Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

A Winnipeg (-Owned) WHL Team

For years, I've held hope that someone in Winnipeg would bring a WHL franchise back to the city. The city has seen WHL history from yesteryear, but there hasn't been a team in the Manitoba capital in my lifetime. There have been teams for sale in recent years that would filled that void, but with the arrival of the AHL Manitoba Moose there was really no reason to hold out hope that True North Sports and Entertainment would entertain the idea. Tonight, however, there are two Winnipeg businessmen who have ventured into the WHL ranks as owners, but it seems they will keep the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, BC.

Kootenay Ice President and GM Dean Chynoweth announced on Tuesday that the Chynoweth family, who had owned the franchise since 1995, had agreed to sell the team to businessmen Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. Fettes and Cockell are both Winnipeggers with customer service and hockey backgrounds as Fettes is the founder of 24-7 Intouch, a global customer service outsourcing company, while Cockell is the former Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for True North Sports and Entertainment among the many hockey titles he's held over his career.

Cockell will be relocating his family to Cranbrook as he takes over as President and General Manager from Chynoweth, and will oversee all business and hockey operations of the Kootenay Ice. The former fifth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1997 played for four WHL teams in three seasons, was a coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings, and was part of the gold medal-winning Canadian Women's Hockey Team at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. His connection to Fettes came through 24-7 Intouch where Cockell served as Chief Customer Officer. He'll have a big job ahead of him in trying to get people come back to the rink as the team averaged under 1700 people per game and own one of the worst records in junior hockey over the last two seasons.

"Our family is looking forward to becoming an active community member, and we are excited to engage directly with some of the greatest fans in the entire Western Hockey League," Cockell said in a statement.

The sale is conditional upon the WHL Board of Governors approving the deal at a special meeting on April 27 to review the new ownership application. The team has been up for sale since 2012, one season after they had claimed the WHL's Ed Chynoweth Cup as the WHL champions. They also won the championship in 2000 and 2002, and claimed the Memorial Cup Championship in 2002 as well. There were discussions to move the team to Nanaimo, BC upon the completion of a new arena, but residents in Nanaimo balked at a new $80 million events centre.

It seems the two Winnipeg men will keep the team in Cranbrook and work to re-establish the team's winning ways. If you're a junior hockey fan in Manitoba, don't get too excited when it comes to seeing a second junior team in the province. It appears that Fettes and Cockell will do what they can in BC to make Kootenay successful once more, and I commend them for committing to that community before exploring other options for the team. If anything, that commitment should resonate well with Ice fans as a start.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 March 2017

From Coast To Coast

It's that time of the season where many college-aged players are being signed to contracts by NHL teams as they look to bolster their rosters with undrafted talent for the next few years. The one segment of the collegiate and university players that always seems to be overlooked is the Canadian university scene, yet there have been many players who have emerged from this group as successful and contributing members of the NHL fraternity. Guys like Mike Ridley, Stu Grimson, Joel Ward, Randy Gregg, Steve Rucchin, and Cory Cross are but some of the names who have attended Canadian universities en route to finding an NHL roster spot. We might be adding another name to the list soon as it was announced tonight that UNB Varsity Reds forward Philippe Maillet had signed a deal with the AHL's Ontario Reign!

Maillet's path to UNB is like most other players currently toiling in USports men's hockey in that he was a former CHL undrafted player who used the opportunity once his junior eligibility was up to go back to school. Maillet was a high-scoring member of the QMJHL's Victoriaville Tigres before moving into university hockey in 2013-14. In three seasons with UNB, he's continued his torrid scoring pace in averaging nearly 1.5 points per game in three seasons. He was USports Player of the Year and he was the Tournament MVP this season. Clearly, the kid can score and he's good at what he does.

Maillet helped UNB to another USports National Men's Hockey Championship this spring, and now the Reign are going to see if he can help them in their quest for a Calder Cup. Maillet shouldn't look out of step in the AHL, but the speed of the game might require some adjustments to his game. Maillet seemed to find the right places to be in the games I saw him in, so he has the vision needed to be a scoring threat at any level as long as he can adjust to the speed of the game.

Let's go to his first practice and interview with the Reign!
As Maillet stated, he needs to adjust to the speed of the AHL just as I did, but he's been a scoring star at every level so I suspect he'll adapt well in the AHL ranks. As Maillet stated, he'll use his speed and try to score some goals which he's also done at every level. Personally, this is a fantastic signing by the Reign, and it should pay off in spades as Maillet settles into his pro career.

