Monday, 16 July 2018

Post #4000

While Fox hasn't cancelled me, I'm actually pretty humbled by reaching my 4000th article here on HBIC. When I started this blog in 2007, I never expected it to go this long as a site with a daily entry about the major stories in hockey that caught my attention. I thought I might do it for a while, but it has become so much more than a blog. It's a community that includes a number of great people - contributors, contest entrants, and commenters - and I'm grateful for everyone who has helped me get to 4000. But I'm here with a bit of a reflection today on how we, as bloggers and reporters, write our stories.

"The worst thing about North American journalism is its insularity: the feeling that the United States is the world. And this is true even of the New York Times; nothing comes from the perspective of other places…" - Anthony Bourdain to Maria Bustillos.

As I settle in to write a piece that hopefully makes one think, I want to draw special attention to the late-Mr. Bourdain's comment regarding journalism and how we only provide our own perspectives. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone else who may write a story on any piece of news. While we try to be objective, we ultimately tell the story we want to write that we see, hear, and experience from our own point-of-view. It's in this point-of-view that we may miss the story altogether, especially when we write these stories from afar rather than being on the ground and in the mix where these stories are happening. Even then, our own perspectives can change the actual story that should be told.

I want to draw upon two specific examples that are happening in the world of women's hockey right now. Both have immense human-impact stories that will affect the players in a number of ways, yet these stories seem to be nothing more than footnotes if they're mentioned at all. By changing one's perspective, suddenly these stories take on a new angle that changes the entire premise of what is important.

The first story is regarding the removal of funding from Sweden's National Women's Team at the start of July. The Swedish Olympic Committee made the decision to cut off funding to the Damkronorna after some rather lowly finishes at major international tournaments. The end result is that fifteen female athletes are each losing approximately $8100 annually in funding that allows these women to train and prepare for future tournaments.

Now this may seem like a decision that is justifiable when one considers that Sweden has fallen from medal favorite at the Olympics to also-ran, and the team itself has finished at other tournaments off the podium and down the standings. Meredith Foster of The Ice Garden wrote a good piece on this decision and how it affects the program, but the program is nothing without the women and there was very little said about how this decision to cut funding affects the women who are expected to represent the national team in future tournaments.

It is expected that these players will still make time to train and prepare for upcoming events, but the issue becomes a little harder when they have lost a major chunk of money they used to supplement their regular incomes to pay for training, ice time, equipment, and anything else they need to compete at an elite level.

Working shift work or a nine-to-five not only reduces the amount of time for training that these women once had, but it makes traveling as part of Sweden's National Team significantly harder. Holiday time from work, leaves of absence, and finding creative ways to take time off work gets a little harder when these women have to work in order to pay rent, buy groceries, find ice time, buy equipment, and anything else that they need to compete.

No one seems to consider that these women were already giving a significant amount of time to the Swedish program in exchange for the funding they were receiving. Without that funding, these women need to find a way to replace that funding, and asking them to sacrifice the time they're using to make the money they need to pay their bills in order to train and play while wearing the Tre Kronor uniform is extremely shortsighted on the Swedish Olympic Committee's part.

But there has yet to be one follow-up on this story to find out how the women were handling the loss of pay. There is not yet a mention of whether the women were struggling to work, live life, and find the time to train for the national team. There isn't an examination of the effect on the women from an everyday-life perspective when that's where this story truly exists. The Swedish National Women's Team will still exist, but the question is in what capacity if the current team's players can't find a way to make it work?

Granted, it's only been two weeks since this story broke, but there should be some follow-up in the coming weeks to measure the effectiveness and the impact of this decision on the women of the Damkronorna. I say "should be" because I don't know if there will be despite my belief that this story should be followed to the end of the story.

I'm hopeful it will happen because any follow-up with the Swedish women affected by the Swedish Olympic Committee's decision and the fans who support this team changes the perspective of this story entirely from a money-performance issue to a real-life human impact issue. And that's important when trying to understand the struggle that women's sports face when it comes to funding, support, and long-term growth.

The second story is one that happened today. I'll preface it with this.
Yes, it's brutal that the Canadian pro women's league decided to contract the Vanke Rays, and that does mean less jobs for all involved. Some will undoubtedly move to Kunlun Red Star, but Mike makes a point in that six North American women will lose their "hockey ambassador" jobs that paid them a reported $100,000 annually.

The only problem with that sentiment?
The North American players can return to North America and find jobs. While it likely won't be for $100,000 annually, they can return and play hockey and work a job just like every other North American player currently does. The Chinese players on Vanke - a team that seems to have been contracted due to costs - don't have that luxury as very few will be invited to play with Kunlun, and most will likely have to go back to jobs that see them, like the Swedish players above, consider abandoning the idea of training and playing for their national team.

We're sending a dozen women back to the workforce in an oppressive-to-women China, and we should worry about the six North American players losing their hockey ambassador jobs?

Regarding this oppression, as recently as March 7, 2018, reports in China had women earning 22% less money annually than men with the average monthly salary of women being "6,589 yuan ($1,039), while that for men is 8,006 yuan" or $1197 USD. Further to this, Guo Sheng, CEO of Zhaopin.com, suggested that Chinese leaders should "consider moving up the starting age for school from 3 years old to 18 months old, which can help women put their main energy into work instead of looking after their little children" in order to assist women earn promotions in their chosen field. But those living wages earned by the North Americans sure stand out as the human impact story?

For the first time possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were earning money by being exceptional in their field without competing with men for the same job. For the first possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were on the largest professional stage for women of their calibre. For the first time possibly ever in their lives, fifteen Chinese women were traveling to North America to play hockey for their country rather than to seek new opportunities away from their country. And for the first time ever today, those opportunities were taken from them.

What do their futures hold? What do these women do when it comes to their hockey aspirations? How do they train to be part of the national team, and does that opportunity even exist now that they aren't playing professionally? We know what Brooke Webster, Emily Janiga, and Zoe Hickel are doing next season after they returned to North American and signed with North American professional teams, but the same cannot be said for Naixin Zhou, Minghui Kong, and Han Gao. Their futures are anything but clear when it comes to playing hockey.

These are the stories that need to be told. I'm not picking on Meredith or Mike in any way. They're reporting factual information and making conclusions based on that information, and that's an important part of the equation when it comes to telling the story. However, in this day and age of "grow the game," we may actually be seeing the game take steps back due to a lack of funding for women's hockey, and that's the piece of the story that seems to be missing from these specific stories.

Again, I'm hopeful there will be follow-ups regarding these two stories, but Mr. Bourdain's comment of "nothing comes from the perspective of other places" is something we seem to lose when telling these stories. As I stated above, I'm as guilty as anyone else for not following up on stories as vigorously as I should, but starting with article #4001 I pledge that I will do more human interest and human impact stories to give the full story when it comes to hockey-related matters. Not only will that pledge happen here, but it will also happen on The Hockey Show in order to bring an understanding of what people in the stories we feature are experiencing from their perspectives.

I have always wanted to tell hockey stories better. Today, I pledge to be a better story-teller.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Gone Too Young

I had plans on writing something about French hockey after their national soccer team won the World Cup today, but it was hard hearing that former NHL goaltender Ray Emery, pictured on the left with boxing legend Joe Frazier, had passed away today at the age of 35 after drowning in Lake Ontario in Hamilton, Ontario. Emery, who played for four different NHL teams, five AHL teams, one KHL team, and one DEL team professionally, was controversial at times, but his intensity, his devotion to his teammates, and his abilities to tend the net were never questioned. After hearing the news today about his passing, it's a sad day in the hockey world.

