Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 29 November 2007

An Arena Of Debate

With all the new arenas being built around the NHL, you would think that the league would get onboard with some forward thinking. We've heard the arguments about how players are bigger and stronger now than they were a decade ago, yet the one constant that has remained static is the size of the playing surface in the NHL. If players today are bigger, why is the playing surface not expanding with those who are on the ice? We've added another official as well which only means there is less room per person on the ice. With players getting bigger, faster, and stronger, there should be a long look at making the ice surface bigger, possibly as big as international ice hockey rules.

This idea actually came from long-time hockey writer Eric Duhatschek, reporter for the The Globe and Mail newspaper. I actually endorse this idea of a bigger ice surface since the trend of getting bigger in the NHL doesn't seem to be slowing down. With the influx of European and Russian players in the last twenty years, you would see the game change radically with a larger ice surface.

Mr. Duhatschek's article, entitled "In Praise of Bigger Ice", explores this idea, and presents some sound theories and reasons why the NHL should adopt making the ice surfaces larger. Frankly, I support his ideas.

Now, I realize there are downsides. Owners will complain about lost revenue on those prime seats that would be removed if the ice surface was expanded. They'll gripe and whine about losing $100-$500 tickets, and make the case that their bottom line will take a major hit.

However, I pose this question to owners: if you have no one sitting in the upper deck, how much revenue are you losing? Why not just adjust the prices on the rest of the seating? If one person pays $200 for a ticket to see your team and buys $20 worth of concessions, you've essentially made around $220 off that one person. However, if a family of four people buys four upper deck tickets at $40 per ticket, that's $160 right off the bat. If every one of those four people buys $20 worth of concessions, that's an additional $80. The total of bringing in a family of four to your games is around $240 - $20 more than the one person in the premium seats.

As long as you have rear ends in the seats, they will buy something to eat or drink. Isn't this the idea that movie theatres work on? Charge $7 for a movie ticket, and $10 for popcorn? NHL hockey, like a movie, is entertainment. Why not follow the same economic model?

The upsides to larger ice surfaces are evident. The NHL has eliminated the clutching-and-grabbing that killed the speed element of the game in the late 1990s. Speed is one of the most dangerous weapons on the ice now. If the players are bigger meaning there is less room on the ice to operate, why not open it up?

There used to be smaller rinks in the NHL than the standard 200-by-85-foot rinks we see now. The Boston Gardens, Chicago Stadium, Maple Leaf Gardens, and the Aud in Buffalo were all smaller than the standard. Like baseball stadiums, these smaller rinks had different bounces and allowed the home team some leeway in the way they played the game.

In Mr. Duhatschek's article, he spoke to Mike Keenan about the old Chicago Stadium. Keenan told Mr. Duhatschek, "'In the Chicago Stadium, I used to do stops and starts, and all the veterans would go down to the goal line in the corners and all the youngsters were in the middle, and they kept getting beat. So I said, 'Hold it, what's going on?' and stopped the drill and got a tape measure, and sure enough, it was 16 feet narrower – 16 feet – from the goal lines to the red line. You couldn't visually pick up on it, but the veterans knew.'"

If the rinks were built with certain quirks like baseball stadiums have, they would become a signature for that hockey franchise. If you mention Fenway Park, people think of the Green Monster. If you mention Wrigley Field, people think of the ivy on the walls. If you mention AT&T Park in San Francisco, people think of McCovey Cove.

Let's be clear here: I am not saying the rinks should be shaped differently in any way. They shaped as an oval for a reason. However, if you had some that were slightly smaller and slightly bigger, teams would have to make adjustments to their game in order to win when they visited a specific arena, not unlike how the strategies of baseball teams differ depending on where they play.

Mr. Duhatshcek writes, "Not many saw [the smaller rinks] as a problem. On the contrary, there was a certain charm, even for a visiting team, to playing in a building that was a little different. And the home clubs often built teams to take advantage of their home rinks. The Blackhawks deployed forwards who played a determined fore-checking style during the Mike Keenan reign because they could get on the opposing team's defencemen so quickly in the confined space of the old Stadium."

Why not give this a shot? Open the game up more by giving the players more space to work their magic. You won't see five players parked in front of the goalie when the puck is in the corner. More room will result in more scoring chances. Isn't that what the NHL wants? Better yet, isn't that what we, the fans, want?

I'm interested in all comments, both for and against, regarding the idea of increasing the size of the NHL rinks. Please leave a comment below. I want to get a true idea of how this resonates not just in the blogging world, but in real-life as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Is This Slapshot?

Scanning through the news today, I was sickened at a story about minor hockey in Ontario found in the Globe and Mail today. I'll get to this in a second, but what is it that makes a hockey fight between two men so appealing, but when it happens between eight year-olds, we're calling for changes to the game? There's entertainment - the NHL is that, and markets itself as a professional sport AND entertainment. However, minor hockey between pre-adolescent kids is nowhere close to being entertainment in terms of hockey fights and line brawls.

The story, written by Unnati Ghandi and Caroline Alphonso, appears in the November 27 edition of the Globe and Mail, and is entitled "Coaches under fire after teams of 8-year-olds brawl on ice". You can read the online version here.

Again, I am sickened by what was reported, most notably this part: "Coaches allegedly also encouraged the fighting, police say".

Excuse me? The coaches encouraged the fighting between eight year-olds? Who the heck are these imbeciles? Honestly, these "coaches" should never be allowed to step behind a bench anywhere again for any sport. It takes a certain amount of testicular fortitude to send your team of eight year-olds over the boards to fight another team of eight year-olds. However, I question if either of these men have the right equipment to have any testicular fortitude at all. These men were coaching teams of eight year-old hockey players, not running a street gang.

To put this in perspective, allow yourself the luxury of being one of the parents of the children who was involved in the brawl. Would you respect a man who sent your child out to fight another child? According to Lorne Willis, the Zamboni driver at Exhibition Park Arena in Guelph, Ontario, "[t]he melee was the culmination of a game in which players were taking 'cheap shots' at each other throughout". Again, do you respect a man who can't have his team play the game with respect for both their teammates and opponents? What do you say to your child when he or she asks "did you see the fight"?

The right answer is, of course, that you tell them that fighting is wrong. However, your hockey-playing child has learned to listen to his or her coach since he or she first laced up a pair of skates. If you tell your child what he or she did is wrong, you raise doubt in the child's mind as to what the coach has told him or her. That's not good, which is why both of these men should be relieved of their coaching duties immediately with prejudice towards their disgusting actions.

As a result of the Friday evening brawl, six players and their coaches were suspended from the tournament that was eventually won by the Duffield Devils, the team that won the brawl-filled game. The Niagara Falls team withdrew from the tournament after the four members of its coaching staff were suspended.

The Guelph police were shocked at the melee. "We've certainly been sent to the arenas for disturbances, but generally it's involving parents or fans," said Sergeant Cate Welsh, spokeswoman for the Guelph police. "But not sending kids at that age level onto the ice. That's the allegation made at this point, that they both cleared their benches, and, wow, it's a pretty young age."

The authors of the story also contacted Don Cherry, who had this to say about it: "'It's a bad thing when you hear stuff like that, it's ridiculous, it never should have happened. But nobody ever says anything about the thousands and thousands of games where it never happened,' he said in an interview last night."

"'It's our national game and we as Canadians like to eat our own, and we have to rip anything that we're good at.'"

Now, I like Don Cherry. He's an entertaining guy. However, he's way off-base here. Eight year-olds engaging in hockey fights should be the furthest thing from any Canadian's mind. In response to Mr. Cherry, I would sincerely hope he gives this a little thought and speaks out against the actions of the coaches and players on his next installment of Coach's Corner on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada. After all, it's Coach's Corner with a guy who was formerly a National Hockey League player and coach. I'm still surprised at Cherry's comments, and am not sure what to say about them. However, I firmly disagree with his comments based on how he framed them.

"Duffield team president Frank Carbone, who stepped in as coach over the weekend for the Toronto-based team, said his players and coaches did nothing wrong. 'From our standpoint, this incident was completely initiated and caused by the Niagara Falls coaching staff.'"

According to the article, "[t]he Ontario Minor Hockey Association is still investigating. Officials from the Niagara Falls Thunder were meeting last night", and were unable to be reached for comment.

The punishment for these coaches should be swift and brutal. There is no way that any minor hockey association should tolerate this kind of reprehensible behaviour.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Beer League and Beers

Well, I have returned after what can only be called a "college-esque" type weekend. There was hockey on Friday evening, the corporate politically-correct "holiday party" on Saturday, and the Grey Cup party for the CFL on Sunday. Let's just say that many drinks were enjoyed, and lots of food was eaten. Lost in the midst of my drinking and eating was a few great hockey games and some hockey news. Brian Burke is hard at work in trying to change the game to benefit someone, most likely, himself. Shutouts were out in full force this weekend. And there's controversy in Toronto. Let's get at it.

