Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Without Hockey, TV Sucks

I'll say this upfront: this post is not about hockey. Hockey is my passion, and I think it's pretty clear that I enjoy the game with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies. I've taken to Hulu to watch old games when there's no hockey on TV, and it's serving me well so far. I'm lucky that my television service provider carries WHL games because I'm finding TV to be pretty horrible without my fix of hockey. Honestly, I don't know how those of you who watch TV can stand the crap they show today.

There are entire channels devoted to "reality TV". I put that term in quotes because it's not reality for anyone but the idiots on those shows. I was flipping through the channels with my better half the other night, and I was honestly sickened by some of the crap that gets green-lighted for TV. Some of these "reality shows" include:
  1. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo - is missing a chromosome genetic or environmental? Simply horrid.
  2. Dance Moms - if I caught anyone speaking to me or my child like that, it would be "go time".
  3. Toddlers & Tiaras - I can't believe this show isn't considered child abuse. Who does this to children?
  4. The Real Housewives of (Insert City) - pretentious, uppity drama queens. I want to hurt them all.
  5. Keeping Up With The Kardashians - see above, but add Bruce Jenner to that list.
  6. The Bachelor(ette) - two dozen morons looking for "love" with all the stupidest results.
  7. Bethenny Ever After - who the hell is Bethenny and why does she have a TV show?
  8. Bridezillas - I feel sorry for the men who married any woman who has appeared on this show.
  9. Ex-Wives Of Rock - why are these women even relevant? No cared when they were married!
  10. Girl Meets Gown - a show about brides looking for a wedding dress? Who cares?
  11. Keasha's Perfect Dress - who the hell is Keasha, why is she on TV, and who cares about a dress?
  12. Millionaire Matchmaker - a dating service for rich people. Shouldn't this be called "TMZ Lite"?
  13. The Mistress - they give TV shows to admitted adulterers now. Who doesn't have a show?
  14. Secret Princes - well-to-do guys you've never heard of try to date common women. Yay?
  15. 19 Kids And Counting - here's an idea: contraceptives! Octomom will have her show soon.
  16. I Found The Gown - another show about brides and dresses. Stop the insanity!
  17. Say Yes To The Dress - seriously... another bride/dress show? Seriously?!?
  18. United Bates Of America - another show with 19 kids? Are we now breeding football teams?
  19. Long Island Medium - she may talk to the dead, but I see low ratings.
  20. Four Weddings - brides compete for a fantasy honeymoon. How many bride shows do we need?!?
I can't get over the amount of garbage on TV. And that's just reality TV! Heck, they have an entire network dedicated to reality shows in Canada now! Are we really this desperate? Have TV executives decided that pandering to the lowest common denominator is the best way to get ratings?

Even shows like Survivor and American Idol have become stale. Sure, it's nice to see a new, exotic locale or some fresh, new talent on stage, but the challenges are the same and the singers aren't getting better. I can see why The Amazing Race and The Apprentice are highly-watched since they cut the gimmicks and challenge those competitors to actually achieve something. Watching 16 weeks of the same singers crooning songs they shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole just seems like a waste of time.

Now I get that I'm probably going to get crucified for cutting down a number of these "popular" shows, but why doesn't anyone miss a good story? Does anyone miss some real laughs derived from a well-timed joke? What has happened to us as a TV audience?

I guess this is why I've found myself reading more now that real life is slowing down for me. And honestly, as a society, we should embrace reading a little more instead of killing brain cells with the Kardashians or keeping track of 19 kids you'll never meet. A book has so much to offer, and we consistently reach for the remote instead. Here's comes the rant, ladies and gentlemen.

According to a June 25, 2010 article on the Examiner.com, "44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child" and "[n]early half of America's adults are poor readers, or "functionally illiterate." They can't carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job". Wow.

The National Endowment for the Arts published a scathing report in 2007 about the declining reading stats and the declining reading comprehension of the American public (and, for argument's sake, the global population). Check out these scary findings by the NEA:
  • Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers.
  • 65% of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all.
  • 15- to 24-year-olds spend 2 to 2½ hours per day watching TV. In comparison, 15- to 24-year-olds spend only 7–10 minutes per day on voluntary reading.
  • The number of books in a home is a significant predictor of academic achievement.
  • Little more than one-third of high school seniors now read proficiently.
  • 38% of employers find high school graduates "deficient" in reading comprehension, while 63% rate this basic skill "very important."
  • Proficient readers are 2.5 times as likely as Basic readers to be earning $850 or more a week.
  • TV-watching consumes about half of the total daily leisure time of all Americans ages 15 and older.
Perhaps these people are watching the idiotic shows above?

Look, I'm not here to tell you to never watch TV. I admit that I watch TV, but I would assume that I don't do it as frequently as other people I know. I watch sports, I'm a sucker for a good movie, and I like crime shows and mysteries because they challenge my brain. I'll catch Seinfeld or Family Guy because the jokes are well-formed and make me laugh. But if there's nothing on that I find appealing, I'm picking up a book. With very little hockey on TV nowadays, Teebz's Book Club could see a large number of additions to its ranks.

And, quite frankly, I'm liking the sound of that more and more when looking at that list of "reality TV" shows above. Thoughts, readers? Do you hate me for hating those shows? Sound off in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Karma's Gonna Get You

For the most part, I don't have a problem with NHL players who earn a decent salary going to look for work overseas. Most of the time, these are players who seemingly want to keep themselves fit for the start of the season (if and when that happens) so that they can hold down their jobs. I do, however, have a problem with players who earn eight-figure salaries hopping across the ocean to play. Rick Nash is one of those players, and I find it very difficult that the union he belongs to would want to protect the salary he's being paid from the 20% rollback when he's not willing to do the same for others.

There are other players who have done the same - Malkin, Gonchar, Spezza, Ovechkin, Kane, and Thornton to name a few - but I chose Nash specifically because he's the first of those players who jumped to Europe or Russia that has been injured. Nash hurt his shoulder and is listed as day-to-day after an MRI on his injured shoulder revealed no serious damage. I'm happy that Nash isn't hurt, but I'd be very unhappy if I'm the New York Rangers.

The CBA, in the simplest of teams, is the contract between the NHL and NHLPA that determines how the individual teams and players can negotiate contracts. GMs and agents are always looking for loopholes in the CBA to give them an advantage, but players who jump to Europe should be careful because of certain injury riders in their contracts.

What happens if Sidney Crosby, who now has a documented history of concussions, is hammered in Russia or Europe and is on the shelf with another concussion? If the NHL returns while he is experiencing symptoms, he cannot receive payment from his NHL salary because his concussion wasn't from NHL game action. If that concussion ends his career, the injury would theoretically void his contract because the Penguins would be responsible for nothing. Is this something that NHL players think about when crossing the ocean to play a little hockey?

Let's say that Rick Nash's injury keeps him off the ice for a few days, but he is still experiencing pain in the shoulder by October 11 when the NHL season starts (with the assumption a new CBA has been reached). His shot may be affected, and his play starts to deteriorate to the point where he needs more treatment. Should the Rangers be responsible for paying him while he's receiving treatment? Should they even be responsible for treating him for an injury suffered not on NHL ice?

I'm glad I'm not a lawyer in this case because I'm sure I'd make it very clear that by playing in Europe or Russia, one takes his own career into his hands. My recommendation for these superstars would be to enjoy the money they made in previous seasons and stay home to fight alongside Donald Fehr. After all, the superstars have the most to lose if there is another salary rollback, so why shouldn't they fight for everyone collectively?

