Sunday, 16 June 2019

I Endorse This Penalty

I'm never going to be named a commissioner for any hockey league. I'm aware of my limitations, and I'm ok with that. If you've listened to The Hockey Show when we have special guests on, we often ask our guests if they would change any rules in the event that the guest becomes a commissioner. Most have been good sports and suggested something that's in the news, but this weekend saw Hockey USA write a new rule into their rule book that I completely and fully endorse depending on the age of the players. Personally, having seen players at the collegiate level do what Hockey USA will now penalize teams for is a welcomed rule change after having witnessed said players act like they're in minor hockey.

Here is the new penalty that can be assessed by officials.
Some people will say that it's just a little fun to bang on the boards after a play or whatever, but it's honestly one of the most annoying things I find in the game. It's like fans that bang on the glass - that's not why the boards or glass are there, so stop hammering away on it. It serves absolutely no purpose other than to be your own cheerleading squad, and you're not cheerleaders if you're wearing skates.

Let me be clear: this isn't limited to women hockey players when I use the term "cheerleader". Men are just as guilty and, in some cases, are worse than women when it comes to whacking the boards with sticks, gloves, arms, or anything else they can use. I totally get cheering for a teammate if he or she does something spectacular, but routine plays in hockey certainly don't need twenty people on the bench carrying on like hooligans when a poke-check is successful or a pass is completed.

If I wore the stripes, I'd hand this penalty out in large quantities to teams and players above the age of eight. Once you hit the age of deciding whether this for fun or you want to play because you love it, you don't get to be a cheerleader on the bench any longer. Congratulate teammates as they come off the ice with a tap on the helmet or fist bumps or a tap on the shinpads, but banging on the boards like a pack of wild animals will get your penalty-killing units some additional time to work on their skills.

"But Teebz," you exclaim, "you've repeatedly said the game should be fun!" I have, and you're correct. However, acting like a feral animal on the bench isn't what makes the game fun. And players will claim that it fires them up and gets them going on the ice, but I'm here to tell you that's also false since the same effect could be achieved with general excitement on the bench without pounding on the boards. There's no good reason that one can deliver to me regarding hammering the boards in support of your teammates that will convince me otherwise. Take your two-minute break for shame in the sin bin.

The first official to hand out a penalty for this will be my new hero. Get at it, stripes!

Until next time, keep your sticks off the boards!

Saturday, 15 June 2019

This Is A Wake-Up Call

It's not often that a story breaks in a Russian publication that has all the potential to shake a Canadian institution to its core, but the Canadian Hockey League was delivered a withering blow to the midsection from Sport Express as they interviewed former QMJHL player Yaroslav Alexeyev. Alexeyev suited up for the Sherbrooke Phoenix and Baie-Comeau Drakkar for three seasons from 2016 until 2018, and he went on record with Sport Express to discuss the hazing that he witnessed and experienced at the hands of his teammates during his three seasons in Quebec. We've heard people like CHL President David Branch condemn any act of hazing, often re-iterating that this type of activity is anything but normal. For Alexeyev, however, it seems that this was par for the course as he witnessed it two seasons in a row with Sherbrooke. If this doesn't scream "wake-up call" to anyone at the CHL front office, I'm not sure what will.

We'll start with the Sport Express interview with Alexeyev. I warn readers here and now that the description given by Alexeyev to Sport Express is graphic in nature and is disturbing. For parents who have kids who read HBIC, I warn you now that this interview is definitely rated PG with a strong likelihood of dancing near R-rated territory. You've been warned - carry on if you wish.

The interview has been linked here, but I think it's key to point out some key passages in Alexeyev's interview. Let me clear here: I side with Alexeyev here. I believe hockey's culture is broken in so many ways, and I feel his story is likely true despite the infinite denials we're likely to hear. Let's break down some of his interview.
Vanya Chekhovich was lucky - he lived in the same family, and I changed four. Basically, everyone spoke French. The first family is the strangest. Every evening they asked me how are you. 15 minutes passed, and they again asked the same question. And with everyone in the house so. Three children, mother - a stupid blonde, all "made", can not cook. There were problems with washing.
This falls directly on the Sherbrooke Phoenix franchise and their vetting of the billet families they use. While I respect that the French language is the mother tongue in Quebec, the fact that there are langauge barriers between a Russian player and a French family would pose all sorts of problems. At best, you would hope to have a bilingual family who spoke enough English to allow the two parties to find common ground when communicating, but it sounds like Alexeyev's communication problems with the family only led to further problems that saw him bounce to new billets. The Sherbooke Phoenix have to do a better job in helping their international players.
Oh, the most important is the newbie party. I was smart and immediately bought off for 20 bucks. Then all the newcomers were given diapers for adults, in which they went all day around the house, but this was only the beginning. The first round - everyone drank five glasses of beer, the last one was added five more shots of vodka. The very tin began later, when everyone was obliged to insert into the anus through the cookies and run around the house for speed. During the race, elders ran out of the bushes and pushed in the back. The latter would have to eat his cookie. And in the end - forced everyone.
While something is lost in translation via Google Translate, the issue here is not. This is a hazing incident, and that is entirely despicable. While Canada has no formal anti-hazing legislation in place as of yet, I'm pretty certain we need this legislation more than ever. Spare me the rhetoric of "boys will be boys" and the other frat-house garbage that people tack onto incidents such as this because no one should ever be forced to participate in something as invasive and humiliating as this.

