Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Canada's Most Consistent Team

The one team that Hockey Canada can count on for a medal, it seems, is the Canadian Sledge Hockey squad. The boys are currently playing in a tournament in Sochi, Russia - yes, at the same rink they'll play in come February - where they have once again advanced to the final. Canada is hunting for gold at the Four Nations sledge hockey tournament after dispatching Russia earlier today by a 2-1 score as Kevin Rempel, pictured above, had both of Canada's goals. Consistency is one thing, but this squad is still one of the best on the planet after personnel changes over the years!

Canada will face long-time rival Norway in the final, and there's a lot riding on this game. Canada defeated Team USA, the reigning World and Olympic champions, at the IPC World Sledge Championship to capture their first IPC world championship gold medal since 2008. After heartbreak in Vancouver where they dropped their final two games to finish fourth, the Canadians have been on a steady climb towards dominance since their 2010 Olympic shortfall. With the game against Norway set, they'll look to add another gold medal to their haul.

As great as that is, though, the Canadian Sledge Hockey team has basically become a mining company specializing in precious metals. Since 1991, Canada has medalled at almost every tournament the team has played in, and their totals are amazing. Canada has won one gold, one silver, and one bronze at the Paralympic Winter Games, four gold medals and two silver medals at the World Sledge Hockey Championships, three gold medals and three bronze medals at the World Championships, two World Cup Tournament gold medals, a Commemorative Games gold medal, and a Hockey Canada Cup gold medal. Needless to say, twelve gold medals, three silver medals, and four bronze medals over the last 22 years is an impressive haul when playing at the highest level of hockey.

The other team who always seems to be lurking around the podium? Norway. Since 1991, Norway has amassed two gold medals, twelve silver medals, and five bronze medals. Of those totals, they have one Paralympic gold medal, three Paralympic silver medals, and one Paralympic bronze medals. Of those totals, they have three silver medals and three bronze medals at the World Championships. Norway, Canada's opponent tomorrow, will pose a threat as they search for gold as well.

Billy Bridges is leading Team Canada in scoring with two goals and four assists. Greg Westlake and the above-pictured Kevin Rempel have the goal-scoring lead for the Canadians as they have found the back of the net three times apiece. Corbin Watson has been providing some amazing netminding for the Canadian squad as he's played in three games thus far with a 1.03 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Statistically, Canada looks good going into the final, so here's hoping they can knock off their rivals once more and send Norway back to Scandinavia with yet another silver medal!

I'll be cheering from afar tomorrow as the men take the ice against Norway, so here's hoping they can add another medal to their resumés. The best part? Watch it live right here at 16:00 local Russian time! That's 8am ET if you're looking for some early-morning hockey action, kids. I'll probably pull myself out of slumber to catch the game, so GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 30 August 2013

One More Season

It may have taken all summer and there was no LeBron James-esque half-hour TV show to announce it, but Teemu Selanne has confirmed he will play one more season in the NHL as he returns to the Anaheim Ducks for the 2013-14 season. If this doesn't make you happy, I'll understand that you're probably a fan of a team that Selanne victimized over the years with some regularity. But for one of the classiest guys in the NHL, this is an excellent announcement as we'll most likely see him hit a few milestones that will cement his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Selanne's deal is quite modest - one year for $2 million - so the Ducks won't be handcuffed in trying to acquire talent if they hope to make a deep playoff run. But the more important part of the announcement today was that Selanne has said that this season will be his last in the NHL, and that will mark the end of an era filled with fantastic highlights, outstanding contributions to the game, and one Stanley Cup parade.

Speaking of highlights, here's the video confirming that Selanne is returning. Like most of the stuff Selanne is involved in, it's pretty funny as he shows that he's not one of these athletes who takes himself way too seriously.
That's a pretty awesome video. Kudos to the Ducks and to Teemu Selanne for having a great sense of humor. That's why he'll be missed when he's gone - he's a fantastic human being who never loses sight of what is important in the big picture.

Teemu is back. Are you excited? I am!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Fifty-One

The Hockey Show is back on the air at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM tonight, and we'll be debating the Canadian Olympic squad as picked by TSN! Both Beans and I have made selections about who we think should be heading Sochi based on our gut instincts and past performances, and we'll toss around the names to see who we think should be on the flight to Russia. There will be discussion, maybe even an argument or two, about these players, so tune in to hear some possible fireworks over our selections!

We'll also be announcing something major for The Hockey Show as we approach our one-year anniversary show! This new feature that will run weekly is something we're excited about, and it should bring you some more news about some of the on-goings in hockey here in Manitoba. Without saying too much, we're very excited with this partnership so tune in for that announcement.

Beans and I will also chat a little about the KHL as that season starts next week. We'll chat about the Russian and American Olympic uniforms unveiled this week. We'll have a pile of announcements to run down in terms of the hockey scene here in Manitoba. And we'll have our usual crazy antics that we like to work into the show.

With everyone returning to school next week, we'll also run down an event that The Hockey Show will be part of during the first week of September. That event will give you an opportunity to win a number of prizes, so make sure you listen in if you want to win some free stuff!

We have a lot of stuff to squeeze into sixty-minute timeslot, so tune in at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM tonight to catch all the news!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Major Decisions

For a man who already has a pile of experience coaching a red-and-white clad team, Mike Babcock will be under intense scrutiny once again in February when he leads Team Canada into Olympic play. For every person in Canada, there are opinions on who should and should not be on Team Canada, but there are definitely a few locks that no one disputes. The most difficult three months are on the horizon for GM Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock and his staff, so I'm going to wade into the debate by offering who I think should be wearing the maple leaf on their chests this February.

I will base my selections on those made by Canada's sports leader, TSN, and their panel of experts. While I certainly am not including myself in their circle of hockey fiefdom, I do believe that they have made some grave errors when picking this team. I'll explain below as I run through the list of players I would include on my Canadian Olympic team.

Forwards

There are a pile of players I agree with on the TSN list, so there's no need to justify including these players. This list includes Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Jonathan Toews, John Tavares, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, and Patrice Bergeron. These men should make up the core of the forward unit that Canada takes to Sochi, and I can't see these players not going unless seriously injured.