I'm glad that Rick Nash isn't hurt and that he'll be able to continue to play for HC Davos. I'm just hoping that neither he nor any other player is bitten by the injury bug while they're off plying their trade for a European team. It could prove disastrous for both the NHL team they are employed by and for themselves if any injury turns out to be serious.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 28 September 2012

TBC: Rookie

I've been busy doing lots of stuff lately - the last few mailings for Playoff Pool prizes, the radio show, and life in general - and Teebz's Book Club has sort of been pushed to the background. However, with life slowing down for me now as we transition from summer into autumn and winter, Teebz's Book Club is making a solid return. TBC is proud to present Rookie, written by Lorna Schultz Nicholson and published by James Lorimer & Company Ltd. Rookie is a look into Aaron Wong's first hockey season at Calgary's Podium Sports Academy where he is a top hockey recruit for the Academy. However, being a rookie is sometimes a difficult situation, and Lorna Schultz Nicholson does an excellent job in framing a very taboo subject in this book.

Lorna Schultz Nicholson has a full biography on her website, but there's a lot more to the author. Rookie is her ninth novel and the first book in her Podium Sports Academy series. Growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, Lorna played volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, and hockey and was also a member of the Canadian Rowing Team. Married to Hockey Canada President Bob Nicholson, Lorna and Bob are parents to two daughters and a son who plays junior hockey. During the hockey season, the Nicholsons serve as billets to various hockey players. She splits her time between Penticton, BC and Calgary, Alberta, and her two dogs and her cat keep her company when she's writing.

The story of Rookie surrounds Aaron Wong, a Chinese-Canadian Vancouver boy who was recruited to play at the Podium Sports Academy in Calgary. Wong prides himself on working hard and skating fast - two qualities that will take one far in the game. He realizes, however, that he'll have to be much better than he was in Vancouver if he hopes to crack the top line at Podium.

Standing in Aaron's way are some of the returnees. One player in particular, Tony "Rammer" Ramsey, seems to have it in for Aaron. Along with Tony, Steven "Killer" Kilby was the other "alpha male" in the dressing room as the two boys were the captain and assistant captain of the team. Aaron knew he had to work his tail off to gain acceptance by these new teammates, and he found a friend in fellow rookie Kade Jensen in his first few days at the school. Could he break the stigma of being a rookie and gain acceptance with the veteran players?

The chatter in the locker room over the next few days was about a party for just the hockey team. Aaron has an uneasy feeling about this party, but Kade and Aaron agree that it will be good to go and bond with the team. While Aaron is settling in on the ice, he discovers a new set of friends in Carrie, a synchronized swimmer, and Allie, a basketball player. Carrie and Aaron grow very close as they study and do homework together, but this closeness seems to only make Tony Ramsey hate Aaron more.

Kade and Aaron arrive at the party on Saturday night after a week of being at the Sports Academy, and discover that the veteran hockey players have been drinking - something banned by the school. Aaron and Kade, wanting to fit in, go with the flow, but things go awry almost immediately after they wander into the party. Their shirts are torn off, and Aaron is blindfolded! Aaron is pinned down, and, despite him fighting as best he can, his pants are torn off! What happens next is entirely a problem with some hockey programs today, and I will admit that it was difficult to read.

The fallout from the party affects Aaron in a major way. His relationship with Carrie finds itself on shaky ground as both Aaron and Carrie have a hard time admitting to some truths. While pranks on teammates are fun, hazing and embarrassment are not part of that fun, and Aaron finds himself stuck between admitting this happened and possibly ostracizing himself from the team, and fighting internally and with Carrie over how to handle this repulsive act.

I applaud Lorna Schultz Nicholson for tackling this very difficult subject. Some in the hockey community still see hazing as right of passage of sorts, and it still goes on today. There have been many incidents of hazing, and many players and coaches have been punished for their activities or lack thereof to prevent hazing. In short, Rookie takes a very serious subject that is kept behind closed doors in today's society and makes it a very real thing.

Lorna Schultz Nicholson does an excellent job illustrating the difficulty that Aaron Wong has in battling his internal demons after the hazing. Her writing style doesn't embellish the event, but she has an excellent handle on the aftermath for the victim in the struggle between outing those who committed the hazing and keeping quiet with regards to questions about sexual orientation and popularity in a high school setting. Rookie is an excellent book that I think all young adults should read when it comes to the topic of hazing because there is no shame or embarrassment in turning in those who commit these heinous acts.

Because of her excellent writing from Aaron's point-of-view and because she handles this topic so well, Lorna Schultz Nicholson deserves major accolades for this book. Again, she doesn't embellish the act of hazing and may have, in fact, toned it down considerably compared to some real-life incidents, but the internal battle that Aaron fights is illustrated extremely well. Because of these facts, Rookie absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

I highly recommend buying this book for any younger hockey player so that they may see the consequences of hazing and how hazing jeopardizes the hockey careers of those that think hazing is "cool". It's not. It's just plain stupid.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Hockey Show - Episode Three

Teebz and Beans return to the airwaves tonight on 101.5 UMFM as The Hockey Show moves into its third episode! I know I said I'd have podcasts up last week, but it turns out that I actually have to visit the radio station to pull the show from the logs. I was going to do it tonight, but other things needed my attention. In any case, I am determined to get the podcasts up ASAP!

This week's topics included:
  • Daryl Katz' ridiculous attempt to bring Seattle into the picture as a destination for the Oilers if the arena deal in Edmonton isn't finalized. Honestly, for a guy who is worth $2 billion, his plan started off wrong when the city and Katz opened negotiations $125 million short of the original price tag. And now Katz is asking the city for more money? If Katz is going to run the arena and absorb the profits, shouldn't he pay more?
  • We also kicked around the idea of other destinations for the Oilers' relocation project. Kansas City, Quebec City, Houston, and Hartford were all mentioned.
  • We preview the Bisons men's hockey team as the Brown & Gold kick off the season tomorrow night on the road against the Alberta Golden Bears. We're pretty pumped about the second-ranked Canada West team, and we feel that the Bisons could end up as the Canada West champions this season.
There's a major event coming up on the radio, and we didn't speak about it on the air, but UMFM is preparing for a major fundraising effort. Pledge-O-Rama will be taking place from October 19-26 as the station looks to raise $20,000 for upgrades, improvements, and other necessities. I know money is tight for everyone, but HBIC and The Hockey Show will be putting in some considerable time trying to help UMFM them reach their goal. If you can spare a few bucks, please help the station out. Every penny counts, right?
We have a few great ideas to get listeners involved, and we'll be giving prizes away to people who pledge some money, so get your name in by tossing a few dollars to UMFM. And if you're in the vicinity of the University of Manitoba, The Hockey Show may have something ridiculously fun for hockey fans! Stay tuned here for more details!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Run-And-Gun Wheat Kings

The WHL season is underway, and there are a number of teams off to fast starts. The one team who has blown the doors off its opponents thus far are the Brandon Wheat Kings as they recorded their third-straight win to open the season this evening. Junior hockey has always been known for wild scores and crazy games, but fans who have bought tickets to see the Wheat Kings play this season are certainly getting everything they for which they paid. The Wheaties are definitely the WHL's highest-scoring team, but that's also come at a price.

The Wheat Kings opened the campaign on Friday as hosts to the Regina Pats. Taylor Cooper didn't waste much time in scoring the first goal of the season for the Wheat Kings when he put one past Matt Hewitt just 4:34 in. The game would be back and forth, but the Wheat Kings would grab a victory after Jens Meilleur scored on the powerplay 4:03 into the third period. The Wheat Kings would skate to the 3-2 victory in what seems to be their only defensively-responsible game of the season thus far.

The very next night saw Regina and Brandon throw 11 goals on the scoreboard. Led by Tyrel Seaman's two goals and Swiss-born Alessio Bertaggia's four-point night, Brandon skated to a 7-4 victory in Regina.

"I think they did a good job, starting (Friday) night and they continued on today," Wheat Kings head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said to Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun. "We wanted the older guys to lead and that’s what those guys are going to have to do."

Downing the same team twice on two nights can lead to a little overconfidence, but there was none shown tonight as the Wheat Kings and Saskatoon Blades met in Brandon. And once again, the goal lights got a workout as 15 goals were scored between the two teams!