You don't build teams through fear and intimidation, and I challenge anyone on this planet to show me a team where those traits are endorsed as being vital to the team dynamic within that locker room. You won't find one. Hazing is cowardly, and everyone who was involved and didn't put a stop to this is a coward. Period. End of sentence. Except it gets worse.
"I didn’t like the party next year." They put thongs on all the guys, gave them a small crown and gathered them in a small barrack. The older man put on a black apron, a gangster mask, cleaning gloves, a broomstick and a condom on its end. He called one at a time, and each thrust a broom into the ass so that the person would scream and scare the others. Garbage some kind of inadequate.
Let's see: intimidation, humiliation, and sodomy? I'm pretty sure this is now a criminal act. Whatever you want to say about these players now, it's all moot. Two years in a row, they went off and committed acts of hazing, and there was nothing done to the players doing the hazing nor was there any help for the players who were hazed. This is all sorts of wrong, and head coach Stephane Julien, assistant coach and former NHL player Pascal Rheaume, and the entire Sherbrooke Phoenix organization need to be held accountable for the actions of their players.

Some will say that the players should have spoken up about this. It's true that they likely should have, but these are rookie players looking for acceptance into the team where the captains and veteran players have bullied and hazed them through fear and intimidation already. Do you really believe they'd speak up about this sort of treatment? And while you can certainly say that you would speak up because it's wrong, these are teenagers whose hockey lives can be made or destroyed based on whether they're accepted into the team's inner circle. Don't kid yourself: hazing is barbaric and disgusting, but it's about establishing power in a locker room.

In 2017, "a Canadian study of university-aged students found that of the 434 participants surveyed, 59 per cent of them were hazed. More than 60 per cent of those who were victims of a hazing incident said it made them feel more connected to the team," according to a CTV report. I took the liberty of bolding the important part of that statement because if over half the students at university state that a hazing incident makes them feel more connected to a team, there's little reason to believe that a hazing incident in junior hockey would be any different.

It was November 28, 2018 when Dan Carcillo and other members of the OHL's Sarnia Sting came forward to discuss the hazing they experienced as junior players while playing for the Sting, and, at the time, CHL President and OHL Commissioner David Branch stated, "We had failed Dan and the other players involved in my view, and it's shocking. You know, I don't know how else to put it."

While the frequency of hazing rituals have dropped since 2005 when the OHL put a zero-tolerance policy on these incidents and instituted a number of mental health programs, players on teams still engage in these activities. From the alleged crimes at St. Michael's College School in Toronto to the bullying of players at the University of Lethbridge to a McGill basketball player reporting all sorts of hazing practices, it's pretty clear that all sports, not just hockey, has a significant hazing problem. The scary part? All of these Canadian institutions have specific harassment and/or hazing policies clearly defined, and all three of these incidents took place in the last two years.

What should concern people about the Sherbrooke Phoenix incidents is that the sickening things done to the rookie players is actually a common occurrence. In 2005 at McGill University, the university opted to cancel the football season after an investigation found rookies were subjected to a nude hazing ritual in which they were gagged and forced into a degrading position and prodded with a broom handle. Once more, here's what Alexeyev said happened at one of the incidents.
The older man put on a black apron, a gangster mask, cleaning gloves, a broomstick and a condom on its end. He called one at a time, and each thrust a broom into the ass so that the person would scream and scare the others.
14 years later, what happened at McGill happened in Sherbrooke. McGill cancelled their football season as a result. Do you really believe that Sherbrooke would cancel a season of hockey? Hint: it'll never happen.

David Branch and QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau need to take a long look at these reported incidents and understand that there likely won't be many, if any, players who will come forward and corroborate Yaroslav Alexeyev's story out of fear of reprisal within that locker room and the guilt of destroying the brotherhood among his teammates. Just as he admitted in the Daniel Carcillo report of what went on in Sarnia, the CHL and the QMJHL have failed these players once again.

