Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

TBC: The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks

Many players and personnel from the Chicago Blackhawks have been celebrating their day with the Stanley Cup thus far, and there are still some good times to be had. But there was a long season that the Blackhawks completed before being crowned as the Stanley Cup champions, and the highlights of the season along with some history are contained within a new book I had the opportunity to review. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks, written by Andrew Podnieks and published by Fenn/McClelland & Stewart. There was a lot of hard work and sacrifice made by the members of the Chicago Blackhawks in order to ascend to the apex of the sport, and this book highlights all of the moments that the Blackhawks put in this season to be crowned as hockey's best.

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

Mr. Podnieks has captured the Blackhawks' championship season beautifully in both words and pictures in The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks. Included are the stories of how the Blackhawks were founded, some highlights of their history, a brief section about the two arenas that the Blackhawks have called home in their history, and, of course, the highlights of the season and their playoff run.

Being that this is an annual publication with Chicago's story being the fourth in this series, there are a number of similarities to last year's edition, The Year of the Los Angeles Kings, which was reviewed right here on HBIC. Each game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that featured the Blackhawks is recapped with a matching photo, and Mr. Podnieks' write-up for each game brings forth the drama and intrigue from that individual game. Included in the book are full player biographies, a history of the award winners and draft picks for the Blackhawks, a brief reminder of the Bridgestone Winter Classic that the Red Wings and Blackhawks participated in at Wrigley Field, and other historical tidbits. In short, if you're a Blackhawks fan, this book has everything for you!

Mr. Podnieks brings forth all the highlights of a magical season by the Blackhawks in his writing. The one thing that was missing, I feel, when comparing The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks to the previous editions of this series were the historical photos. There are some great images contained within the covers, but there was nothing that stood out in terms of a notable photo that I hadn't seen. While the writing is superb and the photos accompanying each write-up are appropriate, I felt there was a distinct lack of historical photos that could have elevated this book to a new level.

While the lack of historical photos is something I'd consider as an error, it is a minor quibble when you consider the excellent writing done by Mr. Podnieks. The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks leaves nothing out when highlighting the important moments from this year's playoffs, and the rest of the historical information should satiate any amateur hockey historian's appetite for knowledge. Because of the excellent work put into this book by Mr. Podnieks, The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you'd like a copy of this, HBIC has an opportunity for you! Tomorrow on The Hockey Show hosted by Teebz and Beans at 5:30pm on 101.5 UMFM, we'll be giving a copy of this book away to a lucky caller! We'll have a trivia question for you about the Chicago Blackhawks, and if you call in with the correct answer, we'll have Random House Publishers send you a copy of this book! How cool is that? Listen in tomorrow, and we'll give away a copy of The Year of the Chicago Blackhawks to a lucky listener!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A Gretzky Comeback?

Are we seeing Wayne Gretzky once again strap the skates on for some good hockey action? The answer, sadly, is no. This image was taken in 2012 during a Keyano College Foundation "One On One Banquet" where The Great One was the guest of honour. Keyano College, located in Fort McMurray, Alberta, had just received new hockey uniforms for their hockey team, and Wayne Gretzky was honoured by being one of the first people to wear the new uniforms. In seeing this photo, though, it got me thinking about all of the uniforms that Wayne Gretzky has worn throughout his professional career. He's clearly worn a number of interesting jerseys, but I want to focus on one specific team today: the Ninety-Nine All-Stars.

During the 1994-95 lockout, Wayne Gretzky assembled a pile of his friends to play against teams from around the world in order to stay in shape, raise some money for charity, and to promote the game of hockey worldwide. Gretzky recruited players he knew personally from teams he had played on, and even brought some family along for the fun. The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would play eight games during the lockout, but they wouldn't win all the games despite the immense talent they had on the ice.

Tending the nets were Grant Fuhr and Kelly Hrudey. Fuhr, at the time, was a member of the Buffalo Sabres where he had gone 13-12-3 in the previous season with a 3.68 GAA and an .883 save percentage. Not exactly stellar numbers, but Gretzky was hand-picking this squad. Hrudey was still a member of the Los Angeles Kings, and his numbers from the season before the tour weren't that spectacular either. Hrudey went 22-31-7 with a 3.68 GAA and an .897 save percentage. If nothing else, the similar goals-against-averages and save percentages showed that Gretzky probably didn't care too much about winning as much as having fun. Either way, those two men would be platooned in the blue ice for the eight games.

The blueliners included Paul Coffey, Rob Blake, Todd Gill, Charlie Huddy, Al MacInnis, and Marty McSorley. Coffey was a member of the Detroit Red Wings at the time, and he put up a fantastic 1993-94 season that saw him score 14 goals and 63 assists. Rob Blake was playing for the Los Angeles Kings at the time, and he also came off a stellar season to join the Ninety-Nine All-Stars. Blake scored 20 goals and 68 points for the Kings in '93-94, and was emerging as one of the better young defencemen in the game. Al MacInnis had been traded a few months earlier from the Calgary Flames to the St. Louis Blues when he got Gretzky's call. MacInnis also had an excellent '93-94 season to warrant his inclusion as he scored 28 goals and 82 points in his last season with the Flames. Clearly, these three men belonged on this "all-star" squad based on their '93-94 stats.

I have a harder time justifying the last three defencemen being there outside of the fact that they were friends of Wayne. Todd Gill was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the time, and his 1993-94 season of four goals and 28 points isn't really all-star material. Charlie Huddy was a Los Angeles King at the time of the lockout, and his '93-94 season was nothing to be excited about as he posted just five goals and 18 points. Marty McSorley had been traded back to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh in Feburary, and his 1993-94 season was actually the best of these three men. McSorley scored seven goals and 31 points in being shuffled from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and back to Los Angeles. Todd Gill was a solid defensive player, but certainly not one of the game's best. Huddy and McSorley proved that it was simply who you knew rather than how they played the game as their inclusions had Gretzky's fingerprints all over them.

The forwards contained some big names outside of The Great One. The list includes Sergei Fedorov, Doug Gilmour, Brett Hull, Russ Courtnall, Mark Messier, Steve Larmer, Jari Kurri, Pat Conacher, Kirk Muller, Tony Granato, Steve Yzerman, Rick Tocchet, and Warren Rychel. Clearly, there are some impressive, all-star calibre players on that list, so let's take a peek at how they may have been chosen.

Sergei Fedorov was a member of the Detroit Red Wings, and had an impressive '93-94 campaign in scoring 56 goals and 120 points to make his inclusion a no-brainer. Doug Gilmour was still a Maple Leaf in 1994-95, and he was coming off a season where he posted 27 goals and 111 points. Brett Hull was one of the most feared snipers on the planet in 1994, and his '93-94 season saw him put up 57 goals and 97 points. Mark Messier had just finished leading the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup, but had a respectable 26 goals and 84 points in '93-94. Steve Yzerman was leading the Detroit Red Wings to new heights as he began his transition to a defensive forward, but still posted 24 goals and 82 points. Even Russ Courtnall, playing with the Dallas Stars, was playing well as he scored 23 goals and 80 points. Obviously, this team had the scoring touch that could make them very dangerous.

The role players, as one may call them, were a varied bunch. No one knew it at the time, but Steve Larmer's career would be over after the 1994-95 season. However, his season previous with the New York Rangers saw him score 21 goals and 60 points as he filled a wing for the Ninety-Nine All-Stars. Jari Kurri's last solid season in the NHL came in 1993-94 with the Los Angeles Kings as he scored 31 goals and 77 points as he looked to rekindle the magic with Gretzky on the Ninety-Nine All-Stars. Rick Tocchet had been traded to Los Angeles in July of 1994, but his 1993-94 season with the Penguins wasn't as good as his previous seasons had been. Tocchet finished the campaign with just 14 goals and 40 points. Again, these wingers had shown the ability to score in the past, and Gretzky was hedging his bets that they would do the same on his all-star team.

And, of course, we get to the "Friends of Gretzky" section where the inclusion of these players is only by friendship with Wayne. Tony Granato of the Los Angeles Kings was included despite his 1993-94 season only bringing seven goals and 21 points. Pat Conacher had an excellent '93-94 season with the Los Angeles Kings as a defensive centerman, scoring 15 goals and 28 points. Warren Rychel was known more for his pugilistic abilities than his all-star scoring touch, but the Los Angeles King had ten goals and 19 points in his '93-94 season. These last three players, though, were the defensive unit that the Ninety-Nine All-Stars employed on most nights, and they were used almost exclusively in non-scoring roles.

