Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hockey In Barcelona

I'll admit that there are some things in the hockey world that I have forgotten. I usually remember a lot of little details, but I occasionally stumble across something from the past that grabs my attention in a big way. Such is the case today as I was digging through the interwebs. There have been many hockey competitions at the Olympic Games held throughout time, but I had totally forgotten that the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain had held a hockey event! Unlike the Winter Olympic Games, though, this was one that was borne out of Spain's culture.

I have written about "quad hockey" or "roller hockey" in the past. However, I neglected to mention anything in that article about the 1992 Summer Olympics and how roller hockey was a demonstration sport at the Barcelona Olympics. I would have been an adolescent at the time of the Barcelona Olympics, so I don't recall a lot about the Olympiad myself. However, Joe DeLessio wrote a great article on it for Sports on Earth, and I think his article deserves a little recognition.

As per Mr. DeLessio's article,
Rink hockey dates back to the nineteenth century, when an Englishman named Edward Crawford adapted ice hockey for play on a wooden skating rink, and the earliest version of the sport used a wooden puck or flat disc as well as flat sticks. According to an informational booklet prepared by the IOC in advance of the '92 Games, the sport grew in popularity quickly, especially in England, where there were more than 600 roller rinks. By 1905, England had its first association of roller hockey clubs. In 1924, the sport had its first international federation. Two years later came the first European championships, and a decade after that, the first world championships.
In other words, roller hockey goes back as far as ice hockey does here in North America, and the 1927 European championships show that it is nearly as old as the National Hockey League crowning its champions. That's pretty impressive. Again, hockey history doesn't just exist on ice as we can see!

According to Mr. DeLessio's article, "the best players were able to play professionally in countries like Spain and Italy. In the United States, though, it remained something of a fringe sport. Its heyday in the U.S. spanned from the late 1970s to the late '80s, with its popularity mostly limited to pockets of the country, such as Texas and the Pacific Northwest. Various estimates put the total number of players nationally in 1992 at somewhere between 500 and 1,000." So it appeared the United States began to develop the game in its borders at one point, but somehow the popularity and novelty of the sport wore off. No reason is given why.

As I pointed out in my article, Spain was already a solid competitor at international events, so including it as a demonstration sport the Olympics was a bit of a no-brainer. As Mr. DeLessio pointed out, then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch had played the game himself. He also writes, "countries qualified for the '92 Games based on their finish at the in the 1991 World Cup in Portugal, organized by the Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports, a governing body that oversees not just rink hockey but all roller sports. The United States, while hardly a dominant power, was among the countries that made the cut." So that's how countries qualified for the competition.

The countries that were invited to participate in just a men's tournament included Spain, the United States, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, Angola, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, and Japan. Group A would feature Italy, Portugal, Argentina, Switzerland, Japan, and the USA. Group B featured Spain, Brazil, Australia, Angola, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Here are some of the highlights from the preliminary round.

Japan, who finished last in Group A, got bombed in the preliminary round by Portugal (38-0), Italy (25-1), and Argentina (13-0). They gave up 95 goals in their five games, and scored just four - half of which came against Switzerland in a 9-2 loss.

Italy and Argentina finished in a 3-3 tie on the first day of the competition before Italy went on a tear. They defeated Switzerland 8-0, the USA 13-2, Portugal 5-2, and Japan 25-1 to close out the preliminary round in first-place of Group A with a 4-0-1 record. Portugal finished in second-place with a 4-1-0 record while being the most offensively-prolific team in the tournament with 59 goals-for. Argentina finished third in the group with a 2-1-2 record, and these three teams would advance to the semi-final round. The United States finished the preliminary round in fourth-place with a 2-2-1 record, Switzerland finished fifth in the group with a 1-4-0 record, and Japan would finished 0-5-0.

Group B didn't quite see any teams fall to Japan's level of play, but Australia finished in the same place in Group B as Japan did in Group A. They were destroyed 17-1 on the first day of the competition by Spain, 12-1 by the Netherlands on the fourth day, and scored four of their seven total goals on the fifth day in a 7-4 loss to Brazil. To Australia's credit, though, they only surrendered 42 goals in the competition.