There are some near-locks, though, and they need to be discussed. These are players on TSN's list that I feel could be left watching the Olympics on TV if they play poorly at the start of the NHL season. I'll give my reasons for leaving each behind below.
  • Rick Nash - Everyone seems to believe that Nash is a lock, but I'm not convinced. I expect Nash to be there, but he disappeared in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, and he wasn't on many highlight reels throughout the season. While Nash will get his twenty goals this season, he need to prove to me that he has the dogged determination to do what it takes to win in order to make this team. I'm not questioning his heart, but I am suggesting he needs to play 200-feet of ice much better this season. If he disappears like he did in Torino, I may pull an "I told you so".
  • Chris Kunitz - Kunitz had fantastic season alongside Sidney Crosby last season, but it will take prolonged success alongside Canada's top centerman to convince me that he belongs in this group. Chemistry is vital in a short tournament, and it's clear that Crosby and Kunitz have it. The problem is that I could put a pylon alongside Crosby in some situations, and it would finish the season with 15 goals and 20 assists. Kunitz has to set himself apart from some of the other wingers on here in order to lock his spot on the team, and he can do that by clicking with Crosby early on.
  • Patrick Sharp - Sharp, like Kunitz, needs to find some chemistry with teammate Jonathan Toews early on this season if he hopes to play with Canada. Sharp can be an effective player in a number of roles, but it's his work alongside Toews that could put him over the hump in making this team. Expect Sharp to play bottom-six minutes in Sochi if he goes, but he's an effective, speedy goal-scorer and an excellent forechecker.
  • Martin St. Louis - It's hard to imagine that the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner would be among the players listed as near-locks, but Martin St. Louis has fantastic years where everything goes right, and then he has horrible years where he hits more posts than netting. Again, chemistry is important and his work alongside Steven Stamkos is well-documented, but his start to the season will determine if he has a ticket to Russia.
Finally, there are players that I'm not sure will make Canada a heads-and-shoulder favorite in Sochi. These players are undoubtedly all-stars in the NHL, but the big ice can reduce a man to invisibility as we saw in Torino. These are the guys who I feel may be under the most pressure, and I will suggest replacements who may prove to be a better alternative given what each brings to the table.
  • Eric Staal - Staal played well for Canada at the World Championships last May, but giving him a second-line spot as TSN did might be a bit of a stretch depending on how Carolina breaks out of the gates this season. There's no doubt that Staal can play, but he hasn't shown that tenacity I expected out of him throughout last season. He needs to get it done early on this season, or he may be watching from home this year.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: James Neal - He scores timely goals with the Penguins, and checks with the same ferocity as Staal. The difference? Neal has better wheels and better hands. I like Neal to go over Staal, but he might miss taking sweet feeds from Malkin on the biggest hockey stage.
  • Ryan Getzlaf - Getlaf was effective alongside teammate Corey Perry (chemistry!) on Vancouver's small ice, but he doesn't fit the mold for a large ice surface. While Getzlaf has the heart and desire, his speed can be eclipsed by a number of players in the NHL not on this list. The big ice surface demands speed, and Getzlaf may not be the fleetest of foot any longer. I like his hands, but it's speed that will kill on the big ice.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Mike Richards - Richards is an effective forechecker, a solid scoring threat, and a fantastic shutdown guy. He has chemistry with Jeff Carter already, and Richards was incredibly effective in Vancouver and with several World Junior teams. All in all, Richards more than makes up for what is lost in not bringing Getzlaf.
  • Logan Couture - Couture is an interesting choice because he appears to be on the verge of breaking out as a legitimate NHL star. However, is he ready to be an Olympian this year? I'm not sure that he is. There's no doubt that Couture would benefit from playing, but he would have to show an impressive start to the season to knock off one of the near-locks.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Milan Lucic - If the reports about Lucic are correct, sending the big man over to play alongside teammate Patric Bergeron should be nearly automatic. Off-season reports have him cutting his weight and improving his foot speed, but nothing is confirmed until he hits the ice. If the rumors are true, though, and he kicks off the season the way he ended last year, Lucic could be heading to Russia.
There still are a few guys that should be mentioned as part of the group. I will fully admit that the names listed below are longer-than-longshots to make the team, but I'd love to see these guys get some recognition by having their names added to the discussion.
  • Pascal Dupuis - Is there anything this guy doesn't do? He kills penalties, he scores goals, he back-checks like a demon, and he has speed to spare. For some reason, Dupuis never gets mentioned, but I'd put him on a checking line with Toews and Carter and watch him drive the opposition nuts. Some may say I'm crazy, but I'd almost take Dupuis over Kunitz simply because of how multifaceted his game is.
  • Matt Moulson - I'm surprised that Moulson doesn't get more respect considering that he has three straight 30-goals seasons alongside John Tavares before last season's shortened schedule. Even with the shorter calendar, he still would have averaged 26 goals on his pace. Moulson should get more respect for his skill, and naming him to the team would certainly put him into the spotlight.
  • Jamie Benn - How he was missed for the orientation camp is anyone's guess. But to not recognize Benn's talents here would be criminal. Jamie Benn is a fantastic forward who scores in bunches and has speed to burn. He is and will be Dallas' best player for a long time if he continues on his current development. The fact that he was overlooked for the Canadian orientation camp should motivate him to bump one of the bubble guys listed above.

Defencemen

There are your definite locks on the blue line for Canada as well as Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, and Shea Weber are must-have players for this type of tournament. Like forwards above, though, there are guys who shouldn't be on TSN's list, and I have trouble justifying their inclusion. However, here are the near-locks for the Canadian defensive corps as I see it.
  • Brent Seabrook - Let's see: Stanley Cup? Yup, got two of them. Olympic gold medal? Check. World Junior gold medal? That's in the bag, too. Brent Seabrook should be a lock alongside defensive partner Duncan Keith. Again, chemistry along should make his selection a no-brainer, but somehow he doesn't even crack TSN's projected lineup. I'm not sure why people keep overlooking an intangible such as chemistry, but Keith and Seabrook go together like hockey and beer. Book him a ticket.
  • Alex Pietrangelo - Alex has taken some time to round into form, but I think he would be an excellent fit alongside a player such as Drew Doughty. Pietrangelo doesn't have to be a stand-out defenceman alongside Doughty. He just needs to be his steady self that he is with the Blues. Having Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock on the coaching staff should help Pietrangelo fit into his role, and the Blues alternate captain beings leadership with him.
With five of the seven positions occupied already, there isn't a lot of room left for some of the other guys. But, again, I cannot justify TSN's selections of some players, so here are those players and who I would replace them with in terms of this team.
  • Jay Bouwmeester - His time has come and gone. Bouwmeester was an effective defenceman when he was younger, but Sochi isn't his game. I'm not sure why TSN has such an admiration for Bouwmeester. He was horrendous in Calgary, and he hasn't done much to prove his worth in St. Louis. All in all, this seems like a nostalgia pick. As you're aware, gold medals aren't won with nostalgia.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Travis Hamonic - Maybe you saw this guy play against the Penguins last year in the playoffs? He's a shut-down beast. He checks like the dickens, he hustles on every shift, he sacrifices the body, and he'll be a vocal leader. Could you imagine a shut-down pairing of Weber and Hamonic? We'll just call that pairing "Seek and Destroy".
  • Dan Boyle - Boyle's inclusion is one of veteran savvy and leadership. Essentially, Boyle would be thrust into Scott Niedermayer's role from Vancouver where he would be looked to in key situations. The problem? He's lost a step since turning 40. I really like Dan Boyle for his offence and veteran presence, but there's already a guy on the orientation roster who can do what he does in Duncan Keith and Shea Weber.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Kris Letang - I may take heat over this pick, but if Boyle is going to quarterback the Canadian powerplay, why wouldn't you take the defenceman who had the most powerplay points last season? Not to mention that Letang also was the highest-scoring rearguard last season as well. While I wouldn't use Letang as part of the regular six-man rotation, I would certainly add him to powerplays where he is lethal.
  • Marc Staal - How does TSN give Marc Staal a spot on this team when he missed more than half the season? Staal is a safe pick in that you know what you're going to get with him, but this love affair with all things Staal needs to be kept in check. There is a better shut-down guy on the orientation roster already who has a pair of World Junior gold medals to justify his pick.
    POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Karl Alzner - That guy is Mr. Alzner. There's a reason why Washington leans so heavily on Alzner: he's that damned good. He won't wow you with gaudy stats like Letang, but he's a warrior and he's got deceptive speed. He played a better shut-down role than Staal ever has, and he was one of the reasons that Washington rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Rangers last season. Don't think he's good? Ask Rick Nash how good Alzner was in blanketing him.
You'll notice that I've said nothing of reigning Norris Trophy winner PK Subban. This was done by design. PK Subban, for as good as he is offensively, seems to forget about playing defence occasionally. He takes dumb penalties. He yells at teammates when things aren't going so well. In short, he's immature. At a tournament like the Olympics, the last thing you want is immaturity. I'm not saying that Subban shouldn't go, but I'm saying that at this point I wouldn't have on my team.

Goaltenders

While the coaching staff and officials surrounding Canada's Olympic team have said that no decisions have been made about goaltending, let's cut the crap and just say that Roberto Luongo is a lock. He's going to be in Sochi regardless of how he plays simply because he has risen to the challenge in big games before on the international stage. In saying that, book him in as one of the three men taking the goalie equipment to Russia.

Of the other four men invited, I'd say that the other two spots should be filled by Carey Price and Cory Crawford at this point. Braden Holtby hasn't been good enough for long enough and Mike Smith put together one good playoff run for the Coyotes. While other men such as Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Ward should be tossed into the mix as well, there's no denying that Price and Crawford have the pedigrees to take the final two spots.

Other interesting names that have been mentioned include Devyn Dubnyk, James Reimer, Jonathan Bernier, and Brian Elliott, but I'm not sure that any of those four men have proven themselves better than the five men named to the orientation camp. Of course, you could probably eliminate one or two names in comparison, but it's hard to eliminate Price and Crawford from the discussion when it comes to these four men.

So my goaltending picks would be Luongo, Crawford, and Price in that specific order.

