Hockey Headlines

Monday, 28 February 2011

Going Further East

Yesterday, we took a look at the opening games for the Western Conference in the 2011 KHL Gagarin Cup Playoffs. One team, SKA Saint Petersburg, had already moved on to the second round after sweeping Spartak Moscow, but the other three series were still on-going. I didn't look at the four series in the Eastern Conference that began on Thursday, so tonight would be an appropriate time to update those skirmishes. One of these teams will represent the Eastern Conference in the Gagarin Cup final, so let's take a look at who is marching towards glory!

(1) Avangard Omsk Oblast vs. (8) Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk

Avangard was the top team in the KHL this season after having amassed 118 points in 54 games, so there wasn't much hope for Neftekhimik when this series started on Thursday night as 43 points separated these teams in the standings. However, an early goal by Igor Polygalov put the underdogs up just nine minutes into the game! Neftekhimik battled hard and refused to give up any chances through most of the game, but Avangard finally broke through just 54 seconds into the third period. Alexei Kaluzhny scored for Avangard, and the game was tied at 1-1. The two teams continued to play stingy defence, and we were off to overtime after sixty minutes. Just 4:19 into the extra frame, Igor Polygalov notched his second of the night past former NHL goaltender Karri Ramo, and Neftekhimik recorded the 2-1 overtime victory in Game One!

Game Two went on Friday night, and we saw more of the same defensive play in the second act of this series. In fact, both teams held each other at bay through all three periods, sending the game to overtime tied 0-0 as both Karri Ramo and Neftekhimik's Ivan Kasutin were perfect through sixty minutes! It didn't takevery long to decide a winner once overtime started, though. Avangard's Dmitry Semin put the puck behind Kasutin, and Avangard recorded the 1-0 overtime victory in Game Two to even the series at 1-1.

With the series heading back to Omsk on Sunday, there was some concern on the Avangard side about their play. More goals would be needed if the team was to succeed, and we got to see a few more in Game Three. Niklas Persson opened the scoring for Neftekhimik with a shorthanded marker just 2:52 in, but that deficit would be erased by Igor Volkov six minutes later. Renat Mamashev put Neftekhimik up by one goal 2:15 into the second period, but Avangard responded five minutes later when Yegor Averin wired home his first of the playoffs. With less than three minutes left in the second period, Neftekhimik's Libor Pivko deposited another puck behind Karri Ramo as Neftekhimik closed out the period up 3-2. Solid defence was played the rest of the way, and Neftekhimik closed out Game Three with the 3-2 victory to go up 2-1 in the series.

Game Four saw one of the poster children for the KHL come alive. Avangard's Jaromir Jagr, who had been held pointless in the first three games, set up two goals on this night. Avangard's Roman Cervenka also added a pair of helpers as three different scorers found the back of the net for Avangard on Monday. Pavel Brendl was the only player to beat Ramo on this night, and Avangard skated to the 3-1 victory. Once again, the series was tied, and the 2-2 deadlock meant that this series was now a best-of-three!

Game Five of this series is set for Wednesday, March 3, and Game Six appears to be scheduled for Friday. If a Game Seven is necessary, we're looking at a Saturday or Sunday date for that game.

You have to think that Avangard will break pout of their funk and start scoring some goals on Neftekhimik. However, I really like the job that Neftekhimik is doing in neutralizing Avangard's scorers, especially Jaromir Jagr. If Neftekhimik can keep this up, we might see another upset! I'm pulling for Neftekhimik in this one just to see if I can predict both first-seeded teams eliminated in the first round!

(2) Ak Bars Kazan vs. (7) Barys Astana

Kazan are the defending Gagarin Cup Champions, and are looking to make it three KHL Championships in a row! Standing between them and glory are Barys Astana from Astana, Kazakhstan. Game One, like the series above, was a defence-first game as the two teams combined for one goal. Yep, just one. Barys' Vitaly Yeremeyev played an outstanding game, but he was the goaltender who allowed the one goal. Kazan's Jarkko Immonen scored at 13:34 of the first period, and it was all the offence that Petri Vehanen needed as he shut the door on Barys. Ak Bars Kazan win the game by a 1-0 score, and go up in the series 1-0.

Game Two on Friday saw Kazan treat Barys in the same fashion as they did in Game One. Goals by Alexei Morozov, Marcel Hossa, and Alexei Tereshchenko powered Kazan to a second straight victory. How was this game the same, you ask? Petri Vehanen pitched his second straight shutout in backstopping Kazan to the 3-0 victory. It doesn't look promising for Barys when they have yet to record a goal in two playoff games. Kazan jumps ahead 2-0 in the series with the victory.

Sunday's Game Three saw Kazan rolling again as they took Barys to the woodshed. Kazan hung half a dozen goals on Barys as Janne Pesonen, Danis Zaripov, Jarkko Immonen, and Grigory Panin all scored singles while Alexei Morozov recorded a pair of goals. Morozov finished the night with four points, and Evgeny Medvedev had a pair of helpers. Petri Vehanen was looking for his third straight shutout, but his bid to open a playoff series with three straight blankings ended when Lukas Kaspar scored a powerplay goal at 3:04 of the third period for Barys. If you're keeping track at home, that 163:04 of shutout hockey that Vehanen had going. Kazan rolls to the 6-1 victory in Game Three, and Barys found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 series deficit.

Game Four has already been completed, and I can tell you that the champs are marching onward. Kazan jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Danis Zaripov and Alexei Tarashchenkov, but Barys made this one interesting. A powerplay goal at the end of the second period by Maxim Khudyakov made it a 2-1 game, and then a shorthanded marker 4:33 into the third period from Roman Starchenko squared the game at 2-2. Less than two minutes later, Zaripov scored again, and Kazan was back up 3-2. With 32 seconds remaining and Barys' Jeff Glass sitting on the bench for an extra attacker, Kazan iced the game and series when Niko Kapanen scored into the vacant net. Kazan wins Game Four by a 4-2 score, and sweeps the series against Barys Astana.

No additional games or predictions are needed as Kazan now gets some precious time to rest up and get ready for the second round as they look to three-peat as KHL Champions!

(3) Salavat Yulaev Ufa vs. (6) Sibir Novosibirsk

Salavat and Sibir may have finished third and sixth in the conference, but the 26-point difference between the two teams became obvious as this series progressed. Game One on Thursday night saw Salavat build a 5-0 before Sibir woke up. Two goals each by Petr Schastlivy and Igor Grigorenko along with a single by Vladimir Anitpov had Salavat up 5-0 with 18 minutes to play. A couple of late goals by Sibir only took some shine off the win as Salavat cruised to the 5-2 victory, and moved to a 1-0 series lead.

Game Two on Friday night saw Sibir jump out in front as Stepan Sannikov scored 4:20 into the second period to open the scoring. That would be the last lead in the game that Sibir would have as Petr Schastlivy, Igor Grigorenko, and Kirill Koltsov scored for Salavat to lead them to a second straight win. Former LA King netminder Erik Ersberg stopped 25 of 26 shots for his second win as Salavat moved to a 2-0 series advantage. Former Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov had a pair of assists for Salavat on the evening.

Game Three had Salavat at home, and they continued to roll. Alexander Radulov had a goal and three assists, Robert Nilsson scored twice and added a helper, Patrick Thoresen record his fourth and fifth assists of the series as Salavat thumped Sibir by a 6-2 score. Alexander Kutuzov had a goal and an assist for Sibir, but it clearly wasn't enough as Sibir's Liv Stefan allowed five goals on 32 shots before being relieved by Yuri Klyuchnikov. With the win, Salavat pushed Sibir to the brink as they led the series 3-0.

With Sibir facing elimination on the road, they would need a substantial effort to get out Ufa and back on home ice. It didn't start well on Monday as Alexander Svitov opened the scoring for Salavat just 2:37 in. Viktor Kozlov made it 2-0 before the opening period was done with his second goal of the playoffs. The hole got deeper for Sibir in the second period as Alexander Radulov scored his second goal of the series with five minutes left in the second. Just to make it a little worse, Svitov scored his second goal of the game and playoffs two minutes later. It was all but over when former NHL star Vyacheslav Kozlov added his first goal of the playoffs midway through the third period. Erik Ersberg shut the door on Sibir as Salavat recorded the 5-0 win, ending the series in a sweep.

Much like the Kazan-Barys series, no additional games nor is a prediction needed as Salavat wrapped up the series this evening. Salavat now awaits to find out who their opponents are in the next series.

