Hockey Headlines

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

76000 Pages?!?

If there's one thing that bothers as a human being, it's the amount of waste that we, as human beings, produce. The average North American adult produces approximately 3.5 pounds of garbage per day, indicating that for all we know about reducing, reusing, and recycling, we aren't really doing a lot of those three things. However, a report out of the NHL today really shook me to my core in terms of how many trees have been destroyed by the NHL in order to prepare documents for the NHLPA.

One of the main points of contention in this CBA battle between the two sides is revenue sharing. The NHL has proposed a new revenue sharing plan, and the NHLPA obviously wants to pore over the details of these reports. From this TSN article, here's what was written:
"NHLPA executive director Don Fehr says he can't make a counterproposal on the league's full package until his group receives and examines the requested team financial reports. The first batch -- 76,000 pages -- arrived late Monday night."
76,000 pages is only the FIRST batch?!? Are you kidding me? These are team financial reports, not manifestos! If the first batch only contained the first fifteen NHL teams, that's approximately 5000 pages per team!?!

I'm no genius here, but couldn't each team's financial report be copied to a CD or DVD and delivered that way? How much paper would the league have saved? More importantly, how much money would the league have saved if they had bought a 50-pack of blank media instead of printing off 76,000 pages and shipping 16 boxes of paper over to the NHLPA?

According to my math, OfficeMax offers boxes of paper of ten 500-packs for $47.99 per box. That's 5000 sheets of paper, so 16 boxes would set the NHL back $767.84. Factoring in the 8.875% sales tax in New York City, that would add another $68.15 onto the cost.

I assume the NHL has a large multifunction printer as well, so they would need at least three toner cartridges. I'll just assume that the NHL runs the latest Xerox WorkCenter Pro 90 printer, so they would need three toner cartridges since each can run 23,500 copies. Total cost for two boxes of toner cartridges is $598.00. Tack on $53.07 more in taxes.

OfficeMax does ship for free, so I didn't include that cost, meaning the NHL would pay $1487.06 just to print all the pages off in their 76,000 page report!

Now, I'm not sure how much information was contained on those documents, but I'm 99.9% sure they would be produced electronically. Even if they were rather large documents saved in some bloated format, let's assume that one can fit 1000 pages on a standard 4.7GB DVD. A 100-pack of blank DVDs costs a mere $41.99, and it jumps to a whopping $45.72 with taxes included. And all of the DVDs can be destroyed fairly easily when done.

Let's also say that the NHL used FedEx to send those documents over to the NHLPA. At 20 pounds per box of paper, that's two pounds per 500-pack of paper. That's a 304-pound delivery to the NHLPA, readers - not just some stapled documents in a file folder. If we use FedEx's rates and assume the NHL has some sort of shipping deal with them, we're in the ballpark of about $1200 to ship those documents. The cost to ship 76 DVDs? Conservatively, let's say it's $50.

So in total, the cost of shipping 76,000 sheets of financial records from New York City to Toronto, Ontario - where the NHLPA is located - cost the NHL nearly $2700 by my rudimentary calculations. Had they simply copied the information to DVDs and sent them to Toronto, they'd be out about $100.

What's worse, 1 ream of paper (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree. The NHL used 152 reams of paper, so they used over nine trees to print the first batch of their report! I have yet to see Gary Bettman or Bill Daly out in a forest planting saplings to replace these nine trees used in creating this farce. Perhaps someone should speak to the NHL about their environmental footprint when printing off idiotic amounts of paper?

For two institutions that pride themselves on being connected to fans through technology, the NHL looks like it works in the Stone Age when it comes to sending large documents to the NHLPA. These are financial records of the teams, not the final CBA contract that requires a signature! Send them on appropriate technology and be done with them at a cost that is more than acceptable to the common hockey fan!

Of course, the NHL's lawyers may have instructed the NHL to send over the 76,000 pages of information just to make it difficult for the NHLPA to go through each and every page. Lawyers get paid big bucks to provide manoeuvres such as these, so maybe it was a bit of gamesmanship on the NHL's part. Still, I am rather shocked at the number of trees that had to die and the amount of spent to try to frustrate the NHLPA's lawyers.

If Andrew Ference is reading this, and I sure hope he does, he needs to tell both sides that this sort of gamesmanship is ridiculous and completely irresponsible towards the environment. Quite frankly, I'm disgusted by the cost, both monetarily and environmentally, that the NHL undertook.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice! And plant a few trees!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Pre-Celebrity Hockey

Sometimes, it's pretty interesting to see people as kids enjoying sport just for the fun of it. While athletes are paid to do what they do, other people certainly can still enjoy the sport for fun, and today we get a glimpse into the life of one Canadian rocker who was a pretty solid little hockey player. Recognize the lady in the middle of the sledge hockey players? That's musician Avril Lavigne, and she was a pretty good little hockey player! So how does one go from peewee hockey star to famous musician?

Lavigne played alongside the boys as a younger player, but also laced up the skates for Napanee District High School with the girls' team. She was a star right winger with the Atom 10-year-old team in Napanee where she earned MVP honors twice in two years for her team.

She was also a scrappy player, not shying away from the rough stuff. Avril told ESPN reporter Jared Zwerling, "I also remember getting into fights with the goalies and hearing cheers from the moms [in the stands] because I was the only girl. Whenever I’d get punched by a guy, I’d always punch back. The gloves came off!"

So while the pop-punk star is now a global name due to her work on the stage, HBIC is proud to present a video of the feisty Lavigne while she was still on skates. I don't know who is yelling off-camera, but it's clear that Lavigne had some strong support in the crowd.
Did you catch Avril throwing a punch at the goaltender in the opening few seconds? It looks like she may have been a terror on the ice!

All in all, it's good to remember that deep within our roots, no matter how rich and famous some of us are lucky to be, sports is always an important part of shaping a quality individual. While hockey has its share of bad stories, seeing something fun and innocent like Avril on skates is certainly a good way to start the week.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

My Mailbox Is Empty, Teebz...

I'm sure there are a number of you who have the same face as Charlie Brown when you visit your mailbox daily. Instead of finding a package from HBIC, you find nothing. Maybe a bill or two. Maybe a flyer. But there's no package from Teebz. And now you're starting to wonder if the whole HBIC Playoff Pool Prizes were nothing but a lark. I assure you that they are not! I have the HBIC Shwag Bag sitting next to the computer as we speak, and I am working on getting prizing sorted out to all of you who are still owed a prize!

I do want to tell you what has happened, though, so you're aware of why your mailbox is empty. I made a comment earlier this month that I was planning on moving. Well, I have moved, and things were in disarray for quite some time as I was literally living between two residences. As of today, however, HBIC headquarters has officially landed in one spot again as a permanent location, and I will pick up the pace in sending out packages again this week.

In saying this, I truly apologize to those who have not yet received a prize or an email regarding prizes. Had I not had to move, I would have been all over sending those prizes out. Instead, my focus was more about not forgetting any worldly possessions, and ensuring that my possessions that were in transit arrived safely to their new destination.

There are still a vast amount of boxes I need to unpack, but I wanted to say that I'm officially writing this from the HBIC PC, and I feel like I'm getting settled. I was emailing from my work computer, and updates were being done on my netbook from a coffee shop when possible. Needless to say, I drank a lot of coffee some days in order to get all the ideas bouncing around in my head onto e-paper.

If you haven't received an email from me in the last few weeks, fear not as I have not forgotten about you. I will be emailing everyone this week, and I'll get back on top of things here. Again, I truly apologize for the craziness in my life interrupting my sending you a package, but priorities shifted. Sorry!

I look forward to talking to you all this week via email! Check your inbox so you can check your mailbox!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Key Cog Is Signed

The kid with the long stick is officially back with the Winnipeg Jets as Tobias Enstrom signed a five-year, $28.75 million deal to remain part of the Jets' blueline. There have been many discussions about Enstrom in the last couple of weeks at my workplace regarding what the Jets could get for him if they explored trading him, but the new signing is proof enough that the quarterback for the Jets powerplay is going to be a key cog for the Jets moving forward. Honestly, I like Enstrom and I believe that he certainly brings a lot to the table in terms of his skill, but he's still young and he can improve.

Enstrom was injured a couple times last season, but there was no reason to believe that he wouldn't have hit 41 points in 82 games had he played them all. While his 33 points in 62 games showed that he has the talent, the one place that I am concerned about is in front of his own net.

