Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Extras! Extras!

It's Sunday, and I'm out in Selkirk, Manitoba again for the second day of shooting scenes for Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story involving a large number of extras as the directors look to cover a significant game in 1973. A good number of extras have shown up for today, and they came ready with their best cheering and booing thus far. The cast and crew have been working hard, and today's events seem to be coming together very quickly and very well. Kudos to everyone involved today as another day looks to be a success. If you read yesterday's piece, you know that the AHL's Hershey Bears defeated the Manitoba Moose in Game One of the Calder Cup Finals, so it was kind of weird being forced to cheer for the Bears today with Winnipeg being a mere 20 minutes away. But more on that later.

The jerseys worn today, like last week, are perfect for this period of time. The producers have done an incredible job getting clothing for the cast that is appropriate for the time period, and they haven't overlooked the slightest detail on the players' uniforms. The wardrobe department clearly has done their homework, and the picture looks authentic from these eyes. Even the props department has come prepared - people are smoking in the crowd!

There was one issue today, however. A stand-in dressed as a Hershey Bears player suffered an injury, and his summer hockey movie-making days are done, it appears. Tim Kiriluk broke his ankle in two places, and won't be on skates for a while. Get better soon, Tim. You were doing one heck of a job in that fight scene. Godspeed!

Aside from that injury, it appeared everything else ran smoothly. Again, I'm not going to divulge secrets of what was being filmed or anything, but the scene today between the visiting Rochester Americans and the home-team Hershey Bears looked good. The actors really got into today's scene as well, so it was easy to react to what they were doing on the ice.

A little history is in order about the host complex, however, as the Selkirk Recreation Complex has gone out of their way in helping to make this picture come to life.

The arena holds 2571 people at full capacity - small by AHL standards, but perfect for MJHL and movie-making standards. It was build in 1992, and houses the Selkirk Steelers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League as its main tenant. It has co-hosted the 2007 Women's World Championships and the 1999 World Junior Championships with the MTS Centre and Winnipeg Arena, respectively. It most recently hosted the 2009 Telus Cup, Canada's National Midget AAA Tournament, this past April.

The seats for the crowd at the Selkirk Recreation Complex are those that used to be found in old Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. Of course, old Comiskey was demolished in 1990 and gave way to New Comiskey Park, which, since 2003, has been called US Cellular Field, but the seats still live on as they hold fans for Selkirk Steelers' games. That's something you don't see everyday, eh?

The arena itself has the feeling of an old-time arena. It's extremely cold in the building in the winter before fans start filing in. This morning, for example, it was extremely frigid before the 300 or so extras got on-set. The press box above the ice is four boxes wide, and one of those boxes is for the local radio station broadcast of Steelers' games. The stairs to the press box connect directly to the concourse above section seven, bringing the action extremely close to the press box. You can hear audible shouted words on the hockey broadcasts occasionally.

Modifications have been on-going at the Selkirk Recreation Complex as the movie changes from era to era for filming. Again, the production and publicity companies are keeping a tight lid on photos, and I completely and fully adhere to their wishes, so please don't ask if I have any. I do not, and I respect their wishes.

Gone is the standard plexiglass seen at every indoor rink across the globe. It has been replaced with period-specific chain-link fencing, similar to that seen in the NHL during the 1950s. There's no cage around the goal judge here, though. Depending on the scene, the championship banners change to match the home team on the ice. There have been three different Hershey Bears' championship banners that I've seen today alone, so there are probably others that I have yet to see. Also added are American flags, and gone is any reference to Canada, at the south end of the building as the movie is filmed in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts, and Rochester, New York amongst the various places that Don Cherry's career has travelled over the years. And gone are the ads normally seen around the boards - another era-specific modification. After having seen ads splashed across the boards for the last 20 or so years, it looks really different. Almost an empty feeling as the ice looks bigger.

The prevailing rumour from some of the crew is that this two-part mini-series will run next spring on the CBC. I'm almost certain they will make DVDs of the mini-series, so you may be able to get your hands on a copy if you don't get the CBC on your television. No one will confirm a DVD offering at this time, but I'm getting the sense that this will be one that makes it to disc.

As for cheering for the Hershey Bears, a crowd's gotta do what a crowd's gotta do, right? I'm still firmly behind the 2009 version of the Manitoba Moose and against the 2009 version of the Hershey Bears. But when it comes to the 1955 Hershey Bears and 1973 Hershey Bears today, I'm going all out for them.

One major change coming up if you're still interested in being an extra for this CBC production: June 14's filming takes place in Brandon, Manitoba at the Keystone Centre. Do not go to Selkirk, Manitoba! No one will be there from the movie! If you're interested in being an extra in Brandon, please click here to get your details. And don't forget to email them your vitals so they have you on the list!

Once again, some incredible work today by all the cast, crew, and extras. Undoubtedly, I am excited for this mini-series to air, and it looks like "a beauty".

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Two For One Finals

Are you excited? I am. The Stanley Cup Final starts momentarily. The following will have been thought by me during the progress of the game. It's not necessarily pretty, but it is what was going through my head. While that game is on, I'll also be listening intently to the AHL Calder Cup Final Game One between Hershey and Manitoba, and adding my thoughts on that series. AHL thoughts will be made separate by the use of italics and the colour of yellow, so skip by them if that doesn't interest you. Ready? Let's begin.

