Sunday, 29 November 2020

National Jersey Day

According to my social media feeds today, it's National Jersey Day! The hockey jersey, or sweater as the traditionalists will say, has played a large role in Canada's history as Roch Carriere's story, Le Chandail de Hockey, has seen success in both French and English as well as being set to music and played by philharmonics and orchestras across Canada. We anxious await the releases of new jerseys as much as we anticipate the craziness of NHL Free Agency Day, and wearing one's favorite team's logo on one's chest just seems to make one walk taller, prouder and more confident to be "part of the team". The man pictured is from Regina, Saskatchewan so I don't know if he took part in today's fun, but he has himself a heckuva closet of jerseys.

As it stands, there are eight players who have played for ten or more NHL teams in their illustrious careers. We'll start with the only active player in the NHL holding that distinction, and that goes to oft-traded-on-trade-deadline-day Lee Stempniak! As it stands, Stempniak has played for the St. Louis Blues, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Calgary Flames, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, the Winnipeg Jets, the New Jersey Devils, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Boston Bruins! Of his 911 NHL games, the most came with St. Louis where he skated in 233 games as opposed to the Winnipeg Jets where he appeared the least, dressing in just 18 games. Stempniak finished his 2018-19 season with the Boston Bruins, so we'll have to see what his next move is.

Another player with ten teams on his resume is Stanley Cup champion Mathieu Schneider! Schneider won a Stanley Cup in 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens, but he's also appeared with the New York Islanders, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the New York Rangers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Detroit Red Wings, the Anaheim Ducks, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Vancouver Canucks, and the Phoenix Coyotes. Schneider spent most of his 1189 games in a Canadiens sweater, logging 383 games in La Belle Province, while he spent just eight games wearing the colours of the Phoenix Coyotes!

e Jim Dowd is another player who seemingly always had his bags packed as he appeared in NHL games for ten teams. Dowd suited up with the New Jersey Devils, the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Islanders, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Minnesota Wild, the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Philadelphia Flyers! Dowd played the least games of the eight players listed, appearing in just 728 games, but he spent the most time with Minnesota where he played 283 games and the least time with the New York Islanders where he played just three games!

Dominic Moore also suited for ten NHL teams in his career which I found hard to believe as I had completely forgotten he had stints with some of these franchises. Moore played for the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Minnesota Wild, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Buffalo Sabres, the Florida Panthers, the Montreal Canadiens, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the San Jose Sharks, and the Boston Bruins. He actually played for both the Rangers and Maple Leafs twice in his career, but his 322 gams with the Rangers were the most of his 897 NHL games while he spent just 18 games with the Buffalo Sabres!

Olli Jokinen makes an appearance on this list thanks to the ten teams he played with in his career! Jokinen wore the jerseys for the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Islanders, the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes, the Calgary Flames, the New York Rangers, the Winnipeg Jets, the Nashville Predators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the St. Louis Blues! Of the eight players listed here, Jokinen played the second-most games, but recorded the most points! 567 of his 1231 career games were spent with the Panthers while playing just six games at the end of his career for the Toronto Maple Leafs!

JJ Daigneault is another one of those players who I had forgotten played for so many teams. Like Schneider, he won a Stanley Cup with that 1993 Montreal Canadiens team, but also suited up with the Vancouver Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers, the St. Louis Blues, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the New York Islanders, the Nashville Predators, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Minnesota Wild. The reliable defenceman played 899 career games, spending 352 of those with Montreal and just one single game with the Wild.

I knew Michel Petit was one of those guys who got moved a lot in the 1980s just because he seemingly was on every team - ten of them, in fact. That being said, Petit played with the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Rangers, the Quebec Nordiques, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames, the Los Angeles Kings, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Edmonton Oilers, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Toronto-Calgary segment of his career was the infamous Doug Gilmour trade to the Leafs that saw Petit go to the Flames as part of the package. In his 827 NHL games, Petit played 226 of those contests with the Canucks while he had just 18 games as an Oiler. Not bad for a guy who finished his career with 1839 PIMs!

The final guy on this list holds the record for the most teams played for in NHL history, and that's the guy at the top - Mr. Mike Sillinger! Mike played with twelve NHL teams in his career, and those teams include the Detroit Red Wings, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the Vancouver Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers, the Ottawa Senators, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Phoenix Coyotes, the St. Louis Blues, the Nashville Predators, and the New York Islanders. Of his 1049 NHL games, he spent the most with Columbus where he dressed for 155 games, 14 more than the Islanders with whom he retired. The team where he spent the least amount of time was the Ottawa Senators, suiting up for just 13 contests in the nation's capital!