The hockey culture in this country is still broken in so many ways, and no one will talk about it because it is continually reinforced behind closed doors. Until someone has the fortitude to apply real punishments that may include legal ramifications, the hazing problem in Canada will likely never change. Ultimately, that's the entire problem.

We talk about how tough our hockey players are in Canada. We love how they can score, hit, and fight like some sort of modern-day gladiator who can make us rise to our feet when they do amazing things. The truth of the matter is that we turn out heads away from what these kids undergo when it comes to major physical abuse that may result in serious emotional and psychological damage. We praise these kids for the sacrifices they make to get to the highest levels of hockey, but we rarely ask for reviews of the institutions that facilitate this ascension to greatness. We trust that the overseers of leagues and teams are providing a nurturing environment, but the sad fact is that they're often the first to fail these talented athletes by keeping incidents in-house, by not punishing those who who do morally-objectionable things, and by putting on a facade of "we're a tight-knit group" when players fear reprisal for speaking out when hazing incidents go down. And we naively accept that all is good because no one says anything despite what may be happening otherwise.

It turns out that we're a nation of cowards, folks. We secretly cross our fingers that this kind of stuff doesn't happen, but it's pretty evident that it does and continues to happen today. And when these incidents are discovered and revealed, we just pass the incidents off as "boys will be boys" and "that doesn't happen here" rather than having these people punished to the fullest extent that can be had based on what happened.

We're cowards. If that offends you, you might be part of the problem. Because if hearing how teenaged boys were sodomized with a broomstick by other teenaged boys doesn't offend you more than hearing that we're cowards, you're officially turning your head away from what should be reprehensible behaviour and focusing on the wrong thing.

You're part of the problem. And this is your wake-up call.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 14 June 2019

Housekeeping 101

I have a busy weekend ahead of me, so I want to post a few updates and do a little housekeeping around HBIC. As you can see, Consuela is already dusting my 1980s-esque stereo, but let's get into what needs to be discussed here on HBIC because there happens to be a lot. Some may affect you, and some may not, but everything here will apply to at least one person reading this. That's why I need to do this.

First off, the HBIC Playoff Pool has wrapped up for another season, and I want to thank everyone who entered. The final tallies will be released on Monday at some point, but I needed to get independent, third-party, unbiased calculations checked and rechecked for veracity. Basically, if I made any calculation errors and I or any of the competitors failed to catch them, I'm having all the final numbers verified before posting them. When it comes to winning prizes, one must be accurate in the scoring.

Secondly, the prizing will also be posted with the final scores on Monday. I've had a heck of a week in trying to get anything done around HBIC Headquarters as life moves in "Maximus Busy-ness" mode for the summer, but adding those prize pictures is important so the winners know what they potentially won. We'll finish off the HBIC Playoff Pool on Monday.

As we're all well-aware, the St. Louis Blues captured the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Boston Bruins, and that has also brought an end to the Survivor: NHL Playoffs contest. Darin won that contest with his selection of the Blues, and Darin will be joining Beans and I on The Hockey Show on Thursday to collect his winnings, have some free grub, and chat with us about hockey. Dianna, who finished in second-place thanks to her pick of the Bruins, will be the final exit interview this season, and we'll try to get her on the phone for that craziness. It was another awesome year of Survivor-like playoff action, and thank you to all who entered this contest via 101.5 UMFM and The Hockey Show!

Coming this summer, there will be some changes to HBIC. When I started this blog in 2007, I never really saw it going for longer than a few years. It was simply a place where I could post about hockey-related things and have some fun expressing myself in virtual print. Not once did I expect to be running a hockey pool or hosting a radio show or being invited to major hockey tournaments. This blog has legitimately taken on a life of its own and, from that, has branched into other things. As a result of all this, it's time for HBIC to grow out of its 2007 self and into something new. I'm not sure when that will happen, but the groundwork for that has already been laid.

From there, HBIC will continue to exist as it does, exploring the world of hockey from a Canadian fan's point-of-view. While the content won't change as I dive into crazy hockey stories, the changes should be better for all. It will likely also force me to be a better writer since they affect me somewhat as well. Either way, change is a-comin'.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 13 June 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 351

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, will break that rule tonight and talk about a number of sports and entertainment things because our Summer of Interviews 2019 starts tonight with a very special guest. As you know, we like to open up the show in the summer and bring on guests who have all sorts of backgrounds, and tonight Beans and I are proud to feature a man whose work both Beans and I admire on the radio, on television, and in print. He's been in the broadcasting business for a while, but has also dabbled in some book writing alongside some key hockey people. To be able to have him on The Hockey Show tonight talking about his career, his new project, and more is an absolute honour for us!