Behind the bench were long-time NHL defenceman Doug Wilson and Wayne Gretzky's father, Walter Gretzky.

The first team that the Ninety-Nine All-Stars squared off against was the IHL's Detroit Vipers at the Palace of Auburn Hills on December 1, 1994. The three Red Wings - Yzerman, Fedorov, and Coffey - did not dress for this game due to the heated rivalry between Vipers owner Bill Davidson and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. Marty McSorley also missed the game as he was involved in the labor negotiations. The short-handed Ninety-Nine All-Stars were officially playing their first game since their '93-94 seasons ended, but they were welcomed by the 16,239 fans who showed up to watch some hockey. Proceeds from the game went to the NHLPA's former players' fund. The key in all of this? Gretzky and his band of merry men wore NHLPA jerseys and not their Ninety-Nine All-Stars jerseys!

Things started poorly for the Ninety-Nine All-Stars. Joe Day tipped in a Petr Sykora shot past Grant Fuhr to put the Vipers up 1-0, and they doubled the lead when Peter Ciavaglia undressed Al MacInnis at the blueline before burying a shot past Fuhr. The All-Stars would respond before the first period ended, though, when Mark Messier's shot was bobbled by Rick Knickle, ending up in the Vipers' net. Al MacInnis and Kirk Muller would give the Ninety-Nine All-Stars a 3-2 lead in the second period, but goals by Jason Woolley and Miroslav Satan one minute apart in the third period gave the Vipers the 4-3 win over the Ninety-Nine All-Stars.

It was off to Finland for a game against Jokerit on December 3, and the Ninety-Nine All-Stars jerseys would be revealed for the first time. The game was being billed in Finland as "the game of the century" between defending Finnish Elite League champion Jokerit and Gretzky's hand-picked all-stars, but the game itself looked more like an all-star game as there was very little contact and a lot of soft goals. The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would roll over Jokerit by a 7-1 score, but even Teemu Selanne made it clear that this game wasn't very intense.

"They were pretty tired," said Jokerit's Teemu Selanne. "But then again, nobody was out to kill anyone."

The one thing that stood out in this game? Check out the metallic helmets worn by Jokerit!

After that game, the Ninety-Nine All-Stars would battle Ilves Tampere of Tampere, Finland as their European tour continued. Playing on the back of consecutive nights, the Ninety-Nine All-Stars would fall in overtime to Ilves Tampere by a 4-3 score. Sami Ahlberg tied the score late in the third period, and then notched the winner 2:34 into overtime when he broke in with a teammate on Rob Blake on a two-on-one and ripped a slapshot past Kelly Hrudey. For the Ninety-Nine All-Stars' part, they did provide three highlight-reel goals from Gretzky, Tony Granato, and Steve Yzerman to keep the crowd into this game.

From Finland, the Ninety-Nine All-Stars moved into Norway for a one-game exhibition against Norway's best players on December 6, 1994. The Norwegian Spectrum All-Stars came out firing as they went up by a pair of goals in the first period, but it was nothing but Ninety-Nine All-Stars after that. The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would outscore the Norwegian Spectrum All-Stars 6-1 to take the game 6-3 at the final buzzer.

The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would enjoy a couple of days off between the Norwegian All-Star game and their next game against Djurgårdens IF in Sweden on December 9. The time off appeared to help the NHL stars as the Ninety-Nine All-Stars would hammer Swedish Elite League-leading Djurgårdens IF by a 9-3 score with Gretzky scoring his fourth goal in as many games. Perhaps the time off for the NHLers is the right answer?

The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would play another back-to-back as they battled Västra Frölunda HC on December 10, and overcame a slow start to defeat the home team by a 5-2 score. This game would end Gretzky's goal-scoring streak as he was held off the scoresheet as a goal-scorer. However, Tony Granato and Mark Messier both notched their fifth goals of the tour as they continued to play well.

The Ninety-Nine All-Stars would get a day off before facing off against Malmö IF. In my searches, I actually found a report from Sweden about this game! Now, I don't understand Swedish at all, but the highlights are in a universal language. Here's the video. If you want to skip directly to the highlights of the game, fast forward the video to the 4:36 mark.
If you watched all the highlights, you know that Malmö IF downed the Ninety-Nine All-Stars by a 6-5 score in overtime.

The final game of the Ninety-Nine All-Stars European tour would come against a team of Germany's best players in Frieburg, Germany on December 14. The Ninety-Nine All-Stars and German All-Stars would trade goals in a high-scoring game, but the Ninety-Nine All-Stars would prevail in an 8-5 victory. Of note, Mark Messier left this game early as he injured his back, but the injury was not significant.

The Ninety-Nine All-Stars compiled a 5-3 record in their eight games, and, to be honest, the problem was with the goaltending. While the team scored 43 goals in the eight games they played, they also gave up 28 goals. However, like most all-star teams, preventing goals is low on the list of things to accomplish, so I'd say the Ninety-Nine All-Stars did their job in lighting up scoreboards and keeping fans happy.

There is a rundown of the Ninety-Nine All-Stars and their European tour from 1994-95. It's just too bad that the Ninety-Nine All-Stars jerseys are so hard to come by in today's day and age. I'm almost entirely sure I'd pick one up if they were made once again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Are You Training?

With it being summer in the northern hemisphere, there are a lot of players who have begun their off-season training. This, of course, includes hitting the gym and lifting weights, a lot of cardiovascular training, some on-ice work, and, in some cases, stretching and yoga. All of these are recommended for a well-rounded player, and none are more important than the other when it comes to developing your skills and talent. However, there is one website that is asking you how many shots you've fired this month, and is willing to track your progress. Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to start your Ten Thousand Pucks quest!

I know what you're thinking: this isn't part of my training plan for the off-season. I'm not here to tell you that you have to use it or else. In fact, it's totally up to you whether you want to take 10,000 shots in the span of thirty days or not. What I am here to tell you is that this free website will track your shot count over a thirty-day span and, if you make the 10,000-shot total, a professional hockey player will email you with congratulations on reaching the goal! The practice is the most important part,of course, but how cool would it be to get an email from one of Boston's Brad Marchand or the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald?

The goal is simple: 10,000 shots in thirty days. It helps to "[i]ncrease shot strength, accuracy and overall shot performance. Encourage an active lifestyle. Improve your hockey skills". Most of all, you're outside playing hockey. You're looking at approximately 330 shots per day, so break out the gloves and stick and get started!

All you need is a puck, a tennis ball, or a hard orange road hockey ball. The latter two are important especially if you don't have a garage door that can be dented and left with black marks all over it. Find yourself a good shooting surface (driveway, road, etc.) and let the pucks fly! It's that easy!

Now you might be asking what the catch is behind this website. Josh Turk, the founder of Ten Thousand Pucks says there is no catch whatsoever. Every player who signs up gets a chance at hitting the goal as long as they do the required 10,000 pucks in thirty days. Once done, the pro hockey players who are associated with the website will email your shooter! It's all free!

Honestly, this is a pretty cool idea. If you do sign up for this website, please fire me an email, and I'll keep track of your progress as well! It would be great to see a bunch of HBIC readers on the leaderboard! There are only 22 shooters signed up right now, so get yourself going and start blasting pucks! You could be the first player to hit the 10,000 pucks goal!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

TBC: Crossing The Line

The life story of many athletes takes turns that are unexpected and unforeseen. There really isn't any way to predict that a player may derail his career through his own vices when it appears he's sitting on top of the world, but Derek Sanderson managed to find a way to not only go from being a beloved hockey player to being the world's highest-paid athlete, but he also found a way to lose millions and find himself sleeping under bridges and raiding dumpsters for food. The story of Derek Sanderson's life is chronicled in his excellent book, and Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Crossing The Line, written by Derek Sanderson and Kevin Shea, and published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. I have read books written by athletes that have been brutally honest in their examining of their own lives, but Derek Sanderson's book shows how far down the rabbit hole he went in terms of the darkness he was in before finally coming up for air.