  • Huge props to the CBC for carrying the Stanley Cup Final. I absolutely love their introductions, and they really do set the standard in hockey broadcasting. Jim Hughson will be calling the game tonight, and he might be the best play-by-play guy in the game right now. Also, no Pierre McGuire on CBC, so that's a huge plus for this series.
  • The Moose-Bears game tonight officially sold-out as of 1:30 this afternoon. That's a phenomenal showing from the people of Manitoba, and should give the Moose a big jump in the game.
  • Game Two of the Calder Cup Final has already sold two-thirds of the available tickets. If you're from Manitoba, and you want to go, grab your phone and call Ticketmasker immediately!
  • Fleury is giving out rebounds like they are gifts. He needs to start controlling these rebounds better if Pittsburgh is going to prevail.
  • Brad Stuart vs. Brooks Orpik? If I'm Stuart, I back away.
  • Osgood makes a good first save on Jordan Staal. He appears to be ready.
  • Zetterberg rings one off the post. Is there any team more dangerous in transition than the Red Wings?
  • It will be interesting to see how Detroit plays this series. They struggled against the Ducks' cycling game, and the Penguins play a down-low game very similar to what Anaheim does.
  • You heard it here: Orpik will be to Hossa what Scott Stevens was to Eric Lindros. Solid open-ice hit, and Hossa is wincing on the bench.
  • Is it just me or does Fleury play the puck just a wee bit too casually?
  • Brent Lebda literally saved a goal. Kennedy had an easier tap-in than Tiger Woods in mini-golf if he hadn't deflected that puck.
  • Puck officially has dropped at 7:41pm on the Calder Cup Final. And just seconds in, Mario Bliznak of the Moose draws a penalty. Moose to the powerplay. Chris Bourque in the sin bin for two minutes or less.
  • Those live boards in Detroit strike again. Stuart's point shot rebounds off the boards and hits Fleury in the back of the leg. Activate the red light, judge. Detroit leads 1-0.
  • I can't stress this enough: Detroit's transition game is second-to-none.
  • Hershey's Chris Bourque has been called for his second penalty of the night. He's not happy as he yaps at referee Kyle Raymond. Again, Bourque will sit for two or less.
  • Hershey will be down 5-on-3 as a slashing call is made. Jason Krog's stick is slashed in half, and Manitoba will look to take the lead with this chance. Mark Cullen scores on the backdoor chance!Manitoba leads 1-0.
  • Malkin's blast can't be corralled by Osgood, and Ruslan Fedotenko pots the goal. Is there anyone on Pittsburgh who has scored more clutch goals in their post-season career? Game is tied 1-1.
  • Alexandre Giroux picks up a loose puck and nets a shorthanded goal against Manitoba. Game is tied 1-1.
  • Moose whistled for a penalty, and the Bears' potent attack goes to work.
  • Michal Grabner finds a seam behind the defence, and Cody Hodgson hits Grabner at full-speed with an incredible pass. He breaks in alone and nets another Moose goal. Manitoba leads 2-1.
  • Hershey is whistled for another penalty in the first period - their fourth minor penalty. Another slashing call as Guillaume Desbiens streaks in on Neuvirth puts the Moose on the man-advantage.
  • CBC's Elliott Friedman is a highly under-appreciated reporter. I'd take him over McGuire any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
  • It almost appears that Osgood has no clue where the puck is once it hits his pads. If I'm Pittsburgh, I'm taking a lot of hard, low shots and looking for rebounds.
  • Malkin... breakaway... off Osgood's glove. Still a tied hockey game as Osgood wins that battle. Why didn't Malkin deke?
  • Brett Lebda receives the first penalty in the Stanley Cup Final as he slashes Talbot's stick out of his hand. This is the PK vs. PP matchup that Pittsburgh wanted, and they need to establish the powerplay right now.
  • Detroit's penalty kill is doing a superb job with their aggressive play. Detroit should be happy with that result.
  • Mikael Samuelsson gets tagged for holding. Penguins will go back on the powerplay.
  • Penguins needs to change up their powerplay. The Red Wings close quickly on the half-boards and neutralize the passing that Pittsburgh does. I propose they work behind the net like Anaheim did, and try to get Detroit turned around in their own zone.
  • This NHL game is opening up, and it looks really good. If you're not a hockey fan after this last five minutes of play, capped by Sidney Crosby's spin-o-rama backhanded shot, I'm not sure why you're watching.
  • Midway through the second period in Winnipeg, and Michal Grabner is making a serious run at the playoff MVP in the Calder Cup Final. Picking up the puck near center ice, Grabner found nothing but open ice between himself and Neuvirth. Breakaway Grabner. Deke. Buries it. Grabner's second breakaway goal this game, and his speed is being showcased tonight. Manitoba leads 3-1.
  • Can I ask why neither TSN nor Rogers' Sportsnet is covering the AHL Final? Neither of them have NHL rights any longer. What's the deal?!?
  • Again, those lovely boards in Detroit score a point. Rafalski's point shot bounces off the boards back out to Franzen who banks it in off Fleury's leg. Right now, the Conn Smythe Trophy is going to the endboards in Detroit. Detroit leads 2-1.
  • Manitoba's Matt Pope has a partial breakaway, and Staffan Kronwall trips him up. Pope heads to center ice for a penalty shot against Neuvirth. Neuvirth reads the deke well, and prevents the Moose from taking a three-goal lead.
  • Fleury with a good stop on the speedy Darren Helm early in the third period.
  • Justin Abdelkader scores on another weird bounce. The initial shot by Abdelkader is stopped, but the rebound goes up into the air. Neither Fleury nor Jordan Staal, Abdelkader's check, can find the puck in the air, but Abdelkader does. He gloves it down, and whacks it into the net. Detroit leads 3-1.
  • Kudos to Detroit. They are tenacious on defence. Nothing is getting through to Osgood.
  • And I was interrupted by a phone call. For like 10 minutes. Don't people know that playoff hockey is more important than my social life? Ok, I can't actually back that up. But it does rank high. The hockey, that is.
  • I come back to find that Oskar Osala has scored a second goal for Hershey. This is why you don't interrupt a hockey game, people. Manitoba leads 3-2.
  • The only way you're going to beat Detroit is to play perfect hockey. Or pressure them heavily to force mistakes. Pittsburgh, please refer to the Ducks-Wings series for more information.
  • Alexandre Giroux scores on the powerplay after the puck deflects off Nolan Baugartner's face and past Schneider. Weird goals all around tonight, both in Detroit and Winnipeg. We've got a tight game again, folks! Game is tied 3-3.
  • It's officially over in Detroit. Detroit takes Game One of the Stanley Cup Final by a 3-1 score.
  • Oskar Osala scores on a wrap-around with 4:36 to play, and three third period goals are showing how dangerous the Bears' offence is. Hershey leads 4-3.
  • Matt Pope is in on another key play. He draws a four-minute, double-minor high-sticking penalty at the top of the crease from Tyler Sloane. Manitoba needs a powerplay goal like no one's business. Especially if they want this game to see overtime at least.
  • The Bears are playing ridiculously careless. Staffan Kronwall will head to the box as he clears the puck over the boards from his defensive end. With 2:03 left in the game, they will finish the game on the powerplay, and will have an excellent chance to tie the game. This is the equivalent of a two-minute drill in football. And, I should point out, if they score within 53 seconds, they will continue on the 5-on-3.
  • Holy Dinah! Max Fortunus has tied the game on the powerplay, and it will remain 5-on-3 as they converted within the 53 seconds! Manitoba will have a HUGE chance to win this in regulation! Game is tied 4-4.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, we will have overtime in Game One of the Calder Cup Final. And the Moose will still have 44 seconds of powerplay time to work with in the extra frame. Just as a note: Moose are 1-9 in their last ten overtime games in the AHL Playoffs. It's time for the law of averages to start evening this out, don't you think?
  • Osala almost completed the hat-trick, but Schneider recovers in time to keep the puck out of the net. If the rest of this series is this good, there are a lot of people missing very good hockey action.
  • Osala is robbed again by Schneider in front of the net in overtime. Schneider is looking sharp after giving up three in the third period.
  • Chris Bourque gets robbed by Schneider, but Nolan Baumgartner is being sent off for high-sticking. No blood, no additional foul, though, and Baumgartner will sit for two or less in overtime.
  • Alexandre Giroux scores on the powerplay as he completes the hat-trick! Giroux rips a shot from about three feet outside the crease past a sprawling Schneider to give Hershey the win in Game One of the Calder Cup Final. It's official: Hershey wins the game 5-4 in overtime.
Wow. What a night of hockey, kids. That's what great playoff hockey is all about. Just a heads-up for tomorrow as I sign-off: it'll be a later post than normal as I am headed out to Selkirk again to do a little reporting on the Don Cherry movie. According to the info given, this will be a 1973 game, so the era of dress will be a little different than last time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Need A Night Off

It's been a long week of hard work for me. You may have noticed that there have been a couple of mail-ins this week on my part, and I apologize. I know you all come here looking for more. Work has me literally running on empty. Combine that with a hectic social schedule and a busy sporting life, and you start running out of hours in the day. I'm tired right now, and the sun hasn't even gone down. Therefore, I am gearing up for Game One of the Stanley Cup Final by taking tonight off. Seems a little antithetical of me to do so, but I assure you that this is more for the future than it is for the present.

However, I'm not leaving you with nothing to check out. Instead, I'll post a couple more videos from the same guys who came up with the look at Zetterberg getting ready for his day in the morning. That was a pretty solid video, so I'm proud to bring Jakob's and Greg's newest productions.

Zetterberg Surfs The 'Net


Zetterberg Goes For A Job Interview

If the Jakob had a little more salt-and-pepper in his beard, he could almost pass for Scotty Niedermayer as well. In any case, Jakob and Greg are putting together some very solid, funny commercials.

Yes, they aren't professionally filmed or anything, but that's the beauty of Do-It-Yourself: it's for one's personal satisfaction more than for anyone else's satisfaction. However, when shared like this, we all benefit from two men's talented work.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Poolie Update: Round Three

That image to the left? That is a swimming pool. Today's entry? Not about swimming pools. However, the HBIC Playoff Pool has some very interesting results, and some disappointing news. Of course, you know that there are prizes being offered up to a number of people in the pool, and it's not just based on standings. I will mix it up and award prizes based upon a number of criteria. There is at least one award going out to the ladies, so if you fall under the category of "fairer sex", you have pretty good odds of winning something. As for the gentlemen, lots of prizes available for you too. Don't go getting all depressed on me, ok? Ok.

Ok, let's take a look at Round Three's impressive poolies, and how the whole thing is shaking down as we embark on the Stanley Cup Round.

Detroit vs. Chicago: There were lots of three- and four-point totals piled up here as a lot of people picked the series to end in six or seven games. However, the star of this series was Connie Kim. Connie not only picked the correct team winning each game, but also picked up the additional five points for calling Detroit in five games for a total of ten points in this series. Well done, Connie!

Pittsburgh vs. Carolina: Nobody in the pool predicted a sweep by the Penguins or the Hurricanes, so there were no additional points handed out based upon the number of games played. However, Mark Kluczynski picked up five points for his predictions in this series. That, surprisingly, was the highest point total in this series. Congrats on calling three correct games, and Malkin as a goal-scorer, Mark!

Using her impressive ten points in the Detroit-Chicago series gave Connie a huge advantage in this round as she ended up with 13 points total. With that total, she is officially the highest point-getter in Round Three. As an honourable mention, Mike Jaworski was the only other entrant who broke the double-digit mark in this round. He finished Round Three with 11 points.

