Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Kane Is Able

For those of you hoping for two Evander Kane stories in consecutive days, you're out of luck. This is a story about another Kane - Mr. Patrick Kane. Patrick Kane suited up for his first game with Swiss-based EHC Biel Bienne and went out and outscored Evander Kane. Needless to say, the horror of Evander Kane's first few games in the KHL will continue to haunt him. So while it may be Halloween, we're not going to speak about Halloween jerseys or masks or anything. Instead, I do want to show a Patrick Kane highlight.

If the Blackhawks were playing, Kane might look right at home already. Check out the hands, and the sweet lateral move he uses to deke past Zug goaltender Simon Rytz.
Kane's first Swiss-league goal put EHC Biel Bienne up 2-1, and he went out and added an assist in the second period to give him two points in his debut. The only downside? Henrik Zetterberg put up four points in leading EV Zug back from a 3-1 deficit to win the game by a 7-4 score.

So while Evander Kane struggles in the KHL, Patrick Kane is making the game look easy in the Swiss league. Evander Kane has now played nine KHL games and has just a single goal to show for his efforts. Of course, you can add on the 45 PIMs and the -6 rating, and then you just have to wonder if he was worth a $31.5 million extension if he's playing this poorly in the KHL.

Of course, he could break out of this funk he's in and start popping goals like they were going out of style, but he's miles behind the leaders in the KHL scoring race. At this point, Alexander Radulov leads the league with 29 points, and Evgeni Malkin is right on his heels with 27 points. Not too far back is Ilya Kovalchuk with 24 points. Needless to say, the stars of the NHL are hunting down Radulov and his hold on the KHL scoring title.

The Swiss National-A League actually has a ton of NHL players leading their teams in scoring. Geneve Servette has San Jose's Logan Couture leading them with 19 points. Former NHLer Glen Metropolit is leading the Lugano scoring stats with 23 points - not too shabby for a checking centerman in the NHL! Jason Spezza of Rapperswil-Jona and John Tavares of Bern both have 13 points and sit second on their teams in scoring. Tyler Seguin leads Biel with 17 points.

What's scary for hockey fans in North America is what you don't know. EV Zug, who sit tied for seventh in the league of twelve teams, have the most potent line in the circuit. Damien Brunner, a Red Wings signing this past off-season, has 26 points in 15 games, and has been boosted by the arrival of teammate and potential linemate Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg has 11 points in 5 games, and he's made another former NHL player look like the player the Oilers thought they were getting: Linus Omark has 25 points in 17 games!

If Zetterberg and Brunner come back to North America with the chemistry they have now, the bad memories of the lockout may be erased quickly in Motown. These two have been lights-out since they were paired together in Zug.

As Patrick Kane found out, no lead is safe when playing against Henrik Zetterberg. It doesn't matter if Kane is with Chicago or in Switzerland, Zetterberg seems to haunt Kane.

One a night like Halloween, you'd have to expect some sort of haunting, right?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

FINALLY!!!

It may have taken eight games. It may have taken a powerplay opportunity. It may have taken a screened goaltender and shot that somehow found its way through a crowd of bodies, but the goose egg has finally been cracked. The man in the image to left, Evander Kane, is no longer without a goal in the KHL. While his goal would prove to be a non-factor in a game long salted away, Evander Kane officially can point to his statistics and say, "I did it."

Again, the game was long over already when he scored, but Kane scored the second goal for Dinamo Minsk with 11:27 to play in the third period to pull Minsk within four goals of the Evgeni Malkin-led Metallurg Magnitogorsk. It wasn't a pretty dangle and it probably won't make too many highlight reels, but Evander Kane's shot from the high slot finally ended his goal-scoring drought.
The final score would be a convincing 7-2 win for Magnitogorsk, but I'll no longer be able to speak of Evander Kane's lack of scoring on a team that needs him to contribute more than penalty minutes.

Also featured in this game was a spectacular case of horrific puck-handling by a goaltender when Pekka Rinne decided to handle the puck like he was poking a dead animal with a stick. In other words, it ended badly.
Rinne didn't get past the fourth Magnitogorsk goal, leaving the paint for Ari Ahonen with the score at 4-1. Some players just have bad nights, and Rinne was certainly making a case for him being human last night. Thankfully, there was no booing and no taunting after that goal... that was caught on camera.

The KHL: where stardom is earned, not given.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Future Plans For Wheeler

It was a little surprising that the announcement came today that Blake Wheeler is the next Jet to head across to Europe to play hockey, but I suppose with the stalemate happening in the boardroom right now, there's no better time to go. Wheeler has signed a deal with the German Elite League's EHC Red Bull Munchen, making him the second Jet to sign with a Red Bull-endorsed team. Wheeler played extremely well for the Jets last season and has been skating in his native Minnesota, so there's hope the big winger will make the Jets proud after others have failed in their attempts to be stars in the eastern hemisphere.

There's actually a very good reason that Wheeler has waited so long to make the jump - his wife, Sam, is due to give birth on November 6! I'm pretty sure a lot of guys would hold off on traveling to another part of the world to play hockey if the prospect of fatherhood was on the horizon!

"My wife and I are expecting a baby on November 6th," Wheeler told Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun. "If the (lockout) is still looking bad after he is born, it's an option you have to look at but until then, I'm just kind of waiting it out. I guess if there's going to be a lockout, this is as good a time as any for us, in that sense. Things work out for a reason."

While I'm not sure that a lockout was the best option for being around while his wife was pregnant, being close to home will certainly have an effect on an expectant father.

"It's exciting," Wheeler continued. "It's weird because you see (Sam) growing and you know something is happening, but it doesn't feel real until he's going to be born. When we found out we were having a boy, that was pretty cool. I was sure we were going to have a girl, for some reason I had a hunch, but that shows you how my hunches are.

"We're excited to have a boy and Winnipeg is a great place to start a family. In 20 years from now, maybe he’ll be a future Jet."

So now you're probably asking yourself why I'm writing about a baby due on November 6 when it's October 29. Well, the little Wheeler arrived earlier than predicted, and the Wheeler clan increased to three last week! This, of course, is the reason that Blake Wheeler is off to Germany before the expected due date!

While I certainly am appreciative in seeing Blake Wheeler back on the ice, I do want to congratulate Blake and Sam Wheeler on their new bundle of joy! And while dad is off to Germany to make a little money and get back into game shape, he'll have another fan back at home cheering him on!

Even in these dark times for the NHL, there are great stories like this to bring a smile to one's face. Congratulations, Blake and Sam! Now go knock the lederhosen off the Germans!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

I'm Voting Obama

I'll be honest in telling you that I haven't watched one moment of the Presidential Debates. I don't watch any of the Wolf Blitzers or Bill O'Reillys or any of the other talking heads on TV when it comes to who is leading the polls or trending on Twitter. In fact, I don't even watch David Letterman or Jay Leno when they have the Presidential candidates on, but President Barack Obama may have just swayed me in his favor after his latest appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Mike from Los Angeles asked if Mr. Obama can pull some strings with regards to ending the NHL lockout. Mr. Obama had this answer.
"You guys make money because you've got a whole bunch of fans out there who are working really hard - they buy tickets, they're watching on TV.

"You all should be able to figure this out. Get this done. The fans deserve it."
I've never heard better words spoken by a President. If I was an American, I'd be voting for Barack Obama. HBIC endorses his message.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Why The Islanders Are Destined To Fail

If the NHL ever decides to play games again, you're probably aware that the New York Islanders will be moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season after their lease expires at the Nassau County Memorial Coliseum. At first glance, this seems like an extremely smart move in that the Islanders are moving into a brand-new arena in the Barclay's Center, they move into an extremely populous area inside New York City, and they are on the hub of some major subway routes from outlying areas. But I got to thinking this week that this move might actually harm the Islanders in their lack of foresight into the 25-year deal they inked with the Barclay's Center. But if we're talking about the Islanders, this should come as no surprise, right?

