As you may have noticed, I took yesterday off. However, it wasn't a day without hockey. I spent my time watching women's field hockey from the Beijing Olympics, and I learned a ton of stuff. First off, the game is relatively low-scoring. It reminded me a lot of soccer in the way that teams match up with one another, and the scores reflected that. Secondly, there are teams that seem to score at will, and they strike very quickly once they get on a roll. This is very much like hockey where it seems momentum plays a large part in helping teams score goals. Without further adieu, let's take a look at some of the hockey stories from this past weekend.
- The Japanese women opened the Women's Field Hockey competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a 2-1 win over New Zealand. Sakae Morimoto and Toshie Tsukui scored for Japan at the 12th and 17th minute marks, respectively, before New Zealand's Jaimee Claxton cut the deficit to 2-1 at the 25th minute mark on a penalty corner. However, the Japanese held strong through the rest of the match, and Tsukui's goal held as the winner.
- Spain, after having been accused of doping violations, took to the field to play China after being cleared to compete. However, the drama surrounding the team has definitely rattled them, and China easily defeated a distracted Spanish squad by a 3-0 score. Baorong Fu, Hongxia Li and Lihua Gao scored for the Chinese squad, and looked impressive in their handling of the Spanish side.
- Australia did the impossible in defeating South Korea by overcoming a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Koreans by a 5-4 margin. South Korea opened the scoring on a fabulous goal by Mi Seon Kim. Australia's Shelly Liddelow tied the game briefly before South Korea opened up a three-goal lead with three goals in the final eight minutes of the first half. Korea's goal-scorers were Darae Kim, Sung Hee Kim, and Mi Hyun Park. The "Hockeyroos", however, came out determined in the second half. Captain Nikki Hudson, Shelly Liddelow, and Sarah Young scored goals in the second half to tie the game. The comeback was capped off by a Casey Eastham goal that was deflected into the Korean net by Korean defender Jung Hee Kim. Australia looked impressive in their comeback, and appear to be a force in this competition.
- Team USA squared off against Argentina, and the two squads battled to a 2-2 tie. Argentina, one of the favourites in this event, had a number of opportunities, but the Americans weathered the storms to earn a draw. Carla Rebecchi scored both of Argentina's goals before the 12-minute mark of the game. However, the Americans showed some resiliency by holding strong, and were rewarded with a Keli Smith goal at the 18th minute. Angela Loy scored the equalizer in the 64th minute to stun the Argentinian side. The star of this game was American goaltender Amy Tran. She stopped 15 of 17 shots, including 11 of 12 penalty corners.
- Field hockey powerhouse Netherlands faced off against South Africa. The current World Champions in the Dutch squad appeared to toy with the South Africans, but the 6-0 result established the "Oranjes" as one of the favourites in this event. Eefke Mulder, Marilyn Agliotti, Minke Booij, and Wieke Dijkstra has singled for the Dutch while Maartje Paumen scored two goals. Ironically, Agliotti scored against her former team in this game. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Agliotti was a member of the South African squad.
- The Germans also established themselves in this competition by trouncing Great Britain by a 5-1 score. The current Olympic Champions began their title defence with a goal by Fanny Rinne in the 26th minute on a penalty corner goal. Crista Cullen responded almost immediately with a penalty corner goal for Great Britain to even the score. However, Eileen Hoffmann scored her first of two on the day just two minutes later to give the Germans a 2-1 lead at the half. Hoffmann struck again at the 49th minute to give the Germans a 3-1 lead before insurance goals by Fanny Rinne and Marion Rodewald secured the 5-1 victory.
- It appears the coaching search for the New York Islanders is coming to a close, and GM Garth Snow has narrowed his list to three candidates: Paul Maurice, Bob Hartley, and Scott Gordon of the AHL's Providence Bruins. Personally, dismissing John Tortorella is a mistake for this franchise, but I'm not Garth Snow. If it comes down to the three men listed above, I'm going with Gordon. His record in Providence is spectacular, and won an AHL Coach of the Year award. Hartley did nothing with a decent Atlanta Thrashers team, and Maurice has been disappointing since his Stanley Cup run many moons ago with Carolina. Gordon, to me, would be a no-brainer, but this is the New York Islanders. You know, the same team that allowed Mike Milbury to coach parts of four seasons to a record of 43-82-21 over that time.