What say you, readers? Am I off? Anything you like or dislike? Have I forgotten anyone? Have your say in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Lots Of Unnecessary

After running down some Russian news stories yesterday, this Canadian hockey blog turns its attention to our neighbours to the south... and northwest. Team USA rolled out their updated uniforms created by Nike at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Washington, DC and the reaction was, well, lukewarm at best. I've always been a fan of the historical Team USA jerseys for their classy and understated look, and it appears that Nike wanted to use the team's history to create a memorable uniform for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. If there's one thing that Nike ensured, they will be memorable. Perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Here is what the men's hockey team representing the USA will wear in Sochi.
Nike deemed these uniforms to be based on "decades of design". I guess you can claim that when you base your design on the 1932 Team USA sweater, but it gets garbled when you mix 1976 Team USA elements in. If you're like me when you saw these uniforms, immediately your eye was drawn towards the shiny stars plastered all over the shoulders. I'm not saying it's bad, but I find them to be entirely unnecessary. For a team that prides itself on the red-white-and-blue, the latter two colours are represented well. While I get that the logo adds more red, it's almost as if Nike wanted to use as little red as possible. Could they have not added a red hem stripe?

Apparently not. According to Nike, there were a pile of new design elements and ideas used in creating this uniform. Nike employed "reduced seaming" to eliminate weight and create "a more traditional blocked look". Except that hem stripe that's missing IS a traditional hockey look. It helps to give a blocked look to the uniform. I'm not sure how much extra weight the uniform would have had with the additional stripe, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have made the difference between gold and silver. Oh, and "[l]ightweight premium letters and numbers shave off unnecessary weight"? Whoopty-freaking-doo.

One cool feature? Nike used "recycled polyester" as it "embraces sustainable innovation without compromising performance. Each jersey is made from about seventeen plastic bottles and the socks use approximately five plastic bottles." I'm totally a fan of this idea. Well done on being green, Nike. The only question I have is how the uniforms will stand up to wear and tear. Time will tell, I suppose.

And just to top off the rhetoric about how scientifically fantastic these uniforms are, Nike added "[z]oned ventilation and articulated sleeves for ventilation and maximum range of motion" and "[s]tretch open hole mesh under arm for added ventilation." In other words, the players won't be too warm on the ice. This isn't science. These are holes. Holes are not scientific.

Honestly, though, if the players like them and feel comfortable in them, does it really matter what I think? David Backes gave us his thoughts today when he said, "I like it. I think they're very snazzy. Anything with USA on it is fine by me. Someone put a lot of thought into it and designed a pretty nice jersey," he said. When asked about the fake laces on the neckline, he replied, "That's maybe suspect." So not everything gets a pass by the players either.

The one thing that Nike added was a message inside the neckline of the uniform. The patriotic message "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" is written along the neckline on the inside of the uniform, continuing a trend that was started in the NHL and one that I particularly hate. What purpose does this message serve? Are the players who are suiting up for America unaware of this motto? Is this the first time any of them have heard those words spoken about their birth country? WHY DO TEAMS INSIST ON DOING THIS?!?

And just for good measure and to annoy me even further, Nike also paid homage to the 1960 and 1980 USA gold medal winners by putting a reminder of these two teams inside the right sleeve. While my writing doesn't convey it, I am enraged right now. STOP PUTTING USELESS CRAP ON THE INSIDE OF THE UNIFORMS! Although, it appears that the references to the gold medal-winning American squads are actually along the neckline. So which is it, Nike? Two images with two different messages - something fishy is going on here.

While the uniform is historic in its empirical form, all the extraneous garbage found on this uniform brings it down. I appreciate Nike's homage to the history of Team USA and I'll even credit them for using the recycled plastic bottles in making these uniforms, but the lack of a distinctive American colour, the lack of traditional hockey sweater elements, and the extremely unnecessary "features" of this uniform will have the Americans in the middle of the pack in Sochi when it comes to their look.

Let's just hope the American women look better in their uniforms.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 26 August 2013

It's All Russia Today

With the KHL season set to start next week and the anticipation of the Sochi Olympics growing, hockey in Russia is reaching an apex. There's a lot to be excited about, and it seems as though the country is starting to get its hockey-mad persona back. Of course, I'm in Canada so I can't speak of whether they lost that persona or not - my guess is they haven't - but you get the idea that we here in North America know little about what's happening on Russia's sports scene. In saying that, though, we got some news on this side of the pond today, so let's work through a couple of points.

Fight of the Summer

From SovSport and Puck Daddy, HBIC is proud to present the fight of the summer.
If you're appalled at what's going on, let me give you a little background. That's Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin play-fighting with a seven year-old from a local hockey school team in Tver. It's all part of a charity game organized by Ilya Kovalchuk of SKA St. Petersburg. If you watch closely, Malkin throws the first punch as the two sides are shaking hands. The young man, not one to back down from any player regardless of size, engages Malkin despite giving up at least a foot in height and probably about 100 lbs. in weight. While it appears that Malkin has the upperhand, throwing punches and nearly jerseying the kid, things change as they reach the corner when the youngster jerseys Malkin and the superstar finds himself face-down on the ice.

The best part? If you look closely at the end of the video, you can see the young man smiling from ear to ear. He's going to have stories to tell his kids for years about he beat the heck out of one of the sport's greatest players. Kudos to Evgeni Malkin for making one youngster's entire hockey career with a 39-second scrap. Even if he doesn't play hockey for a living, he'll be able to tell everyone about the day he beat Evgeni Malkin in a hockey fight!

New Russian Duds

From championat.com, Team Russia unveiled their new look for the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games as Alexander Ovechkin and women's team member Ekaterina Smolenceva modeled the new uniforms.
I actually like what Nike has done on these uniforms. They aren't overstated or gaudy, they avoided the lace-up collar (finally!), and both uniforms feel Russian in their designs. The women's uniform incorporates the Russian coat-of-arms into the sublimated design, and the men use the coat-of-arms as the logo on their chests. While the fonts and back of the uniforms weren't shown, I'd say these uniforms deserve a couple of thumbs-up overall.

Ten-Cent Head

There's is no doubt that Alexander Radulov has an immense amount of talent. He showed his skills with the Nashville Predators for a few short years before bolting back to Russia to play in the KHL. Since that time, he's been a regular on that circuit's all-star squads, and he routinely is found atop or near the leaders in most offensive categories. But something is seriously wrong with his head.

It was reported today that Alexander Radulov was stripped of his captaincy by CSKA GM Sergei Fedorov after having "problems with discipline". While Fedorov didn't elaborate on what the issue was in terms of the discipline Radulov faced, he did state, "He shouldn’t and cannot be hurt" in regards to losing the letter on his jersey. Former Penguin and Ak Bars Kazan team member Alexei Morozov will assume the captaincy after Radulov's demotion.

It's hard to tell whether Radulov is worth the trouble he seems to bring with him where ever he plays. He's walked out on contracts (Nashville), he nearly decapitated a goalie coach with a stick (Salavat Yulaev Ufa), and now he's caught the ire of Sergei Fedorov in Moscow. What gives?

For all the talent Radulov seems to have on the ice, all I see is an immature jerk with a ten-cent head.

There are a few quick stories from Russia. As always, comments welcome!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Interesting List

I happened to be watching an interesting TV program tonight as MacLean's magazine presented a pile of lists based on their research for their annual publication of lists. The program hit on all major topics - crime, politics, sports, annual wages, etc. - but there was one list in particular that made me wonder about how the list's results were compiled. Rarely does one see a hockey player cry, especially when on the ice, but the waterworks seem to flow freely for some players off the ice. The list presented by MacLean's about Canada's crying hockey players is fairly accurate in its selections, but the order should be changed if I were asked.

5. Ray Bourque

I'm pretty sure that if you win the Stanley Cup after playing for nearly a quarter of a decade and missing out, you're allowed to show a little emotion. Does this count? According to MacLean's magazine, it does.

4. Mark Messier

Mark Messier at #4? He cried almost every time a microphone was in front of him. There's no doubt that Messier should be on this list, but the guy could have bottled the tears he wept and sold them as holy water. Skip ahead to 15:40 for some real Messier tears when talks about his parents being an inspiration. Again, I believe that there's some freedom when it comes to retiring from the game you love, but Messier cried. A lot.