Spain cruised through the prelims with a 5-0 record to finish atop the Group B standings. Brazil's only loss came to Spain as they finished second with a 4-1 record. In a battle for the third qualifying spot, Germany and the Netherlands met on the fifth day with both teams vying for that spot. The Netherlands used a 3-1 first-half lead to pace them to a 5-3 win, giving them a 2-2-1 record, better than Germany's 2-3 record. As a result, the Netherlands finished third and Germany finished fourth. Angola finished in fifth-place as they brought home a 1-3-1 record while Australia went home with an 0-5-0 record.

In the semi-final round, the top-two teams would battle for the gold medal while the third- and fourth-place teams would battle for the bronze medal, so every game counted. The Netherlands, unfortunately, would not record a win in finishing in sixth-place in the semi-final round, being outscored 29-5 in their five games. Brazil would also head home as they finished in fifth-place with a 1-3-1 record. Their win came against the Netherlands, but the draw they recorded came against Spain in which they played their best game of the tournament, posting a 2-1 halftime lead to tie the powerful Spaniards 3-3. It wouldn't matter in the end, though, as they fell to Portugal a day later, making it impossible to catch Italy for fourth-place in the round.

The bronze medal game featured fourth-place Italy (2-3-0) and third-place Portugal (3-2-0). They had met on the first day of the semi-final round where Portugal outscored Italy 3-2 in the first half and 2-1 in the second half for a 5-3 victory. Portugal jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first half of the bronze-medal game on goals by Luís Ferreira and Victor Hugo Silva while Francesco Amato had Italy's goal. In the second half, though, Italy played a dominant defensive game, holding Portugal off the board while getting goals from Massimo Mariotti and Roberto Crudeli to pace the squad to a 3-2 victory and the 1992 bronze medal for men's roller hockey!

That leaves just two teams for the gold-medal match, and they come from both Europe and South America where the game of roller hockey is extremely popular. The home country of Spain finished atop the semi-final group with a 4-0-1 record while Argentina finished with a 4-1-0 record - their only loss coming to Spain by a 3-2 score. Would the host team get the same result in the gold-medal game?

While the semi-final contest was closely contested with neither team giving an inch and capitalizing on the few mistakes the other made, the gold-medal match was and offensive explosion! The two teams battled to a 5-5 halftime score meaning that the first-ever gold medal in roller hockey would be decided in the second half. A 3-1 score in the second half for the Argentinians would be all that was needed for the country to claim gold as they downed Spain by an 8-6 final score. Argentina would win the first-ever roller hockey gold medal!

This was the only Olympiad to feature roller hockey. The IOC had decided in 1989 that demonstration sports would no longer be included in the Olympics beyond 1992, so it would have to be included as a full Olympic sport beyond Barcelona. However, it was killed off at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games after some political in-fighting. Mr. DeLessio writes, "[S]ome in the United States Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating (now known as USA Roller Sports) pushed hard for the Atlanta Games to include not just rink hockey but also other roller skating disciplines, like artistic skating. At the time, he said, the U.S. federation was run by artistic-skating people, and they saw rink hockey as a sort of stepping stone to getting the other disciplines into the Games as well. The idea was that if they all didn't get in, none would."

If roller hockey was a fringe sport in the US, artistic skating was practiced even less outside US borders. The IOC would have liked roller hockey to remain, but it was hesitant to include any other roller skate sports. As a result, roller hockey would only award medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

There's a great historical look at one of the forgotten hockey events at the Olympics. Again, I have to credit Mr. DeLessio for prompting this article as I happened across his excellent and informative piece while searching for some information on inline hockey. I recommend reading through his piece as it's an excellent article on roller hockey in the United States!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Up In The Booth

I fully admit that I am no Foster Hewitt. He was the pioneer of play-by-play hockey, and he certainly has more than his fair share of legendary calls when it comes to the game we all love. Foster Hewitt was the voice of Hockey Night in Canada for millions across this country when radio and the early television transmissions were filling the airwaves for hockey fans. Like Mr. Hewitt, however, I'll share one thing with him tonight. He worked alone, and I'll be the only guy doing the broadcast of the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey game as they battle the fourth-ranked University of British Columbia Thunderbirds!

