Sunday, 20 May 2018

The End Of The Beginning

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Winnipeg Jets today: the score stood two to one, with but one period more to play. Everything the Jets threw at Marc-Andre Fleury, save for one Josh Morrissey shot, had been turned away. And, in Vegas, fans are cheering, and, in Winnipeg, fans will pout, because there is no joy for the WhiteOut — the mighty Jets are now out.

In a 4-1 series win, the hottest goaltender in these playoffs in Fleury took his team to new heights once more as Vegas joined the Toronto Arenas and the St. Louis Blues as the only expansion teams to reach the Stanley Cup Final in their first seasons. Jonathan Marchessault, a 27 year-old winger who had been cast aside by Columbus, Tampa Bay, and Florida, was outstanding in this series win over the Jets, and linemate Reilly Smith, who was part of the Tyler Seguin-to-Dallas deal and was sent to Florida for Jimmy Hayes, had himself one heckuva series as well.

In the end, those three players were the darkness that swallowed the WhiteOut's enthusiasm as they continually deflated the sails of the Jets who, at times, seemed like the better team for large chunks of games. It didn't matter if the Jets scored, though, as one of Marchessault or Smith would respond moments later with a goal, a turnover to cause a goal, or a pass to setup a goal. On the other end, Fleury continued to come up big for Vegas as he turned away Jets chances time and time again.

Make no mistake that this Vegas Golden Knights team is a collective bundle of energy who bring intense pressure on the forecheck, forces turnovers in the neutral zone, and plays in-your-face in the defensive zone with little regard for their own bodies and safety when it comes to blocking shots and throwing hits. They're fast, aggressive, and they roll four lines as well as anyone as the Jets found out. Having a three-time Stanley Cup champion between the pipes behind this group of players with a singular focus only makes them that much harder to defeat.

The series-winning goal came off the stick of one-time Manitoba Moose defender Luca Sbisa - a defender who was roundly considered one of the worst defenders fans had seen in his time with the Moose - and was deflected past Connor Hellebuyck by Winnipeg-born Ryan Reaves - a physical specimen traded for by the Penguins to defend their stars only to be traded to Vegas when a salary cap crunch was presented upon the Penguins' acquisition of Derrick Brassard. The Winnipeg connection on the series-winning goal was not lost on me, and I want to give credit to Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant who found the positives in the games of two players who were thought to be nothing more than bottom-of-the-lineup players.

Look, it wasn't all Vegas in this series either. Connor Hellebuyck lost the battle between the two goaltenders, but I'm pretty sure that Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones - two goalies who had outstanding seasons and playoff series - lost that battle too. Hellebuyck was good enough to win at least two of the games that Winnipeg lost, but the problem was that Marc-Andre Fleury was just that much better in keeping the Jets from providing their netminder the goals he needed.

The duo of Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler was outstanding for the entire playoffs, and they needed just a little more from rookie Kyle Connor to take their play to the next level. Connor was great at times, but not consistently great throughout the playoffs. The maturity, experience, and knowledge Connor gained throughout these playoffs will benefit him for the remainder of his career.

Paul Stastny, as has been said on many sites, was the absolute gem of the trade deadline as he made the Laine-Ehlers combo that much better. His 13 points came at vital times, but, like the rest of the Jets, he found himself against a very stout Golden Knights defence that wouldn't allow him to set up shop in front of Fleury as easily as he had in previous series. Stastny should be in-line for a solid pay day as his performance in these playoffs was the most inspired I had seen him play in several seasons.

While people lamented on the lack of goal-scoring between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers - five goals combined, all off the stick of Laine - these are two young players experiencing their first NHL playoffs. Defences tighten up, room to maneuver is less, and there aren't a lot of openings one can take without being hit or defended. They'll learn how to score goals in these spots, but their 14 combined assists show that they're weren't AWOL in the Jets' lineup. They made good plays and found players who were in prime scoring spots, and that's a huge positive for these two young players.

Trouba, Morrissey, Byfuglien, Tanev, Copp, Lowry, and Perreault all showed their worth in the Jets' lineup as well while players like Joe Morrow, Ben Chiarot, and Jack Roslovic should all be given shots at cracking the roster full-time next season. This Jets team is deep and talented, and that bodes well for the future.

If there's a silver lining on today's dark cloud over Winnipeg, there should be some review of history. The Chicago Blackhawks, whose model which upon these Jets were built, lost in five games to Detroit in 2009 before starting their three-Cups-in-six-years run in 2010. There is absolutely zero guarantee that Winnipeg will do the same thing, but the youth and experience that this Jets team possesses would make it seem like they're an automatic favorite for next season already.

It was one heckuva run for a team that most figured would just make the playoffs this season, let alone be second-overall in the NHL and a Western Conference finalist. Take nothing away from what the Jets accomplished - they played their tails off and deserve a pile of credit for the efforts given and results attained. The success of this team made the WhiteOut and the street parties a ton of fun, and there's real hope and confidence this will be an annual event now.

In the end, a well-coached team with an incredible system and an amazing goaltender ended the season for the Jets. There's a line in hockey that one must first learn how to lose before one learns how to win. The Jets will learn from this series loss, and they'll hopefully be able to take steps forward from it. If they do, next season could prove even bigger for the fans in Winnipeg!

For now, the summer is for making improvements, adjustments, and fixes that the Jets need to take that next step. There will be difficult decisions to make, but that's why GM Kevin Cheveldayoff makes the big bucks. It all starts again in October, Jets fans. Today marks the end of the beginning of the era of the Winnipeg Jets. Reset this summer, and let's get ready for another incredible season of Jets hockey!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Social Media Day Off

There are many people breaking free from social media sites for a variety of reasons. Facebook has its many problems that have recently been exposed. Twitter can often be a rather bleak place due to a number of factors. And, for a number of people, all social media just eats up time that people are now using towards other things. The last reason is my reason for going social media-free for at least one day per week, and I have to say that it's actually pretty incredible how much I haven't missed it on days where I put my phone down and forget about it. For as being as digital as I am, going old-school has been nothing short of tech vacation that I'm finding I was missing.

A few people who I've told about this plan have expressed some worry about not carrying a phone for obvious reasons. If there is an emergency, what would I do? If one of my friends or family members has an emergency, how would he or she reach me? What if there's an important phone call that I miss?

All of these are valid reasons not to carry my phone, so I have made a couple of adjustments to my pledge of having a social media-free day. I will carry my phone, but I will not look at it unless a phone call is coming in or I need to make a phone call. There are no exceptions to this rule - no social media, emails, texts, etc. My smartphone becomes simply a telephone on days where I step away.

Instead, today was a day of work around HBIC Headquarters. I planted both my vegetable and flower gardens. I applied more sand to my interlocking sidewalk and parking area, and it looks amazing! I moved the lawn, I pulled weeds, and I barbecued on a gorgeous, sunny day. In other words, I used my day productively while ignoring the buzzing of my phone!

In what might be more of a surprise, I actually feel way more happy and accomplished than when I'm a slave to my phone. I haven't made this public, but I've been doing this now for a few months. It's actually a huge relief and a sense of freedom that I've never felt before. Yes, those are first-world problems that I shouldn't be exalting, but less time on social media means more time for important things. And apparently it's not just me who feels this freedom.

I realize that as a blogger and a radio host that I can't entirely walk away from social media. I use it for networking and booking interviews, so it plays a vital role in my hobbies that I simply can't abandon. I'll still use it and I'll still be active on it, but I'm finding out as I get older that the adage of "less is more" holds true to hundreds, if not thousands, of things in life - social media included.

