Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Not The Best Start

The KHL season is six days old as of today, and there's definitely one player who wishes that things may have gone a little different in the early part of this season. Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg's primary sniper, has been firing the puck as he always had done in the NHL, but things haven't been as smooth as we're used to seeing on this side of the pond. Arguably the biggest star in the KHL, Kovalchuk's early season woes only got worse on Saturday night.

In the opening game of the season, Kovalchuk had a quality chance while on the power-play only to be robbed by CSKA's Stanislav Galimov when it appeared a goal was certain. Kudos for Galimov for the stretch on this save, but you know that Kovalchuk wanted that one back. And in the back of the net.

Kovalchuk has a goal and an assist thus far on the season, but we may not see the sniper for some time after an early first-period collision in SKA's game against Torpedo today. It looked harmless, but reports after the game have Kovalchuk injured. How bad? No further reports have been made, but you be the judge based on the following video.
If you ask me, it appears that Kovalchuk was aiming for a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that Torpedo's Vladimir Galuzin stood up on upon release of his shot, and the two went knee-on-knee as Galuzin avoided most of Kovalchuk's impact. The key here is that Galuzin's knee was in a far more vulnerable spot by taking the impact on the side of the knee while Kovalchuk sent the front of his knee, protected by the knee pad, through the check. In what has to be a weird turn of events, Galuzin was fine after the hit while Kovalchuk struggled on his skates.

Kovalchuk lasted just two shifts into today's game before leaving with that apparent knee injury. SKA dropped the match to Torpedo by a 3-1 score to fall to 1-0-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) on the season with four points. Granted, it's still very early, but losing Kovalchuk for a long period may put SKA in a little trouble as they have their best player on the sidelines recovering from this knee injury. Jokerit is the only undefeated team in the KHL, and they play in SKA's Western Conference.

If St. Petersburg hopes to be back in the Gagarin Cup Championship, they'll need Kovalchuk in the lineup.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Legend

With each passing day, the men who helped to build and manage this great game get slightly older. Not to be entirely morbid, but these are the men who set the bar for the Gretzkys, Lemieuxs, Crosbys, and Brodeurs to ascend to in their own times and who provided us with memories of greatness. In doing so, the men who constructed these teams were also setting records and redefining the game year after year as the Bowmans, Burnses, and Arbours began knocking down the past records of the Blakes, Adamses, and Imlachs. It's with sadness today that I write that the great Al Arbour, architect of the Islanders' dynasty in the late-'70s and early-'80s, has passed on at the age of 82.

I could go on and on about Al's achievements and records in the NHL, but I never had any interaction with him. Everything I've heard about him, though, makes it seem like this is a man who could motivate the most lazy of people into greatness! There are some unique things about Al Arbour you may not know so let's go to the man himself who will explain a number of things about Al Arbour including how he got the nickname "Radar". This piece from CBC features Elliotte Friedman interviewing Mr. Arbour, and it shows a lot about the man who led the Islanders to great heights on a number of occasions.

There was an excellent video on Newsday's site as well. Mark Herrman wrote a great piece on Arbour, and the video is from there. There are a lot of great stories from players who played under Arbour within this piece, so enjoy this one as well.
The man was a legend in life as much as he was in hockey. Seeing him break down into tears upon hearing Kelly Hrudey's words shows how much he dedicated to his players. If there was one thing I could wish for, it would be to be remembered as Al Arbour is being remembered. The man truly was a legend in all facets of his life. Rest in peace, Mr. Arbour. Many players are better people because of your influence.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Mr. Al Arbour!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Hockey Show - Episode 154

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced hockey radio show, returns tonight with a somewhat-busy show. There are a ton of hockey stories out there right now, but we're going to focus on the good ones tonight. By good, I mean happy. Pleasant. Uplifting. The kinds of stories where you'll be inclined to ask your friends if they've heard this one. Yes, there are a pile of stories in and around hockey right now that have all sorts of negativity in them, and we've talked about those on previous shows. Hit the Podcast page under the Radio drop-down menu above to find those shows. Tonight, we go in a different direction as we look at some fun stuff!

Because we're a campus radio station, we take pride in our student-athletes being students first. When the CIS begins handing out awards for academic achievement, the Manitoba Bisons usually have a few names on there. When I say a few, I mean 102. WOW! We'll go over the criteria to obtain the CIS Academic All-Canadian status for 2014-15 and look at which Bisons, specifically the hockey-playing ones, achieved their All-Canadian status. From there, we'll weigh in on our puffy shirt statuses for two new looks in hockey, discuss the Mark Giordano signing and how that may affect Dustin Byfuglien's status in Winnipeg, Andrew Ladd being back in Winnipeg and how he's ignored our requests for an interview, and we'll look at the AHL schedule in all its glory with the AHL finally releasing the full schedule this afternoon.

