Hockey Headlines

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Some Pre-Shopping Fun

Tomorrow is all about stocking up on what you need if you're an NHL general manager. I would say that July 1 is similar to December 25 for NHL teams in that everything you want is available, but it all depends on how good you've been over the last year when it comes to getting what you want. Needless to say, when the NHL free agency period opens tomorrow on July 1, there will be spending, overspending, and absolute insanity shown by NHL general managers as they look to piece together a championship roster.

Today, I just want to take a look at a few photos that I found the last few days thanks to watching some classic NHL games through my cable provider. These are just a few cool things that I totally didn't notice until I heard the announcers talking about some of the details, so we'll take a look at these photos.

  • I was lucky enough to catch the NY Rangers-NY Islanders playoff series from 1990 the other night on ESPN Classic Canada, and I was enjoying my dip into the past when I noticed that Pat LaFontaine's name was spelled "LA FONTAINE" on the back of his jersey. There was a clear space between the "LA" and the "FONTAINE", but he got hurt in Game One and that was the last I saw of him in the broadcast. So I did what anyone in my shoes would do: I took to the internet. Sure enough, here's Pat LaFontaine with a capital "A" on his jersey and no space, and here's LaFontaine with a little "A" and no space. That's three different ways that LaFontaine's name was spelled with the same team. Has any other player had this problem with the same team?
  • With Ed Belfour's inclusion into the Hockey Hall of Fame, I was doing a little reminiscing on the Eagle's career and checking out some images. What I didn't know was that Ed Belfour's nickname began appearing on his mask in a very noticeable place when he made his debut with the Dallas Stars which he continued using as he shuffled through a number of NHL cities. Did you see it in that picture? Here it is again, spelled out a little clearer. Until he was in Dallas, the "EAGLE" name didn't appear in the feathers of the eagle. Todd Miska came up with that design idea, and I think it's fabulous! It's so subtle that you hardly even notice - that's the mark of a great design! Or maybe I was just blind to it for the longest time.
  • Brian Lawton was a highly-regarded draft pick by the Minnesota North Stars who selected him first overall in 1983, but his choice of #98 earned him an interesting nickname. He was given the nickname "Notch" because he was one notch below Wayne Gretzky who wore #99. In searching for another North Stars-related photo, I came across Brian Lawton proudly displaying his new NHL number.
  • I received a great email from Gary Finkler who wanted to let me know that he is a graphic designer and sports fan. In his spare time, Gary publishes his own comics over on 7thInningSketch.com. The reason that Gary contacted me was for his most recent comic that he published that is entirely Winnipeg-centric. While most of his works are baseball-related, I have to say that this comic is pretty darn good! Thanks for the heads-up about your site, Gary, and I'll be checking in daily!
  • If you haven't been keeping up with KHL news over the summer thus far, there have been a few developments that you should know about as the KHL expands its borders. First off, it was announced that Slovakia's Lev Poprad will officially begin play in the KHL next season as part of the Bobrov Division in the Western Conference. Poprad's division rivals will include Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, SKA St. Petersburg, Dynamo Moscow and Dinamo Riga, and they push the total number of teams in the KHL to 24 in five countries: Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Slovakia. With that development behind them, the KHL looked further south into Europe as HC Milano Rossoblu of Italy expressed interest in joining the KHL. Negotiations are ongoing in this expansion, but we could see a "European" division beginning soon if the KHL continues to expand!
  • Also from the KHL, we know which city will play host to the 2012 KHL All-Star Game. Arena Riga, home to Dinamo Riga, will play host to the annual midseason game, and Riga, Latvia will be the first time that the KHL All-Star Game has gone outside of Russia. Saturday, January 21 is day slated for the big game, and there appears to be one major change as it looks like Team Jagr will not participate this year due to Jaromir Jagr's interest in returning to the NHL. Whether or not that happens is still in the air, but if you believe the reports, Jagr will be donning an NHL jersey next season.
  • Finally, some scheduling notes from the KHL to report: the KHL season starts for the 2011-12 campaign on Wednesday, September 7. Each of the 24 teams will play 56 games over the 130 regular season days. The opening round of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs will begin on Wednesday, February 29. The latest possible date that the KHL will see action could be Wednesday, April 25 if the final series needs seven games.
That's all for today as we prepare for free agency to open tomorrow. I predict that Florida, who has to spend a pile of money to get to the floor of the salary cap, will do just that. I also expect that the Winnipeg Jets will be fairly quiet on the free agency front as the team looks to build from within. I guess the major questions will be where Jaromir Jagr ends up, which team's general manager will lose his mind, and which team will come out of free agency with the best team? We'll know more tomorrow!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

TBC: Hockey Dad

The first book in the HBIC summer project is a book that I've been wanting to read for quite some time. Bob McKenzie is a celebrity in Canada because of his work as "The Hockey Insider" on TSN, but Mr. McKenzie has been involved with the world of hockey for a long time. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Mr. McKenzie's book as the first summer project book in the review of Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent, written by Bob McKenzie and published by John Wiley & Sons Canada, Limited. Mr. McKenzie's book is a fabulous written work in that he is open and honest about his experiences as a "hockey dad" of his two sons, Mike and Shawn, and he really takes you inside the psyche of what it's like being a little bit of a crazy hockey dad.

Bob McKenzie, as stated above, is very well-known from his work on TSN. Mr. McKenzie has been involved in covering hockey for more than 30 years, and his journalism is unparalleled when it comes to getting the inside story. He has annually been selected as one of hockey's 100 most powerful and influential people, and consistently provides updates and information on TSN.ca as well as his Twitter feed. Mr. McKenzie joined TSN in 1987 as an analyst for the NHL on TSN after having served as Editor-in-Chief for The Hockey News for nine years and as a hockey columnist with the Toronto Star for six years.

While Mr. McKenzie has been following the highest levels of hockey for a long time in his profession, Hockey Dad was all about being a father to two sons who did something a lot of Canadian boys do: play hockey. Because of his sons' involvement in the game, Mr. McKenzie found himself involved in the game as well. Throughout his sons' hockey experiences, Mr. McKenzie wore many hats: he coached, he was a psychologist, he was a fan. Most of all, though, he was always there for his two boys and always at their games cheering him on. I'd say he was a pretty good hockey dad, and Bob's wife, Cindy, was every bit as supportive of their sons as dad was despite Bob sometimes driving her crazy.

The story of Michael McKenzie, Bob's first-born son, started on April 29, 1986, and it was seemingly in the cards that Mike would be hockey-mad like his father is from the start of Hockey Dad. From this point, the story becomes an autobiography of Mr. McKenzie's life and experiences following Michael through his hockey and lacrosse careers. Mike was a driven player who enjoyed racking up points but took losses extremely hard. Bob examines his own feelings towards minor hockey and how it should be played as he works through the chapters of Mike's development into a budding star.

The family expanded in July 1989 when Shawn McKenzie joined the McKenzie clan. Shawn was a far different child than Mike when it came to hockey - he was seemingly carefree and non-committal to the game whereas Mike would eat, breathe, and sleep hockey. Shawn got into the game, and Bob was supportive of his younger son's endeavours despite not having that same driven passion that Mike possessed. In fact, it would seem that Bob almost thought that Shawn had a brighter future than Mike in a couple of stories, but the story of Shawn's hockey career ends prematurely thanks to a series of concussions.

With both kids, Bob McKenzie relates all sorts of tales and anecdotes of things he did, things he saw, and things he heard around the rink and from his kids as they progressed through the ranks of minor hockey in Whitby, Ontario. Mike works his way up through the minor hockey ranks in Ontario to eventually be drafted by the OHL's Saginaw Spirit as well as being offered an NCAA scholarship to St. Lawrence University to play hockey. As you can imagine, Bob McKenzie's stories surrounding Mike's ascension to collegiate-level hockey involve a lot of laughs, a few tears, and some moments of insanity.