As you can see on the leaderboard to the right, Mike Jaworski has used that boost to take over the lead in the pool. Round One leader Justin St. Louis is still within striking distance, and Round Two leader James Huening is only a few points back. Luigi Perillo is lurking as well for that top spot, and can do some damage with a few good predictions. Of course, if you're not in the top four, not to worry! As shown by Connie, you can gain ten points in a hurry, so don't fret!

Predictions for the Stanley Cup Final will be accepted until 6PM CT on Saturday. Again, please send them to me with the subject line reading "Stanley Cup Picks", please.

For those who entered, but missed a round or two, I'm still accepting your picks. Again, prizes will not solely be awarded on standings. The beauty of this contest is that no one is eliminated until the Stanley Cup has been hoisted on the ice. If you entered and missed a round, get your picks in!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

AHL Calder Cup Similarities

The Manitoba Moose and the Hershey Bears will square off Saturday in Game One for the AHL's biggest prize in the Calder Cup. Both teams have been impressive this season, and it will be hard to predict a victor based on stats alone. Hershey and Manitoba didn't meet at all this year in the regular season, so we can't even base a prediction on their head-to-head meetings. I will, however, throw out random stats that may show an advantage one way or another. Really, though, the only thing that matters is the play on the ice, and both teams have played extremely well this season.

The Eastern Conference Champion Hershey Bears roll into the Calder Cup Final as the third-overall team in the AHL regular season. They finished behind the Milwaukee Admirals and Manitoba Moose in the overall rankings, but still posted a very impressive record of 49-23-2-6 for 106 points. They tied with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in terms of points, but had more goals-for and less overtime losses this season, so the Bears were officially the "Beasts of the East".

In the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Bears kicked things off against the Philadelphia Phantoms, but the series didn't last long. Hershey swept through Philly, outscoring them 14-6 in four games.

In their second series, they met up with their rivals in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. WBS and Hershey had an epic battle through five games where the Baby Penguins staked themselves to a 3-2 series lead. However, Hershey goaltender Michal Neuvirth decided that home ice belonged to him, and absolutely owned the Penguins' shooters in the final two games by posting a shutout in each game to close out the series in seven games. Coincidentally, the home team in this series won each game, showing how important home ice is in the playoffs when battling an upstart opponent.

The third round saw the Bears meet up with the other Bear-based team name in the Providence Bruins. Providence capitalized on a tired Hershey team in Game One, but it was all Hershey after that game. The Bears eliminated the Bruins in five games, setting them up for their third trip to the Calder Cup Final in four years.

The Western Conference Champion Manitoba Moose enter their first Calder Cup Final in franchise history on the heels of their most successful regular season to date. The Moose were the only team to win 50 games this season, posting a record of 50-23-1-6 for 107 points. Their 50 wins allowed them to capture the AHL's Regular Season Champion accolade as they scored one more win than the Milwaukee Admirals who also finished the season with 107 points.

Their opening round series against the Toronto Marlies was not as easy as one may have suspected. The Marlies played stubborn, physical hockey, and were tied with the Moose 2-2 as they prepared for Game Five. The Moose dominated Game Five's scoresheet, and the brawl that erupted at the end of the game proved that these two teams are not fond of each other whatsoever. The Moose eliminated the Marlies in six games to advance to the second round.

It was here that the Moose ran into long-time IHL and AHL rival in the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Griffins used their powerful offence to knock off the Hamilton Bulldogs, so the Moose had to be ready. And they were. The Moose handed down a four-game sweep to eliminate the Griffins, holding their potent offensive stars to a mere five goals in the series. This advanced the Moose to their graveyard - the Western Conference Final.

No Moose team had advanced past this point. In fact, the last time they reached the conference final, they were swept out, meaning they had yet to even win a game in the AHL Western Conference Final. Surprisingly, the Moose met up with the Houston Aeros who had eliminated the high-flying Milwaukee Admirals in the previous round. The Moose jumped out to a 3-0 series lead before the plucky Aeros took the next two games in overtime. However, Manitoba closed out the series at home in Game Six, and book their tickets for their first trip to the Calder Cup Final.

So how do these two teams stack up against one another? Very closely if you look at the statistical analysis.

  • In the playoffs, both Michal Neuvirth and Cory Schneider have identical statistics while guarding the twine. Manitoba's Schneider has a slightly better record at 12-3 with a 2.03 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He's only allowed 32 goals-against in his 15 games. Neuvirth, on the hand, is 12-4 with a 2.03 GAA and a .929 save percentage. He has only allowed 33 goals in the postseason thus far. The only major stat that is different is shutouts - Neuvirth leads 3-0 in that category.
  • Hershey's Alexandre Giroux is second in playoff scoring right now with nine goals and 11 assists. Jason Krog, Manitoba's leading scorer, is sitting in third for playoff scoring with seven goals and 11 assists.
  • Giroux is second in playoff goal-scoring with his nine goals. Krog and teammate Michael Grabner are tied for fourth in playoff goal-scoring with seven apiece.
  • Hershey's Keith Aucoin leads the way in assists. He has three goals and 13 assists thus far, and teammate Giroux is right behind him with 11 helpers. Krog, as stated above, has 11 assists for the Moose.
  • Defenceman Bryan Helmer of the Bears is tied for fourth in playoff scoring for defencemen. His three goals and five assists puts him (and three others) one point ahead of Moose defenceman Mark Fistric who has recorded two goals and five assists thus far.
  • Hershey sent four players to the AHL All-Star Game this season - Bryan Helmer, Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, and Chris Bourque. The Moose only sent two - Jason Krog and goaltender Cory Schneider.
  • Bob Woods and Mark French, head coach and assistant coach of the Bears, respectively, coached the Canadian All-Star team in that game. However, AHL Coach of the Year honours went to Moose head coach Scott Arniel in leading his team to the best record in the league.
  • The Hershey Bears led the way in terms of fan attendance this season, averaging approximately 9000 fans per game. The Moose were second in this stat this season, averaging approximately 7700 fans per game. As I said above for Hershey, home ice can be a huge advantage for teams, and the top-two teams in attendance are playing for the Calder Cup. Any correlation?
  • Hershey is vying for its AHL-best 10th Calder Cup while appearing in 21st Calder Cup in franchise history, while the Moose are looking for their first in their first appearance. While it's extremely rare for players to carry over in the AHL from championship team to championship team with the turnover in players, the Moose do have the defending AHL Playoff MVP in Jason Krog playing for them. History vs. playoff experience?
  • Neuvirth and Schneider have been outstanding in guarding the nets, but both men have quality, capable backups with NHL experience waiting if they falter. Neuvirth is backed up Simeon Varlamov, the same guy who just about beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. Behind Schneider is Curtis Sanford, Roberto Luongo's backup in Vancouver before the acquisition of Jason LaBarbera.
So what does this all mean? I'm hoping it means a very exciting, up-tempo, high-scoring series between the two best teams from either conference. If you're an AHL fan, this has to excite you. Rarely do the two best teams from either conference meet in the final in hockey. And this has all the makings to be a classic series between high-powered teams set on winning the AHL's biggest prize.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A Major Loss

I had every intention of writing about the American Hockey League Final featuring the Manitoba Moose and Hershey Bears, but that's being put on hold. It's with great regret that I have to report that Peter Zezel, pictured with the Blues to the left, has passed on after fighting a blood disorder. The Toronto, Ontario native was 44. Zezel suffered from hemolytic anemia, a disorder where red blood cells are destroyed by the body before they can be replaced. Zezel was diagnosed in 2001 with this disorder, and had been fighting valiantly until his condition worsened and he was admitted to a Toronto hospital. After slipping into a coma, Mr. Zezel was taken off life support today, and was pronounced dead this afternoon.

Peter Zezel was born April 22, 1965 in Toronto, Ontario. Playing hockey in Toronto for the NHL's Maple Leafs was a dream of Zezel's as a boy, and he starred for the Toronto Marlies Junior-A club until he was drafted in 1983 by the Philadelphia Flyers at 41st overall. While he was a very talented scoring threat in junior hockey, Zezel also starred with Canada's Under-21 soccer team - skills he would use in the NHL later on.

Zezel cracked the Flyers' lineup as a 19 year-old in 1984-85, and showed off his scoring ability early on. He finished fifth in rookie scoring that season with 61 points, 46 of them as assists as he appeared to be cut from the same mold as Gretzky in terms of distributing the puck. His 46 assists at that time were a franchise record for a Flyers rookie, but it has since been broken.