3. Todd Bertuzzi

I'm going to give Todd Bertuzzi the benefit of the doubt and say that those tears he shed were real while apologizing to Steve Moore after potentially ending his career. The remorse in light of the incident is something that should be very real, so I'm not so sure that this apology should be on the list. That just seems heartless and cruel.

2. Eric Lindros

Before we get to Lindros, did you see the hair on Ron MacLean? That was 18 years ago! Ok, as for Lindros, I'm pretty sure he was overwhelmed in winning the Hart Trophy, but you would think that he would have been a little more celebratory after showing the world that he could be the best player on the planet. Eric Lindros, though, breaks down on stage as he's giving his speech.

1. Wayne Gretzky

Does this one even need an introduction? The day of the most famous trade in sports broke Gretzky down to tears, and helped spawn several books about that day that call into question whether those tears were real. "I promised Mess I wouldn't do this" is engrained in Canadian history. With it being the 25th anniversary of the trade this year, it only seems appropriate that Wayne Gretzky is at the top of the list.

Are there others? Should someone be swapped out - Bourque or Bertuzzi? Should Messier be higher? Sound off in the comments, folks. I'm sure there are other Canadian players out there who have been reduced to tears at some point, and perhaps they should be added to the list!

Just as an aside, another interesting comment came out of the program. Everyone knows that Darryl Sittler scored ten points against the Boston bruisn to set an NHL record which, in my view, will never be broken. So it was asked of Darryl Sittler what his pregame meal was that night. His answer? Swiss Chalet chicken and french fries.

I get that Swiss Chalet is big in Ontario, and I know a ton of people from Ontario who swear by Swiss Chalet. But as a pregame meal before a hockey game? How times have changed when it comes to diet!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

New Faces In New Places

Two of the key free agents are off the market with Mikhail Grabovski and Douglas Murray signing contracts with new teams. There are still a number of solid players available, but with teams tight against the cap, the window to sign these players at what would be considered fair market value is closing fast. However, the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens feel they have upgraded to positions of weakness with their signings.

There was lots of talk this summer about Mikhail Grabovski joining a couple of teams, but the one team always mentioned was the Washington Capitals. The Capitals finally put that rumor to rest by officially signing Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million deal that will give the former Leaf a chance to play top-six minutes as a playmaking forward. While he may not line up beside Ovechkin regularly, there's no doubt that Grabovski will be given the opportunity to excel in Washington's system.

Adam Oates spent time speaking with Grabovski, and it appears the coach and player are on the same page already. "I like the system," Grabovski told reporters on a conference call. "I like that they're an offensive team and one of the teams who really wants me. General manager and coach, everybody wants me and they like how I play before. I chose Washington because they really trust me and I think I can help them."

While I had hoped that the Jets could talk Grabovski into coming to Winnipeg, I actually think he fits well in Washington. He likes to play the offensive game, but really showed a strong defensive side to his game last season in Toronto. If he can play a solid two-way game this season, people will quickly forget about Mike Ribeiro. If he reverts back to the old way he played, though, this could be a long season for Mikhail Grabovski.

The other team who needed to fill a void in terms of hitting and toughness on their blueline was the Montreal Canadiens, and they feel they have done that with the signing of Douglas Murray to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Murray will certainly bring he physicality, but his foot speed might be called into question this upcoming season.

For a guy with seven goals and 55 assists in eight NHL seasons, you had better hope that Murray is out there clearing the front of the net at every turn. Otherwise, I'm not sure why the Habs need him when they may have cheaper alternatives in the minors.

The one concern that the Penguins had last season was Murray's speed. It looked like he was skating in quicksand some nights, but he was able to line up some monster hits in the playoffs. If there was one team that exposed Pittsburgh's defence, it was Montreal's division rival in the Boston Bruins. And, of course, Montreal will see Boston a lot this season. If Murray has improved his foot speed, though, this could be a decent signing.

Lastly, there are still a couple of decent players on the market. Brenden Morrow, Guillaume Latendresse, Brad Boyes, Damien Brunner, Mason Raymond, and Tim Connolly can be had for the right price. The only question is whether there are any teams needing these players at the asking price.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Updates For Friday

I have a few things I want to update today. Ironically, my little netbook requires a number of updates, so I felt this was a good time to do some updates on the old blog as well. I have a pile of updates to add to the Musicians In Jerseys article which I'm going to link on the right, and I also have to reach out to some of the winners in the HBIC Playoff Pool. Today seems like a good day to do this. Let's begin.

Let's start with Terry Kath. Terry has made a number of appearances on the Musicians In Jerseys article during his time with the band Chicago. He's even worn a Chicago Blackhawks jersey while playing with Chicago. So how appropriate is it that he sported the jersey of the other professional hockey franchise that played in the Windy City? Very appropriate if you ask me.

Black Sabbath was recently in Toronto where they received honorary uniforms for their musical longevity. While I have yet to see Ozzy Osbourne in a Leafs jersey - and how awesome would that be despite it being the Leafs - we do have the band holding their uniforms and Geezer Butler showing off the front and back of his uniform. Solid addition to the Musicians In Jerseys article, and a good find by John M.

We've known for a while that Michael Bublé is a hockey fan being a proud Canadian and all. We now have a picture of Mr. Bublé on the ice with the team! Excellent find by Sheila G.

We've seen lots of pop acts arrive in arenas to receive jerseys. One Direction has shown up on the list before as they've played in Toronto, but here's a photo of them recently in San Jose sporting Sharks uniforms! Notice that they are the old home jerseys as well.

Finally, we have another proud Canadian sporting Canadian colors as Dean Brody wore a Team Canada uniform in his Canadian Girls video. Excellent find by WiWi Joe!

We'll move onto the HBIC Playoff Pool. I need to have four of the final five people contact me via email ASAP: John M., Brandee T., Michael J., and Christopher C. As much as I like Gmail as my email provider for all thins hockey in my life, it has a flaw.

I hadn't emailed these four people yet since I was waiting on others to respond for their prizes. Because I hadn't emailed them, they officially don't show up in my email contacts. However, I had starred their emails in the trash folder because they were winners. Little did I realize that after thirty days of residing in the trash folder, Gmail would do me a favor by deleting these emails.

So if John M., Brandee T., Michael J., and Christopher C. could contact me ASAP, I'll get you your deserved prizes!

That's all for tonight, kids. It's hot and humid, and I'm taking a break. With it being even warmer tomorrow, this weekend might consist of quick entries rather than well-planned discussions.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Fifty

The Hockey Show returns tonight with our normal insanity as we discuss all of the on-going in the hockey world from the past two weeks. We'll also discuss the Duncan MacPherson story a little more after last week's interview with Bob and Lynda MacPherson as both Beans and I are still in shock over some of the stuff that went on during the investigation into Duncan's disappearance. This will be a fun show as we work towards our one-year anniversary in a couple of weeks!

Some of the topics we'll take a look at tonight will include:
  • the sale of the New Jersey Devils.
  • new uniforms for the Providence Bruins and San Jose Sharks, and our thoughts on each unveiling.
  • the debacle in Toronto over the Transit Commission's proposed new uniforms.
  • off-season injuries to Claude Giroux and Sheldon Souray.
  • the return of the Burger King jersey in Manchester and some of our favorite eyesore jerseys of all-time.
  • Jared Keeso's performance in Elysium.
  • some upcoming promotional stuff that The Hockey Show is involved in.
All in all, it's going to be a busy night. But that also means we want to hear from you! If you want to chat about any of the above topics or anything else in the hockey world that has caught your attention, give us a call at 204-269-UMFM (8636)! I'll also be keeping my eye on my Twitter feed, @TeebzHBIC, so tweet away and we'll get your tweets on the air! The Hockey Show goes live at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM so listen in and give us a call!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A New Meaning To "Riding The Bus"

In every minor-league sports league, players talk about "riding the bus". It's a rite of passage in moving on to the big leagues where players stay in four-star hotels, have staff that carry their equipment, and have meals prepared for them. Riding the bus is all about learning the professional game on the way up. However, bus drivers in Toronto recently rejected a motion to change their uniforms because they resembled an arch-rival's look far too much. We saw how devastating it can be to a Habs fan when he receives a Maple Leafs jersey in Roch Carriere's Le Chandail. For the same reasons, the Toronto Transit Commission voted down the idea of wearing the colours of the Canadiens while driving buses in Toronto!