This was the tweet that I first saw about the tragedy in Hamilton.
It's actually quite well-known that Lake Ontario has a number of undertow currents that are far stronger than your normal undertow, and these are often called rip currents. For those not aware of what a rip current is, it is defined as "a relatively strong, narrow current flowing outward from the beach through the surf zone and presenting a hazard to swimmers." According to The Weather Channel, "an average of 12 people are killed by currents and 25 more are rescued on the Great Lakes, according to the National Weather Service." This may have been the cause of Ray Emery's drowning as his body was found by dive crews some seventy-feet away from where he jumped into the water.

We hear about water safety every summer, but it's hard to predict where these rip currents may exist. If this is indeed the reason for Ray Emery's drowning, it's a reminder to be extra vigilant when venturing into the water. Losing the man they called "Razor" at the age of 35 is a loss that should remind us that no matter how fiery of a fighter one is - and Ray Emery certainly could hold his own against anyone - there are still forces that can end a fight very quickly.

Rest in peace, Ray Emery. You were taken far too young from us, and you'll always be remembered for the passion you had for the game, your teammates, and life.

Until next time, hold your sticks high in memory of Ray Emery!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

A Legend Gone

I try not to get too sentimental on HBIC, but there are times where something hits home and you have to address it. Yesterday, Venla Hovi tweeted out the above tweet, and it really caught me in its finality of her U SPORTS hockey career. Venla's been a face and presence in these parts for some time now, and her enthusiasm and attitude have rubbed off on everyone. It's a hard pill to swallow, but the University of Manitoba may never see another athlete of Venla's abilities and accomplishments on the ice for some time.

Make no mistake that Winnipeg and Manitoba has produced some outstanding female hockey players. Jennifer Botterill, Sami Jo Small, and Halli Krzyzaniak are among the current names of players who have held the torch high in recent years, and there are more on the way as women's hockey in the province and city become more prominent with prep hockey academies and high school clubs producing better talent each and every year. There will never be a shortage of amazing women who are playing the game who call this province home, and that's exciting for hockey fans across the spectrum as more and more U SPORTS and NCAA programs recruit Manitoba-born women into their programs.

What makes Venla special, though, is how she adopted this province as home as fast as this province adopted her. She is constantly busy in the community and on campus, and her work with the Bisons and with other elite athletes is making her one of the city's gems when it comes to athletics. Venla, from what I've been told, is still planning on competing for Team Finland, so you know her diet, training, and exercise all are Olympic calibre, and that training regiment has pushed other athletes around her to train harder, be stronger, move faster, and be better thanks to her work ethic.

Most people probably haven't encountered Venla in their daily lives, though. She's incredibly upbeat, sugary-sweet in her positiveness, hilariously funny, wicked smart, and a joy to be around in any circumstance. Having had the opportunity to get to know her over the last few years while she played for the Bisons, there was never any doubt about her talents on the ice as she routinely wowed us with her abilities. It was off the ice, however, where she went from a shy foreigner to a an absolute tour-de-force as we got to know her more, and I cannot express how grateful I am that she let us, as broadcasters, into her life. She truly is a wonderful person, and I am a better human being for knowing Venla Hovi.

Her impact on the hockey world in this city and on the international stage will surely still be felt as she continues to train the next generation and compete for her country of birth. Of this, I have no doubt. The one thing that I will selfishly miss is seeing her at Wayne Fleming Arena weekly, seeing that smile that lights up the rink, and watching her dazzle the crowd with her hands and her speed. Selfishly, I'll miss her barking orders at her teammates on the bench, the intensity in her eyes when a big play was needed, and the chirps she used to toss at me between the benches during warm-up with that patented smile on her face.

Thank you, Venla Hovi, for being one of the greatest Bisons to ever wear the jersey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Solid U SPORTS Team

If you missed out on the many opportunities to see the University of Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team last season, you missed out on seeing Alanna Sharman live. Sharman was one of the engines that drove the Bisons all the way to London, Ontario where they won the U SPORTS National Championship, and now Alanna will head to Calgary this summer for the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase from August 2-11. She's a leader and playmaker, and she put those talents on display in London where Hockey Canada's Melody Davidson was in attendance, and Alanna clearly did enough to impress Davidson to garner an invitation alongside 19 other U SPORTS players who legitimately can be called "the best of the best".

It's the third-straight year that Bisons players will go to the Summer Showcase. This year's U SPORTS squad will get to play the two squads from Hockey Canada National Women's Development Team as well as Japan's National Women's Team. This will be Sharman's second invitation to the Summer Showcase after she was named to the inaugural U SPORTS squad that played at the showcase in 2016.

"I'm super excited to be heading out to Calgary," Sharman told John Gaudes of Bisons Sports. "I'm looking forward to playing with and against some of the top Canadian athletes. Hopefully it'll be an opportunity to learn and have some fun as well."

Her teammates are a collection of impressive players, the majority of whom played in London at the U SPORTS National Championship this past March. Among the players that Sharman played against in London, the Concordia Stingers are sending four players including goaltender Katherine Purchase, defender Marie-Joëlle Allard, and forwards Audrey Belzile and and Claudia Dubois. Western University, who Manitoba defeated in the final, is sending one player in forward April Clark. In total, 11 of the 20 players representing the U SPORTS team played in March's National Championship tournament.

The roster is as follows:
  • G Katherine Purchase - Concordia
  • G Maude Trevisan - Montreal
  • D Marie-JoĂ«lle Allard - Concordia
  • D Cayle Dillon - Alberta
  • D Lindsey Donovan - St. Francis-Xavier
  • D Cassidy Herman - Ottawa
  • D Celine Tardif - UBC
  • D Alex Woods - St. Thomas
  • F Audrey Belzile - Concordia
  • F MĂ©lodie Bouchard - Ottawa
  • F Sarah Bujold - St. Francis-Xavier
  • F April Clark - Western
  • F Maria Dominico - Nipissing
  • F Jade Downie-Landry - McGill
  • F Catherine Dubois - Montreal
  • F Claudia Dubois - Concordia
  • F Ailish Forfar - Ryerson
  • F Alex Poznikoff - Alberta
  • F Alanna Sharman - Manitoba
  • F Kaitlin Willoughby - Saskatchewan
The squad will be coached by Stacey Colarossi from Laurentian, and she'll have Moncton's Marc-André CÎté, Ottawa's Greg Bowles, and Mount Allison's Terry Rhindress helping her as her assistant coaches. That's a solid staff, and they'll have a talented squad to work with having seen a number of these women in living colour. Can they improve on their 2-2 record from last year's showcase? It's possible, but these women have to come together quickly.

Katherine Purchase's performance for Concordia at the U SPORTS National Championship has me convinced that she'll provide impeccable goaltending for this squad. Allard, Dillon, and Tardif are all medal-winners at the U SPORTS National Championship over the last two seasons, and all have incredibly high hockey IQs. Belzile, Bujold, Clark, Dubois, Dubois, Poznikoff, Sharman, and Willoughby all posses incredible speed and skill, and this U SPORTS team will fly if the coaching staff lets them skate. I expect this all-star squad, with the talent assembled, to at least replicate that 2-2 record from last year.