Along with some other young stars such as Rick Tocchet, Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, and Murray Craven, the youthful Flyers surprised the NHL world by winning the President's Trophy with a record of 50-23-7 for 113 points, four better than the Edmonton Oilers. In the playoffs, the Flyers dispatched the Rangers 3-0, the Islanders 4-1 (ending the Islanders' streak of five straight Stanley Cup Final appearances), and the Quebec Nordiques 4-2 before running into the upstart Oilers.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, they lost the Stanley Cup Final by a 4-1 series mark, but the foundation of a solid team was in place. Zezel, however, had a solid playoff run as a rookie, notching one goal and adding eight helpers in 19 playoff games. Zezel's first season had to be considered a success despite losing hockey's biggest prize at the end.

Zezel's production dipped in 1985-86 as he only put up 17 goals and 37 assists, but the 1986-87 season was his finest. Zezel scored 33 goals and added 39 assists for 72 points, and the Flyers re-established themselves as one of the favorites in the Wales Conference. They went 46-26-8 for first place in the Patrick Division, and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final by defeating the Rangers 4-2, the Islanders 4-3, and the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. They ran into the juggernaut of the 1980s in the Oilers again, and nearly pulled off the upset. However, the Oilers prevailed with a 4-3 series win.

1986 was also a break-out season on the big screen as Zezel scored a small part in the Hollywood film Youngblood, starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. Zezel played "Rossini", a player for the Hamilton Mustangs. Zezel is the shirtless guy in the picture.

Zezel's first few seasons in the NHL were extremely productive and successful, but 1988 saw his first professional move as he was traded mid-season by the Flyers to the St. Louis Blues for Mike Bullard. Zezel continued a great season between the two teams, ending the campaign with 21 goals and 49 assists. Zezel's game, however, was changing as he was physically slowing down.

In 1990, he was dealt from the Blues to the Washington Capitals for Geoff Courtnall. However, he barely had time to unpack his luggage. After only 20 games in DC, he was traded to his hometown Maple Leafs in a package for Al Iafrate - the dream was fulfilled! He was hampered by injuries, however, and only played a total of 52 games while only scoring 40 points.

1991-92 in the blue-and-white was another injury-filled one for Zezel as he only appeared in 64 games. However, with his scoring production falling off, Zezel had begun transitioning his game into a specialist's role as he embraced a defensive role and really started working on faceoffs. With his soccer abilities, he was able to win a large number of draws as he controlled the puck with his feet when his stick was tied up. As a result, the Leafs began using him in all key faceoff situations as well as against the opposition's top line.

1992-93 saw the Leafs, with Zezel in the lineup, fight and scratch their way up the Norris Division standings, and they turned that into a magical playoff run. Toronto finished behind Chicago and Detroit in the Norris, but head coach Pat Burns had them playing great hockey upon the start of the "second season". Burns exclusively used Zezel in a defensive role this season, and he excelled in defensive coverage and in the faceoff circle. They defeated Detroit in seven games, and need seven games to eliminate St. Louis as well. Like the other teams that Zezel had been a big part of, they were knocked out of the playoffs by a Gretzky-led team. The Los Angeles Kings needed seven games, but eliminated the Maple Leafs at the end of the series.

Back problems plagued Zezel's season in 1993-94, and he was limited to 41 games. He appeared in 18 playoff games for the Leafs that season, and scored the Game One winner in the Western Conference Final against the Canucks - the only game the Leafs would win in that series.

In a strange series of events, Zezel was awarded as compensation to the Dallas Stars after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed free agent Mike Craig in the summer of 1994. However, a knee injury derailed Zezel's season, and he was limited to just 30 games and 11 points. It proved to be a tumultuous move as Zezel played only 30 games in two years with the 1995 NHL strike.

At the end of the strike, Zezel was signed by Mike Keenan as Keenan took over the St. Louis Blues. Zezel's time in St. Louis was limited as he battled injuries and poor play for parts of two seasons. Midway through the 1996-97 season, Zezel was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

Zezel's career really nose-dived in New Jersey as he was sent to the minors for the first time in his career. However, Zezel showed that he was still a savvy veteran who could contribute as he racked up 50 points in 35 games for the AHL's Albany River Rats. Again, he was traded for by Mike Keenan, this time with the Vancouver Canucks, and he was back in the NHL playing alongside Alexander Mogilny. Mogilny needed a playmaking centerman, and Zezel was Keenan's man for the job. Zezel didn't disappoint either as he put up 17 points in 25 games.

Zezel's career, however, would end controversially in 1999 when Vancouver GM Brian Burke traded him at the deadline. Zezel's niece, three year-old Jilliann, had been diagnosed with cancer, and she was terminally-ill. Zezel had indicated that he would like to be closer to his family during their time of need, but had not demanded a trade. Incredibly, Burke traded him to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Afterwards, assistant GM Dave Nonis stated to Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Times that the move "was not a sinister plot to screw Peter Zezel. It's a guy we're not going to have any use for at the end of the year and we tried to find a place for him to play". Zezel promptly retired from the NHL, and Burke received some criticism from the public and media for his unfathomable move in regards to Zezel's request. However, Burke did offer to buyout Zezel's contract and match the amount with a charitable donation.

Zezel didn't stop with hockey there, though. Since 1998, he operated the Peter Zezel Hockey and Sports Camps in Etobicoke, Ontario. The camp is a hockey and soccer camp for children between the ages of 5 and 14.

From his website: "The camps started in 1998 and have been a great success ever since. The purpose of the camps is to create an environment conducive to learning without sacrificing the enjoyment of participating in a camp. Hundreds of kids from age 5 to 14 years have attended the camps and had a great deal of fun while improving their hockey and soccer skills.

After Peter's sixteen year career in the NHL he wanted to pursue opportunities to help with the development of young athletes. The hockey & soccer camps allow him to contribute in a way that is very important to him. Peter has taken the knowledge and skills he has learned during the career and applied them to the camp to create an outstanding experience for participants."


At age 44, however, we've lost Peter Zezel. The man was a fabulous NHL player, and really cared about the community.

"The hockey community has suffered a great loss today," said NHLPA director of player affairs, Glenn Healy, in a statement. "Peter was a friend and a great family man who was well liked by everyone he crossed paths with in our game. Our thoughts are with Peter's family and many friends during this difficult time."

My thoughts, prayers, and wishes are with the Zezel family in their time of mourning. Peter Zezel may not have been the prototypical, flashy NHL scorer, but he touched enough lives to change the world for the better.

And that's the best assist that anyone can give. Rest in peace, Mr. Zezel. You're a star in this writer's eyes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Monday Musings In May

Lots of stuff has happened in the hockey world over the last few days while I've been working. I know that I should be paying attention, but, when work pays the bills, the blog gets updated with the most prevalent story at my fingers. However, a ton of stuff has happened, and this needs to be reviewed. Why? Because it's hockey, and it's important. In fact, a few of these stories are a little eyebrow-raising. Let's check the headlines that have been kicking around the last few days.