Tonight, The Hockey Show is proud, humbled, privileged, and honoured to welcome a man whose legacy in the sports media world is filled with adventures and stories, and we're happy to bring some of them to light as we welcome radio personality, author, and former Sportsnet anchor Jim Lang to the show! Jim's been in the radio business for years and is currently hosting The Jim Lang Show, a morning radio show on 105.9 The Region. You likely know him for his time with Rogers Sportsnet, but he's been doing some writing! Jim co-wrote Bleeding Blue with Wendel Clark, Shift Work with Tie Domi, and Everyday Hockey Heroes with Bob Mackenzie. We'll talk to him tonight about these books and his new book co-authored with former NHL star defenceman Bryan Berard entitled Relentless. We'll also get the skinny on Jim's life, career, his unapologetic love of the Raiders, his passion for wrestling, what a Raptors win tonight will mean to him and Toronto, his thoughts on the Blues winning the Stanley Cup, and anything else we can squeeze into the hour! We're excited to meet Jim, so make sure you join us at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans welcome media personality Jim Lang to the show as we talk to him about his time in the public eye, his work, his love of wrasslin', the Raiders, his work as an author, his new book Relentless, 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: June 13, 2019: Episode 351

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Schedule Released

Summer has barely started, and I can honestly say that I've been waiting for today more than any other day. Canada West has released the hockey schedules for both men's hockey and women's hockey, and that means that my fall and winter weekends are now booked by Canadian university women's hockey once again! We'll get to see the two pictured here - Alberta and Manitoba - a couple of times in Winnipeg as the Canada West finalists from a year ago meet in what could be a very interesting weekend, but the full schedule has finally been released!

Without wasting any time, here's when we'll be on the air on UMFM and CanWest TV:

Saturday, October 12 at 7:30pm.
Sunday, October 13 at 3pm.
Last season: 4-0 vs Mount Royal.

Friday, November 8 at 7pm.
Saturday, November 9 at 2pm.
Last season: 4-0 vs Regina.

Friday, November 15 at 7pm.
Saturday, November 16 at 4pm.
Last season: 2-1-1 vs Saskatchewan.

Friday, November 29 at 7pm.
Saturday, November 30 at 2pm.
Last season: 4-0 vs Lethbridge.

Friday, January 10 at 7pm.
Saturday, January 11 at 2pm.
Last season: 4-0 vs Calgary.

Friday, January 17 at 7pm.
Saturday, January 18 at 2pm.
Last season: 2-1-1 vs UBC.

Friday, February 7 at 7pm.
Saturday, February 8 at 2pm.
Last season: 0-3-1 vs Alberta.

There are your dates when Kyleigh Palmer and myself will bring you all the action from the new-look Wayne Fleming Arena thanks to the major upgrades being done by 50 Below Sports and Entertainment as they prepare for their first season in the old barn with the new WHL entry in town as the Winnipeg Ice take flight! We'll likely do a lot of the same stuff as we did last season for our broadcasts, but there may be a new wrinkle added to the fun. I can't release any details yet, but there's something in the works that will change our broadcasts from good to great (in my humble opinion).

For the full Bisons women's hockey schedule, please click here. Canada West Playoffs run from February 14 through to March 1 with the U SPORTS National Championship being held once again at UPEI in Charlottetown, PEI from March 12-15. Having been there last year, whoever qualifies from Canada West this season will have a fantastic time there as UPEI did things right in their first crack at the tournament. I assume things will only get bigger and better this season!

Of course, this will also be the last season that Canada West has eight teams as the 2020-21 season will see the conference welcome two new teams into the fold when the MacEwan Griffins and the Trinity Western Spartans join the party. Manitoba will officially stand as the lone province with a single entry in Canada West as UBC is joined by the Langley-based Spartans and there will be a new crosstown rival for the Pandas in the Edmonton-based Griffins.

I'm already excited for the 2019-2020 season of Canada West hockey! If you are looking for tickets to any game or want to buy a season pass, head on over to the Bisons website and make that happen. The hockey is outstanding, and the other sports feature amazing athletes as well. See you at Wayne Fleming Arena in October!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Less Is Way More

It's a sixty-minute game with two fifteen-minute intermissions. Professional hockey game, with commercial breaks, should stretch into two hours with the occasional game perhaps needing a little longer for stoppages and overtime. With the announcement that the NHL was expanding video review for officials to review calls on the ice, hockey is now getting into baseball territory with games potentially lasting three hours or longer. Honestly, if this is how the sport is going to played at the professional level, count me out. I love the game, but I have other things I want to do in my life than sit around and watch the guys in stripes review calls for minutes at a time.