Congratulations to Alanna Sharman on her invitation as she definitely was one of Canada's best university players last season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 303

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, continues with the Summer of Interviews tonight as we bring back another guest who we really enjoyed having on the show the first time. She's a champion, she's earning her PhD in awesomeness, and she's doing amazing things in nature and in her community. It isn't often we get to chat to someone who hoisted hardware, but we're happy to be doing that tonight!

Beans and I get to welcome back the woman on the left as we first spoke with her on March 3, 2016 in Episode 180. At that time, she played for the Brampton Thunder which has since become the Markham Thunder which has since won the Clarkson Cup! Tonight, we welcome back CWHL champion Fielding Montgomery as we get caught up on her season, her experiences in China as a player, her PhD work as she earns her Master's Degree, her sister who is just as awesome as she is, and the amazing things she's doing in the community as a member of the Thunder! Fielding's last couple of years have been busy, so we're happy to get an hour with her to talk about all the amazing things she's doing!

"Hey, I know Fielding! I wanna listen!" you say. Well, the easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Beans and I talk with Fielding Montgomery about the Thunder, winning the Clarkson Cup, getting her PhD, some great community initiatives she is part of, and more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 12, 2018: Episode 303

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Call It "The Cooler"?

This building, until today, was known as the Ricoh Coliseum. It has seen its tenant in the Toronto Marlies do some pretty amazing things including winning the AHL's Calder Cup this past season. While Ricoh held the naming rights for the last fifteen years, times have changed in Toronto and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment was looking to capitalize on the market rates. In saying that, Ricoh is out and the big-spending Coca-Cola brand will take over the marquee outside the rink as the building becomes the Coca-Cola Coliseum.

The Ricoh deal made a decade-and-a-half ago actually seems like a great deal when you consider the dollar value of the deal. Reports pegged the deal at $10-million for the naming rights of the building for ten years, with a five-year option. That option was exercised and Ricoh remained as the corporate name on the building. When the deal was signed the Toronto Roadrunners called Ricoh home, and they were the affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. Over the next fifteen years, things changed dramatically in today's sports scene. Fast forward to today, and that dollar figure simply doesn't add up after the Toronto Marlies have become one of the premiere teams in the AHL.

The new deal signed today between Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and Coca-Cola is also a ten-year deal, but figures on how much Coca-Cola spent to get their name on the building were not disclosed. One major part of the deal sees Coca-Cola donate a private suite to non-profit organizations for every Marlies home game in the 2018-2019 season. A second commitment from Coca-Cola will see them hold several public community skating events as well.

"The Coliseum has been a focal point of the community, serving as host to world-class sporting events and generation-defining musical acts since it was built in 1922," said Michael Samoszewski, Vice President of Marketing for Coca-Cola Ltd. "We're excited and honoured to play a part in the history of this fantastic venue and build on its incredible legacy by engaging with our neighbours in new and meaningful ways."

Marketing speak aside, I think these commitments from Coca-Cola are pretty cool considering that most naming rights deals don't go into the depth that this one does. Coca-Cola is a worldwide brand, though, so it's not like they need the exposure that this naming rights deal brings, and the fact that they're willing to do more for the fans of the Marlies and community groups speaks more about their corporate culture than their branding.

But let's make one thing clear here: Coca-Cola products will now be exclusively served at Coca-Cola Coliseum, so it's not like Coke is losing in this deal. Whatever the cost of putting Cocal-Cola brands into the previously-named Ricoh Coliseum probably came in at some value that made buying the naming rights more attractive, so now Coca-Cola gets the branding inside for its beverages, the branding outside for its corporate name, and the partnership with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment that could see them move into other venues as well.

In any case, the Coca-Cola Coliseum will be the new era of this building for the next decade or more, and I'm pretty sure that there will be more victories for the Marlies playing in The Cooler. Or the Icebox. Or whatever nickname will stick on the building with Coke's logo on the outside.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Does It Snow Anywhere Else?

Apparently, the only place where outdoor hockey can be played in the middle of winter in the United States is the northeast. The NHL unveiled its logo for the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic as shown above as the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Boston Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium on January 1, 2019.

I get it - Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish, winter. It's all here. Wonderful execution. Sarcasm provided by me.

As per the NHL's release, "[t]his year's logo features an ice-frosted, green iconic shamrock, a tip o' the hat to the famed history and fabled legacy of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The logo features a cursive inspired NHL Winter Classic type treatment which is an evolution of the typography that has become a familiar and consistent feature in all 10 previous NHL Winter Classic logos." Do we expect to see green in either team's colour scheme considering neither Boston nor Chicago have ever worn green as an official team colour? I'm guessing no.

To me, this seems like it was drawn up in about ten minutes and submitted for approval. It literally takes little creative to frost the shamrock, apply the correct font, and paste a few graphics. Count me out as a fan of this logo and these outdoor games. The gimmick is over. It's time to move on.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Preach The Word

I'm on the road and travelling today for work, so I'll let Mr. Orr, the man who wrote the definition of "offensive defenceman," give you some sage advice. Spend time away from the rink. Play other sports. Have fun. Go hiking. Enjoy the sunshine. It's going to be cold again, so don't spend your summer inside a freezing rink!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Selling A Logo Out

The AHL's San Jose Barracuda unveiled new uniforms for the 2018-19 season on Friday, and they're just a wee bit underwhelming to say the least. I'm not sure why this needed an announcement when the Barracuda arguably just changed the logo on the jersey, but I guess "new uniforms" bring a bigger bang for the buck. Either way, the logo change actually may be an upgrade, but I'd still like to see a hem stripe on these uniforms.

As you can see by clicking on the image to the left, the logo is entirely different as the old Barracuda logo really gave no indication as to who the Barracuda were. The new logo has the "SJ" for San Jose, and I like the more complete barracuda in the logo. The dorsal fin is actually larger on the new logo than on the old logo, and it appears that the barracuda is far more "realistic" when compared to an actual barracuda. The SJ on the shoulder on the old uniform is now part of the primary logo while the NHL's San Jose Sharks logo will occupy both shoulders for their AHL affiliate.

So why was this so important to announce? It appears there's a secondary motive that involves the tail wagging the dog on this one.

According to the press release,
"the Barracuda, along with all 31 AHL teams, will be adopting the new CCM Quicklite uniforms that were worn during the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic last January in Utica, New York. The modern design features more breathable fabric and new MixMedia cresting techniques, all designed for increased comfort, enhanced durability, and better range of motion. They will also include new CCM DNA on the back and a new signature collar design with a deboss pattern."
Yay for more sports uniform jargon! Aren't you excited to hand over $300 for one of these marketing wizards at Adidas to get his or her bonus? I am!

Ok, sarcasm aside, what the heck is a "QuickLite" jersey?

"We built the Quicklite concept around improving player performance through a lighter weight uniform system with an enhanced range of motion and comfort," Maria Pineiro, Global Business Unit Director Softgoods & Sourcing for CCM Hockey, told the AHL's website writer. "CCM is continuously investing in developing advanced technologies on skates, sticks and protective equipment to make them lighter and more performant and we felt that the player uniform could deliver on these same key attributes."

First, "performant" isn't a word. Performative is a real word, and it probably should have been used. But why check those little details when describing your newest, shiny toy?