Enstrom isn't a very big man by any standard in the NHL. He only stands in at 5'10", and his 175-pound frame is often pushed around in front of his own net. If anything, Enstrom has to find a way to bigger without getting bigger. I know that sounds odd, but Enstrom needs to find a way to move larger bodies from in front of the net. Otherwise, he needs to use that extra-long stick he carries as a poke-check nightmare for opposing forwards. Either way, his one area to improve greatly on, in my view, is in front of his own goalie.

Having cleared that out of the way, I think Enstrom has the potential to be something special for Winnipeg. He has the smooth skating needed to carry the puck up the ice and his hands are soft enough and accurate enough to distribute the puck well. He should be able to lead the team offensively from the back end alongside Dustin Byfuglien, but Enstrom showed some excellent defensive play last season when Byfuglien would get caught pinching.

I think this is something that gets overlooked in a lot of circles - the value of a sound defenceman. There have been many good offensive defencemen - Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Mike Green - that have lacked a solid and sound defensive game. Enstrom is usually the first man back, and often the only man back when the opposition is bearing down on the Jets' net. He plays angles well, he rarely gets beat one-on-one, and he hustles hard. In short, he's not quite in the comparison range with countryman Nicklas Lidstrom, but he's definitely showing potential to be a likeness of the former Red Wing great.

Does Enstrom deserve a contract with a cap hit of $5.15 million annually based on his stats alone? Not in my world. But sometimes you have to go deeper than the stats. Does Brooks Orpik deserve a $3.75 million cap hit for his offensive contributions? Probably not, but the Penguins see what he brings to the table in other facets of the game. Orpik is worth the investment because of all of the other intangibles he brings - solid defence, big hits, and leadership. Signing Enstrom to a deal like this one where he is paid more? I can live with that due to his scoring ability and his intangibles.

Enstrom will play a large role in any success that the Jets have in the coming years, and this contract is pretty fair for both sides. As long as Enstrom can continue to put up points and play sound defence, I don't think there will be anyone calling for his head over the next five years. He had a solid start in his tenure with the Jets, and I'm confident he'll continue on that path.

I'm happy that the Jets are beginning to lock up some core pieces. They signed Pavelec, they signed Enstrom, and now they just need to get Kane's signature in ink on contract. Once they do, the Jets will certainly be looking good for the future.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 27 July 2012

How To Become Unemployable

It's become increasingly hard to find a way to defend Tim Thomas' stances on various topics. If there's one thing that I've learned, there are a few topics that are difficult to breach without offending someone: politics, religion, and sexual orientation to name a few. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and everyone should be able to believe in whatever they choose. The problem is that employers want employees of a certain caliber when it comes to personality and beliefs, and they have taken to the Internet to scout candidates they feel have potential. NHL teams may start doing this as well after Tim Thomas hopped on Facebook and delivered another whopper of a belief that he has via social media.

In a rather interesting piece found on Mediabistro from October 2011, a survey of 300 people in London, England involved in hiring processes stated that they use social media to screen prospective employees. The sites checked by employers include Facebook (76%), Twitter (53%), and LinkedIn (48%). 69% of those surveyed have NOT hired someone because of what they saw on a social media site. Needless to say, if you're looking for a professional job, you better conduct your life in a professional manner.

This brings me to Tim Thomas. Thomas confirmed through his Facebook page that he will take the upcoming season off to focus on family. I applaud him for focusing on something as important as family, but he's in the middle of a contract. The least he could do is ask the NHL to void his deal with the Bruins so that the Bruins are no longer on the hook for his cap value. Instead, he's just going to sit at home and look after the kids - admirable, but completely selfish from a team standpoint.

Thomas is certainly no stranger from individualizing himself from a team. In January 2012, Thomas took to Facebook to explain why he decided to snub the President of the United States when the Bruins visited the White House. Thomas wrote,
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

"Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL."
Note the word in capital letters? The Bruins shrugged off Thomas' political message, and Thomas decided that he wasn't going to answer many questions regarding his Facebook message. Reporters simply wanted to get their heads around Thomas' stance, and he refused to play ball which, of course, is entirely allowed.

But Thomas dug another hole on February 9, 2012 when he decided to post the following message:
"I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom.

"'In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.'

"– by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, best known as the author of the poem First they came...."
Again, reporters wanted to know what Thomas was talking about regarding his bizarre posts on Facebook. And again, Thomas stonewalled reporters by trying to separate his himself into "Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins" and "Tim Thomas the private individual". While it seemed that Thomas was writing about President Obama's law on contraceptives that requires health insurance plans to provide birth control to women, including those offered by Catholic charities, hospitals and universities, he refused to discuss anything regarding his Facebook page with the media. Check out his interview.
So Thomas apparently has a problem with the guy running America. That's fine as he's allowed to have that opinion. Everyone is allowed to express that opinion, although I do believe that if he is trying separate himself into the public and private sectors of life, he probably picked the wrong job. However, his views now are swaying from political commentary into dangerous right-wing territory as he takes a stance alongside Chick-fil-a regarding same-sex marriages. Again, it's his opinion, and he's allowed to have one. Here's what his Facebook page had posted.
"I stand with Chick-fil-A.

"Chick-fil-A is privately owned by the Cathy family. The company president, Dan Cathy, drew the wrath of gay rights advocates and supporters when he made recent statements that some have alleged are anti-gay.

"Cathy told Baptist Press that the company was unapologetically in favor of traditional marriage.

"'Guilty as charged,' he said. 'We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.'

"In a separate interview on the Ken Coleman Show — Cathy suggested that the nation could face God’s wrath over the redefinition of marriage.

"'I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'' Cathy said. 'I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.'
I'm not sure I'd be wholeheartedly endorsing that stance myself, but Thomas feels that the comments by Dan Cathy are similar to his own regarding marriage. There are a thousand different messages one can take from Cathy's and Thomas' comments, but it's clear that homosexual individuals are not welcome for dinner at either household.

The problem with this stance? Tim Thomas is featured in a Discover card commercial with Alicia Love, a Boston-born comedienne who is openly gay. Here's the commercial.
Upon hearing of Thomas' newest stance regarding same-sex marriages, Alicia Love said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. In a sports-driven city like Boston we want our athletes to focus on the game, not politics. Whether Tim likes it or not, he's part of an organization and he is representing the Boston Bruins. He should use caution when discussing his stance on anything that could potentially alienate a group of people."

And Miss Love's comments are what got me to writing this article. If an employer was screening candidates via Facebook and Tim Thomas was one of the people who had made it through the interview process, would this be someone you would employ?

I'm not here to destroy Tim Thomas, but his views went from a general political statement - "government is destroying America" - to defending the Catholic way of life - "birth control will destroy America" - to defending the biblical definition of marriage - "same-sex marriages will destroy America". The more that Tim Thomas posts on his Facebook site, the more people he offends.

As a man in the public eye as a member of the Boston Bruins, Miss Love hit the nail on the head when she said, "he's part of an organization and he is representing the Boston Bruins". He not only represents a franchise, but he represents a civic entity that the people of Boston pay good money to support. His paycheque is entirely dependent upon the people who cheer him on with every save. Yet Thomas feels the need to alienate certain demographics of fans with each new Facebook post.

So I ask you, the readers of this blog, this question: if Tim Thomas was applying for a job with your company and you found all of these posts on Facebook, would you hire him knowing that he could offend a vast number of people who may frequent your business?

Honestly, if Tim Thomas was smart, he'd shut the hell up while take his one-year sabbatical from the game. The Bruins may still be able to salvage some sort of trade to rid themselves of Thomas' constant distractions if he keeps quiet. But honestly, if you were the GM of any other team, would you still accept a trade for Thomas after all this? After all, it's Tim Thomas THE INDIVIDUAL that signs the contract to play in the NHL.

I know that if I were in the human resources department of any business, there would be a better chance that I'd hire Charles Manson before I hired Tim Thomas. If their resumés crossed my desk, though, I can assure you that neither would even get a call back. My business is dependent on people buying my product or service, and I don't care who is paying me - gay, straight, white, black, tall, short, bald, hairy - as long as the money is legal tender.

As one anonymous Bruins teammate stated to WEEI.com, "He isn’t playing next year, which means he's not my teammate. Which means I don’t have to react to his Facebook posts." While the out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality may work for now for this unnamed teammate, what do you say to a confirmed bigot when he returns, if he returns?