I get that in professional hockey a wrong call can cost a team millions of dollars in revenue. It seemingly happened this spring when the NHL backpedalled on its officials in the San Jose-Vegas series when Cody Eakin was handed a major penalty for his bump on Joe Pavelski, and Vegas lost that series in overtime. I won't get into the fact that Vegas also held a 3-1 series lead against San Jose and a 3-0 lead in that game before the call was made, but Vegas can certainly claim that they missed out on potential revenue due to a call that the NHL admitted was wrong.

The problem, and Beans and I discussed this on The Hockey Show, is that video review is being used way too often for the wrong things. Egregious off-sides was what the intended purpose of the off-side review was for, but we're getting coaches who want to examine the millimeter-thickness of skate blades being across the line before the puck. Yes, I suppose that's an off-side, but if you can't visually see it without advancing frame by frame through the video, it wouldn't have been caught by the officials anyway, and the review wastes up to ten minutes of time as the officials and the video review booth queue up replay after replay after replay on the umpteen camera angles they have.

If we now allow officials to stop the game and review missed calls or calls that coaches disagree with, we've lost the human element in the game. We can't expect officials to not err on occasion - they're human too! And while I get that wrong calls can be costly, but what the NHL wants is an unreasonable expectation for its officials. If the players and coaches aren't perfect, why do we demand that the officials be perfect? They strive to be as close to perfect each and every time they pull on the striped uniform, but there's a human element to the game that we're losing by foisting more video review opportunities upon the officials.

Perfection is impossible in a game where mistakes lead to goals. Let the officials operate in the same vein as the players by having less things to review. If NHL games start going longer than three hours, I'm out.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 10 June 2019

Bisons Men's Team Adds Scoring

For a team that struggled at times last season to even find the opposition net let alone put pucks in it, it seems the University of Manitoba Bisons men's team has decided to give that anemic scoring a major shot in the arm with their new recruits announced today. Manitoba's 66 goals last season was second-worst in the Canada West Conference, and a long way from the 134 goals that Alberta scored. Manitoba needed some solid scoring threats on their roster for this upcoming season, and it seems head coach Mike Sirant has found himself a few snipers who should help the Bisons eclipse that 66-goal mark from one season ago.

The man pictured above is one of those snipers. That's Josh Tripp of the MJHL's Swan Valley Stampeders, and he led the MJHL in scoring last season with 36 goals and 48 assists in 57 games played. Tripp's amazing season was part of improvements across the board for Swan Valley that saw them win 14 more games than they did in 2017-18, and it resulted in Tripp being named as the MJHL MVP and one of five players nominated for the CJHL MVP award. The Swan River, Manitoba native also added 11 goals and 10 assists in 21 playoff games, so it's pretty clear that Tripp can score under pressure as well.

The second player to sign on with the Bisons today is Bradly Goethals. Goethals finished second in scoring in the MJHL this season with the Swan Valley Stampeders, amassing 34 goals and 45 assists in 50 games played. He added 12 goals and 13 assists in 17 playoff games as he earned an MJHL First All-Star Team spot for his great season. In addition to his MJHL work this season, Goethals also played 95 WHL games with the Everett Silvertips and the Saskatoon Blades where he scored 19 goals and added 20 helpers. The 20 year-old Ile Des Chenes, Manitoba native has shown he can score at both the CJHL and the CHL levels, so he'll be a welcomed addition to the Bisons roster.

The third player that signed up for the Bisons today is Chase Brakel. Brakel was the captain of the Portage Terriers in 2017-18, and rejoined the team in December after playing at Cornell University earlier last season. He's been a high-scoring MJHL player throughout his career, scoring 26 goals and 32 assists in 49 games in 2017-18 and 34 goals and 46 assists in 58 games in 2016-17 before scoring nine goals and 11 assists in his 21-game shortened MJHL season this past year. Brakel went on a tear in the playoffs as he scored 11 goals and 17 assists in the MJHL and ANAVET Cup Playoffs, earning the MVP award for his efforts.

These players will recognize some former teammates in the Bisons locker room as former Portage Terriers scoring dynamo Jeremy Leipsic was a teammate of Brakel's two seasons ago. Goethals and Tripp will be reunited with Brian Harris who signed on with the Bisons earlier this summer as the three men were teammates on the Swan Valley Stampeders. Along with Tony Apetagon from the MJHL Winnipeg Blues, Matthew Stanley and Riley Lamb from the WHL's Swift Current Broncos, and Brady Pouteau of the WHL's Regina Pats, it seems that Mike Sirant has really put together a heck of a recruiting class for 2019-20!

The rest of Canada West will likely be bulking up this season to try and dethrone the Alberta Golden Bears and the Saskatchewan Huskies who are the perennial favorites each and every season. While I'm not sure that the Bisons have amassed enough talent to routinely beat these two teams, they should be better than they were last season which means that a playoff spot could be a reality for the Bisons. If they get hot at the right time, who knows what kind of season the Bisons men's team could have!