Second, everything that Miss Pineiro said is just more marketing speak. Is there anything different between the CCM QuickLite fabric and the Adidas Adizero fabric? Are we simply calling the same thing by two different names? Would it make any difference to know that CCM has produced an entire line of "QuickLite" equipment? It seems like marketing garbage to me that will help further the CCM brand's newest creations without actually providing something material that will change the game for the better.

The fact that the San Jose Barracuda used this announcement of a new logo to help push the CCM QuickLite jersey is ridiculous. You're better than this, San Jose, and I would have never expected the Barracuda to use a logo change announcement to further CCM's marketing. I don't know if the Barracuda was paid to show off new jerseys when all that changed was the logo and shoulder patches, but I'll give them benefit of the doubt that this "announcement" came about organically.

If it was pushed by CCM, the San Jose Barracuda should be ashamed for this pageantry.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

TBC: No Heavy Lifting

I feel fairly lucky to have read books by media personalities who have covered hockey as I like when they pull back the curtain and reveal the craziness that goes on behind the scenes. The vast majority of these stories are about Hockey Night in Canada, so it was interesting to read about Rob Simpson's experiences with NESN, TSN, Sportsnet, and other networks in today's featured book. Teebz's Book Club is proud to review No Heavy Lifting, written by Rob Simpson and published by ECW Press. Rob has been lucky enough to cover all sorts of amazing events, situations, and people, and his work in the hockey community has made him one of the best storytellers in the industry!

Rob Simpson is a 25-year veteran in the sports reporting and broadcasting business, producing such television shows as Hockey Odyssey on the NHL Network and Maple Leaf America on Leafs TV. He has worked for NESN, MSG Network, the NHL Network, TSN, Sportsnet, and NBC Sports among the various networks he has called home. He spent time as a weatherman and sports anchor in Hawaii where he honed his trade, and his play-by-play work for baseball and hockey at the college and ECHL levels is still some of the finest on the planet. He has co-authored Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs and Between the Lines, both of which have been reviewed here on HBIC.

Rob doesn't take us on a usual behind-the-scenes tour of a studio or what happens in a production truck. No, he takes you deeper than that. There's work in Africa with Right To Play with Steve Montador and Andrew Ference. There's stories of being a high school radio journalist who gained access to the Detroit Pistons' locker room. There are stories of jumping out of planes and flying in planes. All of the stories in No Heavy Lifting are how Rob Simpson found his way into another great broadcasting situation that led him to meeting some incredible people and visiting some incredible places.

Mr. Simpson's stories are detailed, making you feel like you're along for the ride on one of his adventures. He's not verbose, but he exudes feeling in his writing. There are stories of humour, stories of drama, and stories of achievement, and all of them are based on his broadcasting experiences. From the Olympics where he formed a tight bond with PJ Axelsson to Madison Square Garden where he and Scott Gomez had a fun bit to hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro with Zdeno Chara, there are some moments of "wow" when you reflect on what Rob Simpson has written.

Mr. Simpson makes a good point for young journalists about how monotonous the routine gets for athletes in the chapter "The Peewee Press" in No Heavy Lifting. He writes,
Larry Bird was the first player who made me realize just how monotonous it was for these ball players to answer pretty much the same questions night in and night out, especially for star players, like Bird, who automatically were approached by at least a half-dozen media types after every game. He answered quickly, succinctly, and in a monotone voice, like a computer with a rural Indiana twang. To me, that made it more imperative to ask him smart questions.
This is something that we try to do on The Hockey Show with guests as we venture outside the box with some of the questions. Rob makes a good point in that smart questions will get the interviewer better answers, so do your homework and don't be repetitive!

Overall, I really enjoyed No Heavy Lifting. Rob's storytelling is very good, he evokes a response from the reader with his writing, and his stories are entertaining. There are a couple of bits in the book where one may raise eyebrows - the Joe Thornton trade piece was very interesting - but Rob Simpson's stories will get one chatting about what he wrote. That's a good thing and, considering all these factors, No Heavy Lifting certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find No Heavy Lifting at most bookstores and hopefully most libraries across North America, and, while there is some PG-rated words, I would say it would be a suitable read for most teenagers and older!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Closer To Closure

That's still a hard image to digest. The Saskatchewan RCMP, three months to the day of the crash, announced today that they are laying charges against the truck driver involved in the accident. Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was arrested at his home in Calgary this afternoon, and he was charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm. Needless to say, this arrest will bring the town of Humboldt and all those affected a little closer to closure after months of beginning to find ways to reconcile and heal from this tragedy.

I'm not sure what evidence the Saskatchewan RCMP Major Crimes Unit has collected and assembled, but I would say that, based on the comments made in today's press conference, they seem to have sufficient evidence to push forward with the case. With the charges laid today and a court date set for next week in Saskatchewan, it sounds as though the RCMP want to ensure that these charges stick so that everyone who has been affected by the tragedy sees that justice has been served.

The Humboldt Broncos released a statement that thanked the RCMP for their work as well as stating, "Our organization has faith in the justice system and we will be watching closely as this court process plays out. Our primary focus continues to be supporting the survivors, families and others that were directly impacted by the tragedy on April 6."

Sidhu was driving for Calgary-based Adesh Deol Trucking Limited on the tragic evening. He was driving west on Highway 335 when he approached a flashing red light at the intersection of Highway 335 West and Highway 35 North. The bus was approaching from the south on Highway 35, and the wreckage, as seen below, ended up east of Highway 35 on the north side of Highway 335. CBC News and Canadian Press' Jonathan Hayward produced the following photo showing the recreation of the crash.
The 29 charges facing Sidhu come with heavy consequences. Dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death can result in a sentence of up to 14 years in prison per conviction while injuring someone could land someone in prison for 10 years per conviction.

"I know it has been difficult for many to await the outcome of this police investigation," Curtis Zablocki, Saskatchewan RCMP commanding officer and assistant commissioner, told those in attendance at the press conference, noting the three-month timeline. "The time it took to do this work — this important work — was necessary."

There is still a lot of healing to do around this tragedy, and I'm hoping things are getting better for those directly affected by this accident. While it's unfortunate that someone has to be blamed in something like this when everyone, including the blamed, needs to find their own way of healing, the fact that the Humboldt Broncos bus driver Glen Doerksen wasn't responsible for this should bring his family a ton of relief.

This has been a difficult three months for the community of Humboldt and everyone associated with the team, but we may finally have a bit of closure on what happened that tragic night shortly.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 302

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, thought about going over all the free agency madness today, but you've gone to every other site over the last few days to read about those opinions. We're just two goofs on the radio talking hockey, and we certainly have very little "Insider" information like a Dreger or a Friedman. Instead, we begin the Summer of Interviews on The Hockey Show as we welcome a vast number of people to the show who you should meet, get to know, pay attention to, and certainly support in all their ventures. Tonight, we kick this Summer of Interviews off with a player we met a couple of seasons ago!

Beans and I are honoured, privileged, humbled, and proud to welcome back a Canada West hockey alumna who has gone on to bigger and better things! We met Toni Ross on October 6, 2016 in Episode 211, and we are ecstatic to welcome her back after an impressive season with the Calgary Inferno last year! Toni has had a pile of things happen over the last couple of years, so we'll get caught up with her on life, hockey, nursing, and a pile of other info. She went to China with the Inferno, she had a very interesting New Year's Eve last year, and there were pretty big achievements on the ice that she hit! We'll learn all about those tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT!