(4) Metallurg Magnitogorsk vs. (5) Yugra Khanty-Mansiysk

While these two finished right next to each other in the standings, there was a clear divide in terms of talent when looking at the standings. Metallurg finished 13 points ahead of Yugra in the standings, so there seems to be a clear favorite in this series. Game One seemed like Metallurg had an advantage as they got goals from Juhamatti Aaltonen and Oleg Kvasha over a six-minute span in the second period. However, a powerplay goal by Ivan Khlyntsev pulled Yugra within one goal again. Another powerplay goal by Evgeny Blokhin just 19 seconds into the third pulled Yugra even. However, goals by Metallurg's Petri Kontiola and Enver Lisin less than a minute apart put Metallurg up for good. Georgy Gelashvili closed the door the rest of the way, giving Metallurg the 4-2 victory and the 1-0 series lead.

Game Two in Yugra's hometown of Khanty-Mansiysk saw the home team score first midway through the second period. Ivan Khlyntsev's second goal in as many games put the home squad up 1-0. Former NHL star Sergei Fedorov evened the score less than six minutes later as his shot found its way past Yugra goaltender Edgar Masalskis. 7:50 into the third period, Yugra would jump ahead again as Alexei Pepelyaev notched his first marker of the series. Masalskis would stop everything else thrown his way as he recorded saves on 37 of 38 shots while preserving the 2-1 win for Yugra. With the win, Yugra pulled the series even at 1-1.

Game Three would see another game decided by that one-goal margin. Yugra wasted no time in the opening frame as they got goals from Alexei Pepelyaev, Andrei Sidyakin, and Kirill Petrov to put Metallurg in a 3-0 hole. Juhamatti Aaltonen began chipping away at the deficit with his goal two minutes into the second period. Mikhail Tyulyapkin then restored the three-goal margin 40 seconds later for Yugra. Four minutes later, Enver Lisin drew Metallurg within two again with his second of the series. Sergei Fedorov tacked on another goal for Metallurg five-and-a-half minutes later, making it 4-3 for Yugra through two periods. Both goaltenders held their ground in the third period, giving Yugra the 4-3 victory to put them up 2-1 in the series.

The Monday game was another low-scoring affair. Stanislav Chistov opened the scoring for Metallurg at 18:21 of the first period. Yurga drew even 4:17 into the second period as Dmitry Altaryev beat Georgy Gelashvili to even the game at 1-1. The game-winner was scored at 7:29 of the third period on a penalty shot! Yurga's Dmitry Altaryev hauled down Metallurg's Denis Platonov on a breakaway, so Platonov got a chance to do it all over again. On the penalty shot, he made no mistake as he buried the puck behind Edgar Masalskis. That goal on the uncontested breakaway was the winner, and the 2-1 victory pulled Metallurg even in the series at 2-2.

Game Five goes Wednesday night, Game Six is scheduled for Friday night, and it appears Game Seven will go sometime on Saturday.

As for predictions, I really like Metallurg simply because of their legacy of producing strong teams and great players. While Yurga is an intriguing pick simply due to their underdog status, I have to go with Metallurg.

There are the Eastern Conference series up to this point. I'll try to update these on the weekend to round out who is moving on and who is going home. Of course, we'll check my fearless, albeit uneducated, prognostications and see how I fared with my limited KHL knowledge.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Over In That Other League...

While we approach and anticipate the NHL Trade Deadline in North America tomorrow, there's a big event going on in the NHL's rival league as the KHL began the Gagarin Cup Playoffs on Wednesday. Sixteen teams qualified for the playoffs, and there are some definite favorites that could go all the way to Gagarin Cup final, so we'll break down this look at the KHL's "second season". There have definitely been a couple of surprises so far in the playoffs, so let's break down each series and see who the favorites are based upon the already-decided games.

We'll start with the Western Conference series today, and tomorrow will have the Eastern Conference series showcased.

(1) Lokomotiv Yaroslavl vs. (8) Dinamo Minsk

Lokomotiv saw three former NHL stars pace them to a victory as Josef Stumpel had three asissts, Pavol Demitra had a pair of assists, and Josef Vasicek had a goal and two assists. Jeff Platt pulled Dinamo Minsk to within a goal late in the second period as Lokomotiv led by a 5-4 score, but two third-period goals by Lokomotiv sealed the deal as they won Game One on Wednesday by a 7-4 score.

Game Two was played on February 24, and there was definitely a different feeling about this one. Jeff Platt had himself a great game for Dinamo Minsk as he chipped in a goal and two assists. Had it not been for a Pavol Demitra goal on a penalty shot with less than three minutes to play in the game, Robert Esche would have recorded the shutout. However, Dinamo Minsk tied the series at 1-1 with a 4-1 victory.

Game Three was played last night, and Dinamo Minsk continued to roll. Four different scorers put pucks past Dimitrij Kotschnew, including Jeff Platt's third goal of the series. Robert Esche stopped 37 of 38 shots sent his way, and Dinamo Minsk took the 2-1 series lead on the strength of a second 4-1 victory.

Game Four was already completed today, and the series is now even at two games apiece. Alexander Kalyanin had two goals to give him four in the series, and Andrei Kiryuhin's first of the series was the game-winner as Lokomotiv drew even with a 4-2 victory.

Game Five is scheduled for Tuesday night, and Game Six is set for Thursday, March 3. If a seventh game is necessary in this series, that will most likely be played on Friday, March 4.

I'm going to have to go out on a limb here and say that I like Lokomotiv's offence, but Dinamo Minsk does have solid goaltending with Robert Esche between the pipes. Defence, as you know, wins in the playoffs, so I'm calling an upset here as choosing Dinamo Minsk to advance!

(2) Dynamo Moscow vs. (7) Dinamo Riga

Wednesday night saw this series open in thrilling fashion. Both teams battled hard defensively, not allowing for many opportunities to be had. Mark Hartigan opened the scoring midway through the second period for Riga. With less than five minutes to play, Leo Komarov even the game with his unassisted goal. With the way that this game had been played over the previous 56 minutes, you had to know that overtime was coming. However, just 2:43 into overtime, Oskars Cibulskis wired a shot past Michael Garnett to give Riga the 2-1 overtime victory and the early 1-0 series lead.

Game Two on Thursday was the polar opposite of the opening game in this series. Scoring came fast and furious as the two teams combined for twelve goals! Former NHL bruiser Chris Simon had a pair of goals for Dynamo Moscow as Moscow hung eight goals on the Riga goaltending tandem of Mikael Tellqvist and Chris Holt. Dynamo Moscow ties the series at 1-1 with an 8-4 victory.

Saturday saw Game Three played in Moscow. Riga's Leo Komarov scored his third goal of the series in as many game, and forward Brock Trotter put three helpers on the board for Riga. Mikael Tellqvist looked like himself again as he only allowed one goal in this one as Riga took Game Three by a 5-1 score to go up 2-1 in the series.

Much like the series above this one, the results for Sunday's game have already been posted. Game Four was another nail-biter as this game needed extra time as well. Dmitry Pestunov scored 7:51 into the first period for Moscow. Riga responded 12:18 into the second period as Girt Ankipans notched his first goal of the playoffs. The third period was played scoreless, so we were off to the second overtime game of this series. It took nearly a full period, but Riga's Krisjanis Redlihs scored a powerplay goal in overtime after Moscow's Alexei Kudashov was sent off for roughing. Sandis Ozolinsh picked up his fourth assist of the series on the game-winner, and Riga found themselves up 3-1 in the series after the win on Sunday.

Game Five will be played on Tuesday, March 1. If necessary, Game Six appears to be scheduled for Thursday while I would assume Game Seven, if necessary, would happen on Friday to wrap up this series.

I have to go with Riga in this one. Mikael Tellqvist, aside from the Game Two blowout, has only given up three goals in the other three games, and the Riga defence has really been stingy in terms of scoring chances. Overall, Riga has been the better team thus far, and they deserve to move on.

(3) SKA Saint Petersburg vs. (6) Spartak Moscow

Wednesday night saw this game go down to the wire as well. This game had a number of former NHL players hit the scoresheet, and the game went back-and-forth before a winner was crowned. Evgeny Artyukhin scored for SKA, and it was matched by Spartak's Branko Radivojevic. Anton But and Alexei Yashin put SKA up by two goals, but they were erased by Kirill Knyazev and Radivojevic once again. With no winner after sixty minutes, overtime was needed. 7:31 into the extra frame saw SKA's Mattias Weinhandl score the game-winner to give SKA the 4-3 victory and the 1-0 series lead.

