Hockey Headlines

Friday, 30 September 2011

Easterbrook Gets It

I'll be honest: I'm not a fan of the NFL. I watch if there's nothing else on, but I don't follow it, I don't have a team, and I certainly will watch something else if I find something that piques my interest. However, I do read one NFL-related article every week in Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com. Mr. Easterbrook is an intelligent man as far as I can tell through his writing, and he routinely makes great points and has amazing insights into a lot of topics. He has been beating the drum pretty loudly over the last few weeks about concussions in football and how to minimize the number of players who receive them. This week's article, however, drew me in thanks to his look at hockey's improvements in helmet technology.

Here is the section where Mr. Easterbrook discusses the history of the helmet in hockey and how the NFL should look at becoming a leader instead of being a follower when it comes to player safety.

Concussion Watch: TMQ often expresses dismay about the slow pace of progress in football helmet (and chipstrap and mouthguard) safety. One reason given by the NFL for not mandating advanced helmets is the desire to avoid requiring players who like their current helmets to change. Why not, readers have asked, grandfather current players and require advanced helmets for everyone entering the NFL?

Michael Porritt of Montreal writes, "In 1979, the NHL, where helmet use was once optional, mandated helmets for all new players. Current players were encouraged but could be grandfathered into going helmetless if they signed waivers. In 1997, Craig MacTavish became the last player to skate in the NHL sans helmet. Gradually the NHL has tightened standards for the helmets. The NHL could certainly do more about head shots in general, but the helmet issue has been much more openly discussed, while support for improved helmets is close to universal. You can't even go public skating in a city arena in Canada without a helmet now."

Head safety in ice hockey has improved -- and hockey is still plenty exciting. The NFL could accelerate progress on head safety, and football would remain plenty exciting.
Much like the National Federation of High Schools is setting the standard on protecting the head, it seems as though the lower ranks in hockey are also the leaders when it comes to player safety. The OHL outlaws all contact with the head, and mandates that visors and neck guards must be worn by every player. The AHL mandates that all players must wear visors. The NHL? As long as you have a bucket on your head, you can suit up.

Helmets aren't meant to prevent concussions in 100% of all situations. They are worn to protect the head from contact that could cause much worse damage had a player not been wearing one. Do they help prevent some concussions? Yes. Do they protect against all concussions? No. Do you know what does? No contact to players' heads!

Look, I'm not here to give anyone a sex education class, but if you want to NOT get pregnant, don't have sex. Abstinence is proven to prevent pregnancies 100% of the time. Pregnancy rates for people not having sex? Zero. It's science, I guess.

If you relate that to hockey, not hitting people in the head would eliminate the vast majority of concussions suffered. There will still be some - after all, you can't take hitting out of the game, and a jarring hit can cause a concussion. But the bets way to reduce the number of concussions by an exponential amount? Stop targeting the head of other players.

The suspensions handed out to James Wisniewski and Brad Boyes certainly are showing that Brendan Shanahan recognizes that the players are their own worst enemies. It's only the preseason, but two players have been suspended for throwing checks at another player's head. If there is one good thing about these suspensions, it's that Brendan Shanahan is finally drawing a line in the sand when it comes to these sorts of hits.

While the NHL will never mandate visors or completely outlaw hits to the head, the fact that Shanahan has stood up and said, "Enough is enough" gives me hope that the NHL will begin to move in the right direction when it comes to player safety. As Mr. Easterbrook stated, "Head safety in ice hockey has improved -- and hockey is still plenty exciting". I tend to agree with that statement, and the head-hunters are finally being punished for their high checks.

While concussions will never be fully eliminated in a contact sport such as hockey, there is one clear and concise manner in which they will: punish those who are targeting other players' heads. Brendan Shanahan has shown he's not afraid to throw the book at players who intentionally target the head of an opposing player, and that should make the game more entertaining as more skilled players will play the game without having fear of getting their bells rung.

If the NHL is not going to lead, the least they can do is match the OHL's stance on checks to the head. It appears that Brendan Shanahan is breaking that ground, and I commend him for it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Lazy Thursday

Like the bear to the left, today is a lazy Thursday for me. There have been a pile of stories that have been expanded upon lately, from the Simmonds-Avery homophobic slur to the guy arrested for tossing the banana at Simmonds, but I'm not here for any of that garbage. Honestly, things are said in the heat of battle all the time, and the first person to cry wolf is Sean Avery? That, readers, is the definition of irony considering some of the pithy remarks that Sean Avery has made in his career towards others. Instead, today I want to focus on the job being done by Mr. Brendan Shanahan. It may not shock you to know that I'm entirely supportive of the time-off handed out by Mr. Shanahan this far.

We'll work backwards chronologically here. That means we get Tom Sestito of the Philadelphia Flyers first for his hit from behind on the Rangers' Andre Deveaux. Sestito will skip the rest of the preseason and the first two games for his dangerous check, and will donate $5,945.94 to the NHLPA Players' Fund.

Decision: Good. Hits from behind are dangerous and illegal.
Total Monies Donated: $5,945.94

Anaheim's Jean-Fran├žois Jacques left the bench on a line change and bee-lined towards Vancouver's Mike Duco where the gloves came off. Being that this happened in the last five minutes of the Anaheim-Vancouver preseason tilt, there was a guaranteed one-game suspension. But because he did nothing but head straight for and pummel Duco, Shanahan tacked on an additional four games. Jacques will donate $17,567.55 for his indiscretion.

Decision: Good. As much as I like fighting, this was premeditated from the bench. Duco had been a pest all night, but Jacques' actions cannot be condoned.
Total Monies Donated: $23,513.49

Columbus' James Wisniewski will be donating a pile of money from his monster contract. Wisniewski's suspension was handed down after he threw a dangerous and unnecessary check to the head of Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck after the horn had sounded. Citing his past indiscretions, Shanahan dismissed Wisniewski for the rest of the preseason and eight regular-season games. Wisniewski cut a cheque for $536,585.36 for the Players' Fund.

Decision: Good. Vigilante justice may have worked in the past, but even the rich will pay for breaking the rules. The worst part is that Wisniewski could have easily avoided this suspension by simply being smart. Instead, he gets a long time to think about this one.
Total Monies Donated: $560,098.85

From the same game, Minnesota's Brad Staubitz will sit out for the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games after he threw a hit from behind on Columbus' Cody Bass. Staubitz handed over $9,324.33 for his check.

Decision: Good. Like the Sestito hit, these kinds of check have to be stopped before someone gets seriously hurt.
Total Monies Donated: $569,423.18

Buffalo's Brad Boyes threw a high check on Toronto's Joe Colborne, catching his head. Checks to the head are a no-no this season, and Shanahan gave Boyes a couple of preseason games to think about it. Because there were no regular season games involved, Boyes forfeits no money.

Decision: Push. If the NHL wants to reduce the number of concussions, Shanahan is leading the way with these types of decisions. I commend him for bringing the NHL out of the stone age when it comes to head checks, but I think there should be more punishment for hits to a player's dome.
Total Monies Donated: $569,423.18

Philadelphia's Jody Shelley hammered Toronto's Darryl Boyce from behind, causing Boyce's face to slam into the boards. Boyce ended up dazed with a broken nose while Shelley fought Jay Rosehill. Citing his past infractions, Shanahan nailed Shelley as a repeat offender and ended his preseason. He also will sit for five regular season games, costing Shelley $67,073.15.