I did, however, find the chapters regarding the end of Shawn's hockey career to be very relevant to what is happening in hockey today. The stories aren't that far removed from the present day, so the battles that Shawn had with concussions really resonated with me in that Mr. McKenzie's telling of how he felt about Shawn were very real and very poignant. In one passage, Mr. McKenzie wrote,

The beastly part of brain trauma is how the after-effects can pile up on you, layer on top of layer on top of layer. Think about it. Shawn had a constant headache, every minute of every day. That, and that alone, is more than enough to wear on anyone. But he also wasn't permitted to do any physical activity so he rapidly lost his fitness level. On doctor's orders, he spent an inordinate amount of time lying on the couch. He didn't have a lot to look forward to. No hockey practices or games. He couldn't even read a book or play a video game because he wasn't supposed to stimulate his brain.

The sense of loss was huge. Shawn was a kid who had played hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the summer, and being part of those teams was his social life and peer group. Really, Shawn lost his identity.
Shawn's experiences with his concussions sound a lot like the problems that Eric Lindros spoke about in his Maclean's Magazine article. It is this honesty and openness that Mr. McKenzie uses that makes Hockey Dad such a treat to read. I'm quite certain that a lot of people who pick up this book will read a passage and say, "I've seen that" or "I've done that". I know I did, and I found myself laughing at a lot of Mr. McKenzie's stories, especially the one chapter that deals with The Hockey Parents From Hell (THPFH).

There are a lot of lessons that all parents of budding athletes can learn from this book, and I've taken a number of these lessons to heart after reading about what Mr. McKenzie went through in his experiences. I especially liked Mr. McKenzie's four-point philosophy about minor hockey, and I really think that more minor hockey programs should adopt his four rules as being gospel. It would go a long way in helping to diffuse some of the situations about which Mr. McKenzie wrote.

Overall, Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent is a fabulous book. The chapters are short and each present an unstated moral that one can learn from Mr. McKenzie's stories. The 276-page book is short enough that one can easily tackle it in a week, but it is certainly meant for an adult crowd. There are spots of PG-rated language in the book, but adults will certainly relate to Mr. McKenzie's stories. Because of his excellent writing style and the myriad of stories and moral lessons presents, Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. I highly recommend Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent to anyone who is a hockey parent, a parent of an athlete, or has ever been to a minor hockey game. I guarantee you'll find yourself relating to Mr. McKenzie's experiences and chuckling about them!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The More Things Change...

The image to the left might be old, but it seems that everything in the NHL is new again for this upcoming year. With reports out of Pittsburgh today that the Penguins have offered Jaromir Jagr a one-year deal seems very mid-1990s once again. Some people think that Jagr is making a mistake in coming back to the NHL after spending the last few years in the KHL plying his trade, but I believe that this move by the Penguins and Jagr could turn out to be far more fruitful than the Alexei Kovalev experiment last year. Jagr's performance at the World Hockey Championships this past spring should more than enough proof that the 39 year-old winger still has great offensive vision.

There's no doubt that Jagr won't be the fleet-of-foot player he once was as a member of the Penguins. Jagr will undoubtedly be on one of the top two lines in Pittsburgh, and I personally believe that pairing him with Evgeni Malkin would push Malkin's game into a whole new level. For years, the chatter was to get Crosby a winger; could you imagine a line of Malkin-Staal-Jagr coming at you as the second line behind Kunitz-Crosby-Neal?

Jagr sits at 1599 career points, and all of his major accolades came while he was a part of the Penguins. He won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Trophy, and two Stanley Cups while with the Penguins before 1999 before asking to be traded in 2001. While that move caused a number of Penguins fans - me included - to turn on Jagr, I know that I have grown out of that phase and would welcome the high-scoring winger back to the team, even as his best-by date approaches rapidly.

Jagr is reportedly going to make his decision on the one-year offer from the Penguins on Wednesday, so we should know if the former NHL legend is ready to step back into the limelight in a city that loved him for so long and where he still has a house. Pittsburgh will certainly have a new angle to their offensive game next season if Jagr is planning on joining the team, and the young players will get to learn from one of hockey's greatest players in the same way that Jagr learned from Mario Lemieux. As long as the dollar value is right, I see this as a win-win for both the Penguins and Jagr.

It's pretty funny to read and consider, but check out this list of stuff that has happened over the last few months:

  • The Los Angeles Kings have returned to their black-and-silver colour scheme.
  • Atlanta, Georgia does not have an NHL team.
  • The Winnipeg Jets are a part of the NHL.
  • The Florida Panthers will be wearing red jerseys.
  • Jaromir Jagr is mulling over a contract offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Are we sure that the NHL hasn't time-warped back into 1995? It sure seems like a lot of history is repeating itself. Of course, if history does indeed repeat itself, the Penguins will be a dominant offensive team with Crosby, Malkin, and Jagr leading the way.

With the Flyers and Rangers cutting loose some big names over the last few weeks, the Penguins could be setting themselves up for the top spot in the Atlantic Division simply by bringing back a fan favorite. If he has himself a good year, Jagr could very well challenge for one of the NHL awards like he did back in 1995.

The more things change, the more the stay same. For the NHL, it seems like that's business as usual in this off-season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 June 2011

When Evil Lurks In Your Backyard

When it was announced that True North Sports and Entertainment had purchased the Atlanta Thrashers with the intent to move the team north to Winnipeg, there was a collective letdown on the left coast as Vancouver's affiliation with the Manitoba Moose would undoubtedly come to an end. After all, TNSE still owned the Moose, so it made sense for the then-Thrashers to affiliate themselves with the Moose as they were both under ownership by the same group. With the Thrashers' former AHL affiliate in the Chicago Wolves now without a parent team, the Vancouver Canucks did the easiest of moves and affiliated themselves with the Wolves. That's right: Vancouver's prospects will now play in the Blackhawks' backyard.

It's not like this hasn't happened before in the AHL. In fact, there's another team that knows exactly what this situation feels like, and I'm sure the Abbotsford Heat can give the management of the Chicago Wolves a little advice when it comes to playing in front of sparse crowds on most nights due to the proximity of the team to a rival NHL team's city.

You see, Abbotsford plays to small crowds because of their affiliation with the Calgary Flames. Abbotsford is a mere 68 kilometers from Vancouver, yet they ranked 26th in attendance in the AHL in 2010-11 with 152,272 people attending last year, or an average of 3807 people per game. Sure, they have their die-hard fans who come out to games and events and support the team, but the baby Flames play in Canuck-land. The vast majority of people won't drive the 68 kilometers to see the Heat play simply due to their affiliation with the hated Flames. Had it not been for a number of sold-out games with the Moose in town, Abbotsford could have finished the season lower than the 26th-best team in the AHL for attendance.

The Wolves, on the other hand, finished third in the AHL in attendance last year with 298,117 fans pushing through the turnstiles for an average of 7453 fans per game. That's a pretty good total of fans that showed up to see the baby Thrashers battle into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Chicago Wolves hockey is affordable, fun, and the team was a winner, and that's why they were successful on and off the ice. One of the most attractive things for players about going to Chicago is that the Wolves, like the Moose, are very in tune with making sure their players are happy while with the team.

"We kind of zeroed in on Chicago right away," Canucks assistant GM Lorne Henning said Monday to The Vancouver Sun. "We struck up a conversation quite a while ago with them when we found out the Moose were moving on. They run a first-class organization and they always take care of their players. They're a good fit for us."

But the problem I see is that Chicago hockey fans - both Blackhawk fans and Wolves fans - never really had a beef with Atlanta, but hate everything about the Canucks. I cannot deny that the Blackhawks don't hold the city captive in the winter with such rising stars as Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane to name a few, and the rivalry the Blackhawks have developed with the Vancouver Canucks is a marketing department's dream. The fans in Chicago love to hate the Canucks, making this new Canucks-Wolves affiliation so puzzling.

On one hand, it makes total sense for the Canucks to affiliate themselves with an organization like the Wolves who work really hard at making sure players are ready for the next level. The Wolves have won the Calder Cup in their short history in the AHL already, so it's clear that the Wolves emphasize building a strong, competitive team that will compete every night - something every NHL club would like to see from their AHL affiliate. The Canucks had the same commitment from the Manitoba Moose while with them, and it appears they have partnered with another franchise that values excellence.

Wolves General Manager Wendell Young stated, "They've got a great franchise, a great group of players. Honestly, they have the same philosophy as us. They want to treat their players so well that their players want to stay and play. We couldn't find anybody better."