- Jeff O'Neill is trying to make a comeback to the NHL. The bruising power forward, last seen in Toronto Maple Leafs uniform, has accepted a tryout invitation to the Carolina Hurricanes' training camp. The 32 year-old retired at the end of the 2007 season after struggling to come to terms with the death of his brother. Whether or not he regain the form he had in 2002-03 when he scored 30 goals and 31 assists for the Hurricanes is up for debate, but if his head has been cleared, he could be exactly what Carolina has been searching for in a bruising, scoring winger.
- Defenceman Sean Hill is on the move. The 38 year-old free agent signed a one-year deal with recently-promoted team Biel in Switzerland. Biel won the second-division of the Swiss League last season, and will play in the Swiss Elite League this season. Adding Hill gives them a rugged defensive defenceman, but his speed and footwork are a bit of a concern. Minnesota Wild fans probably can back that up.
- Doug Gilmour is heading to the AHL. No, he's not attempting a comeback. He's been hired as an assistant coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies. Gilmour will serve alongside head coach Greg Gilbert behind the Marlies' bench. Gilmour spent the past two seasons as an advisor to Maple Leafs management.
- Following Gilmour's lead, former Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock is resurrecting his coaching career by heading back to the AHL. Paddock was hired as the head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms. Paddock had an impressive run in the AHL previously, winning the Calder Cup in 1999-00 with Hartford and in 1987-88 with the Hershey Bears. Paddock's career coaching record in the AHL is an impressive 432-284-65-19, and he should help the young Flyers' AHL franchise regain their lofty status in the AHL's upper echelon. Former head coach of the Phantoms, Craig Berube, was promoted to assistant coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, creating the vacancy in the head coach position.
- McDonald's restaurants have decided that they like minor-pro hockey. The Kalamazoo Wings of the IHL and McDonald's have decided to join forces to bring hockey fans in Kalamazoo, Michigan a unique promotion. "Golden Ice" nights will feature yellow ice and be beach-themed for fans. The K-Wings already wear McDonald's-sponsored warm-up jerseys, and will don special McDonald's-themed jerseys for these games. The first is scheduled for Saturday, January 31st against the Bloomington Prairie Thunder. Now, I'm all for minor-league promotions because it gives me a ton of material for the You're Wearing That? articles, but yellow ice? How many frozen urine jokes will we have to endure because of this promotion?
- Hockey Blog In Canada would like to pass on its prayers to the Guinn family. Rob Guinn, a defenceman for the Bloomington Prairie Thunder, passed away on Saturday after being in a car accident in Iowa. Guinn is survived by his wife and five month-old daughter. My thoughts and best wishes go out to the Guinn family during this difficult time.
- In one of the more interesting website developments that I have seen, the Central Hockey League has created an entire page devoted to the mascots of the CHL franchises. Some pages are still under construction, but you can check out mascots like Stomp (Amarillo Gorillas), Sir-Sting-A-Lot (Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees), and Bruiser (Texas Brahmas). Honestly, this might be one of the more unique things I have seen on a league's website, and I think the other hockey leagues should follow suit. Your thoughts?
- The USHL's franchise in Green Bay has designed a new logo. The Green Bay Gamblers will take to the ice this fall with this new logo as opposed to this logo or their jersey logo. The new merchandise hasn't been unveiled on their website yet, but these older jerseys probably won't see much action this season.
- Former NHL star Theoren Fleury followed in Michael Jordan's path by signing a one-game contract with the independant Golden Baseball League's Calgary Vipers. Coming to the plate in the 5th inning for his first professional at-bat, Fleury watched two balls thrown by Yuma Scorpions' pitcher Evan White before hitting a single up the middle for a base hit. Fleury ended his night going 1-for-3, officially moving ahead of Michael Jordan for "all-time hits by a retired former pro athelete from a sport other than baseball". Did MJ even record a hit during his time in the minors? Congratulations on achieving your baseball dream, Mr. Fleury!
- And, for those of you who made it to the end, let's finish this off with some quick photo links. When you're at a hockey game and a fight breaks out, this is not the reaction you'd expect to see from a dude. Rogers' Sportsnet has decided that you need to know about February games, like, right now. We have heard how Gretzky changed his number from #9 to #99, but how many times have you seen him as #7? Not sure who made Butch Goring's helmets in the 1970s, but they leave a little to be desired in the protection department.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!