If there's a major segment of hockey players who the North American teams seem to miss out on each and every year, it's those men playing in USports in Canada. There should be teams taking a shot with players such as Calgary's Elgin Pearce and Carleton's Michael McNamee, but Ontario and the Los Angeles Kings picked up the best player this season in Maillet who has 166 points in 101 games over his U Sports career. Perhaps some of the Canadian teams needing help should be looking in their own backyards for players who can make an impact within their organizations.

Congratulations, Philippe, and best of luck in California!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

20 Years Ago Today

15 minutes of one of the most memorable brawls in NHL history. Feel free to watch at your leisure. 39 penalties, 148 penalty minutes, 10 fights. That all happened 20 years ago today, and the animosity between these two teams last for years afterwards. The brawl includes the infamous moment when Claude Lemieux turtled against Darren McCarty, and McCarty not letting up once Lemieux ducked and covered. There's also the infamous Patrick Roy-Mike Vernon scrap where Vernon bloodied Roy. Needless to say, we may never see this kind of anger, hatred, and bloodshed again in the NHL.

The best part? I remember watching it on TV twenty years ago. Ah, memories of a simpler time when teams went toe-to-toe and righted wrongs committed on the ice through pure gladiatorial combat. In all seriousness, this might have been the last pure rivalry borne out of hate towards another team. Can we get some more of that in today's game, please?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

TBC: A Guy Like Me

With spring upon us and the opportunity to sit outdoors on quiet early mornings with a coffee and good book, I will happily thaw out Teebz's Book Club for the summer as I want to tackle more reading. Honestly, I'm not planning on reading books filled with numbers and stats like a texbook; rather, I want to read stories and biographies from the people in and around the game. I'm happy to do that today as Teebz's Book Club is proud to review A Guy Like Me, written by John Scott and Brian Cazeneuve, and published by Howard Books. You're probably veyr aware of who John Scott is either through his NHL All-Star Game appearance or his pugilistic manner on the ice, but what is one of the most feared fighters of our generation like off the ice? A Guy Like Me gives an entirely new look into John Scott's life behind the scenes, and I guarantee your thoughts on him will change once you've read through his story.

From his biography on the Simon and Schuster site, "John Scott is a Canadian professional ice hockey player in the National Hockey League. Scott previously played for the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, and Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. Scott was born in Edmonton, Alberta, but grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario. He graduated from Michigan Technological University with a mechanical engineering degree. Scott and his wife Danielle have four daughters: Eva, Gabrielle, Estelle, and Sofia."

From his W. W. Norton & Company biography, "Brian Cazeneuve is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated, where he has been covering the Olympics since 1995. His freelance work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Time, People, the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC Sports, and others. He lives in New York City." His work with Sports Illustrated has taken through many sports and many stories in his coverage of the numerous Olympic Games he's been assigned to, and his stories are well-read as features in the magazine.

Enforcers in the NHL always carry some stigma. For hometown fans, they are the larger-than-life cartoon-like characters who thwart evil and keep the peace - sheriffs on the ice, if you will. For fans in opposing rinks, they are the villains we like to boo and razz for their seemingly limited hockey skills. John Scott had these reputations, but it wasn't always like that for the undrafted defenceman who turned into a forward.

As a youngster, John loved hockey like most kids do. He played in some good programs in Ontario before catching a break with Michigan Tech. John had the option of staying in the Ontario junior ranks, but his father thought it might be better for John to pursue an education in case this hockey thing didn't work out as he had dreams. John went off to Michigan Tech where he began his pursuit in mechanical engineering. Don't ever say enforcers don't have brains!

It was there where he met Danielle, his future wife and rock in the relationship, but she didn't really give him the time of day when they met. John was determined not to let Danielle get away, and his dogged determination turned into a relationship with Danielle. Meanwhile, both were pursuing their degrees and John was playing a little hockey as well! John goes through his college career - the ups and downs - in playing for Michigan Tech until he finally signed his first pro deal with the Minnesota Wild after showing significant improvement in his defensive game!

John's NHL career has taken him through a number of cities including Chicago, Buffalo, San Jose, Phoenix/Glendale, and Montreal, but the bonds he has formed with teammates over these stops are unbreakable. His appreciation for Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton in San Jose is unwavering. His love of playing in Chicago with Toews, Kane, and Keith show through in spades. The appreciation and respect he has for coaches such as Todd McLellan, Dave Tippett, and Joel Quenneville is undeniable. But at the end of the day, John's always been a family man and there is no team he protects and works harder for than the team he has with Danielle and his four daughters.