The other hand is where I'm puzzled by the Wolves accepting this affiliation. The Wolves' management has to know that the people of Chicago want nothing more the absolute failure for the Vancouver Canucks and any players associated with the team due to the Canucks' burning rivalry with the Blackhawks. Don't get me wrong - the Wolves are getting a great bunch of players from the Canucks organization, and I can tell you first-hand that the men who wore the Moose uniforms last season are hard-working and care about the fans.

Wendell Young sees no problem with the Canucks being affiliated with the Wolves, though. "That has come up a bit today," Young chuckled. "We don't compete against the Blackhawks. They're a different genre, a different level, a different everything. The Hawks might think differently but we don't. If anything, it will add spice when their farm team in Rockford plays us."

I'm sure the players in Abbotsford are the same type of players: hard-working, care about the fans, involved in the community. It's just that people care more about the Canucks than they do about the Flames. I happen to think that the same fate awaits the Chicago Wolves this season as the people in Chicago care more about their Blackhawks than the hated Canucks. While it may not be fair, people are very loyal to their teams and having Canucks in Wolves' clothing will not sway a lot of people.

I guess that for Vancouver, it's all about keeping your enemies closer as they have the baby Flames in their backyard, and now they're camping out in the Blackhawks' backyard.

Seriously, though, the Wolves franchise is a first-class organization, and I think the former Moose players who will be assigned to Chicago will find a lot of the same great benefits that they found in Manitoba. The only difference is that they may play to smaller crowds that what they did in Manitoba.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Hockey Literacy List

The HBIC summer project is in full swing as I'm nearly finished the first book I want to get through over these next few months. I wanted to post a list of the books that I would like to tackle this summer that are already sitting on my bookshelf, as well as adding a few books of personal interest and a few books I still need to acquire if there is sufficient time to tackle them. Again, the reviews of these books will happen weekly on Wednesdays, so Teebz's Book Club will grow quite a bit over the summer. If you want to suggest a book, please leave the title and author's name in the comments! I'm always open to suggestions of good books, so please check the drop-down list to the right to see if I have already read through those books!

Here are, in no particular order, the list of books that I will be tackling over the summer in order to be more well-read when it comes to hockey literature.

  • Hockey Dad written by Bob McKenzie.
  • Undergrounders written by David Skuy.
  • Playing Overtime written by Ted Barris.
  • The Boys of Saturday Night written by Scott Young.
  • Don Cherry's Hockey Stories Part 2 written by Don Cherry and Al Strachan.
  • Eddie Shore and that Old Time Hockey written by C. Michael Hiam.
  • The Power of Two written by Susan Foster with Carl Brewer.
  • Money Players written by Bruce Dowbiggin.
  • Legendary Stanley Cup Stories written by Leslie McFarlane.
  • Patrick Roy written by Michel Roy.
  • Gretzky's Tears written by Stephen Brunt.
  • Stop It There, Back It Up! written by Howie Meeker and Dave Hodge.
Of the personal interest side, I want to tackle a few books that have nothing to do with hockey at all. These are simply books that friends and family have recommended or books that have piqued my interest as I was looking for hockey books at the bookstore.
  • Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street written by Michael Davis.
  • When Elephants Weep written by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy.
  • The Colossal Failure of Common Sense written by G. Lawrence McDonald.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything written by Bill Brisson.
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me written by James W. Loewen.
Of course, there are some books I'd like to add to my hockey literature collection, and I'll keep my eyes peeled for these books if they go on sale over the summer.
  • The Game written by Ken Dryden.
  • Playing With Fire written by Theoren Fleury.
  • The Red Machine written by Lawrence Martin.
  • Open Net written by George Plimpton.
Clearly, I have a lot of reading to do. The good news is that Hockey Dad will be ready for Wednesday, so make sure you tune in for that review. I'm very impressed with Bob McKenzie's efforts thus far, and I have a few chapters to go. Overall, I'm looking forward to tackling all the books from the first list as soon as I can! If you are interested in any of the books from the second list, please email me and I'll let you know if/when I read them and shoot you my own personal review. I'm off to read some more today, so take care!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Wardrobe Changes For 2011-12

Every year, the NHL Entry Draft offers hope for hundreds of players that have been chasing the dream of playing in the NHL since they were on bob skates. This year, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins became the top selection at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft as the Oilers grabbed the Red Deer Rebel with the top selection. While everyone was chatting about the picks and who may go as the second overall pick, it dawned on me that a number of teams were unofficially debuting their new uniforms or changes to their uniforms for the upcoming 2011-12 season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, while being first, was also the first player to sport one of the new looks.

The Edmonton Oilers have officially retired the apron strings that they originally sported when the NHL switched to Rbk Hockey's designs. This season, it appears that they will be revisiting a traditional look with a modern twist. I'm really liking the traditional colours, but I'm more hesitant to accept the design of the collar. It just doesn't feel finished. Overall, though, I like that the Oilers' uniforms have that traditional feel and not the backyard barbeque look. With the Oilers having the first pick and knowing who they were going to draft, could they not have had the nameplate for the jersey sewn down a little better? Overall, the return to a sensible jersey design has the Oilers looking respectable for the upcoming season.

From the first overall pick, we move to the third pick that was held by Florida. The Panthers had already announced that they were going back to their traditional red uniform colour that the team wore for the first few years they played. I like the Panthers in red, so I'm ok with this, but it seems the jersey redesign only had one major change: no apron strings. The old blue uniforms had the strings, but it appears that all the Panthers did was remove the strings and swap the colours. While I applaud the removal of the yellow piping, I'm baffled by the lack of creativity shown by the Panthers. No hem stripes and the sleeve stripes that get lost under the extended shoulder yoke are still a problem with Florida's current set of uniforms. As happy as I am with the apron strings gone, I thought we might have seen a better effort from Florida to get back to a more traditional design. I guess I thought wrong.

The fifth overall pick belonged to the New York Islanders, and there wasn't a jersey redesign as much as there was an addition to the 2011-12 Islanders' look. It appears the Islanders will wear a 40th anniversary patch on their shoulders this season to commemorate the team's inclusion into the NHL. Honestly, the patch is hard to see clearly in these photos, but it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. That continues the great design ideas recently seen by the Islanders as they push forward with their traditional look.

The Ottawa Senators held the sixth overall pick, and they also added something new to their jerseys. As you can see from the jerseys worn by their newest players, the Ottawa Senators will be hosting the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. The large extension upwards from the patch is the Peace Tower that is a very recognizable part of the federal parliament buildings in Ottawa, and I think the patch looks pretty good. Well done, Ottawa!

We had to wait until the 27th pick for the next jersey, and this is one we've already seen. However, it's the first time we've seen it at the NHL Entry Draft, so here is Tampa Bay's Nikita Nesterov wearing the new Tampa Bay jersey. Honestly, I like the new Lightning jersey much more than their previous jerseys. The blue jerseys are a fabulous colour, but the logos eliminate the annoying "Bolts" nickname jersey, making them automatically better.

The 38th overall pick went to the Nashville Predators who decided to completely redesign their look in terms of logos and jerseys. We took a look at the new Predators logos a few days earlier, so I had hoped the new jerseys would follow the trend that Nashville was setting in becoming simpler and better. While only the white road jersey was seen this weekend on a non-player, so there is still no guarantee that this new white jersey is the official jersey at this time, but it seems very plausible that it could be.

The Predators definitely have used the same template that St. Louis used when they changed their jerseys. In stating this, here is what the Predators will look like for next season. Not bad, right? Again, the secondary logo looks great on the white jersey. The number font on the rear of the jersey seems to be borrowed from another team as well, though. The Predators seemingly took the same font as the Anaheim Ducks use, and simply added the six lines to represent guitar strings. The guys from On The Forecheck, a fantastic Predators blog, showed off the rear of the white jersey a few days ago, and it hit me almost instantly that the font was that of the Ducks. They also posted a picture of a yellow jersey, but the Predators reportedly will not be using this exact style of jersey as their home jersey. Personally, I'm not against the yellow jersey, but get rid of the horrible wordmark off the shoulder!