My So-Called GM: Brian Burke is going to be running a conference call today to try and rally his GM brethren to allow teams to move salary to other teams when they trade players, and to discuss the "outrageous" suspensions handed out to certain players this season.

Burke's idea of trading salary is an interesting idea, but not one I endorse. The hard salary cap was put in place to protect GMs from overspending and outbidding on marginal players, thereby driving up the market price for players who certainly are not worth millions.

I understand that Mr. Burke will have a slight salary cap problem if and when Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne decide to return. They haven't filed retirement papers yet, and Niedermayer is skating in California as we speak. Perhaps he shouldn't have signed Todd Bertuzzi to a ridiculous contract, basically making him an unmovable "asset" in terms of a trade.

As for the suspension topic, Mr. Burke needs to keep quiet. Downie and Boulerice got what they deserved for their deliberate and calculated headshots. Anything less than a quarter of the season, and there would have been outrage within the NHL ranks.

If Mr. Burke pulls off this coup, he's a better salesman than I have ever given him credit for. And that is why he is one of the best GMs out there in the game today.

Dollars For Donuts: The shutout was a common denominator is several games this past weekend.

Pascal Leclaire of the Columbus Blue Jackets posted his sixth shutout of the season, breaking the Columbus franchise record for shutouts in a season. He put up a wall against the Minnesota Wild on Friday night as Columbus won 4-0. If Leclaire continues his stonewall act, he's on pace for about 20 shutouts this season.

Martin Brodeur made 22 saves on Friday night as the New Jersey Devils shutout the Atlanta Thrashers 3-0. It was Brodeur's first shutout of the season, leaving him eleven shutouts short of the all-time NHL record.

The Barney Rubble Hairpieces scored a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday thanks to the goaltending of back-up goalie Jocelyn Thibault. It was his first shutout since March 14 of last year when he shut the door on the New Jersey Devils by the same score.

Marc-Andre Fleury picked up a 5-0 shutout win for Pittsburgh over the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday, the second time in two nights the Thrashers had been shutout. They have gone 132 minutes, 12 seconds without scoring. Fleury's second shutout of the season could be the spark that the Penguins need in order to climb back into the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

Manny Legace stopped 24 shots on Sunday as the St. Louis Blues downed the Calgary Flames by a score of 3-0. Legace recorded his second shutout of the season in the victory. Calgary seemed to be a step slower all night, having played three games in four days, and the scoreboard reflected that.

And, for the last shutout of the weekend, the Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo made 27 stops to help Vancouver to a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Luongo's second shutout of the season, and certainly more enjoyable than the shutout he earned in the 1-0 shootout loss to the Oilers ten days before.

Smoke From The Big Smoke: As much as I loathe the Maple Leafs, it brings me no joy in hearing reports that John Ferguson Jr. was trying to fire Paul Maurice. Of course, JFJ has categorically denied this allegation, but there is truth to every rumour, so I'm sure this may have been discussed at some point in the Big Smoke.

I find it funny that JFJ thinks that Paul Maurice can be blamed for the losses that are piling up for the Maple Leafs when they have abysmal defence, scary goaltending, and one line of offensive ability. They were taken to the woodshed by the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday, losing 5-1 to one of the worst teams in the NHL. Friday night saw the Leafs drop a 3-1 decision to the Dallas Stars. Yet JFJ will tell you that the Leafs are "an elite hockey club".

According to TSN, "President of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Richard Peddie said that he won't be making any hasty decisions.

"'We're trying not to be reactionary in this tough time,' Peddie told The Canadian Press. 'The fact is John is under contract and we want him and Paul focused on winning hockey games and turning around this situation'."

The problem is that JFJ's ability to judge talent is far from being as good as mediocre. He is the same GM that signed defenceman Pavel Kubina to a $5 million-per-year contract through the 2009-2010 season. Kubina responded with seven goals and 14 assists last season, hardly a $5 million man. This season, Kubina has one goal and ten assists thus far, but, again, hardly worth $5 million per season.

He also signed "marquee" defenceman Bryan McCabe to a $5.75 million-per-year contract through the 2010-11 season. He scored 15 goals and 42 assists for 57 points last season, which are decent numbers. 11 of his 15 goals came on the powerplay, so one could make a case for the raise if McCabe continued to show improvement to his game. Instead, McCabe has played exceptionally brutal this season, scoring four goals and six assists in 18 games while posting a team-worst -10. $5.75 million for the worst even-strength player on the team? $5.75 million for a giveaway in overtime to lose a game against hated rival Montreal? $5.75 million for a goal scored on your own team against division-rival Buffalo? Wow.

If you need any reason why the Leafs won't win a Stanley Cup in the next decade, you can trace the path back to three letters: JFJ. And if anyone should be fired, his initials are JFJ.

Ok, that's all for today. If you notice your blog missing from the blogs on the right, it's because you probably haven't updated in a while. If you'd like to get back on the list, please email me. Otherwise, you need to update more than once per week in order for people to click off my page onto yours.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

The Axe Has Fallen

The NHL's coaching fraternity has suffered its another loss this season, and Glen Hanlon is the man on the outs. After a 5-1 loss last night at the hands of their divisional rival, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Capitals fired head coach Hanlon after posting a 6-14-1 through 21 games this season. They are the worst team in the NHL right now with 13 points, four points back of the Barney Rubble Hairpieces, Edmonton Oilers, and Los Angeles Kings who all have 17 points. Their 47 goals-for thus far is only a goal better than both the Long Island Broncos and the Phoenix Coyotes who are last in that department. Taking these stats into consideration, is it any wonder why changes with the Capitals had to be made?

Bruce Boudreau has been named the team's interim head coach. Boudreau has compiled a 103-45-11-16 record with the AHL's Hershey Bears. He led the team to the Eastern Conference championship and the Calder Cup finals in each of his first two years in Hershey, winning the Calder Cup in 2006. This season, the Bears were 8-7-0 thus far. He will make his debut as head coach on Friday in Philadelphia against the Flyers.

The Capitals trail the Florida Panthers by eight points, and have looked nothing like the team that was supposed to be a lock for the playoffs this year, if you took Ted Leonsis at his word.

On his blog, Mr. Leonsis writes, "I can't sleep. I was up at 4:30 am this morning. I am in pain. I am angry. I want desperately for us to turn it around and win some games as does everyone in our organization." I think that speaks for just about every Capitals' fan this season as well.

What has been working? Ovechkin is playing pretty well, having scored 14 goals and 23 points thus far. Nylander has been the setup man that Washington needed, having recorded 14 assists and 19 points. Viktor Kozlov has stepped in and produced as well, scoring three goals and 13 points.

Where did it go wrong? Losing Alexander Semin for all but six games so far this season has hurt the Capitals. Niklas Backstrom has looked overwhelmed at times as a rookie, having only recorded one goal and nine points so far. Tom Poti has been anything but an offensive threat from the blueline, having only recorded four assists in 15 games.

Defensively, the Capitals have been horrible. If it weren't for Olaf Kolzig, their record could be much worse. The Capitals' defencemen are a collective -17 this season, with only Brian Pothier and Jeff Schultz above zero in the plus/minus department. Shaone Morrisonn is a team-worst -10, but has played in every game. Why is he still in the lineup? He clearly has a problem stopping opposing players.

This team is a long way from being an elite team in their division, let alone their conference. It will be a long, hard climb back up from the basement, but it has to start Friday. If they need an example, they should look at the team that beat them last night. Atlanta, who started 0-6 this season, has climbed back to second in the Southeast Division, sporting an 11-10-0 record. They are playing good hockey, and everyone appears to be on the same page.

The Capitals can still make the playoffs. There's no doubt that they can be a plucky team who scraps for every point. The only question is will the team be willing to fight for every point for another 60 games? Only time will tell.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. Hanlon. Here's your pink slip. Who's next?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

TBC: Future Greats and Heartbreaks

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Gare Joyce's Future Greats and Heartbreaks today. Mr. Joyce's book is all about the work of a professional scout in the National Hockey League. If there is one subject that seems to be completely underappreciated for the work that is done in the NHL, it is the subject of scouting. These are the guys that build dynasties through their hard work and sometimes sleepless nights. It is these men who ultimately are responsible for a team's destiny of playoff heroes or 82-game also-rans. And despite knowing more about some of the prospects than the prospects themselves, it is normally the scouting staff that is fired first if a team has a poor track record at the draft even though the GM signs off on all the draft choices. Is it fair? No. However, the life of a scout can be both rewarding and anxiety-filled, and Mr. Joyce does an excellent job in exploring this interesting topic.