The game last night saw the Bisons pull out an impressive 2-1 overtime win in which Alanna Sharman scored the overtime winner, and goaltender Rachel Dyck was more than impressive. The Bisons seem to rise to the occasion each time they run into a ranked opponent, and there's a chance for the two-game sweep tonight as the two teams meet once more at Wayne Fleming Arena!

The game will be broadcast via the internet feed outside the UMFM broadcast range, so if you want to tune in to hear my first broadcast this season you can find the link here to get the broadcast! The game starts at 6pm CT, so hunker down by the computer for some quality Canada West women's hockey action!

Alanna Sharman sits third in Canada West scoring with ten goals and four assists, and her ten goals tie her for second-place in goal-scoring. UBC's Sarah Casorso and Rebecca Unrau leads their team with twelve points, and Casorso is tied with Tatiana Rafter for the lead in goals with six.

Rachel Dyck continued her impressive play in her second season in Canada West hockey. She leads Canada West with her miniscule 1.32 GAA, her .942 save percentage, has one shutout, and owns a 7-2 record. UBC's Samantha Langford is third in goalie stats in Canada West as she sports a 1.67 GAA, a .938 save percentage, and has three shutouts in posting an 8-2-2 record. Needless to say, scoring goals on these two isn't an easy task.

Join me tonight as I call the plays from Wayne Fleming Arena as the visting UBC Thunderbirds battle the University of Manitoba Bisons! We'll see you at 6pm!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Toront-Overreact Much?

I'm not sure what the deal is in Toronto, but the media and some fans should seek some therapy. I'm surprised that people aren't standing outside the Air Canada Centre with torches and pitchforks demanding Randy Carlyle's head, but I suppose the win over Tampa Bay to end a three-game slide has saved Carlyle's skin for another week. However, the vitriol and anger the mob seems to have in Toronto has now turned its attention towards the players as they committed an act of pure treason after the win over Tampa Bay. No, they didn't kill a fan or sacrifice Carlton the bear. They did the worst thing imaginable: they didn't salute the fans!

Seriously, Toronto, what the heck is wrong with you? Are you that self-centered? Are you that narcissistic? You put a 9-8 team in front of the firing squad, they dodged the bullets, and you still make mountains out of molehills. The salute to the fans happens 41 nights a year. Does it really matter if a team decides to skip it for one night?

Look, I get the importance of having the players recognize the fans. Without the fans, there would be no million-dollar contracts. There would be no superstars with buckets of money made from merchandise sales. There would be no Rogers Sportsnet or TSN or CBC to fight over television rights.

For the last few hundred hockey games played at the ACC, the Leafs have stood at center ice with sticks raised high in honour of those who have filled the uber-expensive seats at the ACC. It's a way of saying thank you to all those who filled the seats for their support. Again, it's an important gesture for the team to make regardless of win, lose, or draw.

The problem is that when fans start eating their own, there's a general sense that a thank you may not be in order. People lost their minds this week, so one can understand if the Leafs' players don't feel all that appreciated. In fact, if I were a member of the Leafs, I'd pull a Maximus and challenge the crowd as well.

Because the media in Toronto threw the Leafs under an electron microscope, the smallest of indiscretions are magnified beyond proportion at this point. Phil Kessel will sneeze, and there will be an ebola warning in Toronto. It's that bad, and the only people that are to blame are the media and fans in Toronto.

Let me be clear here, Toronto: it's a hockey team, not a religion. It's a business, not a cult with defined rules of membership. The Leafs are still going to hover around .500 all season, and there will be both winning and losing streaks. People will demands trades and firings, but nothing will change unless Brendan Shanahan and Dave Nonis want it to change.

The short message? Get over it, Toronto.