Please don't think this is a plea or cry fro help to ask you to do the same. It's not, and I'd never ask that of anyone. To each their own, and your usage and activities on them are yours and yours alone. Do what makes you happy, and if that requires any number of social media interactions, have at it.

In the end, I'll be doing less social media interaction, specifically on the weekends. As I sat watching sports highlights into this evening, it occurred to me that I missed Canada lose to Switzerland, the US lose to Sweden, the Capitals lose to Tampa Bay, and a number of other sports results. It also occurred to me that I didn't miss the commentary and hyperbolic outrage and severely-dramatic reactions to any of this found on social media.

For an entire Saturday, I felt free of all of that nonsense, and I pledged I'll do it again next weekend.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 18 May 2018

IIHF Brings The Technology

It's always impressive to me when sports introduces new technology that could potentially change how the game is played and broadcast. Soccer has been using GPS tracking to show how fast players run, their field coverage, and, with the assistance of tracking chips, their fitness levels and heart rates during the game. It's rather amazing to see these statistics tracked and posted in real-time, and it seems that the IIHF is getting in on the technology wave as they introduced new technology at this year's IIHF World Championships in Denmark!

Now the video that the IIHF posted between Latvia and Sweden offers no audio, so it's a little difficult to pick up exactly what is being tracked at any point in the video below. According to the IIHF, though, they're measuring "puck speed, player position, shots on goal," and any other relevant stat they can pull off the video. Watch below as Sweden spends a lot of time in Latvia's zone.

Again, it's hard to actually see any of these stats in action when there isn't a screen showing you what is being tracked. I like that there's a potential for isolation so one can see one player's immediate statistics, but there needs to be some more elaboration to see exactly what is being tracked. Nevertheless, this new technology could potentially give coaches and management new tools that they can use to improve systems and the play of their teams on the ice.

They tagged this video with "The future is coming", but it looks a lot closer than they make it sound. If soccer is doing it, hockey may not be far behind. While hockey is far more violent in terms of physical play compared to soccer, the idea of tracking players on the ice is one that people have been manually doing for a while. Having chips and GPS units tracking this rather than players with pens and paper will certainly move the game forward.

How long does it take for the NHL to adopt this? I would say it might be part of the on-ice technology within a few years if it works at the IIHF level!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 May 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 295

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with four more exit interviews from Survivor: NHL Playoffs tonight! Honestly, these should be good ones as Teebz and Beans close out Round Two with Nashville and Ryan, San Jose and Jeff, Boston and Jared, and Pittsburgh and Tom all being evicted from the island tonight! Let's get this rolling!

Here are the remaining entrants in Survivor: NHL Playoffs brought to you by Lays and their Show Your Emotions contest!

After we dismiss Ryan, Jeff, Jared, and Tom from Survivor: NHL Playoffs, we'll chat about McDavid and Team Canada against Russia in the World Championships, more notable player movement from across the globe, Team Manitoba women winning the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship for the second consecutive year, the loss of Clare Drake, the Steinbach Pistons at the RBC Cup, and the longest game in AHL history. If we're lucky, we might even get a special guest on the phone for an update from the RBC Cup because we have correspondents everywhere! Ok, not really, but we'll try to get an update on how the Pistons are doing from someone who is there cheering them on! It's another busy edition of The Hockey Show, so make sure you tune in at 5:30pm CT!

How can I tune in, you ask? 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 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! 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, Teebz and Beans eliminate four more contestants, chat about a number of tournaments, discuss a pile of hockey things, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 17, 2018: Episode 295

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Baseball Goes Caps

I'm still not a fan of these Washington Capitals Winter Classic jerseys, but to each their own, right? The Capitals donned these jerseys in 2015 during their Winter Classic appearance at Nationals Park against the Chicago Blackhawks. With my interest in the Winter Classic events waning, I had to hit the internet to remind me that the Capitals won 3-2 over the Blackhawks as Troy Browuer scored the game-winning goal on the power-play with 13 seconds to play. I don't remember this game standing out for any reason, but one baseball team wants to honour the event and team with their crossover promotional jersey.

The Class-A Carolina League Frederick Keys baseball team decided to don jerseys inspired by the Washington Capitals' Winter Classic look as they play the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Friday night. Dubbed their "Summer Classic" jerseys, the Keys are the Class-A affiliation of the Baltimore Orioles and are based in Frederick, Maryland, some 50 miles away from Washington, DC which is home to the Capitals. With the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it appears that the minor-league ball team is throwing their support behind their NHL neighbours.

Normally, I'm entirely against crossover promotions between sports because it dilutes the logo and importance of one of the two teams. This one, however, might work despite the Keys using the design of the Capitals. The Keys are named for Star-Spangled Banner poet Francis Scott Key, a native of Frederick County. The Star-Spangled Banner is, of course, the US National Anthem, and the capital of the United States is Washington, DC. It all ties together, so this is one of those promotions that works on a good level for the Keys.

Does it really need Washington's Winter Classic look? No, not really. The red-white-and-blue works for the promotion, but the Keys really could have used any other design. The fact that the Capitals are in the Eastern Conference Final is merely coincidental, so the Keys may not have even had this opportunity had the Capitals fell short once again.

Either way, the Keys will have former Washington Capital Mike Knuble at the stadium to throw out the first pitch on Friday as they celebrate the success of the Capitals. Where this promotion deserves some kudos is in the charity department. As per the Keys, the team auction off the jerseys following the game with proceeds benefiting Play4TheCure, a charity "dedicated to raising funds for the National Foundation for Cancer Research through competitive sports featuring recreational sports clubs, middle schools, high schools and collegiate sporting events." There is absolutely zero problem with that, and kudos to the Frederick Keys for teaming up with Play4TheCure.

Washington could go up 3-1 in tomorrow's game in Tampa Bay, so Friday could be a big night for the Keys. We'll see what happens in both tomorrow's Capitals-Lightning game and Friday's Keys-Pelicans game as both teams look for wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Mariners Of Maine

This is just going to be a quick addition since I'm off to umpire again tonight. Above is the logo for the newest ECHL team in Portland, Maine. They are the Mariners of Maine. Yes, like the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, we have another "of" name. Personally, that just seems so minor-league, but that's my opinion.

The ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers will begin play this fall, so it's time to ask the obvious question regarding any new team: do you like the name and logo?

My take? The logo is fine. The name is awful. Maine Mariners? Ok, no real problem despite it being Seattle's baseball team's name. But this "Mariners of Maine" stuff is downright terrible.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Being A Fan Is Costly

I've been asked by a few out-of-town friends if I am planning on going to see the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights play at BellMTS Place. I will tell you right now: that's a big negative. I spent some time on Friday trying to see if I could find tickets that won't prompt to take a second mortgage, but it's proving difficult thanks to the pricing that the Jets have set for this third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To be honest, I'd need the salary of a Winnipeg Jet to see the Jets play.

Tickets for this round of play at BellMTS Place start in the 300-level at $257 plus fees and taxes. Conservative estimates would put that cost around $300 for nosebleed tickets at the rink. If I wanted to hang out with Cassie Campbell-Pascale and Scott Oake on the 100-level, those tickets are priced at $730 plus fees and taxes. Again, let's just call it $800.

In other words, it ain't cheap to see the Jets at home. That's when a few people in my social circle said, "What about Vegas?"

Allegiant Air, as seen in the lede photo, added a Wednesday afternoon flight from Grand Forks International Airport to the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas with a return on Saturday. Domestic flights in the US are usually far cheaper than flying from Canada across the border, so it was worth the gamble to see if this added flight would be more economical than buying tickets at home. According to Allegiant's website, the cost for booking this flight?

$660 per seat. To start. OUCH.