Decision: Good. Shelley shouldn't be surprised by this. Boyce's numbers were clearly facing Shelley when he hammered Boyce into the endboards. Again, Shanahan deserves some kudos here. If Shelley hit Boyce hard enough to break his nose, there was no let-up.
Total Monies Donated: $636,496.33

Calgary's Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond delivered a hit from behind on Vancouver's Matt Clackson. I'm not sure if the players were aware what a hit from behind was before this suspension - Shanahan's first suspension - but they got a good idea what a check from behind looks like. Letourneau-Leblond gave up his entire preseason and will sit for the season opening game. He also donated $6,402.44.

Decision: Good. Like the other two hits from behind on the list, these have to stop. Players cannot prepare for a hit from behind because they can't see it coming.
Total Monies Donated: $642,898.77

Over a half million dollars is already in the coffers of the NHLPA's Emergency Fund, so if there's a lockout or strike, the players can thank Brendan Shanahan for helping them out. In all seriousness though, I think Shanahan is sending a message to all the players that safety is not going to brushed aside for some entertainment. If the players are hurt, they can't entertain, so I think Shanahan is doing the right thing for all parties involved.

The only question will be how harsh the punishment will be when a player such as Ovechkin, Pronger, or Lucic throws a hit that catches a guy high. If Shanahan continues to hand out hard time for these indiscretions, he might have a few owners who want him reeled in.

Is that better for the game?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Reader Infographic

I received a very interesting infographic from a reader the other day via email. What is an infographic, you say? Well, the definition as per Dictionary.com reads "Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics present complex information quickly and clearly". The image to the left shows an infographic illustrating the average salaries of each positional player on a hockey team. It tells you what each player makes as an average salary according to his line and position. Pie charts, bar graphs, and street signs are all infographics themselves, so these are something you see everyday, but hardly know it.

So when I received this infographic from Ron S., I had to check it out. The unofficial title of the infographic is "Atlantic Division players to avoid drafting in a fantasy draft", so let's just see who Ron thinks should be avoided in the Atlantic Division when making up your fantasy hockey team.

If you want to see the infographic a little better, please click here. I have to give Ron full kudos for making up that infographic as well. It looks like a lot of work went into it.

The problem I have with the infographic is that there is a lot of subjective conjecture on it. Zach Parise, Mark Streit, Ruslan Fedotenko are all to be avoided because of past injuries? Sure, it's a concern, but Parise and Streit will get top-billing minutes on their teams, and Fedotenko is a serviceable plugger that coach John Tortorella likes.

Ryan Callahan should be avoided because of a broken hand and leg, yet Ron thinks he'll play in 77 games this season? I'd take Callahan in a New York minute if he's available after the third round. Chris Pronger might play in 50 games, but he's a workhorse. If "last year's broken hand could still be an issue", do you think the former Hart Trophy winner would risk playing in the preseason?

Briere, Jagr, and Malkin? All are playing on their top lines right now, and all are scoring at a pace that make them top scorers in the league. You can't just say "maybe" when giving an opinion. Infographics don't allow for maybe because they show you something. A stop sign isn't a "maybe you should stop". It's telling you to stop without any hesitation or compromise.

While the work on the infographic was great, Ron's reasonings for why the graphic shows Player X playing in only Y number of games needs to be tighter. I'm sure Ron's going to catch some flak over his predictions, so if you'd like to comment, keep it clean, be respectful, and remember that this is one man's opinion.

I do want to thank Ron for putting his work out on a forum such as this, and I want to encourage him to keep working at awesome stuff like this. Infographics are a powerful tool, and the world of hockey could use more of these.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

When Reality Outcosts Fantasy

I received an email in my inbox with the subject of "Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp announced!", and immediately I began to salivate. I have always been a Mario Lemeiux fan because of his unparalleled skill set, so the chance to skate with "Super Mario" might be a bucket list item for me. And being that Mario Lemieux is involved, you know there will be a ton of NHL players who will lend their skills to the fantasy camp as well. Honestly, who wouldn't jump at a chance to play with one of the greatest players the NHL has ever seen, even if you don't like the Penguins or Lemieux himself?

I read on.

"The Mario Lemieux Foundation announced today that NHL great and Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux will hold a fantasy hockey camp on January 4-8, 2012, benefitting the Foundation. 'I am excited about the prospect of this camp,' said Lemieux. 'Not only will this give adults the chance to have an NHL experience, but it will also help raise needed funds for my Foundation's important cancer projects.'"
If the money is going to benefit a charity, that's pretty cool too. I'm all for NHL stars putting up millions of dollars of their own monies to help fans and people in the community, and the Mario Lemieux Foundation has always been about helping cancer patients and kids. This is something I can honestly support without thinking twice that someone else is benefiting from the event.
"Participants in the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp will have a truly unique and exclusive team experience of skating with not only Lemieux, but also legends such as Mark Recchi, Mike Eruzione, Gary Roberts, Billy Guerin, Bryan Trottier and Rick Tocchet all serving as team captains. Participants will receive top of the line hockey gear, equipment and NHL-level hockey instruction, take part in a round-robin tournament, and attend two Pittsburgh Penguins home games at CONSOL Energy Center. All proceeds will benefit the Lemieux Foundation."
So you get free gear, the chance to skate alongside more legends as well as Lemieux, NHL coaching instruction, a tournament amongst the fantasy campers, and you get to see two NHL games at the CONSOL Energy Center? That's a pile of awesome stuff. Honestly, who wouldn't want a shot at being a fantasy camper?

But as I read that, there was one little detail that crept into my mind: what's the catch? How much will this cost me? Tickets to a Penguins game aren't cheap. Equipment doesn't come free. And the cost to run the facility and bring in the NHL talent isn't cheap. So that question hung in the air until I clicked the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp link.
"By submitting the online form, you are registering to participate in the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp. The cost to participate in the Camp is $7,566. Please click the brochure above for full Camp and payment details. Once you submit the registration form, you will be contacted to collect a deposit of $1,500 to reserve your spot."
And that's when I realized that I don't make an NHL salary in order to pay for my attendance. $7566 to attend for four days with a $1500 deposit?!? Camp essentially costs you $1891.50 PER DAY! If you get hurt at camp - something all us fantasy campers never believe will happen - you literally are out $2000 for every day you miss. That's not something that Joe Casual fan has lying around his house very often.

Look, I'm all for helping the Mario Lemieux Foundation and the causes they support, but $7566 is way too rich for my blood. I'd rather just hit the Mario Lemieux Foundation shop to buy a t-shirt or make a donation directly to them.

Honestly, I have dreamed many nights on my local rink of being on the ice with Mario Lemieux, accepting that seeing-eye cross-ice pass that somehow eludes a dozen defenders, and potting the game-winner upstairs behind the goalie. But that dream will remain a dream because $7566 is a lot of money to play just a few days with one of my hockey heroes. I'm far more content to save my money, attend a bunch of games, and use the remainder wisely.

As for my fantasy, I'll see Mario Lemieux out on my local rink where that cross-ice pass will find the tape of my stick, and I'll roof the hero-making goal. There's no price on that fantasy, and I'm very happy with that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Winter Classic Brain Freeze

One of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL came to reality today as it was announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will host the New York Rangers in the 2012 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic from Citizens Bank Park on January 2, 2012.

Let's go to the video of Rangers GM Glen Sather putting the crosshairs squarely on his team with his bold predictions. Please excuse the advertisement - it's not my video work.

All kidding aside? Really? Seriously?

