Tuesday, 30 December 2008

HBIC YIR - Part One

It's been a long year. Longer for some due to their antics, but it's been a fairly good year overall on the hockey front. We've seen masterful performances from individuals, championship dreams for teams, and accolades handed out all over the place. We've seen failures, firings, and fall-outs which have made for exceptional news stories. However, the more you look at the last year in the world of hockey, the good almost always outweighs the bad. Today and tomorrow, I plan on looking at the last 12 months of hockey on a month-by-month basis in order to provide some reflection on what I've said about hockey and what has been said and done in hockey. I'm quite certain there are things that we've forgotten about in the short-term, but Part One of the Year-In-Review should remind of us of things that happened between January and June of 2008.

We started January off with a phenomenal hockey game that took place in Buffalo, New York. The NHL Winter Classic was a phenomenal marketing success for the NHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres put on a fantastic show. A Sidney Crosby shootout goal won the game for the Penguins, but there is no denying that the NHL was a winner on January 1, 2008.

Saturday, January 5 saw Canada sitting atop the podium after having won the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championships over Sweden in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Canada found some adversity along the way as they had lost to Sweden earlier in the tournament, but the Canadians were hungry for their fourth-straight gold medal, and they brought it home via a Matthew Halischuk overtime goal. A fabulous tournament for both the Swedish and Canadian teams, and both are expected to challenge for the gold medal in 2009 in Ottawa.

January 8 saw ESPN's Scott Burnside question the American public as to why the passion for the Under-20 in America is nowhere near the level of support that the Canadian Under-20 team receives. He pointed out that with the next four World Junior Championships on North American soil, there should be no other time like the present for Americans to rally behind the best young, American hockey players. A very well-written article by Burnside, and I add my thoughts as well.

January 14 saw the Leafs move away from hiring NHL legend Scotty Bowman as the man to run the hockey show in The Big Smoke. I question this move, and condemn the Leafs to purgatory for the next millennium until MLSE relinquishes their absolute control.

January 19 saw the passing of a broadcasting legend as Don Wittman finally succumbed to his battle with cancer at the age of 71. Mr. Wittman will never be forgotten for his voice and his passion for all sports, including hockey. Rest in peace, Mr. Wittman, for all eternity.

January 22 saw the Maple Leafs fire John Ferguson Jr., and replace him with Cliff Fletcher. The purging of the wasted space begins soon thereafter as Fletcher begins to reshape the roster.

January 29 saw the Ray Emery fiasco in Ottawa become a little more unraveled as the goaltender showed up late to practice after the All-Star Break. Emery explained that he was late because he thought the practice was at Nassau Coliseum, but he was not welcome on the ice. After a tantrum and an apology, eyebrows were once again raised in Senators' dressing room.

February 6 sees the Peter Forsberg sweepstakes begin. I make a bold prediction that whoever signs Forsberg will not win the Stanley Cup. I wait months to find out if I am right.

February 10 saw me brave the elements to travel to Winkler, Manitoba for Hockey Day In Canada 2008. I had a blast, and I definitely recommend anyone who can go to one to spend their day at Hockey Day In Canada. It's well-worth the effort.

February 11 was a terrifying day in Richard Zednik's life as his neck was sliced open by a skate. Everyone in the hockey world held their collective breath in awaiting word on Zednik's injury.

February 18 saw me in shock over the OHL's Oshawa Generals announcing that they would retire Eric Lindros' jersey before they retired Bobby Orr's jersey. I'm still a little ticked about this today. However, Orr's jersey was hoisted to the rafter, so the injustice has been fixed.

February 19 was another day of mourning as I took some time to honour young Mickey Renaud of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. Renaud passed away at the tender age of 19. You will always be remembered on this blog, Mickey. Rest in peace, young man.

February 21 saw the AHL's Manitoba Moose defeat the Chicago Wolves in overtime by a 2-1 score. While this isn't anything out of the ordinary, the goal scorer was. The game winner was scored by Moose goaltender Drew MacIntyre.

February 26 was the NHL Trade Deadline, and there were a number of players who swapped team colours and addresses. I give my thoughts on each teams' moves.

March 4 saw me introduce you to the show-stopper in the NHL shootout last season. Mathieu Garon was 10-0 in the shootout to that point, and was absolutely lights out for Edmonton.

March 6 had me examining the importance of making visors and neck guards mandatory in the NHL. I still don't understand why this is such a bone of contention with the NHLPA.

March 10 had me poking a little fun at Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals. Derek Zoolander wasn't nearly the playmaker that Backstrom is, though.

March 11 saw the McGill Marlets win the CIS Women's Hockey Championship over the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks, led by Canadian Olympian Charline Labonté. The Martlets are the equivalent of the NCAA Champs.