Alessio Bertaggia and Jens Meilleur both had a pair of goals and an assist, and Corbin Boes recorded his third win of the season as the Wheat Kings downed the Blades by a 9-6 score. Through three games, the Wheat Kings are the highest-scoring team in the WHL with 19 goals. They're also the worst team defensively, though, having allowed 12 goals in three games. Needless to say, firewagon hockey is alive and well in Brandon.

Clearly, a 4.00 GAA and a .857 save percentage won't get Brandon very far, so there's hope that Corbin Boes can improve his game to help his high-flying offence out. Games early in the season have a way of over-inflating specific stats, so there's no doubt in my mind that these numbers will improve, but Brandon can't just run-and-gun all season. After all, this isn't the 1970s and 1980s anymore.

There is something to be said for the 19 goals against Regina and Saskatoon, though. Saskatoon is a veteran-heavy team as they begin their march towards the Memorial Cup as the host team, so the young Wheat Kings lineup did very well in an early test in the season. While three games in is not where a lot of character is shown, it still says something when the young Wheaties can outscore the Blades 5-2 in the last thirty minutes of the game.

If I get a chance before winter hits, I'm going to saddle up the old four-wheel drive horse and head down the highway to catch a Wheat Kings game. It looks like there will be lots of opportunities to stretch one's legs as the goals are being scored furiously in Westman Place this season.

If they can tighten up their game defensively, the Wheat Kings might be a surprise team this season in the WHL. Who would have thought they'd be filling the net this frequently early in the season?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A Break From The Game

I've been thinking a lot about the lockout and how it will affect the fans. There's no real winner and loser in terms of defining what winning and losing is if the fans don't come back to the game at the same level at which they left. If the $3.3 billion in hockey revenue isn't achieved again, isn't the overall effect a loss for everyone? But in saying this, there's one thing that all fans can agree on whether seeing a game in person or on the TV. Good food and good beverages make all the difference on how memorable a game can be.

I'm not a food expert by any means, but I love me some good food. I enjoy making and baking delectable creations, and I think that it means a lot when you make something from scratch that garners a lot of positive comments from those that eat it. I love barbecuing, I enjoy baking from scratch, and I happen to enjoy making good hockey food such as nachos, burgers, flavored popcorn, french fries, and onion rings.

In saying this, though, there's something that each and every fan has to have at a specific arena or stadium when they visit. Be it a Fenway Frank, garlic fries, or a mini-helmet sundae, there's something specific at each venue to make the experience all the better thanks to the offering at the concession stands.

If there's one thing that I've fallen in love with at local rinks, it's "taco in a bag". Other people I have run into call them "walking tacos". In either case, my taste buds are already tingling. Honestly, I'm a sucker for cheesy and spicy tacos anyway, but the addition of Doritos is absolute genius.
Just looking at that picture has my mouth watering already! It seems to be gaining popularity in rinks across my province in terms of being offered, and it's honestly one of the best things I've discovered at a rink. Sure, it might be a bazillion calories, but you gotta sacrifice when you're eating something so good!

Therefore, I want to know what you always spring for when you're at a hockey game. And don't just give me the generic "beer and hot dog" answer. I want to know specifics. Like buying an authentic Philly Cheese Steak at Wells Fargo Arena and having it smothered in cheese and grilled mushrooms - I want to know all the greasy details. What gets your appetite going when you walk into an arena?

Leave all the finger-licking details in the comments! For some additional taco-in-a-bag recipes for those who like to create at home, here are a few - Food.com's version and here's Betty Crocker's version. Easy to make, quick clean-up, and a delicious way to enjoy some junk food!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Getting Ready For School Hockey

If there is one league that certainly deserves a little chatter, the NCAA is it. Every season, the collegiate-level hockey league sends more and more players to the professional ranks, and every year the Frozen Four seems to get better and better. There are always bragging rights to be handed out whether it be the preseason rankings, the conference winners, or the ultimate bragging rights of "best in the land", so we'll take a look todat at NCAA hockey.

USA Today published its preseason poll, and there are two teams that were voted in as #1 in the nation in terms of rankings. I was surprised at this, but there are very good reasons why these two teams could be left standing when the dust settles this year. Here are your rankings:
USA Today Preseason Rankings
School Rank Record Last Year Rank Last Year
Boston College
1
33-10-1
1
Minnesota
1
28-14-1
4
Michigan
3
24-13-4
7
North Dakota
4
26-13-3
6
Union College
5
26-8-7
3
Cornell
6
19-9-7
13
UMass-Lowell
7
24-13-1
9
Denver
8
25-14-4
8
Miami-Ohio
9
24-15-2
10
Notre Dame
10
19-18-3
NR
Western Michigan
11
21-14-6
14
Minnesota-Duluth
12
25-10-6
5
Boston U.
13
23-15-1
11
Ferris State
14
26-12-5
2
Wisconsin
15
17-18-2
NR

Boston College comes into this season as the defending National Champions, so there's no denying that they deserve a top ranking. Boston College received 20 first-place votes after capturing their third National Championship in five years, so having them as #1 should be a no-brainer. 19 players from last season’s squad return for Boston this season including Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player Parker Milner in goal and Hockey East Tournament MVP Johnny Gaudreau.

Minnesota was more of a surprise until you realize that six of their top seven scorers from last season will play for the Gophers again this year. Minnesota looks like a deep team with ample scoring, and should be a favorite to win the WCHA this season. While their goaltending may prove to be their Achilles' heel, the Golden Gophers should roll into the Frozen Four tournament at the end of the season.

The question as to who the "real #1 team" is should be answered near Christmas. Boston College will play the Gophers in one of the first-day games of the Mariucci Classic which is held during the holidays. The winner of that game may set the stage for the rest of the season.

Michigan has a strong crop of freshmen to help them this season, but will be anchored by Winnipeg Jets' draft pick Jacob Trouba on the blueline. Jon Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Lee Moffie give Michigan one of the best defensive corps seen in some time, and they will log a ton of minutes. Expect to see at least one of those names on an NCAA all-star list this season. Michigan will be seen as the CCHA's best squad thanks to their depth at forward and the studs they have playing along the blueline.

North Dakota's lofty ranking should plummet early as the number of players suspended for underage drinking continues to grow. As it stands, seven players are currently suspended for the violations, and four have been charged in the incident.

Seven players will miss the season opener against Alaska Fairbanks, and Danny Kristo will miss the entire opening weekend with a two-game suspension stemming from the incident. With a large portion of the team unable to participate in games early in the season, UND will be forced to battle uphill to keep pace in their conference.

There's your quick primer on the top-four teams in the NCAA for the upcoming season. I'm trying to find more info on how a lot of these games can be streamed via the internet or over the airwaves to TV, but it seems as though Canadians can't catch these games. Maybe NBC could pick up the college games as a national broadcast? I can only hope.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A First For The Great Eight #32

Had you not known that Alexander Ovechkin had joined Dynamo Moscow, you would never expect the Great Eight to be wearing #32 in his KHL debut. After all, he made his mark across the world wearing #8, so his changing of numbers in the KHL may have been a little unexpected. However, Alexander Ovechkin was welcomed home to Moscow to join Dynamo, and he did something he hadn't done before as a professional hockey player.

In his very first game, Alexander Ovechkin added an assist to record his first point in the KHL. In his second game against the powerful SKA St. Petersburg earlier today, he scored his very first KHL goal!
The final score wasn't exactly what Ovechkin may have wanted as Dynamo Moscow fell to SKA St. Petersburg 3-1, highlighted by an impressive showing by Kovalchuk, but Ovechkin notched his first KHL goal with, hopefully, many more to come.