Let's review:
  • Refer to the achievements of a team you coached nearly three decades ago as if it were yesterday. Re-open old wounds with Flyers fans.
  • Bring up the hated Yankees and how they'll beat baseball's best team in 2011 in the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • Mock the Flyers in telling their fans that the Rangers are not only going to win the Winter Classic, but that the Rangers will be the NHL Stanley Cup Champions at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season.
  • Appease all by delivering a "just kidding" line.
That last step? Rarely works when you've single-handedly recalled everything that the opposition hates about you.

I suppose that this was said in jest just to stoke the fires leading up to the game, and since HBO was most likely filming it, it should make for a great lead-in to the HBO 24/7 series on these two teams. Especially when Flyers owner Ed Snider quipped back, "When he said, 'we kicked the hell out of you in two Stanley Cups,' he wasn't talking about the Rangers. I remember kicking the hell out of the Rangers on the way to our Cups!"

The two teams are geographically the closest of any of the Winter Classic teams thus far, and have a long history between them, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Other events will include an AHL game between the Adirondack Phantoms and the Hershey Bears on January 6, and an old-timers game on December 31. Public skating, a potential NCAA game, and other minor league hockey games could also be announced as the days leading up to the event tick away.

Personally, I think this game has the potential to be a very good matchup. However, the Rangers aren't favoured by many pundits to win their division, let alone challenge legitimately for the Stanley Cup. Perhaps Sather sees more in his team that the "experts", but hasn't he been singing the same tune since he was hired by the Rangers?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Named Proudly

There are a lot of stories in the hockey world today, particularly if you want to talk about suspensions and the iron fist that Brendan Shanahan is showing, but a much better story came out of a Quebec town today. The image to the left is the new arena in Stanstead, Quebec, a town of approximately 3000 people. I don't usually have a lot of information about towns who open new arenas, but this one is special because it was built with one man in mind. Ladies and gentlemen, the Pat Burns Arena is now open.

Ten months after the legendary NHL coach passed away from cancer, the Pat Burns Arena was officially opened for business today, and it really speaks to how loved the former police officer was in Quebec. The former Canadiens coach is the only man in NHL history to have won the Jack Adams Trophy with three different teams. His passion and fire drove the Canadiens, Leafs, Bruins, and Devils to higher levels than talent alone would have got them, and he knew the game well. Pat Burns passed away at the age of 58 on November 19, 2010.

The Pat Burns Arena seats a total of 400 people - 300 seated and 100 standing - for a very intimate setting. The $9 million facility saw the federal and Quebec governments chip in approximately $6 million while the city of Stanstead raised approximately $3 million through donations to pay for the new facility. The arena has an NHL-sized ice surface, nine fully-functional change rooms, a work-out arena for players, and all the amenities to help pay for the business of running an arena. In short, the Pat Burns Arena is a gorgeous addition to the community of Stanstead.

"It's an emotional day for me today," Line Burns, Pat Burns' widow, said to CTV. "He was so involved with young kids and had the wellness of kids at heart. It's a good day."

Former Canadiens players Guy Carbonneau, Patrice Brisebois and Dave Morisette, who were all coached by Pat Burns, took to the ice for the inauguration ceremony as the Canadiens players squared off against the local Stanstead players. Transport Minister Denis Lebel was also in attendance amongst the many dignitaries who attended the inauguration of the facility.

"I think it was a special moment and it's completely normal that I was asked to be here today," Guy Carbonneau said to the Toronto Sun. "There was no doubt in my soul that I would be here."

While the arena wasn't built before Pat Burns passed on, the dedication of this arena to him and the memory of him is a very touching honour. Pat Burns loved the game of hockey, but he loved teaching others about the game of hockey more. He was an inspiration to many players and personnel with which he was associated, and he gave his heart and soul every time he stepped behind the bench.

Here's hoping this great facility in Quebec can live up to the name it is named for: the late Pat Burns.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

TBC: Hands Of Cement

Last night was a particularly fun time with my brother who officially turned 30 a couple of days ago. Being that he's a Los Angeles Kings fan, it's hard to find him good gifts with Los Angeles Kings' logos and branding here in Canada, and the return of the Jets has pretty much gripped every single retailer's economic plan. However, a good time was had by all, and he's happy. That leads me to today where I found myself very happy as I spent the day reading comics. Not comic books, although these comics did come in the form of a book. TBC is proud to present Hands of Cement, written and illustrated by Sandy Debreuil, and published by Frolic Media. There's nothing like a good weekend of hockey funnies to bring out the smile in this fan.

Sandy Debreuil is one half of the brother tandem that founded Debreuil Digital Works. From their website, "Debreuil Digital Works is a Canadian new media company specializing in online game creation, Flash-based animation and software tool development. Debreuil Digital Works is partnership between the corporations of brothers Sandy and Robin Debreuil, who have been working together in the Digital Media field for over fifteen years." Their clients include Fox Sports, MTV Television, the National Microbiology Lab of Canada, and the National Post to name a few. Sandy is responsible for character design and development at Debreuil Digital Works.

I was honestly entertained with the story of Crowbar Benson, a player who "got his nickname in the rinks of Northern Manitoba, where he played hockey in his youth, until he got one to many pucks in the head". Crowbar looks after his two sons, Eddie and Benny, and regularly finds himself in some sort of mischief with his two friends, Sammy and Jerry. The five characters all love the game of hockey, but Crowbar's adventures show that he's a lot more than some beer league rink rat.

There are lots of non-hockey comics in Hands of Cement, but Mr. Debreuil does a great job at sprinkling in some very funny hockey-related comics. Whether it be about Crowbar dreaming of being drafted by the Canadiens and winning the Stanley Cup or taking the Stanley Cup hostage, Crowbar just finds himself in funny situations. The best part of Mr. Debreuil's works, though, are how relevant they are to hockey fans. For example, this was the comic published on the Crowbar Benson website on June 28, 2011 (click it to make it bigger):
Honestly, that's what it was like when the announcement was made that the Jets were coming back... minus the nudity. Although there may have been some further away from where I was situated.

The thing I liked best about Hands of Cement was the references to Manitoba in the comics. Mr. Debreuil makes a few jokes about Manitoba Public Insurance, the difficulty finding downhill skiing in Manitoba, and mosquitoes - things to which all Manitobans, like myself, can relate. I found the humour in these references, and I chuckled at some of the stuff about which Manitobans are known to complain.

Overall, Hands of Cement is a fabulous collection of funnies about hockey, life, parenting, and drinking. While the comics themselves don't have any PG-rated language, the subject matter certainly wades into the PG territory often, so I'd recommend Hands of Cement for any hockey fans in their teens and up. The comics aren't overly detailed and all are in black-and-white, but it doesn't detract from the comedy shown by Mr. Debreuil. The 126 pages are an easy read, and one should be able to get through it in a couple of hours at most if one doesn't laugh too hard at some of the strips. Because of the humour and hockey references, Hands of Cement definitely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! Highly recommended reading for a Saturday morning!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Bigger Things To Worry About

As you would expect, the outrage over the incident last night in London, Ontario that saw some MORON - yes, you read that correctly - toss a banana on to the ice while Philly's Wayne Simmonds was attempting his shot in the shootout is entirely justified. Personally, I don't want to know who it was because that person's action as a fan is already receiving way more attention than it should when we all know just how stupid, immature, and ridiculous both the action and the person committing the act are. I'll say this, though: if you know who threw the banana, you should punch him or her square in the face. It won't kill any brain cells because he or she probably doesn't have many to begin with, but maybe it will knock some sense into him or her.