Game Two went Thursday night, and it seemed almost like a replay from the night before. Denis Denisov opened the scoring for SKA on the powerplay, and Maxim Sushinsky made it 2-0 for SKA. Before the end of the first, Oleg Piganovich cut the deficit in half for Spartak as his goal made it 2-1. Petr Cajanek made it 3-1 eight minutes into the second, but Stefan Ruzicka scored shorthanded at 13:46 to close the gap to one goal again as the period closed with SKA up 3-2. 12:53 into the third period saw Spartak complete the comeback as Alexander Yunkov scored his first goal on the powerplay to make it 3-3. There was no winner after sixty minutes, so we were off to overtime for the second straight game. And for the second time in two nights, Mattias Weinhandl ended the game, this time at 6:43 of the overtime period. With their second 4-3 overtime victory, SKA led the series 2-0.

Game Three was much different as SKA's former NHL stars came to play. Mattias Weinhandl scored in the first period for a change, Petr Prucha added his first goal, and Maxim Afinoganov had a pair of goals. Alexei Yashin and Denis Grebeshkov each recorded one assist while Petr Cajanek had two assists. There was no comeback on this night as SKA recorded the 5-2 victory over Spartak to go up 3-0 in the series. Spartak, backstopped by Dominik Hasek, now face elimination if they can't pull off four straight victories over SKA.

Game Four was played today, and there was certainly some energy in the air as SKA could close out the series as home. While Spartak got the first goal from Stefan Ruzicka, Maxim Sushinsky and Petr Prucha put SKA up 2-1 before the end of the first period. Two goals by Kirill Knyazev canceled out Matias Weinhandl's second period marker, and the teams would go into the last twenty minutes tied 3-3. 8:28 into the third period, Petr Prucha would convert a Sergei Brylin pass to put SKA up 4-3, and Prucha's third goal of the series would stand as the winner as SKA would close out this game and series with a 4-3 victory.

No other games are necessary, and there's no needed predictions here, so I'll leave you with this quote from 93 year-old Dominik Hasek after his team was eliminated in four straight games: "I need two or three weeks to decide about my career. I will think about my family. I hope that if I will continue my career, it will be in the KHL. It is the best league in Europe."

Maybe the 45 year-old stopper isn't done just yet.

(4) Atlant Moscow Oblast vs. (5) Severstal Cherepovets

The fourth series to start Wednesday featured Atlant and Severstal. Atlant has three former Vancouver Canucks on their roster, and all of them figured into the scoring in their first game. Kirill Lyamin and Vadim Shipachev scored for Severstal while Igor Musatov and Jan Bulis had goals for Atlant. However, nothing was settled through sixty minutes, so extra time was tacked on for a winner to emerge. It took 13:22, but defenceman Jaroslav Obsut finally gave Atlant the 3-2 overtime win. Obsut also added an assist on Bulis' second-period goal, and former Canuck Fedor Fedorov recorded an assist on Obsut's game-winner. Atlant was out to the early 1-0 series lead.

Severstal and Atlant clashed again on Thursday evening, and there was fire behind the Severstal lads. Severstal jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the game was nine minutes old as Yury Trubachev and Andrei Shefer scored their first goals of the playoffs. Fedor Fedorov closed the gap to 2-1 before the period ended, but the second period was all Severstal. Another goal early in the second period by Josef Straka chased Atlant goaltender Konstantin Barulin as he was replaced by Vitaly Koval in the blue paint, but that change didn't help. Goals by Vadim Shipachev and Sergei Soin made it 5-1 as the second period closed. Atlant got a third period goal from Edward Lewandowski, but Severstal cruised to the 5-2 victory to knot up the series at 1-1 again.

Game Three on Saturday was all about three: three goals in three periods. Ivan Nepryayev scored for Atlant in the first while Severstal got goals in the second and third periods from Evgeny Ketov. Vasily Koshechkin stopped 37 of 38 shots for Severstal in the victory as Severstal skated to the 2-1 victory for the 2-1 series lead.

Game Four on Sunday saw Atlant break out of their scoring funk in a big way. Oleg Petrov recorded a natural hat trick in the first period in three minutes, and Atlant had staked themselves to a 5-0 victory after the first frame! Had it not been for a second period goal by Alexei Tsvetkov on the powerplay, this would have been a whitewashing with a shutout! Instead, Petrov had three, Fedor Fedorov had two, and Atlant skated to a dominant 8-1 victory over Severstal to even the series at 2-2.

Game Five is scheduled for Tuesday evening, and Game Six has been set for Thursday night. If Game Seven is necessary, I'm guessing Friday would see this series wrap up.

As for predictions, this is a tougher series, but it seems as though Atlant has too much firepower to be held down for four games out of seven. While Severstal has done an excellent job in their two wins, Vasily Koshechkin has seen a lot of rubber already in this series, and we've only played four game. I have to think that Atlant will eventually dispose of Severstal, but it doesn't look to be an easy task.

Those are all the games thus far from the Western Conference of the KHL. The Western Conference is made up of eleven teams in two divisions: the Tarasov Division and the Bobrov Division. If you're counting, that's eight of eleven teams making the playoffs, meaning only CSKA, Vityaz Chekhov, and Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod missed the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Tomorrow, we'll look at how the Eastern Conference has been faring on their side of the bracket in the KHL Gagarin Cup Playoffs!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Tampa Looking More Like Tampa

Last month, it was a bit of a shock when the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that they were unveiling new uniforms for the 2011-12 NHL season. It was shocking because teams rarely announce new looks midway through their current season, especially if the changes are as dramatic as the Lightning showed. Apparently, there was a distinct method to their madness in TeeBay, though, as the Lightning came out with some revisions this past Wednesday to their new uniforms that make the Lightning look a lot more like the Lightning we've become accustomed to seeing on a nightly basis.

Back on January 31, I made the following comment in regards to the Lightning ditching the black and silver/gray in its colour scheme: "I feel that the home jersey's brand doesn't have the same effect without the black and silver that it once does, and the Lightning are worse off for it". A number of Lightning fans felt the same way, and the Lightning listened to the people paying their salaries. For once, a sports franchise actually listened to its fans in regards to its redesign!

The Lightning made two subtle changes their already-new uniforms, and these changes bring back part of the soul of that the Lightning seemed to have lost in their re-design. As you can see on the road jersey, they brought back a touch of black to help restore what was their original colour scheme. My only complaint about those numbers now are that the Lightning's numbers really look like the Maple Leafs' old numbers. This will only further the Lightning-Maple Leafs comparisons when it comes to their jerseys.

The second change is on the pants where the Lightning bolt reappears down the leg. It has been there before, and is certainly there this season, but the Lightning had opted to remove it off their new uniforms before the revision was put in place.

There two changes that seem minor are actually very good from this writer's perspective. Both changes keep the links to their history - which includes a Stanley Cup - and both keep the identity of the Lightning intact from what their brand had before the uniform changes. These two small changes get a thumbs-up from me, and I really think the Lightning have taken steps in the right direction thanks to them listening to their fans.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Exams Are Killing Me

I'm not going to lie, readers, when I tell you that this school stuff is taking over my life. Next week, I'm faced with five exams on five days, and that means I'll be studying my rear end off. If my nose is stuck in a book or if I'm flipping through course notes, guess what I'm not doing? That's right: I'm not blogging. As a responsible blogger (at least I think I am), this doesn't sit right with me. I want to be able to spend some quality time with hockey, but I can't because I'm having an affair with books and information. Something, I feel, has got to give.

That's where you can shine, readers. For today, I am opening the doors to HBIC for anyone who wants to drive whenever they get the urge. Officially, I am accepting all articles written about hockey by you! If you have the urge to write something, get something off your chest, or simply post a few picture about hockey, the canvas is waiting for your paint, readers.

If you have an article you'd like to send through, please attach to an email and send it through to me. Full credit will, of course, be given to you, and I'll even chime in on your work. Normally, I'm a pretty supportive guy being that I'm a man by the people, for the people, and of the people, but it will all depend on what you submit. I may take issue, but I will certainly thank you for your work and give you all the credit you deserve.

If you're a college student who is working on some sports-related article, I'd be happy to send something to your professor or instructor stating that you've contributed an article that has been published. I'm not sure how much weight that will carry for you, but if they ask if you have any published works, you can say yes.

If you have something to submit, get it sent in! Otherwise, here are a few things I've found around the Interwebs that could use a little exposure. Some of these come from the Life magazine gallery found on Google. I'll note those where necessary.