Mr. Joyce is a writer for ESPN The Magazine. He is a regular contributor to several national publications as well, such as Christian Science Monitor, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, and The Walrus. He was won three National Magazine Awards, and has three other books that have been published. Mr. Joyce also writes a blog called 100 Games A Season: Gare Joyce's Puck Blog. It will be added to the Hockey Blog list to the right as well.

In his book, Mr. Joyce receives permission from former Columbus Blue Jackets' general manager Doug MacLean to join Don Boyd and his crew of scouts at the combine in Toronto. He spends a considerable amount of time working pro bono for the Blue Jackets' team as he learns the ins and outs of the scouting world. However, he doesn't make the book exclusively about Blue Jacket life.

He spends a fair amount of covering the Canadian Hockey League, the foremost feeder league of players to the NHL. He spends some time with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, discovering what it means to play for and manage a hockey team in the smallest market in the Western Hockey League. He tags along with the Sudbury Wolves for a few games, discovering why Akim Aliu's hockey career thus far has been a rocky road. He spends time in the QMJHL at Rimouski. He travels to the World Junior Championships. All of this is to get a read on prospects for the Blue Jackets, and to check in on some of their already-drafted players.

Mr. Joyce is thorough and thoughtful in his discussion in the book about some of the players he encounters through his travels. He doesn't reveal any major secrets about the scouting world, but he does bring the scouts into the limelight. They are a different sort of people through their experiences, but all share one common passion: the desire to find the best draft pick available for their team.

Through his book, Mr. Joyce has presented an excellent look at the tireless efforts that the scouting teams go through in drafting a player. I have an extreme appreciation for the pressure scouts are under. They spend little time chatting with the people around them due to the work that envelopes them. They are loners as much as they are part of an exclusive brotherhood. They scribble notes on a clipboard or in a notebook about certain players, ignoring the game that surrounds them in order to be precise and clear about a player's tendancies and abilities. Overall, he shows that the teams of scouts employed by NHL teams have never-ending work.

Perhaps what is best about Mr. Joyce's book is that he doesn't become a scout per se, instead keeping his author's mind about him - he speaks to parents, players, friends, coaches, general managers, and other scouts in looking for the real stories behind the upper echelon of potential draftees. He isn't just interested in how the player plays the game. He is more interested in what is going on inside a player's head about the game, the draft, his respective position in the draft, and where he came from. This is the part that is so telling about each of the players.

Future Greats and Heartbreaks by Gare Joyce comes highly recommended, and I give it the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you've ever had a dream of trekking across the globe watching hockey while being paid for your opinion, this book will give you an excellent idea of what scouts go through to sit at the draft table. Mr. Joyce's book is an excellent read, and I recommend it to all hockey players, parents of hockey players, and hockey fans.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Keeping It Current

In trying to keep highly-useful articles current, I've gone back today and updated the "Patch It Up" articles with new patches. This trend doesn't seem to be slowing down either, especially when you consider that the Hockey Hall of Fame Game and the NHL All-Star Game are played yearly. Add that to the number of retirement ceremonies, arena openings, and other various causes that the NHL allows its teams to celebrate and it makes for constant upkeep. However, I have started to delve deeper into team histories, and will now try to update all of the teams with any old patches they may have worn during a game.

In updating the series of articles, Patch It Up - Part Two has additions to the Atlanta Thrashers, the Edmonton Oilers, the Los Angeles Kings, and Minnesota Wild. Patch It Up - Part Three has additions to the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Islanders, and the Hockey Hall of Fame Game sections.

Also, my warning about deleting blogs that aren't updated more than once per week will begin as of Friday. Is it really that hard to make ten minutes available twice a week? I understand people are busy, but dedication is everything to a sport that needs some help from its most important marketing staff - its fans. Show your support for hockey teams and hockey in general by making ten minutes just to post something about hockey. After all, it is a great sport to follow.

Paul (Ohlund) Bunyan: On a more serious note, good for the NHL in giving Mattias Ohlund four games to sit out for his violent wood-chopping slash to Mikko Koivu's leg. The slash resulted in a broken tibia for Koivu. Ohlund says he regrets his reaction to Koivu's elbow to the face.

"The elbow to the face, I don't think it was a very good play from his part, but looking back I wish I would have done something different than I did," said Ohlund.

Ohlund will be eligible to return on November 25 when the Canucks face off against the Blackhawks at home. Ohlund will forfeit almost $75,000 in salary with his time off. Koivu is expected to miss up to two weeks with his injury.

Minor Deals: A couple of minor deals were swung in the last couple of days via trades. The Anaheim Ducks picked up centerman Brian Sutherby from the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick in 2009. The Dallas Stars, meanwhile, picked up defenceman Bryce Lampman from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenceman Mario Scalzo.

Personally, I like the Ducks' move in picking up Sutherby. He's another hard-working young forward that the Ducks can mold into another solid young player along the lines of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Chris Kunitz. The 25 year-old should be another good addition to the youthful Ducks lineup.

Welcome To The Big Show: It has been a little bit of a winding road for goaltender Tuukka Rask to finally stand between the pipes in the NHL, but, on Tuesday night, he'll face the team that traded him to Boston when the Bruins visit the Air Canada Centre to take on the Maple Leafs tonight.

Starring with Providence of the AHL, Rask has compiled a 7-2-0 record with a stingy 2.10 GAA. Last season with Tampere of the Finnish Elite league, Rask posted a .928 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA in 49 games. Meanwhile, the man he was traded for, Andrew Raycroft, has been a target for the Toronto media, blaming him for everything from a lost game to missing the playoffs last season.

This should be a good game. Boston is looking to rebound after a nasty 7-4 loss to Montreal on Saturday while the Leafs look to win back-to-back games for the first time since October 25 and 27. And you know that Rask wants to show the Maple Leafs' brass that they were wrong to trade him, especially since he appears to be rounding into NHL form.

That's all for today! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Blog Walking

Every once in a while, I like to go blog walking. Basically, what I do is check out all the blogs on my list of hockey blogs to the right, and link back to their blogs and articles so that more people get a chance to read some excellent work. I don't mind using my blog for a little advertising for other bloggers. After all, we're all in this for the same reason: the improvement of hockey coverage. In that regard, here is my latest edition of blog walking. Thank you to the authors for their hard work and dedication.

There has been a new addition to the blog list on the right. Please welcome Sidney Crosby Spotlight. I was overly impressed by this author's article on how Sidney Crosby was one of the people responsible for the change to the Reebok jerseys regarding the issue of too much sweat. You can read his full article here, and make sure you click the links to the various news sources in his article for more info.

In another new blog, CKim has started A Queen Among Kings. CKim was originally one of the contributors to Crushed Purple Velvet, but decided that the Kings needed more coverage and broke away with her new blog. More people talking about hockey is always better, I say. In any case, her articles entitled "Hidden Gems" are great. She scours the old Interweb for humourous hockey quotes, and her latest edition does not fail. Kovalchuk's picture is, for lack of a better term, different.

KMS2 continues on with Crushed Purple Velvet, and she writes a passionate article regarding a Detroit journalist's rant about why he doesn't like bloggers being given press passes. This is obviously a great point of debate, and I encourage you to comment there, or discuss it here.

Christy from Behind the Jersey also weighs in on this Detroit reporter. Her article provides some retort to the reporter's rant, and she also has a good discussion in the comment section. Again, check it out, and post a comment on it there. If you want to discuss it here, feel free as well.

Steph from No Pun Intended has discovered her extreme dislike for Chicago, most notably the Blackhawks. I guess when the powerhouses of the Central Division are sitting at oh-and-four this season versus the 'Hawks, you kind of have to ask yourself "what the hell". Nothing like a good Original Six matchup to stir the deepest of emotions! Oh, and Elly seems to have gone AWOL much like the Penguins defence thus far this season. Come back, Elly! I miss the Penguins' updates!

Kevin at Barry Melrose Rocks has decided to follow ESPN's John Buccigross by opening a mailbag for questions from readers. I may throw a few questions in there myself just for some fun. Things like Melrose's mullet, the amount of gel and mousse he uses, and why he hates Newark are ok. Song lyrics are not, as Kevin has pointed out, and I thank him for this. Buccigross' song choices are lamer than lame most times, and it makes me want to punch him out.

Speaking of mailbags, Buts at Flyer Flies has been granted an interview with Mike Richards! Congrats, Buts! The best part is that you can actually submit questions to Buts for approval by the Flyers for the interview, but you have to have it done by mid-afternoon today. Register for an account, and fire a question to Mr. Richards ASAP!