"They just don't look good to begin with but the fact that they do reflect the Montreal Canadiens colour scheme has been very dissatisfying to our members here in Toronto," TTC union president Bob Kinnear told CBC's Daybreak Montreal. "I think considering the overwhelming response from the employees, there's going to be some reconsidering." Currently, the TTC wears grey slacks with a light blue shirt when on-duty.

Here's the video from the CBC about this clothing debacle.
Honestly, this entire story made me laugh when I first read it. I get that transit employees in, say, Boston wouldn't be in favor of wearing white shirts with navy pinstripes due to their new uniform's resemblance with the uniforms worn by the New York Yankees. But would there be any outrage if the shirt was red with navy pinstripes? In all honesty, does anyone actually associate the red-and-blue striped golf shirt with the Montreal Canadiens? I see how one could make the stretch that it could be Canadiens' colours, but let's be serious here: if I wear a black-and-gold stripes shirt, I'm automatically a Bruins supporter?

Secondly, the striped uniforms slightly resemble the throwbacks worn by the Canadiens a few years ago, but the Canadiens wear nothing even close to the proposed TTC uniform today. If you remember, the Habs are affectionately known as "les bleus-blancs-et-rouges" - the red, white, and blues - in Quebec. While there may be some white incorporated into the TTC logo, there is absolutely no white on that proposed uniform.

Perhaps the best solution to all of this was the proposal put forth by Tom Mouhteros, a representative of the union representing Montreal bus and metro drivers. He stated that the Montreal bus and metro drivers would happily take the proposed TTC uniforms in exchange for the all-blue uniforms his colleagues have been wearing.

"They can ship them down here," said Tom Mouhteros. "We've been wearing blue. We never complained. All we were missing was the Toronto maple leaf, and we never complained. That's a good point: we supported them for so many years, they can support us."

I'm not sure if Mr. Mouhteros is referring to the TTC or the Montreal Canadiens when he talks about supporting them, but does it really matter? If Montreal's transit workers want the uniforms that Toronto doesn't, why not solve both problems with one stone? Seems fairly elementary to me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Less Is More A Practice Jersey

Back when the San Jose Sharks were a relatively new team, they wore very little color on their uniforms outside of the stripes on the hem and sleeves. They had their pristine whites, as modeled by Igor Larionov to the left, and their bold teal road uniforms which sold like hot cakes. Over time, the Sharks added elements to their look, they changed primary colors from teal to a grayer shade of teal to black, and they threw some orange in to shake the color palette up in their color scheme. However, the Sharks decided to go back to the future with their newest uniform updates, and I'm not so sure that I like the look.

The San Jose Sharks unveiled their new home and road looks today, and I actually approve of the idea that less is more on a hockey jersey. The Sharks have been simplifying their looks over the last few years, but I believe they may have taken this simplification a wee bit too far. I'll explain more below, but here is the home jersey template with all the accoutrements.
The Sharks removed the black shoulder yoke from the uniform, leaving the uniform one color. I can live with this due their grayish-blue hue being one of the best solid colors in the league. There's no piping, there's much less orange, and there's a lace-up collar. We'll categorize those features as good, indifferent, and overused. The stripe on the sleeves has also been made smaller than in previous iterations of the home jersey. However, the one major flaw that I saw? No hem stripe.

There have been other teams that have done the no-stripe thing. Toronto was one of the first teams to do so in 2007, but they gave in to public outcries and the hem stripe returned in 2008. It has worked for other teams, though, as the Phoenix Coyotes are still without a hem stripe since the introduction of the Reebok EDGE jerseys, so maybe it's a southwestern thing? In any case, the Sharks will play this season without the hem stripe.

The changes seen on the home jersey were also copied for the road jerseys as seen below, but I will point out why the changes on this jersey bother me.
On white jerseys, there needs to be some sort of coloration in order to prevent the uniform from resembling a practice jersey. The Coyotes get around this by employing a shoulder yoke on the road jersey only. Otherwise, you get a road uniform that looks like a practice jersey instead of something worn by a pro hockey team. Now some will rise up and want to tear me a new one for criticizing this uniform, but when you see Dan Boyle skating in it, are you sure he's not at a practice? And yes, I'm aware that the player in the image is Raffi Torres.

Apparently, the reason for the lack of a hem stripe and the inclusion of the lace-up collar wasn't about style, but about weight! If you noticed in last year's playoffs, the Sharks went with their black alternates rather than their normal home uniforms. Why? The black uniforms are lighter in terms of total weight! In fact, the Sharks were 7-0 in those uniforms in last season's postseason. With numbers like that, the obvious move was to downsize the current uniforms to make them more lightweight as well. Doug Wilson was quoted as saying,
The jersey was designed mainly with performance in mind. Remove extra weighting. Make it as efficient as our third jersey, the black jersey. From the performance side, just the weight of it. If you take a look at our black jersey, the players really love that one. Not only the success they had with it, but weight of it. For movement and everything. The players and trainers had the most input.
Look, I get that the players can't be weighed down by a pile of extra weight on the ice where speed can be a deciding factor in a game. But how much extra weight was the neckline and the stripe actually adding? Is this another one of those claims like Reebok made about the uniforms making players nine-percent faster? Personally, I just think it's player preference, but maybe there is a significant weight difference.

In any case, the Sharks will go stripe-less and yoke-less for this season, and try to encourage fans to spend $300 on a jersey that has less fabric, less stitching, and less overall work put into it than most other NHL jerseys. I'm not sure that's a sound business plan, but if the Sharks can win the Stanley Cup in these lighter jerseys, expect a number of teams to follow suit in simplifying their looks.



Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Minor-League Updates

There have been some updates to uniforms in the minor leagues, and I wanted to point these out today. Just to clarify, the senior citizen to the left was not signed by the Hershey Bears, but he is wearing the new uniform they unveiled last summer. I guess it all ties together in some convoluted way in my mind, but who knows what I was thinking when I saw that image? Let's get to the new uniforms for two minor-league teams.

We'll start in the minor-pro CHL, not the Canadian junior circuit. The Tulsa Oilers decided to update their look, and they will sport the following uniforms.
Nothing overly innovative here for Tulsa, but I do like the alternate jersey. It's got a throwback-esque feel to it, and the simple oil can sleeve patch is a nice touch.

The regular logos have been updated slightly, modifying the look of the logo to be more modern. The shoulder patches look good while not being overstated, and the font is legible on the back of the jerseys. While this feels a lot like what the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs wear, the Oilers pull off a good look in a uniform template that we've seen before. Again, that alternate jersey is unique in terms of logo and color, so this rebranding would be a success in my books as the Oilers kept things simple.

We'll skip over to the AHL for what I am anticipating to be one of the best changes in all of sports this calendar year. The Providence Bruins unveiled their new looks for the season, and this teaser first caught my eye because of what is missing!
What you don't see on that teaser is a white uniform! At first, I thought that maybe the Bruins were just showing off their new road and alternate uniforms, but the Bruins actually launched an entire site to explain their uniform choices for the upcoming season!

The key note on page two of that presentation is that the Bruins are officially abandoning the white uniform in favor of the gold color! That means that anytime the Bruins play at home, we're going to see a color-on-color match-up. Games in Providence might be the most aesthetically-pleasing hockey games seen on the planet this season. Teams like the Nashville Predators should take notice in terms of how well this experiment works.

The road jersey simply inverts the colors of the gold uniform. They did, however, employ a contrasting name plate for the road jersey. I'm not sure why this phenomenon continues to grow. I get that the Flyers used it in the 1970s, but there's honestly no reason for teams to employ it today if there is no historical reason to do so. To me, it just looks wrong because of how much it stands out. Teams always tell players to play for the name on the front, not on the back, yet the Providence Bruins are highlighting the name on the back. That's the wrong message to be sending to players who learning the professional game. I realize this probably isn't the intention, but the road to hell is paved with millions of good intentions.

Speaking about that road to hell, the alternate uniform is decidedly black despite the Bruins stating that "[t]he alternate uniform redesign centered on removing white to put the focus on black (and) gold". Right idea, poor execution. There's almost no gold on the alternate uniform despite the focus being on the color scheme. It almost reminds me of the corporate jerseys that the Canadian women wore at the last World Championship. More gold? Yes, please!