Another debut happened this evening as Pavel Datsyuk suited up for his first game with CSKA Moscow. Datsyuk, wearing his familiar #13, also scored in his debut, but you'll see why he is still showing as goalless in the KHL.
Clearly, heading the puck in would be legal if this was soccer, but hockey doesn't allow then header to stand. Datsyuk was in fine form, though, as he won 10 of 12 face-offs taken, and he helped CSKA Moscow down Avangard Omsk by a 1-0 score as the Radulovs - Alex to Igor - gave CSKA the margin they needed for victory.

All in all, a good debut for the NHL Russians in these two games. Kovalchuk was solid, Ovechkin scored his first KHL goal, and Datsyuk was solid in the face-off circle. Maybe we'll get lucky and actually see a few of these games on TV this season if the NHL and NHLPA can't get their acts together. If nothing else, at least the names - and a few numbers - will be recognizable to fans on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Guy Boucher Prefers Strikes

I've always liked Guy Boucher as a coach. The 41 year-old could be called "the new generation" of coaches as he's brought new ideas and done some great things with the Lightning. You have to wonder what coaches like Boucher do while this pesky lockout is going on. It's not like they can go sign in Europe or Russia and coach another team until the lockout is over. But Guy Boucher showed on Friday night that he may have talent in another area that might serve him well if the NHL remains locked out for another month or two.

Boucher played hockey when he was younger, but you have to wonder how much baseball he played. Friday night saw Boucher take to the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Rays and Toronto Blue Jays played. Boucher was invited to throw out the pitch to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and it seems quite appropriate that, with the lone Canadian MLB team in town, Boucher decided to honor the game of hockey with the first "pitch".
That's a perfect strike on that wrist shot, kids. Boucher clearly has game, and shows that his wrist shot hasn't lost anything since he stepped behind the bench. In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays might want to float him a contract if he can "throw" strikes like that. A reliable guy who throws strikes out of the bullpen is a valuable commodity in Major League Baseball!

In all seriousness, I'm glad that the Rays are having a little fun with hockey while the lockout sours everyone on the game. Kudos to Mr. Boucher for his great hands, shooting a perfect strike, and for representing the Lightning organization so well. Mr. Boucher is a classy individual, and he deserves the cheers for all he's done in the Tampa Bay area.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the mound!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Uniform Updates

While our NHL heroes are off in negotiating rooms or playing hockey in some far-off land such as Switzerland or Russia, the AHL is quietly going about its business as they approach the 2012-13 season. I've spoken about the some of the NHL players who will join the various rosters of AHL teams this season, but you may not recognize them as some of these teams are changing their looks. While none of them look like Wonder Woman above, they will look a little different when the season opens.

We'll start on the shore of Lake Erie where the Lake Erie Monsters play. Actually, they play in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, and fans everywhere will be able to make that distinction a lot easier this season after they added the word "Cleveland" to their logo for this season.
I'll go on record right now as saying that I don't like the idea of putting the city's name on a uniform just because a team can. If it's not a part of the logo, I find it an unnecessary "improvement". However, the Monsters actually credit the city of Cleveland for their success.
"The City of Cleveland and our community of fans and supporters here have given so much to the Lake Erie Monsters and are such a part of who we are as an organization, that we thought it made perfect sense to reflect that more in our identity,” said Mike Ostrowski, Senior Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the Monsters. “While we of course represent and appreciate all of Northeast Ohio and the Lake Erie region, we are proud to be in the heart of downtown Cleveland and strive to work and play with the same passion and grit that Clevelanders have come to be known for.”
The Cleveland Lake Erie Monsters also changed up their look slightly, opting for a new jersey design. The nice part about this is that it will clear up years of various looks for the Monsters where they seemed to be unable to find a look with which they were truly happy. Hopefully, that's been solved with the new jerseys.

Overall, I think Lake Erie's look is a wash as they look fairly similar. The logo with "Cleveland" still isn't sitting well with me. Let's hope it grows on me and I don't end hating it too much.

The Springfield Falcons jumped into the alternate jersey mix, adding a brand-new look for the franchise. The Falcons will wear red this season as their alternate look, and the uniform is actually pretty decent.
While I'm not a fan of the team name in the hem stripe, the jersey itself isn't that bad. I've never really been fond of Springfield's logo as I've thought the falcon could be much fiercer, but this alternate logo isn't that bad. It's not as good as it could be, but I'm not entirely turned off by it.

Again, not a huge improvement for the Falcons, but it'll do. I can live with this alternate look.

In one bonus update, the NCAA's University of Wisconsin Badgers will be wearing a special patch this season on their uniforms. The Badgers will celebrate their 50th anniversary in the modern hockey era with a patch that could have special meaning.
The patch itself seems a little busy, but there are a couple of interesting things that should be noted. I'm fairly certain the designers had some specific things in mind when coming up with this final design.

First, the University of Wisconsin has won six national hockey championships in the NCAA, and there are six stars on the patch - three on each side. Coincidence?

Second, the name "Wisconsin" stretches across the entire state - a possible nod to being the most successful hockey program in the state. Notice that they don't have a star to represent the actual location of the University? I'd say that was done on purpose to represent the state-wide support for the Badgers. Having been there, I can honestly say that the state lives and breathes with Badger hockey.

I'm all for a patch, and not a jersey, to represent major milestones in a hockey program's history, and I think this patch works very well for Wisconsin. Good job, Badgers, on this one!

There are some updates to help you identify teams and new accoutrements on jerseys. If there are any additional changes for other teams, I'll have updates on them as well as we get closer to the starts of seasons!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Hockey Show - Episode Two

If it's Thursday, which it is, that means that The Hockey Show with Teebz and Beans was back on the air tonight! We paced ourselves fairly well tonight, and had some good chatter about a few matters.

We kicked things off with Arcade Fire's Ready To Start tonight, another great Canadian band and song. Immediately after that, we rolled into a couple of sound clips of NHLPA director Donald Fehr and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman giving their last statements before the inevitable lockout happened. From there, the show began and we yapped about:
  • CBA and the lockout. A lot of talk was about the difference between the two sides' offers, and why the NHL was so adamant about not playing another season under the same terms. With the vast majority of NHL teams losing money after paying expenses, is there any wonder why the NHL feels as they do?
  • The CIS hockey season starts shortly, and we're both excited about Bisons hockey. Get down to your local university and support your team when you can. CIS hockey is great hockey! The Bisons men's team open their season on the road at the University of Alberta on September 28 and 29, and the Bison's women's team open at home against Alberta on October 5 and 6!
  • The OHL introduces new rules on fighting, and we both come to the conclusion that it's a pretty good idea to sway developing players from fighting in order to teach fundamentals and skills rather than developing goons.
  • The Jets signed Evander Kane, and we discuss the signing. Is he worth the money? Do we like this signing?
  • The Jets sent Alexander Burmistrov to the St. John's IceCaps during the lockout rather than having him play for Ak Bars Kazan. We discuss the move and whether Burmistrov will benefit from it.
For those that have asked, we'll be working on the podcasts of the first two shows this weekend, and I'm hopeful that we'll have them up sometime on Saturday. If we do, you're welcome to download our rants anytime you like and take them with you. It's especially good if you miss the show and want to hear our babbling about whatever has happened in the world of sports.

101.5 UMFM is the place to hear The Hockey Show every Thursday night at 6PM CT! Write it on your calendars, synchronize your watches, and let's hit the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

David Branch Is Tyler Durden

Whenever it's on TV, I'm compelled to watch Fight Club regardless of the hour of day or what may be going on around me. I happen to like the movie, and I can honestly say that I think this might have been Brad Pitt's best role to date. And Meatloaf's, but that's a whole other story. The one thing, though, that everyone remembers about Fight Club are the rules. Most people know the first two rules right off the bat, but there was a new set of rules laid down today. OHL Commissioner David Branch introduced some rules that OHL players will have to follow, and the penalties for breaking the rules are, well, harsh.

David Branch has been a long-time supporter of making the game safer for the kids who play in his league. He has banned contact with the head in any form, he has his players wearing neck guards, and he's always looking for ways to reduce injuries of any sort. In short, he's providing the kids who make it to his league with a safe environment in order to maximize their potential for a chance at skating in the NHL.