FYI: I'm taking the night off to celebrate my brother's thirtieth birthday. My kid brother is no longer a kid as he moves into "middle age", so I feel like this birthday might be a big one for him. Ironically, the image above was found while searching "birthday" and "banana". Who could have known that the banana would have 30 candles on it?

Have a good night, everyone, and keep your sanity. If I hear about any acts like what happened last night in London, I might go ballistic on someone. I'm going to drink a few wobbly-pops with my brother, have some cake, and let him know about the beauties of being a thirty year-old.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Charitable Donations: 37 Rising Stars

HBIC is proud to bring to you some of the great work done by the men we idolize on the ice. From Wayne Gretzky to Mario Lemieux to Darren McCarty to Mike Fisher, current and former NHL stars are in our communities helping out where ever and whenever they can. Today is the first charitable organization that will be feature an NHL player who is no longer with us. Despite him being gone, his work - specifically all the charitable work he did - has not been forgotten, and that's why the hockey world is more like a family than an industry. Today, HBIC is proud to bring to light the work being done by 37 Rising Stars, the charitable organization founded in Dan Snyder's memory.

Mission Statement: 37 Rising Stars is active in a number of charities and initiatives, but it is probably best known for the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation. From the 37 Rising Stars website, the "Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation is dedicated to providing scholarship opportunities to young athletes, to assist in the pursuit of their goals. The Foundation also supports the fundraising for a multi-use recreational center, to be built in Dan's hometown of Elmira in 2008. In his memory and in recognition of his many contributions to the community, the centerpiece of this complex has been designated The Dan Snyder Memorial Arena."

How Did 37 Rising Stars Start?: Dan Snyder passed away on October 5, 2003, six days after being involved in car accident involving Dany Heatley. The two men were in Heatley's Ferrari when the car crashed, and Dan Snyder was thrown from the car. He was comatose while in the hospital, and succumbed to septic shock. The 25 year-old left a void in everyone's hearts who knew him, but the world lost an overly generous man who would drop everything to help a friend or fan who needed him.

Out of his commitment to the various charities and organizations that Dan regularly gave his time to, 37 Rising Stars was started by his parents, Graham and LuAnn Snyder, to carry on Dan's charitable legacy. The 37 Rising Stars Foundation provides funding to:

  • Dan Snyder Memorial Scholarship - awarded annually to one recipient from each of the Elmira Sugar Kings, Woolwich Minor Hockey and a Woolwich Community at-large athlete.
  • Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation - "providing scholarship opportunities to young athletes, to assist in the pursuit of their goals. The Foundation also supports the fundraising for a multi-use recreational center" in Elmira, Ontario.
  • charities and scholarships, and helping to endow a chair for neurology at Emory University in Atlanta.
In a very touching tribute to Dan Snyder, the Thrashers helped open the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena in Woolwich in 2009.

"I think he would be really happy to see what the result was," Jake Snyder, Dan's brother, said to ESPN's Pierre Lebrun. "He kept really close ties to this community, volunteering with young kids and sports camps. Seeing that future generations of kids will be able to use this great facility, he'd be really happy."

Clearly, Dan Snyder was a guy that a lot of people loved and he touched a vast number of people's lives through his generosity and selflessness.

How Can I Help?: There are a number of ways you can help the 37 Rising Stars Foundation, and all of them are exceptional in their own ways.

First, if you'd like to help by donating to the Dan Snyder Memorial Scholarship, you should contact the directors of the Scholarship Fund. You can have your questions answered via phone by contacting Sue Van Every at (519) 669-7684. Please mail your donation or inquiries to:

RBC Royal Bank
6 Church Street West
Elmira, Ontario N3B 1M3
ATTN: Sue Van Every

Donations to the Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation can be mailed to:

The Dan Snyder Memorial Foundation
21 Park Avenue West
Elmira, Ontario
N3B 1K9

If you're more of a "wear it on your sleeve" kind of donator, that's ok too. The 37 Rising Stars Foundation has shirts you can buy to help them out! The shirts are $25 for t-shirt length and $30 for long sleeve shirts. You can get one of those by emailing Craig Shantz or by calling (519) 576-2935.

Of course, there's always the book about Dan Snyder's passing. John Manasso's A Season Of Loss, A Lifetime Of Forgiveness helps out as well. It's an excellent read, and it deserves to be on the bookshelf of any hockey fan.

37 Rising Stars, the NHLPA, and the Snyder family are helping the communities they live in as a tribute to their fallen hero, Dan Snyder. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

TBC: A Season Of Loss

HBIC wants to take a look at a few of the major losses in hockey history over the next few weeks through Teebz's Book Club. Unless you've been lost on some deserted island, you know about the tragic losses suffered by the hockey world this summer, and I can't begin to express how difficult it may have been for those close to the victims for their losses. There have been others who have been lost far too early, and HBIC would like to remember their stories as well. After all, the people involved in those losses are probably still grieving as well. Nothing can fill the void created when losing a loved one. Today, TBC is proud to present A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness, written by John Manasso and published by ECW Press. In this book, readers get a glimpse of the impact felt by friends and family on the passing of Dan Snyder, former Atlanta Thrasher. Honestly, the stories and anecdotes about Dan Snyder are touching, and I was particularly moved by how many people will truly miss Mr. Snyder in their lives.

From the ECW Press website, "John Manasso, author of A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness, is the Atlanta Thrashers' beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Atlanta, GA. He is also a contributor to Hockey News. He has degrees in print journalism and history from American University, D.C. He lives in Decatur, GA." Since that time, Mr. Manasso has left the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and took a job with the Atlanta Business Chronicle where he was a sports writer until 2007. He is currently a writer for the Atlanta Falcons' website and he contributes articles to NHL.com. Mr. Manasso lives with his wife and two children, a nine year-old son and a six year-old daughter, in Decatur.

It's tough to tackle a subject like this objectively because there is so much emotion involved for all that are interviewed. I want to be upfront when I say that Mr. Manasso's work in A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness is outstanding as he really gives the people interviewed a voice in their recollections of Dan Snyder. He doesn't editorialize and he's very sympathetic to everyone that has been affected by Mr. Snyder's passing, and his writing style respects all those with which he spoke. In short, Mr. Manasso's book is excellent.

At no point in this book does Mr. Manasso point a finger at anyone responsible. The subject of objectivity could be taught in reading this book. Instead, Mr. Manasso allows those people he interviewed to get their messages of how they miss Dan Snyder across as well as providing key insights from those involved in the Dany Heatley criminal case. It's very important to note that at no point do the Snyders even come close to being angry or vengeful towards Dany Heatley in any way, and Mr. Manasso allows the Snyder family to explain how and why they forgave Mr. Heatley for what happened.

The examination of the criminal trial at the end of A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness was particularly interesting in that it seems as though the judge presiding over the case, Judge Rowland Barnes, was extremely sympathetic to the responsibilities and difficulties facing all those involved in the case. The picture painted by Mr. Manasso shines a very positive light on Judge Barnes, and it shows that the criminal justice system can work wonders if some people think outside the box. Unfortunately for the city of Atlanta, Judge Barnes was gunned down in his own courtroom a mere six weeks after the Dany Heatley trial ended. Again, we lose another fantastic human being of which the world could use more.

A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness is a fabulous book. I felt, at times, a lump forming in my throat when Dan Snyder's friends and family were speaking about him. At the trial, Jake Snyder, Dan's brother, was given an opprtunity to speak. He was overwhelmed with emotion, but his father, Graham, read the statement he had prepared. This excerpt from that statement really got me where it counts.