  • Love the images of the old rinks, especially when they have the chicken wire instead of glass. I'm not sure what that fellow is fixing, but he appears to have posed for this picture. If my eyes aren't deceiving me, it looks as though there is a game being played while he's working on the rink! This is a great shot from Life.
  • Speaking of those old rinks, check out how close the fans are in Madison Square Garden to the visiting Canadiens. And they barely have a separator there! I guess life back in the 1950s and 1960s really was a different time. Life brings history into reality once again.
  • Rarely do we get access to places like the team bus or train, but Life snapped this photo of Blackhawks star Bobby Hull and a teammate who appears to be Pierre Pilote sitting aboard the team train! While it's tough to say which newspaper Hull is reading, Pilote clearly is readying himself for the fairways with his edition of Golf magazine. I love this photo as it really shows a side of the players we don't get to see away from the rink!
  • A lot of people I know weren't really fans of the Bruins' yellow alternate jerseys, but I hate to see how many people would really hate the Bruins if they went all yellow. If we go back to 1958-59, though, the Bruins did actually wear mostly yellow as seen here on Fern Flaman! The thing about how the Bruins looked in '58-59 is that there is just enough black to break up the yellow and white. I actually don't mind this look, but I don't know if I'd be happy with it forever. The Bruins just look better in black with yellow highlights.
  • We all know how the Rangers have that very unique shadowing on their numbers, and they seem to be pretty consistent when it comes to using that shadow. My question to you, readers, is this: when did they start using it on their sleeve numbers? The reason I ask is that it appears they were shadowing the back numbers in 1963, but they did not do the same on the sleeve numbers as this picture shows. From what I can find, the earliest that they made the numbers on the sleeves similar to those on the back is 1978. Does anyone know if this is the earliest their numbers had similar shadowing?
  • Just because I can: Wayne Gretzky in the Burger King jersey. Nothing like a little BK on a Friday night, right? No, I'm not selling out to Burger King either.
  • I always like the old photos of international games, so this USSR-USA picture from the 1968 Winter Olympics ranks high. I love the lettering on the front of the USA jersey! The USSR squad has a very understated look for such a dominant team.
That's all for a Friday. I need to get myself ready for five exams next week. I'm pretty sure that my brain going to be mush by the end of next week. However, there is no crying or whining allowed here, so I must do what I have to do!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Charitable Donations: Dave Andreychuk Foundation

HBIC took on a project in the summer of 2008 where I profiled as many charitable organizations as possible. The key to each of these charities is that they are run or have heavy involvement from NHLPA members, and those members use their celebrity to bring recognition and donations to these charities. Today, HBIC is proud to look at another excellent charity that sports the name of a former NHL player and NHLPA member in Dave Andreychuk. The Dave Andreychuk Foundation actually has two branches in that there is a Canadian version of the charity as well as an American version. This will be explained below a little more, so read on about the mission, the work, and the reasons for starting the Dave Andreychuk Foundation.

Mission Statement: Directly from the Dave Andreychuk Foundation, their mission statement states that the Dave Andreychuk Foundation has three goals: "to assist children in need, to support causes for children and families enduring chronic and/or life-threatening illness, and to encourage the investment in youth and amateur sports". The funds raised in each country remain in that country to support the initiatives of the Dave Andreychuk Foundation in that country.

How did the Dave Andreychuk Foundation start?: As you may be aware, Mr. Andreychuk finished off a pretty solid career in Tampa Bay with a Stanley Cup Championship in 2004. While he would play to 2007, Dave Andreychuk became a vital part of the community in Tampa Bay, Florida as much as he was in Hamilton, Ontario.

From the Dave Andreychuk Foundation website, "After retiring from the National Hockey League in 2007, I decided to start the Dave Andreychuk Foundation to give back to the communities that are very important to my family and I.

"Although I refer to the Foundation as one entity, there are actually two. One is based in Canada and one in the United States. Having two Foundations allows me to raise funds for youth hockey in my home town of Hamilton, Ontario and for children and families in need in the Tampa, Florida area."

The Dave Andreychuk Foundation has already contributed to a number of projects and initiatives on both sides of the border over its short history thus far:


How Can I Help?: Just like the charitable organizations we've seen in the past, donations are certainly welcome and appreciated. However, you need to specify which country you're from so that the funds can be used in that country. If you're Canadian, click here to donate. If you're American, click here to donate. Again, any money donated will be used in the country of the donation you've chosen, so make sure you pick the country you wish to help!

Email is always a good way to get more information, and the Dave Andreychuk Foundation has two email addresses set up so that you can obtain information about the respective branches of the Dave Andreychuk Foundation. If you're in Canada and want some info, please send an email to InfoCanada-at-DaveAndreychukFoundation-dot-com. If you're in the US and want some info, please send an email to InfoUSA-at-DaveAndreychukFoundation-dot-com. If they have email addresses, they also have a place of operations, so you can always send the Dave Andreychuk Foundation some snail mail if that's more your pace. In Canada, send your mail to:

The Dave Andreychuk Foundation
2-558 Upper Gage Avenue
Suite #341
Hamilton, Ontario L8V4J6

If you're in the US, send your mail to:

The Dave Andreychuk Foundation
Dave Andreychuk Foundation Inc.
19046 Bruce B Downs Blvd. #71
Tampa FL 33647-2434

If they have an office, they also have some telephones. That means you can call the Dave Andreychuk Foundation for information if you so desire. You can reach the Canadian branch of the Dave Andreychuk Foundation by dialing (905)385-6783. The American branch of Dave Andreychuk Foundation can be reached by calling (813)301-2504.

They also have some merchandise you can pick up if you want something material in showing your support. The merchandise page has hats and shirts for both men and women, and they look pretty good. Do yourself and your community proud by picking up some Dave Andreychuk Foundation merchandise.

Lastly, there is an option for kids to contact Mr. Andreychuk as well! The Kids Contact page allows children to ask Mr. Andreychuk anything they like. All they have to do is fill out the fields, and they'll be able to send Mr. Andreychuk an email with their questions! How cool is that? You don't see many charitable organizations encouraging young fans to get involved on their sites, so I thought this was a great feature!

The Dave Andreychuk Foundation, the NHLPA, and the foundation's namesake, Mr. Dave Andreychuk, are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Antler Banter: Volume 20

It's been an interesting week on Antler Banter as the Moose find themselves stuck in neutral in February. All teams go on streaks, whether they be hot or cold streaks, but the Moose seem to be stuck in these extended streaks that have serious consequences on their overall standing. Going 3-4 so far in March has put a serious halt on the upward movement through the standings that the Moose saw in December and Janaury. Can they break out of this slump against the Toronto Marlies and Lake Erie Monsters? Make sure you stop by the Moose website for all your Manitoba Moose news and information. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. The Moose finish off their six-game homestand with a little Hardcore Hockey!

Scrivens Makes It Two

The Moose dropped the Tuesday night affair to the Marlies by a 2-1 score, so they were looking to bounce back against a feisty Marlies squad. They also needed to see if they could score more than one goal in a game after having only potted one marker in each of four of the last five games. Tyler Weiman got the call for the Moose as he hoped to reverse the Herd's fortunes, and he faced off against Ben Scrivens who was standing 200-feet away.

It was a "good, bad, and ugly" evening for the Moose powerplay. The good: Ryan McGinnis scored his first goal of the season with the man-advantage with less than five minutes to play. The bad: the Moose went 1-for-6 on the night, missing several excellent opportunities to put this game away early as Toronto found themselves in penalty trouble. The Moose had a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes and four minutes of total powerplay time, but could not capitalize. The ugly: Tyler Weiman whiffed on what appeared to be a routine glove save, giving up a shorthanded goal early in the second period that really seemed to deflate the squad. Overall, poor marks for the powerplay units on this night for not capitalizing on chances, and Weiman has to be better.

It looked like another night at the office for Sergei Shirokov as he picked up an assist on Guillaume Desbiens' second-period goal, but things went completely off the rails in the third period as Sergei Shirokov had had enough of Nazim Kadri's antics. After Kadri slashed the Russian sniper across the shinpads, Shirokov's soft hands lost the gloves as he and Kadri wrestled their way to the ice along the boards. I'd normally say that your best scorers shouldn't be fighting, but I fully believe that a player should be able to defend himself. Good on Shirokov for dropping the mittens and showing Kadri that he's not going to be pushed around.

It took the Moose nearly 56 minutes to wake up in this game as the Marlies built a 4-1 lead in that time. The Moose stormed back in the final four minutes to make it a 4-3 game, but Ryan Hamilton iced it with 2.2 seconds to play as the Marlies hung on for the 5-3 win. The Moose have now dropped two straight games to the Marlies after winning the first three, and see their record on the season drop to 29-19-6.

Monsters Frighten Moose

The Monsters were nipping at the heels of the Moose as they entered Friday's game, so that meant that the Moose needed to put four points on the board with two wins over a team that looked to overtake them in the standings. Eddie Lack looked to reverse the fortunes of the Moose while Jason Bacashihua got the call for the Monsters.