Personally, if I were the Boston Bruins, I'd have his contract terminated regardless of his ability. Cutting him loose would be the best way for the Bruins to distance themselves from this headache. I can't believe that the Bruins' HR Department allows this sort of statement to stand without it being "conduct detrimental to the team". Cut him loose, and be done with him, Bruins.

If this was any other business, he'd already be on the unemployment line.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Kings Footnote

If you happen to remember February 1, 2012 in hockey history, you'll probably happen upon the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings. In this game, the Kings scored with 1.8 seconds remaining, it appeared, only to have replays show that the clock has actually stopped during the mad scramble in the dying seconds. HBIC wrote a piece on this clock stoppage, and now the NHL has concluded their investigation into what happened on that night. And it appears that Dean Lombardi's scientific explanation turned out to be a lot of squat - exactly what a vast number of people have said it was.

We go to London, England where Peter Hurzeler, a veteran official in charge of timing at the Olympics, had this gem of a statement to the National Post's Sean Fitz-Gerald: "It's manual — the clock doesn't know when it has to stop."

Hurzeler, a mechanical engineer, is an OMEGA timing board member, and is part of the London technical squad for his 16th Olympic Games. OMEGA is the company in charge of timing at the Games, and Hurzeler has been a part of the OMEGA team since 1969. So I'm pretty sure he knows what he's talking about when it comes to clock "malfunctions".

His comment above falls directly under the adage of "the simplest explanation is normally the right one". If clocks are controlled by people at sporting events, then the error is human, not mechanical. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Now some NHL conspiracy theorists will say that the NHL was behind this time delay. After all, the crew working the clock that night were NHL employees, not Los Angeles Kings employees. There have been theories concocted that the NHL helped needed the Kings to win to bring some relevance back to southern US teams, but I'm 100% against this idea. The Kings were simply the most dominant team in the playoffs since Gretzky and the Oilers in the mid-1980s.

While the NHL will admit the mistake, there's no guarantee that the time crew involved in this mistake will be punished at all. We're all human, and we all make mistakes. Chalk this one up as an "oops", and we'll move on. Did it stink at the time? Heck yes. But, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds, and this is one that doesn't need any more dwelling upon at all.

Unless someone has a time-traveling De Lorean, a crazy scientist friend with a dog named "Einstein", and a bunch of Libyans chasing the scientist, I'm comfortable letting this one go as a footnote on the magical season completed by the Los Angeles Kings.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Gretzky For Seattle

Reports surfaced today that Wayne Gretzky came out of hiding and was spotted in Seattle, Washington. Personally, Gretzky sightings are turning into more of a "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" game since he walked away from the Coyotes debacle, but Gretzky has been confirmed in Seattle for the time being. As you may be aware, Seattle is a hotbed of professional sports right now as multiple arena builders are lobbying for NBA and NHL teams in the city. Of course, none of those arenas have been built yet, but all of them are looking at the possibility of acquiring the one franchise that no one seems to want in the Phoenix Coyotes.

I want to say something upfront: in no way, shape, or form does Wayne Gretzky's involvement in hockey management mean success. If it did, the Coyotes would have already won multiple Stanley Cups and Gretzky would have been heralded as Coach of the Year. Just because Gretzky is in Seattle means little in the scope of the hockey world in terms of teams relocating. So let's set the record straight in saying that Gretzky may be in Seattle talking hockey, but it means nothing to the NHL or NHLPA.

The option of putting a team, whether new or established, in Seattle is a provocative one, especially if that established team is the Phoenix Coyotes. For starters, the divisions wouldn't have to be realigned nor would scheduling change as the Seattle-based team would still be part of the Pacific Division. Sure, Dallas has to travel a little further to player the once-called-Coyotes, but the Pacific Division would have four of its five teams on the Pacific coast.

Secondly, the NHL is getting exactly what it wants: a brand-new, state-of-the-art arena in which it can place a team in order to attract a fan base that already has a taste for hockey. While I doubt that Seattle citizens will take to the team like Winnipeggers took to the new Jets, there's already a solid fan base in the Seattle area, and they can also market themselves to people in Vancouver who may not be able to get Canucks tickets. In short, the NHL would be smart to move into the largest city on the Pacific coast north of San Francisco due to the market size and arena availability.

The availability of the Coyotes franchise is still on the bubble as reports surface that would-be owner Greg Jamison is a little short on the cash to make his end of the deal work. There is also a court date next week on July 30 to decide if a petition calling to put a sales-tax increase is valid. That sales tax increase put in place by the city of Glendale would go directly towards paying the $17-million to the Coyotes required in the first year of management lease for Jobing.com Arena that Jamison put forth. Looking at this house of cards Jamison and Glendale are building, it seems that any gust of wind will send this deal crashing back to the ground, and the NHL will once again be holding the lame-duck franchise.

If there is one thing that may kill the Seattle option for the NHL, it is the lack of an available arena at this time. If the Jamison deal falls through, the NHL will once again have to examine options to move the team if no buyers are on the horizon (and there appear to be none).

Kansas City has an arena that is ready and waiting for an NHL team, and the Coyotes are a good option to move there as they have a competitive team and can still fit into the Pacific Division. Hey, if Dallas is in the Central Time Zone and can play in the Pacific Division, so can Kansas City, right? The only problem is that there are no ownership groups who have stepped forward to say they are ready to own the Coyotes in Kansas City. You need good ownership, and there have been no Kansas City-based groups that have stepped forward yet to assume the reins.

Then there is the hockey-rabid city of Quebec City. The former home of the Nordiques is building a brand-new arena as well, and have already broken ground on the new venture. The potential ownership group is led by a media mogul who has buckets of money to spend on a team, so there is a significant ownership factor in the Quebec City equation. Hockey will certainly thrive in the capital city of La Belle Province in knowing this. Combine that with a never-resolved rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens, and you have yourself a hockey hotbed that just needs a hockey team. There would be realignment issues, but the Winnipeg Jets are poised to move to the Western Conference as it is, so the realignment wouldn't be as bad as initially thought. In short, Quebec City is viable and realistic as a hockey destination for the Coyotes franchise.

I'm not saying Seattle is not ready for the Coyotes in any way. In fact, if anything, they are probably the best destination for the Coyotes in terms of the work needed to be done to get the rest of the NHL aligned properly. The issue I see is that they have no suitable arena yet and they have yet to find an ownership group. Those are two pretty large factors in selling a team to a market that may have fans, but no one to assume the costs of running the team nor having a suitable place to play their games in order to cover those costs.

So while Wayne Gretzky may be investigating Seattle as a possible destination for the Coyotes for himself or some other interest, it seems Seattle may be third on the list right now in terms of cities that can house an NHL franchise. Seattle is definitely a great city and the fans are passionate about their teams, but there needs to be good ownership and a great facility. Seattle has neither at this time in terms of the public's knowledge, so all of this speculation may lead to nothing.

But if an ownership group is behind the Great One's appearance in Seattle, I want to make one thing clear: Gretzky should be part of the public relations team only. His track record as a hockey executive makes him nothing more than a footnote in NHL history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Coming Home To An Empty House

The image to the left is that of Bridgestone Arena located in Nashville, Tennessee. There have been a number of good players who have called this arena home including Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Ryan Suter, Tomas Vokoun, and Jason Arnott. The recurring theme with these players are that they all left to go somewhere else. It's not that Nashville didn't try to keep them; in fact, it was just the opposite. But when Shea Weber returns home to Nashville after the Predators finally matched the offer sheer from the Philadelphia Flyers, he's returning home to a seemingly empty house.

As you're aware, Ryan Suter took a deal from the Minnesota Wild in order to be closer to home for both him and his wife. Nashville GM David Poile reportedly didn't have a chance to match the offer to keep Suter, and one-half of the dynamic defensive duo was gone before Weber and Poile could even make a play to keep him in Music City.

Alex Radulov is also gone, having signed a deal to return to the KHL. After his "distraction" in the playoffs with the late-night partying followed by his departure for greener pastures in Moscow, Weber told the Bob Marjanovich Show on Vancouver's Team 1040 that he felt betrayed by Radulov's decision not to return to Nashville.
"I don't really know what to say about it because I was one of the guys that stood up for him and wanted him back," he said. "There were a bunch of us that played with him that felt the same way.