These players played for a combined 30 NHL franchises - 28 if you combine Quebec-Colorado and Atlanta-Winnipeg - with the Phoenix Coyotes employing six of the eight players at some points in their careers. The Rangers, Islanders, Leafs, and Canucks all had five of these players on their rosters, and the Flyer, Blues, Flames, and Canadiens all had four of these eight players.

There could have been more teams added to these lists too. Mathieu Schneider was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets in their expansion draft, but he wasn't signed by the team. Dominic Moore was traded by the New York Rangers to the Nashville Predators for Adam Hall, but Nashville traded him the same day to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third-round pick. Mike Sillinger could have had a Dallas jersey to his name after he was traded by Columbus to Dallas for Darryl Sydor, but Dallas swapped him on the same day to the Phoenix Coyotes for Teppo Numminen.

There are only four current teams that don't appear on these lists, and two of those are Vegas and Seattle. The other two are Dallas and Washington who never had at least one of these players on their rosters. Likewise, there are two franchises who no longer exist who employed at least one of these players, and those franchises are Quebec and Atlanta.

So there are some cool facts about the NHL players who wore the most jerseys in their careers, and the teams that carried these eight players on their rosters. I'm sure I could break down a hundred more interesting facts about these players and the jerseys they wore, but I think we've covered enough for tonight!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 28 November 2020

This Could Have Been Big

Back in 2012, Lego released their fourth set of specialized minifigures that were to capture the hearts of children and grown-up children around the world. There were some rather unique minifigures that Lego included in the set including a geisha, a pandemically-dressed guy in a hazmat suit, and some sports minifigures like an ice skater, a soccer player, and the pictured hockey player. Despite the raging sexism in that only the figure skater is a female minifigure and is only one of three female minifigures in a set of sixteen, the hockey player appealed to me in that I thought Lego could have really had some fun with hockey-based Lego, only to see that the Danish company's efforts were limited to a handful of off-putting sets that makes hockey look like a robotic war.

Yes, I get that there are nuances that likely couldn't be captured in brick form through Lego that one would find in hockey, and that's ok. I'm not here to suggest that we should have had more brick-based sets produced where kids can use Lego to play hockey. I mean, if they can produce art with Lego that one would hang on the wall, they probably can think outside the box for hockey too. But I digress.

Instead, I was thinking more along the lines of the wildly-popular-with-kids Lego video games! Lego has produced Star Wars video games, Batman video games, Indiana Jones video games, and more all with their usual minifigures at the center of the story in a world made entirely of Lego. In these games, puzzles are solved while villains try to disrupt the heroes, and these villains often die by having the minifigure characters explode into a pile of bricks. You might already know where I'm thinking they take this idea, but could you imagine a Lego hockey video game where big hits result in exploded opponents? Think Lego meeting Mutant League Hockey!

It would give Lego a chance to really create something unique - a hockey league that features a handful of teams with actual minifigure players that Lego could market and sell based on the popularity of the game. If Lego wanted to ressurect its licensing deal with the NHL, that would be up to them, but I would create entirely new characters and players on which to base this game so that Lego has its own stars like they do with the Lego Ninjago sets. Choose your team and character, and hit the ice!

This doesn't just have to be a male minifigure game either. Put female minifigures in the game as playable teams and give girls a reason to play the game as well. Have fun with Olympians and NHL players by offering them as special unlockable characters. Make the game playable online and let players from around the world compete against one another. The offerings and potential for this game seem limitless, and it makes me wonder why Lego wouldn't be working on something like this considering the popularity of EA Sports' NHL series.

In any case, maybe Lego can come up with some additional minifigure sets to have complete teams for those kids who like to imagine their own Leg-based hockey arenas and games? That would be ideal until this idea of a Lego hockey game comes to pass.

If you build it, they will play.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 27 November 2020

Keep The Hose Handy

In the season in which no one can catch a break, it's becoming very apparent that few, if any, outdoor rinks will be installed this year at community centers and places of public gathering. If there's one thing that brings some normalcy to cold-weather locales, strapping the skates on and feeling the crisp winter air on your face at the outdoor rink is that norm. The unfortunate part is that Code Red mandates in cities across Canada have forced normal winter activities such as skating and toboganning into taking a season off as well, and that's only going to add to the stir-craziness we're seeing in Canadians.

I am encouraged, however, by the number of people I've seen and heard building backyard rinks for their own enjoyment. This activity used to be a rite of passage every winter out on farms and in small towns where a lot of the NHL legends got their start, and this winter's lack of public rinks has made private rinks that much more important for people who want to skate outdoors.

HBIC Headquarters sits upon a postage stamp of land, so I don't have a rink. I'd love to build one, but I simply don't have the space to do it. I find myself a little envious of those that do have the space and install either a skating rink, a curling rink, or a combination of the two because the rink represents a way to break the monotony of a cold, dreary winter.