Kevin Connauton should feel responsible for the opening goal of the game. Connauton got muscled off the puck by Greg Mauldin, and then couldn't recover to chase down Mauldin. Mauldin circled behind the net, and Mark Flood left Ben Walter in front of the net to track down Mauldin. Connauton arrived in front of the net seconds late after Mauldin centered to Walter for the first goal of the game. I'm not sure what Connauton was doing, but he certainly seemed to give up after losing the puck in the corner to Mauldin. The effort shown by Connauton might be a reason why the Moose are on a two-game skid.

The Moose penalty killing units took a hit tonight as well as they gave up two powerplay goals to the Monsters. I'm not going to blame the penalty killing units for the result in this game, but they could use a little help from the other special teams unit. Manitoba's powerplay fired blanks again as they went 0-for-4 on the night, and find themselves ranked as the 25th best powerplay in the league. When the penalty kill has an off-night, it would be nice if the powerplay units brought their lunch pails to work and scored a couple of goals.

Overall, there wasn't much to brag about on the home side as the Moose got walloped by the Monsters in a 5-1 loss. The Moose fired 30 shots on Jason Bacashihua, but there weren't many of the high-quality variety that tested Bacashihua often. With the loss, the Moose drop to 29-20-6, and lose their spot atop the North Division standings as the Monsters leap-frog into first.

Moose Fly Past Monsters

It was a big night for one minor hockey team in Winnipeg as the Gateway Flyers took to the ice for their first AHL game in history! Ok, so they weren't the real Flyers, but the Moose donned the jerseys of the Gateway Flyers for their Saturday clash with the Monsters as part of the Community Jersey Program! It was weird seeing the Moose in black-and-orange for the first time in history, but it was easy to get used to when they began playing like the Flyers - scoring and hitting. Eddie Lack would take to the pipes again for Manitoba. Jason Bacashihua started the game for the Monsters, but he would be relieved by Trevor Cann after the Moose had staked themselves to a sizable lead.

It was another big night for Manitoba's Garth Murray. The scrappy, defensive forward scored a goal, added a helper on Sergei Shirokov's goal, picked up two minutes for tripping, had two shots, and finished the game as a +2! The scorekeepers certainly used a lot of ink on his stats tonight! Murray played really well at both ends of the ice, deserving some kudos despite not earning one of the three stars on the night. He scored, he played physical, and he was responsible in his own zone. That's the kind of effort the Moose need from all 22 players.

Manitoba's best player continues to make great plays as Sergei Shirokov scored a goal, added an assist, had four shots on net, and ended the night as a +2. Shirokov's assist was a gorgeous backhanded no-look pass to Mario Bliznak that seemed to confuse Jason Bacashihua. Shirokov made a move to head behind the net casuing Bacashihua to move off the post, but Shirokov threw the puck out front on the backhand. Bacashihua, realizing he made a mistake, went back to hugging the post, but Bliznak wired it past his right shoulder into the cage before Bacashihua could find the puck again. Great plays like that show you why Sergei Shirokov was an easy choice as Manitoba's AHL all-star representative.

The Moose really played well for 57 minutes before giving up a couple of goals to the Monsters. Despite giving up a pair of goals late, the Moose hung on for the 4-2 victory to jump ahead of the Monsters in the standings once again as they have a better winning percentage. With the win, the Moose snap their three-game losing streak and improve to 30-20-6 on the season.

Gotta Grind Out Some Wins

The Moose hit the road over the next week with games starting tonight against the Rochester Americans. They'll battle the Amerks again on Friday before heading into Toronto for games against the Marlies on Saturday and Sunday. You can catch the Sunday game against the Marlies on CBC as the AHL on CBC comes to the Ricoh Coliseum for the Marlies-Moose tilt.

The Americans come into the games having gone 6-4 over their last ten games. During that stretch, the Americans have beaten the Hamilton Bulldogs twice, the Hershey Bears once, and knocked off the Worcester Sharks. They're led by Tim Kennedy and Clay Wilson offensively as both men are nearing the 40-point mark on the season. Tyler Plante is playing fairly well in net, and is even sporting a blocker with the old-style holes painted on it! Or maybe they're real holes? Either way, that looks cool! The Moose have to keep winning as the Bulldogs and Monsters are breathing down their necks, so two wins over the Americans would help immensely!

The Marlies need no introduction as the Moose re-engage in battle with them. Kadri is becoming a thorn in the side of Moose players, Scrivens and Gustavsson are playing well in net, and the Marlies are closing the gap with each win over the Moose. Again, beating divisional rivals is vital if a team wants to go far in the AHL, so the Moose need to play well against the Marlies this coming weekend after dropping the these last two games at home against Toronto!

Eight points await the Moose if they are hungry enough to get them. Working harder than their opposition is a good way to start, and the talent that the Moose bring should put them over the top in each game if they work hard. Only one thing to say as the Moose head down the stretch: DO IT!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

First Of His Kind

Once you have hoisted the Stanley Cup after an exhausting 82-game season plus sixteen more wins in the playoffs, is there anything that compares in terms of the magnitude of that win? I'm going to say that there aren't a lot of experiences similar for a hockey player, but former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk received an extremely high honour last week when it was announced that he will be the first hockey player inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. There are a vast number of sports icons already in the Flordia Sports Hall of Fame, but Andreychuk is the first hockey player to be inducted - a pretty big accomplishment considering that NHL hockey has been in the state since 1992.

Andreychuk won't be the only athlete inducted this year, though. Joining him will be former MLB outfielder Vince Coleman, former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Tony Boselli, Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, former MLB slugger Fred McGriff, former NCAA quarterback Gino Torretta, surfer Kelly Slater, and University of Florida women’s volleyball coach Mary Wise. That's some pretty elite company!

The induction ceremony happened last Wednesday, and Andreychuk was honoured to be among such an elite class of athletes.

"It came as a surprise really when I received the call and was told I was going to be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame," Andreychuk told Peter Pupello. "No one would ever quite connect Florida and the sport of hockey together, so for me, it’s quite an honor."

While Andreychuk wasn't the Lightning's most prolific scorer in his four seasons with the club, he did leave his mark on the Lightning. In 278 games, he scored 68 goals, added 61 assists, and was the captain of an emerging young team. During the playoff run to the Stanley Cup championship, Andreychuk scored one goal but had 13 assists in helping the Lightning to the pinnacle of hockey greatness in 2004.

Contributing to his success was his work the the community. Mr. Andreychuk founded the Dave Andreychuk Foundation in 2007, and the organization works to help underprivileged and sick kids realize their goals and dreams. To date, the Dave Andreychuk Foundation has supported St. Joseph's Children's Hospital and the Moffitt Cancer Center in the US and McMaster Children's Hospital and the Hamilton Minor Hockey Council in Canada. Mr. Andreychuk's community work will be featured in an upcoming article as well, so stay tuned!

"Dave made a significant contribution bringing Florida its first and only Stanley Cup and putting hockey on the map in the state," Florida Sports Hall of Fame president Rick Dantzler said. "He has done enormous things within his community and who he is off the ice certainly fit the character component of the selection process."

Clearly, Mr. Andreychuk is deserving of this award as he captained the only Florida-based NHL team to a championship and had graciously given his time and support to various organizations throughout Florida to help children. Mr. Andreychuk's work in the community didn't end when his career ended, though, and his commitment to children's charities across North America is a great indication of the kind of man he is.

Congratulations to Mr. Dave Andreychuk, the first hockey player to be inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame ever!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Two-A-Days On HBIC

If you've been reading along over the last few days, you've probably noticed that HBIC is now only a few days behind the current date. I've pledged to have this blog back up-to-date by the time my exams hit on Monday, and I'm steadily making progress in that regard. Because it's Monday, I've decided that I need a "clean-up" day where I let everyone know what's happening, what's been going on, and where I'm eventually going to find myself in the future if everything works out as I've planned. Call this a "road map to Teebz's life" if you like. This article will certainly let everyone know why I fell behind and why I'm working my tail off to get caught up.

First off, I want to say that I've been tardy with some mail that I was to send out. If your name is neither Jeff B. or James H., you're more than welcome to skip past this part. If your name is one of those options and I've contacted you about mailing you something, keep reading.

I'll start with James. James, I know you've been awaiting a package. I used the trace, and apparently the package went missing somewhere between Toronto and Chicago. Canada Post finally got me some cash for the insurance amount of the package, and I've finally put something together for you again. It went into the mail today, so you should have it by next week.

Jeff, I also mailed your package on Monday. I was waiting to see if I could get an another book for you in addition to the Beyond The Crease, but I could not. So you should be receiving Martin Brodeur's biography sometime next week as well.