March 12 was the day that Dan Cloutier challenged the Los Angeles Kings after an interview in the Vancouver Sun. It was also the start of a war of words between Carla Muller and myself. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and I am still a fan of her work.

March 15 had me talking about neck guards and visors again. This time, however, the major sports media outlets joined in the battle.

March 16 saw me examine StompGate 2008 in the differing suspensions handed out to Chris Simon and Chris Pronger. I'm still convinced Pronger should have gotten a minimum of 15 games.

March 20 was my piece on no-touch icing in the NHL after Minnesota Wild defenceman Kurtis Foster was seriously injured during a race for an iced puck. Foster broke his leg, and hasn't played since. Anyone else for no-touch icing?

March 23 saw a brutal brawl in the QMJHL that had Jonathan Roy put an exclamation point on the entire ordeal by pummeling Bobby Nadeau. My commentary on the debacle was picked up by Radio-Canada, the French CBC, and posted on their website. March 26 had the fallout from the vicious attack by Roy.

March 25 saw the Men's Championship in the CIS won by the Alberta Golden Bears after they defeated the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.

April 4 had me examining the sharp decline of the Ottawa Senators. While it would be easy to blame the problems exclusively on Ray Emery, this team has been in a funk since the 2008 All-Star Game, and it continues today.

April 5 had me running down the action at the NCAA Women's Frozen Four in Duluth, Minnesota. A huge congratulations goes out to the University of Minnesota-Duluth who emerged as the queens of the castle in winning the 2008 Frozen Four tournament.

April 10 saw me run down the action from the opening night of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. It must be said: the NHL Playoffs is the greatest tournament on the face of the Earth.

April 20 had me drawing parallels between the movie Se7en and the seven-game series between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. This was honestly one of the best series in last year's playoffs.

April 28 saw the New York media accusing Sidney Crosby of diving in a war of words as the Rangers prepared to take on the Penguins in The Big Apple. Despite being ridiculously outplayed, it was apparently Crosby's diving that caused the Rangers to lose.

May 3 saw me take a look at some of the lesser known countries playing in the IIHF tournaments. There are some names in that article who are good NHL players, so there are definitely some countries out there producing elite players.

May 8 had me dig a little deeper into one country's hockey program as I profiled Norway after they threw a scare into Canada at the IIHF World Championships. Norway is starting to match the talent level of their Scandinavian neighbours.

May 16 saw me profile the teams participating in the CHL's Memorial Cup. This is another phenomenal tournament, and I really like the hockey played in the Canadian Hockey League. There is no shortage of passion in this tournament.

May 19 had me preview the Stanley Cup Final between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A great series was about to begin.

May 26 saw me congratulate the WHL's Spokane Chiefs for their accomplishment in winning the 2008 CHL Memorial Cup. One of the best teams all season long, and they turned that into a championship season.

May 29 was a day of happiness and mourning. The NHL announced that the 2009 Winter Classic would be played at Wrigley Field or Soldier Field in Chicago with the Blackhawks and Red Wings participating. On the other hand, Luc Bourdon tragically passed away in a motorcycle accident that morning. Rest in peace, Luc.

May 31 had a mainstream media writer in Dave Shoalts take pot-shots at Mario Lemieux, so I fire a few back at him. Hey, you don't rip on an NHL legend unless he deserves it.

June 4 had Tiger Woods in the crosshairs of a few NHL writers. His careless remark about nobody watching hockey raised the ire of a number of hockey scribes.

June 6 was a day of celebration for the Detroit Red Wings and their fans. After six hard-fought games, the Wings had won another Stanley Cup. Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings!

June 7 was the announcement of Hockey Blog In Canada's summer project. And this summer project got a lot of rave reviews around the web. HBIC committed itself to examining all the of the charitable work that NHL players do in conjunction with the NHLPA.

June 10 saw CTV buy the rights to the Hockey Song anthem that was made so popular by the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada. Outrage amongst Canadians was felt by the CBC, but it would soon die off.

June 17 saw four people inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame: Igor Larionov, Glenn Anderson, Ed Chynoweth, and Ray Scapinello. All of these men are deserving of this prestigious accolade. Congratulations to these four men!

June 18 saw me take issue with Eklund, the anonymous hockey blogger. I still can't believe that this guy was considered a "top blogger" and hockey source. What a joke.

June 22 had me discussing who I thought were the winners and losers on NHL Draft Day. I am still impressed with the stable of young talent that Kings' GM Dean Lombardi has acquired.

There is a pile of news to look at in the next six months, and it starts with July 1 - free agency day. We'll tackle that tomorrow. There's a quick look back at the first six months of 2008 and some of the news stories tackled on this site.

Until tomorrow, keep your sticks on the ice!

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