"You feel a little bit betrayed, but I am sure he feels bad about it now and he looks back on it and wishes it didn't happen. Those are the things you can't take back and we've got to move forward."
As you're probably aware, Nashville hasn't filled the voids left by both Suter and Radulov yet, and there aren't many top-tier free agents left to close the gaps left by these two players. Essentially, Shea Weber will return to captain the Predators this season, but there aren't a lot of character guys with top skill that can take some pressure off him. Can Weber play 40 minutes a game? That's unlikely, so he'll need someone to step up much in the way he did in his first couple of seasons.

The Predators certainly aren't out of the game, though. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber will be counted on more than ever to stabilize the defensive zone, and Weber will have to be as effective as he was this season when in the offensive zone. They could make runs at a few free agents that are still on the market.

Players like Shane Doan, Jochen Hecht, Carlo Colaiacovo, and Petr Sykora are all players that would fit the mold of what Barry Trotz is instilling in his current crop of Predators. Younger players like Keith Seabrook, Cal O'Reilly (for the second time), and Tyson Sexsmith can certainly add a spark to either the Predators or to the Admirals, prompting some of the younger Predators to either sink or swim. In any case, there is still talent available, but Nashville may have to pay a bit more to get these players now.

I like the development of some of the Predators last season, though, and these players will certainly be leaned on more this season by Barry Trotz. Gabriel Bourque came on late in the season, Roman Josi looked poised as a regular defenceman, and Colin Wilson appears to be ready to break out. The more that these younger kids get into situations where they need to sink or swim will be good for their development. Obviously, in saying that, you can't just toss them into the deep end and expect them to keep their heads above water, but the fact that they showed some good performances last season bodes well for the future. There may be some bumps along the way, but they performed well last season to earn a spot and keep it. That's good for Nashville.

The pain of losing Radulov won't be felt as much as losing Suter will be. You just can't replace 20-25 minutes per night that easily when talking about Suter's skill. Weber will certainly log some more ice time to make up the difference, and it remains to be seen how this may affect the Predators' captain. The cupboard, in terms of star power, is far more bare than it was when the season ended, and that will make it tough for all of the Predators next season.

The early pain, however, may develop into some great character. Nashville can grow closer by losing Radulov and Suter. Weber will need to lead the way, but there may be some break-out stars next season in Music City. And that will be music to the fans' ears. It just may take a few rewrites to get all the players on the same page of music.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Why Columbus Will Never Be Better

It's a pretty well-know fact that Rick Nash, arguably the best player in Blue Jackets history, is now a New York Ranger. I do feel that if GM Scott Howson should have and could have gotten more in return for Nash had he simply waited. There was no gun to his head to make this deal as Nash was locked in long-term, so why acquire a pair of second-line players at best and a young defenceman who may or may not be there for the long haul? I can tell you this: the rebuilding decade of the Blue Jackets continues after this failed trade.

Selling the city of Columbus to any NHL star shouldn't be that tough when you look at the overview. There's a fantastic zoo and aquarium in Columbus, Ohio, and it is consistently ranked high in terms of great places to raise kids and do business. It is the largest city in Ohio, and it also boasts The University of Ohio, one of the NCAA's best colleges for academics and athletics. Yet the Blue Jackets, for all they do, can't seem to attract big names or convince them to stay if they trade for a star.

Rumors were bubbling to the surface last season that Jeff Carter, one of Howson's big moves in the summer prior, was unhappy in Columbus. Some reports had him as "damaged goods" following the trade from Philadelphia to Columbus. Others simply saw the problem as the reason for Philadelphia giving up on Carter. Either way, it all finally resulted in a trade to the Los Angeles Kings that would see Carter drink from the Stanley Cup this season.

Adam Foote was once captain of the Blue Jackets, but his trade out of Columbus with the team just a mere five points from a playoff spot had the fans outraged. There were reports that Foote had made some ridiculous contract demands in negotiating his new contract in order to force a trade. Columbus, as history shows, traded their captain to the Colorado Avalanche, and went on to miss the playoffs. When asked about the trade, Foote didn't exactly put the rumors to bed, instead downplaying the business side of the sport that caused the trade. That won't quell the fans' views of the trade, though.

And now we come to Rick Nash and his public trade demand. It wasn't so much that Nash came out and demanded a trade as much as it was GM Scott Howson informing the media that Nash had asked for a trade out of Columbus. Nash had used his face-to-face meeting with management to inform them that he'd be willing to go elsewhere if that's what they determined as the best course of action, and Howson turned that into "Nash asked to be traded".

Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch writes,
"Howson declined to comment beginning in mid-February when The Dispatch asked, almost daily, if Nash had requested the trade or if the club was considering it on its own accord. His position changed when the trade deadline passed.

"On Feb. 27, Howson told the media that Nash had asked for the trade. Nash and his agent, Joe Resnick, were told 30 minutes before the news conference that Howson was going public.

"'That's the way they wanted to do it,' Nash said. 'It was the truth.'

"At that moment, though, the dynamics of the deal changed. Knowing that Nash had asked to be dealt, the Jackets were seen as the desperate party in trade talks, and the suggestion that Nash could stay put lost steam."
If you're a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, and you knew that the rebuilding process had already been put in motion starting in mid-February, how do you feel about your team attracting or retaining talent? Do you think that any established stars would want to join the Blue Jackets?

Like Mr. Portzline wrote, the moment that Howson played his trump card - going public that Nash wanted out - the Blue Jackets became the losers in the Nash deal. There was not one NHL team that was going to offer three legitimate NHL players plus a combination of prospects and draft picks for Nash once it became clear that Nash wanted out.

Sure, the team got a little better with Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Erixon, but the actual return on that investment is probably three-to-four years away when Erixon, Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson, and the other stockpile of young talent finally begins to mature. Maybe Columbus can fast-track their turnaround by finishing dead last and going for Nathan MacKinnon this season in the draft?

The problem with both the Carter deal and the Nash deal wasn't the players involved on the Columbus side of the trade. Instead, it has everything to do with the general manager who is allowing these "public trade demands" to go public. The moment that the demand goes public, the team loses any opportunity it has to get equal return on the player being shipped out. At minimum, you want an equal return for an asset that simply didn't work. Columbus, in these last two blockbuster deals, got return, but nowhere close to the value of the trade going the other way.

It reminds me of an exchange between German investors and Mr. Burns regarding the sale of the nuclear power plant in the episode Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk from Season Three of the The Simpsons.
Sather: [begging] Please sell me Rick Nash. I'll pay anything.

Howson: Isn't this a happy coincidence! You are desperate to buy, and we are desperate to sell.

Sather: [calculatingly] Desperate, eh? Advantage: Sather!

As one commenter on The Columbus Dispatch wrote, "One more sad chapter in Howson's Reign of Error." How true it is.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Whatever Happened To Tsujimoto?

George "Punch" Imlach was quite a historical figure during his time as an NHL coach and executive. He was stubborn, irascible, and maybe a little crazy, but he sure knew his hockey. If you haven't heard the story of how he drafted a fairly unknown Japanese hockey player from the JHL while he was the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres, get ready for a lark of a tale. Punch Imlach was nothing if not controversial, and he certainly created controversy surrounding Taro Tsujimoto in 1974 NHL Entry Draft. This is the story of how Imlach drafted a player who never existed as a player in the Japan Hockey League, and who played for a team that didn't exist in the Japan Hockey League.

This story, if you're a Buffalo Sabres fan, runs deep, and the Sabres actually have Tsujimoto's name in their media guide as a draft pick in the 1974 NHL Draft. There was much excitement surrounding this new foreigner that the Sabres had drafted, especially since players from Europe were beginning to find jobs in the NHL. A player from Japan, however, was far more exotic in that there wasn't much known about the level of play in Japan at that time. The story that emerged, however, wasn't nearly as interesting as the hype that surrounded the pick made by Imlach as a joke.

Before 1980, the NHL Entry Draft was only open to NHL General Managers and league officials. It certainly didn't have the media hype it had today, and the vast majority of drafts through the 1970s happened via conference call or through a meeting at a designated hotel. In 1974, the league opted for the conference call draft, and that meant there was a lot of waiting between picks as teams scoured their draft lists for another kid they hoped could change their fortunes, especially late in the draft. Telephone drafts in those days would normally run three days long!