What I do know is that adding these three MJHL players with their track record of scoring often and a lot will definitely help the Bisons in their quest for a Canada West championship banner!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Where My Fandom Started

I didn't see him drafted. I rarely got to see him play. He often chose not to dress against the Jets in Winnipeg, often saving himself for the showdown with #99 further west on the road trip, but as a kid I was dazzled by his skill, his moves, and his ability to score goals seemingly at will. He saw the ice like no one else, and often looked like a man among boys when he was at his best. Mario Lemieux was my hockey hero growing up, and it was on this day back in 1984 that the Pittsburgh Penguins selected the lanky kid from the QMJHL's Laval Voisins first-overall at the NHL Entry Draft following a season where he scored 133 goals and 149 assists in 70 regular-season games before dropping another 29 goals and 23 assists in just 14 playoff games.

I'm not here to talk about the Penguins reportedly tanking to draft Lemieux nor am I here to comment on Lemieux's actions at the draft once he was selected. This is simply the video of Mario Lemieux at the draft because I have not seen it aside from wanting to post it here. Sportsnet put this video together, so it's not the entirety of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, but it gives a small glimpse into Mario Lemieux at the draft.
Of course, Lemieux would go on and have a Hall-of-Fame career that saw him score 690 goals and 1033 assists in 915 regular-season games with an added 76 goals and 96 assists in 107 playoff games. He led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup twice on the ice before buying the team and funding them to another three Stanley Cup victories to become the only person to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as both a player and an owner. He won an Olympic gold medal in 2002, a World Cup of Hockey in 2004, and a Canada Cup in 1987. In 1997, Lemieux was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame and, in 2004, Lemieux was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

Personally, he won the Art Ross Trophy six times, the Lester B. Pearson Trophy four times, the Hart Trophy three times, and the Conn Smythe Trophy twice. He was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame upon retirement as the standard waiting period was waived for his inclusion, and became only the third Hall-of-Famer to return to playing in the NHL. He is the only player to score a goal five different ways in a single NHL game. He defeated cancer.

More than anything else, it is that last victory that still impresses me most. He missed two months of the season after playing his most impressive hockey of his career for treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma. When he returned, he was 12 points back of Pat Lafontaine for the scoring lead. In his first game back in Philadelphia, he received a standing ovation in Philadelphia following a 5-4 loss where he scored a goal and an assist. Following that night, Lemieux was back in full force with the Penguins, helping them to rattle off 17 consecutive wins to finish first-overall for the first time. In 60 games played, Lemieux finished with 160 points - 12 better than Lafontaine - after missing two months for chemotherapy and treatment for cancer.

Through it all, he never once complained about treatments. He never once gave any indication that he was having an off-day. He never mentioned fatigue or being tired. He simply pushed through everything to return and lead his team to their best finish ever while capturing a scoring title. For a kid who needed a little inspiration in his own life in his own health battles, this resolve from his idol galvanized the idealism of what a leader should be.

My first encounter that solidified my belief in Mario Lemieux came in Hamilton where he was learning from Gretzky, Messier, Hawerchuk, and Fuhr on how to be a leader. He hadn't elevated his teammates yet, but he was soaking up the knowledge from those guys who had won quicker than a sponge soaks up water. It wouldn't be long after that Lemieux would be on the same pedestal that the Oilers' greats stood on, and Lemieux became the one who pushed Gretzky to play harder and better. In 1987, the student was learning from the master, and it wouldn't be long before the student was winning scoring races over the master.

I discovered that Mario Lemieux and I shared the same birthday, and he became the player I wanted to be. Out on the road in street hockey or on the ice in shinny, I wanted to be the big Penguins centerman who used his size to overpower defenders, but had the hands of surgeon with his dekes and dangles. I was soon apparent that I was not that player, so I became a fan.

While my belief in Lemieux started at the 1987 Canada Cup, his quest for the Stanley Cup began on June 9, 1984 when the Penguins selected him first-overall. For me, it's a pretty big moment in my personal hockey history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Claimed The Checkered Flag

While the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes fell short in the Eastern Conference Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans two-and-a-half hours southwest in Charlotte had a ton of reasons to party in a hockey rink as the AHL's Charlotte Checkers captured the Calder Cup for the first time in their history with a five-game series win over the Chicago Wolves! After finishing as the best team in the AHL this past season, the Checkers decided to make it official by winning the Calder Cup with a 5-3 win tonight!