  • I totally neglected the Mastercard Memorial Cup in the last week, and I apologize to all fans of the CHL. As you may have heard, the OHL's Windsor Spitfires captured the 2009 Memorial Cup over the WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets by a 4-1 score. Windsor became the first team to lose their first two games and then run the board to win the championship. The QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic, who hosted this year's tournament, and the Drummondville Voltigeurs, who won the QMJHL Championship this season, ended up fourth and third, respectively. The Spitfires won their first championship after appearing in only their second final in franchise history. Congratulations to the Spitfires, and to tournament MVP Taylor Hall for amazing seasons! And congratulations to the Kelowna Rockets, Drummondville Voltigeurs, and Rimouski Oceanic on a great season and an excellent tournament!
  • One of the coolest parts about Windsor's run is that they never forgot one of their leaders. It was February 18, 2008 when Windsor Spitfires' captain Mickey Renaud collapsed at his home and passed away. Renaud has been an inspiration for the players on the Spitfires all season long, and they honoured their fallen captain by keeping his jersey on the bench during their games at the Memorial Cup, and then bringing it out onto the ice during their celebration. A very classy memorial for a classy kid. Huge kudos to the Spitfires for this. The hockey gods won't forget this incredible act.
  • Some accolades were handed out the night before the Memorial Cup Final. Former Brampton Battalion captain Cody Hodgson was named as the CHL Player of the Year, beating out Brett Sonne of the Calgary Hitmen and Nicola Riopel of the Moncton Wildcats. Windsor Spitfires' head coach Bob Boughner won the CHL Coach of the Year Award. Yannick Riendeau took home honours as the top scorer in the CHL this season as he scored 58 goals and 126 points for the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Prince George Cougars' forward Brett Connolly was named as the CHL Rookie of the Year as he led his team with 30 goals and 60 points. Mike Murphy of the OHL's Belleville Bulls took honours as the CHL's top goaltender after posting a record of 40-9-4 with a 2.08 GAA and a .941 save percentage. Vancouver Giants' defenceman Jonathan Blum was named as the CHL's best defenceman this season.
  • With it being Memorial Day in the US, the Eastern Conference Final in the AHL moved to the afternoon as the Hershey Bears looked to close out their 3-1 series lead over the Providence Bruins. The Bears did indeed wrap up the series today with a 5-2 victory over the Bruins today, giving them their 21st berth in the Calder Cup Final, and third in the last four years. The Bears will await the winner of the Moose-Aeros series to battle for the Calder Cup. The Moose lead the Western Conference Final 3-2 after losing two straight overtime games in Houston.
  • Major kudos go out to the Rockford IceHogs this week. The IceHogs made a little girl's day, week, month, and every time this week more memorable when they signed 10 year-old Sydney Ives to a one-day contract. Now, you might be asking why an AHL team would sign a 10 year-old girl. Well, Sydney has an inoperable brain tumor that was diagnosed almost a year ago, and she is a life-long IceHogs fan. Sydney was presented with an IceHogs jersey with #19 and "Ivestrong" on the back during her big day. "Ivestrong" is the slogan the family has adopted during Sydney’s fight against cancer, similar to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" motto. This is exactly why minor-league hockey deserves your support. This writer gives a huge thumbs-up to the IceHogs for their help. If you would like to help Sydney, please visit her website.
  • There is no shortage of news stories talking about free agent Russian players heading home to play in the KHL. Rangers' forward Nikolai Zherdev has been the most talked-about player thus far, but the French side of TSN is now saying another big name is considering the jump back to Russia. According to a report on RDS.ca, Washington Capitals' graybeard Sergei Fedorov is considering an offer from Metallurg Magnitogorsk that could pay him a slightly below $4 million per season. This move would put him on the same team as his younger brother Fedor, something that hasn't been seen for a long time. A very interesting report, to be certain, and one that may have an impact on the Russian contingent in Washington.
  • Potential owner Jim Balsillie has finally decided to ask for acceptance into the old boys' club known as the NHL Ownership. He finally filed an application with the league's board of governors seeking a transfer of the Phoenix Coyotes ownership interest from Jerry Moyes to himself. While I'm not saying that Balsillie and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman are friends just yet, perhaps Mr. Balsillie is finally listening to what Mr. Bettman is saying - that is, follow the rules if you want to be accepted. I guess striking out three times would look pretty bad on the old résumé.
  • Chuck Fletcher, son of Hall-of-Fame builder Cliff Fletcher, was named as the Minnesota Wild GM. I guess we're stuck with Pierre McGuire on TSN and NBC for at least another season. In all seriousness, Fletcher is a student of the game, having been around his dad all his life. The 41 year-old has 15 years of experience, and that will speak volumes in his work rebuilding the Minnesota Wild.
  • With Fletcher leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins, the assistant GM position was open. And the Penguins looked within to fill the vacancy. Former NHL player Jason Botterill, son of sports psychiatrist Cal Botterill and brother of Canadian Olympic team member Jennifer Botterill, was promoted to assistant GM. Botterill won a World Junior gold medal in 1994, 1995, and 1996, but had his career cut short due to a series of injuries. At 33 years-old, Botterill has all the makings of a bright, young executive, and he will be learning from one of the best in Ray Shero.
  • Quick update: Moose defeated the Aeros 3-1 tonight, and will face the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Final. Calder Cup Final starts on Saturday, so get ready for some AHL action!
  • Quick update II: NHL Playoff Pool will be updated tomorrow when I have some free time.
  • Quick update III: I'll be out in Selkirk on the movie set of the Don Cherry movie again this weekend. More updates then of the on-goings there.
That's all for tonight, kids. I have a pile of stuff still to complete, so I gotta roll. NHL Playoffs resume tomorrow, and the ECHL Kelly Cup Final between Alaska and South Carolina is tied at one-game apiece.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hurry Up And Wait

I spent a very long day at the set of the the newest CBC creation. Coming next fall will be a two-part mini-series about the life of Don Cherry, entitled Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, written by Don's son, Tim Cherry. It's a biographical piece on Don Cherry's life, and today was a casting call for extras for scenes in the AHL in specific time periods. Today featured the 1950s and 1960s that saw Mr. Cherry playing for the Hershey Bears and Rochester Americans. I've promised the production and publicity staff that I will disclose any details about what scenes were filmed, and I will honour that request to the fullest extent of my word. I will, however, describe some of what was seen today.

First off, I have to say that the wardrobe people for this production have done an outstanding job. The uniforms for the players look absolutely fantastic, and the costuming for the other stars was entirely perfect for the periods of time that were filmed today. Without a doubt, this movie appears to be very accurate historically when it comes to the wardrobe, and that tickles me pink since I love historical pieces of work.

Secondly, the staff and crew working at the Selkirk Recreation Centre today were incredible. They worked tirelessly, and really made the day for the volunteer extras. Wanda, Shelly, Reid, and Colleen worked magic with the volunteer extras today. Don and Summer were intrepid with their props and replenishing of prop materials... despite them probably never wanting to see another popcorn kernel after today. A huge "thank you" to those individuals for making today a much more fun day than what could have been. Sitting in arena seats for twelve hours was never so much fun.

A huge "thank you" has to go out to emcee Ace Burpee, weekday morning show host on radio station Hot103. Ace kept the crowd in a great mood all day by cracking jokes, telling stories, giving away prizes, and asking trivia questions. Thanks for making the time pass so quickly, Ace. Great work!

Ok, to the meat and potatoes.

Jared Keeso is playing Don Cherry in the mini-series, and he is a consummate professional. He's not over-the-top in his portrayal of Mr. Cherry, but does pull off a convincing Grapes. If you're a Smallville fan, he played "Nate" in two episodes in 2004. He's also a part of I Love You, Beth Cooper that is to be released this year, and he plays a character named Dustin.

Stephen McHattie appears as Eddie Shore, head coach and owner of the Springfield Indians. He has literally appeared in hundreds of television and movie productions. He plays the ornery Shore, and really looked good in the part today.

If you're interested in getting involved, and will be in southern Manitoba soon, here is the website with all the info you may want to read. I won't lie: the days are long, and there is a lot of takes, re-takes, and re-dos. But it is an experience that is interesting to see, and really gives you a perspective as to why it sometimes takes projects years to get to the screen. The directors and producers are looking for something specific, and it has to be right for them to move on.

And just to give you a little insider, the story is about Rose Cherry, their life together, their kids, and Cherry's nomadic career as much as it is about Donald S. Cherry. Honestly, today was a pretty solid day of filming, and it appears that the CBC is going for all-out historical accuracy in this hockey biography.

Much like Mr. Cherry says, it looks like "a beauty".

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Kronwall's Dismissal

Hockey playoffs are all about momentum. Teams with momentum can barrel through series with little effort, while teams needing momentum usually face an uphill battle in trying to get it. Momentum can be gained through several means: a big goal, a fight, or a timely, monsterous hit. Last night, Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings threw a huge hit on Chicago's Martin Havlat that left Havlat dazed and confused (to say the least). Hvalat had to be helped off the ice on what appeared to be a good, clean hockey hit. That is, however, until Dan O'Halloran apparently dismissed Kronwall from the game with a game misconduct.

First, let's take a look at the hit.


Wow. Solid check with the shoulder. Havlat's out cold.

Now, there has been some debate as to why this hit was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Clearly, Kronwall did not do anything malicious in terms of intent to injure even though Havlat's night was over. It is, in my opinion, a good hockey hit.

The problem, though, was explained in detail by retired NHL linesman Ray Scapinello on The Score television network last night. During the show Hardcore Hockey Talk with Steve Kouleas, Scapinello was asked about the hit. Here's the explanation on how that hit warranted a game misconduct.

According to Scapinello and proved by the video, Martin Havlat never touches the puck. By every letter of the rulebook, this is interference. While Scapinello doesn't deny that protecting the puck with a player's body could be considered puck possession, Havlat never touched the puck so the call of interference can be made on that play.