The guys from The 2 Man Advantage interview New York Islanders' defensemen Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais in their new video. Hilarity ensues. Well done, gentlemen. Hockey on Long Island is once again watchable with you two at the helm.

Ok, so that was some of my memorable walking this week. Just as an aside, I will be DELETING blogs from my list that do not get updated more than once a week. I expect to find something new if I haven't been to your blog in a week's time. This is not a demand, but merely courtesy to other readers who may link to your blog through me. If you do not update, you won't get the hits. I believe that's a fair trade.

Also, I have picked up another hockey book, and will be adding another book to Teebz's Book Club later this week. This book provides an insight to a topic not normally examined by most authors or hockey writers, and I am glad to have found such an interesting story regarding this topic. Look for the review by Thursday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Also Known As

It occurred to me yesterday as I was reading the news that certain hockey cities get a name for what may or may not have been accompished there. For example, Edmonton is called "The City of Champions" due to the success of their teams, including the great Oilers dynasty of the 1980s. Detroit has long been regarded as "Hockeytown, USA", although that has come under debate in recent weeks. Vancouver, for the longest time, was regarded as "a goalie's graveyard" due to the lack of success and staying power a goalie in Vancouver seemed to have. However, I believe that another city should have that title: Phoenix.

One of the also-rans in the Pacific Division, the Phoenix Coyotes are literally a place where goaltenders go to die. Since their inaugural season in the desert in 1996, the Coyotes have used a total of 22 goaltenders in 12 years of hockey. The problem is that only a few of these goaltenders are still around in the game today. This means that Phoenix is a place where goaltenders go to die.

Only Nikolai Khabibulin and Brent Johnson have escaped Phoenix to play more than two seasons after leaving "The Graveyard". So who are these goalies who have landed in Phoenix and fallen off the face of the Earth?

In no particular order, here are the 22 goaltenders used thus far in Coyotes history: Pat Jablonski, Parris Duffus, Nikolai Khabibulin, Darcy Wakaluk, Jimmy Waite, Scott Langkow, Mikhail Shtalenkov, Robert Esche, Sean Burke, Bob Essensa, Patrick DesRochers, Zac Bierk, Brian Boucher, Jean-Marc Pelletier, Brent Johnson, Curtis Joseph, David Leneveu, Philippe Sauvé, Mikael Tellqvist, Alex Auld, David Aebischer, and Ilya Bryzgalov.

If you hadn't already heard, the Coyotes picked up Bryzgalov off waivers early Saturday morning. If I'm Bryzgalov, I'd be worried. The Coyotes expect him to come into Phoenix and play as well as he did in Anaheim. The problem is the Phoenix's defensive core is nowhere near as talented as Anaheim's unit, and the systems the two teams play are entirely different.

Bryzgalov will be facing the LA Kings tonight in his first game as a Desert Dog. He should know the Kings fairly well, having watched them in the last two games that Anaheim played. However, I'd still be worried about facing an improving Kings team behind a relatively young and inexperience defensive unit. The Coyotes have four starting defensemen who are 24 years-old. There isn't an all-star defenseman on this team, and that includes Ed Jovanovski and Derek Morris.

In fact, in three consecutive games against the San Jose Sharks, the Coyotes lost all three by a combined score of 15-1. They lost 4-1 on November 10th, with Steve Reinprecht scoring at the nine-minute mark of the opening frame. The Coyotes have since gone 171 minutes without scoring a goal, losing 5-0 on November 12 and 6-0 on November 15.

The Coyotes' management had better do something than acquiring another goaltender whose confidence they can destroy with porous defence, anemic offence, and general disarray off the ice. This team is headed for a last-place finish in the NHL standings. The only advantage to that scenario is that they can draft first overall in 2008. Otherwise, it appears that another losing season is well on-track in the desert, and there's nothing Ilya Bryzgalov or any other goaltender can do to save it.

Phoenix: where goaltenders go to die.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Roller Disco Hockey Players

In my continuing series of exploring other forms of hockey, today's article explores a form of hockey that should be quite familiar to most people. Roller hockey, the generic term for the sport, has built a large following across North America where summer generally means less ice. It has also gained a major foothold in markets where snow is rarely seen, with California leading the way in terms of the number of teams. There are two types of roller hockey: inline hockey and quad hockey. Inline hockey is the roller hockey that is more comparable to ice hockey in terms of play, and the better known game in North America. Quad hockey, however, is slightly different. Today, I present to you the sport of quad roller hockey.

Quad skates are used in quad roller hockey. If you have no idea what a quad skate is, that's ok. It's actually the proper name for the rollerskate. Quad hockey was a demonstration sport at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. The game is played in over sixty countries worldwide. Portugal and Spain dominate the sport, having won 15 and 13 World Titles respectively. Italy and Argentina have won four World Titles apiece, but no other country has knocked these nations out of quad hockey supremacy.

It is a hit sport in South America and Europe, with those continents having the most participating countries in the World Championships. The game is called Hardball Hockey in the United States. Europe features a European Cup which is competed for by club teams in Europe. FC Barcelona has won the most European Cups, with seventeen to date thus far.

Uniforms for quad hockey teams look like soccer uniforms: shorts, shirt, shin pads, and socks. Players also wear knee pads due to the playing surface, which I'll discuss below. Jocks and gloves are also recommended. Skates must have two pairs of wheels, and those wheels must have a minimum diameter of three centimeters. The brake at the front of the skate can not be wider than five centimeters.

Goaltenders have come under scrutiny for their massive equipment recently, and are now being monitored. The goaltender is allowed to wear padding over the torso including the shoulders, a neck guard, shin guards no longer than 75 centimeters, gloves that protect the entire forearm, and a helmet with a grid or unbreakable visor. The difference between quad hockey goalies and inline hockey goalies is that there is no catching glove. The quad hockey goalie uses a flat batting glove that keeps the ball in play by not allowing the goalie to catch and hold the ball. Rebounds are, of course, plentiful with this type of glove.

The stick can be made of any material approved by the CIRH (Comité International de Rink - Hockey), although wood is still the prevalent choice for players. It must be between 90 centimeters and 115 centimeters long, no wider than 5 centimeters across, and weigh less than 500 grams. As you can see in the CIRH logo and picture at the top, the stick looks similar to a field hockey stick.

The ball is made out of vulcanized rubber, and has a 23-centimeter circumference while weighing 155 grams. It would appear to be a ball that is similar to the one used in lacrosse.

The playing surface of the quad hockey rink is usually a polished wooden surface, but any non-abrasive, non-slippery material can also be used. Treated cement is often used on courts with heavy play in order to keep costs down. The surface is normally white or blue so that the dark ball is easier to follow, especially for television crews. Like the NHL and international hockey, advertisements are allowed on the playing surface provided that they do not interfere with the path of the ball or the skaters.

The rink is built on a 2:1 ratio, and standard rinks fall anywhere between the minimum of 34x17 meters and the maximum of 44x22 meters. Rink makers are allowed a 10% margin of error, which makes for rinks to be slightly different in each venue. The boards have rounded corners, and are surrounded by a one-meter tall wall. There is a net behind either goal that stands four meters high. The net is to prevent the ball from bouncing back off the wall and striking a player, which could result in serious injury. If the ball touches this net, it is considered out-of-bounds, similar to the netting found in NHL arenas.

The goal is recognizable due to its fluorescent orange paint. It stands 105 centimeters high by 170 centimeters wide. The netting is thick, and a bar close to ground enables the ball to be trapped inside when a player scores. Overall, the goal is 92 centimeters deep. While not attached to the ground, it is extremely heavy, and rarely does it get moved.

The game itself moves at an extremely high speed. Players don't have the same maneuvering capabilities as their inline brethren, but the game is still up-tempo and fast-paced. I don't know if it will ever catch on in North America, but, like soccer, it is a hit everywhere else in the world.

If you want to read more about quad roller hockey, here are some links you should check out:

Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports
Comité Européen de Rink-Hockey - the European Committee that oversees quad hockey.
National Roller Hockey Association - the British quad hockey association.
USA Roller Sports - the US quad hockey authority.
Hardball Hock Blog - a blog covering Hardball Hockey.
Rink-hockey.net - a general quad hockey information site.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Blades And Sleds = Sledge Hockey

In continuing with my examination of other forms of hockey, I go back to the ice for this next sport. Thanks to the Olympic Games, this sport has developed a huge participation rate for people with disabilities. I am talking about ice sledge hockey. Sledge hockey will be featured in Vancouver during the 2010 Paralympic Games from March 12 to March 21, 2010. This sport rivals ice hockey in the intrigue and drama, and the athletes are just as gifted. And, of course, there are powerhouses and also-rans.