CBC had a great piece last year on February 12 about all the homemade rinks in Manitoba with an assortment of pictures, and I have to say I have a little FOMO going on because I do fear I'm missing out. There's a skill to building a good rink, and it's pretty clear that a lot of Manitobans are bringing back a skill that may have been lost to time thanks to the public skating options available in cities. Rather than waiting for someone to flood the rink, Manitobans are flooding their very own rinks in waves!

Perhaps what is most unique about some of Winnipeg's rinks is that they cross property lines as families and neighbours come together to build impressive rinks in neighbourhoods. One such rink is in the Crescentwood area, seen below, and it spans the front yards of three houses! This was the brainchild of Shane and Kara McCartney (paywalled link - sorry!), one of the three homeowners, as their son, Blake, had his hockey season ruined by the pandemic. Rather than pout, Blake is now skating on his front lawn thanks to the efforts of these Winnipeggers!
The start of this article sounded a little depressing as some winters can seemingly be, but it's pretty clear that people across this land are rediscovering ways to build their own rinks just as Walter Gretzky did for Wayne, just as Rob Konecny did for Travis, and just as former NHLer Dave Gagner did for his son, Sam, and his friends, John Tavares, Cody Goloubef, Akim Aliu, Brendan Smith, and Reilly Smith. Will we see an uptick in skilled hockey players coming from outdoor rinks to NHL arenas? The likelihood seems good, but time will tell on whether these backyard rinks result in NHL contracts.

What shouldn't be forgotten, though, is that every backyard rink creates an entire wealth of memories, whether it be building a rink with a father, skating with friends, or competing against siblings to go with the emotions that come along with each of these moments. I've talked a lot about keeping distances for safety during the pandemic on this blog, but a backyard rink brings people closer together. It doesn't mean that they're physically standing closer to one another, but rather the memories of the effort and remembering the good times brings that closeness that we're so desperately needing in these socially-distant times.

With it appearing that outdoor public rinks might be few and far between for a lot of Canadian cities this year, this might be the best time to rediscover a talent that so many people just stopped using thanks to the local public rink. Flooding a rink in the silence of a still winter night is something that I've heard is quite cathartic for the mind - it's just you and the night watching the new layer of water freeze to the ice surface. A backyard rink might not only be the remedy for winter blues for those stuck indoors, but it could be a therapeutic way for parents to spend some time alone without all the daily pressures.

I'd love to see a backyard rink webcam option from someone. Watching a game of shinny is just as good, if not better in my opinion, than an organzied game of hockey simply due to the creative nature of players playing without strict rules. If you have a webcam set up on your backyard rink, post the link for that cam below. I think it would be an awesome venture for a lot of us who are craving hockey right now.

For everyone who has built or is building a backyard rink, I salute you. You're keeping the pond hockey dreams alive with your efforts, and I am in awe of your talents when it comes to having a clean sheet of ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 26 November 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 427

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the Winnipeg airwaves as Jenna and I are still firmly locked down thanks to the Code Red mandate. Honestly, we need to get our acts together, Canada. This can't go on much longer. With the holiday season looking more and more like it may be in jeopardy, this should be a stark reminder that we need to stay home, avoid gatherings, wear masks, and be smart about our activities. I want to visit the cozy confines of the UMFM studios at some point in 2021, but it doesn't seem things are going to go that way unless we all do our parts. In saying that, we have a guest who is also experiencing a lockdown herself tonight, so let's meet our house-bound guest!

Tonight, Teebz and Jenna welcome CWHL legend, NCAA legend, and Winnipeg-born Delayne Brian back to the show! While we were hoping to have both players on, the timing didn't work out for Brittany Esposito, so we'll have to get her on a future show. Nevertheless, the chat with Delayne will be good as we get caught up on the last two years of her life since she was last on the show! We discuss moving into coaching, retirement from the professional side of sports, her ball hockey and beer-league hockey careers, settling into Calgary as a resident, getting a new roommate, her perspective on the loss of the Pronghorns after she experienced the same thing with Wayne State, what needs to be done to bring professional women's hockey back, and we get her takes on the new Reverse Retro jerseys seen by the NHL. It's a busy hour with Delayne Brian, so make sure you tune in tonight at 5:30pm CT tonight to hear all of this on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or on UMFM.com!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? 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.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jenna catch up with Delayne Brian on life after hockey, life as a coach and beer leaguer, life in Calgary, life when hockey disappoints you, and and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: November 26, 2020: Episode 427

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Scoring Ain't Easy

Scoring goals at any level of hockey is a difficult task, and seeing it done regularly by any one player is what makes that player special. Canada West women's hockey has had its fair share of elite scorers over the years, but it's the lack of scoring that is becoming far more evident as the seasons progress. That's not to say that certain teams haven't found a way to score, but I thought I should post a bit of an examination of the last eight seasons that show how Canada West was becoming far more defensive-minded than ever before in its history.