Ok, so maybe there isn't any way to see the Jets without paying a ton of dough in this third round. I guess the $300 for the upper-deck tickets might be the most economical choice if one wants to watch the game live and in-person.

For now, I'm fairly happy watching the game from my couch with cold beverages in the fridge, good food nearby, no line-ups for the bathroom, and, if needed, a change of clothes in case there are nachos or other food spilled. I'm not complaining about the accommodations since the mortgage payment I'd need to spend on a ticket can actually be spent on my mortgage!

While season ticket holders spend far less than what the walk-up crowd does, True North Sports and Entertainment is clearly making truckloads of money in these playoffs! Go Jets Go!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Drake

No, this isn't a Seinfeld episode. Having spent some time with my friend and broadcast partner TJ, I began to develop a real appreciation for legendary CIS/U SPORTS coach Clare Drake. TJ used to joke that Clare Drake helped the University of Alberta Golden Bears to 120-or-so championships in men's hockey, but it's hard to deny his phenomenal record and incredible mind when it came to the game. Hockey lost an amazing man today whose passion for the amateur game may go unequaled when it was announced that legendary coach Clare Drake passed away at the age of 89.

Clare James Drake was born on October 9, 1928 in Yorkton, Saskatchewan as the only child to Clarence and Grace Drake. He played hockey in Regina and Medicine Hat before enrolling at the University of British Columbia where he played for the UBC Thunderbirds men's hockey program before graduating in 1951 with his Bachelor of Physical Education Degree.

While he didn't possess a teaching degree, Clare's work with his former high school's football team in Yorkton, Saskatchewan prompted the high school to add Clare to the join the faculty after they were impressed with his abilities and work ethic. Through his passion for teaching at the high school, Clare formally enrolled at the University of Alberta in 1953 where he sought his teaching degree while playing hockey for the Golden Bears.

In 1954, he graduated with his Education Degree, ready to teach young minds, but decided to jump an opportunity to play and coach professional hockey in Düsseldorf, Germany. He, his wife Dolly, and his daughters Debbie and Jami spent a season in Düsseldorf before Clare went back to teaching as the physical education department head at the newly-built Strathcona Composite High School in Edmonton in 1955. He would spend three years at Strathcona Composite High School where he plied and mastered his trade while also assisting the Alberta Golden Bears men's hockey team under head coach Dr. Don Smith. In 1958, following the retirement of Dr. Smith, this is where the legend of Clare Drake began as he took over as the head coach of the Golden Bears.

As much as TJ joked about Clare Drake leading the Golden Bears to 120-or-so championships, there literally is no one who had as much success at the Canadian Intercollegiate Sports level as Clare Drake did. In his 28 years as the head coach of the Golden Bears, he led the team to 17 conference championships and six national championships. He served as an assistant coach for the Golden Bears football team during the 1960s except for three years where he was the head coach. In 1967, the Golden Bears football team won the national football championship, making Clare Drake the only person in history to win a national hockey and football championship in the same year.

The above paragraph is only scratching the surface of his amazing career. Drake was one of the early adopters of coaches helping coaches, sharing his strategies and ideas with other coaches at all levels of hockey as his impressive win totals grew at the university level. This, in turn, helped Hockey Canada establish Canada's National Coaching Certification Program, of which Drake was a part, which is a key training tool for coaches and sports educators in Canada.

Drake stepped away from the Golden Bears after being named the 1975 CIAU Hockey Coach of the Year to toss his name into the professional hockey ring in 1975-76 when he took over the head coaching duties for the WHA's Edmonton Oilers. Led by 39 year old Norm Ullman, the Oilers didn't possess much talent on their roster outside of Ullman, Ed "Rusty" Patenaude, and Tim Sheehy who scored a combined 107 goals that season, some 31% of the Oilers' total offensive output that year. While Dave Dryden tried his best to keep the Oilers in games, Oilers owner Bill Hunter wanted better results and opted to fire Drake 48 games into the season with the Oilers sitting at an 18-28-2 record and in fourth-place in the WHA Canadian Division.

Drake went back to the University of Alberta and continued to rack up wins with the Golden Bears. In 1980, he was named as the head coach for the Canadian Olympic team that competed in the Lake Placid Winter Olympiad. Canada had a few soon-to-be-recognizable names as Glenn Anderson Randy Gregg, Paul MacLean, and Tim Watters all suited up under Drake, but it would be a stumble at the hands of Finland on February 16, 1980 that would force Canada out of the medal round. Canada would end up in sixth-place at the Lake Placid Olympics as the US, behind Herb Brooks and the "Miracle on Ice", captured the gold medal.

After his Olympic experience, Drake went back to the classroom as a student, enrolling at the University of Washington where he earned his Master of Science Degree after two years of study. He began classes at the University of Oregon for his Doctor of Education Degree, but Hockey Canada offered him an intriguing position in the fall of 1983 that interrupted his studies: head coach for the first-ever Canadian Spengler Cup team!

That team, which started as an experiment, came together quickly under Drake, and they shocked the tournament organizers by defeating Czech Extraliga champions HC Dukla Jihlava in the gold medal final to start Canada's dominance at this tournament. As it stands, the Canadian "experiment" would come to be a annual standard in Davos, Switzerland as Canada, playing since 1984's tournament, has captured 15 gold medals while claiming silver on eight other occasions.

Drake would return to the head coaching duties of the Alberta Golden Bears in 1985 where he simply continued to win as a CWUAA head coach. When he finally called it a career in terms of his Canadian university coaching career in 1989, Drake had amassed 697 wins, 296 losses and 37 ties - an unfathomable .695 winning percentage in 1030 career games! He also captured his second CIAU Hockey Coach of the Year Award in 1988, and was named to the University of Alberta Sports Wall of Fame in 1987. And just for good measure, Drake added being named to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 as well!

So you're thinking he must be done there, right? Nope. Rather than just sit back and enjoy retirement after an amazing career, Drake moved west to Winnipeg where he joined the Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach for two seasons! In his first season coaching under Bob Murdoch, Murdoch was named as the 1989-90 Jack Adams Award winner after the Jets improved from 64 points in '88-89 to 85 points under Murdoch, Drake, and Alpo Suhonen. Winnipeg, unfortunately, fell in the opening round to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs, but Drake's coaching style was seen in the aggressive way Winnipeg pressured opponents that season.

1990 also saw Drake's name elevated to new heights as the University of Alberta decided to honour the coaching legend by renaming Varsity Arena as Clare Drake Arena for all he had accomplished at the university. Without doubt, Clare Drake Arena is still one of the toughest arena for road teams to earn a win in, and credit goes to the current iterations of the Golden Bears and Pandas who stand tall at home.

1990-91 saw the Jets take a step back under Murdoch, Drake, and new assistant coach Terry Simpson as they finished the season out of the playoffs following the trade that saw Dale Hawerchuk traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Phil Housley. Drake would leave the Jets following that season, but he remained in the NHL as a consultant for a few NHL teams looking for new ideas including the Dallas Stars in 1990 with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench.

While his time with NHL teams was short-lived, he returned to Hockey Canada's fold as Drake was invited as a mentor with the Canadian Women's National Hockey team in 1995 after the IOC announced in 1992 that women's hockey would begin play as an Olympic-medal sport at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. His work helped Canada earn a silver medal at the 1998 Olympic Games, and he would finally step away from the game following his work with the women.