First, some history on the sport and the Paralympic Games.

The Paralympics are open to athletes with physical and sensory disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy, mobility disabilities, visual disabilities and amputees. The name "Paralympics" derives from the Greek word "para," which means "alongside," in reference to the competition being held in parallel with the Olympic Games. Winter host cities have has the privilege of hosting both Games since 1992, when Albertville, France became the first city to stage both the Olympics and Paralympics.

Of all the sports played in the Paralympics, only sledge hockey and wheelchair curling each consist of a single tournament. These sports are open to those with lower-limb disabilities.

Ice sledge hockey was invented at a Swedish rehabilitation centre in the early 1960s, when a group of athletes with a disability decided they wanted to continue playing hockey. The Swedes took two regular ice hockey skates and built a metal frame - a sledge - to fit on top, with enough room for the puck to pass underneath. Using short poles to propel themselves along the ice, the men played the first ice sledge hockey match outdoors on a lake south of Stockholm. By 1969, Stockholm had a five-team ice sledge hockey league.

Ice sledge hockey debuted at the 1994 Paralympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, and medals have been awarded since its inclusion to the Paralympic Games.

So how is it played? Sledge hockey follows the same rules as ice hockey, having been set by the International Ice Hockey Federation for Olympic play. However, there are a few adjustments that have been made.

Sledge hockey players must sit themselves atop the sledge, propelling themselves around with two shortened hockey sticks that have picks on the butt-end to grip the ice. The other end has a curved end to be used as the stick for shooting and passing. There are six players per team on the ice, and 15 team members make up the sledge hockey team. Normally, there are two goaltenders included in the 15 players, along with nine forwards and four defenseman. A regular game consists of three 15-minute periods.

Rather than retyping all the rules for sledge hockey, I will direct you to this handy Adobe Acrobat document containing the rules of sledge hockey. It is highly informative.

As I stated, there are powerhouses in the sledge hockey world. Norway has won a medal at all four Olympic sledge hockey events since the 1994 Paralympics, collecting a gold medal in 1998 at Nagano, and three silver medal finishes. Canada has medalled three times: gold in 2006 at Torino, silver in 1998 at Nagano, and bronze in 1994 in Lillehammer. Sweden has also medalled three times: gold in 1994 at Lillehammer, and bronze in both 1998 at Nagano and 2002 in Salt Lake City. The United States is the only other nation with medals, having won gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City and bronze in 2006 at Torino.

However, there are other countries who have participated. Great Britain, Italy, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Japan, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Russia, and South Korea all have sledge hockey teams.

Of course, there are stars in the game as well. Billy Bridges of Canada is regarded as one of the best sledge hockey players in the world. He has spina bifida, but that hasn't slowed him down one bit. Born in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Billy moved to Guelph with his mother, Mary. It was there that Billy got his start in sledge hockey in 1996 with the Kitchener Sidewinders organization at 12 years old. Astoundingly, Bridges made Team Canada at age 14. He holds the record for being the youngest player ever to be selected to Canada’s National Sledge Hockey Team. He currently lives in Oakville, Ontario with his fiancée.

Overall, the growth of sledge hockey in both the Paralympic community and in the non-disabled community has been astounding. Like wheelchair basketball, there are non-disabled people joining this community as a new challenge. Below is a video of the 2006 gold medal winners from Torino, the Canadian Sledge Hockey team. Take a look at the game, and tell me that it isn't just as action-packed as regular ice hockey.


Sledge hockey is certainly a growing game. And I am proud to have profiled this game on this site. Look for it at a local rink near you!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Hockey And Water

Great conversation has developed over NHL expansion on this blog over the last couple of days. I like talking about the options that the NHL has, and will certainly reopen this discussion again with more articles. If you'd like to comment on it, please feel free to join the discussion. Today, however, I present to you a picture that may not look like normal hockey, but it certainly is hockey. Underwater hockey, also called Octopush, is a phenomenon that seems to be growing in popularity, albeit slower than its frozen cousin. However, that hasn't stopped the growth of sport in several markets across North America.

At first, I was skeptical of this game actually being as popular as it was. Being that Hockey Blog In Canada's premise is to cover all forms of hockey, I decided to check this sport out, but only as a spectator. The premise of the game is to put a weighted puck into a three-meter long trough at the opponent's end of the pool. The pool is required to be 300 square-meters, normally between 12-15 meters wide and 21-25 meters long. The depth of the water is normally between two and 3.65 meters. There are six players on either side, and the puck is moved by swimming with it, and by passing it.

All you need to participate is a few items of equipment. Obviously, some sort of swimwear is vital. Beyond that, players wear gloves and carry a stick, most of which can provided by your local underwater hockey group. A mask, swim fins, and a snorkel are your main pieces of equipment in playing the game.

There is no body contact in the game, aside from incidental contact when attempting to corral the puck. This is most notable in the shallow end of the pool. Bodychecks, holding, and blocking are not allowed, though, and are routinely the most common penalties assessed to the players. Most games are self-refereed, but tournaments feature three officials who watch the action for any violations. There are coaches that provide assistance, and they have tactics for competition.

Other than that, the game is empirically the same: put the puck in the net more than your opponent does. Exciting? As a spectator sport, I have to say that it feels like water polo. If you like water polo, it probably is exciting, and the players seem to get right into the action. I found it to be different than normal hockey, but different is good.

After all, as I described in the article entitled Hockey's Manifesto, you cannot understand the culture unless you are immersed in it. And I took my first steps in joining a new culture.

For more information, here are a pile of places you may want to check this sport out:

a) Octopush Central - the most complete, updated and visited site on Underwater Hockey.
b) Ottawa Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Ottawa, Ontario area.
c) Whitehorse Loonies Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Whitehorse, Yukon area.
d) Calgary Underwater Hockey Club - an underwater hockey club based out of the Calgary, Alberta area. They claim to be the best UWH club in Canada.
e) Vancouver Underwater Hockey - an underwater hockey club based out of the Vancouver, BC area.
f) Underwater Hockey Australia - the Australian UWH website.
g) American Underwater Hockey - the American UWH website.

More Water Issues: According to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, written by Times' reporter Lisa Dillman, Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera has found that the new Rbk Edge jerseys pose a bit of a problem for players that sweat more than mannequins.

"I sweat a lot. I'm kind of known for it," LaBarbera said recently. "I've always been like that. I've noticed it more so in my gloves this year than anything. You can feel it dripping into your gloves."

He has noticed it a bit, stating that "he probably doesn't shoot the puck quite as well at the end of the period because of his slippery hands". LaBarbera has been rotating gloves going to solve the problem, and switches gloves after each period.

"I leave one on the dryer for the whole period," LaBarbera said to the Times. "I don't mind switching gloves. It's probably better that I do. In years past, I would get it dried and then it would still be kind of wet. Then by the third period, it was mush."

He has found one good thing about the new jerseys, though. "I will say this: when you're wiping your face, it's a lot softer on your face than the old jerseys," LaBarbera joked. "It used to be like sandpaper."

Back To The Future: This year's outdoor game featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres will show off some retro jerseys for both teams. The Penguins announced on their website that they will be wearing their baby blue road jerseys that were worn by the 1968-73 version of the Penguins. The Sabres, meanwhile, will be wearing their white home jerseys that were worn by the team from 1978-96.

Good on the NHL for this move. I would have preferred the black-and-yellow version of the Penguins jersey, but this will bring back that nostalgic feeling in the game. My only wish is that the NHL would call the game "The Heritage Classic" every year, instead of this year's name of the "AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic". Otherwise, I am excited for the January 1, 2008 outdoor game from Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.

Oh, and since the Barney Rubble Hairpieces decided to wear their original jerseys with their gorgeous original logo, they will be called the Buffalo Sabres when referring to this game on this blog.

Stars Become Legends: Congratulations go out tonight to five people who made hockey much better with their play and contributions to the game. Mark Messier, Ron Francis, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnes, and longtime NHL executive Jim Gregory were inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame this evening, and their inclusion is certainly deserved. Each had long and storied careers in all forms of hockey, and they represent the best class of inductees the Hall of Fame has ever had.

While there has been much speculation over who gets in and who doesn't, I will weigh in on the Eric Lindros debate on whether he should be a Hall-of-Famer. My thought is yes, but only if Igor Larionov, Dino Ciccarelli, and Glenn Anderson get in first. If those three aren't inducted before Lindros, the Hockey Hall of Fame becomes a farce.

Larionov was a part of the Soviet powerhouse in the 1980s, and turned that into a successful NHL career. Part of the fabled KLM line with the Soviets, no one advanced hockey more for Russian players in the NHL than Larionov did, and his contributions cannot be overlooked.

