode 13.0. If you're really interested, you're welcome to read the entire proposal for the Bison's inclusion in the emojis.
  • SWISS TIME: Former Oiler, Canuck, and Bruin Ryan Spooner has decided to head over to the Swiss League to continue his career as he signed with HC Lugano. Spooner appears to be the replacement for Lugano regarding the recently-departed Maxim Lapierre from the club.
  • OFF TO CHINA: David Bondra, son of former Capitals great Peter Bondra, agreed to a tryout contract with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star. The junior Bondra played with Poprad in the Slovak Extraliga last season after a rather non-descript four years with Michigan State in the NCAA.
  • LANDING IN PHILLY: The Philadelphia Flyers announced that former NHL player Chris Stewart, who played with the EIHL's Nottingham Panthers, will come to camp on a tryout agreement as well. Stewart last played in the NHL in 2017-18 with both Minnesota and Calgary, amassing ten goals and six assists in 54 games. He has 321 points in 652 career NHL games.
  • INTO THE NEST: The AHL's Bakersfield Condors announced a one-year contract today for former Winnipeg Jet Anthony Peluso. Peluso, signed by the Flames last season, appeared in just four games with the NHL club and spent 35 games with the Stockton Heat where he scored three goals and added five helpers. The 30 year-old has played in just six NHL games since 2015-16, and it appears he'll be a full-time Condor this season after putting his signature on this contract.
  • NEW SCREENS: The Brandon Wheat Kings announced that the Keystone Center will be getting a brand-new video scoreboard in time for next season. Their current scoreboard was installed in 2010 prior to the Memorial Cup, but this new one will have 9'x16.5' video boards on all four sides along with a free floating LED video ring. The scoreboard will be able to be retracted into the rafters easier to allow for additional shows to call the Keystone Center home this year and in future years. Looks like both Manitoba-based WHL teams will have new scoreboards above their rinks!
  • MIC'D UP: KHL referees will follow the same protocol as NHL referees next season as they'll be required to announce their decisions via microphone over the public address system. No word yet on which Russian official will play the role of Wes McCauley in the KHL.
  • SOCIAL MEDIA BAN: KHL officials will also be banned from using social media next season. While there weren't any incidents this season that I can recall, I suspect this may have to do with officials moving into a higher-profile role within the game next season.
There are all the quick hits from the last couple of days that really are just small snippets of information as opposed to bigger stories.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

If The Rumours Are True...

There's still a full season to be played before the Seattle NHL franchise gets to make some real noise, but there was a groundswell of rumours today that the newest NHL team will name its first general manager as former Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis. Francis is an interesting choice if the rumours are true due to the fact that he doesn't have the resumé or the experience of George McPhee when he was named as the new GM of the Vegas Golden Knights, but Francis has contacts in the NHL world still and he was working with Hockey Canada for the senior men's teams. Clearly, he's still plugged into the game on the managerial front, so this could be a very savvy selection if and when the announcement is finally made later this week.

After Seattle landed Alexandra Mandrycky as director of hockey administration at the NHL Draft in June, it was expected that Tod Leiweke and Jerry Bruckheimer would spend the next couple of months going over who they wanted for the general manager position with input from Mandrycky. Clearly, they didn't need a couple of months after Elliotte Friedman broke the news today via Twitter.

There will be detractors who may call into question the lack of success that Francis had as the man in charge in Carolina. There's no denying that the Hurricanes weren't as successful as one may have hoped when he was unceremoniously dismissed by Tom Dundon, but Francis was quietly putting the pieces in place for the Hurricanes to turn the corner. Rome wasn't built overnight and the Hurricanes didn't win the Stanley Cup this past season, but Francis did a good job in moving out aging stars and expensive contracts for younger, emerging players while opening cap room. That shouldn't be overlooked.

He also helped to put the structure in place for the Charlotte Checkers to succeed as many of the picks made by Francis over his four years at the helm in Carolina played integral roles in helping that franchise win the Calder Cup. While Sebastien Aho didn't need the AHL seasoning, players like Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean, and Alex Nedeljkovic were instrumental pieces of that Calder Cup championship, and the Hurricanes are slowly working pieces like Warren Foegele and Martin Necas into the everyday lineup.

Not everything that Francis did was rainbows and butterflies. There was the obvious miss with Scott Darling's contract, gambling on the solid backup campaign he put up in Chicago to continue in Carolina with an increased workload. That didn't happen, and the Hurricanes suffered with Cam Ward playing an equal number of games as Darling with more success. He allowed Eric Staal to walk as a free agent when it was pretty clear that Staal still had gas in the tank, but the goaltending conundrum in not being able to move Cam Ward while not being able to reel in a solid free agent goalie dogged Francis' tenure in Carolina.