Finally, the 47th overall pick was the Los Angeles Kings' first pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and they showed off their new road uniforms. If you recall, the Kings announced late in the season that they would be using their alternate uniforms as their home uniforms this season. That announcement meant that they would be introducing a new road jersey to match the home jersey in style. Thanks to what we saw on Sunday, the Los Angeles Kings have inverted the colours of the home uniform for a white version of that jersey.

While Winnipeg didn't have a new jersey to debut at this point, the prevailing rumour out of Manitoba is that the new-look Jets will wear red at home. Personally, I believe that if the team is going to use the name "Jets", they should change the logo but keep the red-white-and-blue colour scheme. Time will tell, though, as to what the new Jets will wear.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Imploding The Flyers

I'm not sure what GM Paul Holmgren was thinking, but I'm quite certain that if I were him, I'd have resigned and walked away from the desk yesterday. I have never understood why some owners have to be hands-on when it comes to their teams. I mean, I understand that the owner is spending a lot of money on trying to build a winner, but if he's never actually built anything but an also-ran in his many years of ownership, why would the people running the ship allow him to steer? Word trickled out of Philadelphia a few days ago that owner Ed Snider was convinced that the Flyers were one goaltender away from a Stanley Cup parade, and that he told GM Paul Holmgren to get a Stanley Cup-calibre goalie at any cost. So I have to ask: is sacrificing your two best offensive players over the last three years for a goaltender who has a losing record in the playoffs the best way to get your parade?

In two separate trades that went down in about an hour, the Flyers traded away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards so that they could go out and sign Ilya Bryzgalov and have a little cap space left over. The Flyers traded away 23% of their offence last season to sign a goaltender who is 12-13 in his career in the playoffs including a dismantling by the Detroit Red Wings this season. The only time Bryzgalov has ever advanced past the first round is when Anaheim won their Stanley Cup in 2006-07. Is this really the man who will replace 23% of Philadelphia's offence?

In a word, no.

Both Carter and Richards signed long-term deals with the Flyers in the hopes that they could lead the Flyers back to the promised land. And they came close one year ago as they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final. Fast forward to this season, and the Flyers fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. In both cases, the Flyers weren't that far off from their goal. And while they didn't achieve that goal, it was felt that acquiring a goaltender with a decent playoff track record would help the team immensely.

I think that Paul Holmgren's reaction at the press conference was generally the thought for the vast majority of Flyers fans: what do we do next?

"Today was obviously a very busy day and a huge day for our franchise," Holmgren stated. "We’re busy preparing for the draft tomorrow. We have a high first round pick along with some other picks we didn’t have 24 hours ago, so we’ve got our work to do over the next two days here in St. Paul, and we’ll get together on our roster after that. But you’re right in saying that we are younger up front. Any time you take out two 26-year-olds and you sprinkle in a 22, 23 and 20 year-old, you’re younger for sure. That’ll be something we talk about once we get past the draft leading up to the July 1 free agency period."

There's no doubt that this trade will have a major impact on the Flyers for years to come. Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger thinks this trade will be hard on the Flyers, but life must go on.

"I think when you make a move like that to get a goalie, you got to pay him and you have to find the money somewhere," Pronger said to Mike Brophy of Sportsnet.ca. "We’ve seen it time and again in the salary cap era; you’ve got to give to get. Unfortunately for us, those two guys were traded. It sucks. As a teammate you hate to see those two guys go.

"They were, for all intents and purposes, the face of the franchise for four of the six years, if not the whole six years they were here. I’m sure it’s tough for them. This is the Philadelphia Flyers; all they really know. I’ve gone through it a few times and sometimes a move is healthy for you."

While Pronger is right in that you have to give to get sometimes, this isn't just a straight him-for-him exchange. Richards and Carter, as Pronger alluded to, were the faces of this franchise and the potential cornerstones through the next decade. They could score, they could hit, they could play defence, and they were loved by the fans. So moving Carter and Richards should have, on the surface anyway, brought back some sort of scoring threat from either the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Los Angeles Kings.

From the Blue Jackets, the Flyers acquired Jakub Voracek, the eighth overall pick in this year's draft, and Columbus' third-round pick for Jeff Carter. Carter will now be the centerman that Columbus GM Scott Howson coveted for so long. Howson can have Carter play with superstar Rick Nash, and the Blue Jackets immediately become a much better team offensively.

From the Kings, the Flyers acquired Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and LA's second-round pick in the NHL Entry Draft. Richards will allow Los Angeles to roll out two complete offensive forward lines with Kopitar and Richards down the middle. Not only does Los Angeles become a more complete team and a better defensive team with Richards in the line-up, but Richards' contract will ensure that he is a centerpiece in LA for a long time.

In the Columbus deal, the Flyers ship out 36 goals and 66 points in Carter for a winger in Voracek who scored 14 goals and 46 points. In the Los Angeles deal, the Flyers ship out Richards' 23 goals and 66 points for Simmonds' 14 goals and 30 points. Yes, they will add Schenn - a dynamic forward who is still a little raw - and a number of draft picks that they didn't have prior to these trades, but the reduction in offence in the Flyers lineup will make this a dramatically different team next season regardless of who they have in net.

Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux will still be counted on for offence next season, so that won't change. But coach Peter Laviolette may be forced to go more defensive in his approach as players like James van Riemsdyk, Darroll Powe, and Ville Leino - who is an unrestricted free agent - are asked to pick up the difference in goal-scoring that the two trades left in Philadelphia. Wayne Simmonds will be a great foot soldier, and there is hope that Voracek will be able to step into a scoring role as well, but neither has shown a consistent offensive flair thus far in their short careers.

I guess the entire ordeal of blowing up the Flyers comes down to one thing: are the Flyers stronger after the deal? Personally, I say they are not. They gave up a large chunk of their scoring and brought back players who aren't known for their offensive games, but I'm not the guy handing out bundles of money to players. Does Ed Snider think the Flyers are stronger?

"Yes, I do," Snider told The Associated Press. "I like our goaltending, I like our defence, I like our forwards. We moved things around a little bit. I really think we're stronger."

The Flyers had a solid blueline last season, and that will remain the same. In comparison, Ilya Bryzgalov is an upgrade in the blue paint over the three-headed monster known as Leighton, Boucher, and Bobrovsky. But up front, the Flyers will be a significantly different team. They'll be a little grittier with Simmonds, but they will need van Riemsdyk, Leino, and a host of other guys, including Voracek and Simmonds, to step up and fill the void that were left by Richards and Carter.

Are they stronger? In some cases, yes.
Could they win the Atlantic Division next season? Yes, they can.
Will they score more than last season? It's very unlikely.

In one of the most ultra-competitive divisions in hockey, the moves by the Flyers yesterday afternoon, in my opinion, will make the battle to win the Atlantic Division a lot harder than before. Regardless of what Ed Snider does with his new salary cap flexibility, Philadelphia, in the short term, got a lot weaker up front, and bought themselves nine years of an unproven playoff goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov. Two men who bled black-and-orange will now do everything they can to try to derail the Flyers' chances in winning a Stanley Cup.

In short, the Flyers traded away two players who were the heart and soul of the Flyers team and who combined for 59 goals and 132 points for three players who had 28 goals and 76 points and a goaltender who is north of 30 years-old for the next nine years with a save percentage just .006 better than Sergei Bobrovsky and finished the playoffs one round earlier this season than the Flyers did. Even if Brayden Schenn can outperform Richards or Carter in Philadelphia, the only thing that will appease fans when it comes to these deals is a Stanley Cup.

Whenever you find yourself in a Stanley Cup-or-bust situation after a trade, there's a pretty good chance that you came out on the wrong end of the deal.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Winnipeg's NHL Nights

The NHL released the full slate of games today, and that means we get to see when and where the new Winnipeg team will be playing all season long. The Winnipeg NHLers reportedly also have a coach, and I'll have a short blurb about that below the schedule, but there is no doubt that the first few weeks at MTS Centre will be pretty incredible. If you're a season-ticket holder, you might be a little disappointed at the number of road games in October, but that only means that the Winnipeg franchise will have more home dates as they push for the playoffs down the stretch.

October 9, 2011 will officially see the Winnipeg NHLers open the regular season, and they will welcome the storied Montreal Canadiens to town. Carey Price, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta will be here for the first NHL game in Winnipeg in nearly sixteen years, and I'm almost certain that the number of Winnipeg fans will certainly outnumber the Montreal fans in the crowd. If the "Phone Booth" isn't rocking that night, I'm not sure what kind of fire needs to be lit in Winnipeg.