Ciccarelli scored 608 goals and 1200 points over 1232 NHL games. Most of those points were scored with teams that had less-than-average talent. He never won a Stanley Cup, but Ciccarelli was always a nose-to-the-grindstone player who gave it his all in every game, no matter what the situation.

Glenn Anderson was part of the dynasty in Edmonton, helping the Oilers win five Stanley Cups. He went on to win another with the NY Rangers, before retiring with 498 goals and 601 assists over 1129 NHL games. Anderson's contributions on the international scene are also a big factor for consideration, having helped Canada win the 1987 Canada Cup.

If these three men are inducted to the Hall of Fame, I would say that Lindros should be included as well. However, if these men are forced to wait on their inductions, Eric Lindros has no business in being in the Hall of Fame.

But then again, that's just my position on the debate.

In the coming dates, I'll have another form of hockey I want to bring to light, and I plan on looking at some other issues that are swirling around hockey as well. I'll also do some blog-walking this week, and give some other bloggers some hype for the great work they are doing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Hockey's Manifesto

My last article generated some good discussion, and I want to say thank you for those who commented. I am still not convinced that NHL expansion is a good idea, and I believe that the NHL has made some critical errors in its marketing ideas. Granted, some non-traditional hockey markets are doing well. Dallas has become a successful franchise, and Carolina is experiencing some success this year in terms of attracting fans. The problem is that markets like Atlanta, Florida, Nashville, and Phoenix are still struggling at the gate. How does one fix this problem? How does the NHL attract fans, and TV networks in turn, to a sport that features some of the greatest athletes on Earth?

First and foremost, the NHL needs to stop pushing itself into non-traditional markets. There are easy reasons for hockey failing in places like Phoenix and Atlanta: it's hot there. The number of outdoor hockey rinks in those cities is a whopping zero. Hockey isn't an option there, and so it isn't an option when it comes to entertainment dollars in those cities either.

In cities like Minneapolis, Toronto, and Denver, you can find a number of kids playing hockey on any night of the week in the fall, winter, and spring. Where the snow falls, hockey is played. Granted, Dallas has done a wonderful job in cultivating the sport in that city and area, but, outside of Dallas, all of the sunbelt teams have posted massive losses in their existance.

If you aren't born into a culture, you'll never understand it. George Bernard Shaw, an Irish-born British dramatist and playwright, once said, "What we call education and culture is for the most part nothing but the substitution of reading for experience, of literature for life, of the obsolete fictitious for the contemporary real".

Mr. Shaw has summed up the entire question of why hockey in the United States is failing. People all have opinions on hockey, no matter where they are born or what path they walk in life. They have read and heard what has been said on ESPN about hockey. They skip by the six-line article in their local newspaper about hockey because the NFL and MLB dominate the headlines. They have heard pundits who cover law and justice speak about the violent brutality found in hockey when someone in the NHL gets hurt. They talk about the Neanderthal-like qualities hockey players show, especially when a fight breaks out.

I guarantee you that all those who criticize hockey have never gone to a game, be it a professional game, a junior game, a women's game, or a college game. Once you're there, the atmosphere of the game becomes infectuous. The back-and-forth artistry displayed by the players, dazzling the crowd with moves that should be physically impossible, mesmerize the crowd. The sheer flexibility of the goaltenders when making a game-saving stop makes people rise out of their seats. It is this atmosphere that begins to take hold of the most-critical hockey hater, and move them away from their once-held opinions.

Hockey won't sway every hater out there. I realize that some people just don't like hockey, and that's ok. I am not a fan of NFL football, but I respect the athleticism of the players, and try to educate myself in the rules of the game to understand it better. However, I just don't get hyped up on Sunday to see the Miami Dolphins play the Carolina Panthers.

I do get hyped up, though, on Saturday nights in Canada thanks to CBC. Hockey Night In Canada is an institution on Canadian television, and, despite them showing Toronto every week, I love the presentation of the game. TSN has done an excellent job on their weekly show as well, and I salute them for having some of the best analysts in the hockey world on their show.

I think the reason I love Saturday night so much is because it is part of that culture I grew up in. I was born into a hockey-loving family. My dad worships the Boston Bruins. My younger brother is a die-hard Colorado Avalanche fan, thanks to the Patrick Roy trade. Before that, he was a Montreal Canadiens fan. And the majority of my friends all have an allegiance to some NHL team because that's how we grew up. We were at the rinks playing shinny in the winter. We watched hockey on TV on Saturday nights. We talked hockey at school and work.

If the NHL ever wants to break down the walls it has been stumbling over for the last decade in the sunbelt, it needs to start developing a culture of hockey in those cities. The problem, though, is that you can't teach a man to fish if there is no water. Since there is no snow in Phoenix and Atlanta, it's hard to encourage little boys and girls to head out to their local rink to emulate their hockey heroes like Ilya Kovalchuk, Sidney Crosby, Cammi Granato, and Dominik Hasek.

I'm not saying that hockey in the sunbelt will never work. What I am saying, though, is that these teams in the sunbelt thought they could set up shop, and people would come to see hockey. Following that, they relied on the "if you build it, they will come" theory, and chalked up more red ink by building bigger state-of-the-art arenas. Following that, they tried to sign aging veteran stars and using their star appeal to bring people out.

Jesse Bennett, an American physician, once said, "The acquiring of culture is the development of an avid hunger for knowledge and beauty". That avid hunger of hockey doesn't exist in the sunbelt, so there is no effort to acquire the culture of hockey. And by missing out on hockey, the beauty of a simple game, with all its complexities and drama, will be viewed as nothing more than arena filler by those who find hockey to be nothing more than three minutes of filler on SportsCenter.

Until the franchises in Miami, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Atlanta, and Phoenix begin to develop that unquenchable thirst for hockey in their fans, hockey in those cities will remain an afterthought. And nothing will change that unless that seed is planted now, and allowed to germinate and develop into a forest. If it takes a seed decades to turn into a forest, building a hockey culture in a market where hockey isn't played will certainly take just as long, if not longer.

The more time that is spent wasted in not cultivating this growing culture will only mean more time for those sunbelt franchises to become mainstream. This will not happen overnight. But for every child today who falls in love with the sport of hockey, there will be an exponential growth in the number of kids who take to hockey. Those kids will eventually become adults with kids of their own. And that is how a hockey culture is born.

As an aside from hockey, "Lest We Forget" those who gave their lives for us to live in Canada and the United States. From this writer, and Hockey Blog In Canada, I want to thank the veterans for their sacrifice and hard work. Happy Remembrance Day in Canada, and Happy Veterans Day in the US!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Toronto Media = NHL Expansion Committee

Sometimes, I am amazed at how much the city of Toronto seems to think they know about hockey in the country of Canada. The Big Smoke, also known as The Centre of the Universe, has a fairly successful hockey team in terms of making money, and they have a pretty strong following. Of course, Toronto is also home to TSN and Rogers Sportsnet, and the latter had an interesting tidbit on its website today. You can read it here, or continue reading below where I've conveniently copied the article.

According to Sportsnet.ca, "[i]n the never-ending story, there is talks once again of bringing an NHL team back to Winnipeg, buoyed by the strength of the Canadian dollar.

"In a report in the Toronto Star, a high-ranking hockey source says the league receives daily calls about bringing a franchise back to Manitoba.

"Although still unlikely, the path has already been cleared should the league ever decide to return to Winnipeg. The NHL contacted Canadian regulators to reinforce its trademark on the Winnipeg Jets name and there is a brand new hockey venue in the MTS Centre waiting for a major league partner."


Since this little morsel of information is based on a Toronto Star report, I went searching there to see on what the Star based its information. It turns out that the writer, Mr. Rick Westhead, actually wrote this, and it can be found here:

"With the Canadian dollar's recent surge there's been debate over the prospect of the NHL returning to Winnipeg. "The people in Winnipeg call the league pretty much every day about a team, more than anybody else," one high-ranking hockey source says. If the NHL does decide to add another team in Manitoba, things would seem in place for a smooth return. The old Winnipeg Arena was demolished a decade ago and the $133 million (Canadian) MTS Centre, which seats 15,003 for hockey, opened three years ago. The NHL earlier this year contacted Canadian regulators to reinforce its trademark on the Winnipeg Jets name."

I've been over this topic on this site before, having written the articles entitled Living In Dreamland and Living In Dreamland: Gimme A Break. Winnipeg is not an NHL city at this point in time.

Yes, the fans in Winnipeg are rabid for big-time hockey. They have proven that they can pack the fans in the MTS Centre for the World Junior Championships, the Women's World Championships, and NHL hockey.