The Checkers, who went 51-17-7-1 record for 110 points, continued their strong play in the playoffs, eliminating the Providence Bruins in four games in the best-of-five opening series, sweeping the Hershey Bears in four games, knocking the Toronto Marlies out in six games, and running over the Wolves in five games. Charlotte trailed in a series only twice in this playoff run as both Toronto and Chicago jumped out to wins in Game One in their series before the Checkers got themselves going. They outscored Providence 14-9, Hershey 19-7, Toronto 22-14, and Chicago 22-14 in their 19-game run through the playoffs. The team went 15-4 in the playoffs despite being 1-2 in overtime games, so the Checkers proved they knew how to get the job done in regulation time as they were 49-0 this season when leading after two periods, including being 11-0 in the playoffs.

Individually, they got scoring from a number of players as six players finished the postseason with five-or-more goals. Andrew Poturalski, who led the team in scoring in the regular season, did the same thing in the playoffs as he captured the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the playoff MVP with 12 goals and 11 assists. 20 year-old Morgan Geekie really put his name on the map with his playoff performance as the Strathclair, Manitoba native scored eight goals and added ten helpers to finish second in scoring. Tomas Jurco and Aleksi Saarela both had seven goals while Nicolas Roy scored six goals and Martin Necas chipped in five markers.

At the other end, Alex Nedeljkovic held the fort admirably, going 10-4 with a 2.34 GAA and a .916 save percentage after being named the AHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender for his work during the season. What may be more impressive is that backup Dustin Tokarski, seemingly forgotten by most, was 5-0 in his eight appearances, posting a 1.74 GAA and a .935 save percentage, allowing just eight goals on 124 shot attempts. Even when Nedeljkovic faltered, the Checkers had a back-up ready to propel them to victory by making key stops. That kind of tandem can't be overlooked with the team dropping just four games in two months of play.

The last time the Hurricanes saw their affiliate win the Calder Cup was in 1991 when they were still the Hartford Whalers. That season, the Springfield Indians downed the Rochester Americans 4-2 to win the Calder Cup with goaltender Kay Whitmore being named as the MVP. AHL hockey had called North Carolina home prior to the Checkers being affiliated with the Hurricanes, but the Carolina Monarchs were rather awful during their short time in the AHL.

The Checkers, for what it's worth, did win an ECHL Kelly Cup - then called the Riley Cup - in 1995-96, so Charlotte has seen a pro hockey championship parade once before. The franchise existed from 1993-2010, made the playoffs in 13 of their 17 years in the ECHL, but only made the final once where they were the victors.

Since the Albany River Rats moved to Charlotte in 2010 to become the Checkers, they've made the playoffs five of nine seasons with their previous best result being that 2010-11 season where went 44-27-2-7 for 97 points before they lost in the Eastern Conference Final to the Binghamton Senators. It's nearly been a full generation since the last time Charlotte had a hockey celebration, and the fans who were around for the ECHL days certainly can celebrate their new AHL successes.

Congratulations to the Charlotte Checkers, the 2019 AHL Calder Cup champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 7 June 2019

That's A Lot Of Skins

I've respected Jeff Skinner for a long time. I always thought he was a better goal-scorer than he showed in Carolina, and he certainly made the league take notice of his scoring exploits in his first season with the Buffalo Sabres. However, for years it seemed he would yo-yo back down to a lower number than the year before when it came to goals, so his new reported contract of $72 million over eight years will leave a lot of people asking for Skinner to deliver just as well as he did this season.

When he signs the deal in the coming days, Skinner will become the second-highest paid player behind centerman Jack Eichel, and he remains the only 30-goal scorer on the Sabres at present moment after scoring 40 goals last season. Even after scoring 40 goals, he still only equaled his career-high points total of 63 and Buffalo missed the playoffs yet again after starting the season so promisingly.

It's hard to imagine that a 60-point player can get a contract that averages $9 million per season, and some will say that general manager Jason Botterill overpaid for Skinner when it was possible that Skinner may have signed for less, especially since Buffalo was the only team that could offer the 27 year-old an eight-year deal. However, attracting high-scoring free agents to a team that may struggle in the Atlantic Division again next season is always a tough sell, so Botterill likely made the right decision for his club when it came to the money and term offered to Skinner assuming that Skinner doesn't regress in his scoring totals over the next couple of seasons.

The nice part for Botterill in this off-season situation is that the Sabres are poised to be a team with great cap space for the next few seasons. While the cupboards are bare in Rochester when it comes to pure goal-scoring, we saw decent production from Sam Reinhart at the IIHF World Championships, Casey Mittelstadt has all sorts of raw talent, and Jack Eichel is top-tier center the Sabres need. None, though, have that bonafide goal-scoring talent that Skinner has, so having the cap flexibility to make this deal shouldn't hurt the Sabres even if Skinner slips to the 20-goal plateau.