From the book's dust jacket, "Derek Sanderson grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and over a colourful 12-season pro career, he played for the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL, as well as the Philadelphia Blazers of the WHA. A former commentator on Boston Bruins broadcasts, Sanderson is currently an investment professional in Boston, where he serves as a financial advisor for athletes." Affectionately known as "Turk", Sanderson was a Memorial Cup champion with the Niagara Falls Flyers in 1965, and was the primary assist on the famous Bobby Orr goal against St. Louis in the Stanley Cup Final.

Also from the dust jacket, "Kevin Shea is the editor of publications for the Hockey Hall of Fame and the author of 12 hockey books, including Barilko: Without a Trace and Lord Stanley: The Man Behind the Cup. A native of Windsor, Ontario, Shea is the recipient of the 2012 Brian McFarlane Award for excellence in research and writing, awarded by the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). Follow him on Twitter @barilko." Among the various hats that Kevin wears, he is the Editor of Publications and Online Features for the Hockey Hall of Fame, he teaches hockey history courses at a Toronto college, he is a freelance writer and he is a frequent contributor to radio and television shows surrounding hockey. If nothing else, Kevin Shea is a human encyclopedia of hockey knowledge!

Crossing The Line highlights all of the highs and lows that Derek Sanderson went through in his life up to moment of publishing. Needless to say, there are many good times that Mr. Sanderson brings forth into the light, but they are contrasted by the darkest hours of his life. He pulls no punches in describing the personal hell he found himself in after succumbing to the pitfalls of substance abuse, and he makes it very clear that his career was destroyed because of his dependence on drugs and alcohol. And the only person responsible for his downfall? Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that he is the only person responsible.

For all that Derek Sanderson accomplished - two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins, becoming the world's highest-paid athlete, and being viewed as one of hockey's greatest defensive centermen - Mr. Sanderson always brings the reality of his situation back to the story in describing his alcohol-fueled off-ice activities. He opened nightclubs which gave him a direct path to fuel his alcoholism. His monster contract with the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers allowed him to fund all sorts of crazy off-ice activities. His loneliness and inability to remain sober only gave him more reason to drink and do drugs. In short, Derek Sanderson was caught in the cycle and couldn't break out of it.

What impressed me the most about Crossing The Line was that Derek Sanderson never once blamed anyone but himself for his fall from grace. He accepted all of the responsibility, and rebuilt his life after he hit the bottom because he was responsible. Mr. Sanderson went on to speak in front of thousands of school children about the perils of substance abuse, and the experience of helping children see the pitfalls of making poor choices is the one experience that has stood out in his life above all else.
"I took every bit as much from the schools that the students, hopefully, took away from my visits. It was the greatest experience of my life - not hockey. The seven years I spent in Boston with the Bruins was the greatest fun I had in my life. I won two Stanley Cups with the greatest guys in the world. But the most rewarding experience of my life was talking to kids at the schools.
I have to say that Derek Sanderson's life is one of pain and pleasure, both in healthy quantities. Mr. Sanderson's story of his life spans 375 pages, but he probably could have filled several books with some of the experiences he has had. Throughout the entire book, though, Derek Sanderson shows true courage in discussing his life, especially the parts when he was at his lowest, and Crossing The Line gives full insight into why Derek Sanderson, once hockey's playboy, went from penthouse to outhouse in a matter of a few years. He does rebound from the darkness that he finds himself in, but the life that Derek Sanderson has lived is unique to him. Because of the stories he told and the lessons he provides, Crossing The Line absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

If you're a fan of the "Big Bad Bruins", a Bruins fan in general, or a Derek Sanderson fan, this book is the perfect read for you. If you like hockey history, you'll enjoy Derek Sanderson's view of hockey history with his great stories about his time under the bright lights. Either way, though, Crossing The Line is an excellent read that is recommended for any adult!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Tracking Players

I have to say that Beans and I have been pretty lucky with some of the great guests that we've been able to feature on The Hockey Show. Personally, it's always interesting to hear where some of the players played, where they will be playing next season, and what the future holds for them in their views. We've been lucky enough to speak to a few former NHL stars, and we'll be tracking their progress all season as they play in Europe and Russia. We also want to track the progress of former Jets that left to play in other leagues across the globe. We'll highlight a few of these players today as we prepare for their seasons abroad!

JARED AULIN - HC Örebro 90

Beans and I spoke with Jared Aulin on the May 30 episode of The Hockey Show, and he gave us some great insight into his career. He will be playing in the Swedish Elite League this season with HC Örebro 90 who qualified to move up to the elite division after last season. Jared was a fantastic scoring and play-making centerman in his WHL and AHL careers, but never really got much of a shot with either Calgary or Los Angeles. He is one of the leaders on HC Örebro 90, and helped them to a First Divsion championship last season, resulting in their elevation to the Elite League. We'll be tracking Jared's progress this season as he looks to help HC Örebro 90 conquer the Swedish Elite League!

BRANDON REID - CSKA Moscow

Beans and I were lucky enough to have Brandon and Jessica Reid in the studio with us on June 13, and it was there that Brandon and Jessica spoke about their new adventure as Brandon signed with CSKA Moscow. Like Jared, Brandon was an elite scorer in junior hockey and a solid player in the AHL, but never really got much of a chance with the Vancouver Canucks. He played over in Sweden and Germany on a number of teams where he was a solid scoring threat each and every season. Brandon will be re-uniting with former Manitoba Moose teammate Fedor Fedorov and will play alongside former NHLers Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Morozov, Alexander Radulov, and Oleg Saprykin. Former Moose Sergei Shirokov is also a member of CSKA, so there will be a solid Manitoba contingent in Moscow this season. We'll be tracking Brandon's progress all season as CSKA looks to capture the Gagarin Cup!

DEREK MEECH - Dinamo Minsk

Derek Meech's time in Winnipeg was short due to injuries and underwhelming play, but he was a solid player with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps this season. Meech previously played with the Detroit Red Wings, earning a Stanley Cup ring, but the Winnipegger's play with the Jets couldn't crack the roster. As such, Meech took a pay raise to head over to Belarus where he'll suit up for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL this season. He and fellow Manitoban Jacob Micflikier make up the Manitoba contingent on that squad. They'll be joined by former Penguin Tomas Surovy and another former Moose player in Lukas Krajicek as the top guns in Minsk this season on their push for the Gagarin Cup. We'll track Meech's progress all season to see if his play warrants a second look from NHL squads.

ALEXANDER BURMISTROV - Ak Bars Kazan

The drama surrounding Alexander Burmistrov came to an end when the enigmatic Russian signed a deal with his hometown KHL club in Ak Bars Kazan. I'm almost entirely sure that Burmistrov won't return to the Jets in the next few years, so we'll track his progress for this season at least. Personally, I think his leaving the Jets will be good in the short-term, but he won't be much better in the long-term. However, we'll let his play speak volumes this season as we track how he's doing over in the KHL.

Quick Updates

One former Jet who left after the Jets' first season back in Winnipeg was Mark Flood. Flood signed to play with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, and competed well for the rebuilt Lokomotiv team. However, he returned to North America after the KHL season ended and signed a two-way deal with the Carolina Hurricanes for the upcoming season. We won't be tracking Flood due to his playing in North America this season.

Goaltender Steve Christie was one of the first guests we had on The Hockey Show on October 18. Steve was playing for the SPHL's Pensacola Ice Pilots, but was unceremoniously cut from the team mid-season. I can report that Steve has returned to Manitoba where he is working through the summer, and will focus on using his education degree to try to earn a teaching position somewhere in the province. I wish Steve well, and we'll try to bring him in later this summer to find out what went wrong in Pensacola last season!

We had several updates on former University of Manitoba goaltender Jesse Deckert as he signed with the ECHL's Florida Everblades. Jesse helped the Everblades to the conference finals of the Kelly Cup where they eventually bowed out. I have yet to see any information about Jesse signing with a team, but there's a good chance he'll return with the Everblades after his outstanding numbers last season. Once we confirm where he has signed, we'll add him to the list above as well!

If and when former Jets Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov sign, we'll track their seasons as well if they happen to sign overseas. If they remain on North American soil, they're easier to track, so we won't bring those updates to you. In any case, we'll report on where ever they happen to sign, and we'll look at the impact on those teams that these two could have.

