Saturday, 16 June 2018

Neutral Site Game

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League released its schedule today, and there was one particular game that stood out to me based on the location of where the game is slated to be played. On October 27, the Virden Oil Capitals will meet the Selkirk Steelers in Gimli, Manitoba at the Gimli Recreation Center! I was a little surprised by this choice of a neutral site game as Gimli's population usually doubles to triples in the summer with the cottage folk, but remains fairly low when it comes to the winter. As much as I don't think Gimli would be a future location for the MJHL to expand into, the fact that the Steelers and Oil Capitals will play there should provide some insight as to what kind of crowd support the MJHL can get in the community.

As per the 2016 Canadian census, the permanent urban population of Gimli is 2246. That's not a figure that would indicate a large enough fanbase to support an MJHL team as Selkirk, the home team in this neutral site game, boasts an urban population of 10,278 as per the same census. Selkirk, for what it's worth, does fairly well with its attendance, but having 80% less people in town would hurt Gimli's chances at running a bigger operation in the MJHL. As a result, they do have the Gimli Vikings who play in the Keystone Junior Hockey League, a Junior "B" circuit in the province.

That being said, though, there's a great initiative here to push the game into potentially-interested communities and drive participation numbers up in said communities. As stated, Gimli is cottage country for many Manitobans over the summer, and that leaves very few permanent residents once the snow flies. Having some of the bigger teams in the MJHL play games in towns like Gimli should help push the game to new heights in those communities.

Selkirk is the closest MJHL team to Gimli, so it makes sense to have them as the home team. Getting last year's Turnbull Cup finalists in the Virden Oil Kings to meet them in Gimli bodes well for the play of the game as both teams should be competitive once again this season.

I think the MJHL taking a game to a neutral site is a smart idea. It shows the rest of the province the talent we're producing in Manitoba on the ice, and it showcases some great communities as potential future hosts for more games like this and, possibly, future teams for the MJHL. While Gimli may not fill a 10,000-seat arena, the fans are still as passionate as any other in this great province, and they'll be exemplary hosts for the Oil Capitals and Steelers in October!

If you have the means, make the trip north of Winnipeg and catch this game in a rather unique setting as Gimli, Manitoba hosts the MJHL on October 27, 2018!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 15 June 2018

1967, 2014, 2018

What are years in which the three Toronto professional hockey teams last won their respective league championship trophy? If this was Jeopardy!, that answer would be correct as the AHL's Toronto Marlies downed the Texas Stars in Game Seven by a 6-1 score on Thursday night to capture the Calder Cup! While this championship won't erase 1967 in most hockey fans' minds, it does bring more legitimacy to the work being put in at the AHL level by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment in trying to build a championship roster at the NHL level. If you're a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the outlook is bright, but it still isn't guaranteed when it comes to erasing the ghosts of 1967.

If you're asking how 2014 factors into this, let's not forget that the Toronto Furies were the Clarkson Cup champions in that year. 1967 is, of course, the last time that the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, and the Marlies added their names to AHL lore as they won the Calder Cup for the first time in their franchise history last night. If the Leafs could ever get their act together, the city of Toronto would be the most successful hockey city in Canada by a large margin. That, however, is a big "if".

Andreas Johnsson, who was named the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy winner as playoff MVP, and Mason Marchment each scored two goals while Carl Grundstrom and Ben Smith added single tallies in the game. Texas' Austin Fyten - brother of former Manitoba Bisons women's hockey captain Caitlin Fyten - scored the lone goal for the Stars. Garret Sparks recorded the win while Mike McKenna suffered the loss.

It's not the first time that a Maple Leafs affiliate has won the Calder Cup, but it has been a while since it happened. The one to do so? The New Brunswick Hawks way back in 1982. The Marlies, though, played in the 2011-12 Calder Cup Final, but were swept by the Norfolk Admirals. The St. John's Maple Leafs also played in a Calder Final, but they fell in seven games to the Adirondack Red Wings in 1991-92. There have been chances, but the Marlies finally ended the AHL drought this season after 36 years!