"I spoke of two things that I would do at the time of Dan's funeral. One point that I made was that if Dany Heatley was one of Dan's guys, he was one of my guys. Dany and I have become friends since that time, and in getting to know him, I know he never intended for this to happen. Secondly, I mentioned that I would try and spend the rest of my life trying to be more like my brother. To honour Dan's memory properly, I believe I need to be as helpful to Dany Heatley as not only [I would be to] a friend of mine, but a friend of my brother's. I don't want to see my friend go to prison and I know in my heart Dan would feel the same way."
A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness is a very good read, and moves very nicely between all of the people interviewed by Mr. Manasso. The 265-page book really brings to life a man that I didn't know in Dan Snyder, and it really sounds like the world lost a special man. His generosity, his thoughtfulness, and his commitment to his family, friends and teammates are common themes in the book, and they really show how Dan Snyder lived his life. A Season of Loss, A Lifetime of Forgiveness certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for tackling a difficult subject and presenting it so brilliantly.

And if there is one last thing I can say, I'd like to live my life like Dan Snyder did: caring, giving, and loving to all. Heroes get remembered, but legends like Dan Snyder never die.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Battle Of The Badges

Tuesday was a big day in Winnipeg, and not just because the Winnipeg Jets were taking to MTS Centre ice for the first time ever. I mean, that was a pretty big event for all hockey fans in Winnipeg, but there was a great turnout of die-hard fans to meet hockey's Hanson Brothers on Tuesday as well! The Battle of the Badges game took place on Tuesday at the St. James Civic Centre, and there were some pretty big names on hand for the game: the Hansons, Kerry Fraser, Perry Miller, Dave Babych, and Trevor Kidd to name a few! The real stars, however, were the men and one woman who put the pads on to raise money for the Amadeus Steen Foundation, and they are heroes everyday in their jobs as emergency services responders and Winnipeg Police patrolmen.

The morning started out rainy and gray, but that didn't keep the Hansons from greeting the dozens of fans who came out in the rain to see the famed Slapshot stars! 92 CITI FM was on-hand to welcome the guests of honour as morning show hosts Tom and Joe showed Kerry Fraser and the Hansons a warm Winnipeg welcome! They were treated to some Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts, and the fans got an opportunity to see them up close. If you noticed, the Hansons had their hockey sticks on hand because a game of street hockey was moments away!

Like any good street hockey game, sticks were tossed into the middle. Kerry Fraser, being the official presiding over the game, picked teams by tossing sticks, and the battle lines were drawn. The Hansons joined one of the teams, and they got their guys organized. With the rain falling, it didn't take long for the Hansons to hit the scoresheet as they netted the ball behind the goaltender, and Steve Carlson high-fived the men on his team as they jumped out to a 1-0 lead. The game was a back-and-forth affair, but the Hansons would eventually prevail with a 3-2 victory in the game! Nothing like starting off a great day with a big victory for the Slapshot stars!

Following the game, the stars of the show moved inside the lobby of the St. James Civic Centre where they posed for photos with fans. Even the littlest hockey fans got a chance to spend some time with the Hansons and Kerry Fraser! For me, it was a great morning in meeting these amazing guys, and I was very impressed with how generous they were with their time and how they made sure everyone got a photo with them. This kind of connection with the fans does not get forgotten.

The afternoon saw the crew at the Civic Centre prepare the ice and arena for the fans and the stars on Tuesday evening, and it was clear that everyone was in for a good time. The game got started just after 7:45PM, and we got introduced to the lineups for the teams.

We'll start with the Winnipeg Police Patrolmen. Constable Graeme Beattie was the first man on the ice. He was followed by Constable Phil Cole, Constable Al Mymryk, Constable Shaun Chornley, Constable Rick Lofto, goaltender Constable Shawn Lowry, Staff Sergeant Max Waddell, and Constable Bryan Hern. The bench was run by legendary Jets goaltender Joe Daley.

On the Emergency Services Celebrity All-Star team, there was a collection of players from all walks of life. Duncan MacPhail, a local radio personality, tended to the net. Former Winnipeg Jets Perry Miller and Wayne Babych, wearing his brother's uniform, suited up. The only woman in the event was ProHockey Life's Megan Hemenway. Former NHL goaltender Trevor Kidd took to the ice as a defenceman on this night. Former Winnipeg Jet Jimmy Mann was the man responsible for organizing the teams.

However, I was disappointed that a number of the celebrities no-showed on this night. Thomas Steen couldn't attend for the Patrolman team. Missing from the Emergency Services team were former NHLers Ray Neufeld and Carey Wilson. TV personalities like Nicole Dube and Peter Chura also skipped out on the event. It's hard to have the star power advertised when the stars don't actually show. But kudos to the stars for making it out and showing everyone that they still have the skills. They put on quite a show.

The real reason that everyone was there? Kerry Fraser and the Hanson Brothers. The Hansons got quite an ovation from the 500 fans in attendance. That sounds like a small crowd, but you have to realize that 15,000 fans were downtown in Winnipeg watching the Jets while thousands of other fans were taking advantage of the free preview of the Jets' TSN feed from MTS Centre. Needless to say, this game was a little overshadowed when it came to entertainment choices for the evening. However, the show put on by the players, the Hansons, and Fraser was excellent!

Before the game started, Constable Shaun Chornley, captain of the Patrolmen team, and Mona Steen posed for a few photos as the police and emergency service men and women showed their support of the Amadeus Steen Foundation. After the ceremonial faceoff, the Patrolmen and the Hansons jumped out to an early 5-2 lead despite the Hansons spending some time in the sin bin. Shawn Lowry was sharp in helping his team jump out to the early lead in the game.

The Hansons changed out of their blue uniforms into their white uniforms, and lent their skills and talents to the Emergency Services Celebrity All-Star team in the second period. The action was back and forth as both teams had chances. Duncan MacPhail stole the show in the second period as he really settled in and made some big saves. At the end of two periods, the Patrolmen saw their lead cut down to one goal as they led 8-7.

The Hansons spent the second intermission on the ice as they showed the next generation of players a little "old-time hockey". After discussing "putting on the foil", the guys helped the kids out in their fun game, and really ramped up the comedy. All the kids left the ice with smiles, and the parents were thrilled that their stars got to skate with the Slapshot stars.

The third period saw the Patrolmen increase their lead to 9-7 early on, and that didn't sit well with the Hansons. However, instead of going after the Patrolmen, the Hansons took down their goaltender, Duncan MacPhail! As MacPhail lay on the ice after his pummeling, he took an elbow smash from Steve Carlson, and Kerry Fraser had had enough. The Hansons were dismissed from the game for their aggression towards their own goaltender! The Hansons spent the last fifteen minutes of the game signing autographs and chatting with the fans in the concourse as the Patrolmen and Emergency Service All-Stars got down to business.

The two teams battled, and the Emergency Services team rallied with less than three minutes to go. Finding themselves down 9-8, they tied the game, gave up a goal, and then tied the game at 10-10 with less than a minute to play! With the faceoff in the Emergency Services zone, it looked like this game would end in a tie as there were only a few seconds left on the clock.

However, Wayne Babych showed why he was an NHLer who had a 54-goal season in '80-81. Babych took a pass down the wing after the Emergency Services team won the faceoff, and broke in on Lowry on a 2-on-1. Babych opted to shoot, and he drove home a slapshot that dented the twine just before time ran out! The Emergency Services team won the game 11-10!