What other accolades haven't I mentioned? Let's run through a few:
  • Honourary Doctor of Law Degree - University of Alberta
  • Distinguished Alumni Award - University of Alberta
  • Order of Hockey in Canada
  • Geoff Gowan Award for career achievement - Coaching Association of Canada
  • University of Alberta Hall of Fame member
  • UBC Hall of Fame member
  • Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame member
  • Alberta Sports Hall of Fame member
  • Honourary Life Member - Alberta Football Coaches Association
  • Alberta Centennial Medal winner
  • 3M Gordon Juckes Award - Hockey Canada
  • Alberta Order of Excellence
  • 2013 inductee to the Order of Canada
  • 2017 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame (Builder)
  • Clare Drake Award for the U SPORTS men's hockey Rookie of the Year
After all that, Clare Drake was always quick to credit his assistant coaches for his success, but there is no doubt that the man was instrumental in Canadian hockey at a number of levels. If there truly are "hockey gods" that watch over the game, they added an extra seat at that table today with the loss of Clare Drake.

Rest in peace, Mr. Drake. You will live on in spirit thanks to the major influence you had on how hockey is played, the people you coached and inspired, and the thousands of people who have adopted your teachings.

Until next time, raise your sticks high in honour of Clare Drake!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Manitoba Women Are Golden (Again)

If you're a female Manitoba hockey player, 2018 has been a very good year. First, the Manitoba Bisons women's hockey team captured both the Canada West championship and the U SPORTS National Championship at the university level. And today, Team Manitoba at the 2018 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship followed up their gold medal from last season with a second gold medal as they downed Ontario South in the final!

There's a reason why I mentioned the Manitoba Bisons in the opening paragraph. This Manitoba team, who was absolutely dominant throughout the tournament, was led in scoring by two players that the Bisons have signed as recruits for next season as Keyanna and Keyara Lea showed the nation just how good they are. But there are others on this team who will do well at the U SPORTS level as defender Breanne Dondo, who will attend the University of Montreal, and goaltender Bianca Zak, who will attend Mount Allison University, were key contributors on this Manitoba team in helping them get to a second consecutive gold medal celebration. It might be time for the nation to take notice that Manitoba is producing some incredible hockey players.

That being said, let's focus on how good this Manitoba team was in their pursuit of excellence once more. Manitoba would meet the 1-0 Ontario South team in their opening game on May 7, and this one had all the makings of a classic. Bianca Zak got the call between the pipes for Manitoba while Keelee Hollowell took to the blue paint in the Ontario South end. Just 1:43 in, Kaila Powell put Manitoba up 1-0 off a wraparound following a turnover behind Hollowell's net. Manitoba would double their lead just four minutes later when Keyanna Lea took a gorgeous feed from sister Keyara Lea out of the corner on the power-play and zipped it past the glove of Hollowell at 5:14. Alissa General would cut the deficit in half with 3:47 to play, but Manitoba took the lead into the intermission.

Can I just take a second and point out that Keelee Hollowell was wearing #53? I love me some non-traditional goalie numbers. Anyway, the second saw Manitoba restore their two-goal lead twice. First, Emily Daniels scored at 7:18 to make it 3-1 before Ontario's Jesse Renee Kennedy made it a one-goal game 12:48. Manitoba would see their special teams jump to life when Makenzie McCallum blocked a point shot on the power-play, and then was off to the races. Her partial breakaway saw her go high on the glove side just inside the post with 22 seconds remaining for the shorthanded marker that put Manitoba ahead 4-2.

Manitoba played the third period very defensive-minded, send the Ontario attack back to the neutral zone time and time again. However, we all know that the "prevent" defence eventually collapses, and Ontario would find a break with 4:15 to play. A turnover at the blueline led to Ontario getting the puck in deep before sending it back to the point where Victoria Miller-Loft fired one on net that went off a Manitoba defender right to the stick of Alissa General and she buried her second of the game to make it 4-3. And Ontario wasn't done. With Hollowell on the bench and six attackers on, a scramble in front of Zak saw Cheyenne Campbell bury the game-tying goal with just 23 seconds to play!

Overtime, right? Not on this day. Manitoba, with five seconds remaining, saw Keyanna Lea win the face-off back where McCallum fired a wrist shot towards the net that went off a defender in front and allowed Lea, who had gone to the net, to pick up the loose puck, spin, and slide it past Hollowell with less than a second to play to give Manitoba the 5-4 win! In a rather remarkable finish, Manitoba grabbed the victory with that last-second effort! Zak was brilliant in stopping 27 of 31 shots while Hollowell deserved a better fate after stopping 24 of 29 shots. The full game's video can be seen below!

Manitoba's second game came against Ontario North as the 'Tobans looked to continue their reign of terror over our easterly neighbours. Makenzie McCallum staked the Manitobans to a 1-0 just 10:42 into this game before Ontario's Xanthe Shecapio-Saganash came roaring back with a pair of goals 33 seconds apart at 14:40 and 15:13 to put Ontario up 2-1! Kaila Powell would score with 3:03 left in the period on the power-play, however, and this game would hit the intermission tied at 2-2!

Would we see another back-and-firth affair like the previous day? That answer was no as Manitoba clamped down defensively while goaltender Shayna Moore turned aside the remaining Ontario chances. A second period goal by Keyanna Lea followed third period goals from Kaila Powell and Keyara Lea paced Manitoba to the 5-2 win over Ontario North. Moore stopped 16 of 18 shots in the game while her Ontario counterpart Cailen Hanzlik stopped 35 of 40 shots she faced as Manitoba improved to 2-0! Again, the full video of this game can be seen below!

Manitoba's third game in pool play came against Team Atlantic, and Manitoba's prowess was on display. Manitoba, which didn't allow Team Atlantic a shot on net in the opening period, jumped out to a 3-0 through the opening frame on goals by Keyanna Lea, Carrigan Umpherville, and Aliya Baker. Manitoba would add three more goals in the second period with Makenzie McCallum, Keyanna Lea, and Keyara Lea tallying notches. And in the final period, Umpherville added her second of the game as Manitoba skated to the 7-0 win. Shayna Moore had a rather light evening of work in stopping all eight shots for the shutout while Manitoba peppered Atlantic goalie Taylor Cremo with 39 shots, 32 of which which turned aside. With the victory, Manitoba moved to 3-0. The full game can be seen below.

Manitoba finished the pool play of the tournament against Team Alberta on Thursday, May 10, and this one was all Manitoba once again. First period goals by Keyanna Lea and Makenzie McCallum put Manitoba out to a 2-0 lead. That lead grew to 4-0 after Kaila Powell and Carrigan Umpherville dented the twine for Manitoba in the middle frame. And, just for good measure, Manitoba finished off Alberta with a trio of goals in the third period from Umpherville, Lea, and Powell to lead the central province to a 7-0 victory. Manitoba outshot Alberta 43-9 in this game with Bianca Zak picking up the shutout while Alberta's Paige Thomas stopped 36 shots in the game. Manitoba finished their fourth game in four nights with a sparkling 4-0 record to put them atop the Pool A standings. Video of this game is below.

The medal round saw Manitoba enter at the top-seeded team from Pool A, so they would meet the second-place team from Pool B. That team would be British Columbia who tied Saskatchewan in the final game of Pool B play to put both teams at 3-0-1, but fell to second after Saskatchewan finished with a better goal differential. As a result, Manitoba and BC would square off with a berth to the gold medal game on the line, but this one went off the rails in a hurry for BC.

After falling behind 2-0 just 1:46 into the game on a goal by Keyanna Lea and power-play marker from Julie Albert, BC rallied three minutes later on a power-play of their own when Maryna MacDonald found room past Shayna Moore to make it 2-1 at 4:46. From there, this one went sideways as Manitoba finished off the period with a power-play goal from Keyara Lea and an even-strength tally from Aliya Baker to put Manitoba ahead 4-1 after one period of play.