Imlach, not being the most patient man to start with, began to grow tired of the long pauses and tedious process of drafting players that, ultimately, had a slim-to-none chance of ever playing in the NHL. In order to appease his boredom, Imlach decided to have a little fun at the expense of the NHL and the other general managers.

From the Sabres' website:
"Sending a secretary to find some common Japanese names, Imlach soon came up with the imaginary Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas - literally translating to the Tokyo Sabres (Katana is a type of Japanese samurai sword).

"When NHL President Clarence Campbell asked Imlach for his selection, he was met with laughter from around the League. International scouting wasn’t as prevalent as it is in the NHL now, and drafting a player from Japan wasn’t exactly a common practice.

"But Imlach carefully spelled the name of his invented centerman, which was printed in every record book and media guide in the League.

"Reporters in the following weeks grilled the Sabres GM about the arrival of Tsujimoto to Buffalo. Imlach would simply respond by saying the prospect would come soon."
So exactly where did Imlach come up with such a convincing Japanese name? According to reports, Imlach, or his secretary, apparently found the name in a Buffalo phone book, and ran with it. When speaking to league officials about his pick (after the laughter had subsided, Imlach described Tsujimoto as "a 5'8", 180-pound playmaker from the Tokyo Katanas."

However, an article in the February 2, 1992 edition of the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pennsylvania states that the idea for Tsujimoto actually came from Buffalo's former publicity director Paul Wieland, former head coach Floyd Smith, and some of the Buffalo scouts. As per the article, the name Tsujimoto was actually the name of a jewelry store in Buffalo, and they chose the Tokyo Katanas because katana means "sword" in Japanese. I also should add that "Taro" is the Japanese word for "sabre".

Some very interesting revelations there, I must say, as someone is actually trying to take credit for the Imlach selection! Imlach is on record as the person who made the selection, though, so there is no debating who said his name on the conference call.

To push matters a little further, Panini decided to create a Taro Tsujimoto hockey card in its 2010-11 Score Rookies & Traded box set! The faux player was actually given a face and number for people to look for in their next pack of hockey cards!

"The creative team was looking to come up with something special, something really unique, for this program," said Al Muir, Panini's Hockey Brand Manager. "The legend of Tsujimoto is one of those great hockey stories that has been perpetuated not just in Buffalo, but around the game. It's one that gets told to this day in dressing rooms and on bar stools, and that's what made him a natural for this project."

What did the NHL and NHLPA think of this idea?

"We got approval from the league in less than 10 minutes," Muir replied. "They loved it immediately. The PA took a little longer, but then they got behind it in a big way. It was actually a PA staffer who helped us acquire the period-appropriate photo used on the card. Without that, we simply couldn’t have executed the concept this well."

Without further adieu, here is the Tsujimoto card you're missing from your Panini card set.
And who is the mystery man in the uniform if Mr. Tsujimoto didn't exist?

"That's a mystery for another day," Muir said.

Indeed, Mr. Muir. But the mystery of why Tsujimoto never played in Buffalo is pretty well-known. The one change that the NHL historians made was that the 183rd pick of the 1974 NHL Entry Draft now shows in the NHL records as "invalid pick". But that hasn't stopped the Buffalo Sabres from claiming that history. And it shouldn't stop your "We Want Taro" chants, Buffalo fans!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Few Rules For London

Having only played field hockey once in all my life in a high school gym class, I'm not all that familiar with the rules of field hockey. With London's Olympiad approaching fast, I thought it might be time to actually look at the rules so you understand what may be happening on the pitch if you tune in to watch the game. You can check out the women's teams that will be playing, and the men's teams that will try to capture gold. The history of medalists in field hockey can be found here until the 1980 Moscow Games, and here for all Olympiads from 1980 and on. The history of how the game evolved can be read here, and some facts about the field hockey pitch can be found here. Let's check out the rules!

The first thing to know is that games are split into two 20-25 minutes halves, and there is a five-minute halftime to allow the players to rest. Each team is allowed to field eleven players including the goalkeeper. Only one goalkeeper can be on the field per team at any time.

In order to move the ball, it must be pushed or dribbled down the field using only the flat side of the stick. The following video, produced by Hockey England, shows a variety of dribbling techniques.
Notice how the players flip the stick over to play the ball with the flat side of the stick? That type of dribbling, called Indian dribbling, was actually developed by players in India when the game was introduced there. It allows for players to move around defenders much easier! Honestly, this video is excellent, and it really shows some good dribbling that you can pick up on while watching the games in London.

Goals in field hockey can only be scored when a player strikes the ball within the striking circle. Players can't just shoot from where ever they like in an attempt to score - they need to actually work as a team to get within the 16-yard half-circle that surrounds the goal, and then score from within that area.

There are a pile of fouls that a player can commit while playing, and I'll only go over the more common fouls seen in games. They include:
  • Shielding or obstructing the ball from an opponent with the body or stick. The rules of field hockey state that all players must have an equal chance to gain control of the ball as it is dribbled or passed down the field.
  • Playing the ball with the rounded side of the stick. This happens accidentally on occasion.
  • Charge, push, trip, or "bodycheck" an opponent. Any sort of physical abuse is not allowed.
  • Slash, hook, hold, or interfere with an opponent's stick. This is also not allowed.
  • Raising the stick above the waist dangerously. Respect for your teammates and opponents must be observed.
  • Advancing or stopping a ball with any part of the body. Only the stick may be used to play the ball.
You might be thinking that there's less body contact in field hockey than there is in golf. Tackles, as they are called, will happen often, and there are definite good and bad examples of tackles. The following video demonstrates a vast number of legal tackles.
Basically, as long as there is no disadvantage to the ball carrier, a tackle is legal. If you make contact with the stick on a swinging tackle, however, that would constitute a foul. Keep your eyes peeled for fouls on the pitch when watching the games on television.

This, of course, leads to the conversations about penalty strokes. A penalty stroke is awarded for an intentional foul committed within the striking circle or for a foul preventing a probable goal. Penalty strokes can also be awarded against the defensive team if defenders continually break the line early during a penalty corner, but this type of infraction is rarely seen at an Olympic competition. Here's a perfectly-executed flick from Englishman Ashley Jackson.

A penalty corner, on the other hand, is awarded if an unintentional foul is committed that does not prevent a goal from being scored, an intentional foul is committed on a player who is neither playing nor receiving the ball, an intentional foul committed within the 23-meter zone but outside the striking circle, or for a defender who intentionally plays the ball over the back line.

A penalty corner can only be defended by five players - four defenders and the goaltender, normally - while the other six players must be outside the center line. All of the offensive players can take part in the corner against the five defenders. The remaining six defenders must remain outside the line until the ball is put into play. To restart play from a penalty corner, the offensive player must put the ball back into play from a point on the back line at least 10 meters from the goal but within the striking circle. The ball must leave the striking circle in order for a goal situation to present itself. The penalty corner situation ends when a goal is scored, the ball goes out of play, another penalty corner or a penalty stroke is awarded on the play, or the ball travels either 5 meters from the circle or outside it more than once. Hockey England has a great video showing the penalty corner.

Penalty corners and penalty flicks are how a lot of goals are scored in field hockey. With this primer, you should be ready for the majority of plays seen in field hockey, and I hope this allows you to enjoy the games more as we near the London Olympiad.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Leafs Join Alumni Game

These two guys were pretty popular Leafs during their time. Mats Sundin and Tie Domi were the heart of the Maple Leafs for a long time, and they'll get to lace up the skates once more for the Leafs as they have indicated that they would take part in the Winter Classic Alumni Game this year against the alumni of the Detroit Red Wings. While neither player is old enough to join the true Maple Leaf legends in the first alumni game, they should be out there with more recent Leafs players who have retired from the game, especially after it was announced earlier this month that a second alumni game would take place between the legends of the two Original Six teams.

Along with the newly-named Sundin and Domi, it sounds as though the Leafs will have a collection of NHL greats taking the ice in the blue-and-white. Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler, Doug Gilmour, Rick Vaive, Darcy Tucker, Felix Potvin, Mike Palmateer, Kevin Maguire, Dave Andreychuk, Curtis Joseph, Johnny Bower, Ron Ellis and Jim McKenny have already expressed interest in playing in one of the two games, and there are still a pile of players that the Leafs could ask to play. Off the top of my head, players that should be asked include Ed Olczyk, Dave Ellett, Mark Osborne, Gary Leeman, Al Iafrate, Dave Keon, and Bob Pulford to name a few of the Leaf greats.