As smiles were beaming all over the ice, the ceremonial handshake took place, and the players began to head off the ice. Some of them got stopped by the fans, though, and the Patrolmen got to feel like pro hockey players as they were asked for autographs! Phil Cole, Bryan Hern, and Shawn Lowry autographed as many t-shirts and souvenirs as Wayne Babych did!

All in all, it was a fantastic day and night of hockey, laughs, and memories for everyone. I'm happy that the Amadeus Steen Foundation benefited from this charity game between the real heroes that our kids should look up to and be proud of, and it looked and sounded like the guys involved in the game had a blast playing alongside some of the NHL greats, Kerry Fraser, and the Hanson Brothers.

I'm already looking forward to the 2012 Battle of the Badges game, and here's hoping the Amadeus Steen Foundation benefits every year from this wonderful event!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Everything Old Is New Again

A lot of people emailed me over the weekend with a link back to the always-informative Icethetics blog where Chris had images of the alternate uniforms that Ottawa and Toronto will wear this season. There is a lot of hockey history in these two cities, so I was hoping to see something historical in terms of these new alternate uniforms. The only problem? We weren't supposed to see them yet. In fact, we weren't supposed to see them until October at the earliest! Clearly, someone dropped the ball on this one, and - while I doubt heads will roll - this can't make the Leafs nor the Senators happy that their alternate unveiling parties and press conference were thwarted by a leaked photograph. Reebok won't come under much fire, but let's put the blame where it belongs - he who ships early risks blame.

As the title of this article suggests, these two new alternate jerseys have a ton of historical significance to them. I wasn't disappointed by any means, so it's good to see that the Senators and Maple Leafs are honouring their heritages. There is nothing wrong with bringing back a look from the past as an alternate jersey. Washington is doing it this season as they'll be wearing their Winter Classic jerseys as their alternate jersey, so why not toss a few more historical pieces into the mix?

The photos on Chris's article come from the team store at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, the home arena for the Sabres. Without dragging this on much longer, here is Ottawa's look.
I like what they've done here. The only change I would have suggested is that they use a true white rather than the retro cream colour, but I like the stripes and the giant "O" is very reminiscent of historical Senators' teams. The shields on the shoulders I could do without, but I have no real complaints with the look of this jersey when it comes down to good vs. stupid. The Senators bring back some colour, and will look more respectable much like the Ottawa 67s when they hit the ice in these.

As for the Maple Leafs, they're going with a throwback as well. As you're probably well aware, the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup was in 1967. That was two generations ago, so there probably aren't a lot of today's hockey fans that remember the Leafs winning in '67. Thanks to the Leafs, though, we're going back to 1967.
What makes these jerseys a little less special than what they could have been is that we've seen these jerseys already. You probably don't remember seeing them, but they have been on Air Canada Centre ice before. Let's go back to December 19, 2009 when the Maple Leafs warmed up in jerseys honouring the 1967 Maple Leaf team that won the Stanley Cup. Look pretty familiar, don't they? So not only are the Leafs honouring a team from the past with these uniforms, they are also in the business of recycling once-worn uniforms as well. Everything old is... well, you get the point.

In any case, I'm fan of both of these jerseys. They're clean and simple, they have strong ties to past editions of the respective teams, and they look good in modern times. Chris from Icethetics deserves some major kudos for breaking this story, and he'll get them from me. Well done, Chris!

What say you, readers: good rehashes of old looks, or could you do without these versions of the Sens and Leafs?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

This Week At HBIC

There's a bunch of stuff happening this week as the hockey world gets back into the swing of things by rolling out the exhibition games. Personally, I'll be attending none of the preseason Jets games at this point unless something alters my schedule dramatically, but that's ok. I live close enough to the practice facility that I can wander over there and check out the Jets when they're gearing up for their next opponents. There are some pretty awesome events happening, though, so I want to point out where I'll be next week in case you're looking for me. Which none of you are. And that's ok too.

Tuesday is a big day in Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jets open their exhibition schedule with a split-squad game against Columbus. The other half will actually be in Columbus to play the other half of the Blue Jackets. There's also a little event called the "Battle of the Badges" that will be happening. This game pits the Winnipeg Patrolman hockey team against the Winnipeg Emergency Services hockey team. Rumour has it that a number of special guests will be on-hand to lend their services to the game, including the legendary Hanson Brothers! I'm heading to this event, so expect a full write-up.

Wednesday will be the start of HBIC's look at tragedies in hockey. As we all know, this summer was extremely difficult on the hockey world with all of the deaths in the hockey world. HBIC will take a look at some of the worst tragedies in hockey, and we'll start it off with a tragedy that seems to have been forgotten due to this summer. Teebz's Book Club will present this story.

The series about hockey's worst tragedies is not to dwell on the negative, but to remember those men and women who passed on before this devastating summer. There have been some incredible people in the game of hockey who left us far too early, and HBIC feels that the memories of these people should not be forgotten amidst the grieving done this summer.

Teebz's Book Club will try to lighten the mood on the weekend with another book review, and this one is definitely a little less intense than the look at hockey's tragedies. I'm quite sure that everyone will enjoy this book review as I found myself chuckling quite a bit as I flipped through the pages.

I'll be sending out notices this coming weekend to the winners of the prizes in HBIC's Playoff Pool. I know I said I'd have the packages out a long, long time ago, and I apologize for that. Instead, I'll make up for it by doing something pretty swell for everyone that won a prize. You'll get details this weekend, so stay tuned.

Lastly, I'm looking for a good workout routine for hockey this winter. If anyone can recommend some online resources or some exercises to do to work off a few pounds, I'm all for it. Leave your comments below or email me with details. If you suggest "running", I might hunt you down. Running is probably the most monotonous suggestion I could think of despite how good it is for you. Hit with me some other suggestions, please!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Our First Look

Holy cow! Today was a big day in Winnipeg as the Winnipeg Jets held their first open practice at their practice facility, and the place was an absolute zoo! There aren't many teams that can boast about having a sold-out practice facility to watch training camp, but the Jets have that distinction as they opened the doors to a rush of fans wearing all sorts of Jets gear. For the vast majority of those attending today's look at the Jets, it might be the only time they get to see them live as rumours of available tickets per regular season game seems to be dwindling depending on who you talk to and on what day. However, we're not going to worry too much about that today. Instead, it's all about what the Jets did on the ice, and we'll cover a few more headlines as well.