Overall, the Bruins will look sharp in yellow at home this year. I can live with the black road jersey, and I'll stomach the blacker-than-black alternate simply because there's going to be a ton of gold at the Dunkin' Donuts Center this year. This has been long overdue in terms of seeing a bright color replace a white jersey, so kudos to the Providence Bruins for this move!

What say you readers: likes or dislikes when it comes to Tulsa's and Providence's new looks?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Is He In Or Out?

Reports broke today that the man to the left, Jose Theodore, was going to add another team to his résumé this weekend. All reports seemed to indicate that Theodore had passed a physical with the Boston Bruins to become the backup to Tuukka Rask for the upcoming season. It appears his salary would be somewhere in the range of $800,000 to $1 million, and all signs pointed to Boston having a solid tandem for their blue paint. Or so it seemed. With Twitter lighting up about the imminent signing, there suddenly were many who refuted the story. So is Theodore in or out?

At this point, it seems that this was nothing more than an exercise in Twitter rage. "Close to signing" doesn't mean he signed. After all, Boston was "close to acquiring Iginla" last season at the deadline, and look how that worked out for the media!



So despite what several reputable sources reported, TSN's Bob McKenzie - whose opinion is beyond respected on this blog - and Theodore's agent, Mr. Don Meehan, have both stated that the rumours of Theodore signing in Boston is untrue. I understand that there are a vast number of outlets in the media world who want to break stories, but being first without having concrete evidence of story being true is simply terrible journalism.

I get that there are bloggers and Twitter folk that may break a story before the mainstream media if the media is required to fact-check a story to be true. But that's precisely why the media have their credentials: ACCURACY IS IMPORTANT!
Agreed, Zach. Until it happens, the Bruins are no closer to signing Theodore than I am. As it stands, Jose Theodore is not a Boston Bruin. He may be soon, but he may also opt for a different opportunity in the meantime. The only thing certain regarding Jose Theodore right now? He's still a free agent. Bank on that, readers. It's accurate.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Isn't This A Hockey Blog?

Yes, it is a hockey blog, but I spent my evening last night in the company of friends, including radio co-host Beans, at the theater to check out Elysium! We went mainly because we wanted to check out Jared Keeso's performance in the movie, and the movie was pretty darn good. In fact, it will probably end up as part of my DVD collection one day. In any case, Mr. Keeso's performance is brief, but his final scene may leave a lasting impression. As he's said on The Hockey Show a couple of times, he almost isn't recognizable, but we figured out who he was after a couple of appearances on camera. Well done on the movie, Jared, and we all came out of the theater with positive reviews!

I do want to touch on a couple of things. Despite some negative reviews in newspapers and on websites, this was a good film. It did slow down in some parts, but that's to be expected with any movie. While Damon and Foster probably won't win any Academy Awards for this film, I have to say that Sharlto Copley was brilliant in his role. You will be impressed with his work as "Kruger" - fantastic performance! Go see Elysium if you can. Just don't expect it to be Gone with the Wind.

With that out of the way now, let's move on to some hockey news!

Ottawa Spat

Anyone else sick of the crap going on in Ottawa over who is to blame for Daniel Alfredsson leaving the nation's capital? Melnyk, Murray, and company seem to want to blame Alfredsson's agent, J.P. Barry, while Alfredsson feels that the Senators went back on a deal he had asked for when he signed his last contract. While I appreciate all that Alfredsson and Melynk have done in the Ottawa region, stop pointing fingers and looking for a TV camera for a soundbyte.

Alfredsson is one of the most beloved athletes in Ottawa history, and all this is doing is tarnishing the player's reputation, the team's attractiveness for other free agents, and everyone in the Ottawa front office. And it's not like this is the first time that Melnyk has taken the low road when it comes to a player leaving, although Dany Heatley's leaving of Ottawa was under far different circumstances.

Personally, I find it hard to root for a team whose owner likes to sling mud. He's a business owner first and a fan second. Eugene Melnyk should have done the classy thing and simply wishes Alfredsson well on his new team. This blame game has done nothing for him personally in the court of public opinion. To fans outside the Ottawa region, it just makes him look petty.

Super Giroux

How crazy was the news about Claude Giroux requiring surgery after his golf club exploded and wrecked his finger? Golf clubs today have a lot of give in them as technology has significantly changed the way clubs are made and the force that they can exert and absorb. I'm not sure what kind of club that Giroux was swinging, but to have it explode in his hands is pretty amazing. I'm not saying he's like the Incredible Hulk or anything, but that takes some serious strength.

Of course, it could simply be from overuse. After all, the Flyers had a lot of time to play golf this past off-season. ZING!

Devil Of A Deal

The New Jersey Devils have a new set of owners today as Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris and business partner David Blitzer bought the floundering club from snake oil salesman Jeff Vanderbeek for $320 million. Included in the deal is the lease to the Prudential Center where the Devils play. Honestly, I'm completely for this ownership change because Harris and Blitzer have the funds to make this work. In keeping Lou Lamiorello on their staff, the hockey club has a sound front office. All they need now is for the fans to come down to Newark to watch the team play.

Scott O'Neil, Madison Square Garden Sports' former chief executive, will take over the CEO position with the Devils, and it appears this team is poised to turn around not only the Devils - who reportedly lost $25 million this past year - but the Prudential Center as well. If Harris and Blitzer run the team and building like a business, there's no reason to believe that they will be successful with this foray into hockey. If the Devils are run as a second-thought to the 76ers, though, there's a good chance that the Devils will continue to fail.

Judging by how the two men spoke at the press conference, I'm leaning towards the Devils being profitable again very soon.

That's all for today for a busy Saturday for me. It's going to be a hot, muggy day in my neck of the woods, so stay hydrated and shaded if you live near me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 16 August 2013

The King Lives!

The logo to left hasn't been seen in the NHL since the 1995-96 season when it was worn on the alternate jersey of the Los Angeles Kings. You remember that uniform, don't you? The one that fans now affectionately call the "Burger King" jersey? It was an eyesore that most tried to forget after that season despite it being worn by prominent names in Kings' history like Gretzky, Kurri, McSorley, and Blake. For a smaller number of fans, though, that jersey is a sign of dedication to the team, and the jersey is one of the more prominent pieces of memorabilia that a Los Angeles Kings fan can own. Yesterday, though, it was announced that the Burger King jersey will live on, although not quite in the same fashion it did before.

The AHL's Manchester Monarchs hold a specialty jersey night where they skate in a former uniform styling of their NHL parent club, the Los Angeles Kings. The second annual Los Angeles Kings Night will be held in January 2014 this year, and there were three different Kings uniforms for which one could vote. The Monarchs began the contest on August 1 where fans could opt for one of three jerseys: the yellow jersey from the 1972-1980 seasons, the "Burger King" jersey from 1995-96, or the purple jersey the Kings wore from 2002-2007. When given those three options, though, would there be any doubt?

Thanks to some assistance from Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog, fans responded. And oh how they responded! 75% of the total votes cast went to the Burger King jersey, proving that as hideous as once believed, this uniform lives on in infamy for all its glorious ugliness. Honestly, I'd be proud to have one of these in my jersey collection. It would be a point of pride. Seriously.

So I took the liberty of mocking up a Monarchs "Burger King" jersey. I have to say that the more I see this, the more I like it.
Is this a good look for the Monarchs? Personally, the Burger King jersey always felt minor-league, so having the Monarchs don it doesn't feel out of place at all to me. And yes, they should use the era-specific Los Angeles Kings logo to add more weight to the Burger King jersey. After all, the Kings were the "innovators" of this look.

What say you, readers: pass or fail on the Monarchs having a little fun with an eyesore of a jersey?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Hockey Show - Episode Forty-Nine

The Hockey Show is honored and privileged to be able to bring to you today two people who want to tell their story about an experience they endured. HBIC covered the story a while back, but the two people that were most affected by the events in the story will appear on The Hockey Show today to tell their side. We are honoured to have Bob and Lynda MacPherson on the program today as we discuss the disappearance of their son, Duncan, in 1989, the cover-up done in Austria regarding his disappearance, and the book written about their son's disappearance that has led the MacPhersons to more answers in what had to be one of the worst times of their lives.