I apologize to both of you for the tardiness in getting you these packages, but you'll see why I've been focused elsewhere.

I have been earning pretty decent marks thus far in school. I like the courses I'm taking, and I'm understanding the material quite well. This has taken some maintenance in that I need to stay on top of the course material to ensure that I understand things, but it's been going pretty well.

However, Java is a different cat. I understand the importance of Java in the real world, and I see the need for a portable programming language in today's world of desktop, laptop, and mobile phone operating systems. Having one language that works across all of them is nothing short of awesome in that a program written in Java can work on Windows PCs, Mac OS computers, Blackberry phones, iPhone, and Android phones.

The logic behind the language, though, is something that seems to escape me on occasion. I can't seem to grasp how the language is written despite me getting very good marks in the course. Therefore I'll be honest: you can find me simply by following the horseshoes in this course.

I've spent a large amount of time trying to learn this language and I'm confident when it comes to pieces of writing Java code, but I still don't feel confident enough to say that I can write a simple program with two or more arguments. Thus, I've been hitting the books as often as I can in this course. Combine that with the multiple assignments and group projects that have been assigned in the other courses, and things have been busy on the homework front.

Work and sleep have also played a role in my not posting as often. Work is eating up approximately 20 hours per week as I continue to serve my new employer loyally. I love my job and I really enjoy the work I do, so I want to maintain this position at my job while I wade through school. As for sleep, it's the X-factor right now in terms of how much I get per evening based upon school's and work's respective demands.

What this boils down to is that I may fall behind on here, but I certainly have not forgotten this blog, my readers, or anyone who has emailed me. I may not respond immediately, but know that I still hear you and will respond... eventually. Stick with me on this one, readers, because once I master this Java stuff, I could be looking at some very cool additions to this blog.

Thanks for your readership and patience, everyone. I really appreciate it in during this new adventure, and know that while you may stop by and see the same thing as the day before, I work in the background to bring you new and exciting stories and features.

Thank you, readers. And now I'm off to study as midterms approach next week.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Hockey Day In America

It's a big Saturday south of the border as the United States of America embraces hockey for one entire day! While I wouldn't quite say that hockey has established itself in the lower 48 states at this point, the fact that NBC is devoting a pile of airtime for hockey and hockey-related stories is quite amazing. Combine that with the Heritage Classic from Calgary, Alberta tonight, and we've got ourselves a pretty solid hockey Sunday! I think what should be kept in mind as you read through this article is that hockey, no matter what people say, is becoming more mainstream again. With the expected lockouts/strikes coming up in both the NBA and NFL, hockey on NBC could be a regular Saturday broadcast over the next calendar year.

We'll start first with the line-up for Hockey Day In America. Thanks to NBC Sports and Versus combining their collective talents, games that NBC was once blocked from carrying thanks to Versus' buy-in for NHL rights are no longer a concern. NBC Sports can now carry those games as part of their line-up, and this will allow more games to reach more people through basic cable. Hockey can now be found on both your regular channels in the US as well as specialty cable channels. Exposure is good.

The early regional games see Washington at Buffalo, Philadelphia at the New York Rangers, and Detroit at Minnesota. The Washington-Buffalo game has Jeff Jackson doing play-by-play. Fomer NHL player Ray Ferraro will be between the benches doing analysis and color commentary. Philadelphia-New York will feature Ken Daniels and Joe Micheletti in the booth. Detroit-Minnesota sees Pat Foley and Darren Pang doing the broadcast. All six men are highly knowledgeable about the sport, and should provide great commentary throughout the early games.

The nationally televised game will be seen after the regional games, so there will be back-to-back hockey on NBC today. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be visiting the Chicago Blackhawks, and the "big guns" from NBC's hockey team will be on-hand. Doc Emrick, Ed Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire will handle the calling of the game and the color commentary while Mike Milbury and Liam McHugh handle the in-studio responsibilities.

Once that game is done, NBC will throw the gauntlet to Versus where they will broadcast the 2011 Heritage Classic featuring the Montreal Canadiens visiting the Calgary Flames at McMahon Stadium. Bill Patrick, Keith Jones, and Jeremy Roenick should make for an interesting studio analysis team while Dave Strader, Andy Brickley and Brian Engblom will in the booth for the play-by-play and color commentary.

I'm not going to say that this is a first on American television airwaves, but this is certainly the first time in a long time that hockey has dominated the telelvision landscape for one network. Not since the NHL playoffs on ESPN a number of years ago has hockey been featured so prominently on one network.

What may be the best part of Hockey Day In America are the features that NBC is working on as part of the broadcast. Some of the stories include:

  • Neal Henderson's story. Mr. Henderson "founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey program in inner-city Washington, D.C. in 1978 and has helped make a difference in the lives of countless children and young adults ever since".
  • A feature on the US Pond Hockey Championships from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was lucky enough to see this event first-hand last year, and it is an amazing time for both players and spectators.
  • A feature on "celebrity hockey" played in Los Angeles where Hollywood folks such as directors, producers, and actors take to the ice to play the game that they love.
  • A feature on the Boston Blades, the lone American CWHL team, that will highlight the challenges and rewards that the professional women hockey players face. For more info on the CWHL, check out this article.
Overall, I'm excited for today's events, and I really want to see NBC do well in the ratings with this kind of commitment to hockey. While I can't say that they'll post American Idol numbers or Super Bowl numbers all day, I'm pretty sure that they'll attract a few people who want to see what this fuss over hockey is all about. And those are just the people that we welcome with open arms to the game of hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

More Grapes, More Fashion

There was a nice little press release put out by the CBC today as they announced that Don Cherry will return next season as part of the Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts. Cherry, better known for his jackets and ties, has signed on through the 2012 season, and that's good for both hockey and HNIC. While he'll alays have his critics, Don Cherry is opinionated, brash, and funny - something the hockey world needs more of instead of having clich├ęs and rhetoric spun everywhere. I'm glad Grapes is back, and he's sure to be entertaining next season.

"We're delighted to announce that the venerable hockey icon Don Cherry has signed on for another season and will continue to provide hockey’s liveliest and sometimes provocative commentary," says Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president of CBC English Services. "Don has been a part of the CBC Hockey Night in Canada family since 1980, generating passion and debate among hockey fans everywhere. Hockey Night in Canada, with Don at the desk for its 59th season, will continue to bring the very best of hockey programming on all of its platforms to Canadians everywhere."

Wow. Cherry has been a part of HNIC since 1980? That's 32 years after next season! Of course, Don's run on HNIC hasn't been without controversy or the occasional threat of being fired, but Cherry has always come out of the fire with a renewed passion for the game he loves. However, here's a prime example of the controversial Grapes.

"We join millions of fans in congratulating Don on his new contract and wishing him continued success as the declarative voice of CBC's definitive hockey broadcast," says NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "Don's knowledge of the sport is exceeded only by his love for it and we are proud of his enduring connection with the game and the National Hockey League. He truly is one of a kind, and it is an honour to consider him a friend."

While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, I'm glad that CBC has decided to bring back one of the best parts of the HNIC broadcast in Coach's Corner featuring Don Cherry. There is no doubt that Cherry's style has made him an icon, and, while he might be controversial, there is no doubt that he loves the sport of hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Honouring A Regional Great

It's always a great night when a player is remembered for how important he was to a franchise, especially when he made large contributions in bringing greatness to that franchise. Rod Brind'Amour had carved out a pretty good career in the NHL before he got to Carolina, but then led the Hurricanes to new heights as he helped to guide the young squad to a Stanley Cup championship. Tonight, the Carolina Hurricanes paid respect to a respected veteran hockey player, and the Flyers also showed their support of the former Philadelphia Flyer centerman.

Let's go way back to September 22, 1991. A promising young centerman by the name Rod Brind'Amour is traded by the St. Louis Blues, along with Dan Quinn, to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Murray Baron and forward Ron Sutter. It was here that Brind'Amour really blossomed as a player, becoming a high-scoring, defensively-reliable centerman on Philadelphia's second line. Finding himself playing behind Eric Lindros for most of his time in Philadelphia, Brind'Amour became Philly's second scoring option. Known for the great shape he kept himself in, Brind'Amour soon developed the nickname "Rod the bod" around the Philadelphia locker room.

As a result of his playing behind Lindros, Brind'Amour saw a lot of ice-time. In 633 games with the Flyers over nine seasons, Brind'Amour scored 235 goals, added 366 assists, and spent 544 minutes in the penalty box. His leadership was vital, especially in the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup final in 1997. In 19 playoff games that season, Brind'Amour recorded 13 goals and eight assists. However, his time in Philadelphia would come to an end through another trade.