Andreas Johnsson, mentioned above, was on a different level than everyone last night. His speed and tenacity on the forecheck continually frustrated the Stars resulting in turnovers, and those turnovers was where Johnsson and linemates Miro Aaltonen and Carl Grundstrom went to work. Johnsson, a seventh-round pick in 2013 at #202 for the Maple Leafs, will almost assuredly be a regular in the NHL's blue-and-white next season after posting a point-per-game in the AHL this season and dominating when the stakes went higher in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He found some incredible chemistry with Grundstrom once he arrived in Toronto following his season with Frolunda, and the second-round pick in 2016 may push for a roster spot as well.

There will be questions as to who will lead the team next year with this season's leading scorer, Ben Smith, and the second-leading scorer in Johnsson potentially gone. Smith signed a deal with the German Elite League's Adler Mannheim hours following the victory, so there will be a significant chunk of the Marlies offence playing elsewhere next season.

Where one team suffers, though, another usually benefits, and the benefits will be seen close to home as Kyle Dubas - once the man responsible for building the Marlies - will now man the helm for the Maple Leafs. He has had first-hand experience watching this Marlies team develop, and that will spell good things for the Maple Leafs as replacements for high-priced free agents may be waiting in the wings. Dubas knows who would be closest to taking the next step, and that's a big benefit for the GM when it comes to finding available dollars for players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander.

Perhaps what was most noticeable this series was the difference in styles of play between the two teams. The Western Conference champions seemed to use a more physical game similar to their NHL affiliate as the Stars won battles using size and physical play. The Marlies used more of an NHL Eastern Conference style where team speed was always on display in the games that they played. Game Seven was all about that speed, and combined with the skill assembled on the roster the Marlies skated to the large margin of victory.

It was an inspiring season from a Toronto professional men's hockey team for once. The Marlies got out of the gate early, played incredibly smart, skilled hockey all season long, and it culminated in a championship lap with the Calder Cup. They came close before, so this victory was all the more sweeter. Congratulations to the Toronto Marlies, your 2018 Calder Cup champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 299

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with another big episode where we break down all the latest news, notes, and information coming out of hockey. This show might be a lot more serious than the craziness we've had over the last few weeks after a franchise-shattering story came out from one team and one man's extremely personal article about his struggles highlighted a number of problems league-wide for the NHL. Beans and I will go over these topics tonight, but we do have some business to conduct prior to hitting the big stories.

It was Teri, who had selected the Washington Capitals, versus John, who had selected the Vegas Golden Knights, in final round of the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest, presented by Lay's and the Show Your Emotions contest, and Teri would emerge victorious! Teri becomes the first woman to win the contest, so that's pretty awesome. On her way to championship glory, Teri also defeated two-time reigning champion Tom, so she can also hang that accomplishment beside her brand-new Dallas Stars jersey! John, for making the making the final, will go home with a Bisons Sports gold t-shirt compliments of the University of Manitoba's Athletic Department! We'll talk to both finalists tonight on the show as we close-out the 2018 edition of Survivor: NHL Playoffs! A big thank you to all the competitors in this contest, and a huge thank you to Lay's for giving us a little extra emotion this postseason with your support!

As I was saying off the top, Beans and I have some serious issues to cover tonight. We're not going to shy away from the insanity happening in the nation's capital with the Senators, and we'll recap why the Senators might have had the worst season in NHL history when you consider all the stuff that has happened to that franchise this season. We'll also talk about the article written by former NHL defenceman Nick Boynton that appeared in The Players' Tribune about the struggles, depression, anxiety, and continued mental health battles he's dealing with due to concussions and head trauma after retiring from the NHL, and I highly recommend you read that article. We'll also discuss the recent lawsuit filed by former players of the University of North Dakota women's hockey team against the school for discrimination, some player signings and movement, and a pretty cool event happening in an ECHL city that may attract some attention! All this and possibly more happens tonight at 5:30pm CT!