Where the five-minute major comes in is through Rule 56.4, which reads:
"The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence, to a player or goalkeeper guilty of interfering with an opponent (see 56.5)."
As Scapinello said last night on television, linesmen can call major penalties if they see one without raising their hands or arm into the air. Because O'Halloran was behind the net during the hit, he is simply responsible for announcing the penalty, and that's how the NHL came to state that O'Halloran "made the call" when, in fact, one of the linesmen had to have made that call.

Where the game misconduct comes into play is through Rule 56.5, which reads:
"When a major penalty is imposed under this rule (Rule 56.4) for a foul resulting in an injury of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed."
Because Kronwall was already assessed the five-minute major for interference, the rulebook states that he must also receive a game misconduct for that play. While he could have simply been given a two-minute minor penalty, someone on the ice in stripes had to have felt that this hit was more violent than just a two-minute trip to the sin bin.

Now, Scapinello felt it was a good hockey hit as well, but, as he stated time and again, the rulebook's wording made it impossible for Kronwall to remain in the game unless his penalty was downgraded from a five-minute major penalty to a two-minute minor penalty. The only way to change this from happening again, according to Scapinello, would be to change the rulebook.

Personally, I truly believe that Scapinello's explanation will help Red Wings fans and hockey fans understand this a little more. Is it right? Probably not. I thought it was a clean hit, and one that Havlat should have known was coming. But at least with Scapinello's explanation, Kronwall's dismissal makes some sense.

Beauty hit. Strange rules.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 22 May 2009

What Zetterberg Does At Home

Some people love Twittering. Some people love Facebooking. Others love blogging. I'm one of the latter people, but I also love receiving emails. Don't get me wrong - I use my phone and write letters by hand as well, but a good email brings a smile to my face. A good email can be a number of things: a friend saying "hello", a funny picture or video, or, in the case of this blog, an email about something cool in the hockey world. And I am happy to report that the latest email I received from a reader contains two of those things that make a good email, and I'm hoping to turn it into all three things.

I was a little apprehensive to open Jakob Hawkins' email today about a commercial as I suspected it might be spam, but I'm glad I did. Jakob, and his Detroit-based friend named Greg DeLiso, decided to take marketing for the NHL to a whole new level. Granted, neither of these men don't have any affiliation with the NHL, it's marketing partners, or its franchises, but they are doing something that could be the next big wave in marketing the NHL: they are producing their own commercials.

We've seen other people bring to light their Do-It-Yourself projects, and the results have been pretty good. What Jakob and Greg have done, however, is spectacular.

I'll let you read through Jakob's email to me before you get to the goods. Of course, you can skip past this and head right to the embedded video if you want, but you'll miss the entire premise behind this endeavor, and it's this premise that makes this project so cool. Here we go:

OK. So here’s the deal. A few months ago my friend Greg, a Detroit native, and I were sitting around, hanging out when he remarked how much I really look like Henrik Zetterberg. I had heard this a few times before but neither of us had really put much thought into it. About a week or so later, I had an idea while riding the subway. You see, Greg and I both live in NYC, I’m an actor and he’s a filmmaker. It dawned on me that we should shoot something with me as Zetterberg...

The more the two of us talked, the more we figured out that we both had problems with the current NHL marketing campaign, and who better to come up with some new commercials than us. So, we set off scripting a series of commercials, storyboarding them with artist friends of ours, putting together presentation packets, and then shooting and editing several commercials. We created an entire advertising campaign for NHL. Once we had all of our stuff put together we realized that we needed to get our stuff to them…

Well, the first part turned out to be the easy part. Using just about every connection we had, we ended up getting the material to a few people who said they would “pass it along” at the NHL. Well, as many of us know, rarely does this make for a sure bet.

After a few weeks, we again came to another realization. If you want to get someone’s attention, it’s a lot easier if you have a thousand, or ten thousand, or a hundred thousand people with you.

SO HERE WE ARE, we want to bring it to the people. LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE! If the people think it works, then a message will get sent to the NHL that IT DOES WORK!

This is our first video made specifically for the playoff run to the Stanley Cup.

The concept involves a hapless Zetterberg doppelganger going about his daily life in hockey gear. YES, FULL UNIFORM! He eats, sleeps, and bathes like this. The follow up commercials we are planning to release soon include going on a job interview, fighting pollution, taking a guitar lesson and many more to come. With a little help, we will be able to show the NHL the full scope of our campaign which goes far beyond just Zetterberg and the Redwings.

This is us, the little guy, average Joe, David. Not trying to take down Goliath, but just trying to let him know that we are here. That sometimes to find out what the people want, you should just go to the people. We know what we like.

Thank you.

Go Zetterberg! Go Redwings! Go HOCKEY!

Jakob Hawkins & Greg DeLiso
So now that you know why they are doing it, take a look at what they are doing:

Pretty cool for a couple of amateurs, right? Yes, it doesn't have the big-budget NHL dollars behind it, but it really hits home. It's funny, it's goofy, and it goes to show that NHL players are really like you and me. That's effective marketing when it comes to forging a bond between millionaire athlete and blue-collar fan.

I've emailed Mr. Hawkins back with the request that he keeps my email handy upon the publication of his next video. If you like the video, please leave a comment on the YouTube site, or drop me a line and I'll pass on your praise for Jakob and Greg's work.

Who knows? Maybe they'll be running next season's marketing campaign for the NHL.

Huge thumbs-up from this writer, gentlemen. I loved the commercial, and can't wait to see the next one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

What A Game!

Well, say what you want about Carolina not being as offensively gifted as the Washington Capitals, but whatever they are missing, they make up for in dogged determination and relentless attacks. Game Two between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes was, in one word, fantastic. Before this year's playoffs, when was the last time you saw 11 goals scored by two teams in a Conference Final? Go all the way back to May 30, 1999 when the Colorado Avalanche outscored the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final by a 7-5 margin. If you want goals, the Eastern Conference is providing them in bunches.

Carolina had never lost a Game Two that Ca, Ward started since moving to North Carolina, and they needed a split to go home with home-ice advantage. However, you can forget about Carolina's and Cam Ward's Game Two dominance. Evgeni Malkin would have none of that talk tonight. His three goals and one assist was enough to even Carolina's four goals tonight. Crosby chipped in a goal and an assist, and Chris Kunitz had a goal and two assists tonight. The stars came to play tonight in Pittsburgh, and they wore black-and-Vegas-gold.

That's not to say that Carolina didn't play hard. Carolina tied the game at 1-1, 2-2, took a lead at 3-2, and then tied the game at 4-4 before the Penguins began driving nails into the coffin. After watching Carolina storm back in Game Seven against the Devils in the opening round, and then ousting Boston in overtime in Game Seven in Round Two, I was convinced that no lead was safe. And apparently the Penguins felt the same way as they continued to forecheck hard.

If you didn't see it, Evgeni Malkin's goal for the hat-trick was literally one of the best backhands I have seen this season. Here are Malkin's three goals tonight, his first NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs hat-trick:


That backhander? Unbelievable. All-world talent.

Are you ready for Game Three, Raleigh? This series is turning out to be another highlight reel series.

Cam Ward vs. Marc-Andre Fleury? Edge thus far to Fleury.
Staal vs. Staal? Eric has no goals, and Carolina has no wins.
Crosby and Malkin? Difference-makers thus far in the series.

Yes, the stars have shown up for this series. I'm looking forward to Game Three!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mediate To A Stalemate

I just came inside from tearing down a rotting, wooden fence in the backyard. We got through about half the fence before we called it quits. However, my dad and I had a great conversation about the Coyotes, where they are moving to, why they should or shouldn't move, and what Jim Balsillie's major malfunction might be. My dad is a traditionalist - he loves the Bruins, Bobby Orr, Cam Neely, Phil Esposito, Milan Lucic, and "playing the game with grit". He hates the fact that there are teams in places where they never have a snowflake, but he supports the growth of the game. It was in knowing this detail that I struck up the conversation regarding the Coyotes.

Basically, it comes down to this mediation process. If the mediation process gets nowhere in terms of closing the chasm between Jerry Moyes and the NHL, the judge has bought himself an additional month of time before he is required to make a decision on who owns and/or runs the Coyotes. However, if the mediation process can bring the two sides together, the judge doesn't have to make a ruling as an agreement will be hammered out.