January 23, 2000 saw the Flyers deal Brind'Amour, goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier, and a second-round pick in the 2000 entry draft to the Carolina Hurricanes for Keith Primeau and a fifth-round pick in the 2000 entry draft. After playing 12 games with the Flyers in the 1999-2000 season, he was heading south down the coast to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was here that the veteran Brind'Amour really helped pave the way for some of Carolina's current stars such as Eric Staal and Cam Ward.

In 693 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, Brind'Amour continued scoring at a solid pace, but became a much stronger force on the defensive side of the puck as the younger Hurricane players contributed on the scoresheet. He still scored 174 goals, added 299 assists, and spent 398 minutes in the penalty box over his ten seasons with Carolina. In their run to the Stanley Cup, Brind'Amour scored 12 goals and added six assists in 25 games in helping Carolina to their first Stanley Cup championship.

Clearly, Brind'Amour has had some significant impact on two teams during his NHL career. Tonight, the Hurricanes paid respect by having each player wear Brind'Amour's famous #17 on their shoulders. They also wore his name and number on their chests just as they have done for other honoured players such as Glen Wesley. In a classy move, the club also donned Brind'Amour jerseys for the warm-up. While it may have looked like a Brind'Amour family reunion hockey game, the Hurricanes changed into their properly-named jerseys for the game.

The visitors this evening were the Philadelphia Flyers, and they also took to the ice in warm-ups with Brind'Amour jerseys on. While Brind'Amour never actually wore the jerseys seen in these images, it's still a classy move by a franchise that played a large part in Brind'Amour's career. Kudos for the Flyers for actively participating in tonight's honouring of Rod Brind'Amour.

I'm not saying that Brind'Amour is a sure-fire hall-of-famer or anything, but the man could play hockey. He won a Stanley Cup, he has 1000+ career points, and he has hardware behind his name in the Selke Trophy. I think that he's done well enough to be mentioned as a possible name on the nomination list, but is he a HoF player at this time?

Regardless, Brind'Amour will always be remembered by this writer as a great player, a great teammate, and an all-around great person. There may not be a Hall of Fame for athletes who make everyone around them and the teams they play on better, but Rod Brind'Amour could certainly be an inaugural inductee if there was a Hall of Fame like that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Another CBC Gem

If you happen to live close enough to Canada, you might be lucky enough to get a television signal from CBC. If you do, you might have been lucky enough to catch an episode of Dragon's Den, a television program where entrepreneurs get a chance to throw their business ideas at five investors who are looking for new business ideas in which to invest. The catch is that the five investors - Jim Treliving, Kevin O'Leary, Arlene Dickinson, W. Brett Wilson, and Robert Herjavec - don't just give away their money to anyone on this show. Instead, they only invest their money in ideas that make themselves potentially richer!

I'll be honest: there are some incredibly unique ideas that have the potential to make millions of dollars on the market if they are realized. And the Dragons certainly recognize opportunity when it knocks in most cases as they help aspiring entrepreneurs pursue these dreams while taking a little off the top as they guide the men and women who appear in the Dragon's Den studio to success. In short, the Dragons get paid to help people get rich.

Season Five of Dragon's Den brought an interesting pitch from an small company as Episode Five saw Side Splitting Productions gear up for their encounter with the Dragons. Let's take a look at they get themselves ready to step into the Dragon's Den.

Yes, you saw that correctly: Clark Robertson becomes Don Cherry as Clark and Darlene Robertson from Calgary, Alberta prepare to enter the Dragon's Den as Side Splitting Productions to ask the Dragons for some capital in their business. The star of HNIC's Coach's Corner gets parodied on CBC's Dragon's Den in this episode! While this primer may have had a few spoilers as to what happened in the actual episode, let's take a look at the fire felt by Clark and Darlene as they stared down the Dragons.
I gotta say that Clark Robertson does a pretty good job in portraying Don Cherry in these videos as he sold W. Brett Wilson in his pitch! He's got the look, he's got the voice, he's got the mannerisms... he could be Grapes if Mr. Cherry ever decided to retire!

Congratulations to Clark and Darlene as Mr. Wilson invests $30,000 in their production company! You can find more of Clark Robertson performing on their website, and you can follow the Robertsons via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube! You've got a fan in Teebz and HBIC!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Antler Banter: Volume 19

Antler Banter is back this week as the Moose return home for a battle two teams as they welcome the San Antonio Rampage and the Toronto Marlies to MTS Centre this week. The Moose have seen their blueline depleted as the Vancouver Canucks are keeping Vancouver's hospitals in business, so the Moose need to roll up their sleeves and apply a little elbow grease in their own zone. We'll take a look at how the Herd did in the three games thus far this week. Don't forget to visit the Moose website for all your Manitoba Moose news and information. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. The Moose push forward in this week's Hardcore Hockey!

All Hooves And Horns

The Moose welcomed the San Antonio Rampage to MTS Centre this weekend as they began a six-game homestand. With all of the roster changes happening in the Moose locker room right now, it will be interesting to see how the Herd responds, especially with their defence corps being depleted due to the NHL's Canucks. Tyler Weiman got the call for the Moose at home on Friday while San Antonio sent Matt Climie out to the nets.

Nothing says impact like scoring in your first game after being out with an injury, and Tommy Maxwell made that impact tonight. Having been out since the middle of January, the pugilistic Moose winger took a pass from Shawn Weller in the right face-off circle and snapped a puck past under Climie's glove. Maxwell's fourth of the season showed that any effects from that hand injury are non-existent.

The Moose penalty killing units, now ranked second in the AHL, are looking to regain their spot atop the AHL statistics board as they went 3-for-3 in killing off penalties tonight. The Moose have been playing some excellent hockey while down a man for nearly two months, and the penalty kill will be an important factor down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Moose must keep this going as this could be the difference in a playoff round or two.

Juts as we've seen over the last week, it's feast or famine for the Moose as they were unable to build on Tommy Maxwell's first period goal. While Tyler Weiman stopped 27 of 29 shots sent his way, it wasn't enough to push the Moose to a victory as they drop the first of two games against the Rampage by a 2-1 score. With the loss, the Moose fall to 28-17-6 on the season.

Moose "Keane" To Grab Bull By Horns

It was a big night on Saturday as the Manitoba Moose looked to hang their first jersey from the rafters in a retirement ceremony as hometown hero and fan favorite Mike Keane was being honoured not only for his work in a Moose uniform, but for his overall hockey career. The former Moose captain remained at MTS Centre to catch the second half of the Moose-Rampage series as Eddie Lack donned the mask and pads for the Moose. Matt Climie would start this game, but Joe Fallon would close this one out.

Moose all-star Sergei Shirokov was the set-up man all night as the Moose sniper showed off his vision in collecting four assists in the game. Shirokov looked dangerous all night, ending the evening with four assists, four shots, and a +2 rating. While some may say that all four assists of Shirokov's assists were second assists, I say you still need a good first pass to get the play going. Shirokov possessed that talent tonight.

I was very impressed with the Moose blueliners on this night. All evening, the rearguards were active in the play, and they were very physical in their own zone without going over the line. If the Moose can get some continuity on their blueline with these men, they could be a very dangerous combination of offensive talent and pure physicality. The six defencemen finished the night with one goal, four assists, 12 shots, and a +4 rating - pretty darn good night for the men defending the goal!

Overall, the Moose hammered everything and everyone they could on this night, bringing the same work ethic to the ice that Mike Keane brought each time he laced up the skates. Efforts like this are entirely why hard work beats talent almost every time out, and the Moose put their hard hats on and brought their lunchpails to work on this night. Eddie Lack picks up the 5-0 shutout over the Rampage, and the Moose improve their record to 29-17-6 on the season with the victory!

More Marlies, Different Result

The Toronto Marlies came back to town less than a month after dropping the first three games to the Moose by a combined score of 12-4. The Marlies desperately need to beat some of the teams ahead of them in the North Division standings if they want to have a shot hosting a playoff series. The Moose went back to Eddie Lack on this night while the Marlies turned to Ben Scrivens to tend their nets.

The Moose penalty killing unit is really starting to become the best part of their special teams. The Moose PK unit scored a big first period goal with Kevin Connauton sitting in the sin bin. Again, the hard work put in by the PK teams is paying dividends, and may be the reason that the Moose win a round or two in the playoffs. Keep it up, Moose penalty killers!

The Herd as a team really need to see if they can break out of this funk that they have found themselves in. 35 shots against the Marlies resulted in only one goal on the evening - not the kind of firepower that an elite team should show. If the Moose can't fill the net with any sort of regularity, it will be a difficult battle down the stretch. Losing to teams that are behind you in the standings certainly won't help in the long run either.