However, as it was proven when the Jets left Winnipeg, they don't have the same mentality about hockey as, say, the people in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The fans in Winnipeg cared about the Jets - it was their mark on North American professional sports, after all. Some great NHL players have passed through Winnipeg during their careers: Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Kent Nilsson, Dale Hawerchuk, Randy Carlyle, Phil Housley, Craig Janney, Nikolai Khabibulin, and Teemu Selanne to name a few. The Jets were the team where players like Bryan Marchment, Dave Ellett, Bob Essensa, and Keith Tkachuk got their big breaks.

The problem, though, is that at any given Winnipeg Jets home game, there were just as many fans of the opposing teams in the stands as there were Jets fans. Unlike the fans in Minneapolis, who have sold out every game since the Wild returned including preseason games, the fans in Winnipeg would only come out to see the star players from opposing teams, and would turn up sparse crowds for teams like the Ottawa Senators of the early-1990s. That's not how you support a team whatsoever.

Randy Turner, sports writer for the Winnipeg Free Press, wrote in an April article, "Seriously, who can figure out Winnipeg hockey fans? They didn't support the Jets when they were here, but cry crocodile tears now that they're gone - to the point where in some quarters the Moose are considered poster boys for the loss of the NHL". And you know what? He is completely right.

He also wrote, "Have you seen Kevin Bieksa play defence for the Canucks? He anchors the Vancouver blue-line, is featured on the power play and is tough as year-old beef jerky.

"Last year, Bieksa did exactly the same thing for the Moose. But so-called 'real' hockey fans in Winnipeg would never have seen him play in person, what with Moose hockey not being up to their standards and all. Moose call-up Jannik Hansen is drawing rave reviews in the playoffs only a few days after being plucked from the Manitoba roster"
.

Randy Turner has identified the problem with Winnipeg hockey fans. Despite Winnipeg's love of hockey, Turner's accuracy in describing the major problem with hockey fans in Winnipeg is dead-on. Winnipeg doesn't support their AHL team very well, Winnipeg didn't support their WHL team in the Winnipeg Warriors, and they didn't support their NHL team in the Jets. Do you see a trend forming here?

Another problem is that the corporate support needed to support an NHL franchise at that time wasn't there to support the Jets, and there has been little headway in attracting major corporations to Winnipeg since the Jets left. I wrote this before: "I have pointed out that when the Jets left Winnipeg, their total salary was $27 million. The salary cap has been increased to near $50 million. There is no one in Winnipeg who wants to own a franchise outright. There are no multi-billionaires sitting around in Winnipeg with money burning a hole in their pockets". This situation has not changed since May. Mark Chipman, owner of the AHL's Manitoba Moose, has already said that he does not want to own an NHL franchise by himself. This puts the Winnipeg NHL dream right back at square one: no one person wants to take on that risk of losing millions of dollars in a city where the NHL has failed once already.

I've said it before - Winnipeg "is not an NHL town. It never was once the sky-rocketing salaries of the early-1990s began. This is why great players were jettisoned regularly from the Jets franchise. Dale Hawerchuk, Phil Housley, Dave Ellett, Teemu Selanne, Fredrik Olausson, Tie Domi... all traded or let go as free agents. When the NHL left Winnipeg, the salary of the Jets totalled $27 million dollars. With the new CBA, the maximum spenditure is almost double that figure."

I have heard enough about Winnipeg getting an NHL team back. Frankly, this discussion should be put to rest, and Gary Bettman, the media, and those people with fantasies about the Jets returning should be told to stop stringing the city of Winnipeg along.

Expansion in Winnipeg would be trendy for a while, but no one will wait five-to-ten years for the Jets to become competitive. Relocation would be an ideal proposition, but the trend of Winnipeggers not supporting their local professional hockey team should be the first paragraph on the market research report about the city of Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, you have a great city that should be setting AHL attendance records each and every year. However, you don't, and you shouldn't be allowed to apply for an NHL team until you've supported a smaller professional hockey franchise first. You've lost the NHL, the WHL, and the AHL isn't doing as well as it should in a market your size. Stop talking about the NHL. You don't deserve it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Updates

It's been a while since I alerted anyone of some of the changes occurring on this very blog, so I thought I'd take a few moments to inform everyone reading that there have been some updates to this site. Most are additions to certain sections, or the creation of brand-new sections on the right. In any case, I'll provide a quick update so that everyone is up-to-speed.

First and foremost, there have been some additions to the Hockey Blog list to the right. I'd like to welcome the highly entertaining Barry Melrose Rocks, Christy's essential Behind The Jersey blog, the unofficial Philadelphia Flyers homepage in Flyers Flies, the informative Going Five Hole, and the essential Chicago Blackhawks site in Second City Hockey. Welcome to the list, and I will be checking your sites regularly for any and all entertaining and informative stories. Thank you for your hard work thus far, and your continued writing in the future!

In the section entitled Other Important Places to the right, there have also been a few additions made. An excellent site that contains jersey numbers of all NHL players, both active and retired, has been added, called "Jersey Numbers For All NHL Players". It is a fabulous resource. There is also a great resource for old-time NHL photos on that list, called "Old-Time Hockey Photographs". The photos of the old-time NHL goalies is amazing, and there are a few excellent photos in there of teams rarely seen in living colour. Many thanks to both these sites for their hard work and dedication.

Teebz's Book Club is now three books large on the right-hand side. If you're looking for good hockey literature, please visit this section. These books would make excellent Christmas gifts for any hockey fan, and they are an excellent resource for hockey history for any hockey trivia buff.

In the Highly-Clicked Articles section, there was the addition of another "You're Wearing That" article. This new article, entitled "Scary Day Edition", was published on Halloween of this year, and it contains some interesting jersey choices. The other four "You're Wearing That" articles are there as well, and are always good for laugh when looking at how some teams dressed themselves.

Also updated under that section is the "Patch It Up" articles. The Bill Wirtz patch that the Blackhawks are wearing has been added. The New Jersey Devils' patch for the opening of the the Prudential Center has been added to their section. The Islanders have had their Al Arbour patches to their section. And lastly, the Pittsburgh Penguins had their "250 patch" added to their section as well.

Last in the additions portion of the update, there is an NHL News widget that was added that will link you back to all of the current news on the NHL.com site. It is a great place to find any additional stories on the NHL that I may not have covered on here.

I am super busy with work, having just got off of two weeks worth of vacation, so I don't have much time to write. However, with my routine getting back to normal, my regular babble about hockey will resume.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Notes About Hockey

Lots of interesting notes from around the hockey world popped up last night. There were records broken and streaks broken, and some excellent hockey action played between a couple of Original Six teams. All in all, it was a fairly good night for hockey when it comes down to what was accomplished. The NHL had great action, the AHL had a player who haunted his former team, and the ECHL saw a record fall with an amazing effort. Let's take a look at what went down in the world of hockey last night.

Return of Wade: Goaltender Wade Flaherty had a successful night on Saturday, stopping 41 of 42 shots for the Rockford IceHogs in a 2-1 win over his former team, the Manitoba Moose. Flaherty was outstanding in stymying his former club all night, and deserved one of the stars of the game entirely.

"Any time you play against your former team, you want to have a good game," said Flaherty, who made fiften saves in the second without surrendering a goal. "It was a little bit of deja vu from back in Manitoba, because it was a very similar game."

The win snapped the IceHogs' three-game losing streak that started in Manitoba a week ago, and also snapped Manitoba's three-game winning streak. It was the first home win for the IceHogs on the season.

Gimme A Chanse: Over in the ECHL, there a new record was set. Chanse Fitzpatrick of the Dayton Bombers set an ECHL record by scoring five goals, including four on the powerplay, in the third period of their Saturday night game against the Trenton Devils. The Bombers won the game 5-1.

Fitzpatrick set the ECHL record for goals and power-play goals in a period while tying the league mark for power-play goals in a game. He was one short of tying the ECHL record of six goals in one game, a feat accomplished by Hampton Roads' Tom Bissett on Nov. 22, 1989 against Greensboro, and by Toledo's Brad McCaughey against Columbus on Nov. 6, 1991.

Fitzpatrick, who had not recorded a point in his first three games of the season, scored his first goal on the powerplay 52 seconds into the third period to tie the game 1-1. He added his second at even-strength at 2:58 to give the Bombers the lead. He then scored three consecutive power-play goals in two minutes and 31 seconds with markers at 15:03, 16:20 and 17:34.

"Everything I touched went into the net," Fitzpatrick said, having recorded his first professional hat trick in his career. "It was unbelievable."