The reason that Francis may thrive in Seattle is that he'll have the reins taken off when it comes to building a team and spending money. Francis, as stated above, has contacts throughout the hockey world thanks to his work in the NHL and with Hockey Canada, and it's very likely that he'll use the next year studying rosters from across the globe in finding elite talent. While the sentiment may be that Seattle won't have the same calibre of players available from which Vegas chose, there will likely be talent that Francis can select for a competitive team out of the gate.

Make no mistake that this hiring is a good one in this writer's opinion. Francis knows the game well, has learned from some wise men, and is continuing to hone his craft. He's worked for a team that operated on a shoestring budget, and now the purse strings are open and the money can be spent. While I don't believe that Francis will sacrifice smart spending in exchange for free-wheeling spending, Francis listens to his scouts when it comes to the drafts and does his homework when it comes to finding NHL-ready players.

This is a sound hiring for the team located on Puget Sound.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 July 2019

T-Birds Tangle With Badgers

The wildlife on Vancouver Island is pretty diverse with a number of notable animals calling the west coast home. Among those are the majestic bald eagle, the industrious beaver, raccoons, black bears, black-tailed deer, sea lions, otters, and grey wolves. One animal that isn't part of that ecosystem? The badger, but the city of Vancouver and the campus of UBC better be ready because there will be an influx of Badgers heading to that area on August 30th and September 1st this year.

For the first time in six years, the UBC Thunderbirds men's hockey team will face an NCAA opponent in the preseason, and they've opted to tangle with one of the mightiest foes the NCAA has to offer in the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers are no strangers to success as they are six-time NCAA National Champions and have made 12 Frozen Four appearances. What UBC head coach Sven Butenschon is hoping to do is foster that winning success in Vancouver after recruiting eight new players by playing one of the best collegiate teams on the continent.

"It will be very interesting to see how the new guys adapt," Butenschon told UBC's Jeff Sargeant. "It'll be important to get a lot done in that first week of training camp leading up to playing the Badgers."

Wisconsin, who play in the uber-competitive Big10 conference, went 9-10-7 in conference play last season and 14-18-5 overall. They were good at home, going 9-7-1, but atrocious on the road where they amassed a 5-11-3 record. This team can't be taken lightly, however, as they still feature some incredibly-talented players and have a sharp mind behind the bench in former NHL great Tony Granato. They scored the third-most goals in Big10 overall play with 113, so they will dent twine when given the chance. This is going to be a great test for the UBC Thunderbirds as much as it will be for the Wisconsin Badgers.

"It's a huge honour for us, we've been working on this for a long time now," Butenschon said to Sargeant. "To get an NCAA powerhouse like Wisconsin is going to be super fun and the fact they have (Alex) Turcotte and (Cole) Caufield, two high picks from this year's NHL draft, there will be a lot of fans in Vancouver that can get to see what some of the future holds."

Outside of Turcotte and Caufield, there will be some additional players that UBC fans may want to see. Ben Helgeson is headed to Wisconsin after a solid BCHL campaign with the Vernon Vipers where he had four goals and 13 helpers in 51 games. Dylan Holloway, who starred with the WHL's Everett Silvertips, has committed to the Badgers following a trade to the Winnipeg Ice. Jesper Peltonen, the son of former NHLer Ville Peltonen, and K'Andre Miller, the 22nd-overall pick by the New York Rangers in 2018, should hopefully also be in the lineup on at least one of the two nights Wisconsin plays UBC.

UBC, who finished in fourth-place last season with a 14-14 record, will be looking to continue to improve after finishing the season strong. With eight new recruits, there is optimism in Vancouver over how far this Thunderbirds team can go with some of the changes in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but they'll get their first good test against a Wisconsin team that is also looking to grow together.

"UBC is a great program, and going to a hockey mecca, where some of our guys were just picked in the NHL draft, is going to be a great experience to kick off the year," Tony Granato stated. "We're young, so we are always looking for team bonding experience to get to know each other and to have some fun."

For those looking to catch the Badgers in Vancouver, Game One of the two-game series will be played on Friday, August 30th at Father Bauer Arena with a 7:00pm PT puck drop. The rematch goes at 4:00pm PT on Sunday, September 1st at Father Bauer. Tickets will be available at the door only and admission will be by donation with a suggested price of $5 each. It's literally the best hockey you'll see in August, so get off your wallets, Vancouverites, and go see the Wisconsin Badgers battle your hometown UBC Thunderbirds!

From the words of both coaches, it sounds like this preseason two-game series will be a good experience for both squads as they look to kick off the 2019-20 season with some fun, some strong play, and some good team bonding. Maybe the Badgers will make these trips out to Canada West more often? It would be nice to see!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!