Tune in on Thursday nights from 5:30pm to 6:30pm on 101.5 UMFM or via the web on www.umfm.com for all of the latest and greatest news from our point of view on The Hockey Show!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 July 2013

RFAs Falling Into Place

There was a lot of chatter when free agency opened about who the Jets should try to land as their second-line center. While that chatter is still prevalent in Winnipeg, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made it clear that he had a pile of work to do in trying to re-sign the dozen-or-so restricted free agents that the Jets wanted back. With the exception of Eric Bogosian at this point, Cheveldayoff has done exactly what he indicated he would do, bringing back the likes of Wheeler and Little to give his lineup some continuity for the next few seasons. While fans may still want someone to anchor the second line at the center position, the Jets have their top line secured for future thanks to the work done by the players and the general manager.

While it appears that Mikhail Grabovski is no longer considering the Jets to be a suitor for his services, the fact that the Jets have both Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler under contract for the upcoming season bodes well for a team that was slightly anemic offensively on occasion last season. Both players were part of a good unit last season, and should help the Jets be competitive in a tough Central Division this year. Power forwards like Wheeler are valuable commodities in the NHL, and you can never have too many play-making centermen like Bryan Little.

The Jets, for all the complaining I have done on missing out on key free agents, have positioned themselves nicely for the future by not overpaying for the talent they currently have, and by not throwing wads of cash at free agents who may not make the team better. They have some excellent talent to compliment their top line this season as they have brought in the likes of Setoguchi and Frolik to add to the second and third lines. With players like Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Lukas Sutter, Josh Morrissey, and Jacob Trouba all developing at excellent rates, the Jets might be two or three years out from having a fantastic offensive team.

I, like the Jets, believe that Scheifele will come into camp this season and have a spectacular time. His work in Barrie last season with former Jets captain Dale Hawerchuk showed why he's one of the best players in the junior game, and the step to the pro game should challenge him to continue to grow. It also doesn't hurt that his work this off-season is adding both weight and strength to his frame - something a lot of Jets fans said he could use.
Bigger and faster is what the Jets need down the middle with the likes of Little, Jokinen, and Slater under contract. Little and Slater are smaller guys, and Jokinen simply has no wheels. If Scheifele can come into camp and play hard, expect to see him in a lot of situations. He has the ability from all that I've read and heard, but it's up to Scheifele to put it all together now.

The Jets appear to be on-track for an improvement last season barring any unforeseen catastrophic injuries. They are playing in a tough division, but it appears the management of the Jets is asking only one thing of the Jets this season: raise your game. And that's a reasonable demand.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Forty-Six

The Hockey Show only has two things on the show tonight, and both involve you, the listener. What are we doing?

TRIVIA!
PRIZES!
TRIVIA!
PRIZES!

If you want to win something, answer a somewhat-difficult question tonight, and you'll be rewarded! If you're a younger listener, we also have some kids-related prizes to give away as well. You'll want to call in to us at (204) 269-UMFM (8636) for a chance to win! Everyone likes free stuff, so get dialing!

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Can He Score 100?

With the Tampa Bay Lightning moving to the newly-anointed Atlantic Division, they find themselves in a division with several heavyweights in terms of the scoring done by their division rivals. Even more shocking was the scoring the Lightning gave up when they bought out Vincent Lecavalier, putting more pressure on the Stamkos-St. Louis duo to score more often. Needless to say, if you're a Lightning fan, you're hoping that Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback suddenly become Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy in a hurry.

St. Louis and Stamkos were the top scorers on the Lightning last season. Teddy Purcell finished with a respectable 36 points, but the fourth- and fifth-best scorers are gone from Tampa Bay's roster. Vincent Lecavalier scored 32 points to finish fourth, and Cory Conacher - currently with the Ottawa Senators - finish fifth in Lightning scoring with 24 points. There's a significant gap between the top-three scorers and the rest of the team.

St. Louis and Stamkos scored 31.3% of the goals in 2012-13 for the Lightning. That's a lot of goals to put on two players, but the Lightning were the third-best team in terms of scoring last season. Losing Lecavalier and Conacher - 12.9% of Tampa Bay's goals - hurts the overall production when going into a division that has three of the five best teams in preventing goals - Ottawa (second), Boston (third), and Detroit (fifth). If Tampa Bay isn't going to replace those two key players, it might be a long season in Tampa Bay this year.

Steve Yzerman appeared to be a pretty good general manager in his first season at the helm. His second season saw the Lightning take a step back. This season? It might be one giant leap for them in the wrong direction. I appreciate Steve Yzerman's responsibilities with Team Canada, but he gets paid by the Lightning to build a team that will compete for the Stanley Cup. It appears that, barring some miracle, the Lightning will not be competing for the Stanley Cup this season based on the roster that the Yzerman has chosen to ice this season thus far.

What I do know is that Steven Stamkos has the ability to be very good this season, and he'll have to be with the current crop of players. If he and St. Louis scored 31.3% of all Lightning goals this past season, they may have to up that production to around 70% if the Lightning are going to have a shot at the playoffs.

The other thing I know? Stamkos is pretty strong.
That's 500lbs that Stamkos is lifting. Wanna know why his one-timer feels like a bullet?

The Lightning will need someone other than St. Louis and Stamkos to step up and provide a major spark if the Lightning are to make the playoffs this season. Teddy Purcell appears to be the man to do it, but Ryan Malone, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn will have to bring the offence for the Lightning to succeed. Otherwise, Stamkos and St. Louis may only have Team Canada and the Olympics to look forward to this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

NoDak's Best

North Dakota has a rich hockey history with the NCAA's University of North Dakota being a perennial favorite to capture collegiate hockey's highest honor. The USHL's Fargo Force have shown some talent over the last five years as shown yesterday, and high school hockey is on the rise in the state. In short, hockey is doing well in North Dakota, so it was a surprise to me that there have only been thirteen players who were born in North Dakota that have skated in the NHL!

Everyone is aware of Minnesota's propensity for sending players to the NHL, so you'd think that the neighboring state would want to keep pace with the Land of Lakes, right? Apparently not. Of the thirteen North Dakota-born players who have skated in the NHL, only four have played more than 100 games! And of those four, only one has more than 100 career NHL points! This list is going to be short, but here are, in my opinion, the top-five North Dakota-born NHL players.

5. MIKE PELUSO - BISMARCK. Mike didn't play in the NHL for a long time, but his 38 games is enough to get him on this list. Mike played 37 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2001-02, and played one game with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003-04. Mike recorded four goals and two assists with the Blackhawks, giving him career totals of four goals and two assists. Mike has had a better AHL career, though, where he played 335 games, amassing 116 goals and 126 assists with the Portland Pirates, Worcester IceCats, Norfolk Admirals, and Philadelphia Phantoms. He didn't win any awards, but he does come in as the fifth-best North Dakotan to have played in the NHL as per HBIC.

4. FIDO PURPUR - GRAND FORKS. Fido had an interesting career as he broke into the NHL with the St. Louis Eagles in 1934-35 at the age of 20 after spending three seasons with the CHL's Minneapolis Millers. He spent 25 games with the Eagles before being sent back to the minors. In 1935, he joined the American Hockey Association's St. Louis Flyers where he played for six seasons before joining the Kansas City Americans in 1941-42. His contract, however, would be bought by the Chicago Black Hawks, and he would finish the season in Chicago with an eight-game stint. Fido would spend the next two seasons in Chicago before being sent down to the minors in 1945 for good. In his 144 NHL games, Fido Purpur scored 25 goals and 35 assists. Like Mike Peluso, Fido Purpur didn't win any awards, but he is, in my opinion, the fourth-best North Dakotan to make it to the NHL.

3. RYAN POTULNY - GRAND FORKS. Ryan Potulny wasthe 87th-overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft thanks to the Philadelphia Flyers. He broke into the NHL with the Flyers in 2005-06, playing 44 games over three seasons with the club. He was traded to the Oilers for Danny Syvret in the summer of 2008, and he would play 72 games for the Oilers over the next two seasons. It was in Edmonton where Potulny would post career-best marks of 15 goals and 17 assists in 64 games. He was shuffled between Chicago and Ottawa in 2010-11, but he has been a very popular AHL player for a long time. He helped the 2010-11 Binghamton Senators capture the Calder Cup, and was the man who ended the longest playoff game in AHL history with his goal after 142:58 of game play.
Potulny is currently playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL. The third-best North Dakotan has a Calder Cup championship and a memorable AHL goal to his name! Not bad for a guy who played 126 NHL games with 22 goals an 27 assists!