Without further adieu, here are your OHL Fight Club rules:
  1. Any player who surpasses 10 major penalties for fighting will automatically receive a two-game suspension from the league for any fighting major after the player's tenth fight up to, and including, his 15th fight. Any additional penalties or suspensions awarded in the fracas will be added to the two games received.
  2. Any fight after the 15th fisticuffs session will result in the same suspension above, but the team he plays for will also incur a $1000 fine.
  3. If a player is found to be the instigator of a fight and he’s had 11 or more bouts, he’ll be subject to an automatic four-game ban. Players involved in fights instigated by the other combatant will not have that fight count on their record.
Pretty stiff penalties, right? If we look at last season's most active fighter, Windsor Spitfire Ty Bilcke dropped the mitts a whopping 37 times! That would have earned Bilcke 54 games in suspensions, and the Spitfires would have paid out $22,000! Of course, someone - a coach, a GM, a teammate - would have pulled Bilcke aside at some point and read him the riot act for his actions. It seems only logical.

That being said, I like this idea that Mr. Branch is putting forth. It won't kill fighting in hockey, but it should eliminate the staged fighting, especially in the later games of the season. More importantly, the OHL is a developmental league, and fighting is not a skill that most coaches can teach. Therefore, let the kids who want to fight to allow it to happen organically, and teach them the finer points of hockey so that they have a shot at cracking a big league roster.

As for Bilcke, he's all for Mr. Branch's new rules. "I’m actually excited about it. It’s a challenge for me to show people who have been calling me words like goon, that I’m a hockey player first," he told Dave Waddell of Postmedia News. "It’ll protect players and bring more skill to the league."

If the league's most frequent pugilist is 100% behind the commissioner, can anyone really say that this is a bad move? Perhaps they need to add one more important Fight Club rule to the three above:

"If this is your first night in the OHL, you no longer have to fight."

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Pretty Sure That's Not Allowed

At one point in time, it appeared that Joakim Lindstrom was a blue-chip prospect. After stints with both Colorado and Columbus, Lindstrom went back to Sweden where he could play hockey and not worry about the pressures of the NHL. Usually European hockey is fairly tame when it comes to rough stuff, but it appears that Lindstrom might have learned a few moves from watching WWE Raw while on the road or possibly battling with Jon "Nasty" Mirasty in Columbus. What he did the other night in the Elitserien game between Lindstrom's Skellefteå AIK and Luleå HF was downright scary.

Luleå HF's Linus Klasen had the puck in the corner, and Joakim Lindstrom approaches from behind the net. What happens next is almost unfathomable.
I have never once seen a player grab an opponent by the head, and slam that opponent's head into the ice. Not in amateur hockey, and certainly not in professional hockey. What the heck was Lindstrom thinking?

Once he finally made his way to the bench, Klasen missed the rest of the game with an obvious concussion. Apparently it wasn't serious as he's expected back this weekend for Luleå HF, so he should consider himself lucky that this didn't turn out worse. Because it could have been much, much worse.

Reportedly, Lindstrom has been suspended two games for his pro wrestling move, but I honestly think he should get much more. Grabbing a player by he head and slamming him to the ground is premeditated. It has to be. It's not like it was an accidental slam-by-head-to-the-ground-while-going-for-puck move. Two games for that kind of stupidity is a slap on the wrist!

I'm glad that Linus Klasen is ok, but I have zero respect for Lindstrom due to his flagrant attempt to injure Klasen. Am I wrong in thinking two games is too little for this kind of move? What say you, readers?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Your Best Hockey Might Be The AHL

There have been waves and waves of players sent down to the AHL as the lockout continues, and, surprisingly, the AHL will probably feature a lot of great hockey this season. Normally, you expect a number of rising stars to play in the AHL, and there may even be a veteran or two who are still holding on and making an impact. This year, though, there will be a vast number of NHL stars playing in the AHL, and this should turn the AHL from a "learning league" into a bonafide collection of fantastic young players. If you're near an AHL arena this season, I suggest grabbing tickets now to see some of these incredible NHL players in living color this year.

The San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers) will ice Quinton Howdon and Jakob Markstrom this season. Howdon won't tear up the league, but he'll be a nice addition to the Rampage lineup. Markstrom, however, has a chance to be a game-changer as he has shown in the past to be one of the better goaltenders in the AHL.

Taking the ice for the Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets) include Tim Erixon, Cam Atkinson, Cody Goloubef, and Ryan Johansen. Springfield will certainly have some great scoring threats, but Erixon and Goloubef could be the lynchpins in making Springfield a threat in the AHL.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders) will be beefing up their blueline with the additions of Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan, and will add some punch up front with Nino Niederreiter and Kirill Kabanov. Bridgeport should see a boost in the scoring and keeping the puck out of the net if these players play as well as they have shown.

The Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) will have some recognizable names in their lineup this season. Cory Conacher, last year's AHL MVP, Mark Barbeiro, last year's AHL Defenceman of the Year, and Dustin Tokarski will be back to try to repeat as champions. Alongside them will be Brett Connolly and JT Brown of the Lightning. The Crunch look like they'll be a strong team this season.

The Texas Stars (Dallas Stars) assigned an army of players to Cedar Park, Texas. Included in that army was veteran Toby Petersen, Jordie Benn, Alex Chiasson, Jamie Oleksiak, Cody Eakin, and Scott Glennie. Texas could be really good if these players come together. The majority of the 26 players assigned to the Stars played last season for the team, so the Stars could be a strong team.

The Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) received 24 players from the Blues. Among them were Stefan Della Rovere, Evgeny Grachev, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko. The Rivermen will be a tough team to play against, and it appears they'll be able to score in bunches if given the opportunity. I see a gritty, tough team that can battle in the corners and in front of the net while still having the hands to bury loose pucks.

The Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) will feature Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund in their lineup this season. Granlund is probably the most celebrated rookie that the Wild have had since Gaborik or Koivu, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses this season. He could be a surprise scoring leader if he brings his creativity and skill to the rink each night.

The Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks) will have a number of talented players to use this season. Zach Kassian and Chris Tanev will be down from the Canucks, and Eddie Lack and Derek Joslin will join an already-talented lineup. The Wolves won the Midwest Division last season, and appear to be poised to run away with the title again with the great players they're getting.

The Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) only received 15 players, but there are some standouts in the group. Andrei Loktionov and Jordan Nolan will be featured down the middle, and Tanner Pearson will make his professional debut. The Monarchs will be good, but they didn't really get any help on the back end other than Slava Voynov. Voynov's good, but he can't play 40+ minutes per night. The forwards have play responsibly to allow their offence to flourish.

The Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings) opened their doors to 22 players, most notably forward Gustav Nyquist and defenceman Brendan Smith. Tomas Tatar and goaltender Thomas McCollum will have to pick up some of the slack as well, but Grand Rapids looks like they'll be solid in 2012-13.

The new-look Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals) will have a couple of well-known names on their roster this season. Capitals' playoff hero Braden Holtby will be in the nets to start the season, and defenceman Dmitry Orlov will take a spot on the blueline. There are a number of youngsters that will be in the Bears' camp as well, so it could be a great year or it could be a year of learning for the Bears.

The Connecticut Whale (New York Rangers) didn't get much help from the veteran-laden Rangers. Of note, defenceman Logan Pyett played with Grand Rapids for the past four seasons, and scrappy winger Kris Newbury will report to Hartford. Basically, the Whale will be forced to win games through hard work and determination.

The Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins) basically received the majority of their roster back from the Bruins. Unfortunately, there are no NHL names that will help the Bruins. Like the Whale above, the Bruins will have to win through hard work because the Boston Bruins didn't give them a sniper or goaltender who can win a game all by himself.

The Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim Ducks) will open their championship season with a few names added. Etem Emerson, Kyle Palmieri, and Devante Pelly-Smith will start the season in Virginia, and they should be able to keep the Admirals competitive. Unfortunately, there isn't much pure scoring ability after those three players, so the Admirals will have buy stock in elbow grease and grindstones to win games this season.

The Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres) received some solid talent from the Sabres. Luke Adam, Marcus Foligno, and Cody Hodgson will all suit up for the Americans, and they should give the Americans an offensive boost each time on the ice. Like the Monarchs, they'll have to be defensively sound to reach new heights, but the Americans should be able to hang with the better teams.

The Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) will have the services of winger Sven Baertschi and defenceman TJ Brodie, but the Flames may find themselves looking up at other teams again this season. There just isn't enough scoring, and the Flames haven't upgraded their blueline or goaltending enough this off-season. While Baertschi may be a bright spot, the Flames may flicker this season.

The Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils) received one of the biggest names from an NHL team as Adam Henrique was assigned to the team. Henrique and Jacob Josefson will lead a decent cast of players up front, and Adam Larsson will patrol the blueline for the Devils after spending last season in the NHL. Albany won't dazzle you, but, like the NHL Devils, they have enough scoring and a solid blueline to win games.

The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) will get most of their lineup back from last season. Along the blueline, they'll have Simon Despres after it appeared he'd be playing in the NHL this season. The Penguins will be decent, but the question will be whether they have enough scoring and stable goaltending. I see the Penguins doing well again this season, though.

If Albany got a great player, the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) may have the next Les Cunningham Award winner assigned to them. NHL phenom Jeff Skinner will suit up for the Checkers this season, and he'll be joined by Zach Boychuk, Jared Staal, Brett Sutter, Brody Sutter, Justin Faulk, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and Justin Peters. That, readers, is the lineup to beat. On paper, Charlotte is strong everywhere on the ice. The Checkers might make a run to the Calder Cup Final this season based on this incredible roster.

Squaring off in the Calder Cup Final against Charlotte might be the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers). It seems like the Oilers sent half their team to Oklahoma City for this AHL season. Led by Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Teemu Hartikainen, Magnus Paajarvi, Alex Plante, Colten Teubert, and Justin Schultz, the Barons are rock-solid from top to bottom. If Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins don't win scoring awards this season, something went very wrong in OKC. The Barons are my pick for the Western Conference representative in the Calder Cup Final.

The St. John's IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets) will have nearly the same roster back this year on the Rock. The big name coming to St. John's will be Alexander Burmistrov, and he should see top-line minutes. Patrice Cormier, Carl Klingberg, and Ivan Telegin will help to carry the load up front, and Eddie Pasquale will be back in the nets for the IceCaps. They played sound defensive hockey last season, so another year of that would serve the IceCaps well.

The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks) are getting some solid players for their lineup. Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, and Jeremy Morin will get ample time up front while Nick Leddy will get his minutes on the blueline. The IceHogs will be solid and gritty, but they don't have that explosive player who can light up the scoreboard. The whole will need to be greater than the sum of the parts for the IceHogs to grab a hold of the division title.

The Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) will basically field the same team that finished the season in the Calder Cup Final. Nazim Kadri, Joe Colborne, Jake Gardiner, and Carter Ashton will return to the Marlies. Goaltending might be an issue this season as Ben Scrivens is not returning, so there will be a change in the blue paint. That could be the breaking point for the Marlies this year, but they should still be a strong team overall.

The Adirondack Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers) will get some serious help this year. Sean Couturier, Erik Gustavsson, Zac Rinaldo, Brayden Schenn, Eric Wellwood, Harry Zolnierczyk, and Danny Syvret will all play for the Phantoms this season, and these players could be the infusion of talent that Adirondack needs to put them over the hump. Couturier and Schenn could have monster seasons if the Phantoms play well.

The Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) are getting a few good players back, but they may still be short compared to their opposition. Gabriel Bourque and Ryan Ellis will be boosts for the Admirals' scoring, but they'll need some solid team play to raise the bar for the season.

The Portland Pirates (Phoenix Coyotes) may win the Atlantic Division based on the players they received. They should be one of the best defensive teams thanks to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, David Rundblad, and Brandon Gormley, and that's something to build on. Don't be surprised of the Pirates play in a lot of one-goal games. If they're lucky, they'll be on the good side of those one-goal games.

The Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks) will have the majority of their lineup back this season. Alex Stalock should provide sound goaltending again, and the Sharks will be solid. They won't have a scorer in the top-ten, but they should battle hard each and every night. As long as they can be defensively responsible, they shouldn't get blown out by some of the restocked teams in the AHL.

The Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens) received some talent after the Canadiens re-assigned 21 players. Blake Geoffrion, Michael Blunden, and Jerrod Tinordi will lead the way for the Bulldogs, and they'll need solid contributions from the rest of the squad to challenge for the division title. They won't be flashy, but the Bulldogs should be in every game.

In case I haven't said it yet, I'm hoping that some AHL games will be carried on television this season. This year's AHL season should be one of the best in recent memory, and there could be a vast number of great young players lighting the lamp this season. Get tickets if you can, and go see some AHL action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

TBC: Robinson For The Defence

Having read a couple of books about the games between Canada and the Soviet Union, I went looking for other books about either the games or players that played the game. One of the better games that has ever been played was the 1975 New Year's Eve game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Central Red Army team. One of the key players in that game, and for the Canadiens in general, was Larry Robinson. The Norris Trophy winner was voted as one of the greatest Canadiens of all-time, but how much do you really know about the man they called "Big Bird"? Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Robinson For The Defence, written by Larry Robinson with Chrys Goyens and published by McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited in 1988. The autobiographical look at Robinson's career before his playing days ended made this book quite interesting to me, and the stories he used in the book were told with humor and Robinson's view on the world. This book is entertaining and excellent.

Larry Robinson's career as an author isn't as illustrious as his career on the ice, but Chrys Goyens' career may not be as well-known. At the time of publishing, Goyens was 39 years of age. He started out covering sports for The Canadian Press and the Associated Press at the tender age of 19. His love of hockey began to show, and he began appearing in a number of well-known newspapers - The Toronto Star, The Gazette, and Sporting Life. He spent time on the radio with CFCF and CJAD in Montreal, but returned to writing, penning his most famous book Montreal Canadiens: Lions In Winter. He and his wife currently live in Montreal, Quebec.

If you ask a few historians, Larry Robinson's story started in three towns, not just one! Robinson was born in Winchester, Ontario, and grew up in Marvelville on a dairy farm. Marvelville was a one-room school house kind of town, but the people loved their sports. The hockey rink that Larry Robinson learned to skate on was a pond, and that eventually became the creeks that snaked along and between the farms. When it was finally iced, the rink behind the schoolhouse was the meeting place for the town kids. Larry Robinson would be a fixture on the ice in Marvelville until his father sold the farm, moving the family to Metcalfe.

Larry was a bigger kid due to his height, and he actually played forward for a long time. When he was 16, he earned a tryout with the OHA's Ottawa 67's after impressing scouts while playing with the Metcalfe Jets, a Junior-B team. Robinson didn't last long in Ottawa as he was sent back down to Junior-B. Robinson was set on playing Junior-A, so he called Cornwall and asked for a shot. The opportunity in Cornwall ended when team officials deemed his hair too long and basically cut it all off, prompting Robinson to walk away from Cornwall.

Robinson went back to Ottawa only to discover that they had scheduled a game against Cornwall later that week! Thanks to a miserable ice storm and some white-knuckle driving, Robinson arrived late for the game and was banished to the stands as punishment. It was there that he met Dan Dexter who offered him a shot at playing for the Brockville Braves of the Central Ontario Junior A Hockey League. And it was Dan Dexter who convinced Robinson to play defence because of his size. He would spend two seasons in Brockville becoming one of the circuit's best rearguards. Because of his development, the Kitchener Rangers asked Larry Robinson to join their team, and his OHA career was underway!