"Hey, I know Toni! I wanna listen!" you say. Well, the easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Beans and I talk with Toni Ross about the Inferno, her life, playing pro hockey against Olympians, and more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 5, 2018: Episode 302

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

It's Not Getting Better

If you're the man to the left, how do you sleep at night? Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion has a number of issues that his office is dealing with, and none of them will result in anything good for the Ottawa Senators. His star defenceman and franchise player wants out, his number-one netminder wants out, his assistant GM has been charged with harassment in Buffalo over unwanted sexual advances, and he still needs to sign two major pieces of his team before the teams goes to arbitration. I wouldn't want to walk a mile in Dorion's shoes right now as the franchise's future literally sits on his shoulders.

We'll start with the Erik Karlsson saga that now reportedly has the defenceman wantong to go to one of three teams that includes Dallas, Tampa Bay, or Vegas. By allowing Karlsson to work out an extension deal with one of these teams, the Senators have all but limited their options in getting back the maximum return for Karlsson by shutting out the rest of the market. If Dorion sticks to his guns by asking for a top-flight roster player, a blue-chip rookie or drafted player, and multiple high draft picks, he'll get some decent return, but he's not going to be better off.

On top of that, if Dorion forces one of these teams to accept Bobby Ryan's contract to get out from under that albatross contract, Ottawa and whomever they are trading Karlsson to will most certainly need a third team involved to be able to make the money work for all the teams. What started out as an unhappy defenceman wanting out now has all sorts of moving parts involved, and that means there will be complications that Dorion has to address. If he's working on this, he's not working on other stuff. That other stuff includes...

... the restricted free agents known as Cody Cici and Mark Stone. These two players represent the future of the franchise, and both are heading towards arbitration. We've already seen Dorion and the Senators low-ball Erik Karlsson, so would they do the same to Stone and Cici?

Here's the problem. NHL arbitration rules state that the arbitrator must rule for one side or the other - the player or the team - within 48 hours of the case. If the team doesn't like the arbitrator's decision, the team has the right to decline the decision, making the player an unrestricted free agent. If the Senators cannot sign these two players before the arbitration case has been decided, would the team really decline the decisions? It would seem foolish, but it could happen. Let's hope Dorion can find a way to sign these players prior to their arbitration dates so the Senators have some hope this season. But there's still other stuff that includes...

... assistant GM Randy Lee's ongoing legal problems. Lee has been the man in the big chair for the Belleville Senators over the last season as well as assisting Pierre Dorion in his role. Lee, however, has been preparing a legal defence since being charged with harassment over unwanted sexual advances towards a 19 year-old male hotel employee in Buffalo. Needless to say, his role with the team has been put on hold since the charges were laid, and I'm not sure he'll have a job to return to at the conclusion of the trial.

According to Gary Dimmock of the Ottawa Citizen, the family of the Buffalo complainant is also considering a civil lawsuit against Lee and the Senators, so the hits just keep on coming for the Senators when it comes to Lee's misbehavior. With Lee's time being occupied by this legal issue, Dorion has been tasked with Lee's role in assembling Belleville, and there haven't been many signings to report to date.

If there's one bonus that the B-Sens got, it was the hiring of Troy Mann, the former Hershey Bears coach, to run the Belleville Senators' bench. Mann is an outstanding bench boss, and really seems to get the most out of his players when it comes to their development. If Dorion gets the most out of Mann, the Senators should see some of their baby Senators move up the ranks soon.

When one looks back at this list, Mann's hiring doesn't outweigh the negatives that have taken hold of the Ottawa Senators franchise. This entire organization is in dysfunction from top to bottom - Melnyk to players - and each problem affects every other problem. If Pierre Dorion can start making a few good things happen, maybe there's a sliver of hope in the nation's capital that the Senators can be a solid team again.

If he bungles any of these problems listed, though, this franchise may crumble under the weight of its own ineptitude just as the Republic of Rome under its senators crumbled at the end of its era.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Addition By Subtraction?

As much as I spoke about the pain of losing an impact player like Tavares yesterday, the Winnipeg Jets also went through a punch-to-the-gut on Sunday when it was announced that Paul Stastny had signed with the Vegas Golden Knights, the team that ended Winnipeg's playoff run this season, for three years and $19.5 million over that time. Stastny seemed to be a great fit between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers on the Jets' second line. He had friends in Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien on the team who convinced him that Winnipeg was the place to be when he was traded at the trade deadline. In the end, however, Stastny took more money on a longer term from Vegas, and will now suit up in the Pacific Division next season.

The Jets needed to make cap room in order to sign Stastny, and they did that by somehow convincing Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens to take Joel Armia and Steve Mason off the Jets' hands which opened up about $5.5 million dollars in room. The Jets used what little space they had combined with the new space after the trade to pitch Stastny what sounded like two years and $6 million per season, but the 32 year-old went with term and an additional $750,000 in income tax-free money in Nevada instead of staying with the Jets where he arguably had one of his most productive quarters of any season in the NHL. When it comes to earning potential over a short career, I understand why Paul Stastny went with the money, but I'm not certain he'll see the Stanley Cup Final with Vegas over the next three seasons.

The Jets will now turn their sights on re-signing a number of key restricted free agents, and opening up that cap room could be a blessing in disguise for this team. Without the likes of Jacob Trouba, Connor Hellebuyck, Josh Morrissey, and Adam Lowry, this Jets team wouldn't have been on pace to be a 100-point team last season. Adding Stastny at the trade deadline made them better, but they were already a good team playing in a tough division and conference. Without the three players above, they wouldn't have been where they were nor would they have challenged Nashville for first-overall down the stretch.

Of the three restricted free agents listed above, Trouba and Hellebuyck are going to get paid. There's no doubt about that. Trouba accepted his role alongside Josh Morrissey and became one of the premier shutdown tandems in the NHL. He was often deployed against the opposition's best players night-in and night-out, and he and Morrissey were exceptional as one of the youngest shutdown pairings in the NHL. Asking a player of Trouba's calibre to dial down the offensive side of his game and play harder minutes against better opponents is a big ask, and Trouba succeeded with flying colours. With the extra cap space created by the Stastny vacancy, the Jets could sweeten the deal for Trouba a little as a way to show their appreciation.

The same goes for Hellebuyck as he certainly showed that his off-season commitment to becoming a better goaltender was well worth both the time and the effort. Hellebuyck broke the NHL record for wins by an American-born goalie, broke the Jets' record for wins in a season, and carried this team to the second-overall standing in the NHL, one point shy of the first-overall mark. Hellebuyck looked like the NHL goalie that had been predicted when he was drafted, and he certainly put the numbers up to prove it. While there is always the possibility of a regression, I doubt we'll see a major step back. He may not win 44 games next season, but 35 wins is completely achievable, and he should be paid as such. Barring injuries, Hellebuyk should be the de facto number-one goalie in Winnipeg for the foreseeable future. It's time to pay him as such.