2. TIM JACKMAN - MINOT. Tim Jackman was chosen 38th-overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001, and broke into the league with Columbus in 2003-04 by playing 19 games. He was off to Phoenix in October 2005 in the trade that sent Geoff Sanderson to the desert, but he saw action in only eight games with the Coyotes. In March 2006, he moved again as he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He played in a mere five games with the Kings in 2006-07, and moved on as a free agent with the New York Islanders. In three seasons on Long Island, Jackman saw more ice time, scoring ten goals and 15 assists in 159 games. But he would be on the move again in 2010-11, signing with the Calgary Flames. It was in Calgary that his defensive game began to flourish, and Jackman has scored 12 goals and 23 assists in his 199 games with the Flames. Jackman last played in the AHL in 2008-09, making him a full-time NHLer for the last few seasons. While he has yet to win any awards, he has played in 390 NHL games, amassing 23 goals and 40 assists in his defensive role.

1. PAUL GAUSTAD - FARGO. Paul Gaustad was drafted 220th-overall by the Buffalo Sabres, and he quickly established himself as a full-time NHL player in the 2005-06 season. Gaustad is a solid defensive forward who is used to kill penalties, check top lines, and win key face-offs. He was valued in Buffalo for these assets, but Gaustad also put up some points when given the opportunity. In 479 games with the Sabres, Gaustad scored 71 goals and 110 assists while playing primarily in a defensive role. The Nashville Predators acquired Gaustad in a 2012 trade deadline deal for his defensive and face-off abilities as they looked to push deep into the playoffs. Gaustad was a key face-off man as the Predators knocked off the Anaheim Ducks in their first playoff series win in franchise history. While he was injured for the majority of last season, Gaustad has had the most NHL success of any North Dakotan as he has played 516 games while scoring 73 goals and adding 117 helpers. He signed a four-year, $13 million deal in 2012 to remain with the Predators, ensuring he'll add to his totals until 2016 at least.

While Ryan Potulny certainly has won more accolades in his career, Paul Gaustad has obviously scored the most NHL points, arguably making him the most successful North Dakotan to have played the game at the highest level. There could be a case made for each of the North Dakotans on this list, but these five men have played at the highest level the longest, and fit the mold as the best hockey players North Dakota has produced.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 22 July 2013

May The Force Be With USHL

Hockey is certainly alive and well in North Dakota with the NCAA's University of North Dakota being one of collegiate hockey's more prolific teams, but there is another option when it comes to North Dakotans' hockey dollars. The USHL granted an expansion franchise to Ace Brandt to play out of Fargo, North Dakota, and the Fargo Force began its illustrious history in 2008.

The USHL is the top junior ice hockey league in the United States, consisting of sixteen hockey teams from the American midwest. Much like the CHL, the USHL permits plays aged 20 and under to compete in the league. Because the USHL is an amateur league, the players who graduate from their respective teams are still able to enroll in the NCAA and play hockey there if accepted.

The Fargo Force are officially the northernmost team in the USHL with their closest rival being three hours away in the Sioux Falls Stampede. It's a long trek to their furthest rival in the Youngstown Phantoms who play out of Youngstown, Ohio - a mere 895 miles away. While their outpost-like status makes travel a little difficult on some occasions, it hasn't slowed down the Force as they've seen some incredible success since taking the ice in 2008.

The team held a name-the-team contest in 2007 that resulted in the following three names being selected as finalists: Force, Fire, and Phantoms. "Force" was chosen as the name, setting the franchise in motion to take the ice.

The Force went out and found themselves an incredible person to guide the ship as former University of North Dakota bench boss Dean Blais was given the titles of general manager and head coach. Blais found himself a number of very capable players to lead the Force to a 32-23-0-5 record and third in Western Conference. They earned a playoff spot, leading to an opening-round series with the Omaha Lancers. Fargo made quick work of them in dispatching them 3-0 to advance to the second round. Fargo would hammer the Lincoln Stars in three games as well, advancing to the USHL Final against the Indiana Ice. The magic would run out, though, after the Force won Game One, dropping three straight games to Indiana by a combined 16-3 score.

Despite losing in the Clark Cup Championship Final, the first season for the Force was a resounding success. Andy Taranto led the team in goals and scoring with 34 goals and 59 points. Taranto tied for the league lead in goals scored, and was tied for tenth in points. Matt Leitner would end up in fourth-place for assists in the league. Mike Lee played 48 games between the pipes, leading the team with a 26-15-4 record, a 2.40 GAA, and a .918 save percentage. Clearly, the team had a few stars and almost did the unthinkable in winning a championship in their inaugural season!

Dean Blais, however, would leave in the summer as he took the head coaching job with the NCAA's University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks. The Force began their search for a new man to lead the team, and they appointed Steve Johnson, a former assistant coach, as the new head coach. Johnson led the Force to a 37-17-1-5 record in their second season, good for second-place in the Western Conference. This, of course, put them into the playoffs where they caught fire again. The Force ended the Sioux Falls Stampede's playoffs in three games, leading to a series with the Omaha Lancers. These two teams traded blows, but Fargo would dismiss Omaha in a 3-2 series count. Once again, Fargo would be in the Clark Cup Championship. Fargo would win Games One and Two, but dropped three straight games to finish second for the second-straight season.

Being finalists in their second season kept the crowds happy and box office rolling, but there was some disappointment in falling short again. Matt Leitner was the top scorer for the Force with 25 goals and 41 assists, putting him as the tenth-best scorer in the USHL. Leitner's 41 assists were good for eighth overall in the helpers category. Chase Grant would finish tied for eighth in the league with 28 goals. Ryan Massa was the top goalie for Fargo as he went 19-7-2 in his 33 appearances, posting a 3.18 GAA and a .896 save percentage. Once again, Fargo had a number of stars on the ice, but fell just short in the end.

Like the summer before, the head coach vacated his position as Steve Johnson followed Dean Blais' lead in jumping to the NCAA. Johnson accepted an assistant coaching position with the NCAA's St. Cloud State Huskies. The coaching carousel began again, and another assistant coach was promoted as Jason Herter was named as the head coach of the Fargo Force for the 2010-11 season.

Herter led the team to a 33-22-2-3 record, tying them with the Lincoln Stars for fourth-place in the Western Conference. They would qualify for the playoffs, and these two teams would meet in the opening round of the Clark Cup Playoffs. Fargo would have little trouble in dismissing the Stars 2-0 in their best-of-three series, pitting them against the powerful Dubuque Fighting Saints. Dubuque played nearly flawless hockey in sending the Force home three games. For the first time in their history, the Force would watch another team compete for the Clark Cup.

Jimmy Mullin was the offensive leader for the Force, scoring 23 goals and 37 assists on the campaign. His 37 assists were ninth-best in the USHL, and his 60 points were seventh-best in the circuit. Ryan Massa was the main man in the blue paint, playing 33 games to amass a record of 19-9-4, a 2.37 GAA, and a .908 save percentage. Pushing Massa hard in the nets, though, was Zane Gothberg. Gothberg went 14-8-0 in 23 games with a 2.23 GAA and a .908 save percentage. There wasn't as many offensive stars to go around in 2010-11, but the defensive game stepped up their end.

Guess what happened in the summer? Head coach Jason Herter stepped away from the Force for an assistant coaching position with the NCAA's University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, marking the fourth time in the team's four-year history that the Force were searching for a head coach in the summer. They would look north as they brought in former UND head coach and MJHL's Winkler Flyers coach John Marks to steer the ship as they looked for some continuity in their head coaching position.

Marks led the Force in their 2011-12 season to a 31-23-0-6 record, landing them in fourth-place in the Western Conference. This would qualify them for the playoffs once again, leading them to an opening-round matchup with the Sioux City Musketeers. Fargo won the first two games of the best-of-three series to advance to the second round where they ran into the Lincoln Stars. Fargo would take Game One by a 2-1 score in overtime, but Lincoln would rally to take the next three games to eliminate the Force in the second round for the second-straight season.