"So how can I hear this show?" you ask. Well, 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 the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! 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, Beans and I hand out prizes, talk about the implosion of the Senators, discuss Nick Boynton's emotionally-raw article, chat about the UND lawsuit, banter over player moves, and more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: June 14, 2018: Episode 299

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Fighting The Good Fight

The loss of the University of North Dakota's women's hockey team is still, at its best, tragic. Financial shortfalls in North Dakota forced the state-funded university to slash its budgets across the board, and it was noticeably felt through the UND Athletics Department when the entire women's hockey program was cut from existence along with men's and women's swimming. On Tuesday, however, eleven players with two-or-more years of eligibility remaining who were part of the program filed a discrimination lawsuit against the North Dakota University System in an effort to see UND reinstate the program in its entirety.

The 11 former players, as reported by Grand Fords Herald's Brad Elliott Schlossman, include Breanna Berndsen, Kristen Campbell, Charly Dahlquist, Taylor Flaherty, Ryleigh Houston, Anna Kilponen, Rebekah Kolstad, Sarah Lecavalier, Alyssa MacMillan, Annelise Rice, and Abbey Stanley.

They hired Dan Siegel who recently represented former University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey coach Shannon Miller in her discrimination lawsuit that saw her win the case and receive $3.74 million by a jury in March. While the cases differ, Siegel will argue discrimination once more as the lawsuit alleges that the university violated Title IX laws that prohibit women from being treated differently because of gender. As you may recall, men's hockey at UND wasn't touched by the cuts made by the Athletics Department.

Does this lawsuit have merit? I believe it does. And Siegel feels it would be in UND's best interest to come to a resolution before this case ever reaches a courtroom.

"I'm hoping UND would decide to take the right approach to this case and will agree to sit down and see if we can work it out," Siegel told Schlossman. "The sooner we work it out, the sooner the program could be put back to work and the less money UND will spend fighting the case and less money we will spend fighting the case. Hopefully, we can get an early resolution."

UND, of course, will have to weigh their options here as they have their lawyers examine the lawsuit with respect to Title IX laws. The law is pretty clear that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity," and the lawsuit filed by the eleven women is alleging, among other discrimination claims, that the university violated the Title IX laws by cutting the prominent program at the school. Again, I think they have merit on this claim.

It should be noted that two complaints that were filed by a UND student last year with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights were both dismissed with one case citing the financial difficulties faced by the school as a factor in the dismissal of the complaint.

"That will not affect our suit at all," Siegel told Schlossman. "The OCR complaints were based on different facts and different legal theories. They didn't pass on the particular claims that we're making in our case."

This case should be very interesting. If Siegel has indeed found a way to argue the Title IX laws that will bring hockey back to UND, that will a huge victory for women's hockey on the whole, but especially in the area where a once-proud franchise would be resurrected. If this lawsuit is dismissed, this might spell the end of UND women's hockey for some time. Clearly, the stakes are fairly high when it comes to these eleven women pushing for a return to the school they all originally planned on attending.

I'll keep an eye on this case because I was and still am a big UND women's hockey fan. Let's hope that a judge or jury finds merit in this lawsuit so we could potentially see UND Fighting Hawks women's hockey back on the ice by 2019-2020 at the very latest!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

TBC: Overtime

As promised, Teebz's Book club is making a triumphant return to HBIC as I want to clear a number of books off the bookcase that are begging to be read. I find that I do my best reading in the summer, but it's hard to find a moment of peace where I can plow through a couple hundred pages. The book featured to the left was hard to put down, making it easy to read from cover to cover. With that being said, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Overtime, written by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen and published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited. I'll be honest when I tell you that I had a very narrow view of who Chris Chelios was prior to reading this book. I'll be upfront in telling you that you learn a great deal about the man, his life, his career, and everything in between in Overtime!

I shouldn't need to introduce him, but Chris Chelios was a long-time NHL defenceman who suited up for the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Atlanta Thrashers. As per the dust jacket of the book, "Chelios spent 26 years in the NHL" and "was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013." He most recently was seen behind Team USA's bench at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, works regularly at his Detroit restaurant Cheli's Chili Bar, and spends as much time with his wife, Tracee, their four daughters, and the rest of his extended family.