The phones will go live at 5:30pm CT, so give us a call at 204-269-8636 (269-UMFM)! Make sure you tune in tonight 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! You can tweet me anytime you like 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. We're going to move at a quick pace, so get your calls in if you want to chat hockey on The Hockey Show only on 101.5 UMFM!

PODCAST: August 27, 2015: Episode 154

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 17

Antler Banter is back for the seventeenth time already! Can you believe it's been four months since True North Sports and Entertainment announced the return of the AHL franchise to Winnipeg? Yeah, it feels like the announcement was yesterday for me as well! In saying that, we've got some stories to bring forth from the world of the American Hockey League that include a new uniform, a few signings, and the biggest moment of the off-season for all thirty AHL clubs as the schedule is finally ready to go! If hearing that the schedule is ready doesn't make you giddy, you might want to check for a pulse because that's the signal that hockey season isn't that far off! Let's get rolling on another edition of Antler Banter!

Utica Goes Third

The Utica Comets had been teasing all summer about a third jersey, and today they finally unveiled it. As you can see to the right, the new uniform looks pretty darn swell! First off, I love the green uniform. If there's a colour that has been under-utilized in hockey, it's the bold green colour. The Comets' alternate logo really works with the puck flying across the "U". The blue is a little lighter than what the Comets normally wear, but it fits very nicely in this scheme. This actually feels like a throwback uniform with the lighter blue and bold green, and I have to say that I'm a fan of this alternate. The numbering and lettering is single-colour white in the Vancouver Canucks' style, and the white really pops on the green. That's a snazzy uniform, Utica.

Here's hoping we get to see that uniform in Winnipeg. Yes, it's a long shot, but the Utica Comets have make the alternate jersey world look good!

Utica Gets Cracknell-ing

Sticking with the Utica-based AHL franchise, the Canucks signed veteran Adam Cracknell to a deal on Wednesday. The 30 year-old forward played 17 gameswith Columbus last season in the NHL while appearing with both Springfield and Chicago in the AHL where he had 20 points in 40 games between the two clubs.

Cracknell has played in a few cities over his career thus far, but he's a serviceable player who should provide some good depth for the Canucks if called upon this season. Expect Cracknell to play with the Comets this season, but call-ups could come often.

IceCaps Get A Manitoban

The St. John's IceCaps announced today that they signed former Blackhawks draft pick and Manitoba-born defenceman Travis Brown to a one-year, two-way deal. The blueliner spent last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Victoria Royals in the WHL. Brown was chosen 149th-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago.

The youngster will attend the rookie tournament in September at London, Ontario with the rest of the Canadiens rookies where he'll see action against three other teams' rookies. It's always good to see a good kid from Manitoba getting a chance to follow his dreams!

Wolves Sign Blain

The Chicago Wolves announced on Tuesday that they has signed defenceman Jeremie Blain for the second time in his career. Blain spent last season with Utica and the ECHL's Kalamazoo K-Wings where he saw action in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Blain saw action in 25 games for the Wolves in 2012-13 where he posted eight assists and 48 penalty minutes. He is a former fourth-round pick at 91st-overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010. While Blain won't set records for the Wolves this season, he's a solid signing who will round out their blue line nicely for this upcoming season.

Phantoms Go KHL

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms announced on Saturday that they had signed defenceman Logan Pyett to a one-year deal. Pyett spent last season in the KHL with Vladivostok and Cherepovets where he posted five goals and ten assists in 53 games.

Pyett has also skated with Chekhov Vityaz in the KHL, and has donned the jerseys for both the Grand Rapids Griffins and Connecticut Whale here in North America. Thus far in his AHL career, he has 30 goals and 102 assists in 362 career games, so it's not like he can't score at the professional level. He'll be a solid contributor this season with the Phantoms.

Wolfpack Find A Veteran

It's been some time since the name Brian Gibbons has hopped up on this screen, but the former Pittsburgh Penguin has found a new home with the New York Rangers after agreeing to a one-year, two-way deal way back on July 1. Gibbons' signing flew under the radar after a rather forgettable season with the Blue Jackets and Falcons where he suffered a knee injury, and he'll look to crack the Rangers' roster this season.