I had originally explored the idea of the Islanders moving into the Barclay's Center back on April 20, 2012 when they announced an exhibition game at the new facility. I ultimately concluded that moving the Islanders to Brooklyn may actually benefit the team due to them having a chance to attract new fans, particularly in the age 18-44 demographic, and better situating themselves for more people to attend games.

It occurred to me over the weekend, however, that the Islanders may actually not do better. I stressed that the Islanders need to market themselves well in order to attract a growing ethnic population and to try and sway some Rangers fans to see their games. So I decided to do a little investigation as to who would be leading this charge.

The New York Islanders' business directory lists Mr. Thomas Rakoczy as their Director of Marketing, and Miss Brittany Cole as the Marketing Coordinator.

According to his LinkedIn page, Mr. Rakoczy has been with the Islanders in a "creative" capacity since 2004 - Creative Services Manager from March 2004-June 2007, Creative Director from June 2007-January 2010, and in his current role of Director of Marketing since January 2010.

Miss Brittany Cole started as the Public Relations Intern at the New York Islanders from June 2011-October 2011, became part of the Community Relations/Game Night and Events Staff in October 2011 until June 2012 where she most notably wrote blogs for the Islanders site (making use of that Journalism degree), was promoted to Human Resources Coordinator in October 2011 until June 2012, and then jumped over to Marketing Coordinator for the last five months.

The problem I see is that there is a guy in "creative services" - aka marketing - who has been with the Islanders since 2004, and a journalism-student-turned-HR-employee-turned-marketing-coordinator in her current marketing role for five months. Those last five months have seen no Islanders hockey played and a lockout killing the game, meaning her role with the team has been essentially zero as a marketer. Thus, I am basing my entire following dissertation on Mr. Rakoczy's work. Unfortunately, he will be the key in unraveling this tangled web of deceit and fraud in which the Islanders are trapped.

The Islanders held a fan appreciation event called FanFest in 2011. They came up with a pretty solid design for the event in so much that it wasn't anything horrible. Fans could probably rally behind that event and at least be proud that the Islanders came up with something on their own, right? Well, they didn't.

You see, Mr. Rakoczy's approved design came not from the two graphic designers the Islanders have on staff and are paying a salary. No, it was approved from submitted designs on AdTournament.com - a site where companies advertise for needed designs, and designers submit works by a deadline for the company to use. The FanFest design was submitted by a designer under the name "SheWolf" who actually designed a number of really good, innovative designs for the Islanders.

So let's review, shall we? The Islanders have two graphic designers on staff. They would like to produce a logo for their fan appreciation event. Instead of making one or both of the graphic designers come up with a logo, the Islanders outsource their work to an independent website where an independent designer comes up with the logo used at the event. Does that make any sense?

Well, Tom Rakoczy thinks it does.
"Holding our 2011 FanFest logo contest on AdTournament was a wonderful experience and it surpassed all of our expectations. It was a very easy process as we were able to communicate very smoothly with the designers.


"AdTournament makes it very simple to express your messaging. When initially posting the contest, we described a logo we’d like to emulate. We provided the name of the event and gave detailed instructions of what we wanted to be incorporated in the design.
 


"Most designers understood just what we were looking for from the beginning. For those that didn’t get our idea, with an effortless couple of clicks we let them know a design they created was not what we were looking for. Then, they headed back to the drawing board and came back with additional ideas. The end result was a terrific logo that we’re using in all our marketing collateral for our 2011 FanFest, a major event on our summer calendar.
 


"My best recommendation for contest holders is just be as detailed as possible. There are great designers on AdTournament who will help you immensely, all you need to do is communicate the details to them."
If that isn't making your head spin, here's something that will: AdTournament is a site setup by former Islanders president Chris Dey and his wife Kimberly Dey! The news of the "partnership" was posted on the Islanders site on December 16, 2011 - months after the FanFest 2011 logo was selected! Patronage has its benefits, I suppose.

What will really bring the heat down on this marketing coup is that Kimberly Dey, Chris Dey's wife, is Charles Wang's daughter. Much like Garth Snow was a loyal backup goaltender for the Islanders, Wang's own daughter reaps the benefits of being associated with Charles Wang even when she isn't on the payroll. Charles Wang is paying his daughter's outside company to do the graphic design work for his franchise when he already has two graphic designers on salary. Anyone else see a problem with this?

Speaking of Garth Snow, it seems that this trend of putting inexperienced people into positions of power is common under Mr. Wang.
"Mr. Wang created a 'culture of fear' at Computer Associates — now called CA — and deliberately put inexperienced executives in senior positions so that he would have more control, according to the report. He discouraged executives from meeting with each other and arbitrarily fired managers or employees who disagreed with him.

"'Fraud pervaded the entire CA organization at every level, and was embedded in CA's culture, as instilled by Mr. Wang, almost from the company's inception,' the report said."
If there's one thing that the NHL seems to love more than money, it's owners who have shady backgrounds. Charles Wang is raked over the coals by The New York Times' Alex Berenson in 2001 for his apparent fraudulent ways in acquiring his fortune, and follows the story up with another eye-opening piece in 2007 about how Mr. Wang conducted serious accounting fraud while running Computer Associates (from where the above quote is taken). The practices employed at Computer Associates were so bad that the company is now used as an example in business schools as a case for unethical behavior.

I was hopeful that the Islanders would be able to make it in Brooklyn with a new fan base and a new facility. Ticket prices will undoubtedly be higher as the Barclay's Center only holds 14,500 people when filled to capacity for hockey, but it's not like the Islanders have had 14,500 people to a game since Pat LaFontaine played there. There's still a chance that they could turn around this moribund franchise, but the above information makes me think that there will just be more shady deals made by Charles Wang and his cronies. Marketing, it seems, will still be run by Charles Wang and his daughter rather than Mr. Rekoczy and his team.

In conclusion, Mr. Wang went from practicing finances which saw the hockey-stick effect (jump to page 114) to screwing with an entire hockey team. Honestly, I can't see the Islanders being any more successful in Brooklyn than they were on Long Island with the owner they have now because he's a fraud like his businesses. It doesn't matter how the team is marketed in Brooklyn if the same people who drove the team into the ground are still doing the marketing for it.

All I know is that the move to Brooklyn is one step closer for the Islanders to be in Quebec City if we're looking at a compass. And hopefully Charles Wang won't be a part of that move or any other team in the NHL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 October 2012

TBC: Pond Hockey

I have been reviewing a lot of books geared towards an adult crowd lately, so I thought I'd look at a book that is perfect for the up-and-coming skater. Children's books are essential for kids to learn to read and for reading comprehension, so I want to include more books for tykes in Teebz's Book Club. That being said, Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey, created by Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines, written by Andrew Sherburne, illustrated by Kevin Cannon, and published by Beaver's Pond Press. This is an excellent book that introduces children to the game of pond hockey, and the story is great for novice readers who are breaking into their reading years.

From their website, "Andrew Sherburne is a filmmaker who produced the hockey documentaries Pond Hockey and Forgotten Miracle. He currently splits his time between his home in Iowa City, IA and his native Twin Cities. Andrew skates at the local pond with his wife Liz and his daughter Lucy.

"Kevin Cannon is a native Minnesotan who spent his childhood either strapped to a drawing table or strapped to a pair of nordic skis. He now runs the successful Minneapolis cartooning studio Big Time Attic, where he has illustrated several nonfiction graphic novels.

"Tommy Haines is the director of Forgotten Miracle and Pond Hockey, a film exploring the culture and kinship of the outdoor game. Tommy grew up skating on the outdoor ice of Minnesota's Iron Range. He lives in Iowa City with his wife Megan and his son Benjamin."

When I first opened Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey, I was immediately impressed with the size and vividness of Kevin Cannon's illustrations. The pictures are fantastic for little readers who like lots of cartoonish pictures, and Mr. Cannon has done a fabulous job in his illustrations. It almost feels like each page is a blown-up cell of a comic strip, but the colors used in his illustrations make the characters and images really jump off the page.