Here's the Winnipeg schedule with a few comments of my own. Just as a note, the team has not officially been named as "Winnipeg". I'm simply going with that because of how they are listed on the NHL.com site. Home games are in yellow while road games appear in white.

  • Sunday, October 9 vs. Montreal (5PM ET). While no TV coverage has been announced, I can't see any of the major Canadian networks passing up a dream broadcast like this. Montreal visiting the packed MTS Centre for Winnipeg's first game? Dreams are made of broadcasts like this.
  • Thursday, October 13 @ Chicago (8:30PM ET). Nothing like an old Central Division match-up that will feature Chicago's Jonathan Toews playing his first game against his hometown team.
  • Saturday, October 15 @ Phoenix (7PM ET). Winnipeg's old team versus Winnipeg's new team. This game could be very interesting for a number of reasons.
  • Monday, October 17 vs. Pittsburgh (8:30PM ET). Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Kris Letang hit the ice at MTS Centre. This should be another incredible night at the "Phone Booth".
  • Wednesday, October 19 @ Toronto (7:30PM ET). I'm going to go on record here and say that TSN's hockey coverage will have this game as the featured game that night.
  • Thursday, October 20 @ Ottawa (7:30PM ET). Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza host the Winnipeg franchise. Winnipeg always seemed to struggle against the Senators as the Jets - can they change that trend in their new incarnation?
  • Saturday, October 22 vs. Carolina (7PM ET). The first divisional game is against Carolina at home. Eric Staal and Cam Ward should make for worthy opponents in Winnipeg's third home game of the season. Could this be a Hockey Night In Canada early game?
  • Monday, October 24 vs. NY Rangers (8:30PM ET). Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, and the Rangers invade MTS Centre. The Winnipeg franchise gets a double-dose of Staal as Eric plays in Saturday's game while Marc plays with the Rangers.
  • Thursday, October 27 @ Philadelphia (7PM ET). Winnipeg starts their seven-game roadtrip against the Flyers. If Winnipeg wants to contend in the East, they have prove they can play against teams like the Flyers.
  • Saturday, October 29 @ Tampa Bay (7PM ET). Winnipeg's first visit to Florida in a long while has them playing one of the Eastern Conference finalists.
  • Monday, October 31 @ Florida (7:30PM ET). The new-look Panthers in red jerseys will play the new-look Winnipeg team in whatever colour they choose on Halloween. New team, new costumes, best Halloween ever?
  • Thursday, November 3 @ NY Islanders (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, November 5 @ New Jersey (7PM ET).
  • Sunday, November 6 @ NY Rangers (7PM ET).
  • Tuesday, November 8 @ Buffalo (7PM ET).
  • Thursday, November 10 vs. Florida (8:30PM ET). Stephen Weiss and Dmitry Kulikov lead the Panthers into Winnipeg for the first time in their professional careers.
  • Saturday, November 12 @ Columbus (7PM ET).
  • Monday, November 14 vs. Tampa Bay (8:30PM ET). Three weeks between home games? The fans in Winnipeg will be ravenous when TeeBay rolls into town. We will have a great welcome for Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Dwayne Roloson!
  • Thursday, November 17 vs. Washington (8:30PM ET). Ovechkin, Semin, Green, Backstrom and the Capitals make their first visit to MTS Centre. Tickets for this one will be gone in a matter of seconds.
  • Saturday, November 19 vs. Philadelphia (3PM ET). The first afternoon game at MTS Centre, and the end of a tough three-game home stand. With Bryzgalov signing with Philly, I'd hope that everyone remembers what he said about Winnipeg as a city.
  • Wednesday, November 23 @ Washington (7PM ET).
  • Friday, November 25 @ Carolina (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, November 26 @ Boston (7PM ET). Winnipeg meets the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins for their first meeting of the season.
  • Tuesday, November 29 vs. Ottawa (8:30PM ET). The Senators make their second regular-season visit to Winnipeg early in the season.
  • Thursday, December 1 vs. Phoenix (8:30PM ET). The former Jets franchise returns to Winnipeg for the first regular-season game in their history. Phoenix should get a "warm" welcome on this night. Shane Doan returns as a member of the Coyotes!
  • Saturday, December 3 vs. New Jersey (7PM ET). Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur make their first regular-season visit to Winnipeg. Travis Zajac will get to play in front of friends and family on this night.
  • Tuesday, December 6 vs. Boston (8:30PM ET). The Stanley Cup Champions visit Winnipeg. Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara will help to sell this game out quickly. I'll have to "convince" Dad to go to this game.
  • Friday, December 9 vs. Carolina (8:30PM ET). This is the second game of the three games that Carolina will play in Winnipeg this season.
  • Saturday, December 10 @ Detroit (7PM ET).
  • Tuesday, December 13 vs. Minnesota (8:30PM ET). The Wild make their first visit to Winnipeg in franchise history for a regular-season game.
  • Thursday, December 15 vs. Washington (8:30PM ET). Another Washington game, another guaranteed sell-out.
  • Saturday, December 17 vs. Anaheim (7PM ET). Could this be another HNIC game because of the start time? Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jonas Hiller make their first visits as professionals to Winnipeg.
  • Tuesday, December 20 vs. NY Islanders (8:30PM ET). Michael Grabner returns to MTS Centre for his first game since being a member of the Manitoba Moose.
  • Thursday, December 22 vs. Montreal (8:30PM ET). Merry Christmas, Winnipeg! The Habs roll through town just before the merriest of holidays hits the calendar!
  • Friday, December 23 vs. Pittsburgh (8:30PM ET). Merry Christmas, Winnipeg! Another game featuring Crosby and the Penguins right before the Christmas break!
  • Tuesday, December 27 @ Colorado (9PM ET).
  • Thursday, December 29 vs. Los Angeles (8:30PM ET). My brother will be ecstatic as his favorite team visits MTS Centre for a night with the Winnipeg franchise. Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Dustin Brown will visit Winnipeg for the first time in their professional careers!
  • Saturday, December 31 vs. Toronto (7PM ET). We're almost guaranteed that this will be the HNIC early game. Toronto fans usually filled the old Winnipeg Arena to see the Leafs play. I suspect there may be more Winnipeg fans this time.
  • Wednesday, January 4 @ Montreal (7:30PM ET).
  • Thursday, January 5 @ Toronto (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, January 7 @ Buffalo (7PM ET).
  • Tuesday, January 10 @ Boston (7PM ET).
  • Thursday, January 12 vs. San Jose (8:30PM ET). Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and the San Jose Sharks invade the waters of MTS Centre for the first time this season.
  • Saturday, January 14 vs. New Jersey (7PM ET).
  • Monday, January 16 @ Ottawa (7:30PM ET).
  • Tuesday, January 17 @ New Jersey (7PM ET).
  • Thursday, January 19 vs. Buffalo (8:30PM ET). Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers, and Ryan Miller play their first game in MTS Centre as the Sabres roll into town.
  • Saturday, January 21 vs. Florida (8PM ET).
  • Monday, January 23 @ Carolina (7PM ET). This game marks the start of an extended six-game roadtrip, and eight of the next nine games are played on the road.
  • Tuesday, January 24 @ NY Rangers (7PM ET). This appears to be the last game before the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
  • Tuesday, January 31 @ Philadelphia (7PM ET).
  • Thursday, February 2 @ Tampa Bay (7:30PM ET).
  • Friday, February 3 @ Florida (7:30PM ET).
  • Sunday, February 5 @ Montreal (2PM ET). Another rare afternoon game for the Winnipeg franchise.
  • Tuesday, February 7 vs. Toronto (8:30PM ET). Another Toronto game should bring another solid crowd out for both the Leafs and Winnipeg franchise.
  • Thursday, February 9 @ Washington (7PM ET).
  • Friday, February 10 @ Pittsburgh (7PM ET).
  • Tuesday, February 14 vs. NY Islanders (8:30PM ET). Happy Valentine's Day!
  • Thursday, February 16 @ Minnesota (8PM ET).
  • Friday, February 17 vs. Boston (8:30PM ET). Can I take Dad to see his favorite team twice in one season? It appears I can!
  • Sunday, February 19 vs. Colorado (8:30PM ET). Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny, and the Avalanche make their way to Winnipeg for a game.
  • Tuesday, February 21 vs. Philadelphia (8:30PM ET). Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, and Kimmo Timonen play their second game in Winnipeg this season. Make sure Ilya Bryzgalov gets an earful again!
  • Thursday, February 23 vs. Tampa Bay (8:30PM ET). These late-season divisional games could mean the difference between attending playoff games and watching them on TV. Let's make sure we make it hard on our opposition!
  • Saturday, February 25 vs. St. Louis (2PM ET). An afternoon game at MTS Centre, and Alex Steen gets to visit his father, Thomas Steen, back in Winnipeg!
  • Monday, February 27 vs. Edmonton (8:30PM ET). The former Smythe Division rivals meet for the first time. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson should be on MTS Centre ice for the Oilers in the two teams' only meeting this year. Rogers' Sportsnet may have this game on the tube.
  • Thursday, March 1 vs. Florida (8:30PM ET). Florida plays in Winnipeg for the second time this season, and these divisional games are vitally important at this point in the season.
  • Monday, March 5 vs. Buffalo (8:30PM ET). The Sabres make their second and final trip to MTS Centre this season.
  • Thursday, March 8 @ Vancouver (10PM ET). The city that housed Vancouver's former AHL franchise visits Rogers Arena as an NHL franchise. The former Smythe Division rivals meet for the only time this season.
  • Friday, March 9 @ Calgary (9PM ET). If Rogers' Sportnet continues to cover the Oilers and Flames as well as they did last season, this game will surely be on TV. This is the only meeting between these two Smythe Division rivals this season as well.
  • Wednesday, March 14 vs. Dallas (8:30PM ET). Brendan Morrow, Alex Goligoski, and Jamie Langenbrunner make their way to Winnipeg as the Stars visit MTS Centre in the two teams' only meeting this season.
  • Friday, March 16 vs. Washington (8:30PM ET). Washington's final visit to MTS Centre this season will see Ovechkin and company in a divisional battle with Winnipeg.
  • Sunday, March 18 vs. Carolina (8:30PM ET). Carolina's final visit to MTS Centre is also a divisional battle. Winnipeg needs these points if they are still in the playoff race.
  • Tuesday, March 20 @ Pittsburgh (7PM ET).
  • Friday, March 23 @ Washington (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, March 24 @ Nashville (7PM ET). Nashville and Winnipeg meet for the only time this season in Music City.
  • Monday, March 26 vs. Ottawa (8:30PM ET). Ottawa visits one last time as the season winds down.
  • Wednesday, March 28 vs. NY Rangers (7PM ET). Strangely, this game starts at 6pm locally. Could this be another TSN game?
  • Friday, March 30 @ Carolina (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, March 31 @ Tampa Bay (7PM ET).
  • Tuesday, April 3 @ Florida (7:30PM ET).
  • Thursday, April 5 @ NY Islanders (7PM ET).
  • Saturday, April 7 vs. Tampa Bay (7PM ET). The final home game in Winnipeg's first season back in the NHL is against the Lightning. Will this be the last game this season for Winnipeg, or could there be a playoff berth awaiting them after this game?
So there is your full schedule for the Winnipeg NHL franchise this season. There are a lot of great games on the schedule, and MTS Centre should be packed all season long. That leaves a few questions: what will the team be called, what will the logo and jerseys look like, and who will coach the team?