Also from the dust jacket, "Kevin Allen has been USA Today's hockey writer since 1986 and is currently president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The author of several hockey bios, Allen lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @kausatoday." He has written other hockey books such as Without Fear: The Greatest Goalies of All Time, Why is the Stanley Cup in Mario Lemieux's Pool?, and Mr. & Mrs. Hockey: A Tribute to the Sport's Greatest Couple.

When I first sat down with this book, I had some preconceived notions about Chris Chelios: do anything to win, wouldn't flinch in hurting an opponent, better to be on his team than against him, and a true vocal leader on all the teams for which he played. In Overtime, Chelios didn't really do much to change those notions, but he did provide perspective on them that gave me a greater understanding of why he was like this as a player.

For that that don't know, professional hockey was never a future occupation for teenaged Chris Chelios. As a forward, he was noticed playing in a beer league in San Diego after being cut by the NCAA's US International University by an Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player named Bobby Parker who suggested that Chelios come north with him to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and suit up for the Canucks. It was there, under the tutelage of a coach named Larry Billows, that Chelios really found his stride as a defenceman despite having played forward all his life. His play in Moose Jaw led to him being recruited to the University of North Dakota before abruptly switching his NCAA commitment to the University of Wisconsin where he played under "Badger" Bob Johnson and Grant Stradbrook, the man who Chelios credits as being the reason why he made the NHL. I won't tell you what made him change his commitment - you'll have to read Overtime to find out!

There are great chapters about his time in Montreal, Chicago, and Detroit, the trades that moved him to Chicago and Detroit, and how through it all he has been more committed to his family thanks to the trades. There is one section during his trade to Chicago that I found rather interesting, and the passage goes as follows:
After going home for a good night's sleep, I was awakened by a call from Serge Savard.
"I guess you heard," I said.
"Heard what?" he asked.
"I was arrested yesterday," I said.
"That's okay," he said, "because I traded you last night."
"Where?" I asked.
"Chicago," he said.
That's when I realized that I had mixed emotions about the deal. I had spent seven fun seasons in Montreal and I was sad about leaving the Canadiens. I told Serge that.
"Well," he said, "I could have really [expletive] you and traded you to Winnipeg for Dale Hawerchuk!"
I'm not going to lie: I think my jaw hit the floor when I read that. Chris Chelios as a Winnipeg Jet? Dale Hawerchuk as a Montreal Canadien and a potential Stanley Cup champion in 1993? No Housley-to-Selanne? The NHL landscape would have changed dramatically had Winnipeg and Montreal made that deal. Of course, Serge Savard could have simply been taking a shot at the team that once employed him, but that's for him to answer. Either way, that could have been huge news!

Of course, there are chapters on the international play that Chelios was involved in, and he does an excellent job at explaining the unfortunate "trashed hotel room" in Nagano, the US's World Cup of Hockey victory in 1996, his Olympic experience in 1984, and his time at the Canada Cup. Through it all, we get to understand the psyche of Chris Chelios in how he simply was neither going to be outworked nor allow an opponent get the better of him. While some of his play would fall into the "dirty" category, it was quite common for that era of hockey so I can't really fault him. After all, as one of his chapters is titled, "Winning is a Habit".

It's amazing to read his thoughts on the coaches and management for whom he played. Legends such as Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, and Jacques Lemaire were some of his coaches, and you can tell he holds them in high respect. While family comes first, he also holds his friends to the same level of respect, talking admirably about people like Kid Rock, John Cusack, Michael Jordan, Tony Danza, John McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky. Honestly, the more I read Overtime, the more apparent it became that Chris Chelios is a stand-up guy who would do anything for his friends and family, not to mention teammates and coaches who expected greatness out of him.

Overall, Overtime was a fantastic read that kept me wanting to read further. Learning about the ups and downs about Chris Chelios' life was something far more interesting than I would have probably given it credit if I was judging a book by its cover, and I'm very glad I didn't do that. For all appearances, he seems like a great guy with some incredible stories, a few heartbreaks, and a general zest for life. Overtime was a fantastic read, and it certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find Overtime at your local bookstore or library today! Due to a few choice words in the story, I'd recommend this book for adolescents and up, but it would make for a great Father's Day gift this year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!