Austin Farley would lead the Force in scoring with 28 goals and 59 points in 51 games. Farley and teammate Bryn Chyzyk would tie for eighth-place in league goal-scoring with their 28 goals apiece. Farley would end up in a tie for the tenth-highest point total in the USHL with his 59 points. Zane Gothberg played the vast majority of time in the blue paint, logging a 26-16-4 record in 46 games while posting a 2.22 GAA and a .921 save percentage with seven shutouts. The Force fell short once more, but four straight years of playoffs is nothing to be ashamed of when looking at the league.

For the first time in team history, a coach returned! John Marks took the team into the 2012-13 campaign, and finished up with a 38-19-0-7 record to put Fargo in second-place in the Western Conference. Fargo would square off with the Waterloo Black Hawks in the opening round, and these teams would need all five games to determine a winner. Fargo would dent twine at 6:38 of overtime in Game Five to advance! The Force would again need five games against the Sioux Falls Stampede, but skated to a 7-4 victory in Game Five to push them into the Clark Cup Championship! In the final, though, they ran into the Dubuque Fighting Saints who played superb hockey. Like their previous matchup, Fargo did not record a win in a three-game sweep, and the Force were bridesmaids once more.

Dominic Toninato and Brendan Harms finished tied with 70 points to lead the Force in scoring. Harms was fifth-overall in the league for assists with 45 while Toninato finished tied for tenth-place with 41 helpers. Both players finished tied for eighth-place in league scoring. Gabe Guertler finished in ninth-place overall in the league with 31 goals. Brendan Jensen was the man between the pipes for Fargo as he appeared in 38 games, posting a 24-11-1 record with a 2.92 GAA and a .911 save percentage.

If there was a team in the USHL who could be considered the model franchise, the Force have been finalists three times and were ousted in the second round twice. In five seasons, they have played for the league's playoff championship five times. And they did this under four separate men who have coached and been the team's general manager.

Well done, Fargo Force, and here's hoping your future successes can be as good as these. Or better!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Metropolitan?

I'm still struggling with this new divisional name anointed to the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania-DC-Ohio-Carolina division. I get that they aren't truly the Atlantic Division with the Blue Jackets being quite inland, but "Metropolitan"? This may be one of the worst names in the history of the NHL. The population is dense in the area so I understand the reference, but why is the NHL trying to push "metropolitan" as a geographical region? I'm not sure anyone has associated the eight teams making up the division as a metropolitan. The Rangers, Islanders, and Devils? Yes. Everyone else? Not so much.

According to deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to ESPN, "A number of alternatives were considered for Metropolitan, but due to the make-up of our divisions, none were perfect. So that was, obviously, the toughest one to nail down. But, ultimately, you have to come to a resting place."

There are so many things wrong with his statement that need to pointed out, but the biggest one is "you have to come to a resting place". That reeks of laziness and an unwillingness to teach fans about the history of the game. As the curators of this game, the NHL Offices in New York should be ashamed of this statement and decision.

The NHL had incredible names before in the Smythe, Norris, Patrick, and Adams divisions. They harkened back to the days of the men who molded the game in their visions, and provide a link back to the history that is slowly being erased by the geographical names. The four men whose names adorned the divisions before the changes made by Bettman and Company were arguably more important than the current regime in helping the game evolve into what the current regime inherited.

Personally, I've never been a fan of the geographically-named divisions, and this new Metrosexualpolitan Division is the dumbest name of all. In my protest of these stupid names, I'm officially changing the names here on HBIC. Going forward from this day forward, the old names will be used when describing the new divisions.

Ladies and gentlemen, HBIC welcomes back the Patrick Division.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

CBC's Hockey Schedule

With the Olympics being included into next season's scheduling for the NHL, the CBC unveiled its highlighted games today. Needless to say, there are more than one outdoor game on this season's televised games thanks to the NHL's need to have approximately half the schedule played outside. There are some other games, though, that should be noted thanks to the CBC's involvement in the NHL and its scheduling, and this gives the CBC exclusive rights to these games. If you're Canadian and you like hockey, the country's public broadcaster has some great games scheduled for this winter's television season.

Let's start with January 1, 2014 when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings from Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The Bridgestone Winter Classic will take center-stage on CBC on New Year's Day as Canada finally has a team playing in the big game. While I feel that Toronto won't be the winning team that day, there should be some great story lines surrounding the game as Toronto and Detroit are division rivals this coming season.

The following day, the Tim Hortons Heritage Classic takes place in Vancouver as the Canucks host the Ottawa Senators in an outdoor game. These two teams don't have a ton of history between them, but there will be some good players on the ice as Spezza, Karlsson, and newly-acquired Bobby Ryan battle the Sedins and Robert Luongo. Vancouver's weather could be a factor in this one, so you may want to turn in just to see if the two teams play street hockey outdoors over ice hockey.

Later in the month, CBC is the Canadian rights-holder to the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series. The Coors Light Stadium Series features the rest of the non-Winter Classic outdoor games. CBC will feature the Anaheim Ducks visiting the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, January 25, and they'll jump across the country for the New Jersey Devils hosting the New York Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, January 26.

Kraft Hockeyville on Saturday, September 14 will see former division rivals play one another in Belleville, Ontario when the Winnipeg Jets and Washington Capitals descend upon the town. The township of Sterling-Rawdon, Ontario will host the majority of the events for Kraft Hockeyville.

Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada will take place on Saturday, January 18 as the city of Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan welcomes the CBC crew to town. Games featured that day will include the New York Rangers visiting the Ottawa Senators at 2pm ET for Ontario-East, and the Edmonton Oilers play the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre at 2pm ET for Manitoba-West. The Montreal Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7pm ET nationally, and CBC closes out the night with the Calgary Flames visiting the Vancouver Canucks.

In total, CBC's Hockey Night In Canada will air 94 games including:
  • 33 all-Canadian matchups.
  • 16 Original Six matchups.
  • 4 "Battle of Alberta" games.
  • 4 Chicago Blackhawks games.
  • 4 Boston Bruins games.
  • 3 Pittsburgh Penguins games.
  • 3 Washington Capitals games.
For Jets fans, I have taken the liberty of scouring the CBC schedule to pull out these games:
  • Tuesday, October 1 at Edmonton.
  • Saturday, October 26 at Dallas.
  • Saturday, November 3 vs. Chicago.
  • Saturday, December 7 at Tampa Bay.
  • Saturday, December 14 vs. Dallas.
  • Saturday, January 11 vs. Columbus.
  • Saturday, January 18 vs. Edmonton (Hockey Day In Canada).
  • Saturday, January 25 vs. Toronto.
  • Sunday, February 2 at Montreal.
  • Thursday, March 6 vs. Los Angeles.
  • Saturday, March 8 vs. Ottawa.
  • Saturday, March 22 vs. Carolina.
  • Saturday, March 29 at Los Angeles.
  • Saturday, April 5 at Toronto.
There are your CBC games, kids. Clear your calendars on those days and night because it's nealry hockey season again!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 19 July 2013

They're Going Back!

If you missed the announcement earlier today, the NHL and the International Olympic Committee finally came to an agreement, and the NHL players will break for two weeks to have the best players in the world competing in Sochi for the Olympics! That means that Canada's best will defend the gold medal against the USA, the Swedes, the Finns, the Czechs, and the hometown Russians as the top countries in the world square off for international hockey supremacy! If you're not excited, it's time to be with February 2014 approaching quickly!

Before we start naming teams and predicting who will finish where in the competition, we need to remember one key thing when discussing Canada's defence of its Olympic medal: Torino, Italy. In 2002, Canada won a gold medal and the US won a silver medal while playing on a North American ice surface in Salt Lake City, Utah. Four years later, they played one of the worst international tournaments in recent Canadian history, stumbling and looking quite out of place on the international ice surface in Turin. 2010 saw Canada and the US finish first and second again on a North American ice surface in Vancouver. Will those teams be prepared for the larger ice surface in Sochi?

I have full faith that Mike Babcock will have his foot soldiers ready when it comes to the defence of the 2010 Olympic championship. I'm quite sure that Dan Bylsma will have the US team ready as well. Olympic hockey will be awesome once again as the best players on the planet go mano-a-mano for the right to be called the best in the world for the next four years.