Duncan MacPherson was drafted 20th overall by the New York Islanders in 1984, and appeared to be a tough defensive defenceman that the rebuilding Islanders could use. He arrived on Long Island in 1986, but injuries kept him from a roster spot and he was relegated to the minor leagues. After bouncing around the Islanders' farm system, he was let by the team in 1989 at the age of 23.

Duncan took some advice from friends and headed to Europe to continue his hockey career. He left in August of 1989 with plans of arriving in Dundee, Scotland to play hockey as a player-coach on August 12. The problem was that he never arrived in Dundee, and no one knew what happened to him.

While the information was chronicled by me some time ago, I was lucky enough to get in contact with the MacPhersons. In reaching out to them, they want to tell their story about Duncan's disappearance. I'll be promoting the book about Duncan's disappearance - Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery written by John Leake and published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform - in the hopes that a few of you help the MacPhersons out by buying a copy. Honestly, you won't be disappointed in the writing. Mr. Leake did excellent work on this book.

Tune in at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM as we speak with the MacPhersons about the tragedy surrounding their son. I am looking forward to allowing them to tell their story, and hopefully you'll find the interview engaging. If you can, please pick up a copy of Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery so you can get the full story about Duncan MacPherson's disappearance and the mystery that surrounded it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Where In The World Is Letterkenny?

If you happened to catch Jared Keeso on The Hockey Show last week, you know we went over a pile of information on his YouTube series known as Letterkenny Problems. Letterkenny, Ontario is actually a ghost town found about 125kms west of Ottawa. The entire population is zero, but Jared Keeso and Nathan Dales are making the former farming town pretty famous thanks to their two-minute videos. Honestly, if you were a fan of Corner Gas and/or Trailer Park Boys, you're probably going to love these videos. And if you are Canadian and love all-dressed potato chips, you're probably already chuckling at what's to come.

I won't say much about the video other than the language used in the video is not kid-friendly. Parents, please be responsible when it comes to viewing Letterkenny Problems. I don't want to keep you in suspense, though, so here is the episode that is affectionately entitled "Hockey Players".

Honestly, I've laughed at some awesome stuff, but that was priceless. Keeso and Dales knock that episode out of the ballpark with their country-fied "good ol' boys" chatter. It's honestly one of the best videos I've seen on the 'net in a long, long time.

But we're not done there, kids. Oh no, there are more episodes, and each has their own spin on the problems found in Letterkenny, Ontario. There are some classic lines used in these episodes, so you may want to jot a few down. I'm not going to embed the video, but I will link to the individual episodes below. Click the link, watch the video, and laugh your butt off.


Honestly, Keeso and Dales have a hit on their hands. If you listen to the podcast from last week's show, you also know that Letterkenny Problems is on the verge of becoming huge! Go back, download the podcast, and listen to Jared explain everything about Letterkenny Problems. And if you wanna blow smoke, go light a dart!

UPDATE: Thanks to HuffPo linking back to this article, I have linked the podcast featuring Mr. Jared Keeso and his chatter about Letterkenny Problems here. If you get the Google Docs warning, it's simply because the file is larger than the online virus scan used by Google can handle. I assure you that it's just an .mp3. Enjoy!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Tuesday's News And Notes

There has been a number of small news stories and notes that have broken over the last week or so regarding various hockey-related matters. HBIC tries to keep its finger on the pulse of the hockey world, so we'll look at a number of these stories today as I provide a little insight from my perspective. You're welcome to comment below on any and all topics, so let's start breaking down these stories right now.

Gone Too Soon

Absolutely horrible news out of Quebec as a young man by the name of Jordan Boyd passed away on the ice on Monday during training camp with the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan. According to reports, Jordan felt "some discomfort during a wind sprint" during his first day of Titan training camp at a rink in Bathurst, New Brunswick. The young man collapsed shortly thereafter, and was pronounced dead at a hospital later in the day. The cause of death is still unknown, but the fact that this young man passed away playing a game that he loved is tragic and sad. While he was given a clean bill of health by team doctors, the loss of a life while training is hard to fathom. HBIC wishes Jordan's family and friends its deepest condolences, and know that both Jordan and yourselves are in my thoughts today. RIP Jordan.

Playing For Money

Reports on Monday have restricted Canucks free agent Chris Tanev entertaining offers from both the KHL and the Swiss Elite League for alleged big money. Tanev is 23 years-old, and is considered to be a defensive defenceman. With the Canucks tight against the salary cap, it appears that this stand-off will result in a solid, young defenceman jumping across the pond for a chance to play for big money.
Look, I'm all for players getting fair market value, but let's be realistic here when it comes to Chris Tanev. In 92 career games with the Canucks, Tanev has posted a mere two goals and eight assists. It's not like he's a PK Subban or a Kris Letang. If anyone pays him more than $2 million per season for however long, they are overpaying for a guy who hasn't supplanted anyone on Vancouver's blueline and who has yet to see anything close to his potential realized. Sometimes, you gotta take less for a shorter term to earn more in the long run, Chris. If your agent is telling you to hold out for more, it might be time to find a realistic agent.

He Can Coach, But Should He?

Reported on Monday by a couple of sources, former NHL goaltender Steve Weeks was hired by the Chicago Blackhawks as their goaltending coach. He'll work with Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin in trying to help the Blackhawks back to another Stanley Cup. Initially, I almost blew past this story, but then it occurred to me that the Blackhawks had brought in Steve Weeks as their goaltending coach!

Steve Weeks is probably a very competent coach, but his work over nine seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers really doesn't put him in a good light. Combine that with the fact that he was mostly a career back-up goalie and the fact that he played in 290 NHL games over 13 seasons while posting a 3.99 career GAA, and suddenly you wonder what he could teach the reigning Stanley Cup-winning goaltender and a Russian who has played in a number of big games over his career. Doesn't it seem like something is off here?

I suppose the old adage is true: those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.

Mystery Radio

It is with great honour that Beans and I get the opportunity to speak with Bob and Lynda MacPherson on The Hockey Show this week. Bob and Lynda are the parents of Duncan MacPherson, a New York Islanders prospect who went missing in 1989. Mr. and Mrs. MacPherson have agreed to appear on the show this week, and we'll be promoting the book written by Mr. John Leake about this terrible tragedy. If you're interested in a copy of this book, please click here to order either a physical copy or an e-book version. We're really excited to have the MacPhersons on the show this week, and we're happy they will tell their story about a man who has not been forgotten by this writer.

Everyone Hates The DMV

Finally, we end with a story that seems a little ridiculous, but it happened and it involves hockey. Sidney Crosby is feeling the heat from some Pennsylvania residents this week after jumping the queue to renew his license. Honestly, this seems like more of a non-story, but the fact that it made it to many news outlets shows that Crosby makes news off the ice as well.

Susan Campbell reportedly vented in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday about how Sid the Kid jumped the line and renewed his license, thereby forcing Miss Campbell and others to wait an additional few minutes before they did the same thing. Her argument was, "He should have to sit and wait with everyone else". Sherry Davis, another person waiting in line when Crosby cut in front, stated, "He probably should have waited". Apparently unbeknownst to Miss Campbell and Miss Davis was that the Pennsylvania DMV has a policy in place that can allow celebrities to skip to the front of the line in order to cut down on disruptions.

Does anyone really think that if Crosby sat in the waiting area at the DMV that he wouldn't be mobbed by autograph seekers and people wanting photos? No, the guy deserves to be able to conduct his life like you or I, enjoying a small piece of privacy that we, the non-famous, seem to take for granted. Clearly, both Miss Campbell and Miss Davis recognized who cut them in line in order to report about this perceived injustice. What are the odds that they may have also asked him for an autograph or photograph if he had sat down beside them?

So don't be mad at Crosby for following a DMV policy that seems to have been ion place for some time. Be angry at the DMV if you like. But maybe be a little annoyed with yourselves, ladies. The reason he's allowed to cut in line is because people have mobbed celebrities before at the DMV. It's not his fault - that's who he is! As CBS Pittsburgh's Colin Dunlap says, "Take a number. Shut up. And wait your turn."