As you may recall, Kelsey Roberts, the netminder for the Calgary Dinos pictured above, was named as the Canada West Player of the Year thanks to her play in the Dinos' nets all season long, leading to a major jump in the standings for the University of Calgary. While she was certainly one of the reasons for Calgary's turnaround, it should be noted that there were exceptional goaltending performances across the conference with the likes of Kaitlyn Ross, Kirsten Chamberlin, and Jessica Vance all doing ridiculous goaltending things.

Ten goaltenders finished with a goal-against average less than 2.00 with three of them playing in 21-or-more games last season. To double-down on those numbers, eight goaltenders finished the season with save percentages at .930 or above, and seven goaltenders finished with four-or-more shutouts at the end of the season.

Scoring goals at the Canada West level was already hard back in 2012-13, but it's moved to a level that's downright suffocating to say the least. Graphically, here's what the trend looks like using lines and bars. As you can see, there are declines in both the Most Team Goals Scored (MTGS) totals and the Average Goals Scored (AGS) each season while the Lowest Team Goals Scored (LTGS) is slightly elevated in the final years after declining as well. Needless to say, the trend in scoring is going the "not fun" way as teams are placing higher emphasis on defence than offence.

Aside from the anomoly season in 2017-18 that saw just three teams hit the 60-goal plateau while Calgary set an all-time low with just 22 goals-for, scoring has dropped from the high seen in 2012-13 when Calgary hit an all-time high of 97 goals-for. The lowest scoring team that season was the newly-promoted Mount Royal Cougars who scored 50 goals. In comparison, that would have made them the fourth-highest scoring team in 2019-20.

With two new teams entering Canada West next season and one team not participating, there likely will be a bump in goal-scoring across the league as MacEwan and Trinity Western figure out how to play at the Canada West level. The one thing that levels the playing field for all teams is good goaltending and defence, though, and it's a reason why we're seeing the scoring drop from year to year. If we've learned anything from NHL expansion over the years, the preference to win close games through good defence and good goaltending always seems to take precedence over opening up the game and trying to score more goals.

Since 2012-13, Alberta has scored no fewer than 62 goals in a season (2015-16). Their goals-against are as follows: 47, 31, 35, 39, 39, 43, 24, and 31 last season. That's a pretty consistent defensive effort, yet they finished 4th, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 1st, and 1st. Both times that Alberta gave up more than 40 goals in a season, they finished in fourth-place, yet the two times that gave up 39 goals in a season saw 1st- and 2nd-place finishes. Every other year where they've given up less than 39 goals against has seen them win the conference. Is it any wonder why defence is being heralded in Canada West?

The three times that they didn't win the conference, though, had them score 67-or-more goals - more than any other team in 2019-20 except the Alberta Pandas! Calgary, who scored a second-best 61 goals last season, would have been sixth-highest in 2012-13, fifth-highest in 2013-14, and fifth-highest in 2014-15. Again, a commitment to defence and goaltending has been the trend we're seeing for all the teams as the years have gone by as scoring has dropped while defensive zone play has improved immensely.

How do we get the scoring back up, you ask? Well, that's a tough question. We've seen Alberta score at a high rate with playing good defensive hockey, but there are two sides of the coin that we need to consider. Obviously, a strong forecheck is a good start as forcing defenders to make mistakes on breakouts will lead to chances. I'd like to see more players jumping passing routes to pick off passes to create odd-player rushes, but there's a risk involved with making those plays as well which coaches will frown on if one has to fish the puck out of one's own net. And as seen above, coaches will play conservatively so that the red light isn't on in their end.

I'd love to see more creative power-plays than what we've seen in the past in Canada West. I think a lot of the systems being used can be easily game-planned for by coaches in Canada West, so it might take some creativity and imagination to change that up a little. I'd also like to see goalies learning to handle the puck more so that they can become additional weapons for transitioning to offence faster. Having a goalie who can throw passes to the red line would be ideal in catching teams on changes or before they can set up in the defensive zone on dump-ins.

Will these changes result in an explosion of offence? I'm not sure it will, but it might be enough to shake up a team for an additional five or ten goals in the course of a season. Maybe that's enough to overcome a team or two in the standings as well. But, if nothing else, it brings the fun back to what's becoming a bit of a chess match between Canada West teams.

Hockey's supposed to be fun, right? Let's have fun then!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!