  • Lots of applause for newly-signed Zach Bogosian as he inked a two-year, $5 million deal before he hit the ice today. Bogosian looked great out there during the drills. If there's one thing that I noticed more than anything, it's that the Jets are going youthful in their first year. Maybe that's a good thing in that everyone will be hungry for one of those few roster spots available.
  • Former Winnipeg Jet Teppo Numminen will be back in the NHL this coming season. Numminen retired after the 2009 season as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, and he will join Lindy Ruff behind the Sabres' bench this season as an assistant coach. It's good to see Teppo doing well after his heart scare, and I think he'll be a great coach for the Sabres' defencemen.
  • One guy to keep your eye on if he makes the Jets roster this season? Kevin Clark. The former Moose forward was a crowd favorite in Winnipeg thanks to his toughness and tenacity, but he has great hands and speed that are often overlooked. He looked good out on the ice today, and he is a proud Winnipegger. He won't score 100 points, but he could be one of those key "glue" guys that every team needs. Personally, he could be the Jets' version of Tyler Kennedy.
  • Calgary's Jarome Iginla gave fans something to worry about when he cut out of practice just 20 minutes in today. The 34 year-old said it was nothing to worry about, and that it was just for precautionary reasons. That breeze coming from the West? It's the collective city of Calgary breathing a sigh of relief.
  • With Bogosian signed and Luke Schenn signing an extension in Toronto, you have to wonder if and when Kings GM Dean Lombardi is going to back down from his stance against Drew Doughty. I'm not saying that Doughty deserves $7 million per season (does anyone deserve that?), but Lombardi is risking a public execution if Doughty doesn't play this season. He's that important to the Kings as one of their cornerstone players.
  • Sidney Crosby was cleared for non-contact practice yesterday, and that's a good sign. While he still might be weeks or months away from playing, the fact that he is on skates again means there's hope that he'll return this season. Fans around the NHL can say what they want about Crosby, but there's no denying that all 30 owners want him back, especially if the Penguins are visiting your team's arena.
  • First-round pick Mark Scheifele looked incredibly comfortable on the Jets' ice this morning. With former Jet superstar Dale Hawerchuk helping him along the way as a member of the Barrie Colts, you almost get the feeling that this kid could be the second coming of a Hawerchuk-type player. He showed great hands, good hockey sense and awareness, and he can skate.
That's all for today, kids. I got a pile of stuff to get done, and I have little time to waste. The open practice this morning was awesome, and the groundswell for the Jets' exhibition game next week is at epic proportions. Go Jets Go!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 16 September 2011

C? It Fits

If you have watched Chris Pronger as he played with the Flyers for the last few seasons, you might have noticed that he wore a letter. He most commonly wore the letter "A" as the alternate captain. However, with the departure of the Flyers' former captain through a trade, there was an obvious hole that needed to be filled. It's no secret that Chris Pronger has captained a few teams, and a number of people thought he was the leader of the Flyers last season despite not wearing the on-ice identification of that leadership. There will be no question this season, however, as the Flyers officially anointed Pronger as their captain for the 2011-12 NHL season.

Chris Pronger has always been a guy that others have looked to since he broke into the NHL with the Hartford Whalers. If you look at his career achievements, he's done a lot to cement himself as one of the best of today's game and possible as one of the all-time greats. In fact, if you ask Pronger himself, he feels this appointment as the 18th captain in Flyers' history is academic.

"It's probably because I've been through everything in my career that a player could possibly go through," Pronger told Mike Brophy of Sportsnet.ca. "I lost in the Stanley Cup final; I won the Cup; I won gold in the Olympics; I lost in the Olympics; I was a young player who got into a little bit of trouble. I've done it all. I think the younger players can come to me with just about anything."

When Pronger was lost in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago to injury, the Blackhawks capitalized. Pronger was a dominating force in the earlier rounds, upsetting the New Jersey Devils and shocking the Boston Bruins after being down 0-3, but you could tell that the injury that was slowing him was limiting his effectiveness. There's no doubt that Pronger is one of the game's best players when he's healthy and determined.

Naming him captain in Philadelphia will endear him to Flyers fans. The fans in Philly love a bruising defenceman, and Pronger can be that. They love a guy who can score a big goal with a booming slapshot, and Pronger certainly has that. But they find themselves enamored with a captain who is the embodiment of his team: tough, physical, and mean. These may not be the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s, but Chris Pronger plays as skilled and tough as those Flyers did.

Making Chris Pronger the captain of the Flyers seems like an easy choice. When you strip away the layers, though, he has not only earned the "C" through his actions and successes on the ice, but because he's everything that Philly fans love. That's the kind of guy you want to go into battle with every night of the season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bankruptcy With A Purpose

It appears that the financial pressures facing current Stars owner Tom Hicks will finally ease with the impending announcement that Hicks will have the team file for bankruptcy and put them up for auction. For all intents and purposes, bazillionaire Tom Gaglardi - chairman and chief executive officer of Sandman Hotels, Inns & Suites - would step up as a leading candidate to buy the franchise and set the Stars on the right path once again. Gaglardi would also assume ownership of 50% of American Airlines Arena, and all would be right in "Big D" once again. But the question needs to be asked: with Atlanta already gone and Phoenix on life support, is Dallas the next non-traditional hockey market to experience reality after a honeymoon hangover phase?

The entire idea behind this bankruptcy filing is so that the proceedings can be sped up through the courts. The NHL, the lenders dealing with the Stars' holdings, and Tom Hicks have all approved of this step in order to get Mr. Gaglardi into the ownership role so that Dallas can begin the season on solid ground.

Tom Hicks fell into the same money problems that a lot of people did when the recession hit. Hicks found himself in dire consequences monetarily, and he was forced to sell off a lot of his assets in order to keep his head above water. He has since sold off several sports teams in his portfolio and looks to continue that trend by disposing of the Stars.

When the team hits the auction block, it's almost a given that Gaglardi will be a bidder for the franchise, but there could be other players involved that might change things dramatically.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, owns the other 50% of American Airlines Arena, and he may want it all - the arena and both franchises that play in American Airlines Arena. So why not reach out to the man who can bring attention to the team and sport where interest is falling? Why not bring aboard a billionaire who loves being involved as both an owner and a fan?

I'm not saying that Gaglardi shouldn't be involved, but why not bring Gaglardi and Cuban together as a superpower collaboration of ownership? It's not like Cuban hasn't poked around the NHL's ownership group before. There was his interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins when they were for sale. He has poked around the Dallas Stars before, looking at scenarios for buying. It's not like Mark Cuban isn't interested.

Cuban represents what the NHL needs more of: forward-thinking, young Americans who want to drive the game into the next level. Gaglardi is what the NHL owners want more of: a Canadian who loves the sport no matter what. Putting those two together not only gives them complete control over one of the best venues in North America in American Airlines Arena, but it gives the NHL owners two men who could build and grow the game of hockey in Dallas and the state of Texas once again. Much like Tom Hocks did when he acquired an up-and-coming team, Gaglardi and Cuban could resurrect hockey in Dallas once again.

Cuban is all about developing and building a championship team. His work with the Dallas Mavericks was a history of bridemaids and could-have-beens until the Mavericks pulled off a stunning run through the playoffs in winning the NBA Championship. But Mark Cuban figured out that it isn't money that wins team-sport championships and you cannot buy yourself a championship. Instead, he found out that it takes a couple of special players, some key role players, and some magic called chemistry. After years of watching the Kobe Bryants and Tim Duncans oust the Mavericks from the playoffs, Cuban felt the ultimate victory as he built a championship team and watched his team beat those that had bettered him for so long.

Now put Cuban in the driver's seat of the Dallas Stars. The Stars have a few special players already - Brendan Morrow, Loui Eriksson, and Mike Ribeiro - and have added a few key players along the way - Alex Goligoski, Adam Burish, and Jamie Benn. Clearly, though, the Stars have some growing to do, and that's where Cuban comes in as he'd provide the passion and desire from management to push the Stars back to their Stanley Cup form. It would take a few seasons, but Cuban has proven through his work with the Mavericks that he's willing to invest the time in order to get results. That, readers, is the top reason why Mark Cuban should be added to Tom Gaglardi's ownership group.

Or course, there may be a power struggle in that management group as Mark Cuban is very driven to be the best. I'm not saying that Gaglardi and Cuban can't work together, but a power struggle behind the scenes could erupt. Any infinite amount of possibilities could occur, though, so all we're working on at this point is academia.