There are your recent headlines from the past few days. With training camps gearing up, there are still a number of free agents out there looking for homes, and there are still restricted free agents looking for a new contract. It will be interesting to see what happens with these players over the next few weeks as well, so keep your ears to the ground as we approach training camp.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 12 August 2013

What Happens Over Two Years?

If you've been keeping tabs on hockey in Canada, you probably heard that Canada has won the Ivan Hlinka Tournament for the sixth-straight time. This group of under-18 boys played some inspired hockey in beating the USA by a 4-0 score in the final, but there were a few bumps along the way that they dealt with and learned from on their way to a gold medal. Today, though, I need to ask a serious question that has crept up in my mind over the last couple of days after learning of Canada's win. It's not going to be answered easily because there are many variables that factor into the "why" answer, but the question needs to be asked regardless because the results are hard not to notice.

Why is it that Canada has won six gold medals at the under-18 tournament, yet hasn't brought home an under-20 gold medal since 2009? Why is it that we dominate up to the age of 18 based on recent gold medal counts, but then the world seems to catch up to our developing players over the next two years?

I'd like to say that the expectation of a gold medal year in and year out for the U-20 men is a little ludicrous, but the vast majority of Canadians seem to expect nothing less. There is immense pressure on these lads to bring home a medal annually despite the talent assembled by the rest of the world. While I appreciate a gold medal, sometimes the better team on the night of the game wins the medal. That's why we play the games! But for some reason, recent history is showing us that the rest of the world is catching us quickly when it comes to the U-20 tournament when Canada had rolled over the competition when all players were younger than 18 years of age.

If there is one reason that would stand out more than any, the answer would be personnel. There is turnover for any junior-aged team as players mature faster than others at different rates, and their games also evolve at different paces. However, when picking the best whether is be age 17 or age 19, there should be a few players who play for both teams.

If we look at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka U-18 Canadian team in comparison to the 2011 Canadian World Junior Championship team, there are certainly a few names that appear on both rosters. Defenceman Erik Gudbranson, and forwards Jaden Schwartz, Sean Couturier, and Quinton Howden are the only holdovers from the Ivan Hlinka gold medal-winning team that played for Canada in 2011 at the World Junior Championships. While both Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin were playing in the NHL, there were sixteen other players who didn't make the cut for Canada in 2011 when they had in 2009. Continuity and chemistry is something cannot be manufactured in a short tournament, so having players who know one another while playing together would be a sensible approach to developing a strong junior-aged team for international competitions.

The strategy of developing chemistry has worked for Canada on other levels. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are seemingly paired together everywhere they play, and the results for both the Blackhawks and Team Canada have been positive thus far. Because these two have great chemistry together, it would make sense to keep these two men playing together in high-pressure situations because they already have an understanding of what the other can and will do.

The players who play at the Ivan Hlinka tournament for the various countries come from all over the place in their respected countries, but that's the setup for every single country so the disadvantage is nil when it comes to this chemistry factor. There isn't a massive development program for kids aged 17-and-under anywhere that I have seen, so everyone is starting at the same point in terms of building chemistry. That's when individual talent will take over because, as the saying goes, the cream rises to the top.

However, when we look at the development of players in Canada at the CHL level, there is that disjointed process of distributing players across the country via the various amateur drafts held by the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL. While players certainly develop at a high level, there may be some who fall off the map when it comes to being drafted by a junior team that is void of serious talent. This may be the reason for the USA's massive improvement over recent years because they have a team that plays junior hockey together in the USHL all season long thanks to the work being done by USA Hockey with the National Development Team Program.

While the American squad has only one gold, eight silver, and two bronze medals in the 22-year history of the tournament - including a mere two silvers since 2009 - there is something to be said for the elite American players who have played together on both the U-17 and U-18 teams for the NDTP as they have shown significant growth when it comes to the American entries at the U-20 World Junior Championships. Since 2009, they have captured two gold medals and a bronze medal while Canada has just two silvers and a bronze medal in that same period.

So it must be asked: is a Canadian National Development Program the answer? Well, it depends on who you ask.

According to a Toronto Sun article written by Chris Stevenson in 2012, there are those who view a national program as a benefit while others see it as a detriment to a player's development.
"I've heard it before. The criticism we get is the offensive creativity is stifled by a system," said Scott Monaghan, the National Team Development Program's director of operations. "Nobody lives strictly by a system. Our coaches go out of their way to let them have some creativity. It's probably stifled a little bit if anything by the challenge of playing against older players. It's harder to get the puck back. You can't stickhandle through everybody's legs three times.

"One of things we talk to a kid about coming here is the games are only a piece of it. The real challenge for you is you're going to practise with the best kids in your age group every day. You're going to have to beat the best defenceman or stop the best forwards. For us, that was a huge piece of the puzzle and why we wanted to have this."
Clearly, USA Hockey sees their program as a benefit to a player's development from Mr. Monaghan's comments. Pitting the best kids in American hockey against one another on a daily basis allows them to grow and develop at a much faster rate, according to Mr. Monaghan, and this would theoretically make up the gap between Canadian and American kids when it comes to that two-year stretch.

There is another party, however, who feels that the US NDTP is actually hurting American kids when it comes to their development.
One down side is, because of the quality of the players, some scouts think the players don't benefit from being a star on a team, playing a lot of minutes in all situations. They are just another cog in the system.
I'm not sure who these scouts are, but I'm pretty sure they haven't been watching much hockey in recent years. While the number of Canadian kids drafted remains high in every draft year, we can certainly see a trend where more American-born players are taken higher and higher in NHL Entry Drafts.

Perhaps this was no more evident than in recent years. The US NDTP has produced ten first-round picks since 2009 - with half coming in 2010 - including Kyle Palmieri, Jack Campbell, Derek Forbort, Jarred Tinordi, JT Miller, Connor Murphy, Tyler Biggs, Jacob Trouba, Brady Skjei, and Stefan Matteau. While the claim that these players are not stars on their own team may be true, the fact that they come in with more well-rounded skills may make the more valuable in the long run. In 2010, 15 players from the U-18 US NDTP were selected, proving that GMs see value in these players. As for star power, both Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel played on the NDTP, and they are certainly seen as stars in the NHL at least by fans in the cities they represent.

Clearly, the centralized developmental program implemented by the USA in 1996 is bearing fruit, but it appeared to be an uphill battle back when this model started. "We looked at the international way of doing things, the Canadian way of doing things, and really none of them fit exactly because our development model was spread out among a number of different entities," former head coach Jeff Jackson told NHL.com. "One problem was some kids were playing too many games and not practicing enough, and others weren't playing enough game and practicing too much. It was finding the middle ground and putting them in an environment to develop them physically, develop them emotionally and make sure we didn't lose anything academically."

2010 may have been the banner year for the US NDTP outside of their impressive list of players drafted. US Hockey saw gold medals from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the World Junior Championship, and the World Under-18 Championship, and a number of alumni from the NDTP won a silver medal in Vancouver at the Olympics. As shown here and above, there are clear benefits to having a centralized program that brings the best players together from across the country to compete as a team for extended periods of time.

The problem I see in switching this model to Canada is that the junior teams that make up the CHL would probably have an aneurysm in losing the best players for a four-month period to participate in a national development program. There's just no way you can pull a Nathan MacKinnon and a Jonathan Drouin from the Halifax Mooseheads for four months. The Mooseheads, as well as the rest of the QMJHL, would cry "bloody murder" in terms of their lost box office traffic because the two most dynamic players in the league aren't playing. The Canadian Hockey League is as much a business as it is a development league, and there would be serious issues between Hockey Canada and the CHL if the players were used for more than the three weeks for which they're already needed over Christmas.

So how does Canada seemingly reclaim that dominance seen at the U-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament? I'm not sure there's an easy answer. What works for US Hockey most likely wouldn't work for Hockey Canada. And, to be honest, while there have been major strides made by Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the USA to close the gap that existed between Canada and those countries, the improved hockey seen by all countries shouldn't really worry Canadians. We'll still be on the podium at most tournaments, but there will be blips on the radar when it comes to others. The only thing that should worry Canadians about the game of hockey is whether we're plateauing or not.

If we have plateaued, it might be time to head back to the drawing board and find a better way.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!