"It's a great opportunity," Gibbons told Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger. "Hopefully I can find some kind of role there." The undrafted forward could provide the same speed and tenacity he showed with the Penguins when he cracked their line-up as a fourth-line forward, and that would replace some of the speed given up by the Rangers in their trade of Carl Hagelin. Either way, Gibbons has a shot with one of the better teams in hockey. And if he doesn't crack the roster, he'll be playing with a solid Hartford Wolfpack team this season!

Clear Your Calendar

If you've been waiting to see your AHL team's schedule, you only have to wait a few hours longer! The AHL announced today that the schedule will be revealed for all thirty AHL clubs tomorrow at 1pm ET!

Of course, no one is saying anything at this point, but we do know the Manitoba Moose will play their home opener on Thursday, October 15. Who will it be against? We'll know all come tomorrow at noon in Winnipeg. Head over to the AHL site or check out the Manitoba Moose site for more details!

That'll wrap up another edition of Antler Banter this week. I am going to be digging through the schedule tomorrow to look at key match-ups and important dates in the AHL season this year as the league celebrates its 80th anniversary! Tune in next week as we break down the schedule in pointing out the key games for the Manitoba Moose!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Blue Line Of Green

These two men to the left - Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie - are two-thirds of the very expensive blue line being assembled in Calgary for the immediate and longer-term future. Mark Giordano's six-year, $40.5 million contract extension kicks in after this upcoming season, but Calgary has done a pretty spectacular job in building what could be the best six-man rotation on the blue line in recent memory. The only problem in building that kind of talented defence corps? It costs a heckuva lot of money. The Flames had that money to spend, and now they're looking at starting the season with one of the best back-ends in all of hockey.

Mark Giordano was a game-changer for the Flames a year ago before he was injured as some considered him a Norris Trophy candidate with his play. The Flames' blue line saw others step up in Giordano's absence, but you could tell that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. Adding Dougie Hamilton to the fold protects the Flames in case of future injury, having TJ Brodie locked up adds more strength, and there's still the remaining three musketeers in Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman, and one of Ladislav Smid or Tyler Wotherspoon, and this Flames' blue line is as good as those from the late-1980s.

"We know what he can do on the ice," Treliving told the Flames website. "For those who are around our team, we know what he does the other 22 hours a day. He's a leader in every sense of this organization. It's a good feeling for us knowing that we've got him signed long-term. Moving forward, he can continue to do what he does, and that is lead this team."

That gives the Flames a three-pronged attack in Giordano, Brodie, and Hamilton through the 2019-20 season, and should keep the Flames in the running for a playoff sport each and every year. Most good teams can boast a solid back-end with a quality goalie and at least two high-quality defencemen. Chicago, of course, has Crawford, Keith, and Seabrook. Montreal has Price, Subban, and Markov. Tampa Bay has Bishop, Hedman, and Stralman. There aren't many teams who can boast the likes of Hiller, Giordano, and Hamilton/Brodie/Wideman/Russell. In other words, Calgary has a plethora of riches on its blue line that features last season's shot-blocking leader Kris Russell.

"We like what it is on paper, but we all know what paper means; not a whole lot once you get going," Treliving said. "It will be a work in progress. Adding Dougie to the mix, he's going to have to find his way. The coaches will figure out how that is going to shape up, but I like the versatility. We've got lefties, we've got righties, people that can play both sides of special teams, there's depth."

In saying that, getting Giordano - who has only improved season after season since returning from the KHL in 2007-08 - under a long-term deal is a smart move. Yes, it eats up a pile of cap room that the Flames had, but holding onto that room means nothing unless it's spent wisely. According to GM Jim Treliving, this signing was a wise investment.

"I do think Mark Giordano on the open market can make more than what Mark Giordano signed for here with us," Treliving said. "Absolutely he did a good deal for himself, but I also think he was very cognizant of his team here and making sure we give ourselves the best chance moving forward to have success."

The Flames still have priorities following this season. Both Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are restricted free agents in 2016-17, and both are in line for a solid raise after last season. Sam Bennett will also require a new contract once his entry-level deal runs out in 2017-18. Getting the captain's contract signed and sealed this season before his deal ran out next summer was important for Treliving, and now he can turn his attention to adjudicating his young players for their next contracts. In other words, the Flames are set nicely for the future.

The captain is signed, the Flames are solid, and the season's just around the corner. With all the right pieces in place, this could be the season where the Flames are on fire.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!