The story is written in a rhyming couplet, making it easy to teach kids about rhyming words. There are no ridiculous multiple-syllable words or concepts that novice readers wouldn't be able to figure out, so it is perfect for bedtime or reading time. Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey may become a favorite story for little skaters needing a bedtime story.

What's great about Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey is that it takes a concept that should be encouraged more in today's youth sports. I grew up playing shinny more than I did playing in an arena, and I can say that a few of the moves I learned while out on the pond came in very handy when I was playing hockey. Playing outdoors with friends also helps to build stronger friendships, encourages kids to practice teamwork and sportsmanship, and kids get lots of fresh air and exercise. I know parents were always touting the benefits of fresh air and exercise!

Mr. Sherburne has done an excellent job in working these themes into the story despite not having written the words. I think these messages come through as the reader, but your little skater may just enjoying the story for what it is - a good story about a brother and sister who love playing the game of hockey. Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey is only 32 pages long, but the story is written and re-written every time a youngster steps on the ice at a local rink.

Because of the excellent lessons put forth, the easy-to-read rhyming story, and the great illustrations done by Mr. Cannon, Ben and Lucy Play Pond Hockey is absolutely deserving of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're looking for a copy of the book, you can actually get it on sale right now through the Pond Hockey Store! Normally, the book sells for $17.95, but the Pond Hockey Store is offering it for $10! And Mr. Sherburne autographs each and every copy! How cool is that - getting it for cheap and getting an autograph! Pick up your copy today through the link above!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Hockey Show - Episode Seven

The Hockey Show found its way onto the airwaves tonight in what was described as "The Giveaway Show" thanks to the amount of stuff that Beans and I had amassed to give away. The problem? No one called and pledged any cash for any of the prizes!

Look, I get that pledging money to a little radio station isn't a priority for a lot of people right now. With the way the economy has treated people over the recent few months and years, it's probably a wiser investment to invest in one's self. I get that, and I'm totally fine with it. But I do want to say "thank you" to the people that did pledge under The Hockey Show's name, and to thank everyone who pledged in general to help raise over $25,000 thus far - well over the original goal of $20,000! 101.5 UMFM thanks you for the support, and I am impressed with the outpouring of generosity shown towards 101.5 UMFM radio. Well done, everyone. Truly spectacular!

If you listened to tonight's show, you know that we talked about the Winnipeg Jets' players plying their trade in Europe and how Alexei Ponikarovsky is the top-scoring Euro-Jet right now. We spoke about Alex Burmistrov finally getting his first goal in the AHL and how the IceCaps could use some steadier goaltending. We chatted about the great Movember cause that will be kicking off on November 1, and how both Beans and I will be participating. And we updated everyone on how the Bisons were faring in Canada West action.

Next week, we're extremely thrilled to be welcoming a special guest on the show. Tune in at 6PM CT to catch ESPN's and Uni Watch's Paul Lukas on The Hockey Show as we discuss the Uni Watch Power Rankings, Paul's view on some of the bigger stories in hockey, which team or teams he enjoys following, and much more! We're looking forward to it, and we'll hope you'll join us over at 101.5 UMFM next week for the fun!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

At Least Someone's Having Fun

Paul Bissonnette is a pretty recognizable guy. He's a prankster and enjoys a good laugh, especially when it comes at the expense of a teammate. He doesn't do anything vicious or malicious, but his pranks are pretty funny. If you've seen an episode of Punk'd, Paul Bissonnette would have been an excellent host of the NHL version of the show. Bissonnette is a valuable member of the Coyotes, though, and the fans in Phoenix and across the NHL love his sense of humor mixed with his toughness on the ice. He's a pretty special player because of these personality traits.

When the tables are turned, though, the rest of the NHL can have a giggle at Bissonnette's expense much like he does to others. At the BioSteel camp, Mike Cammalleri pulls off a pretty solid prank on old BizNasty.
Pretty good, right? If the NHL season was underway right now, this video would not exist. Cammalleri and Bissonnette play on different teams, and there's no way that they would have the time to pull of this kind of stunt on a day off. Watching Cammalleri at the end feeding the lady questions while laughing certainly made my day.

There's nothing wrong with pulling a prank like this. BizNasty is known for these types of elaborate pranks, and it appears that he had a good laugh once he figured out what was happening. Good on both Mike Cammalleri and Paul Bissonnette for being able to laugh a little while the game of hockey is AWOL.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Depressing Images

I'm not going to lie and tell you that I'm ok with the University of North Dakota losing their iconic logo and name. I understand the reasons behind the move to remove the name from the NCAA's point of view, but I truly believe that the Sioux name was used for good by the University to represent the native American tribes that lived on the North Dakota plains for so long. However, the work was done on Monday to remove the imagery and names of the Sioux in order to comply with the orders. I'll still wear my Sioux ball cap with pride, but it just felt wrong looking at the pictures of the workers removing the name from Ralph Engelstad Arena.


With that work being done yesterday, the University of North Dakota begins a three-year period where they will have no team nickname as they prepare to move on from the Sioux name.

Everyone will cope and I'll eventually move on, but it just feels like a dark day in hockey with the loss of UND's identity. I'll be in Fargo, North Dakota in a few weeks, and I'll see if I can get some reaction from fans down there about the changing of the name, but I suspect that I may feel more strongly about it than others do. Hockey history doesn't take kindly to people meddling in its business, I find.

Welcome to the University of North Dakota, home of... well, we don't have a name yet. But we'll get one. Home of North Dakota hockey, for now.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Huskies Hunt Gophers

I was expecting to speak about the Gophers taking it to the Michigan Tech Huskies this week, but the tables were turned on both the Gophers and me when the Huskies showed how human Minnesota can be. While the Gophers did win 3-2 on Saturday night to give head coach Don Lucia his 600th collegiate win, the Gophers got punched square in the mouth on Friday night when the Huskies used speed and a solid transition game to knock the top-ranked Gophers down a notch with a 5-3 win.

This Michigan Tech team is good. Despite Minnesota having a 172-77-15 record all-time against the Huskies, Michigan Tech has a team that should give a lot of squads fits this season. They're fast, they can shoot, and they capitalize on mistakes. Starting goaltender Michael Shibrowski didn't make it out of the second period for the Gophers as the surprising Huskies showed how to make turnovers count.

The Gophers didn't help their cause as they looked lackluster on Friday night. They were a step slower, and their dump-and-chase was eaten up by a Michigan Tech blueline that was prepared. Throw in some key saves from goaltender Phoenix Copley to kill any building momentum that the Gophers showed, and the Huskies were primed to steal a game from the nation's top team.

"We got off to a good start," said Michigan Tech head coach Mel Pearson. "(Alex) Petan scored a great goal, and things seemed to go in for us. We really capitalized on our chances."

Petan's goal was spectacular, and he put Michigan Tech up 1-0 just 3:32 into the game.
That's right, kids. He slid on his belly to stop the pass, corralled it as he got to his knees, and shelved it under the crossbar past Shibrowski. That was an excellent goal, and it should make highlight reels all season long in this hockey drought. Well done, Alex!

Minnesota tied the game, but two quick goals by Michigan Tech's Blake Pietila and Dennis Rix twenty-two seconds apart put the home team up 3-1 through twenty minutes. Honestly, Michigan Tech looked everything like the top-ranked team in the opening period. The tempo and pace of the game was clearly dictated by the Huskies, and the Gophers needed a spark in the second period if they wanted to win.

Nick Bjugstad provided a spark just 2:51 into the second when he netted a goal, but it seemed to re-ignite the fire for Michigan Tech. Chad Pietila scored on a breakaway at 6:22 that prompted the Minnesota goaltending change as the Huskies led 4-2. Michigan Tech would add another goal before the second period ended as Blake Pietila scored his second of the night at 18:27 to send the two teams to the dressing rooms with Michigan Tech up 5-2.

While Minnesota would get one more goal on the night, the better team from start to finish was Michigan Tech. As one coach told me during my playing days, "It's easier to climb the mountain than it is to stay on top". It appears that, after Boston College and North Dakota lost, that the top ranking in the nation is anyone's to grab.