I always find the conversation about other tough guys from tough guys to be interesting. John goes over a number of names that he engaged with during his time in the NHL, and I find the conversation about who fought well, who followed the code, and who didn't to be fascinating.
"Tom Sestito is another guy who fought quite a bit, but his chief weapon was his mouth, which never really closed. A few of the guys referred to Sestito as Fantasy Camp, because that's how they viewed his presence on the ice. He once took twenty-seven penalty minutes in one second of playing time. He ran around, and anytime I asked him to fight, he was always saying, 'Oh, my wrist hurts, my hands hurt, sorry, I can't.' And the next thing you knew, he was fighting someone else. The one time he did fight me, it was because I buried one of his guys and he came up and jumped me from behind. I have no respect for that. It's how he runs his mouth. Most of the guys in the league are respectful, but to me he is not one of those guys."
Sestito, who was recently suspended for four games for a check from behind on Winnipeg's Toby Enstrom, probably isn't on the Scott's Christmas card list. I respect John for speaking about Sestito, though, because it goes to show what kind of enforcer he is, and it's clear he plays with no honour when it comes to the code. This just adds more evidence that Sestito's role is not a hockey role.

Overall, I'm glad I made time to read A Guy Like Me. I knew a little about John Scott's hockey career, but some of the stuff that he experienced and saw behind the scenes during his career is definitely worth the read. Scott won't wow you with gaudy stats or significant historical achievements, but he was an honest player, a hard worker, and he's a true family man when it comes to his teammates or his own family. A Guy Like Me is a great read and is suitable for most readers due to a few PG-rated words, but A Guy Like Me absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find A Guy Like Me at your local bookstores and libraries, and read John Scott's story. You won't be disappointed!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Gustavsson Gets His First

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Jonas Gustavsson: goaltender, journeyman, Swede, Bakersfield Condor, former Oiler/Bruin/Red Wing/Maple Leaf. The one thing that he's never been called before is "goal scorer", but that all changed tonight in an AHL game against the San Diego Gulls. There's nothing quite like finding out that a goaltender has scored a goal, and Jonas Gustavsson gets to write his name into the record books tonight as he was added to the list of goal-scoring goalies.

Gustavsson became the 12th goalie in 81 AHL seasons to be credited with a goal, and the first since Reto Berra's goal with Lake Erie against Chicago on January 16, 2015. Gustavsson didn't actually shoot the puck, as you'll see below, but he was the last player to touch the puck for the Condors before the puck came to rest in the San Diego net.

With San Diego down 4-1 on the scoreboard and on a 5-on-3 power-play with just over three minutes to play in the game, San Diego pulled Dustin Tokarski to go up 6-on-3 as they looked to climb back into the game. From there, I'll let the video take over.
The Bakersfield commentators are loving that sequence. San Diego's Spencer Abbot missed the net after the puck grazed Gustavsson shoulder, and the puck ended up on the stick of Kalle Kossila who passed the puck to the point without looking. Those last two words - "without looking" - are important because the pass missed what appears to be Shea Theodore at the right point, and slides all the way down into the San Diego net for the goal. With Gustavsson being the last Condors player to touch the puck, that's his first goal of his North American pro career!

Gustavsson was named the second star of the game after stopping 30 of 31 shots for the win, but let's be honest in saying that he probably should have been first star for the goal, the stats line, and the win. With his goal, Gustavsson adds his name to the following list:
  • Darcy Wakaluk, Rochester – Dec. 5, 1987 at Utica
  • Paul Cohen, Springfield – Mar. 28, 1992 vs. Rochester
  • Robb Stauber, Rochester – Oct. 9, 1995 at Prince Edward Island
  • Christian Bronsard, Syracuse – Oct. 30, 1999 at Rochester
  • Jean-Francois Labbe, Hartford – Feb. 5, 2000 at Quebec
  • Chris Mason, Milwaukee – Oct. 15, 2001 at Utah
  • Antero Niittymaki, Philadelphia – Apr. 11, 2004 at Hershey (OT goal)
  • Seamus Kotyk, Milwaukee – Apr. 17, 2005 at San Antonio
  • Drew MacIntyre, Manitoba – Feb. 20, 2008 at Chicago (OT goal)
  • Chris Holt, Binghamton – Mar. 19, 2010 vs. Rochester
  • Reto Berra, Lake Erie – Jan. 16, 2015 at Chicago
  • Jonas Gustavsson, Bakersfield – Mar. 24, 2017 vs. San Diego
Congratulations, Jonas Gustavsson!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!