The biggest shopping day each year comes on July 1 for thirty men with deep pockets. The NHL Free Agency Market opens tomorrow, and there will be general managers across the league looking to fill holes, change directions, and stock the cupboards as contracts are offered to players. Some players are of the "game-changing" nature: Kovalchuk, Gonchar, Hamhuis, and Volchenkov. These players, it seems, will attract the richest offers, and several teams have the salary cap to make those offers. But before any new players can be brought in, teams must first get their houses in order. HBIC is no different, and tonight I want to do a little clean up on the blog before the storm of free agency hits. There will be a number of items covered, so let's get to the organizing and cleaning.
- The first of two major summer projects will run on Saturdays throughout the summer. The Saturday Funnies will literally be a page of hockey-related comic strips that runs weekly on, as its name suggests, Saturday. I have begun contacting several authors of some of the better comic strips I've read that deal in hockey matters, and I'm hoping they'll climb aboard for some free advertising compliments of HBIC. If, for whatever reason, the authors decline and there are not enough strips to make it worth the effort, I'll announce a change in this project. The Funnies page will make its debut by next Saturday at the latest.
- The second summer project, as suggested by Ben, will be a look at advertising around the boards in NHL arenas. As you may know, there are a lot of advertisements pasted on the boards in NHL rinks, but they have changed throughout the years from more local advertising to league-wide advertising. I plan on featuring at least a few rinks per week throughout the summer as I embark on a very ambitious project. If you have any images of your local rink, please send them to me and I'll get them in order. I plan on having the first rink posted by next week.
- There was lots of coverage of the passing of one of the most dedicated men I've ever read about a couple of weeks ago. Manute Bol, former NBA player, passed away at the age of 47, and his work to help the people of Sudan was incredible. His charitable work alone would be reason enough for me to pay my respects to him, but it was his one night as a member of the Indianapolis Ice of the CHL that many in the hockey community will remember of the seven-foot-seven gentle giant. Rest in peace for eternity, Mr. Bol. I'll always look up to you for your amazing humanitarian efforts.
- There have been a number of trades as teams prepare for the free agent blitz tomorrow, but the Blackhawks were shedding salary again today. This time, they dealt Kris Versteeg and Bill Sweatt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Viktor Stalberg, Philippe Paradis, and Chris DiDomenico. Getting Versteeg is not exactly the first-line centerman that GM Brian Burke may be after, but he's the kind of gritty player that Burke likes. With another salary off the books, it appears that the Blackhawks are serious about signing Antti Niemi and Andrew Ladd in the coming days.
- For all of your off-season trades thus far, check out the TSN Trade Tracker.
- Lastly, I am pushing forward with the HBIC prizes. I'm not waiting days for people to respond anymore. Jim W. and Tom O. should contact me ASAP in order to get in on the prize action. I'm moving on starting tomorrow, and everyone on the prize list is now being notified that they have 24 hours to respond. No exceptions will be made.
Until tomorrow, keep your sticks on the ice!