Well, the last question is easy to answer. Reports out of Winnipeg today have former Moose and Blue Jackets coach Claude Noel taking the reins behind the bench of the new Winnipeg franchise. Honestly, I'm good with the choice of Noel as he was very effective last season in working with the younger Moose players, and his system - when played - works well. In 24 games as the interim coach of the Blue Jackets, Noel has a 10-8-6 record - not overly impressive, but very good considering the personnel on the Blue Jackets two seasons ago.

With Noel at the helm and the schedule now out, the Winnipeg franchise is beginning to move forward. Word out of Minnesota is that the Winnipeg NHLers that are drafted will be given a generic black jersey with the NHL shield on it as we await the first looks at what the franchise will be called and what they will be wearing.

If you noticed above, there was a name that seemed slightly out of place. There were a few major trades today, and HBIC will look at those in a separate entry later today. For now, there are your updates for the Winnipeg franchise as they prepare for their first season on MTS Centre ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A New Non-Winnipeg Logo

Everyone is anticipating the announcement of the Winnipeg team name in the next few days before the NHL Entry Draft gets underway, and there is a groundswell of anticipation for Winnipeg's NHL merchandise emblazoned with the new logo on it. Today we have a logo, although it's not Winnipeg's logo. The Nashville Predators decided to get the jump on Winnipeg by unveiling their new logos today, and I have to say that Nashville is doing a fine job in becoming a more respectable-looking NHL team with their new logos.

We'll start with the Predators' new primary logo that they will wear on their chests. The old logo had a number of extra colours in it that weren't major colours in the Nashville colour scheme. While the logo itself was quite catchy, there had been a push to simplify the logo in terms of the number of colours used. The alternate jersey had eliminated the yellow almost altogether on the primary logo, so it appeared the Predators were already bleeding some colours out of their logos.

Today's unveiling of the new logo eliminates all the extraneous colours while putting the yellow back into the colour scheme. While it's certainly less flashy than the old logo, the new logo follows a theme that I believe should be a requirement when designing logos: keep it simple! The Predators have done that for their new look, and the logo still looks pretty good. In fact, I like the very large teeth much more on this new logo than I do on the old logo. This new logo is definitely GOOD.

We move to the secondary logo where the Predators always played up the fossil aspect on their uniforms. As good as that logo is, the gimmick always bothered me because a fossil is the remains of a dead animal. The Predators never seem to be dead in any game, and they proved that in the NHL Playoffs a couple of times this season. Thankfully, and excuse the pun, but the fossil logo is now dead on their upcoming re-designed home and road jerseys.

The new secondary logo works in a couple of great aspects: the three stars found on the Tennessee flag, and the shape of a guitar pick that represents "Music City", Nashville's nickname. Personally, I love this new secondary logo that the Predators will wear on their shoulders because it represents both the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville, and representing the civic entity that the team calls home is what a sports logo should do first and foremost. Well done, Nashville - this secondary logo is definitely GOOD.

The Predators will be adding a new logo to their pants this year as well. The "NP" logo that the team wore last season will be replaced by an "NP" in the newly-chosen font for the team. It will also take the place of the old primary logo occasionally worn on the pants. Personally, this one is a PUSH simply because I wasn't against the old "NP" at all.

The Nashville wordmark on font changed a little as well. The old wordmark had the small slashes on each letter, and the font on the rear of the jersey for the numbers also had the same feature. The new wordmark is less aggressive in its depiction, but it certainly doesn't lose its effectiveness. I just hope that the rear number font doesn't change much because it was one of the things that made Nashville's jerseys unique. I feel this one is a PUSH as well.

From the Nashville Predators website, the English copy may be poor, but here's how the Predators came up with the changes: "This week's launch is the conclusion of a lengthy process which included fan focus group input, input from season ticket holders, meetings with the Reebok NHL design team, designed to showcase a more contemporary and aggressive look by streamlining the original logo with tweaks like shading on the teeth and adding a distinctive gold color band through the logo."

Overall, I think the Predators did a pretty good job in simplifying their logos, and they really brought the civic elements representing the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee to life. I guess this means that I have another discontinued jersey in the my closet, however, since my Shea Weber was on the original jersey with the original logo.

What say you, readers: thumbs-up or thumbs-down to the Predators' re-design?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tuesday's Thoughts

You may be wondering what the image to the left is, and why is it on a hockey blog. I can tell you that it is the representation of the Aztec sun god known as Tonatiuh, and the Aztecs considered him the leader of "Tollan", their heaven. Legend has it that only human sacrifices were made to appease Tonatiuh, and failure to do so would prevent Tonatiuh from moving through the sky. Tonatiuh carries all of the brave warriors who died in battle and all of the women who died during childbirth across the heavens each day. The bravest men and women would be carried to the highest point each day where they would be honoured. And with that, HBIC closes its Aztec history lesson for today.