On the Red Wings' side of the coin, they have some of their legends already penciled in. They include Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mickey Redmond, John Ogrodnick, Luc Robitaille, Dino Ciccarelli, Mark Howe, Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Joe Kocur and Alex Delvecchio. Other players they should ask include Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Slava Fetisov, Slava Kozlov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Johnny Bucyk, Marcel Dionne, Gerard Gallant, Ray Sheppard, Rogie Vachon, Greg Stefan, and Brian Rafalski.

Personally, there were a ton of great players from Manitoba on both teams, and I could make a phenomenal game if everyone were still alive and in their primes.

MAPLE LEAFS
Goaltenders: Walter "Turk" Broda, Ed Belfour.
Defencemen: Ian White, Bill Juzda, Wally Stanowski, Jim Thomson, Frank Mathers, Joe Crozier.
Forwards: Pete Stemkowski, Eric Nesterenko, Bill Derlago, Walter "Babe" Pratt, Andy Bathgate, Alex Steen, Andrew Blair, Wally Boyer, Bill Ezinicki, Ken Baumgartner, Dave Semenko, Colton Orr.

RED WINGS
Goaltenders: Terry Sawchuk, Glen Hanlon
Defencemen: Mike Korney, Derek Meech, Gerry Hart, Jack Stewart, Ted Harris, Larry Brown.
Forwards: Billy Taylor, Sheldon Kennedy, Dennis Hextall, Darren Helm, Ralph "Scotty" Bowman, Modere "Mud" Bruneteau, Ed Bruneteau, Pete Kelly, Al Johnson, Ab McDonald, Perry Miller, Nick Mickoski.

Surprisingly, there were some very good goaltenders left off the list. Both Bill Ranford and Ken Wregget played for the Red Wings, and Wregget also played for the Maple Leafs. Joe Daley suited up for the Red Wings as well, and he didn't make the cut. Clearly, Manitoba produces some quality goaltenders!

Hopefully, we'll see more legends sign up. Players like Bill Barilko and Steve Chiasson should also be remembered for their contributions to their respective teams during their lives as both players forged excellent careers despite their lives being cut short. Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Talk About Brotherly Love

Is that a doubloon that Shea Weber is biting? It seems as though the big defenceman may have happened upon a pirate's treasure trove as he signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers last night, putting the pressure squarely on the Nashville Predators and, in particular, GM David Poile's shoulders as a tumultuous off-season continues in Music City. With Ryan Suter - one-half of Nashville's dynamic duo on the blueline - already bolting for the Land of 10,000 Lakes, losing Shea Weber would only further set Nashville back in the arms race in the Western Conference. Losing one big gun was bad enough, but both?

There's no doubt that Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren has bigger things on his mind. He missed out on both Zach Parise and Sute and he appears to have turned his attention away from Rick Nash, so that would leave only Shane Doan and Shea Weber on the free agency front as potential game-changers in Philly. Being that Weber is a restricted free agent, an overly-ridiculous offer would certainly put the budget-conscious Predators behind the eight-ball, and so begins the seven-day wait to see if Nashville will indeed match the offer sheet thrown at Weber.

It seems a little crazy that the Flyers would come out and offer a 14-year contract mere days after the NHL told the NHLPA that it would like to cap contracts at five years, but no one has ever accused the Flyers of playing by the rules. The Fkyers did exactly what they are allowed to do under the current collective bargaining agreement, and there's nothing wrong with that. But 14 years? This would essentially be the last contract that Shea Weber would ever have to sign regardless of how he played or if he played through to the end of the contract.

With Weber on their blueline, there's no doubt that the Flyers become the dominant team in the Atlantic Division. Imagine a blueline with Pronger, Timonen, Meszaros, and Weber? That's a pretty impressive top-four defence corps. Pronger, Timonen, and Weber have all been all-stars before, and Meszaros is a pretty solid defensive defenceman. All in all, Philly gets much, much stronger if Weber makes it through the next seven days, especially after losing Matt Carle.

Despite the money guaranteed in this contract, I cannot see Nashville not matching Philly's offer, especially when the return is only five first-round draft picks. That "trade" simply doesn't balance out for Nashville, especially when you consider that Weber will keep Philly in the upper echelon of teams for the foreseeable future. Nashville, more importantly, can't afford to lose their stat defenceman and captain, and this offer sheet will guarantee that Weber remains a Predator for a long time.

Philly is a better team right now on paper, but there's no guarantee that paper will amount to much if Nashville matches. If they don't, consider the Predators "also-rans" for the next decade in the Central Division. Weber means that much to them.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

TBC: The Year Of The LA Kings

I've been reading a lot of non-hockey books this year in my effort to increase my literary range, but I still have a few hockey books on my shelves that I want to read. I recently received an excellent book that needs to be read if you're a Los Angeles Kings fan in any way. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present The Year of the Los Angeles Kings, written by Andrew Podnieks and published by Fenn/McClelland & Stewart. This book is literally a play-by-play recap of the stunning playoff run by the Los Angeles Kings and features a number of interesting pieces from the history of the Los Angeles Kings to a personal biography of each player who contributed to the extraordinary season experienced by the Kings.

Andrew Podnieks has written more than 50 books on hockey, including Honoured Canadiens, Celebrating the Game, and Lord Stanley's Cup. Mr. Podnieks has played a major role in researching international hockey for various institutions including the Hockey Hall of Fame, the IIHF, and Hockey Canada. The Canadian author has provided Hockey Canada all of the statistics and historical info on all of Canada's teams at of the IIHF major tournaments since 2003. You can check out his website, which features all of his books, by clicking here.

As seen above, hockey historian Andrew Podnieks did some marvelous work in recapping the Kings' season. There is some great information regarding the birth of the Los Angeles Kings and the two arenas that this franchise called home. Seen with the articles are some fantastic photos of players like Terry Sawchuk as a Los Angeles King, and this is a major highlight for me in this book. There are so many good photographs to accompany the writing that it's a visual pleasure to flip through this book.

That's not to take anything away from Mr. Podnieks' writing, though. He highlights each game of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs that the Kings participated in with fantastic detail. He also details each player's biography with excellent detail, and this ability to bring insight to each game and player makes Mr. Podnieks' writing enjoyable. Adding context to the pictures featured on each page isn't hard to do, but Mr. Podneiks goes one step further in bringing the image to life with his words.

The history contained within the covers really would make this book worth the purchase price alone. Mr. Podnieks highlights a number of historical points in the Kings' history, including the 1993 Stanley Cup Final appearance and the Miracle on Manchester, and brings forth all relevant historical statistics such as all-time playoff appearances, all-stars, and draft picks. If you wanted a concise historical collection of information on the Los Angeles Kings, Mr. Podnieks has done a superb job in The Year of the Los Angeles Kings.

Overall, The Year of the Los Angeles Kings is a great look back at this past season's Stanley Cup-winning Kings team as well as being an excellent historical look at the Kings franchise. Mr. Podnieks' work as a hockey historian is on display in The Year of the Los Angeles Kings, and the work he puts forth is unequaled as far as anything I have seen thus far. Because of the excellent job Mr. Podnieks has done in this book combined with the fabulous Getty photos he chose for the book, The Year of the Los Angeles Kings deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Peace On One Front

While the NHL and NHLPA draw lines in the sand regarding the new CBA, there will be peace between the NHL and KHL for at least one more year. It was announced today that the NHL and KHL signed a new Memorandum of Understanding regarding respecting each league's contracts so that players cannot be "poached" from a league by teams looking for help. This new peace between the two leagues will undoubtedly help both sides since neither league will lose players under contract. It also prevents either side's franchises from signing a disgruntled player currently under contract as well. Labor peace is always good in the world.

Having been signed for the second straight season by both KHL president Alexander Medvedev and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the new agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2013. One more year of peace between the two leagues competing for the same players is good for all fans.