Old-Time Hockey: The Leafs and Canadiens tangled last night in Montreal to a 3-2 Leafs win, and put on a really good show. Vesa Toskala stopped 32 of 34 shots, while Cristobal Huet stopped 28 of 31 shots. However, while Toskala was brilliant at times in between the pipes last night, Huet appeared to struggle with deflected shots all night, appearing very shaky at times.

"They got a lucky bounce on one goal, but I think Cristobal would like to have the others back," said Guy Carbonneau, head coach of the Canadiens. The winning goal, scored by Matt Stajan with 1:34 left in the third period, appeared to have deflected off Canadiens' defenseman Mark Streit's stick, and found the back of the net.

Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin had the other Toronto goals, while Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins replied for Montreal.

Good Leafs News: The Leafs do have some good news on the injury and inactive front. Both Kyle Wellwood and Mark Bell should be ready for their return to the ice on Tuesday versus the Ottawa Senators. As of today, Paul Maurice hasn't made any announcements, but both should help a struggling offence find some more goals.

With Darcy Tucker missing his sixth game last night, and Bryan McCabe missing his fifth, any additional offence would be a huge benefit for the Leafs, particularly on the powerplay where Wellwood's talent can be used.

Finally 1500: Congratulations goes out to longtime Islander coach Al Arbour who won his 1500th NHL game last night as a coach, as the Long Island Broncos came back from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

His 740th career win topped off a coaching career that spanned 1500 games and four Stanley Cups with the Islanders. He now sits second in career coaching wins, only behind the legendary Scotty Bowman.

Going Home: And finally, a sad note to pass along as the New York Rangers agreed to loan defenseman Darius Kasparaitis to SKA St. Petersburg of the Russian Super League.

The 35 year-old defenseman had played four games for the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack, scoring one goal and recording four PIMs. Kasparaitis is no stranger to the Russian Super League, though, having began his career with Dynamo Moscow in the late-1980s. He also played for AK Bars Kazan during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

Kasparaitis has 27 goals, 136 assists and 1,379 penalty minutes in 863 career NHL games with the Rangers, Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.

Personally, I always enjoyed Kasparaitis' tenacious attitude on the ice, and I even have a jersey with his name on it. What can I say? The guy was the best player on the Islanders team during the Fisherman era.

Ok, so that's about all for today. Good luck to the Senators tonight as they take on the Bruins in the back-end of a home-and-home series. The Senators are trying to improve to an impressive 12-1 this season. Their only loss so far came at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

TBC: King Of Russia

Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you another book in my on-going series of hockey-related books. This one is entitled King Of Russia by Dave King and Eric Duhatschek. The story of this book is a look back at the year spent in Russia by Dave King as the head coach of Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Russian Super League. Mr. King recounts the entire season chronologically from the time he was contacted by Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the point where they dismissed him as head coach of the hockey club. Mr. King explores the mystery and culture within Russia, discussing at length some of the problems that both the country and the Russian Super League faces. He talks about language and cultural barriers, going into great detail about how he overcame them. All in all, Mr. King did an admirable job in showing exactly how different the hockey culture is in Russia as it compares to North America.

Dave King was a hockey coach in the NHL, both with the Calgary Flames and the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Additionally, he gained some notoriety as a head coach when he was in charge of the Canadian Olympic squad in the late 1980s for approximately nine years. Eric Duhatschek has been covering hockey as a member of the press since 1978, most recently joining The Globe And Mail, a nationally-read newspaper in Canada, in 2000. In 2001, Mr. Duhatschek received the Hockey Hall of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing". He can been seen regularly on the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on a segment called The Satellite Hotstove.

In general, Mr. King explores life in Russian hockey with this book, but also discusses the everyday tasks that we, in North America, may overlook as luxuries. He describes hardships that the people of Russia, particularly in the city of Magnitogorsk, face daily. Things like the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that we have here in North America - lettuce, carrots, blueberries, strawberries - are almost unheard of over there, except at for short periods of time during the year. Mr. King doesn't overlook the hockey side of of his time in Russia, though, giving detailed descriptions of the day-to-day operation of the hockey club - both its struggles and achievements.

In particular, I enjoyed Mr. King's look at how he tried to make life better for all the he people he came across, both in hockey and in life. At one point, he and his wife, Linda, begin to look after abandoned pets, feeding them and caring for their young to make their lives better than what may have become of them. He helps the local orphanage in Magnitogorsk, providing them with necessities they need, and brings along some of Metallurg's players as a way for them to reach out to the community. He gives more money than necessary to older Russian people who are forced to set up roadside stands selling goods to help them make ends meet. It is this kind of charity that makes you smile as you read this book.

Mr. King also delves into the Evgeni Malkin story from the 2006 season, from his rise as a 19 year-old kid with immense talent through to his disappearance in Finland and arrival in North America. He talks about how the Russian teams rely heavily on these young superstars, and how the NHL robs the Super League of the immense talent before the Super League teams can capitalize on their marketable young stars. He doesn't get very political in his views, but you can get a sense of how the Russian Super League teams rely so much on these young, exciting players.

"Think of it as a cold, industrial, northern version of A Year in Provence. This is a place we might never wish to actually visit in the flesh, but in the reading it is absolutely enthralling." - Roy MacGregor

Kudos to Mr. King and Mr. Duhatschek for their work in providing an intimate view in the the life surrounding the first Canadian coach in the Russian Super League. They have truly made this an enjoyable read from start to finish, and I encourage anyone who enjoys a good story of life, whether it be a life in hockey or not, to pick up King Of Russia. This book certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you'd like to read an excerpt of the book, please click here.

I am now out of hockey books that are available at my disposal, so I'll start my search for a few more. More book reviews are sure to follow this one, so keep your eyes on this site for more hockey literature!

Until next time, держите ваши палки на льду*!

*That's Russian for "keep your sticks on the ice".

Thursday, 1 November 2007

TBC: McCown's Law

Teebz's Book Club is proud to bring you another entertaining book today, entitled McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments by Bob McCown and David Naylor. Bob McCown is the host of a radio sports talkshow called Prime Time Sports. It can be heard on The Fan radio stations across Canada, and can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet as an hour-long program. As the host, he often relies on pushing buttons to generate conversation, whether it be amongst his studio guests or the listening public. David Naylor has been a sportswriter with The Globe And Mail since 2000, and drops by both CBC radio and TSN for their sports talk programming, most notably The Reporters with Dave Hodge on TSN. Both men are certainly accomplished in the sports industry, and both men make this book an enjoyable read.

I have watched Prime Time Sports on Sportsnet, and I've even occasionally listened to the program on the radio when I can. I've found McCown to be somewhat argumentative in his debates, sometimes siding with the absurd to make a point. However, this is where his book makes great leaps and bounds forward because he can rationally express his thoughts on paper without all the wild emotions that come with some of these ideas. Rather than flying off the handle with some idea, he lays out his thoughts in a very precise and comprehensive manner. His ideas make sense, but can still be a bit out there in some cases.

If you read the little profile about the book, you know he has already presented some crazy ideas. He suggests that Slovakia may be the best hockey nation on Earth, gives logical reasons as to why the Maple Leafs have not won a Stanley Cup in forty years, why the NHL is wasting its time and money trying to get Americans to buy into the game hockey, and discusses why fighting should be banned in all of hockey.

Perhaps what is best about this book is that it's a "pull no punches" look at every topic he presents. Mr. McCown does not shy away from any topic, and gives his honest-to-goodness opinion on everything. He truly offers a different perspective of hockey, and that is an excellent way to start talking about hockey. If more people talk about it, more people will be interested in it. If more people are interested, more people will go to a game at some level. And that's how you create a buzz about a sport that is getting killed in the United States.

"Bob McCown's appeal isn't based only on his ability to hit the hot buttons, to entertain and occasionally enrage his listeners and viewers across Canada. It comes out of the fact that there's just about always a compelling logic in what he's saying, a coherent, clearly presented position that at the very least makes you think." - Stephen Brunt, from his foreword

McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments is an excellent hockey read for all hockey fans, any hockey writer or blogger, and could certainly be enjoyed by the most leisure hockey fan. Mr. McCown and Mr. Naylor have collectively stirred the pot in good way for hockey by offering opinions contrary to traditionalists and pundits alike. If you've ever had a thought about how to change hockey, pick this book up. It may give some additional insight as to how to solve any of hockey's ongoing problems, and will certainly allow you to form an opinion, one way or another, about all of the topics covered by Mr. McCown.

Personally, I may even use some of his ideas right here on this blog since some of his ideas resonate with me. The book is, and will be, a valuable resource for me in terms of information and opinions about hockey. McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval.

There will be another book review out this weekend since I've already read through half of the third book I picked up. Look for it on Saturday or Sunday on this very website. Enjoy McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments. I know I did.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!