But that seems completely impossible if you view the NHL's stance on the matter. If they begin to concede some concessions, they will have to be fluff. And by "fluff", I mean items in the agreement that will mean virtually nothing in the overall decision. After all, the NHL has maintained since Moyes filed for bankruptcy that they were running the show in Phoenix. And it doesn't look like they will budge on this stance unless Moyes hands over control in the agreement.

Of course, Jerry Moyes has no interest in handing over control as he is the largest investor in the Coyotes, and clearly wants to maximize his return on investment by selling to the highest bidder, also known as Jim Balsillie. If he grants control to the NHL, he stands to lose the most money on the investment. Any good businessman will tell you that Moyes would have to make some sort of backroom deal with the NHL in order for him to hand over control at this point when he has so much to potentially lose.

That leads us back to a stalemate, and one that Judge Redfield T. Baum has to be anticipating based upon the two sides. Whether or not the NHL had a bid from Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, is anyone's guess at this point, but it is almost assured to be less than what Balsillie offered simply due to the Coyotes' insolvency problems and value of the franchise according to Forbes.

On the other hand, there is a movement to keep the team in Phoenix now as Coyotes' minority partner John Breslow has apparently put together a group of investors to purchase the team from Moyes/the NHL, thereby keeping the team in Glendale. This new team backs the NHL's bid to prevent the move of the franchise. Again, it is speculated that the bid by this team would be significantly lower than what Balsillie's bid was. I'm quite certain that Mr. Breslow would be aware of the value of the franchise.

There is one thing that is certain at this point: the June 22 date that the mediation is supposed to conclude by may not prove anything. However, with the date being that late into the summer, it might just prove to be the best thing that Judge Baum could have done for the NHL, Mr. Breslow, and the fans of the Coyotes.

After all, training camps open just a mere two months later.

My dad? He thinks that the Coyotes should stay where they are. He is convinced that Balsillie is insane for trying to put a team into Hamilton's Copps Coliseum. Most of all, he doesn't want to see the team fail in Winnipeg again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I Fired My GM

After a busy day at work, I rushed off to a softball game. As much as I like softball, I hate missing good hockey games, and tonight's Detroit-Chicago tilt was a beauty. I was all prepared to write about how I enjoyed watching Detroit's grinders skate the puck up ice on a three-on-one with Samuelsson driving home the dagger, but one of these to the left is impeding my progress. Somewhere between me leaving for work at 8:30am this morning and now, my computer traded some future considerations for a nasty virus. And I'm not happy about this deal.

Officially, I am putting my article on hold while I work to jettison this unwanted acquisition to the minors or, in the best interest of everyone, out of the game altogether. I expect to be back up and running after picking up this Kapersky guy on waivers. He seems like he wants the virus' position on this team.

Once I get my computer back to normal, the show will go on. Right now, I have to do what's best for me and my computer. I'll be back tomorrow, kids.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Cincinnati Crooning

While I'm sure this is common knowledge if you grew up in the 1970s in Cincinnati, Ohio, it was presented to me today and totally made me laugh. If you follow hockey, you know the man to the left as Rick Dudley. Rick played for the Sabres and Jets in the NHL, and for the Cincinnati Stingers in the WHA. He spent a year or two in the AHL and IHL as well. Of course, he's probably best remembered by the younger crowd for his coaching stops in Buffalo and Florida, and for being the architect of the Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup in 2004. Today, he's the assistant general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. For a guy who was never drafted into the NHL, he's carved out a pretty good career in The Show. And to think that he could have toured North America in a different way had he followed another path that was laid down during his time in Ohio.

Confused? Well, Rick Dudley actually wrote music! And not only that, but the guy even produced his own '45 and released it to the world! In 1975, Dudley produced an album under the label of Do Right Records that featured two songs: A-side's Natural Man and B-side's I Don't Want To Cry. Mad Dog Music published this masterpiece album, and was engineered by Phil Burkhardt.

According to an interview done by Jeff Marek and Dennis Beyak on Hockey Night In Canada radio, Dudley said that the whole music phenomenon started when he was discussing music in Cincinnati Stingers' dressing room. A few of the Stingers had indicated that they would hang out and play music to pass the time on the road, and they invited Dudley to come out and hang out with them. One thing led to another, and Dudley began singing at these get-togethers. This led to Dudley writing music, and the rest is music history.

The Stingers, once they got a hold of the album, used it for a myriad of marketing purposes, and Dudley made a name for himself for a few years in the Ohio city for something other than hockey. When Cincinnati was rejected entry into the NHL, Dudley's album was lost in the shuffle, and he moved onto Buffalo to continue his hockey career. His music career, however, was pushed to the back-burner as he re-joined the NHL.

Now, I'm not trying to embarrass Mr. Dudley in any way, and I really respect the fact that he has this musical talent. Of course, it's campy, 1970s AM-dial stuff, but Dudley is officially a musician. Thanks to a great site called StingersHistory.com, you can hear Dudley's singing live on your computer.

Here is Natural Man and I Don't Want To Cry in Windows Media Format. Get yourself a roaring fire going in the fireplace, pull out the old bearskin rug, and grab a couple of glasses of champagne for you and your significant other. The sounds of Rick Dudley will increase the romanticism tenfold. At least. He's Cincinnati's Marvin Gaye without any doubt.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Long Weekend Sunday

It's nothing more than a Sunday of relaxation for me as I gear up for Game One of the Western Conference Final between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. It's been a long time since these two long-time rivals squared off in the playoffs, and even longer since they squared off for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. In being that it's a lazy Sunday for me, however, I didn't bother to look up any of that info. My memory seems to indicate that 1994 would have been the last time these two teams met in the playoffs, but I could be wrong. In honour of me not doing anything of note today, it's time for a quick glance around the hockey world before we focus back in on the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

  • History was made at the USHL draft on May 13. I had been emailed this story earlier in the week, and full credit goes to Drew of IllegalCurve.com for breaking the info. USA Under-18 women's team goaltender Alex Rigsby became the first female player drafted into the USHL as she was picked 199th overall in the 16th round by the Chicago Steel. The former Milwaukee Junior Admirals goaltender is a stand-out female player, and has verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin for 2010-11 season. The USHL has produced a number of players for the NCAA, and Miss Rigsby looks to be the next in the a long line of collegiate-bound players. Congratulations to Miss Rigsby on being drafted!
  • Game Two of the AHL Western Conference Final went last night in Winnipeg as the Houston Aeros and Manitoba Moose tangled again. This one was over quickly as the Aeros really looked tired. Manitoba used three goals in a 6:49 span in the first period to jump on the Aeros quickly, and they lead the series 2-0 after a 5-2 win last night. It is the ninth-straight win for the Moose who really look like a well-oiled machine. Jason Krog, Michael Grabner, and Raymond Sawada put the Moose up 3-0. Cory Hodgson, who I am thoroughly impressed with, notched his first professional goal 1:55 into the second period before Grabner added his second of the game to stake Manitoba to a 5-0 lead. JP Testwuide and Marco Rosa cut the deficit back to three goals before the end of the second before a scoreless third period led to the Moose win. Game Three goes tomorrow night in Houston and Game Four goes Wednesday.
  • In the AHL Eastern Conference Final, the Providence Bruins drew first blood as they held on for a 3-2 win over the Hershey Bears. The Bruins became the first team to win at the Giant Centre this postseason, ending the Bears' six-game home winning streak. Jeff Penner opened the scoring for the Bruins at 8:03, and Jordan Knackstedt doubled lead just over eight minutes later. Oskar Osala of Hershey cut the lead to one goal when he beat Tuukka Rask in the second period, but Zach Hamill restored the two-goal lead minutes later. Osala struck again in the second period, leading to a tense third period. With goaltender Michal Neuvirth on the bench late in the third period, Alexandre Giroux made an incredible pass to Keith Aucoin who was open at the side of the net. And not just open, like he had minutes-to-make-a-sandwich-and-eat-it open before scoring the goal. It appeared to even catch him off-guard because once he got the puck off his stick, Rask slid across with his pad to preserve the win. Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final goes tonight in Hershey before Game Three goes Friday, May 22 in Providence.
  • The ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals are set, and this year's combatants are the Alaska Aces and the South Carolina Stingrays. The Aces defeated the Utah Grizzlies 4-1 in the first round, defeated the Victoria Salmon Kings 4-1 in the second round, and then knocked off the Las Vegas Wranglers 4-0 in the Western Conference Final. South Carolina kocked off the Charlotte Checkers 4-2 in the first round, defeated the Florida Everblades 4-2 in the second round, and then swept through the Cincinnati Cyclones by a 4-0 count in the Eastern Conference Final. Game One of the Kelly Cup Final is scheduled for Friday, May 22 in Anchorage, Alaska.
  • The Canadian men's sledge hockey team brought home some hardware from the 2009 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship, but it wasn't the colour of a title defence. Team USA, one of the teams that I had noted as being an up-and-coming team, wrestled the right to go to the gold medal game with a 2-1 shootout win over the Canadians. Adam Page of the USA opened the scoring early in the second period, but Marc Dorion tied the game with 1:41 left to play. Overtime solved nothing, so a shootout was needed. Bradley Bowden scored the lone Canadian goal in the shootout as American goaltender Steve Cash was brilliant all game. The American shootout goals were scored by Taylor Lipsett and Adam Page. Congratulations to the Americans on their win, and good luck to them in the gold medal game!
  • Canada, on the other hand, would play for bronze against the Japanese squad after they lost 2-1 to Norway. Todd Nicholson opened the scoring against the Japanese just 4:53 in to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Graeme Murray added a second Canadian goal at 6:19 of the second period. That would be all that Canada needed as goaltender Paul Rosen shut the door on the Japanese to preserve the 2-0 bronze medal win. It wasn't a gold medal, but Canada still brings home some hardware. Congratulations to the Canadian team for an outstanding tournament once again!
  • The upstart Americans had a date with the Norwegians in the final, and they come in confident. Both teams battled hard throughout the game, but goaltenders Steve Cash and Roger Johansen kept the game scoreless. It wasn't until a late face-off in the Norwegian zone that things changed. At 14:46 of the third, Taylor Chace won an offensive zone draw and slid the puck back to Andy Yohe. Yohe made no mistake as he ripped a slapshot over Johansen's right shoulder to give the Americans a 1-0 lead with only 11 seconds to play. Norway could not capitalize in those last few seconds, and the American squad won their first World Sledge Hockey Championship. Congratulations to the Americans for an outstanding tournament, and your first gold medal at this event!
Ok, I'm off to watch Detroit and Chicago slug it out in a Central Division battle for the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Have a great Sunday, everyone!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Bettman Vs. Teebz