The details of the Memorandum of Understanding include the following:
  1. From July 16, 2012, both parties should exchange data on any players who have existing contracts with KHL or NHL clubs. The data should include the player’s name, surname, date of birth, club, contract expiry date and his status. On demand of one of the parties, the other party shall supply a full copy of the player’s contract.
  2. The KHL and the NHL are obliged to update the players’ contracts database every week with the latest information on any changes.
  3. Both leagues should exchange their lists of free agents.
  4. The KHL and NHL respect each other's contracts. Both parties recognize and support the main principle: players under contract with a club from one league cannot fulfill any obligation to a club from another league during the term of the player’s contract.
  5. In the event of any conflict or disagreement arising, both parties shall appoint their official representatives to hold negotiations.
  6. Prior to such negotiations the parties undertake to provide all documents confirming or in any way associated with the player’s signing of a professional contract with any hockey club.
  7. Toronto or New York shall be the venues for the negotiations between the official representatives of both leagues.
  8. The NHL and the KHL are obliged to do everything in their power to reach a consensus concerning each player’s disputed contract status, including cases of labor conflicts, contractual disputes, etc. In the event of any failure to reach a consensus, each party reserves the right to act in the way it considers appropriate in such circumstances.
Seems pretty straightforward to me in terms of these points. Basically, the two sides will ensure that no team is able to sign any player under contract until the terms of the contract have been fulfilled or the player's contract is terminated. Free agent lists will be exchanged to allow both sides access to players not under contract, and those players can be contacted from teams on either side.

While the owners and players may be miles apart in the North American labor negotiations, at least the North American owners and Russian owners won't be tampering with players from the opposite side of the ocean. That's good for business for everyone involved.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 16 July 2012

From GAA To DUI

I'll admit that I like the look of this car. This, readers, is a BMW M6. It is the same car that Winnipeg Jets goaltender crashed into the back of another car at an intersection in Kladno, Czech Republic. That wouldn't be so bad if that was the end of the story, but it's not. Pavelec, you see, was given a sobriety test. In the Czech Republic, anything above 0.00 is considered to be driving under the influence, so you have to know what's coming next, right? Right.

Pavelec was charged with a DUI. That's a problem if you're the Jets' management. But it's not the biggest problem in this whole story. No, the problem is that the accident occurred on May 26! As you may recall, the Jets had not yet started to negotiate with their goaltender by that point, so, naturally, Pavelec did what any young man would when faced with the grim reality that the organization who wants to make him a millionaire needs to know about something like this. Pavelec kept his mouth shut.

One month later, Pavelec signed the richest contract of his life, and everything looked rosy. Except for that looming court date regarding his DUI charge. Y'know, the one he told exactly no one about. That one.

So while Pavelec's agent went about securing a pile of money for his client, Pavelec seemingly told no one about the DUI charge. I'm not even sure his agent knew, but, if he did, you'd think that the Jets may have a few complaints regarding his behavior. Regardless, Pavelec kept something as serious as a DUI charge hidden from his employers.

Translating from AHA! Online, an article from today reads, "Ondrej Pavelec said that it was a residual alcohol. But he managed to secure misjudged the distance and caused an accident in which damage was 100,000 crowns on each car." Now it may seem like a 100,000 crowns is a lot of money, but the standard Czech koruna is about $0.05 CDN. In other words, the accident saw about $5000 worth of damage to each car - still nothing to sneeze at, and certainly more than a little fender bender.

Residual alcohol? How drunk was he the night before if there was still residual alcohol in his system?

Look, I'm not here to condemn Ondrej Pavelec for having a drink. Any hockey fan knows that an adult beverage goes well with a sporting event if you're of age, and I'm certainly guilty of enjoying a beverage or two in my time. What I am condemning him for is driving under the influence.

Pavelec is a star in the city of Winnipeg. Kids want to play like Pavelec when they take the ice in Winnipeg. And now their parents have to explain why Pavelec got in trouble. If anything, the Jets shouldn't punish Pavelec in any way. Instead, make him do public service in terms of educating kids - the people who idolize him - about the perils of drinking and driving.

While the act of hiding the accident and DUI is certainly not very wise, the best thing that the Jets can do is turn this negative into a positive. Not only will it be good for themselves, but it could seriously help Pavelec overcome this mistake in the public eye. Pavelec made a mistake and it shouldn't be a reflection of his character as a whole, but this tarnish will stick with him unless it can be washed off.

Here's hoping that Pavelec makes a good decision to erase his poor one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

1990 NHL All-Star Game Program Peek

It's a quieter day on the hockey front, and I still have very little interest in the CBA battle between the NHL and NHLPA. Because of this, I'm heading back into the archives thanks to a friend of HBIC and a program that was sent to me. Doug K. dropped a program from the 1990 NHL All-Star Game in Pittsburgh into the mail some time ago, and I've been looking through it with the intention of posting some info about it here. My only issue? I don't have a scanner, so all I can do is give you details about what is found inside the covers. Roll with it, readers. There's some good stuff.

The cover itself is actually more than just a cover - it's a foldout with artistic images of past and present NHL All-Stars. Alex Delvecchio, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Maurice Richard are featured on the cover portion, but the foldout had Gordie Howe, Denis Potvin, Frank Mahovlich, Bobby Hull, and Ted Lindsay on the inside! The cover illustrations were done by Mark Bender - his site is absolutely fantastic! The back of the foldout has an advertisement for the 1990 Dodge Daytona and Dodge Dakota. Not important, but just some context as to what was on the back.

There is a great article written by Bob Grove found on page 17 about Pittsburgh's hockey history. According to the article, Pittsburgh was the first city to claim a professional hockey team in 1902, but it was an amateur team in 1924 that put Pittsburgh on the map as a hockey city. The Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets won the United States Amateur Hockey Championship in both 1924 and 1925, and featured future NHL legends such as goaltender Roy Worters and defenceman Lionel Conacher. The success of the Yellow Jackets led to the NHL expanding into Pittsburgh for the 1925-26 season as the Pirates joined the league.

The Pirates opened that season with wins over Boston and Montreal in late November of 1925, but dropped their home opener on December 2 in overtime by a 2-1 score to the New York Americans. The Pirates would finish in third-place in '25-26, but the loss of Conacher and Worters in successive seasons would help in the Pirates' plummet down the standings. By 1929-30, the team won just five of 44 games. They would move to Philadelphia for the 1930-31 season where they would play as the Quakers.

There are some fantastic photos and great information on the Pittsburgh Hornets in this article, and I may go through it with a fine-toothed comb in the future. But we must push onward.

In one advertisement, a replica Penguins jersey was selling at JC Penney for a mere $45. Outside of a garage sale or a thrift store, has anyone paid $45 for a replica jersey today? I'm thinking "no". In another advertisement, it was announced that 1989-90 would be the first season that the Center Ice Collection would be offered. If that doesn't sound familiar to you, the Center Ice Collection is the authentic on-ice merchandise sold by the NHL. Can you believe that 1989-90 was the first season authentic on-ice merchandise was offered?

There's a great article on the two superstars of the game in 1990 - Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux - written by Michael A. Berger on, ironically, page 99. The comparisons in the article try to break down the age-old question of "which superstar is better". Again, there are some incredible photos of the two players in their youth, but the article is a pretty impressive examination of the two players up to that point. You're welcome to pick whomever you think was better and post that answer in the comments.

There's a fabulous section on the history of the NHL All-Star Game, and it really should be read by all hockey fans. Every game from the Ace Bailey Benefit game to the 1990 game is reviewed with rosters and scoring summaries. It might be my most favorite section of the program.

Hockey programs aren't usually special, but All-Star Game programs always have some great features and articles. I only went over this program quickly today, but I will work some of the information found in its covers into future stories. The hockey history - something I am a huge fan of - will certainly get a little more coverage.

But seriously... $45 for a replica jersey? Let's go back to those economics!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Finnish Office Space

I could write about the offer made by the NHL in the opening salvo for CBA harmony, but I'd rather talk about one of hockey's nicest guys. It was debated if last season would be the last for Teemu Selanne, and today he confirmed that he will return for one more year with the Anaheim Ducks. Granted, I was holding out hope he'd finish his career in Winnipeg, but signing with the Ducks for another season is pretty good too. Especially when you factor in 4.5 million Washingtons.

What made his return better, though, was the video posted by the Anaheim Ducks to announce Selanne's return. If you've followed his career, you know that Selanne has a great sense of humor, and that was put on display in the following video.
While I immediately chuckled at this video, it brought back memories of the movie Office Space. All Teemu needs is Gary Cole giving him crap about his missing TPS reports, and this video would rank as one of the best ever made by a hockey team. Even without Gary Cole, Teemu's a pretty good actor, and this is one great video.