Are you ready?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Forty-Five

The Hockey Show is back on the air tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM, and we're going to have some fun. Beans and I rarely show off our hockey knowledge without some sort of debate, but tonight we'll be testing one another - and any callers who want to take a stab - at trivia questions about the world's coolest game! While I may have the upper hand in this one, we'll be opening the phone lines for the listeners as we go through a bit of a trial run before announcing another opportunity to win prizes! Who doesn't like free gear?!?

Between the questions Beans and I toss out to each other and to listeners, we have a few things to discuss. Among them are:
  • Allan Muir wrote an interesting piece for Sports Illustrated that looked at Canada's Olympic team in Sochi if the NHL and the Olympic Committee can't find some sort of agreement for insurance and player costs and safety. If the NHL doesn't go to the Olympics, he names an entire roster of European- and KHL-based players who could, including friend of the show Brandon Reid. Do we agree with the players selected? What about AHL players? Is this a "nightmare" as Muir suggests?
  • The Jets are reportedly in the running for Mikhail Grabovski and Damien Brunner. Are these good signings? Where do they fit on the roster? What do the Jets do if Grabo signs as Little, Jokinen, Scheifele, and Slater are all slotted down the middle?
  • Eric Tangradi and the Jets avoid arbitration. Did the Jets overpay for what appears to be a third- or fourth-liner? What does Tangradi bring to the Jets this season?
  • Patrice Cormier also re-signs with the Jets. Do we see more Cormier in the Jets' line-up this season? Is he ever going to crack the roster full-time?
  • Derek Meech left the Jets for an opportunity with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL. Are his NHL days behind him? Do we see him returning in the future?
  • Dustin Penner goes back to the Ducks, continuing his illustrious NHL career in SoCal. At this point, is he just a role player who Edmonton overpaid? Does he fit into the Ducks' roster?
Join us tonight on 101.5 UMFM for some trivia, some discussion, and we'll be in contact with Survivor: NHL Playoffs winner Barry A. to get his thoughts on some of the hockey world after his Blackhawks defeated his Bruins! That doesn't make sense? It will tonight. Tune in, call us at (204) 269-UMFM (8636), tweet us at @TeebzHBIC, and chat some hockey with us!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

NHL Gets Air Conditioning

It isn't often that you hear of an NHL rink being too warm unless the games are being played in Phoenix in June. And rarely does that happen. It's also rare to hear that an NHL rink needs to turn up the heat literally rather than figuratively. However, the NHL and six NHL teams have signed a deal with a new sponsor as the official HVAC sponsor of the NHL. York, owned and operated by Johnson Controls, is the NHL's newest sponsor, and will partner with six teams as their official HVAC sponsor as well.

Chris Botta, a man whose journalism and reporting I've respected for a long time, reported in SportsBusiness Journal on June 20, 2013 that the York brand decided to sponsor the NHL "to increase brand awareness during its key marketing periods: October and November for heating, and April and May for cooling." In partnering with the NHL as a corporate sponsor, the NHL will provide key marketing spots for York as an official sponsor of the NHL, the NHL Draft, the 2013 Bridgestone Winter Classic, the NHL Awards and NHL Green. Expect to see marketing for York this upcoming season.

Along with the NHL, Botta also reported that York will enter into partnerships with the "Canadiens, Canucks, Flyers and 'three more teams with whom deals are being finalized'" to give the company advertising within those arenas and on publications produced by those teams.

York, for what it's worth, is a major player in the HVAC world, providing residential, professional, and commercial HVAC solutions. York hold the contract for the US Navy's HVAC needs, so they clearly have some ability in the world of HVAC. While NHL buildings rarely fall into disrepair when it comes to maintaining controlled atmospheres within the walls of the arena, I see the NHL's partnership with York as being beneficial to the NHL for one major reason.

There will be a vast number of outdoor games next season as the NHL looks to squeeze as much as it can out of that gimmick. Having rinks set up for days in New York City at Yankee Stadium will take some major work when it comes to the refrigeration unit, and York specializes in this sort of HVAC work. From the refrigeration system to heat exchange to finding uses for excess hot water, the HVAC work done by York for the games in New York City, Los Angeles, and Vancouver alone could save the NHL millions of dollars in energy.

This PDF by the IIHF explains the the basics of an ice rink, but there is a particular section within Chapter 3 that should be noticed.
The refrigeration plant is needed to make and maintain ice on the rink. Refrigeration plant includes the compressor(s), the condenser(s), the evaporator(s), and rink pipes. The heat from the rink is "sucked" by the compressor via the rink pipes and the evaporator and then released to the surrounding via the condenser. The heat from the condenser can be used to heat the ice rink facility and thus save considerably energy and money. Refrigeration plant is the main energy consumer in the ice rink facility. Compressors, pumps and fans needed in the refrigeration system are normally run by electricity and their electricity use may cover over 50% of the total electricity use of an ice rink facility.
Wouldn't you know it, but York, on their website, have those very condensers and heat pumps available for commercial purchase! In short, the refrigeration plant is required if you want to keep and maintain an ice surface, and there is a major HVAC component to doing that. With an outdoor rink, the refrigeration plant becomes much more important as the ice can be affected by Mother Nature's whims in terms of temperature and humidity!

While the NHL may not admit it, this partnership is legitimately a partnership in that if York cannot provide the services that the NHL needs for their plethora of outdoor games next season, expect the partnership to dissolve after one season. However, if York can ensure working ice rinks in places like Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium for an extended length of time, the NHL and York will most likely live amicably together until the outdoor games run their course. The only variable that the NHL cannot control is the weather, but York will do its best to ensure that Mother Nature's external influences don't flaw the biggest cash cow the NHL has going.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Summer Hockey Fun

You'll probably realize as you read this article that this is less about summer hockey and more about hockey-related fun while on summer holidays. There are lots of great hockey schools and summer hockey leagues one can participate in over the warmest months of the year in North America, but there are many more fans who enjoy summer holidays away from their respective nine-to-fives. What this article is all about are options for the summer-loving hockey fans who want to enjoy the leisurely warm weather while still being the best hockey fans they can be.

I know a number of people who enjoy playing cards at the lake or while camping, and one of the more popular games I see being played is cribbage. Honestly, I don't have a clue on how the game is played, but wouldn't it look infinitely better on one of these?
That hockey-rink cribbage board can be found on Etsy.com and is made by Neil Enock from Calgary, Alberta. While it may seem a little pricy at $155.94, Neil has included the following information which may make it a perfect gift for your summer-loving hockey fan.
"Our cribbage boards can be customized with the addition of stock logos or custom graphics and can be further personalized by engraving your text message on the cribbage board or gift box."
Pretty solid idea, right? If I knew how to play cribbage, I might be inclined to purchase this cribbage board. However, since I don't know how, I thought I'd offer it up to you, readers, for those that know how to play a little crib.

Everyone in North America at one time or another has played board games. Some families and friends still gather for "board game night". And I would guess that virtually everyone aged thirty and older has played Trivial Pursuit. The game, created in December 1979 in Montreal, Quebec by Canadian Chris Haney, is one of the most widely-played games on the planet, and there are games that cover all genres and age groups: Baby Boomers, Geniuses, younger people, and, of course, sports fanatics. The Trivial Pursuit All-Star Sports edition was produced in 1983, so you'll probably have to be a major sports historian to know some of these answers or at least thirty years old. The categories are broken down into the following:
  • Blue - nicknames.
  • Pink - football.
  • Yellow - catch-all.
  • Brown - basketball.
  • Green - baseball.
  • Orange - numbers.
Now, if you ask me, it seems nearly criminal that a Canadian-devised game doesn't include hockey as a category on its own, but these games were mass-produced in the United States. Naturally, the categories are more reflective of that society's sports followings in the 1980s. The good news? There are a ton of hockey questions in the "nicknames, "catch-all", and "numbers" categories, so it's not like you'll go without any hockey trivia. And to be honest, they are tough questions if you don't know your hockey history!

At $0.99 on eBay, that's a heckuva deal for anyone looking to infuse their trivia or board game nights with some additional sports questions! For those that are searching deeper for something more Canadiana, there was an All-Star Sports edition for Canada produced in 1981 with hockey replacing basketball in the brown color category, but those have been much harder to find in my searches!

Of course, if you're looking for cooler options than indoor games, there is an item that I would have killed to have had as a child. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Wham-o Slip-N-Slide Water Knee Hockey game.
For anyone who has played knee hockey, imagine doing it outside under the sun under sprinklers in the summer! Totally awesome, right?!? I'm going to be looking for one of these at my local retailers soon!