The second period saw Manitoba increase its lead when Makenzie McCallum scored on the power-play just 2:57 into the period, but that would be all the scoring for now. I say "for now" because Manitoba absolutely shut the door on any sort of miraculous comeback in the third period. Goals by Keyara Lea on the power-play, McCallum, Umpherville, Umpherville again, and Kaila Powell ended any hope that BC may have had for a gold medal as Manitoba skated to the 10-1 win. Moore stopped 18 of 19 shots in the victory while Tessa Sturgeon surrendered all ten goals on Manitoba's 30 shots. With the win, Manitoba advanced to the gold medal final! Video of the game is below.

Who would they face in the gold medal game? None other than Ontario South, the team against whom Manitoba first faced and needed last second heroics to escape with a win. Would we see another epic battle between these two rivals?

Manitoba would be the first to hit the scoreboard in the gold medal game when Keyara lea skated it down the ice and across the Ontario blue line before dropping it for Keyanna Lea who took the puck to the high slot and wired a wrist shot past the screen and past Hailee Johnson in the Ontario net to put Manitoba up 1-0 just 8:40 into the game! Minutes later, the sisters would strike again as Keyanna Lea got the puck from the defensive half-board to Keyara who streaked down the ice against four defenders and somehow managed to take the puck across the slot and backhand a high shot past the glove on Johnson to make it 2-0 at 11:07 on what was possibly one of the worst defensive efforts that Ontario South had all tournament. The score would remain intact through to the intermission as Manitoba looked to build on that two-goal advantage in the second period.

And they would build on that lead. 6:30 into the period, Keyanna Lea won a race to the puck at the end-boards in the Ontario zone. She quickly relayed that puck to Keyara Lea who spotted Carrigan Umpherville in the slot and went tape-to-tape. Umpherville didn't get everything on the shot as the puck slid toward Johnson and some how got under her to make it 3-0 at 6:35! That seemed to spark Ontario, though, as they stormed back. Cassie Whiteye brought the puck in the Manitoba zone on the right side before finding Lillian George in the middle. George made an aggressive move to pull the puck to her forehand with a defender in front of her and behind her, and wired home a high shot past Bianca Zak to make it 3-1 at 8:06! The two-goal margin would hold through the second intermission as both teams had twenty minutes to play!

Just 4:30 into the period, George was on the move again as she caused a turnover, picked up the puck, flew down the right wing, and cut to the middle of the zone with one defender to beat. Her initial shot was stopped by the right pad of Zak, but George followed her shot and was rewarded with the rebound that she deposited behind Zak to make it a 3-2 game at 4:34! Manitoba would respond, however, as Keyanna Lea broke over the Ontario line before losing the puck only to have the puck corralled by Carrigan Umpherville who wristed a high shot past a couple of Ontario defenders and past Hailee Johnson to make it 4-2 at 7:50!

Back came Ontario once more, and it felt like their preliminary game as Ontario scored with three minutes to play. Umpherville was whistled for a bodycheck, and that sent Ontario to the power-play where, after a timeout and putting Johnson on the bench, Ontario went to work with a six-on-four advantage. After moving the puck on the outside, Brittany Zack teed one up from the point that pinballed around the front of the net with five players standing in front of Zak. Finally, it popped out to the left face-off circle where Ariele McDonald wristed a high shot through the traffic that found the back of the net to make this a 4-3 game! Could Ontario tie the game late again?

Manitoba, having learned from their previous game, kept the pressure on Ontario as they pulled their netminder for the extra attacker, and that pressure paid off when Kaila Powell finally buried the puck in the unguarded cage to make it 5-3 and secure Manitoba's second-straight gold medal! As time ran out, Manitoba's bench emptied and the team embraced Zak at her net. Zak was solid as she stopped 19 shots for the victory while Johnson stopped 20 shots in helping her team to the silver medal. You can watch the full gold medal game below!

Just to give you an idea of how good a few of these players were, Keyanna Lea led Team Manitoba in scoring over the six games with nine goals and 12 assists! Sister Keyara Lea wasn't too far behind as she finished the six games with five goals and ten assists. Carrigan Umpherville scored eight goals and added three helpers in the six games. Together, those three were the driving force in helping Manitoba win. As a team, the Manitobans were nearly unstoppable while on the power-play, converting nine of 14 opportunities in the tournament for a 64.3% efficiency!

On the defensive side, both Shayna Moore and Bianca Zak were solid in the nets in going 6-0. Moore was 3-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .923 save percentage while Bianca Zak put together a 3-0 record with a 2.00 GAA and a .900 save percentage. The Manitoba penalty kill was just as impressive as its power-play, allowing just two power-play goals on 17 opportunities for an 88.2% efficiency!

Overall, Manitoba was the best team at this tournament when the dust finally settled. They didn't score the most goals or stop the most shots statistically, but they played a solid team that looked unified on the ice. If the whole is greater than its parts, this Manitoba team is living proof of just how good a team can be when they come together. For the second-straight year! Congratulations go out to Team Manitoba for repeating as gold medalists! Way to make the province proud, ladies!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Major Musicians Update

It's rare that I speak about anthem singers on here, but Boston's elimination from the playoffs resulted in Rene Rancourt finally entering the retirement community after he had announced earlier this season that this year would be his last with the Bruins. That prompted me to start thinking about musicians in hockey jerseys again, so let's have some fun with a major update to the Musicians In Jerseys database! There are many from this year's playoffs, we have a whole new crop of Vegas jerseys, and we'll see some musicians who seem to be on these updates more than I'd like to see. In any case, here are the newest additions!

I'll start in Brooklyn where the New York Islanders play, and there's one man who has been synonymous with live concerts in New York City. That man is Billy Joel, and Joel received a New York Islanders jersey of his own this season!

Speaking of legendary musicians, there will never be anyone like Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip ever again. Downie was proudly Canadian and I would have expected to find him in a Kingston Frontenacs jersey or a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Instead, here he is in full netminding gear while sporting a Buffalo Sabres jersey!

Friend of the blog John M. sent along a beauty screen capture of Alice Cooper from a music documentary. I've never actually seen Alice Cooper in a New York Rangers jersey ever before, so this was a fantastic find by John!

I was looking to see if Sheryl Crow had ever worn a hockey jersey before for any reason after seeing her recent anthem signing in Nashville, and it turns out she has! Here is Sheryl Crow wearing the jersey of the Bemidji State Beavers!

Rogers Hometown Hockey has allowed Tara Slone to visit a number of amazing communities across Canada over the last few years, and she often gets involved in the community for the short time she's there. She was out in Charlottetown for an episode, and she dropped the puck at a QMJHL Charlottetown Islanders game while wearing the team's jersey!

Tegan and Sara have been producing some rather great music for a long time, so I always found it odd that the Canadian twin sisters never donned a hockey jersey in any photo. Scratch that off the list, because they posted an image of Sara holding a Team Canada jersey with members of the National Women's Team! Tegan's in the photo, but the rules are you have to be holding or wearing a jersey to get credit!

She tried to slip into a building without being noticed, but how does one not get noticed in an NHL jersey? That's Selena Gomez wearing a New Jersey Devils jersey as she follows Justin Bieber into a venue.

Speaking of Bieber, here's the Biebs wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs Winter Classic jersey. Moving on.

If there's one team that everyone should be behind at this point, it's the Winnipeg Jets. There aren't many additions to that group, but we can count Brad Paisley as having a jersey. The real question is whether or not he's cheering for the Jets right now!

Sticking with the country theme, Vancouver welcomed Eric Church to their city a while back, and with that welcome came an Eric Church Vancouver Canucks jersey! I'm pretty sure he has a few jerseys in his closet now.