The key message that needs to be driven home for Minnesota, though, is that every game should be played like it's the Frozen Four Final. Just because Michigan Tech wasn't a highly-ranked school doesn't mean they'll just roll over. They played better, they fought harder, and they played smarter. That will get you a win in the vast majority of hockey games and life situations.

And because Michigan Tech rolled over Minnesota on Friday and played them hard again on Saturday, we'll likely see a new school atop the NCAA rankings this week.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Time For The Fuzz

I'm not sure what you were up to today, but I feel like I've had a pretty swell day. We made some pulled pork in our smoker last night, and the sandwiches today were excellent. But that wasn't the highlight of my day. Instead, I spent the day with a few fairly important people, and two of the finest members of the hockey world. With Movember starting up on November 1, the hockey world will feature some solid facial hair designs once again, and HBIC will be partaking in the fun. With the event preparing to kick off in approximately two weeks, there were two important hockey players that helped celebrate the event.

First off, I'm a big fan of this idea of promoting men's health by celebrating a little facial hair under the nose. HBIC will be featuring a "Mo Bro" from the hockey world every week as I build my "Moustached All-Star Squad", but the good cause it goes to support can really use your support. During the month of November, men grow moustaches to help raise funds and promote "awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives".

If you're a guy, all you have to do is register at the Movember website, and you can become a "Mo Bro". Ladies, you're not excluded from the event, either! If you'd like to be a "Mo Sista", all you need to do is support the men who are growing their soup-strainer, and you can be in on the action as well. "Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words, they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men's health".

Some of the causes being helped in Canada this year are Prostate Cancer Canada, Global Action Plan, and the Canadian Male Health Network. All of the causes that help men visit their doctors more often are excellent causes, and I'm glad to help out by posting a message today and throughout November.

Far too often, men play the role of Mr. Invincible where they put off seeing their doctors until something is seriously wrong. Men, we are idiots for thinking this. Seeing a doctor is the best preventative measure one can take when looking after one's self. Doctors are trained experts who know when trouble is looming and how to take care of it before it becomes a full-blown problem. So if you haven't done it yet, book an appointment with your doctor today! Especially if you're over 30 and haven't had the rubber glove treatment yet!

But back to today's fun, myself and Beans, co-host of The Hockey Show on 101.5 UMFM, were lucky enough to be invited down to meet the men and women who are doing the excellent work in getting the Movember message out. They had informed us that there would be special guests at the event, and that there would be an autograph session during the day.

Little did we know that we'd be graced with one of Canada's best hockey players, and one of Winnipeg's most celebrated NHL players.

Jennifer Botterill arrived first to Source For Sports, and she brought with her some hardware. Jennifer spent nearly two hours speaking to kids and signing autographs which had everyone grinning from ear to ear. She was gracious with her time, and she really made an impact on a number of young hockey players. Getting a chance to see and touch an Olympic medal was also pretty special!

Joining her for an hour at the event was Winnipeg's own Mike Keane! The three-time Stanley Cup winner signed autographs and was joking around with a number of the people there. Like Jennifer, Mike was gracious with his time in answering questions and making people laugh, and he was an excellent addition to the Movember event with his Fu Manchu!

Pictured with Mike and Jennifer in this picture are Jeff Palson on the left and Jamie Hopkins on the right. Jeff and Jamie are the Movember Committee Co-Chairs in Winnipeg, and they were signing up new Mo Bros and Mo Sistas all day long. They were giving away some Schick shaving gear so that people can start with a freshly-shaven upper lip on November 1 before allowing the whiskers to grow back in, and a lot of people were appreciative of the great gift. Jeff and Jamie did a ton of excellent promoting that day, and we're hoping to get them on The Hockey Show in an upcoming episode!

Overall, it was an amazing day where people got to meet two hockey heroes, and we'll have some sound bytes this week on The Hockey Show. Make sure you get yourself registered as a Mo Bro or Mo Sista over at the Movember page, and help the cause out. If you want to support me, and I am participating, you can pledge some cash for the cause by clicking on my link. You'll be able to see updates of my facial growth as we progress through November as well!

I want to thank Jeff and Jamie for inviting Beans and I down to the event, Mike Keane and Jennifer Botterill for turning the event into a great time, and to everyone who has signed up already for helping this important cause out.

Movember - you know you wanna!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Brains With Brawn

If you mention the name "Jim Kyte" to any Winnipeg Jets fan, you may get a wide-range of reactions: eye-rolling, head-shaking, and memory-evoking. Jim Kyte, a rugged defenceman who played with the Jets, Penguins, Flames, Senators, and Sharks, is actually a highly-recognized academic since retiring, and will be honoured with a gold medal for the best thesis from Royal Roads! For all of those who once described him as a "cement head", look's like the joke is actually on you as Jim Kyte is quite an accomplished academic!

The winner of this year's Governor General's Gold Medal - Jim Kyte - will receive his MBA degree and the gold medal, awarded for the best thesis or graduate project, at Royal Roads University's fall convocation on Tuesday, October 23. Kyte's thesis was on the span of control of an academic chair at an Ontario post-secondary institution. He surveyed several institutions and then made recommendations on pay scales and reporting structures. His advisor said the project was of doctoral excellence.

After being recognized as the NHL's first deaf hockey player, Kyte's career was derailed in a car accident as he suffered from post-concussion syndrome. After some dark days in dealing with that injury, Kyte rebounded to write for the Ottawa Citizen and became a public speaker for the National Speakers Bureau. It's one thing to live a normal life after suffering from post-concussion syndrome, but Kyte showed that, similar to his NHL career, he would battle hard to succeed.

And succeed he did! From there, he developed the Sport Business Management graduate program at Algonquin College in Ottawa where he is now the academic chair of the School of Business. So not only did he become a successful writer and a public speaker, he developed an entire accredited graduate program and became the chair of a recognized school of business!

"I had a lot of people tell me I couldn't do things because of my hearing impairment," says Kyte, "But I had a good role model in my house (in my father) and he said, 'You may have a handicap, but you don't have a disability.'"

If you're a parent of someone or are someone with an impairment, Jim Kyte should be an inspiration for you. The man has overcome huge odds to succeed as an NHL player, and has gone on to accomplish so much more in spite of his recognition as the NHL's first deaf player. I'm inspired by Mr. Kyte, and I have full hearing!

Congratulations go out to Mr. Kyte for his excellent work on his thesis, and you have a supporter in me. I wish nothing but the best in the future for Mr. Kyte, and I'm happy that he's thriving and succeeding in life after hockey and a horrible injury.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Not Threatened By Romney

If you're been listening to The Hockey Show over the last few weeks, you've heard both Beans and I push this Pledge-O-Rama on the show. UMFM is a volunteer-staffed university radio station that allows for programming such as The Hockey Show to be on the air. There's no way that a mainstream radio station would take a chance on a hockey blogger to fill the airwaves with his ramblings, and I'm very thankful that UMFM has given us this opportunity. Like the annual PBS Pledge Drive, they need our support to help keep the station afloat.

Tonight, Pledge-O-Rama began at 6:30PM CT and will run until 8PM on October 26. I've donated a few bucks already and have arranged for a multitude of prizes to be given away during our show, so make sure you tune in.

If you can, please donate whatever you can. Whether it be $1, $10, or $100, the money goes towards the day-to-day upkeep of the radio station and towards future projects such as technology upgrades. While it seems like the goal of $20,000 is high, it represents roughly 15% of the operating budget needed by UMFM. With advertising revenue falling just as it has for the mainstream outlets, UMFM went about this route to try and supplement their budgetary requirements.

If you'd like to pledge, and please do if you can, please click over to the Pledge Page on the UMFM site. You can get the appropriate prizes sent to you for the corresponding donation amount, or you can choose to receive a tax receipt in order to help you out at tax time. You can also email your pledge in at pledge@umfm.com.