I can't believe that I am writing this, but this had better be the last time that Gary Bettman brings up Winnipeg when referring to moving an NHL franchise. I thought I had beat the dead horse enough when trying to explain why Winnipeg is not an NHL town, but some people either don't read this blog (99.9% probable) or they simply aren't listening (Bettman listen to a blogger?). So I will go over the finer points again. Winnipeg, for all the good intentions that Gary Bettman has towards the city, is not an NHL city. It will never be an NHL city in the next decade, and we need to put this false hope to bed now before this gets out of hand.

How did this turn of events come about? According to an affidavit filed in a Phoenix courtroom on Friday, lawyer Earl Scudder, a lawyer hired by Jerry Moyes, stated that he was told by Bettman that Hamilton was not an ideal location for an NHL franchise "because Copps Coliseum is over 30 years old". He also stated that Bettman informed him that "if the team did return to Canada, it would be to Winnipeg". Scudder's affidavit also states that Bettman informed him that the only way southern Ontario will receive another team is through expansion, not relocation.

Seriously, enough. This is nothing but "legalese" - posturing between two sides of a courtroom in an effort to gain a foothold for an argument. Dragging the citizens of Winnipeg back into the argument, essentially by dangling a carrot in front of them that they once cared for, will only open old wounds.

I have gone over the reasons why Winnipeg is not an NHL city over and over and over and over again. I'm not about to re-open the argument.

Someone is willing, though. Darren Ford is a Winnipegger by birth, and is passionate about the former NHL franchise that used to reside in his city. He even started a website in 2003 called JetsOwner.com where he posted his thoughts on the state of the NHL without the Jets in it. Clearly, Darren would like to see the return of the Jets to the River City.

What Mr. Ford is peddling is nothing more than smoke, readers. I have read through his site, and I respect what he is doing, but there's little reason to believe that the NHL should return. His "How Much" page states that "there is no doubt NHL hockey will cost triple what the AHL currently costs in MTS Centre". I find this to be close to the truth when comparing ticket prices across the NHL spectrum.

What Mr. Ford fails to disclose is that Winnipeg is a blue-collar town. It is not a town with big businesses looking to wine-and-dine investors. Instead, Winnipeggers look for a deal or try to use a coupon whenever they can. While he does mention that "over 90 companies currently support the AHL Moose in this city in the form of luxury suites", there are not 90 suites available for rental in the MTS Centre. That means that companies share the boxes in order to reduce costs. Again, I can't see how these smaller businesses that are sharing boxes will pay three times what they are paying now, especially when Mr. Ford states bluntly that luxury suites "would run our big companies $150,000 per season".

Wanna know why hockey isn't in Winnipeg anymore? Perhaps it could be the fact that there are not a lot of corporations willing to shell out $150,000 per season for hockey tickets?

He goes on to mention that "the real statistic the NHL needs to look at is not raw population, but rather hockey fans per-capita". Exactly how does the NHL determine that? What scientific surveying technique will pull the information out of someone to determine if they are a hockey fan that is willing to pay three times the amount to watch NHL hockey as they do to watch AHL hockey? I have to see this technique at work. Excuse my cutting sarcasm.

Mr. Ford goes on to state that "the big TV dream in the United States is finally dead". Except it isn't. Versus, while being a great vehicle for hockey right now in the US, is starting to lose its lustre due to its lack of availability across the continental United States. In order for ESPN to even consider the NHL again, the NHL has to be in the larger TV markets in the US. That means that Winnipeg is not an option whatsoever.

And what markets will EPSN consider? Phoenix is a gigantic market in the southwest, and that's what ESPN considers. It doesn't care about the per-capita hockey fans. It only cares about the total number of people living in an area it can reach. Why? Because ratings don't care who is a hockey fan. Ratings simply determined who watched. And that's what ESPN cares about.

Don't forget that the CBC rarely showed Winnipeg games on Hockey Night In Canada. Playing in the Central time zone doesn't fly well when Toronto is on from 6pm until 9pm locally, followed by the Western game featuring Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver. For the CBC, Winnipeg is kind of a wasteland of hockey broadcasting because it doesn't work well in the East-to-West showing of games. That's also working against Winnipeg.

Where Mr. Ford really flies off the handle is his revenue generation estimation. He states that the new NHL Jets could earn a "revenue of over $1.1 million CDN (or $946,000 USD @ 0.85 exchange rate) per game assuming a sellout". I'm going to refer Mr. Ford to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With the Mellon Arena currently 2000 seats larger than the MTS Centre, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux has stated time and again that the Penguins need a larger arena to be viable in the NHL. Now that there is one being built, he only needs to worry about filling it, but that hasn't been a problem either with the dynamic young team he has on the ice.

While it's true that some NHL teams give away tickets to attract fans to games, the top NHL teams do not. For every Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Boston sell-out this year, there were sections of great seats available in places like Atlanta, Phoenix, Florida, and Long Island. The reality is that a crappy NHL team doesn't draw fans. Pittsburgh, during their dark days pre-Crosby, went through this same cycle. They claimed bankruptcy, and had to start working their way back. The problem is that Phoenix is terrible, and they don't look to be breaking out of that funk anytime soon. Ditto for Atlanta.

Concluding that the MTS Centre would be sold out every single night is a pipe dream. If Winnipeg didn't do it when the Jets were here the first time, they won't do it now. And if Mr. Ford's analysis somehow proves correct, the new Jets would have to sellout EVERY SINGLE GAME IN THEIR HISTORY just to turn a profit. And if the salary cap went up? What then? How do you add seats to an arena that only holds 15,000 including standing room?

Don't forget that the NHL's Board of Governors are split decidedly about revenue sharing. Those that are making piles of money aren't exactly thrilled with writing cheques to the ten franchises that are weighing down the league like anchors on boats. With Winnipeg potentially being the smallest city in the NHL and having no wiggle room after requiring that every game sell-out forever, how long before the NHL Board of Governors say "enough is enough" again? How long before Winnipeg is the next franchise being rumoured to move?

Enough is enough with yanking Winnipeg's chain. It is not an NHL city. As much as everyone seems to dream that the Jets will return to their home, Winnipeg is not a suitable destination for a landing. With the local governments drowning in required civic improvement costs, an NHL team is a luxury at this point.

And it's one that Winnipeg can neither afford nor support.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!