Josh Morrissey was one of the premiere offensive defencemen in the WHL with Prince Albert, and his transformation into a shutdown defenceman has been extraordinary. As stated above with Trouba, asking Morrissey to forget about racking up points is a big ask, but it's another to ask him to stop the best players in the NHL from scoring at age 23. All Morrissey did was step his game up and become the Jets' best defensive player, and paired with Trouba to become as one of the youngest shutdown pairings in the NHL. With both Trouba and Morrissey potentially signed long-term, the Jets should have one of the best defensive pairings for years to come.

Adam Lowry is a good foot soldier for the Jets, and he deserves a little of that Stastny pie. Lowry looks a lot like Jordan Staal did with the Penguins - tall, rangy, forechecks like a demon, causes turnovers, and will notch you a dozen goals and 30 points per season. He may not have the talent that Staal does, but he makes up for it with the effort and doggedness in his pursuit of the puck and shutting down opposing forwards. Lowry won't earn the seven-year, double-digit million dollar contract, but he's shown he deserves more than his previous $1,125,000 contract. I would say $1.75 million per season over three years would be a nice increase for the checking forward, and he can continue to be a major part of the Jets' successes.

There will also be slight increases for both Brandon Tanev and Marko Dano up front while Tucker Poolman should see a little bump after last season's introduction to the NHL. These players will fill roles like they did last season, although Brandon Tanev's role could be expanded after he should some incredible hands and wheels in the playoffs. Needless to say, these players will be needed with the likes of Armia, Stastny, and Enstrom not returning, so there's a good future on the horizon with these young players.

Losing Stastny isn't fun when you consider how important he was in the playoffs for the Jets. He really energised the second line by going to the front of the net and getting sticks on pucks sent his way from Ehlers and Laine while completely disrupting the goaltenders of whom he stood in front. However, the long-term ramifications of keeping Stastny would have meant that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff probably would have lost some key young players that helped Winnipeg become the team they are, and I'm not sure that's something I'd want to sacrifice when it comes to Winnipeg being a Stanley Cup threat for years to come. While we'll miss Stastny, we'd certainly see bigger holes if one of Trouba, Morrissey, Hellebuyck, Mathieu Perreault, or a combination of these players had to be moved due to cap constraints.

As it stands now, the majority of the 113-point Winnipeg Jets will be back for a second chance at glory, and I'm quite happy that they'll get another shot at it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Scorched Earth On Long Island

In a very un-Lou-like move, the New York Islanders didn't get their man. There had been some rumblings that John Tavares was looking elsewhere after he let the possibility of signing for eight years elapse at midnight on July 1, and it became reality around noon yesterday when John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lou Lamoriello's former team, rather than the New York Islanders, Lou Lamoriello's new team, for seven years and $77 million over that time. Suddenly, there isn't a lot of hope for the Islanders this season when you consider the guy who basically was the engine for that team walked with no compensation.

If you were on social media, you heard about the "boyhood dreams" and all the romanticism that poured out of Tavares at the Leafs press conference where they introduced him, but let's make no mistake that Toronto has a ton of upside that they have yet to realize. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and others who will follow have yet to reach their peak, and are already a playoff team under head coach Mike Babcock. While Toronto has yet to win a round after falling to Washington and Boston in consecutive years, it's pretty clear that the Leafs are going to push for more than a comfortable third-place spot in the Atlantic Division with this signing. Tavares has the capability to push them higher while helping the kids realize some of that potential that they hold.

If you're in Toronto, you're loving this. If you're on Long Island, in Brooklyn, or where ever else the Islanders may play next season, you're in for a tough few years.

Your starting four centerman are any of Matthew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, the recently-signed Valtteri Filppula, the recently-signed Leo Komarov, or possibly one of Brock Nelson or Jordan Eberle. In other words, it doesn't look all that great down the middle once you get past the youth movement of Barzal and Beauvillier. Even that tandem isn't going to send pings of fear through many teams at this stage. While the Islanders still have Anders Lee, Andrew Ladd, and Josh Bailey to help pitch in, there isn't much in the way of bonafide scorers on the Islanders' roster.

If you thought the Milbury era was tough, welcome to the Age of Lou.

That being said, Lou did rebuild the Maple Leafs in three years to the point where they could lure Tavares away from the Islanders. Lou has torn down and rebuilt the New Jersey Devils a number of times in his career. There is a distinct pattern of Lou ripping down the old guard's plan and injecting his own through scouting, college free agent signings, and smart-yet-underrated trades. He has already sent Shane Prince, Alan Quine, and Jaroslav Halak packing - all Garth Snow acquisitions - so he seems to be in the tear-down mode of his franchise rebuild already. If Lou worked on HGTV, he'd have a top-rated renovation show with his past successes in turning lame duck franchises into potential and realized winners.

Had Lou kept Tavares, the sell of this franchise rebuild would have been the first task of which he would have had to convince Tavares. Tavares is 27 years-old, so another three years of a rebuild would have cost Tavares his prime years. Trying to convince a kid to give up three years of the best hockey-playing years of his life is a tough sell for any GM, and Lou simply couldn't convince Tavares that his plan was going to work. That happens with players who are seeing their windows of opportunity close, and I don't fault Tavares for that. Most of that should fall on the shoulders of Garth Snow, and that might be part of the reason that Snow was re-assigned within the franchise outside of the GM's office. Snow had opportunities to improve the franchise, and he simply could not or would not make moves that may have made the team better.

Like the Leafs a few years ago, Lamoriello now has a blank canvass to work with when it comes to building the Islanders his way. I don't expect any major signings to happen, I expect Lou to covet and use his cap space to acquire pieces that he wants even if it means taking a bad contract back, and I expect Lou to do what he does best in turning his scouting staff loose to find unsigned diamonds in the rough and overlooked junior and college players that he can use to rebuild Bridgeport with the expectation that they'll eventually contribute with the Islanders.

In other words, it's the Lamoriello Rebuild Show - Season One for the Islanders, and Lou is in destruction/raw materials mode right now.

For Islanders fans, the reality is that this is going to get worse before it gets better - the same message that Toronto fans were delivered. It won't be pretty, but expect a very nice lottery pick next season which Lou can use as the first semblance of a new foundation for the Islanders. Once that has happened, he does own Calgary's 2019 second-round pick, but the draft will be thin in 2019 for the Islanders with no second-, third-, or fourth-round picks of their own unless Lou can make deals to bring back picks.

Outside of Ryan Pulock who is still unsigned, all his defencemen are signed through 2021-22 at the earliest, so it will be trades to improve that bunch unless the CBA negotiations in 2020 present new opportunities. While I wouldn't exactly be overly comfortable with Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield as the five men carrying this franchise on the blue line, there will be teams needing defencemen at some point and Lou won't be afraid to make a deal to improve his team if it means dealing away one of the five (or six) player above. With Sebastien Aho and Mitchell Vande Sompel playing solid minutes in Bridgeport, there might be opportunities for the kids if a trade is made.

Netminding has been a bottomless hole for the Islanders, and there appears to be no relief unless Christopher Gibson can turn a major corner. Kristers Gudlevskis looked good in Tampa Bay and Syracuse for a short time, but his numbers nosedived once he got to Bridgeport. He's still a very raw goalie whose time may be up at some point, but it appears that Gibson may be the future between the pipes over Gudlevskis as it stands.