The Moose found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger again on this night as the Marlies held on for a 2-1 victory over the Herd. The feast or famine continues as the Moose juggle their lineup once again, but the Moose can't find the chemistry to pick up a win over a division rival. With the loss, the Moose fall to 29-18-6 on the season.

Up Next - More Beatable Teams

The Moose have to respond against the Marlies tonight. Losing a second game to the Marlies is a four-point swing as the Marlies gain on the Moose. After firing blanks at the Marlies last night, a wake-up call is needed. The only way that the Moose are going to break out of this is to work hard, dig deep, and pump a few goals past the Marlies' goalkeepers.

The weekend sees the Moose welcome the Lake Erie Monsters to town for a pair of games. Saturday should be a big game as the Moose don the jerseys of the Gateway Flyers as the Flyers won the Community Jersey Program this past season! This should be a great night where the Moose will take on the look of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second game of the set with the Monsters.

Lake Erie comes into the game riding a hot streak as they have shot up through the North Division standings to sit tied with the Moose. They enter the weekend on a 7-2-1 tear, knocking off Hamilton twice and Texas twice through the last ten games. Goaltender Jason Bacashihua has turned his season around, playing very well through the last ten games, and the Monsters are getting balanced scoring as they have five players with 30+ points on the season. Manitoba will have to play extremely well if they hope to grab four points off these divisional foes.

We'll be back with more next week, but here's hoping the Moose can sort out their scoring woes before the weekend or they may find themselves in third-place in the North Division by Monday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

False Advertising?

I received an email from a gentleman named Matthew the other day, and I thought it was really nice that he had selected my blog to be part of his article entitled "Drafting Like a Pro: Top 50 Blogs for Fantasy League Lovers". However, I started to question my blog's appearance on this gentleman's site once I clicked the link to his article, and it became apparent that he had no clue about what my site was about once I read through his article.

The title of the blog that I am linked to is "MBA Degrees Online". In no way, shape, or form have I ever spoken about obtaining any sort of degree online, let alone an MBA degree, yet here is a site designed specifically for this. How would a Canadian site that talks about hockey end up on a site that is designed to help people find a degree online?

I was curious about this gentleman's site, so I clicked on the "About Us" page to read a little bit about why this site may want to be associated with HBIC. Strangely, there is little to nothing that would provide me with a reason to search an "MBA Degrees Online" site for hockey information at first glance. As per the site,

"Mbadegreesonline.com was created in 2010 by Matthew Oliver. I created this website during my search for an MBA degree program that was right for me. There are clear benefits to have an MBA degree in the job market today, so finding the right campus and courses were a main priority. After looking at many school's websites and researching what program suited me best, I decided to make a site that listed all the information in one place.

"An MBA is a highly regarded degree, and each college site I visited had different statistics and various programs that were impossible compare to the other. After compiling a long list of numbers and facts, I was able to confine this data to a complete list of programs that offer an MBA Degree along with a link to basic information about the program. My goal is to help future students like myself navigate easily on one website and find the right school that fits their needs.

"I frequently update the information listed on the site. As I do not make any money off this site, and considerable tied down with school work, I tend to check in with it weekly. If you notice any MBA programs left off the list or errors on the page, please do not hesitate to email me and I will make the corrections accordingly."
This website seems kind of non-sports in its intention, no? But his intentions seem to be in the right place to help students being that he wants to help future students like himself "navigate easily on one website and find the right school that fits their needs".

Moving on to get to the blog section, we find the blog links in here to be fairly comprehensive in their information: "How to Design Sure-fire Customer Referral Programs", "Top 25 Blog Posts for Saving Money on Your Cell Phone Bill", and the said "Drafting Like a Pro: Top 50 Blogs for Fantasy League Lovers" but to name a few. In fact, those seem to be the only blog entries thus far.

So how does Matthew include HBIC in a blog post about fantasy league drafting when HBIC offers nothing about that subject? In fact, the description about HBIC is something out of fantasy:
"Hockey Blog In Canada: Learn how to keep an eye out for sleeper players and what strategy you should use when working in a league with more than 10 teams."
Say what!?! Was HBIC honestly described as a site where you can "learn how to keep an eye out for sleeper players and what strategy you should use when working in a league with more than 10 teams"? Seriously?

Readers, I'm sure you're aware that I have never once told anyone who to pick in a fantasy draft or even how to wade through the vast amounts of stats through at you in a fantasy pool. I can tell you, however, that the information Matthew used in describing HBIC is entirely false, and not kosher with HBIC.

I guess it's true that not everything you read on the Internet is true. And now I have proof.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Why 82?

I was talking hockey at school today when I was asked a question that I really couldn't answer with any definitive reasoning. It's not that I didn't know the answer, but it was tough to answer simply because the answer always pointed back to the almighty dollar. On one hand, money pays the bills for hockey's owners and players, but, on the other hands, you never want to sound like hockey is being greedy. But when asked why hockey insists on an 82-game schedule, there aren't a lot of good reasons to give outside of "owners need to make enough money to pay the bills". And it's especially difficult to justify 82 games when some teams consistently lose money season after season.

Let's be honest: there are a lot of people on the planet that think that the NHL season is just too long. I might be one of them, in fact, but I do like the intrigue and storylines that some teams experience over the course of an 82-game schedule. From injuries to hot streaks, there are a number of ups and downs that a team can face.

However, the follow-up question made me think a little deeper today: wouldn't it be better for the game as a whole if each game in the season meant a little more? After all, if professional sports' model is the NFL and they only play 16 games, how important is each game to an NFL team? If you lose three of four games in a row, your season is essentially over unless you can turn things around in a hurry.

In hockey, there has to be a happy medium. 82 games, to most people, is more hockey than they may watch in their lifetime. There are, admittedly, games where teams don't play as hard as they should simply because the rigors of the season have caught up to them through injuries and fatigue. As a result, it looks like teams are "going through the motions" in a lacklustre effort.

If we go back to the 1995 season where only 48 games were played, this was an interesting situation because of how short the season actually was. Detroit went 33-11-4 that season to start their tradition of annual Stanley Cup runs in the 1990s. Does anyone remember who finished as the second-best NHL team that year? If you said "Quebec Nordiques", congratulations to you because not many people would have jumped on that answer.

So why 82? Why not 48? Or 60? Who decided on an 82-game schedule as be-all, end-all for NHL scheduling?

Well, for starters, there are six games - three at home and three on the road - against the other teams in its division for a total of 24 games. Teams then play the other non-divisional teams in their conference a total of four times - two at home and two on the road - for 40 more games. Throw in fifteen more games against the other conference's teams, and we're up to 79 games. Three additional games have three of those opposite conference teams playing against your team once more in the opposite arena as the first game, and you get a total of 82 games.

Let's be honest: that's a lot of games, and there are probably a lot of throw-away games in there where teams simply go through the motions in another meaningless game on the schedule. Let's grab the scissors and start cutting this scheduling idea up.

Let's lose one home and road date against divisional opponents. If familiarity breeds contempt, it would be a different story, but the Battles of Alberta, Ontario, and New York have seen very little tenacity or fire in recent memory. If we shave off those two games, we're already down to 16 games from 24. That works for me, but let's keep going.

Let's shave one game from the other conference teams. If you play twice at home in Season A, you'll play once at home in Season B against the non-divisional conference team. That reduces the non-divisional conference games from 40 to 30. Again, that's a manageable number.

Finally, we'll keep the non-conference games. That's 15 guaranteed games, and it allows every team to play every other team once. Toss in four games against select opponents from the opposite conference, and that's 19 more games. Overall, we have a total of 65 games, 17 games less than what we currently have. That translates into nearly one month less of games, meaning that the season could end in early March rather than early April. I'm starting to like this idea.

With 65 games, there are still a few of those games that don't really matter in the standings. Except now they matter a little more than when you were playing 82 games. A loss now counts in the standings a little. Those lost points in the shootout now have a bigger impact at the end of the season. A season-series sweep in a divisional battle could mean the difference between a playoff spot and watching from the outside when the season ends. Laying an egg against a non-playoff team could cost you dearly once the season plays out.

Of course, a shorter schedule should mean a lower cost for season tickets. It should also mean lower salary costs for owners, but there's almost no way that the NHLPA will agree to this. Cutting salaries will never fly, but let's assume that the NHLPA agrees to shorten the schedule and reduce salaries for its members. I think this could actually work in theory.

So I ask you, readers: would you prefer a shorter NHL schedule to increase the drama, or do you like the 82-game schedule as we have it? Do you see faults? Can you improve on this idea, or is the status quo the best we have?

Comments are certainly appreciated and encouraged on this one!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!