Alternatively, if you want to speak to a real human being, there are people manning the phones from 6AM to 3AM daily at the UMFM station who are anxiously awaiting your call with no threat of Lawrence Welk taking over your TV afterwards. Please give one of these outstanding volunteers a call at 204-474-6610 and pledge an amount. If you're lucky, you may even get Teebz or Beans on the phone taking your pledge!

If you're an American reading this, just know that UMFM will not be cancelling The Hockey Show if Mitt Romney is elected. While Big Bird may be threatened by Romney's cuts, your pledge will help UMFM keep their great programming on the air and allow them to employ some new technology.

Please give generously. Any amount is better than no pledge at all.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Hockey Show - Episode Six

It's Thursday on my calendar, and that means another rip-roaring episode of The Hockey Show was on the air tonight on 101.5 UMFM radio. We actually took a bit of a detour from yapping about all things hockey tonight as we had a special guest who joined us via phone all the way from Pensacola, Florida!

Pensacola Ice Flyers goaltender and former University of Manitoba Bisons goalie Steve Christie was our guest tonight as we caught up with the alumnus to find out where his hockey career has taken him. We chatted with him about completing training camp this week, playing in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose, Toronto Marlies, and St. John's IceCaps, his time in the SPHL with the Ice Flyers, his jump to the CHL where he played with the Tulsa Oilers and the Texas Brahmas, his accolades and honours from when he was playing with the Bisons, and some questions about superstitions, rituals, and what he has inside his water bottle on top of his net!

The podcast for this show will go up this weekend, and it's not to be missed. A huge "thank you" to Steve Christie for taking the time out of his day to speak with two hockey radio goons, and both Beans and I wish Steve nothing but the best as he begins his second season with the Ice Flyers!

Next week, it's The Hockey Show's Pledge-O-Rama show, and we'll be giving away a ton of stuff for people that pledge money to the station. We have some cool items to hand out, so please donate to the station, get yourself a tax receipt, and possibly win some awesome prizes! The Sega NHL '94 Tournament will be covered as well, so get entered if you're still waiting! Email me for details on how to get your name in!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Safe And Fun - The Best Kind Of Hockey

If there is one thing that sports should be regardless of your age or ability, it should be safe and fun. After all, who wants to do something that will cause pain and suffering or doesn't provide a lot a fun? This guy sure doesn't. I'm happy to say that Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey Program is one of the best ways to get your youngsters into the game so that they enjoy hockey as a great way to get some exercise while playing safe and having fun. The program has been running for twelve years and they done some great things for hockey players.

The one place that parents seem to shy away from making hockey safe and fun, though, is at the rink. I found this to be surprising since most parents are actively involved in their child's sporting activities, but the numbers told a different story.
"A recent study conducted on behalf of the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey program found that only 38 per cent of Canadian parents believe they're responsible for teaching kids safety on the ice, with 55 per cent saying it's the coach's job to educate players and only 10 per cent recognizing the importance of more parental involvement."
Can you believe that - only 38 percent of Canadian parents think they're responsible for teaching their own kids about safety on the ice? It's funny how we hear about all of these insane hockey parents who scream at coaches, other parents, the players on the ice, the zamboni driver, and anyone else who gets in their way, so you have to think that they're part of that 62% of parents who feel they don't need to teach their kids about safety on the ice. After all, it's their kids who will be the NHL stars, right? Everyone else be damned because little Johnny or Sally is the next Gretzky or Wickenheiser!

Thankfully, Chevrolet is taking an initiative to make it clear that hockey is not supposed to be cutthroat. The Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey Program has tirelessly worked to teach everyone that respect for one's self and others and responsibility of one's actions are crucial to keeping players safe on the ice. The study above was conducted to determine how informed and engaged parents are when it comes to teaching their kids about where respect and responsibility in the game starts. From the looks of the results, it seems that parents don't seem to know who is responsible for teaching their children about respect in sports.

"Parents already know what needs to be done to keep their children safe but they underestimate how much of a role they themselves play," said Cassie Campbell-Pascall, spokesperson for Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey. "One of the things we are doing with Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey is making sure everyone, from parents to coaches, are well informed and doing their part to keep players safe."

We all know the loud-mouthed parents who are an embarrassment to the team. They scream, they yell, they curse, they swear, and they are general embarrassment for everyone around them. Respect? They have it for no one - coaches, parents, players, fans, arena employees included. How are they teaching their kids about respect if they act like that?

Well, the Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey Program mandates that all participants in the game should consistently demonstrate a respectful attitude toward other people who are involved in the game of hockey, irrespective of their position. This includes players, coaches, managers, referees, off-ice officials, parents, and facility personnel, and it should be shown by both parties at all times.

In terms of responsibility, all participants are required to show responsible behaviour before and after competition regardless of the outcome of the game.
Despite the importance of these values, less than half (49 per cent) of parents believe greater emphasis on respect is the change that's needed and only 26 per cent of parents recognize respect of fellow players as being most important in keeping kids safe in hockey. Although parents are underestimating their role, the good news is that almost three quarters (71 per cent) say they talk to their kids about safety each time they play.
In order to help kids stay safe while playing hockey, Chevrolet is stepping up in a big way for parents in order to help them protect their kids. For the second year in a row, Chevrolet Canada is conducting their Hockey Helmet Program where they give away free hockey helmets to five year-old players registered to play minor hockey in Canada. That's right - YOU can get your tyke a free hockey helmet courtesy of Chevrolet Canada to keep them safe!

The success of this program is overwhelming as they gave away over 15,000 helmets last year, and Chevrolet expects to give away another 20,000 helmets this year! Pretty cool right? Well, it gets better!

Chevrolet has teamed up with ThinkFirst, the leaders in concussion education and brain & spinal cord injury prevention in Canada. Parents signed up for Chevrolet's Safe & Fun Hockey program get a special discount on the ThinkFirst Concussion Education Course! So while 83 percent of hockey parents know that an injury to the head isn't the only way to sustain a concussion, parents can now get more information on concussions and concussion prevention from ThinkFirst.

That's a pretty solid deal - a free helmet to protect your child's noggin and resources to help keep your child's noggin safe while protected! "Chevrolet has always been committed to providing leading safety innovations and that commitment now includes keeping young players safe while learning hockey," said Peter Cornu, Sponsorships Manager, Chevrolet Canada. "The Hockey Helmet Program as part of Chevrolet Safe & Fun Hockey is our way of providing new and safe equipment and helping these players learn that safe hockey is fun hockey."

I'm usually against corporate involvement in these sorts of things, but Chevrolet is doing an outstanding job of helping parents ensure their kids are safe and sound on the ice while providing a positive learning environment in which they can thrive. I don't drive a Chevy myself, but I can certainly say that they have my support in an excellent program such as this.

Parents, go get yourself a free helmet for your five year-old! And while you're at it, check out Bauer's twelve-point checklist for equipping your hockey star the right way!

Finally, here's Cassie Campbell-Pascall talking about the program on CityNews Toronto. She delivers an excellent message, and I hope it's one that you'll take to heart and remember the next time you're at the rink or talking with your future stars.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Please Beg In Person

The big story today out of the NHL is that there is a new proposal put forth by Gary Bettman and the suits. It's an interesting offer, but I'm not prepared to pick through the scraps offered until the NHLPA accepts it. Why, you ask? It's a proposal. There will still be changes, and there may not be an agreement after all this. However, I would like to talk about a guy who needs the public's support in Daryl Katz as he attempts to squeeze more money from the city of Edmonton to build his arena.

If you had caught The Hockey Show on UMFM on September 27, we had talked at length about the poor math skills that Daryl Katz has. The original plan was for a $450 million, state-of-the-art facility that his team would manage (and make a ton of money from). The problem was that after the three levels of government kicked in their cash, Daryl was willing to throw $100 million to bring the total to $325 million... for a $450 million facility.

Do contractors and construction companies offer discounts on building massive sports facilities? No? Didn't think so.

Instead, Daryl Katz told the city of Edmonton to make up the difference. Why should the man whose NHL team will occupy the rink for approximately 100-150 nights per year, and the man whose management team will be booking the dates, and the man whose sales team will be selling advertising and naming rights be responsible for any more money on an arena?