At 17, Robinson met Jeannette Lamirande, and it wasn't roses to start. Larry and a friend crashed a party at the Lamirande's house down the street, and Larry was initially interested in Jeannette's sister, Pauline! But after breaking up with her long distance boyfriend, Jeannette began attending Larry's hockey games with the Brockville Braves despite her hating hockey. As Jeannette wrote, "He definitely got me on the rebound, which for a defenceman probably makes all the sense in the world." From his writing, Larry figured it was in late winter or early spring when Jeannette and himself would have a short conversation that involved the word "oops". By September, husband Larry, wife Jeannette, and new addition Jeffrey were on their way to Kitchener for OHA training camp.

Since I've pretty much paraphrased the first 75 pages or so, let's get to the meat. Larry Robinson was drafted in 1971, the same draft that saw Guy Lafleur go first overall to the Canadiens and Marcel Dionne second overall. Robinson was actually Montreal's fourth pick of draft, and he was selected 20th overall! He spent time with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, maturing and learning the Canadiens' way of doing things with other greats such as Bob Gainey, Yvon Lambert, Larry Pleau, and Michel Plasse. The Voyageurs, along with Robinson, would make history as the first Canadian-based team to win the AHL's Calder Cup in 1972!

Robinson was asked to join the Montreal Juniors of the QMJHL against the Moscow Selects on December 12, 1972 in front of goaltending legend Jacques Plante (which Plante spoke about in his book)! With Robinson and Plante in the lineup, the Montreal Juniors downed the Moscow Selects 2-1! His next big game would be his first NHL game: January 8, 1973 versus the Minnesota North Stars in Montreal. He would never play in the minor leagues again after that. All he would do from that point on is win six Stanley Cups, two Norris Trophies, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Not too shabby for a kid who didn't crack an OHA roster until he was 18.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned about Larry Robinson is that he has another sport that he passionately loves. I would have never guessed that this sport would be on his list of passions, but Larry Robinson fell in love with polo.
"Polo is a very social game and it was not long before Jeannette and I were caught up in the polo whirl and had met and befriended a neighbouring couple, Julien and Celia Allard. The Allards loaned me my first horse to play and practice on. In short, that's how a lumbering NHL defenceman became involved in a very different game. Today I've got five horses of my own. The Allard's daughter Linda is our groom; she comes over and looks after my horses when I'm on the road.

I'm looking forward to polo and raising horses after hockey is over. I see it as a serious endeavour, not just a hobby or distraction.
I consider myself pretty lucky to have found Robinson For The Defence because the publisher, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, only publishes educational materials now. As educating as Robinson For The Defence was, it was highly entertaining. Larry Robinson is a great storyteller, and his experiences, while incredible, are told with a sense of humility and a sense of humor. Robinson For The Defence is one of the best autobiographies I have read by any hockey player and, like Robinson's play, it stands out as being excellent.

Because of his fantastic stories and the way he told them, I highly recommend Robinson For The Defence if you can find a copy. Larry Robinson talks openly and honestly about coaches, management, teams, Stanley Cup runs, and everything else in his personal life, earning Robinson For The Defence the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! If you can find this book at your local library, it's not to be missed!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

And So It Begins

When I started writing here on HBIC, I never thought I'd be suffering through another lockout again. After losing the entire season in 2004-05, I thought we might have finally come to our financial senses in the NHL and found harmony amongst the players and owners. Instead, we saw revenues and the salary cap ceiling jump every year, and now we find the owners looking for cost certainty again. With neither side at the negotiation table today, the lockout will indeed take place, and the risk of losing another hockey season now becomes very real.

There's no guarantee that we're looking at a lost season right now. Training camps were supposed to open in the next week or so, and they still can if both sides are committed to getting a deal done. But that's the fly in the ointment over all of this, right?

I started writing this article out of pure anger and resentment towards the sport I love, but I came to the realization that I'm doing nothing more than regurgitating the same rhetoric over and over that the media is. I'm not connected to anyone on the inside, and I surely have no media credentials to get me an invitation to the NHL Offices in New York City. Instead, I'm going to spare everyone my rants about Bettman, Fehr, the NHL, the NHLPA, millionaires, billionaires, and every point of negotiating contention that we've come across over the last month of hockey headlines.

So what exactly am I writing about?

I want your over/under, readers. The last lockout went for 310 days before the NHLPA flinched and came to an agreement that the owners apparently thought would bring economic stability. Because it feels like 2004 all over again, I want to know...

OVER/UNDER: Does the NHL lockout in 2012 fall short or go longer than the 310-day lockout in 2004-05?

Hit me with your thoughts in the comments, readers. Personally, I see this one dragging on for a long, long time again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Not The Best Way To Start

If you don't recognize the young man to the left, that's ok. That was Kevin Lalande of the Syracuse Crunch in 2009-10. He was primarily as the backup in Syracuse, prompting him to make the jump across the ocean to the KHL. He played with Chekhov Vityaz in 2010-11, and then flipped over to Dinamo Minsk for last season and this season. He posted a 2.40 GAA and four shutouts last season for Minsk while appearing in 36 games. Not bad for a former backup AHL goaltender, right?

Well, Dinamo Minsk was visiting Salavat Yulaev Ufa a couple of nights ago, and Lalande got the start for Minsk. With the game tied at zero after twelve minutes of play in the first period, the worst thing for any goalie happened to Lalande. Check out the video.
Goals from center ice are normally momentum killers. It certainly didn't help Dinamo Minsk any as they dropped this game by a 6-3 score. And set up an early candidate for "Worst Save of the Year".

Lalande is certainly struggling thus far this season. He has a 3.59 GAA in three games, a .885 save percentage, and a 1-2-0 record. Needless to say, he needs to pick up his game a little, and, judging by the video above, he certainly needs to get into games mentally. The lack of concentration on that goal was brutal.

I will say that a bouncing puck is one of the hardest saves to make, especially from long-range where a hop can suddenly take on a new direction at any point. But if you're playing in the KHL, AHL, or NHL, you have to make those saves to help your team win. Not saving those long-range hoppers will certainly put your career on thin ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Hockey Show Goes Live

Ladies and gentlemen, we officially went live on the radio tonight as the inaugural episode of The Hockey Show hit the airwaves thanks to 101.5 UMFM!

Tonight's topics included:
  • CBA negotiations - does the impending lockout hurt Jets fans, millionaires vs. billionaires once again, and all that fighting in 2004-05 apparently meant nothing.
  • KHL rules for signing NHL players - does it really matter?
  • Junior hockey benefits - the lockout will make for a better CHL season with overage players, and make for a better World Junior Tournament in Ufa.
  • New looks - Rochester and Hershey have introduced new uniforms, and we weigh in.
  • AHL benefits - younger players on two-way contracts should make for a great AHL season if the lockout runs long.
The intro song we've decided to use for now is Money City Maniacs by a great Canadian band named Sloan. The tune was recorded live at the Palais Royale, and I have to say that it's one of my favorite Canadian rock tunes of all-time. The lead-in to the song with the sirens is absolutely perfect for a hockey game, let alone a hockey show, and the fans cheering along make it feel like we're live in front of the crowd. It really strikes a chord to open the show.

We're working on getting a few guests lined up, but Beans and myself just want to know if anyone was listening tonight. The reason we ask is that we want to know what you, the listener, wants to hear on The Hockey Show! If you missed the program, we'll be back on the air at 6pm CT next Thursday. Hit me up in the comments with what you'd like to hear from us or any potential guests we should be interviewing, and we'll see what we can do!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bieber's Only Appearance On HBIC

I honestly can't believe I'm writing about Justin Bieber on this blog, but there is actually a legitimate hockey story involving Justin Bieber on the wire today. Bieber and girlfriend Selena Gomez showed up for a Winnipeg Jets game last year, and he had the opportunity to skate with the Toronto Maple Leafs as well. While the practice with the Leafs was done in jest to allow a kid from Ontario a chance to skate with his heroes, one team seems interested in "the Biebs" today. It's one heckuva publicity stunt, but could there be any merit to this team's offer to sign the young pop star?