I'm happy to see Teemu Selanne return to the NHL this season. He is truly one of the nicest men in the game, and he loves to play the game. Had he retired, I would have wished him nothing but the best. But the fact that he's coming back makes me excited for the upcoming season.

Someone get him a red Swingline stapler!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 13 July 2012

2005-06 Leafs Reunion Possible

The Jets seem to like things in threes from the past. They currently have the fourth, fifth, and sixth picks of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft under contract, and now they have three key cogs of the 2005-06 Toronto Maple Leafs under contract as well. Kyle Wellwood signed a one-year deal worth a reported $1.6 million today with the Jets, bringing him back into the fold once again. Having already signed Alexei Ponikarovsky this off-season and having Nikolai Antropov under contract allows the Jets to test out a "Leafs line" next season if they so choose.

Kyle Wellwood had a good season with Winnipeg in establishing a career-high in points with 47. Wellwood is a decent centerman who wins draws and can shift to the wing if necessary. Honestly, his price tag isn't going to handcuff the Jets, and they get someone they already know. I'm ok with this signing, but I just want Wellwood to play with a little more edge this season as a centerman.

In 2005-06, Wellwood scored 11 goals and 34 assists for 45 points, good for seventh-highest on that Leafs squad. Ponikarovsky, listed as a left winger, 21 goals and 17 assists for 38 points, finishing right behind Wellwood in the scoring race. Antropov, listed as a right winger that season, ended up as the tenth-highest scorer on the Leafs in 2005-06 with 12 goals and 19 assists for 31 points. Could we see some TML Magic on MTS Centre ice this season?

The fact of the matter was that the Leafs, in 2005-06, finished 41-33-1-7 and missed the playoffs. In fact, they haven't been back to the playoffs since missing the playoffs that season. Adding Ponikarovsky and re-signing Wellwood doesn't make the Jets any more potent last season when you consider that these three players bounced around between the second- and third-lines of the Leafs in 2005-06. I'm guessing you'll probably see these three players split up in Winnipeg, but it's not like the Jets went out and signed the heart of the Leafs' lineup from '05-06.

Wellwood played well last season, a fact I cannot overlook. He works pretty hard, and really has shed the reputation of being a heavier, slower player. While he still doesn't have exceptional speed, I like that Wellwood does go into the corners occasionally and comes out with the puck. He has a decent shot, should be able to score 15-20 goals again this season, and still shows some good puck vision when passing.

Again, where I'd like to see Wellwood step up is in the grit department. He's been labelled "soft" in terms of his play, and we saw that a number of times last season. I'm not saying Wellwood needs to drop the gloves, but head into the corners and go to the front of the net more often this year. Maybe throw a big open-ice hit once in awhile. Just get a little tougher so that the opposition knows when Wellwood is on the ice, they can't take it easy and/or pummel him for being "soft".

With this signing, there should be some good battles in training camp for the few remaining roster spots. I'm hoping Wellwood comes in and blows everyone away and grabs one of the top-six spots. The Jets won't be twenty points better this season because of Wellwood, but they certainly won't be worse than last season. Wellwood has the talent to make things happen, and the Jets certainly need a few of those players.

Let's just hope the Jets' season doesn't end like the 2005-06 Leafs' season did.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Canada Day Elsewhere

I've never really considered looking into Canada Day in other parts of the world because, well, Canada Day is Canada's thing. However, there are many Canadians living many corners of the world that certainly celebrate Canada's birthday, and they deserve a little recognition as well. Canadians are, of course, known for many things - beer, hockey, donuts, bacon - but we take this hockey thing pretty seriously thanks to all the cold and snow we seem to experience year after year. Even with Canadians living in places where hockey is not prevalent and not seeing winters as frigid and cold as they normally did in Canada, hockey is still alive and well thanks to these patriotic souls!

I received an email from a former Toronto citizen named Scott C. Scott currently lives in London, England, and he wrote, "Thought you might like to see this little video I made of Canada Day celebrations in London, England, 2012. In it Stephen Harper tells everyone to cheer for Canada's athletes at the Olympic Games.

"Tons of street hockey played in Trafalgar Square."

Of course, the idea of street hockey being played in one of London's most famous landmarks is a pretty cool idea. Here is Scott's video. Keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of Canadiana.
Pretty cool, right? Who knew that London was the site of the largest Canada Day celebration outside of Canada's borders? I think the celebration of Canada Day in the middle of London is awesome! Well done on the video, Scott, and keep up the excellent patriotism! Thanks for sending that to me!

So who won the hockey games? If any of the participants are reading this, hit me up in the comments! I'd love to hear your story! Canada, unfortunately, will not be sending its field hockey teams to London to compete in the Olympics, but we'll be there in 2014 in Sochi for the ice hockey event! Go Canada, and bring home a pile of medals from London!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Someone Better Than JVR

With Randy Carlyle setting Leafs Nation afire with his chatter of moving James van Riemsdyk from the wing to center, it occurred to me that there is a player who not only deserved a shot to play down the middle last season, but he should be a given to plug a center ice spot on the Leafs roster next season. I'm not sure if Brian Burke has something against Nazem Kadri, but the kid was one of the best Leafs over the last two seasons when he was in the lineup, and then went and helped the Toronto Marlies advance to the AHL Calder Cup Final. So why isn't Kadri being given a shot at the center ice position?

According to Randy Carlyle, he wants a bigger centerman in his top-six forwards. He capitalized on Ryan Getzlaf's success with Anaheim, so it appears that Carlyle wants to have the same setup with the Leafs.

"He's a big man and we're going to try him playing in the middle for us," Carlyle told The Sun on Thursday. "It's always nice to have a 6-foot-plus centre in your top six. We feel there is an opportunity to explore him at centre."

Make no mistake that van Riemsdyk is a good power forward. He came into his own late in the season and in the playoffs as he used his big body to outmuscle the smaller Penguins' defencemen to score a pile of goals. While he still has some growing to do to fill out his large frame, JVR is going to be a very difficult man to move when he stands in front of the net.

However, you need a centerman to be able to do the basics: win face-offs, distribute the puck, and spark the transition game. I'm not so sure that van Riemsdyk is the player who can pull off these tasks. Having watched Nazem Kadri in the AHL Playoffs, though, the Leafs have a ready-and-waiting player on the farm who would fit the mold well, and can be part of the youth movement that seems to be happening in Toronto. Kadri doesn't have JVR's size, but he's the prototypical pass-first centerman that can really spark a good winger.

James van Riemsdyk has never been known as a gifted passer, but he can dish when necessary. He has great hands and good balance, and can be a presence in front of the net. The biggest problem? JVR has only taken ten face-offs in the last two seasons, and he's won a whopping 20% of those face-offs. Those kinds of numbers will kill you in the defensive zone, and it's a huge liability in the offensive zone when you need a face-off win.

Kadri isn't the best face-off guy yet, but he'll learn quickly in the NHL. He was decent in the AHL this season, but, more importantly, he pursues the puck if he loses the face-off. Kadri has good vision in anticipating passes as well, and he showed some impressive larceny in picking off passes in the AHL Playoffs. Kadri's skating has shown improvement, and he was effective in turning the puck up ice when he got the chance in transition. In short, Kadri is turning into a very good centerman who deserves his shot in the NHL sooner rather than later.

So why not pair the two together? Line Kadri up down the middle, and allow him to distribute to van Riemsdyk who seems to enjoy going to the net. This seems almost elementary to me if it weren't for Carlyle trying to make JVR into something he's not. If the Leafs continue to keep Kadri with the Marlies, he will most certainly jump to a different team when the opportunity arises. I can't see him being content in the AHL next season, so why not give the kid a shot at playing center alongside James van Riemsdyk?

I can't understand why Nazem Kadri continues to overlooked by the Leafs. He's a solid player who is very sound defensively, and Marlies coach Dallas Eakins relied on him down the stretch last season in the AHL. If I were Randy Carlyle, I'd be looking at Kadri to help James van Riemsdyk hit new heights in goals and points. In doing so, he could be helping both players become much better players in the long run.

While I'd never suggest that Carlyle and Burke have no clue what they are doing, I can't see any reason why they wouldn't use Nazem Kadri to help down the middle. Especially when they have an excellent power forward who just needs someone to distribute the puck to him on the fly.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!