Lou Lamoriello has a tough job ahead of him, but it starts by jettisoning pieces that don't fit the plan and that has already begun. Ownership has committed to the changes that Lou wants, and bringing in Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz was a good first step in righting the ship. Mike Babcock was the first major acquisition for the Maple Leafs in their rebuild, and it appears Lou is following the same game plan. If he can duplicate the results and possibly even improve on them past where the Leafs' recent history has shown, losing Tavares might be the best thing that ever happened to the Islanders.

Right now, though, it hurts. It hurts bad.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Canada Day (Off)!

Today is always a great day on the calendar as Canada celebrates its independence, there's a ton of activity on the NHL free agent market, there are fireworks at some point in the evening, and it's usually a day spent with family for me. That means there will be some barbecuing happening, and that's a good time for all involved. I know a lot of you are probably expecting me to be following the John Tavares situation, the Paul Stastny signing, and all the other moves happening today, but this place will officially be closed for Canada Day.

I understand that the John Tavares signing could have major implication on who goes where today, but I have to admit that I need a day off. I have a very busy week next week that I now have to pack into four days instead of the usual five, and I want a day to recharge the ol' batteries. Today, being that it's a holiday, will be said day. I'll be back tomorrow with some examinations, so hold tight until then and enjoy the Sunday.

As a reminder, please be kind to pets and animals who may not enjoy the sounds of fireworks. Also remember that veterans who have gone through some tough times may not appreciate the sound of fireworks either. All it takes is a short conversation with neighbours to find out if pets or military veterans are ok with fireworks if you're planning on lighting up the sky tonight. Do you part and be repsectful.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Summer Of Chevy?

He has taken his lumps for not having the cap room to re-sign Paul Stastny nor moving pieces out at the NHL Entry Draft to open up that cap room, but Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was up early today working the phones, moving pieces, and retooling his team for another deep run in the 2018-19 season. The GM himself identified that signing Stastny was a priority for him, and he knew he needed to find some additional money for a few key restricted free agents while not sacrificing the depth he had amassed. On June 30, 2018, Kevin Cheveldayoff kicked off a summer of hard work by making a couple of key moves.

While everyone awaits the announcement by John Tavares as to where he'll play hockey next season, the Jets went out and made the necessary moves to re-sign arguably the second-best free agent centerman on most pundits' lists. Cheveldayoff did that by somehow convincing Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens to take backup netminder Steve Mason and his $4.1 million salary off the Jets' books.

Yes, it also cost them Joel Armia, a 2019 seventh-round pick, and a 2020 fourth-round pick, but Armia was projected to be a third-line player for the Jets this season, and those two picks aren't of the overly-valuable rounds that Chevy likes to target. In return, the Jets receive an underrated defenceman Simon Bourque who had just an awful season in Laval last season, but, to his credit, everyone in Laval had a pretty dismal season last year. Bourque will undoubtedly suit up for the Moose this season, so the Jets add a decent defender to their ranks.

Mason, for his part, simply didn't live up to the dollars that the Jets were willing to invest in him. He was often injured this past season, and the Jets used a carousel of backup netminders behind Connor Hellebuyck to relieve the starter of a heavier workload. The Jets will concentrate on maximizing a few dollars on the open market to fill the vacancy left by Mason in the trade, and I'd love to see the Jets take a flyer on one of Petr Mrazek, Laurent Brossoit, or Maxime Lagacé. All three goalies are 26-or-under, and the potential for them to start 20-25 games will be a factor as all three put up Mason-like numbers. Where they work for the Jets is salary, although Mrazek may want more than a six-figure, one-to-two-year deal.

Losing Armia might be a bit of a blow to the Jets' third-line as he had posted career bests of twelve goals and 29 points, but it opens the door for one of Nic Petan and Marko Dano to step up and grab that spot. My money would be on Nic Petan to grab the spot, but anything can happen over this summer and into training camp.

If the rumours of slotting defenceman Tyler Myers on the left side are true, the Jets appear to be pushing Joe Morrow down the lineup. Morrow, who signed a one-year, $1 million earlier this week, slotted in nicely with Dustin Byfuglien last season, and there was hope that those two could be paired again for next season. Yes, Morrow doesn't have the defensive skills of a Tobias Enstrom, but Morrow did bring some additional offence from the left side where it was Josh Morrissey carrying the play from the left side of the rink. Ben Chiarot won't do that, so Morrow could help the Jets by carrying more offence like he did in his short time with the Jets after the trade.

In an afternoon deal that appears to be an AHL deal on the surface, the Jets dealt qualified restricted free agent Chase De Leo to the Anaheim Ducks for Nic Kerdiles. De Leo had 35 points with the Moose last season while Kerdiles had 34 points with the San Diego Gulls. Kerdiles plays with a little more tenacity than what De Leo does, but De Leo has more skill. This move may be a response to a rumour that Moose captain Patrice Cormier is considering an offer to jump to the KHL. Cormier is one of those sandpaper players that will net you some offence when given the chance, but he's often playing a more physical role. If this is indeed one of the underlying pieces to this deal, I see nothing wrong with this move to acquire Kerdiles.

Overall, the moves made in the last week have Winnipeg looking a lot like they did last season when they finished the season strong and made a good push through the postseason. While Chevy won't be involved in any of the John Tavares drama, he did clear some much needed cap room to bring a player back who he stated he coveted since the end of the season. Of course, Stastny has to feel the same way, but there's a good sense he'll be back with the freed-up money that Cheveldayoff found today.

So far, it's a quality offseason in the Manitoba capital, but there's still work to be done!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 29 June 2018

You're Better Than This

"Hey everybody. I'd like to thank you for gathering here. I heard a number of great offers over the last few days. I want to thank each of the teams I've met with and heard offers from, and there were a number of great offers on the table. In the end, however, I needed to make the best decision for me when it comes to my future. My summers were simply getting too long with the Islanders, so I made my decision. I will be taking my summer talents to Toronto to play with the Blue Jays."

Ok, that's not happening, but how awesome would it be if John Tavares simply came out of all his recent meetings and just made an off-the-wall announcement like that?

Look, I get that this is a pivotal moment in Tavares' career, but do we really need hockey's version of "The Decision" being played out? He's a phenomenal player, but I'm pretty sure that one player alone doesn't win a Stanley Cup. There have been many players who have been in a situation similar to this, so why is this one so different?

Wayne Gretzky made a decision to join the New York Rangers via free agency, and the Rangers never won a Stanley Cup. The Rangers did play in the Eastern Conference Final in 1997 during Gretzky's first year there, but were brished aside by Eric Lindros and the Philadelphia Flyers. The following three seasons in New York prior to his retirement, Gretzky and the Rangers missed the playoffs. It was one of the biggest signings in the NHL, but Gretzky's talents couldn't get the Rangers back to the promised land.

No one is comparing Tavares to Gretzky here, but if Toronto, San Jose, Boston, or anyone else who met with Tavares thinks that he's that "missing piece" that will put their teams over the top, there's a lot that has to go right for that to happen.

What really chaps my ass over this whole process is the media coverage that it is receiving. Tavares' decision will affect these teams, but I don't need hourly and daily updates on what he's inevitably going to do on July 1. Here's a quick hint: he will sign a deal on July 1 like dozens of other players. Speculate all you want, but plunking reporters outside his agent's office where these pitches are happening is beyond idiotic, especially when no GM or team representative will tip his or her hat at all, let alone appear on camera for an interview about the pitch.