For a city like Dallas that was once a difficult place to play for opposing teams, it's time that the Stars got back to their winning ways. The fans filled the arena to cheer on Modano, Hull, Lehtinen, Zubov, Hatcher, Belfour, and Turco. Cuban could certainly light that fire in the city again, but the Stars need one thing right now more than anything else: steady, committed ownership. Whether it be Mark Cuban or Tom Gaglardi, a solid owner will certainly go a long way in Dallas.

And with a solid owner, the Stars won't have to worry about moving a long way away from Dallas like the situation that some of their southern brethren are facing.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Book With A Twist

This isn't a normal Teebz's Book Club entry because I'll be honest: I haven't read this book. So as confusing as that may be to you, the reader, let me say that I am looking forward to this book. It sounds as though there are a number of facts and stories on the pages to keep even the most die-hard of hockey fans glued to the writing. But we're not here to speak about Double Overtime or author Stephen Cole because I haven't even touched the book. Instead, we're here to talk about a website launching that is scheduled to coincide with Double Overtime being released and the new hockey season starting. The website, hosted by publisher Simon & Schuster Canada, will bring hockey fans together in a brand-new way, and it could end up being something really special.

I received an email from Anneliese at Simon & Schuster Canada, that had an incredible amount of information in it. Anneliese wrote,

"With hockey season just around the corner, I wanted to let you know about the must have hockey book that Simon & Schuster Canada is publishing this fall called Double Overtime.

Double Overtime tours the wild, weird, and truly wonderful moments from all of your favorite NHL teams. Full of great stories, fun facts, and packed with pictures, this book will definitely surprise even the most hardcore hockey fans. It is authored by Stephen Cole, a true hockey aficionado, who also wrote The Canadian Hockey Atlas, Slapshots and Xtreme Hockey!

To support the release of the book we have created a dedicated webpage that launches on October 1st. On this site people can upload their favorite hockey photos to our Flickr pool, enter our hockey photo caption contest, view a photo excerpt of the book and more!"
Sounds pretty decent, right? HBIC is applying to host the image right here on this site, meaning that you can navigate to HBIC and see a photo of YOU! HBIC loves the grassroots movement, and I'm excited to potentially be a part of Simon & Schuster Canada's idea of having a photo mosaic of hockey fans!

Here's the HBIC disclaimer so I can be upfront with everyone. If I am chosen to help with this innovative idea, I will not solicit or bother anyone in the photos. If you're in a photo, good for you and all that congratulatory stuff. If you want to say "HEY, THAT'S ME" or whatever, you're more than welcome, but I will not contact you unless you want to tell the story of how the photo came about. I respect everyone's personal privacy, and you will not be bothered by me in any way, shape, or form unless you reach out to me.

Obviously, I can't link to the website just yet as it doesn't go live until October 1. However, once the link goes live, I'll carry the website under the "Contests" section to the right. If you want to link a photo, you're more than welcome to do so with Simon & Schuster Canada, and, if HBIC is selected, it will show up here.

Keep your eyes on HBIC in the coming weeks. We'll have more book reviews shortly as Teebz's Book Club continues to grow, but HBIC is proud to partner with Simon & Schuster Canada to show off Canada's love for the game - and literature - of hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Good Ol' PSA Satire

The above site, Benstonium.com, is getting some major billing here on HBIC today because they were kind enough to send me an email about the work they do. HBIC is all about great video work that shows some creativity and hockey, and the Benstonium site is chock full of great creativity. While they don't have as much hockey as I normally would like to see, they have done some absolutely solid video work, and they're getting a full page of HBIC goodness due to my appreciation of the work being done on that site.

"Benson" emailed me with this message:

"Hey dude... I'm with a professional video production operation in Pittsburgh. I just finished this new 1960's-style educational video parody about Sidney Crosby's chances of returning to the ice. I wanted to share it with you and please feel free to use as content. Thanks man!"
The first thing I thought to myself was "when is the last time I got an email that started with 'Hey dude'", but I decided to click over on the link Chris Benson provided to check out the work. I was pretty impressed with the work that went into this and other videos. Here is "Professor Ben Stonium" in "The Sidney Crosby Comeback 101".

I'll be honest: I have no problem with a little fun being made in light of Crosby's injury. There definitely a lot of numbers thrown out in that press conference. If you caught the Jagr references in the video, Benstonium wasn't done there. Check out the "History of the Pens". Jagr gets referenced again.

Oh, and we're not done there with some Jagr bashing. There's another video filmed in an "old-school" style. Check out "Benstonium News: Jagr Arrives At JFK".

Those three videos are great! There are a ton more waiting to be discovered over on the Benstonium website, so I suggest you head over there. There are also videos based on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates for all your multi-sport needs! I'm a fan of these videos, and I can't wait to see more! Keep up the great work, Chris Benson and everyone at Benstonium.com!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Local Endorsement

He'll be wearing a different jersey while playing at MTS Centre this season, but Jason Jaffray is a guy that Winnipeggers know very well. His scoring prowess with the Moose was always talked about, and he legitimately speaks about the city and the fans glowingly. It was a pleasant surprise when I received word from a company that I profiled earlier this year that Winnipeg Jet Jason Jaffray was giving his thumbs-up to the company and its products. Gettting a professional athlete's endorsement is always a huge helper for any company, and Jaffray's endorsement of Integral Hockey makes me very happy for the company.

I am still very interested in Integral Hockey's work, and I will test one of their rebuilt composite sticks during my hockey games this winter. The fact that a bonafide NHL player is now endorsing their work only proves that what they do is very good. If Jaffray can reduce the number of sticks that explode in his hands midway down the shaft this season, there should be no doubt that the Integral Hockey repair process is golden.

Jaffray is quoted on the Integral Hockey website. He says,

"I had a chance to use a stick repaired by Integral Hockey Stick Repair. At first I was very skeptical about using a recycled stick. But after using it, I found it to be no different from my other sticks on my rack. It was just as strong as my other sticks and a week later, I found myself searching the shaft of my sticks to see which stick was the one that was repaired – because honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between the three. I definitely support Integral Hockey and would recommend them to anyone wanting to save some money and use a stick that still feels like new."
It also appears that Jaffray will be wearing #41 this season if the information on the Integral Hockey website is true:
Jaffray's endorsement is pretty indicative that the technology used by Integral Hockey works. If he couldn't tell which stick has been repaired, that's a good sign that not only is the stick repaired, but it should work as well as the new sticks.

Technology, particularly the "carbon fiber/e-glass, vacuum infused process", is doing a lot to help the player stay successful. Integral Hockey's work is keeping a chosen stick by a player in his hands. There is a short time where a new stick would have to be used during the repair process, but players, as superstitious as they can be, no longer have to discard a stick with which they have had success. That is a valuable selling point for Integral Hockey.

There are a number of repair locations popping up across the country, so make sure you check out where to ship your broken stick if you want it to be repaired. The cost is significantly lower than buying a new one-piece composite stick, so it might be in a player's (or parent's) best interest to look at repair instead of discarding the broken stick. And now that it is endorsed by an NHL player, there's some weight behind the claims made by the company.

Personally, my review will come this winter, so stay tuned for that. I'll be testing it through a game situation where, as a defenceman, I'll be hammering slapshots, stickchecking opponents, and blocking shots where I can. I'll stress the stick as much as I can to see if I can find any faults in the technology.

Thanks to Jason Jaffray's testimonial, I'm not sure there are any faults to find. Keep up the great work, Integral Hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!