The ECHL's Bakersfield Condors made a splash today by offering Justin Bieber an amateur tryout contract today, and caught the hockey and music worlds off-guard with this offer. Again, this will do more for the Condors in terms of publicity than anything else they do this season, but check out the write-up they added on the "news" story.

They have Justin Bieber listed as a right-winger. I've scoured the internet for hockey cards of Bieber as a youngster, and I can find none that have him listed as a right-winger. Clearly, Head Coach/Director of Hockey Operations Matt O'Dette has done his homework in scouting Justin Bieber. His comments on the Condors' website suggest that he's been watching Bieber's game for a while.

“Very rarely do you see this combination of skill and toughness,” said O’Dette. “We share a common Canadian heritage since we both hail from Ontario. I’ve scouted some video of him online skating with my hometown team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and I think he could provide some elusive speed up front for us. Plus, he’s a right-handed shot which we’ve been looking to add. I think if we paired him on a line with (Robby) Dee and (Peter) Boyd we’d be tough to beat.”

The team reportedly have been speaking to scouts who say that Bieber "possesses soft hands, a good skating stride, and a devastating wrist shot capable of beating NHL caliber goaltenders. He appears to be strong in shootouts as well." The Condors have already set #6, Bieber's favorite number, aside in the hopes of luring the pop star to training camp. The Condors even linked to Bieber's career statistics on their story.

Ok, enough with the cotton candy because I'm starting to get sick. Let's call a spade a spade here: Publicity Stunt 101. There's no way that the Bakersfield Condors will ever sign Justin Bieber to play hockey. He's adored and idolized by millions of teen girls, and that kind of popularity, while helpful at the ticket gate and autograph sessions, probably won't sit well with the die-hard hockey fans. And what happens if someone takes a run at Bieber and puts him out with an injury? Yeah, his contract will be pennies compared to the touring monies and appearance fees he'll be missing out on.

Secondly, he's actually a pretty decent hockey player, and he skates well from the videos I've seen. But he's not much of a finisher as Jonas Gustavsson stones him in his session with the Leafs, and I doubt the Condors can afford to carry players who can't finish in a shootout or on a breakaway.
Honestly, though, this was a pretty good marketing idea that cost the Condors nothing except a little time in designing this splash page for their website. Some will rip them for even tossing an offer out there, but they got a ton of free advertising from people like me for doing nothing more than thinking outside the box. And I'm happy for them for getting a ton of free word-of-mouth advertising for their team.

Bieber's not going to play for the Condors this season because it's just a bad idea when it comes to Bieber's career, and the Condors know it. But maybe, just maybe, he'll agree to appear for the Condors once this season.

After all, they can always use a good anthem singer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

KHL Rules For NHL Players

With the chances of an NHL lockout getting more and more realistic with every passing hour, the image to the left of Vincent Lecavalier in an Ak Bars Kazan uniform could happen again. During the last lockout, there were a few Russian SuperLeague teams that went out and stocked the cupboards with NHL players, and the power in the SuperLeague shifted greatly with the NHL players. The KHL sent a memo to its teams today, and it appears that they want to keep the balance between teams with the new rules issued to its teams.

From what it appears, the rules sent to the KHL clubs today will come into effect in the event that the NHL officially locks out the players. If they do, the "amendment will cover players with existing NHL contracts, excluding those with two-way NHL contracts who are consigned by their clubs to lower (minor) league teams for the duration of the lockout". So there's your first rule: players must be on one-way contracts only.

The official memo sent by KHL Hockey Operations Vice-President Vladimir Shalaev read as follows:
Our clubs have been granted the opportunity to enter into contracts and place on their main rosters no more than three (3) NHL players, and the previously established limit of 25 players per team may be exceeded by the addition of these players. For Russian clubs, only one of the three NHL players may be a foreigner (non-Russian), and this player must meet one of the following criteria set down to ensure that only top-level foreign players come to play in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Criteria for foreign players signed by KHL clubs from NHL:

  • Has played no fewer than 150 games in the NHL over the last three seasons
  • Has experience of playing in the KHL
  • Represented his country at one of the last two IIHF World Championships, World Junior Championships or the Olympics
  • Is a Stanley Cup winner, a Stanley Cup finalist, or a winner of one of the individual prizes awarded by the NHL at the close of their season
KHL clubs based in countries other than Russia may sign more than one foreign player among the maximum three NHL players. Further, the above criteria for foreign players will not apply to KHL clubs based outside Russia.

In the event of a lockout in the NHL, the maximum number of foreign players on any one KHL club will therefore rise from five to six players. The limit of five foreign players named in the roster for a given KHL game remains in force, as does the maximum of one foreign goaltender per club.

The wages paid to NHL players signed during the lockout will not count towards a KHL clubs' salary cap. However, the wages paid to the NHL player must not exceed 65% of the player's wages as stipulated in his NHL contract for this season.

"The term of the contracts signed with NHL players must run until April 30th of next year, i.e. to the end of the 2012-13 season,” Vladimir Shalaev added. “However, the contract must contain a clause allowing immediate unilateral termination when the NHL lockout is resolved. Naturally, no compensation will be paid for such a termination of contract. The KHL Central Information Bureau will be the determining agency regarding the sporting rights to NHL players with regard to KHL clubs, and the clubs have the right to alter and amend such rights in accordance with current KHL Regulations. The Regulations governing players' medical, health, and life insurance apply in full to NHL players signed during the lockout, but clubs may purchase additional insurance at their own discretion.”
Wow. That pretty guarantees that no less than half of the NHLPA can be signed by any of the KHL teams this season. Any player who has appeared in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, any player who has won or been nominated for an NHL award, any player who has averaged 50 games per season over the last year, or any player has participated in an IIHF event narrows it down to approximately 700 of the NHLPA's 900 members.

We assume that the KHL is hunting for stars, but these rules would allow players like Brian McGrattan, Cam Janssen, and Daniel Carcillo to be eligible to be signed by teams in the KHL. I'm not saying that these players wouldn't be effective players to some degree, but a team like Vityaz Chekhov are already on thin ice for dressing a team with a large number of goons. What would stop them from signing these three players to continue their idea of intimidation through fisticuffs? All of them fit into the criteria above - Carcillo has played the required games and appeared as a Stanley Cup finalist in 2010; Janssen has the required number of games and was a finalist with New Jersey last season; and, McGrattan has played enough games and appeared in the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals with the Ottawa Senators.

The notion that these rules would make it easier to only have top-tier stars join the KHL is certainly true, but there would be a vast number of non-star players who would slip through the cracks if they wanted. If they gain a contract in the KHL, good for them, but I'm pretty sure that's not the intention of Vladimir Shalaev's memo.

While I doubt that any KHL team is going to beef up through the employment of goons only, a number of good, young players will be excluded from playing in the KHL because of these rules. A player such as Corey Crawford - penciled in as the Blackhawks' starting goaltender - has only played 122 NHL games to date, hasn't been in a Stanley Cup Final game, has not been an NHL award finalist, and has not appeared in an IIHF game. Crawford is the future for Chicago, but he can't play in the AHL because of his contract, and he can't play in the KHL. He might be able to get into the Swedish Elite League, but Crawford is literally stuck in limbo because of these new KHL rules. If you're looking for talent, would you rather have Crawford or Carcillo as one of your NHL players?

Look, I get that the star players will go to Russia and play for whatever team which with they can find employment. But the rules implemented by the KHL really exclude only a handful of good, young players who haven't been given the opportunity to suit up for their country in international play. That seems dumb, doesn't it? Especially when you know that Raffi Torres, Daniel Carcillo, and Cam Janssen all have the opportunity to suit up?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!