Instead, he crafted a well-worded letter that basically told the mayor of Edmonton to man-up and cough up the cash. Pretty bold for a guy who will make millions off booking a brand-new arena and selling all the advertising space and parking and concessions, right?

"We have gone backwards," said Katz in his letter to city council and the media. "We and the city can't even agree on basic assumptions relating to the financial aspects of operating a new arena. Perhaps with more time and political leadership this deal can still be saved. But as it stands we remain far apart both on substance and process.

"Mayor Mandel, this is an opportunity for Edmonton to be bold and forward-looking, and it warrants your support and leadership."

So not only has he told the city that he's not throwing in any extra money on the deal for the new arena he wants his NHL team to play in that he'll own and run, he also tacked on a special gift for the people of Edmonton to stomach - Katz needs an extra $6 million a year from taxpayers to offset the cost of running the building.

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?

The man is worth $2 billion. If he tossed in the extra $125 million, that's 1/16th his total value, and he'd have his arena done. Is that a large amount of money? Sure. But Katz is the man who is demanding the new arena!

Furthermore, he's not showing up for the vote tomorrow to try and sway the Edmonton city council into giving him more money. Is this guy for real? He expects someone else to pay for his arena so he can reap the benefits. You know what I call that?

A SPOILED BRAT.

Look at the deal that Katz already has in place:
  • the Oilers would keep all profits from NHL games, trade shows, concerts and other events for 11 months out of the year.
  • the team would also keep naming rights for the building (worth up to $3 million a year).
  • the team would make $2 million a year from the city for a decade for advertising.
  • concessions alone are estimated to be worth approximately $20 million annually.
  • in exchange for these perks, the Oilers would pay the city $5.5 million a year for 35 years and pay to operate and run the arena, pegged at $10 million a year.
Again, if we use those math skills we highlighted earlier, the concessions alone would pay for what the city is asking for over the course of the agreement. Even if the concessions were half of what they are estimated to be, the Oilers still aren't losing a dime in this equation.

When the motion to give Daryl Katz more money is defeated tomorrow in Edmonton city council, no one should be surprised. Personally, I have more respect for homeless people who ask for money because at least they ask for a couple of bucks at best and are gone after that. They don't buy a gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant and then stand around waiting for you to pay it while they have a fistful of dollars.

If you need more money, Daryl, go ask for it in person. Show up and accept the fact that you're robbing the same fans that you expect to support your team when they vote your request down. But the least you could do is show some leadership by throwing some of your fortune at getting an arena you want built for your team so you can make more money.

In other words, try being a responsible adult rather than coming off as an arrogant, entitled, spoiled brat.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Is He Actually Doing His Job?

We're approaching the 20th anniversary of the NHL bringing Gary Bettman on as their spokesman. Bettman replaced John Ziegler Jr., and his interim replacement in Gil Stein, on February 1, 1993, and there comes a time when everyone, including the NHL Commissioner, should have a review of the work done in the period of time. While I'm sure that Mr. Bettman routinely reports to the Board of Governors as part of his job and they, in turn, keep him employed in his current role, it might be time to have some "independent evaluation" of the work done in his last twenty years.

I'm not an adjudicator in any way, shape, or form, but I think I've watched enough hockey and been a fan for long enough to know that what he was asked to do when he was hired may or may not have been accomplished depending on the criteria. Of course, anyone's job description will change over time, but the main points of the job should always remain the same. And it's here where I'm going to narrow the scope and judge Gary Bettman on his body of work.

I'm basing my adjudication on the job description listed in the February 2, 1993 edition of The New York Times from an article written by Joe Lapointe. Mr. Lapointe clearly identifies what Mr. Bettman has to do as Commissioner in the following passage,
"Put a stop to labor unrest; sell the product in television's mainstream marketplace; change the violent image of the game; curb salary inflation; force enlightened self-interest on reluctant, old-fashioned owners; expand contacts with European developmental leagues and markets; settle the divisive issue of possible Olympic involvement, and help launch several new expansion teams."
At the time that Gary Bettman took over the league, there were 24 teams after having expanded into San Jose, Ottawa, and Tampa Bay in the previous years. Therefore, the success of those franchises will not factor into Mr. Bettman's overall grade for his work. What I will do, however, is look at each of the identified tasks that Mr. Lapointe pointed out in his article, and grade him accordingly in terms of the job done by my standards. And if you know anything about me, I hold my standards very high.

With all that being said, let's begin to look at how Mr. Bettman has fared in the previous two decades of work as NHL Commissioner.

  • 1. Put a stop to labor unrest.

  • Let's not kid ourselves here as this could be the one thing that defines Gary Bettman as the NHL Commissioner once his time is done. Under Gary Bettman, we've now had our third strike/lockout, we've lost an entire season of hockey while the owners and players squabbled, and we're looking at another long and calculated work stoppage again from what both sides are saying. If one work stoppage is too many, three times that amount is an absolute travesty in terms of leadership and promoting unity between the league and the union. Putting a stop to labor unrest? It's only become much worse under Gary Bettman as salaries have escalated and owners can't stop their management teams from overpaying players to strap on the skates.

    GRADE: F

  • 2. Sell the product in television's mainstream marketplace.

  • This grade is solely dependent upon what one defines as a mainstream marketplace. Make no mistake that the CBC has done an outstanding job over the years with Hockey Night In Canada to make it a Canadian institution each and every week. The arrival of TSN, especially in the last decade, have made junior hockey and NHL hockey into incredible properties for the network, and the ratings for those broadcasts are still on the rise. In short, selling hockey in Canada is like selling water in the Sahara - it's not selling as much as it is just feeding the demand.

    Where Gary's mark will be significantly affected in with the US networks. ESPN was all over the Montreal-Los Angeles final in 1993 with Gretzky, McNall, and Melrose representing the impossible dream: a Stanley Cup championship parade south of the Mason-Dixon line. After seeing hockey's ratings drop with the trap and left-wing lock introduced and games slowing to a crawl, ESPN walked away from paying insane amounts of money to the NHL to carry broadcasts that got them less advertising dollars than the Westminster Dog Show. In short, losing ESPN lost a pile of exposure the league needed.

    The NHL decided to partner with Fox, but that experiment crashed and burned upon the introduction of the FoxTrax puck. Universally mocked for their "invention", Fox and the NHL parted ways. ABC was in the mix for a while when Michael Eisner was still excited about owning an NHL team, but the numbers gave them reason to walk away as well. When the NHL finally got Versus onside and having it become NBC Sports, Gary saved a little face after taking his lumps over no one being able to find Versus, but NBC Sports is still having problems on some service providers and it isn't as widely subscribed to as ESPN. In short, viewer numbers are rising, but they aren't high enough yet for ESPN to muscle NBC off the game.

    GRADE: D

  • 3. Change the violent image of the game.

  • Changing the violent image of the game is easier said than done. For a game based on violence in a large way, there were some things that the NHL needed gone in order to market the game much better. The introduction of the instigator rule has long been blamed for the rise in injuries, but it's time we look at all the factors.

    The instigator rule was a catalyst in a number of other changes. With less fighting, there was more clutching-and-grabbing. With less fighting, there were more open ice hits and heavy checks along the boards. With less fighting, there was more reason to take a run at a scoring threat in order to slow the competition. While clutching and grabbing won't necessarily injure an opponent, the bigger hits and more dangerous plays certainly will have an impact on player safety.

    By cutting fighting numbers, the NHL has trumpeted its "less violent image". In reality, the number of concussions is sky-rocketing, the number of injuries has increased, and the number of careers ended by injury is certainly on the rise.

    If the NHL wants to say that less fighting is equal to less violence, then that's fine. They can certainly make that claim. But the truth of the matter is that the violent acts have simply shifted in the paradigm. No longer are players spilling blood with fists, they are instead scrambling brains with elbows and shoulders. Downplaying the significance of the number of concussions is an absolute disgusting way to "clean up the sport's violent image".

    GRADE: D+

  • 4. Curb salary inflation.