I've never really listened to their music being that I'm not a country music fan, but Florida Georgia Line was in Jacksonville, Florida for a concert, and they received jerseys from the ECHL Jacksonville Icemen! This is the first time I've seen any band received jerseys from the Icemen, so tip of the cap to the FGL!

One guy who has been spotted in hockey jerseys over his career is Dierks Bentley. Dierks accepted his punishment in losing a bet where he wore a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey in concert following Pittsburgh's victory over Nashville last season! Well done, Dierks, on accepting the punishment despite how good that jersey looks!

Leanne Pearson is a country singer from Winnipeg. She might be the top musical Jets fanatic! Her social media posts about the Jets always make me smile, especially since most recently have been about her Jets adventure in Nashville!

This one is a little dated, but there's no doubt that '90s boy band 'NSYNC stormed the nation, spawning the eventual career of one Justin Timberlake. They toured all over North America including Vancouver where the five men received their own personalized Vancouver Canucks jerseys!

On a recent concert tour, the Eagles rolled through Raleigh, North Carolina where they played a date. The Eagles aren't known for their hockey jersey affinity, but Glenn Frey wore a few in his career. Unfortunately, we lost Glenn in January 2016, but his son, Deacon, has started touring with the Eagles in his father's place and it would be Deacon Frey who sported the Carolina Hurricanes jersey on their stop through Raleigh.

Another guy who spent a night in Raleigh entertaining fans was Ed Sheeran who received his own jersey! Not only did he receive his jersey backstage, but Sheeran decided to give the crowd a thrill by wearing his jersey onstage!

Doc Walker is a Canadian Country Music Award-winning band from Westbourne, Manitoba, so you'd almost expect them to have Winnipeg Jets jerseys at this point, right? They actually told a story on local radio that they almost became Nashville Predators fans after spending so much time in Music City, but the return of the Jets forced them into cheering for their local team once more! Atta boys, Doc Walker!

Speaking of "atta boys", here are Doc Walker in Humboldt Broncos jerseys from the Humboldt Strong concert. They were one of the performers that night, and it was great to see them helping to raise money for the Broncos and the community. Good on you, gents!

Ok, so the very first musician that I saw wearing a Vegas Golden Knights jersey was a mom at her son's hockey practice. It was a little shocking to see Canadian songstress Celine Dion sporting the Vegas Golden Knights' colours, but she certainly wouldn't be the last musician to do so this season!

Another musician who showed up to T-Mobile Arena and got himself "Knighted" was Steve Aoki! Aoki's music isn't really my cup of tea, but it appears the DJ found himself a hockey team to support!

With the loss of the Atlanta Thrashers, rapper Li'l Jon seemed to have given up on supporting a hockey team. It was a bit of a surprise to see him resurface as Vegas Golden Knights fan! Welcome back, Li'l Jon!

After losing one Canadian to Vegas in Celine Dion, who would have thought we'd lose another? Musician Paul Schaffer donned a Vegas Golden Knights jersey this season as the Canadian singer and musician appeared at T-Mobile Arena!

The entertainers who play Vegas shows regularly would be the ones that you'd expect to jump aboard the Vegas Golden Knights bandwagon. Wynn Las Vegas resident entertainer John Fogerty is one of those entertainers, and he's been cheering for the Golden Knights since the playoffs started!

And just for good measure in this Vegas pack of photos, how cool is it to see the rockers ZZ Top sporting Vegas Golden Knights jerseys during a recent concert in Sin City? That's too cool!

As I mentioned above, the Nashville Predators invited Sheryl Crow to sign the anthem for them prior to a playoff game against the Winnipeg Jets, and she got a Nashville Predators jersey out of it!

Rascal Flatts did their patriotic duty in singing the anthem, and all three members got to wear the Predators' iconic yellow!

I'm not sure exactly when this happened, but credit PK Subban for meeting one of the most iconic female performers that we've ever known. I don't know if Janet Jackson kept the Subban jersey from the picture, but how cool would it be knowing that Janet Jackson is a fan of you if you were PK Subban?

I honestly can't believe it's taken this long to get her a jersey, but Faith Hill stands with her Predators, apparently. As for taking Shea Weber's number? I suppose that's alright.

Chris Isaak was born in Stockton, California - home of the AHL's Stockton Heat - so I don't know what he's doing in Predators yellow when I would have thought he'd be cheering for the Sharks, Ducks, or Kings in these playoffs. I guess that goes to show that I don't really know Chris Isaak all that well.

There are your updates for the last few months. It might have been even longer than that as I didn't go back to check when the last one of these updates was done, but it's now t-minus-zero-days and counting. If you want to see all the musicians who have been captured in hockey jerseys, please click here. I'm sure we'll get more over the summer, so we'll check back in soon!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 294

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, sees one of its two usual co-hosts off conducting business and affairs. Teebz will fly solo tonight with Beans conducting business elsewhere, so we'll put the exit interviews on hold this week as we await the final second-round series to end. With no Survivor: NHL Playoffs (brought to you by Lays and their Show Your Emotions contest) to discuss, what exactly is happening on the ol' hockey radio show tonight?

Tonight, I'll be talking to this handsome dude! That is Mark Taraschuk, defenceman for the Turnbull Cup-winning and Anavet Cup-winning Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL, and he and his teammates leave tomorrow for the 2018 RBC Cup being held in Chilliwack, BC where the elite National Junior A hockey teams from across Canada will gather to determine the best of the best in this nation! We'll talk to Mark about his career with Steinbach, his time in the WHL, being a two-time midget hockey champion, the Humboldt bus crash, having a sister who is one helluva hockey player, his billet family, life as a semi-pro fisherman, and more as we learn all about one of the Pistons' best players down the stretch and through the MJHL playoffs! It should be a solid show with lots of laughs, so make sure you tune in at 5:30pm for this one!

I know Mark but how can I hear his interview, you ask? 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 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! 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, we learn all about Mark Taraschuk, the Steinbach Pistons, and whether or not he'll add more national championship hardware to the Taraschuk household after his appearance at the RBC Cup only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 10, 2018: Episode 294

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

While You Were Sleeping

I was just getting myself ready for bed when history was made. Minutes later, that history had more written to it as there was a battle for the ages in the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs last night. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms met the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles' Coliseum in the North Carolina city for Game Four of their second-round series last night, but didn't actually finish playing the game until the wee hours of this morning. Yes, you read that correctly - the game spilled over into Thursday. I had already written most of this account, thankfully, but the Phantoms struck late in the night to put themselves up 3-1 in the series over Charlotte.

Now you might be saying, "Teebz, it was just another overtime game." Except it wasn't.

I take you back to April 24, 2008 where the Philadelphia Phantoms met the Albany River Rats in Game Five of their series that year. In what was seemingly a normal game, the two teams were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation hockey, so it was off to overtime. And then a second overtime period. And a third. Followed by a fourth. And then a fifth overtime period where, at 2:58 of the eighth period, Ryan Potulny beat Michael Leighton on the Phantoms' 101st shot of the night on the blocker side to give the Phantoms the 3-2 win in the longest AHL game, at that time, in the league's 72-year history.

Fast forward to tonight where the Lehigh Valley Phantoms met the Charlotte Checkers with the score tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time. It would be off to overtime for these two teams to find a winner. It was still tied after the fourth period, so it went to a fifth frame. And then a sixth. Followed by a seventh. With no one having scored a winner after 140:00, the talk turned to possibly breaking the record set a decade earlier.

As the seconds ticked toward the 17:02 mark, the hundreds who were still in attendance seemed pretty aware of their chance at being a part of history in Charlotte as the time inched towards 1:00am. Finally, the game clock hit 17:01, the crowd loud out a pretty solid ovation for themselves and the teams for hanging in there, and we were into a new chapter of AHL history! The only problem? We still didn't have a winner!