So why am I talking about past civilizations and gods and fallen warriors? It seems to me that the city of Boston just celebrated their hockey gods' return. Through the playoffs, the Bruins and their fans sacrificed four teams to arrive at the pinnacle of the hockey world. And with the sun being at the highest point in its travel today as the summer solstice is upon us, it sort of ties everything together in a convoluted way. We'll just go with that. It's the only way I can justify reading about Aztec culture.

In any case, here are some stories from around the hockey world that caught my attention for a few moments when I wasn't looking up Aztec gods and how they were interpreted:

  • As we approach the draft, an interesting observation was made by Robin Short of The Telegram in St. John's, Newfoundland. Russian players were outscored by Newfoundland-born players in this year's playoffs. Pavel Datsyuk was the highest-scoring Russian player with 15 points whereas both Teddy Purcell and Stanley Cup champion Michael Ryder finished the playoffs with 17 points apiece. It might just be something to remember as GMs step to the podium this weekend.
  • I always spend a few moments looking over the jobs posted on the NHL job board, but one caught my attention simply due to the factors surrounding the job. As you're probably aware from this year's Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks play in Rogers Arena which was formerly GM Place. They placed a job on the job board for a Digital Media Technician that requires the technician to service and program the Shaw set top boxes found in the arena. If you're not aware, Shaw and Rogers are two of the largest media companies in Canada that provide television to Canadians, and are fierce business competitors. Looks like Rogers Arena is a Rogers property in name only!
  • With the news that the Atlanta Thrashers are officially dead, I thought it might be relevant to post the letter written by the Atlanta Spirit Group to the fans of Atlanta. The letter, posted on May 31, 2011, was written by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon of the Atlanta Thrashers ownership group. I'm not posting it to be cruel to the people of Atlanta, but rather as a reminder of how these men let you down. If you feel like you were betrayed by these men, remember this letter the next time you visit one of their businesses. It seems only fair to take something away from them, no?
  • Moving forward, the Atlanta Thrashers website is now a Winnipeg website. The Atlanta page, when selected on the "Teams" menu on NHL.com, takes you to this splash page that is owned by Philips Arena. Seems to me that the NHL cut ties pretty quickly with the Thrashers upon the unanimous vote by the Board of Governors.
When Cabral Richards - aka "Cabbie" - was working for The Score TV station, he often sung a little tune about Dion Phaneuf when a highlight of Phaneuf was played, and he often tried to get Dion to sing along.
Pretty hilarious if you ask me! The tune was made famous through a sketch on The Muppet Show that I'm sure a large number of you have heard and of which you are aware (time to get onboard, Dion).
Finally, someone put the two together to actually get the Muppets to sing about Toronto's Dion Phaneuf! The creator, "Ryanzmyther" on YouTube, puts Phaneuf into The Muppet Show!
Not bad, right? It made me chuckle. Very impressive effort, "Ryanzmyther"!

That's all for today. Enjoy your Tuesday, and have some fun this summer, kids. School's almost out, there will be no more lessons on Aztec civilization on this blog as far as I can tell, but there will be some reading happening. Enjoy the first day of summer, and mahna mahna!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 June 2011

2011 Summer Project(s)

With summer upon us in the hockey world, there is a definite void that needs to be filled between now and September. Once again, HBIC is going to set his sights on accomplishing a summer project where I will become a more rounded individual when it comes to my hockey acumen. To do this, I will be scouring thrift stores and used bookstores for books that catch my eye as I embark on the "Hockey Literacy" project this summer. Teebz's Book Club should grow by leaps and bounds in this effort, and i really hope that TBC is a feature you are enjoying. I know that I enjoy it, and this summer's project should go a long way in making me a smarter hockey person as well as a more well-read person.

With that in mind, I'm open to suggestions when it comes to titles of books I should be reading. I have a number of books ready to go, and I pledge to read one per week at a minimum, but I'm always on the hunt for new, interesting reads. That also means a new TBC entry once per week in the summer, so be sure to check the TBC drop-down list on the right side when making suggestions! Some of the authors I currently have waiting for me including Bruce Dowbiggin, Howie Meeker, Don Cherry, and C. Michael Hiam. I'm anxious to get started! Reviews will be posted every Wednesday starting next week!

Also, I plan on bringing you as much coverage as I can of the new Winnipeg NHL franchise when things happen. Tomorrow, the NHL Board of Governors convene, and one of the major topics will be the vote to approve the sale and move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment. While it is simply academic at this time for the Board of Governors, I can tell you that I'm excited that the Winnipeg NHLers will soon be coming to a rink near you!

I'll still be dealing in all topics of hockey, so I'll have reports on the AHL's annual movement of teams, and there is already one team on the move as the Manitoba Moose will take up residence in St. John's, Newfoundland next season. I'll have more coverage on this during the summer, and we'll check out other moves in the rest of the professional hockey world as well.

Also, if you're an aspiring writer or a former Atlanta Thrashers blogger who would still like to write for a blog, HBIC is the place for you. I'm accepting any and all stories and story ideas from writers who may want to explore a specific hockey topic or who would like to see me tackle a topic. If you want to submit anything for HBIC's consideration, please send it to me at your earliest convenience! Not only will I feature your work, but you'll get a place where you can be published regularly without prejudice!

Lastly, for those of you who took part in the HBIC Playoff Pool, the mail strike continues in Canada which means that no mail is being moved unless you are receiving a Federal Government-issued cheque. While I have yet to contact anyone because of the strike, if back-to-work legislation isn't tabled by Thursday, I'll start shipping with another company. You have my word. Dan F. should have his choice already made, and we'll get that show on the road and finalized.

As a final note: this week's book will be Hockey Dad by Bob McKenzie.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

TBC: Grapes

In continuing the honours for the Bruins and my Dad, I had the pleasure of reading a book that I could not put down. As you're probably aware, Don Cherry is quite the entertainer when he's on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada in his Coach's Corner segment. I've learned that Dad hates missing Grapes over the years because he loved the Bruins when Don Cherry was coaching them. Thanks to Dad, I thought it might be a good idea to check out Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey, written by Don Cherry and Stan Fischler, and published by Prentice Hall Canada back in 1982. This book is an absolutely masterpiece because it feels like Don Cherry is actually telling you these stories while sitting with you over a couple of beverages! I honestly found myself chuckling at a number of stories in this book simply because of Cherry's ability to tell a great tale.

While we all know Donald S. Cherry quite well, Stan Fischler deserves a little recognition in his own right. Fischler is probably best known in the New York region for his work on the MSG network during Islanders, Devils, and Rangers games. Known as "The Hockey Maven", Fischler has written over 90 books to date about his two passions: hockey and the New York subway system. His most recent hockey book, Metro Ice: A Century of Hockey in Greater New York, was published in 1999, and is all about the Islanders, Devils, and Rangers. His most famous book on subways is Uptown, Downtown, published in 1979. His wife, Shirley, is a co-writer on a lot of his books, and he was the 2007 recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy. Fischler is a very accomplished writer!

If there was one thing I noticed about Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey, it was that it could have been used as the historical piece for the CBC's production of Keep Your Head Up, Kid - The Don Cherry Story. Cherry talks about all of the great moments in his life - being named as coach of the Bruins, winning Calder Cups with the Rochester Americans, and all of the great players and people that he had the pleasure of meeting throughout his travels. He also speaks of some of the more contentious moments like his firings, his dealings with coaches and management as a player, and the difficulties of being a career minor-league player.

In the book, Cherry talks of his time as a player with the Hershey Bears, his very tumultuous time under Eddie Shore when he was part of the Springfield Indians team, his era in Quebec as a member of Trois-Rivieres (or Three-Rivers as Don calls it throughout the chapter), his short time in Spokane, Washington, and his eventual success in Rochester as a member of the Americans. The chapter about Don growing up in Kingston was especially interesting simply because Don Cherry, the personality, doesn't really talk much about his father who, from his writing, had a great respect for and who he loved very much.