  • This one doesn't need much discussion. Salaries now average around the $2 million mark, or double Bobby Orr's "million-dollar contract" over four years. Salaries continue to rise, and the NHL has encouraged, rather than hindered, that progress. In short, Gary has failed to curb the rampant rise in player's salaries. Some growth was expected, but salaries are still out of control.

    GRADE: F

  • 5. Force enlightened self-interest on reluctant, old-fashioned owners.

  • The problem with "reluctant, old-fashioned owners" is that they have the money and usually sit on very lucrative properties. Bill Wirtz ran the Chicago Blackhawks into the ground with his tight-fisted ways, and it took his death to remove him from the NHL Board of Governors. It's not that these men aren't open to new ideas, they simply aren't open to risking the money they've made from their "time-tested and true ways" of running a hockey club.

    Indeed, there are some excellent stories of turning around a franchise, an Chicago is one of them. The Blackhawks drafted well, they reconnected with their fans, and they filled the building again as Rocky Wirtz took over and revamped the whole hockey operation. There just aren't enough of these "rags to riches" stories in the NHL to which you can pin your hopes.

    GRADE: D+

  • 6. Expand contacts with European developmental leagues and markets.

  • I'll be straightforward on this one: the NHL has no developmental European league to speak of nor do they have any solid agreements with any league in Europe where players can grow and learn. They have a deal with the KHL not to poach contracts that can be described as "amicable", but that might be stretching the agreement. In short, the NHL may play games in Europe to start seasons, but they certainly aren't giving back to the leagues that accommodate the NHL teams that make the trip.

    While it's nice for players like Teemu Selanne, Henrik Lundqvist, and Zdeno Chara to play in front of friends and family in an NHL game back home, the NHL is there to promote itself first before helping anyone else grow their games.

    GRADE: F

  • 7. Settle the divisive issue of possible Olympic involvement.

  • The idea of having the NHL players at the Olympics has been nothing but good for the NHL and hockey in general. People love watching their homegrown heroes battling other countries for hockey supremacy. And while the Olympic Games off North American soil haven't gone well for the North American teams, more people are tuning in to see the games being played. In turn, the NHL is seeing more people watching the game when it's an Olympic year.

    However, there is a dark cloud under the silver lining. NHL owners have been grumbling about allowing their assets to play in the Olympics with the possibility of having them injured or tired for the stretch run. Honestly, if the men you work for don't see the positives of having a global audience watching their players performing incredible feats, you're not doing a very good job at selling the game to the very people who fund not only the game you're selling, but the paycheck you cash week in and week out.

    GRADE: D

  • 8. Help launch several new expansion teams.

  • There's no doubt that expanding from 24 teams to 30 teams was a monumental task, but the owners wanted to capture that staggering TV market in Florida, Nashville, Anaheim, Minnesota, Atlanta, and Columbus... yeah, the argument for TV numbers kind of loses its pizzazz. This was about the lucrative expansion fees that the owners saw, and the opportunity to prop the current franchises up at the expense of the very team they were allowing into the club.

    All of the expansion teams struggled out of the gates, and that's to be expected. But there are some expansion teams pushing into their second decade of existence with single-digit totals for playoff games played. That's not a good record if you're looking to attract potential billionaires to buy into the club.

    What's worse is that Atlanta no longer exists. The expansion team that I believe Gary Bettman wanted to succeed so he could point to the NHL's past and say "I told you so" failed miserably once again. The team is now the Winnipeg Jets, and Atlanta may never see an NHL team again after this last disastrous ownership fiasco.

    Ownership fiascoes have dogged the other expansion teams as well. From fraudulent owners trying to buy into the Predators to Jim Balsillie thinking he can simply buy any team in whatever means he felt, from the many owners tossing money at the Florida Panthers to the fans revolting in Columbus over shoddy management and ownership, and from the owner of the Predators jumping ship to buy the Minnesota Wild to the Walt Disney Company simply being done with hockey, Gary Bettman has seen more ownership changes for the expansion teams than the rest of the NHL combined. That's a horrific record to have hanging on your shoulders as the NHL Commissioner.

    While the Anaheim Ducks have won a Stanley Cup, the other five expansion teams have had varied levels of success in the playoffs. Minnesota has seen some success, and Nashville has become a stalwart for playoff hockey recently. Florida looks like they may be turning the corner to become a possible playoff team, but Columbus and Atlanta/Winnipeg are still trying to piece together any sort of regular season success.

    I understand that expansion success isn't immediate, but the NHL is literally setting expansion teams up to fail with their outrageous expansion fees, pitiful expansion drafts, and murky ownership situations. With it taking approximately a decade to establish some kind of success, the NHL has to be aware that the quick fix of expansion can lead to many problems down the road.

    GRADE: C

    Overall, I have to say that Gary Bettman's tenure hasn't been all bad. He's made the game watchable again by allowing committees to make smart recommendations. He's letting a former player crack down on his former brethren in terms of keeping the game safe. He's relocating teams back to traditional hockey markets, and there's a good chance that the game will eventually right itself.

    But the labor issues, especially the one we're in right now, is caused by having little foresight. No one at the NHL Offices seem to consider the decisions made today one year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. No one at the NHL Offices seems to have a "worst-case scenario" plan in case their decisions lead them down the wrong track. And no one, it seems, has any foresight for what the labor negotiations today will lead to in the future.

    While I'm not expecting Gary Bettman to have a crystal ball on his desk where he can predict all the hurdles, I do expect the eight main points above to be closer to success than failure after twenty years on the job.

    The fact that they are not leads me to Gary's final grade of D-. He's getting the job done, but just barely. And that's just not good enough for a billion-dollar industry.

    Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

    Sunday, 14 October 2012

    TBC: Tropic Of Hockey

    I have had many books recommended to me over the time that Teebz's Book Club has been running. I've taken a few of the examples and actually made them part of Teebz's Book Club, but some books have nearly been impossible to find due to time and cost. One such book was today's book. Teebz's Book Club has finally acquired and is proud to present Tropic Of Hockey: My Search For The Game In Unlikely Places, written by Dave Bidini and published by McClelland & Stewart Limited in 2000. This book was incredibly good and an excellent read as I got further and further into the story about Dave and Janet Bidini's travels to some rather remote and unbelievable places where one can find hockey thriving.

    From his biography on the McClelland & Stewart website, "Author and musician Dave Bidini is the only person to have been nominated for a Gemini, Genie and Juno as well CBC's Canada Reads. A founding member of Rheostatics, he has written 10 books, including On a Cold Road, Tropic Of Hockey, Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs, and Home and Away. He has made two Gemini Award-nominated documentaries and his play, the Five Hole Stories, was staged by One Yellow Rabbit Performance Company, touring the country in 2008. His third book, Baseballissimo, is being developed for the screen by Jay Baruchel, and, in 2010, he won his third National Magazine Award, for "Travels in Narnia." He writes a weekly column for the Saturday Post and, in 2011, he published his latest book, Writing Gordon Lightfoot". Yeah, the man is pretty accomplished in a number of fields, I'd say.

    In Tropic Of Hockey: My Search For The Game In Unlikely Places, we find Mr. Bidini pretty much sick of the NHL game. The Stanley Cup Final has pushed into the summer, and he's discovered himself watching Martha Stewart rather than the game he grew up loving with the heroes he's always tried to emulate. Because of this problem, Mr. Bidini becomes acutely aware that he, like many other fans, has lost the passion for the game for which he once cared so deeply. And like anyone who has lost one's self, a pilgrimage would be the only way to rediscover that which he had lost: the game of hockey in its purest form where men and women still played for that passion rather than for money or fame.

    His quest begins on March 1, 1999, and takes him to Hong Kong where he discovers a tournament being played on the eighth floor of a shopping mall just below a dragon-headed roller coaster! It's here where Mr. Bidini meets all sorts of interesting fellows with all sorts of tales of hockey. The Hong Kong Fives' Tournament featured teams from all sorts of places on the globe thanks to organizer Tom Barnes, it was the UAE team that would capture Mr. Bidini's attention more than once in Tropic Of Hockey.