We didn't have to wait long, though, as the game stopped at 6:48 of the fifth overtime period when this happened.
Alex Krushelnyski buried the puck past Alex Nedeljkovic on the blocker side with the one-timer to give the Phantoms the 3-2 victory! If that Krushelnyski name sounds familiar, the answer is yes to the question of "is that former NHLer Mike Krushelnyski's son". Alex Lyon records the win for the Phantoms in stopping 94 of 95 shots, just short of the 98 stops on 101 shots that Michael Leighton faced ten years ago. Total time played? 146:48, 3:50 longer than the 2008 epic marathon game.

If you really want some Twilight Zone craziness, there's the fact the NHL affiliates for all four of the teams making history - Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Albany, and Charlotte - are the same two teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes. In 18 seasons of having the Hurricanes in Carolina, they have not met the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs in their history. If you add in the history of the Hartford Whalers, the two franchises still have never met in the NHL playoffs. With zero meetings between these two NHL teams, the NHL might be thankful. Why, you ask? Well, the two longest games in AHL history were played in the only two meetings these two AHL affiliates have had against one another while affiliated with Philadelphia and Carolina. Cue the Twilight Zone music!

It's almost hard to believe that Lehigh Valley got the win while playing with just five defencemen for most of the game. Samuel Morin left the game in the first period with what is being described as a lower-body injury, so he missed some 130 minutes of hockey action on this night. Charlotte outshot Lehigh Valley 95-53, including 54-29 in the overtime periods, which is fairly remarkable when you consider that Phantoms netminder Alex Lyon stopped 79 consecutive shots as he stonewalled Charlotte over the final 119:56. Simply incredible!

What may be the best news for both the Phantoms and Checkers is that the teams are off until Saturday night, so the next couple of days will certainly be maintenance days after the marathon tonight. I'd say they earned a day off, right?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

And So It Begins...

The fields have been prepped and watered. The grass is green, the lines have been chalked, and the sun is shining. While it's still hockey season with the playoffs going on, we've overlapped into softball season as I got to don the baby blue umpire's uniform for the first time tonight! I have no idea which teams I'll be umpiring tonight, and it doesn't really matter because it's going to nice to get back on the diamonds tonight, and I'm excited for another season to get underway!

With no hockey on tonight, I'm not missing anything of importance so I feel like this is a good time to take a quick break. With me being on the diamonds all evening until very late, I'm closing up shop for one night. I'm sure there are stories to be told and information to bring forward on here, but I'm committed to the ball diamond tonight and I'm not going to have the time to scribe an article when I get home.

My Tuesdays for the next few weeks are booked until further notice as the month of May sees me on the diamond on those nights. I'll have articles posted for the next few, so don't think this lack of hockey talk will be an on-going thing. It's just a break for tonight as the softball season gets underway.

Play ball!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 7 May 2018

That Didn't Go Well

It's the situation every hockey wants: an elimination game at home in front of their rabid fans. For the Winnipeg Jets, pushing the Nashville Predators to the brink of elimination in Nashville by a 6-2 score was one thing, but actually closing the deal on BellMTS Place ice meant everything to the Jets' fanbase. In saying that, the Nashville Predators played another nearly-flawless road game in winning 4-0 tonight, forcing a Game Seven back in Nashville on Thursday night.

Say this with me, Winnipeg: breathe.

Yes, losing this game meant that the Predators return home with their confidence renewed, but the Jets should take some solace in the fact that they, like Nashville, have beaten their opposition in their rink twice in this series. And yes, it's a tall order to take three games off a team in their barn, but Winnipeg has won those games by scores of 4-1 and 6-2 in those games. In other words, it's very possible.

The Nashville Predators were the top team in the NHL this season, so expecting them to simply roll over in Game Six was unreasonable. They've been resilient all season long when it comes to rebounding after losses, and didn't lose three games in a row in regulation all season long. This team can play, and their President's Trophy this season is evidence of that.

Nashville scored early which has been an earmark of their success. Magnus Arvidsson's rather weird deflection while crouching came just 1:02 into the game, and that's something the Jets need to address if they hope to win on Thursday. If Nashville is able to stake a lead, they will trap, trap, and trap some more if they score first. If Winnipeg scores first, they'll force Nashville to open more than they seem willing to, and that benefits the Jets and their north-south attack.

Scoring first will also help temper the rabid fans in Nashville who obviously will be cheering their team on in full-force, so taking the crowd out of the game early will help simmer the Nashville fury.I'll give full credit to the fans in Nashville as they have been as raucous as the fans in Winnipeg, so that's something the Jets will have to contend with all night long if they're playing catch-up. Instead, score first, quiet the crowd, and see if one can force the Predators into turnovers as they try to find an equalizer as they open up that defensive shell.

The other thing the Jets need to be far more aware of is the middle of the ice in the defensive zone. Nashville is getting more looks down the middle of the ice at Connor Hellebuyck, and that spells trouble with the skill their forwards have in getting sticks on pucks and finding rebounds. Filip Forsberg's two goals came from the edge of Connor Hellebuyck's crease, and that simply cannot happen if the Jets hope to advance.

Nashville has been successful in exploiting specific lines in this series as the Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson line has given Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot headaches for the six games they've played. That defensive duo will have to be much, much better in their own zone if Peter Laviolette continues to roll his top line out against them. Alternatively, Paul Maurice needs to be very aware of his line matching so that Trouba and Morrissey lead the way in ice-time. If those two can't be the effective shutdown pairing they are through some poor line matching or questionable coaching decisions, the Jets will need an exceptional effort from Myers and Chiarot.

Game Seven will be an outstanding clash between two stellar teams, but it's not unrealistic to think the Jets will advance. They need to play their game by getting out in front and making Nashville match their pace and play. If the Jets can do that, it might be time to start booking flights to Vegas!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Hibernation Season Begins

Some will say that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins were fairly even teams, and I would agree for the most part when just talking about the rosters on paper. The problem is that these series aren't played on paper, so making these comparisons are often futile when one brings in actual factors. I heard some suggest that this series was lost when Brad Marchand licked Ryan Callahan in Game Four. Others pointed to Game Two when the Lightning really established their physical game and forecheck. For me, there was one factor that made the Lightning on overwhelming favorite long before this series even started.

I have been doing some radio work for CBC as stations across Canada have been asking for my input on the Jets and Predators, but they also ask about the other series that are happening. When it came to the Lightning and Bruins, I repeated the same lines to every single station that asked. I was concerned about how the Bruins would respond to the depth and speed of the Lightning after the Lightning played just five games against the Devils while the Bruins needed the full seven games to eliminate the Maple Leafs.

In short, I thought the Bruins looked exhausted in the four-straight losses they suffered after winning Game One. In fact, I thought the Lightning not only established their game early in Game Two, but never really let Boston dictate the pace or tempo from that point onward in this series.

Let's not discredit the Lightning for what they did in this series. Brayden Point outplayed the majority of the Bruins at 22 years-old, and he was a factor in each of the games. Players like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos outplayed David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Rick Nash, Jake DeBrusk, and David Krejci for the majority of series, and the end result was a 4-1 series win for the Lightning for the second series in row.

One of the keys in the series was five-on-five play. The Bruins went the final 187:20 of the series without an even-strength goal after Charlie McAvoy had scored with 4:02 remaining in the third period of Game Two. The Bruins forwards mentioned above didn't score an even-strength goal after Game One, and the remaining forwards didn't get one either. In fact, the bottom two lines for the Bruins didn't record a point in the series. That's rather incredible when you consider the how important those players were in their victories against the Leafs.