Next week, there will be another concern and another reason to burn down the ACC. Russell Crowe will make a bad movie. The Leafs will lose three-straight games. The world keeps on spinning on its axis. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

In other words, Toronto, get over it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Hockey Show - Episode 115

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, is back tonight with our regularly-scheduled program as we dive into the hockey world from the last week and debate the facts, news, and opinions around the hockey world. There are some interesting stories to be discussed, and we'll bang away at those to give you some talking points with which you can agree or disagree. Also, we welcome Columbus back after a one-week hiatus in which she was reportedly working on a project, but most likely was off partying. We'll get to the bottom of that, too.

Before we get started, Alan Doyle is in town! The problem? Alan Doyle isn't on our show! Alan, the lead singer for Great Big Sea, is a huge Montreal Canadiens fan and, as you can see, has been to at least one Jets game as he stands next to Dave Wheeler in the photo on the right. I've reached out to Alan via Twitter to see if he'd like to be on the best damned hockey show in Winnipeg, and the response has been silence. I have no idea if he's flying out today, but he was on the local production of CTV Morning Live this morning, so he's still in the city somewhere at this time. Your job? Tweet Alan at @alanthomasdoyle and tell him to drop by UMFM this evening, if his schedule allows, to chat hockey and have some laughs! BE POLITE IF YOU TWEET HIM! Ok? Ok. He left via airplane this morning. No dice on Alan Doyle at UMFM today. Thanks anyway, everyone.

Tonight, Beans, Columbus, and I will discuss the recent woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres and the Nashville Predators, the overreaction happening in Toronto, the Dion Phaneuf press conference, the comments made on Sportsnet by the analysts about what should be done, and where the Leafs go from here. We'll also chat about our favorite SPHL team in the Columbus Cottonmouths having two women referee the game tomorrow against Fayetteville, impending ads on jerseys, the possibility of William Foley and the Maloofs as owners of a potential Las Vegas franchise, the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors celebrating their Seinfeld night, Pascal Dupuis suffering another season-ending situation, and we'll talk about the Manitoba Bisons and their upcoming schedule. Lots to chat about tonight!

Check out that banner! We're going back overseas tonight with a Russian Update - apparently "Roundup" doesn't translate into Russian very well - to check on the Manitoba-born boys playing in Barys Astana in the KHL, Brandon Reid in Vojens, Denmark, and Jared Aulin in Orebro, Sweden. We'll also take a look at Ryan Whitney's progress in the KHL with Sochi, and we'll talk about Guy Boucher being named as Canada's head coach for the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland! This should be a solid Russian Update even though it's more European than Russian at this point.

We'll be live on the air at 5:30pm and the phones will be open! Hit us up on 101.5 UMFM on your radio dial in the Winnipeg region or you can listen live between 5:30pm and 6:30pm CT on your web-enabled device at the UMFM webpage! Give us a call at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM) so you can weigh in on the discussion as well! You can tweet us anytime you like by hitting us 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. There are lots of ways for you to interact on The Hockey Show, so get involved!

PODCAST: NOVEMBER 20, 2014: Episode 115

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

22 Minutes For Cherry?

Don Cherry isn't actually getting 22 minutes of airtime. That would be longer than the intermission, so that's not going to happen nor are they giving him segments in each intermission either. As far as I can tell in my limited research, Don Cherry has never appeared on CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes as himself. Being as iconic as he is, the show frequently satirizes him and his commentary, but the icon himself has never appeared on the public broadcaster's sketch show. This week, though, 22 Minutes took things to a whole new level as they used Don's caricature to talk about some of the new developments in hockey. The result? Funny!

Here is Mark Critch as hockey's most outspoken individual talking about ads on jerseys and the length of his Coach's Corner segment. And he knows who is to blame for this new trend.

Not bad, right? I like the "NASCAR Ice Capades" comment. I have to admit that 22 Minutes really hits the nail on the head with this piece on Cherry. It's not disrespectful to Mr. Cherry in any way, and the comedy is linked to how he reacts to news such as the ads on jerseys. Honestly, I think this parody is pretty spot-on considering the outrage Mr. Cherry can show occasionally.

Of course, Rogers could just have him pitching all sorts of stuff outside of ads on jerseys.

This Hour Has 22 Minutes might be the best thing still going on Canada's public broadcaster now that Hockey Night in Canada is elsewhere. Well done, 22 Minutes!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!