I found the information about his time in Denver as coach of the Colorado Rockies to be particularly interesting. Despite Don's brother, Richard, warning him that the job in Denver might not be the best choice for Don and his style of coaching, Don decided to take the job coaching the lowly Rockies as he wanted the challenge that came with building a team. However, just after agreeing to the job with Colorado, Harold Ballard offered Don Cherry the head coaching job of the Toronto Maple Leafs! Being a man of his word, though, Cherry would not walk away from the Rockies after agreeing to a deal with them. Could you imagine: Don Cherry as the head coach of the Maple Leafs?!? It almost happened!

However, Don found out that not all in Denver was rosy. In fact, he and General Manager Ray Miron started off on the wrong foot when it comes to hockey sense and hockey knowledge. Cherry writes,

Sonn after we arrived in Denver, Ray Miron invited us over for dinner. It was an enlightening experience. We had a pleasant enough time at the table and then Ray showed me around the house. When we got to his study, he pulled out a book. The title read: All I Know About Hockey by Ray Miron. He handed it to me, and naturally, I opened it to see what was written. The pages were all blank. There was something very prophetic about that episode which, unfortunately, eluded me at the time.
Poor goaltending, poor draft choices, and poor signings didn't help Cherry's cause in Denver. He did find a few gems in the players that came through the door to the Rockies dressing room: Barry Beck, Lanny McDonald, Rene Robert, and Bobby Schmautz (who Cherry also coached in Boston). Beck, however, would be dealt to the Rangers after the Rockies refused to pay him the money he wanted as their top player. With the few foot soldiers that Cherry had at his disposal, the Rockies struggled, and the owners eventually decided to replace Cherry because they wanted a winner and they felt that he couldn't work with the younger players - a claim that Cherry denies after his success with the Bruins and a number of their young players!

After talking to Dad, a lot of the stories that Cherry tells are ones he wasn't aware of, and that made Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey even more special as Dad is now reading it feverishly. If I enjoyed it, I'm sure Dad will find it to be one of the better reads he has undertaken in the last few years. Dad isn't much for spending a few hours reading, but it seems this is one book that even he's having trouble putting down! Because of the incredible stories that Don Cherry told in Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey and because I can share this book with my Dad who loves Cherry and the Bruins, I have to award Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! Honestly, if you're able to find Grapes: A Vintage View of Hockey at your local bookstore or online, I highly recommend it simply for the incredible hockey stories contained on its 222 pages. You won't be disappointed - it's a beauty!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Best Father's Day Gift Ever

There are a lot of suggestions that people have given me over the years for Father's Day gifts, and a lot of them would be great if they actually knew my Dad. For example, I've had people suggest a nice tie, but Dad never once wore a shirt-and-tie to work, so why would a tie be a good gift? There aren't a lot of things that Dad gets really excited about, but I can tell you that the one thing he loves is hockey. Specifically, he loves Boston Bruins hockey. Therefore, I want to go on record and tell the 2011 version of the Boston Bruins that you may have delivered the greatest Father's Day present of all-time without having any involvement from me.

When I was little, Dad would tell me tales of the Bruins from the "good ol' days" when guys like O'Reilly, Esposito, and Cheevers were household names. He spoke glowingly of "numberfourbobbyorr", a defenceman that skated like the wind and was better than any hockey player before him including such lofty names as Howe, Hull, and Richard. Dad was all about 1972 when his Bruins captured the Stanley Cup, and he could celebrate with friends by finally being of age to legally purchase a few sudsy beverages.

Dad could talk forever about the Bruins: Don Cherry's glorious run as the leader of the team; Johnny Bucyk as the heart and soul and inspirational leader of the team; Rick Middleton's scoring prowess; Mike Milbury's insanity on and off the ice. He, like most men, lived and died by his team for the majority of his life. After he was married and had two little boys, Dad took to teaching us about the Bruins and hockey whenever he had the chance.

1990 was another big year in our household because the Bruins were the toast of the Wales Conference once again. Led by Neely, Bourque, and Craig Janney, the Bruins captured the President's Trophy as the NHL's top team, and opened the playoffs against the Hartford Whalers. While the Whalers put up a heck of a fight, the Bruins eventually prevailed in a 4-3 series win. A 4-1 series victory over rival Montreal followed, and the Bruins hammered the Washington Capitals in a four-game sweep to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Dad was on top of the world as Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog were holding down the fort in net, and character players like Bob Carpenter, Andy Brickley, and Dave Christian were plugging away in the corners. Dad, like Don Cherry, loved the guys "who had guts" who weren't afraid to go into the corners and skate into high-traffic areas for potential goals. Dave Poulin and Brian Propp were two guys that Dad thought had the potential to put Boston over the top in 1990 after their experiences with Philadelphia, especially against the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers.

It wasn't pretty as the Oilers brought the fight to Boston's front door, and the Bruins couldn't match the firepower that Edmonton possessed. Five games later, Dad was a little down as the Bruins watched the Oilers hoist the Stanley Cup, and the drought without the Silver Chalice would continue. Incidentally, the Stanley Cup Final ended on May 24 in 1990, long before Father's Day was even near!

After another two decades of heartbreak, Dad admittedly never thought that this season would end as it did as his beloved Bruins captured their sixth Stanley Cup in history! While Dad can't name the entire roster like he once could, he still loves his Bruins. Milan Lucic is a favorite because he "plays the right way" - Dad still thinks the Bruins should play the "big, bad way". He loves Tim Thomas with good reason, and he's coming around to Zdeno Chara. But he's absolutely in his glory thanks to the Stanley Cup victory experienced this season.

While I congratulated them earlier in the week over their victory, I now want to say "thank you" to the Boston Bruins for making my father, a die-hard Bruins fan, one of the happiest men on the planet. He thought he would never see the Bruins win another Stanley Cup, and you guys came through for him. So I salute you, Dad, and you, the 2011 Boston Bruins, with a toast!

Enjoy the victory, Dad. You can savour the victory for another few months, and then it's back to trash-talking one another again about our respective teams. You let me trash-talk you a lot in 2009 after the Penguins won their third Stanley Cup in my lifetime, so have at it for the next few months, Dad. You, like the Bruins, certainly deserve to enjoy the victory!

Happy Father's Day, Dad, and there will be another special entry tomorrow in your honour!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Historical Images And Funny Videos

There's always something great about old images and film when you discover something that tickles you pink. The funny thing is that old pictures and video used film to make it happen rather doing everything digitally, so it has certain characteristics that you just wouldn't find in today's digital media. What I like are some of the old historical hockey images that we find in black-and-white because they just feel like they came from the stone age of hockey. Today's entry is nothing more than a view of some black-and-white images along with a great video from the 1970s. The video isn't in black-and-white, but it's pretty funny. Enjoy!

I have to admit that I lurk on Shorpy's site a lot. I'm not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I am fascinated by black-and-white photography and, specifically, old hockey and architectural images. Uni Watch dug up this awesome photo on Shorpy's today of the "Arcade Hockey Club" in Washington, DC from Janaury 22, 1926! The first roller hockey team recorded on film, perhaps? However, there is another image that I found of the same club in what appears to be practice gear from January 15, 1926. How cool is that?

I found a great image of the legendary Bobby Hull putting up a protest in a game. From the way it appears, the Black Hawks and the Canadiens are playing, and it appears that the Canadiens player who is standing in front of the referee may be Maurice Richard! It would mean that this picture was taken between 1957 and 1960 as those three seasons were the only seasons that those two men played against one another. What a great photo!

I was searching for some information about old ice resurfacers and the story behind the Zamboni, and I came across a couple of awesome items. First, the full story about how Frank Zamboni created the Zamboni machine is amazing, and consider that the machine was almost called the "Paramount"! Secondly, check out this old ice resurfacing machine from the Detroit Olympia! Not bad for a farm boy from Idaho who dropped out of school in Grade Nine to help on the farm, eh?

Lastly, another beauty from Uni Watch as we take a look at a funny video from SCTV, a comedy sketch show produced in Canada. It's a pretty funny look at the "Toronto Bay Leaves" and one player in particular who seems to have some trouble with people pronouncing his name correctly.

There are a few updates for today. Remember, the HBIC summer project begins on Monday, so we'll get started on that in the new week. I'm also accepting any sort of writing that you would like to scribe on hockey, so get those over to me as well! If you have have suggestions or story ideas, send those to me as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!