    Among the many places that the Bidinis saw and played hockey were Harbin, China, Dubai, UAE, and Miercurea Ciuc, Romania. The last place was actually one of the most interesting places that the Bidinis visited as the city is in what was once Transylvania! The interesting part about the trip to Ciuc (pronounced "Chook") was the political interference from the Romanian government due to the area's large Hungarian population. The people that Mr. Bidini speaks to during his time there make it abundantly clear that hockey is their outlet against the government's oppressive ways, and they love the game of hockey dearly.

    Mr. Bidini's writing is very entertaining, very detailed, and has a lot of humor worked in. He rants about corporate purchasing of arenas, hockey players with goatees, music, and the NHL at points throughout the book, but he never gets too far off-topic. I found myself actually laughing at some of his comments and agreeing with his stance mainly because he speaks his mind in such an "everyday man" kind of way that it sounds like a guy ripping on a topic at a sports bar rather than an author just expressing his thoughts. In other words, Dave Bidini is a very good writer in that you feel like you're not reading a book when he's talking about whatever topic he's describing.

    Dave spends a little time speaking about the athlete that started his passion for hockey. While some would name Gretzky or Orr or even Richard, the man who stoked the fire inside Dave Bidini was none other than Wendel Clark. He writes,
    "1985 was my first full season back with the NHL, so to speak, and Wendel Clark was the first player to grab my imagination. His debut game, goal, and fight felt like my own. He wore number 17 - which numerologists say represents immortality - and played with a reckless drive not seen since Tiger Williams, belying the pugilist stereotype with a touch like crushed velvet and a wrist shot that flew at the net with the grace of a sylph riding the air. When I first watched him play, he struck me as the consummate hockey player: depending on his mood, he could beat you with either wild force or sublime artistry. Wendel had cross-generational appeal, too. Veteran fans liked him because he looked cut from granite and reminded them of Syl Apps, Ted Kennedy, and Tim Horton - players from a distant era who did their jobs with a quiet and strong-willed intensity. Cynical cranks, their hearts crushed by owner Harold Ballard's systematic devastation of the mid-1970s, viewed Wendel as a portent of hope, a player immune to the new Leafs tradition of bad hockey, whose effort suggested expulsion from darkness. Kids drawn to the modern game were thrilled by highlights of Wendel's bone-mashing hits and bloody punch-ups with villains like Basil McRae, Tim Hunter, and Bob Probert. In Quebec, they gave him a name that sounded like a C.S. Lewis character: Wonder Clark. Fans from small-town Canada saw him in a soft-spoken farm kid who charmed the big-city on his own terms, the same way they once viewed Gordie Howe and the Bentleys. And when he lost the 1986 Calder Trophy to Gary Suter, an American, his reputation in Canada only grew larger. This was also the year of Free Trade. Wendel reflected our lives in more ways than one.
    Wow. Simply wow. I mean, if that isn't how any player would like his legacy written, I'm not sure how to do it. That, readers, is a mere snippet of why Tropic Of Hockey is so good and why you need to seek out this book in a time when NHL hockey is less about the game.

    Mr. Bidini's trek across the globe isn't about discovering hockey in places that one has never heard of, but it's about rediscovering the passion for the game. Tropic Of Hockey is about a man's desire to find the pure game where money and fame hasn't corrupted the players. What he finds, though, is that the love of hockey, from the smallest village to the biggest cities, doesn't need the NHL's stamp of approval. Tropic Of Hockey is all about the game in its purest sense, and that's what makes the stories of the men and women Mr. Bidini encounters so special. While none of them will ever go on to fame and fortune in any professional league, they all have played hockey because they love the game.

    Mr. Bidini's excellent recounting of the tales of his travel, his hockey, and the people he's met along the way make Tropic Of Hockey an absolute "must read" for all hockey fans. The book itself would have to be rated PG due to the language used in parts of the book, but it would be no worse than what would be heard at any rink on a Saturday evening. The story, however, is worth every curse word as Mr. Bidini shows that being a fan of hockey doesn't require the letters "NHL" at any point. Because of this realization and because it echoes what I've been saying since the start of the lockout - that is, finding other hockey outlets to keep the fire for hockey burning - I have to give Tropic Of Hockey the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

    Look for Tropic Of Hockey at your local library! It might be the best place to find it without spending a pile of cash on the book!

    Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

    Saturday, 13 October 2012

    Gophers Are Dominant

    CBC showed an old Montreal-Boston game tonight where Bobby Orr put on a show. It was a magical game from yesteryear, and there were probably a number of people in TV Land who enjoyed the spectacle of a game from decades ago. Me? While I love hockey history, I needed to watch something where the ending wasn't already known. However, the ending was never in doubt once the game I watched was in progress. I took in the NCAA game featuring the sixteenth-ranked Michigan State Spartans playing the top-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers at home, and there was a clear level of difference between the two teams.

    While the game itself had some moments of excitement, the outcome was going to be clearly in Minnesota's favor as they controlled the play from the moment the puck dropped to start the game to the final horn. If this is what the top team in the US Collegiate game looks like, there will be a few blowouts that Minnesota lays on teams this season. Tonight was one of those nights.

    Michigan State, to their credit, battled hard all night after losing 5-1 on Friday night. They threw checks, some of the devastating variety. They got into passing and shooting lanes to break up plays and turn the game up ice. They skated with desperation in races to loose pucks. There were even glimpses of former NHL star Chris Chelios as he watched his son, Jake Chelios, play for the green-and-white Spartans.

    The problem with all that the Spartans did is that they were consistently a step behind the Gophers. Races to the puck were routinely won by the Gophers, and, when they were not, the larger and stronger Gopher players simply outmuscled the Spartans to win the puck. The Gophers were physically faster to the puck and with the puck to put the Spartans behind the eight-ball all night.

    If there was one statistic that showed the level of domination, it was on the shot total. Minnesota led 10-3 in shots after the first period, 24-9 after forty minutes, and 34-11 at the final horn. If you're doing the math, that's basically a 3-1 advantage for the Gophers. Unless players by the names of Bossy, Lafleur, and Lemieux were skating for the Spartans - and they were not - there was going to be a lopsided score at the end of the game.

    Your final score showed as 7-1, but it could have been worse. Much, much worse. Will Yanakeff and Jake Hildebrand made some spectacular saves to deny Minnesota from hitting double-digits. Also contributing to the single-digit score was the Michigan State penalty kill which held the Minnesota attack to one goal on eight chances, including a five-minute powerplay in the third period after Jake Chelios was sent to the showers for checking from behind.

    The difference between the two teams could be summed up in one word: depth. Minnesota had five different goal-scorers in each of its victories, and there were 18 points split between Minnesota's top two lines. Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, and the newly-inserted Christian Isackson dominated as Minnesota's top line. The Zach Budish-Erik Haula-Sam Warning second line was just as potent, and they looked as if they were playing shinny at the local rink rather than NCAA hockey on some shifts.

    The back-end of the Minnesota squad was rarely tested, and goaltender Adam Wilcox looked bored at times tonight in so much as he decided to range from the net unwisely to chase loose pucks. While he didn't get burned on any of his wanderings, you have to wonder if head coach Don Lucia will have a word with his goaltender about his concentration level. If it were a team with slightly more jump, Wilcox could have been burned on a couple, if not more, of his meandering skates to pucks.

    Honestly, if there was any question as to which team was the top team in the nation, Minnesota answered quickly with a 4-0 lead after twenty minutes. Everything after that was just gravy, and you could tell that Lucia was having his team work on the finer points of the game - passing in the neutral zone, breakouts from their zone - as the game wore on and Michigan State stopped pressing.

    I'm just happy to have seen the game, and I'm grateful that The Score television network seems to be bringing some solid NCAA action to Canadian viewers while the NHL and NHLPA collectively work on pulling their heads from their rear ends.

    I can honestly say that spending a quiet night at home observing Gophers in their natural state would make anyone a little happier.

    Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!