According to reviews, "[t]he rink measures nine feet by five feet, and attaches to any garden hose. There are 30 nozzles, each of which spray a two-foot plume of water over both players. It comes with two plastic hockey sticks, an oversized plastic puck and two 12-inch high by 32-inch wide by 8-inch deep inflatable goals. The rink itself is made of sturdy PVC". If knee hockey in a hallway or a rec room was your thing as a kid, imagine how awesome it will be outdoors! Amazon is selling them for less than $40 right now - a steal when you consider the number of days you'll put in making kick saves in the summer!

There are a few summer ideas that should help tide you over until hockey season starts again. I intentionally avoided video games because the summer months are meant to be spent outdoors, and these ideas should help cultivate some additional outdoor time with friends. In other words, the perfect summer!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Golden Air-Knit Fleece

The Buffalo Sabres have been teasing their fans this summer with small clips about their new alternate jersey, so I took about 15 minutes and mocked up the one to the left. The rumors, if you haven't heard them, are true in that Buffalo will don a gold alternate uniform this season, and I added a few elements from the video below to make up this mock-up. In any case, I understand the idea of teasing the fans to build excitement and anticipation, but will the hype pay off in the end?

The Sabres have historically had some poor choices when it came to alternate jerseys, so there's a good chance that these new alternates for the 2013-14 season won't be any worse than anything we've seen in the past. The teaser, though, shows off a number of design elements that make me wonder if the Sabres are just trying to too hard. It seems there are a few things that may push this one from good to "maybe next time". Here's the video.
Ok, so we know that Buffalo will be wearing gold for sure, and I'm actually in favor of this idea as they can now wear the uniform both on the road and at home. The only team that won't see this new alternate in their building is Nashville as they wear yellow at home, but there shouldn't be that many meetings between the two teams to warrant an alternate jersey appearance in Music City. But any other team is fair game when Buffalo is on the road, and that could make for some great color-on-color games within their division.

As seen in the video, the team will wear "Buffalo" below the neckline and, from appearances, "Buffalo Sabres" somewhere near the rear hemline, I'm guessing. Both of these additions are entirely unnecessary. It's not like Buffalo is an expansion team and needs to remind fans from where they hail. In fact, they have one of the most iconic logos in sports, and fans demanded its return after the failed bison head experiment and the Buffa-Slug calamity. Let's leave the logo to speak for one's team, shall we?

Again, we find a team writing an essay on the inside of the neckline. Why? What purpose does this serve? It's not like the players are stopping and reading the word "EXCELLENCE" every time they put the jersey on. Let's stop this design. I didn't like it in Nashville with the piano keys, I hated the idea when the Rangers did it, and I'm still not fond of it here. Enough with the interior messages.

I do applaud the Sabres for using a color that is also sorely missed in hockey. Yellow, while often represented in society as the color of cowards, is highly under-utilized in hockey much like the color green. I'm not saying that Buffalo is the right team to wear yellow, but I'll give them a vote of confidence for being bold with their alternate uniform. It will only be seen for a maximum of sixteen games, so I'm not going to rain all over Buffalo's parade at this point. Sight unseen, I'm a fan of bold colors.

We'll probably see a handful of additional teasers come out over the next month and a half before the team takes to the ice in September for training camp, but I think Buffalo's choice for a yellow alternate is the right move after having seen their past iterations. While I was a fan of the red alternate during their black era, Buffalo's choice to go yellow in this era is the right choice. The only thing that appears to drag them back down to earth, though, are the overuse of elements that aren't necessary in making a classic jersey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Spitfire Weekend

I was lucky enough to be asked to coach a women's slo-pitch this weekend in the tournament to decide which teams go to nationals. I have to say that the ladies did well, battling hard in every game to earn victories when it mattered. All in all, the ladies came away with a Provinical Championship after winning a fantastic final game in which they rallied after being down a couple of times. They were led by a pair of dynamic women who could be called "spitfires", most notably my "weekend wife"/bench coach Jill C. and all-star cheerleader/injured reserve Heather D., and got major contributions on the field from Stacey L., Hailey R., Janie D., and weekend MVP Shelby R. Well done, ladies, on your championship!

From one set of spitfires, we move onto another set as the team from Windsor, Ontario decided to update their look for the upcoming 2013-14 season. As seen above, the Spitfires will look a little different than they have over the past five seasons as they have added a pile of color under the armpits and around the shoulder to "freshen up the look".

Comparatively, here's that "stale" look from the last five seasons.
The new dark uniforms will be significantly different in that the base color is now blue rather than red. While the Spitfires won a Memorial Cup while wearing red, apparently the change was necessary. The red underarm colors have been expanded greatly on the new blue uniform while the white has been reduced. There is a historical aspect to the color blue as Windsor used a blue road uniform in the past, so they are hitting their roots in bringing ack the blue. I'm not sure why there is a red swatch that goes from the neckline to the armpit, but I would guess that it's to bring the new underarm colors to some sort of completion point. Honestly, it doesn't work for me. It looks horrible, and really pulls your eyes from the logo which is what should pop on the uniform. Thumbs-down on this execution.

The white uniform will significantly increase the amount of blue under the arms and reduce the red almost altogether. This follows the new color scheme/identity that the team is adopting, but I actually like the red on the old white jersey. This new white uniform, though, finds itself with the same problem as the blue jersey: the added blue shoulder design and increased underarm color actually drown out the logo. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's the logo the most important part of the team's branding? Why is it competing with an unnecessary design element?

Overall, the apron-style uniforms are alive and well in Windsor this season and going forward. I just don't understand why the Spitfires felt it was necessary to update their look after a mere five seasons in their old uniforms in which they won a Memorial Cup. This seems like change for the sake of change, and I'm not really a fan of that. While I appreciate that fans will want to update their wardrobes with the current version of the uniform and merchandise, it makes little sense to update the old uniforms when the Spitfires had just begun building some good history in them.

While final assessments on this site mean little, hockey aprons have never gone over well. Thumbs-down, Windsor, for the aprons and the need to "freshen up the look" when it was entirely unnecessary.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Buyer Beware

I won't deny that EA Sports has basically dominated the hockey market when it comes to video games. They have been making NHL-based video games since 1992 for all sorts of consoles, and NHL '14 is the next greatest thing to come along in this series. Long regarded as the first close-to-perfect-as-possible NHL game was NHL '94, and this year's edition in the NHL series reportedly features an NHL '94 Anniversary Mode to commemorate the 20th anniversary of NHL '94's release. Gamers everywhere went nuts about this, and were even more excited when it was announced that every team would have updated rosters in the anniversary mode.

There's just one problem with this: it's NOT NHL '94, ladies and gentlemen. Not even close.

Back in 1994, there were six current teams that didn't have rosters, let alone franchises. They are the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes. Those six franchises can't have updated rosters because they hadn't been conceived at that point in time. Are you telling me that EA Sports is just going to toss six teams into the NHL '94 world and completely mess up the historical timeline?

The answer to that is "no". And the reason for that "no" is that all EA Sports is doing is giving players a chance to lay NHL '14 in a retro-stylized NHL '94 look. As the information states, "All built within the NHL 14 game engine, NHL 94 Anniversary Mode showcases its hockey video gaming roots through a retro presentation including blue ice, classic star-shaped player indicators, 16-bit arena powerbars, no adboards, and throwback organ music. Relive the glory days of NHL '94 with NHL 94 Anniversary Mode in NHL 14!"
Doesn't quite look like NHL '94 did, does it? Instead, we just get NHL '14 repackaged to look like NHL '94 so that EA Sports honors its roots through this anniversary. While I appreciate EA Sports bringing more attention to a game that I feel is the best of its time by a wide margin, I probably won't be buying NHL '14 because it has a retro-looking NHL '14 game.

I want the real thing. And thankfully, my Sega Genesis works and my copy of NHL '94 is still going strong today! We even hold an NHL '94 tournament at the radio station! Honestly, it's one of the greatest games of all-time, and that's why I have a few of the sprites on my blog today. I absolutely love the game, and it will always stand on its own for its merits.

NHL '14 looks fantastic, but EA Sports shouldn't repackage it in NHL '94's colors. That's just wrong. Caveat emptor, kids.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!