If you can't score on five-on-five, you better draw penalties and score often on the power-play. The Bruins didn't do that, either. In fact, the Bruins were shorthanded 19 times in the series and surrendered five power-play goals - a 74% penalty kill efficiency which was down nearly 10% from their third-overall penalty kill ranking in the regular season. They simply couldn't stop the Lightning when they needed to, and that contributed to their demise today.

If there's anything that the Bruins can salvage from this loss is that they were one shot from winning Game Four which would have made this a 2-2 series. Losing in overtime never feels good, but that was an opportunity that slipped away, giving the Lightning the 3-1 series lead and they smelled blood in the water as they came home and dominated in a 3-1 victory today to end Boston's postseason.

The Bruins will hibernate for the next few months before heading back to the rink to start a new season. The fourth-overall team in the NHL has been dismissed by the third-overall team in the NHL. Sometimes, the better team wins, but the Lightning's week of rest certainly was a major difference in this series.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

One To Go

I was out at a barbecue tonight with new teammates as I joined a new team for the upcoming softball season. Without getting into the reasons for the change, the new teammates are solid and they certainly know how to throw a good barbecue party. How do I know? There was a large television set up outside so all those in attendance could watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Priorities, right? I'm happy to report there was good food, great people, and an incredible result that were enjoyed by the end of the night.

Yes, the Washington Capitals beat the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight while we were eating, so that was a bit of a downer for me. I will say that the hamburgers were done to perfection, the hot dogs and bratwursts were impeccable, the salads and snacks brought by people were incomparable, and I ate like a king. I also enjoyed a few Barking Squirrel adult beverages made by Hop City Brewing Company during the meal, and I think I found my new favorite barbecue beverage!

In any case, there was very little chatter once the Jets game started, and I have a few observations from that game. You can agree or disagree, but this is what I saw from my vantage point around the patio table.

First, Mathieu Perreault's addition to the lineup seemed to spark both Joel Armia and Brian Little. That third line looked as dangerous as ever with Perreault back in the lineup, and Matty was rewarded with a late goal after working hard all night. I like the added depth this line brings, and it could be the difference in Game Six.

The line of Lowry, Copp, and Tanev absolutely swallowed their opposition on this night. They looked sharp in their defensive game, and they play an honest, hard-checking forecheck when they're sent over the boards. Don't count this line out of the scoring because they create chances by forcing turnovers and running amok while forechecking.

Kyle Connor finally was able to shake the gorilla off his back as he notched a pair and added a beauty helper on a Mark Scheifele goal that was set up by a move that shows he's still brimming with confidence despite the lack of offensive stats. Here's a look at his night including the move he used to dance past Ryan Johansen.

Speaking of Connor, Connor Hellebuyck had another solid night between the pipes while Pekka Rinna got pulled once again. That's the second time he's been pulled in this series and the third time in these playoffs. I get that the Vezina Trophy voting is done prior to the playoffs, but Rinne has been awful in these two series for Nashville. If they don't get excellent goaltending out of Rinne in Winnipeg, this series is already over.

With Winnipeg pulling down a 6-2 win in Nashville tonight to jump ahead 3-2 in the series, I'll take the liberty of reminding everyone how difficult that fourth win in a series is, and I fully expect Nashville to bring the fury of an apex predator as they are backed into a corner.

The Jets are one win away from appearing in the conference final for first time in either iteration's history. This is the furthest they've been in any playoff since the heady days of the WHA. Can this keep the momentum rolling as they return home to try to close out the series? Over 15,000 fans in BellMTS Place will certainly do their part!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 4 May 2018

The Brad Marchand Rule

The NHL Rule Book doesn't cover every specific situation that can happen on the ice, and there have been players who have found loopholes that they have exploited in order to gain a competitive advantage. The NHL reacts by adopting new, specific rules that target these loopholes, and the result is that a few new rules have been named after players - the "Rob Ray Rule" or the "Sean Avery Rule", for example. Brad Marchand will undoubtedly have a rule named for him after tonight's second licking of the playoffs.

After delivering a low hit to Tampa Bay's Ryan Callahan, who decided to address the issue with Marchand at the next stoppage by going nose-to-nose with the Boston superstar-slash-agitator, Marchand responded by licking Ryan Callahan's face as seen above. After licking Toronto's Leo Komarov in the first round and now Callahan here in this round, I don't know if the NHL is going to address this, but they probably should.

First and foremost, there is a significant chance of Brad Marchand contracting a disease from another player. Cold bacteria and flu viruses can be transmitted via sweat from the face thanks to the proximity of his licking near his opponent's nose and mouth, and ingesting one or both of these by use of the tongue after licking a sweaty hockey player - as gross as that sounds - is a real possibility. One of the more serious afflictions that can be transmitted via sweat is the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, better known as a staph infection. The staph bacteria can lead to an Impetigo skin infection as well.

Secondly, the cold bacteria/flu virus can go the other way since Marchand's licks comes in close proximity to the faces of his opponent. There is also the possibility of Marchand passing on some rather unsavoury germs such the Epstein-Barr virus (mononucelosis), Herpes simplex (cold sores), strep bacteria, and/or mumps. For the most part, saliva has enzymes that will protect one from most diseases that could be transferred, but those listed above are the most common. The NHL has dealt with a number of mumps outbreaks in recent years, and it can significantly decimate a roster thanks to symptoms not appearing for up to two weeks.

Third, and perhaps this is the most superficial reason, licking someone, particularly a sweaty someone, is just gross.

It was suggested that the NHL contacted the Bruins and/or Marchand after his lick on Komarov, but Marchand emphatically denied that he had been contacted from anyone at the league offices. It became very clear that hadn't happened after his lick tonight on Callahan, but it might be time for the NHL to nip this trend in the bud. Boston does trail 3-1 in their series with the Lightning, so there may not be another opportunity for Marchand to engage in this activity, but it needs to be addressed just as Sean Avery's antics in front of Martin Brodeur made a mockery of the rules and just as Rob Ray not tying down his jersey to his pants made a mockery of the rules.

Ian Fleming wrote in Goldfinger, "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." Brad Marchand is on the precipice of enemy action with each lick, so let's hope the NHL is proactive on this one not only to prevent the transmission of infections or diseases, but to prevent anything further "enemy action" from boiling over in the playoffs.

Or, in other words, just stop being gross.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 293

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with will be the last of the exit interviews from the opening round of both the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs and our own Survivor: NHL Playoffs brought to you by Lays and their Show Your Emotions contest. There was also a pile of news and notes that Beans and I will go over as leagues from across the planet have been making noise after championships were won, and there's always news surrounding the local pro hockey teams here. It's another show packed with info, so make sure you set your FM radio dial to 101.5, your browser to umfm.com, or get that app so you can listen at 5:30pm CT!

You know we'll be talking about this hit, so let's get it out of the way early on. Teebz and Beans will wrap up Round One with or without Amy and Connor, and will dive into Tom Wilson's hit and suspension due to that hit as the two gents have a discussion on checks to the head. We'll also update everyone on the series that are ongoing, get everyone set for Game Four tonight between the Jets and Predators, and try to figure out why the Predators seem to think they're getting no calls in this series. There will be chatter about player and personnel movement from the leagues around the globe, an odd decision in a pro soccer league, and anything else that deserves a mention tonight on The Hockey Show!

For those wondering, here are the current matchups in the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest!

I wanna listen, but how can I hear it, you ask? 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 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! 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, Teebz and Beans wrap up Round One, update Round Two, talk about protecting the head, discuss who is moving where, and much more only on The Hockey Show found exclusively on 101.5 UMFM, on the UMFM app, on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: May 3, 2018: Episode 293

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!