In two days, we'll know John Tavares' decision. Let it go until Sunday.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 301

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the airwaves tonight after recovering from cake and Show #300 craziness. Tonight, we have a pile of stuff to go over as there has been all sorts of player and personnel moves around a vast number of leagues that we need to bring to your attention. Personally, some of the moves are fairly understandable while others made me shake my head. It's almost like NHL GMs get a bag of money dumped on their desks and they lose all sense of fiscal responsibility and sensibility. In any case, Beans and I will talk about the insanity as we dig into this show!

I've always wondered what it's like to be an NHL GM and toss stacks of money around like it's Monopoly money. In any case, Beans and I will run down all the major signings, player moves, personnel moves, and more from the beginnings of what should be an insane weekend when it comes to NHL free agency. We'll chat about the John Tavares soap opera and which suitor we believe Tavares will select. We'll discuss Manitobans selected in the NHL Entry Draft, new alternate uniforms, the newest six inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the NHL Awards Show, and much more as we dive into The Hockey Show's Summer of Interviews! Catch all the news, notes, information, and fun at 5:30pm CT tonight!

"So how can I hear this show?" you ask. Well, the easiest way is for you to download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's literally the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at the 101.5 frequency on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website as well!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Beans and I talk free agents, re-signings, new kids, old threads, newly-honoured men and women, and more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: June 28, 2018: Episode 301

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Clothing Of The High Seas

The Mariners of Maine, one of the new expansion teams in the ECHL, were introduced with the logo to the left a few weeks ago. As time rolls by, more and more information is being shared regarding their inaugural season, but we had yet to see one shred of fabric that suggested what they would be wearing. One could probably predict the team's colour scheme based on the logo, but the uniforms had yet to be revealed. Being affiliated with the NHL's New York Rangers and AHL's Hartford Wolfpack, would we see the Mariners resemble either team or would they branch out on their own with a unique design?

No sense in delaying the reveal, so here are their inaugural uniforms for the 2018-19 season!
There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here. The Mariners will wear a couple of decent uniforms that have the secondary logo and the state of Maine logo on the shoulders. They didn't try to emulate either of their affiliated teams, and that's good. The white jersey is a little Dallas Stars-ish/Markham Thunder-ish for me, but it's clean and simple that allows the logo to pop off the chest.

Jersey orders placed on July 1 will be ready for December 2018, so make sure you put your money down early if you want to support the Mariners of Maine.

There was a rather strange reveal done by NewsCenter Maine, and I'll post that here simply because there are good notes revealed about the uniform in the video.

What do you think of the Mariners of Maine uniforms? Comment below!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Who Is That Russian Guy?

The six inductees in the Class of 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony have been revealed, and there were a few surprises. In the Players category, it's hard to argue the merit of Martin Brodeur or Martin St. Louis as they've been two of this generation's best players. Jayna Hefford will be honoured as an inductee after her incredible career as part of the women's game. Alexander Yakushev will be honoured for his international hockey career, and it's one that is far more interesting than one would think. In the Builders category, Willie O'Ree is finally getting his induction as the man who broke the colour barrier in the NHL. And the sixth and final inductee is current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Let's get into this.

There isn't much that one can say about Martin Brodeur that hasn't already been published. Three Stanley Cups, four Vezina trophies, five Jennings trophies, two Olympic gold medals, two World Championship silver medals, a 2004 World Cup of Hockey gold medal, the cover player on NHL '14, and he holds the NHL's all-time career win total at 691. Pretty sure he was a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame the moment he announced his retirement.

Martin St. Louis is another player who really needs no introduction. The undrafted NCAA forward played in 1134 NHL games, scoring 1033 points. He won a Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, two Art Ross Trophies including the 2012-13 Art Ross Trophy at the age of 37 to make him the oldest winner of the trophy, the Lester B. Pearson Award in 2004, and Hart Memorial Trophy in 2004, a 2004 World Cup of Hockey gold medal, an Olympic gold medalist in 2014, and two silver medals at the IIHF World Championships. Again, this resumé screams Hall of Fame, and Marty St. Louis will be headed there.

Jayna Hefford's inclusion should be the start of a long line of amazing women's player heading into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Hefford helped Canada win four-straight Olympic gold medals and one silver medal in 1998, and she will be remembered for scoring the game-winning goal in the gold medal game in the 2002 Winter Olympics. She holds seven gold medals from the IIHF Women's World Championships and another five silver medals. She helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2010 Women's Four Nations Cup. Hefford helped the Brampton Thunder win the first CWHL championship in 2007-08, was named the CWHL MVP in 2008-09, and scored a league-record 44 goals and 69 points in the '08-09 season. In total, she scored 439 goals in 418 games in the COWHL, original NWHL, and CWHL. Hefford's inclusion in the Hockey Hall of Fame should never have been debated.

Willie O'Ree changed hockey forever when he suited up with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens to become the NHL's first black player. In a rather amazing twist, O'Ree kept an eye injury secret that caused him to be 95% blind in his right eye from the Bruins, allowing him to break the colour barrier in professional hockey. O'Ree has been an inspiration to many kids of African-American heritage who have made it to the NHL including Joel Ward, Madison Bowey, and Wayne Simmonds. O'Ree's career was only 45 games long, but his determination and hard work that got him to the NHL will eternally be recognized with his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Gary Bettman will always be a polarizing choice, but there's no denying that he's made the league stronger, bigger than its ever been in the United States, expanded and moved teams to centers that have resulted in great league strength, and made it into a billion-dollar sports league. Yes, there's a lot that people will point to when it comes to negatives about Bettman, but there is no denying that hockey is better financially and certainly more prominent in everyday life in many non-traditional communities thanks to the vision of Gary Bettman.

So who is this Alexander Yakushev guy? Yakushev was an atypical Russian hockey player during his era in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While most players were smaller and speedy, Yakushev was a towering 6'4" scoring machine who owned the slot, but skated as well as his smaller teammates. He is often compared to Phil Esposito for his style of play, and he certainly made an impact in the 1972 Summit Series where he scored seven goals and four assists in the eight games to lead the Soviet team in scoring.

Yakushev won a a pair of Olympic gold medals in 1972 and 1976 while playing for the Soviet Union, added seven gold medals, two silver medals, and a bronze medal from the IIHF World Championships, and was named to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2002. He was a goal-scoring machine in the Soviet Championship League with Spartak Moscow before ending his career with Austria's Kapfenberger SV.

Yakushev moved into the coaching realm once his playing days were over, starting as an assistant coach of Spartak Moscow before taking over the head coaching position in 1989-90. He would hold that position until 1993 before taking the head coach position with Austria's EK Zell am See in 1993-94, and he would jump to the Swiss League's HC AmbrĂŹ-Piotta where he was the head coach from 1994 until he was relieved of his duties on November 5, 1996. Yakushev would return to Spartak Moscow in 1997, but he also assumed the head coach duties for the Russian National Team for the next two seasons. Since then, he's dabbled in coaching and in team management in Russia, but the 71 year-old will finally be honoured for a career about which very few hockey fans know.

Your six inductees will see their new plaques added to the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, November 12th, 2018. I'm extremely pleased to see Willie O'Ree and Jayna Hefford added to the Hall's esteemed players and builders, and it's always nice to see a player whose career was hidden behind the curtain of Communist Russia be honoured as well. I think the Hockey Hall of Fame's Selection Committee did a pretty good job with their selections this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!