Of course, this sets the bar at rather insane levels for players needing new contracts elsewhere such as Winnipeg with Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine, and in Toronto with Mitch Marner. How those teams work around this new deal for Skinner will prove interesting, but Buffalo got their guy and were able to keep their first 40-goal scorer since Thomas Vanek. For a team that's missed the playoffs eight years in a row and has yet another new coach behind the bench in Ralph Kreuger, having a guy who can light the lamp regularly will help immensely in Buffalo's quest for a Stanley Cup.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 6 June 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 350

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with some announcements about the "Summer of Interviews" that Beans and I will conduct all summer long. As you know, we like talking to people of all sorts who have a tie to hockey, and we've lined up some great guests in the month of June already! There's also some hockey being played in North America, some players are signing new deals over in Russia, and there's news from other corners of the globe as well. It's another busy show as we get into June, so make sure you get your radio dial set to 101.5 FM!

If you missed the news - HBIC's story is still to come - the ECHL's Newfoundland Growlers, led by former Winnipeg Jets rearguard Adam Pardy, captured the Kelly Cup in a thrilling ECHL Final over the Toledo Walleye! We'll talk about that victory and some of the Winnipeg ties to that series as well as some other facts from the Final. From there, we'll look at the latest saga surrounding the Kelly Cup if you haven't heard those stories. The Calder Cup Final is underway and we'll have updates on the Manitobans playing in that series between Charlotte and Chicago. The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, but it's all about whether Zdeno Chara can chew food or not. The Ottawa Senators hired an associate coach, but is he a head coach? We'll look at all the signings from all the leagues that have some name recognition, and we'll squeeze in some announcements about the "Summer of Interviews" as we start getting ready for a big summer! We hope you'll join us!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans talk championship series, Manitoba ties to those series, Chara's jaw, Ottawa's coach, new players, new cities, 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: June 6, 2019: Episode 350

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Going Home

If the old adage stating that one can never go home again is true, it seems that Pavel Datsyuk is intent on testing that theory. It was announced early today that Pavel Datsyuk is heading back to Yekaterinburg after signing a one-year deal with Avtomobilist in the KHL. I don't know if Datsyuk just likes the colour red as seen in the picture, but he goes to a team that wears red and black after spending his NHL time in red with the Detroit Red Wings. While most 41 year-old professional hockey players are thinking about hanging up the skates, Datsyuk seems content in avoiding Father Time for at least one more season while pursuing a Gagarin Cup championship with his hometown team.

Back on May 1, I wrote here on this very blog, "My guess is he's going home to retire in the next few years." After starting his career with Dynamo Yekaterinburg in the Russian Super League prior to the formation of the KHL, he left Russia to find a home in Detroit where he assembled his own trophy case that saw him win two Stanley Cups, three Selke Trophies and four consecutive Lady Byng Memorial Trophies to go along with 918 points in 953 career games. He did record 12 goals and 30 assists last year in St. Petersburg, but the chances of him coming back to the NHL - only to Detroit, as per his agent - were closer to none than slim with the Red Wings going through a major rebuild both on and off the ice.

While he helped St. Petersburg to a Gagarin Cup championship in 2017 and then became the oldest member of the Triple Gold Club after the Olympic Athletes from Russia won the men's hockey competition in Pyeongchang in 2018, Datsyuk had clearly lost a step or two when it came to his once-elusive speed. The hands and the vision were certainly still there, but he visually looked slower than most had remembered him from his days in Detroit. Those hands and vision join a solid Avtomobilist team that looks like it should compete for the Gagarin Cup next season with the likes of Nigel Dawes and Geoff Platt there, but nothing is ever given in pro sports. The Yekaterinburg team will certainly have challenges next season, but Datsyuk's talent and experience should prove very valuable for the club in overcoming these challenges.

Datsyuk released a statement that read,
Dear Friends, The St. Petersburg stage of my career has come to an end. These were the memorable years. I want to say thank you to the SKA club. In St. Petersburg there are wonderful conditions for games and training, attentive staff - all this helps to concentrate exclusively on hockey. Such a system is not a single year, and this is a huge merit of the club's leadership.
And with that, Datsyuk's era in St. Petersburg ends and a new one begins in Yekaterinburg.

If the Magic Man is officially going home to end his career, he deserves to be honoured in his hometown. For all he's done in his career and for his country, a proper send-off in his hometown would be appropriate. There's no guarantee that this is Datsyuk's last kick at the can, though, and he could pull a "Chris Chelios" and play until he's like 300. However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that one can indeed go home again. For Pavel Datsyuk, it seems to be the most appropriate place for him at this point in his career.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Growlin' To A Championship

Feast your eyes, folks, on the latest Toronto-affiliated team to win a championship. The Marlies pulled off the feat last season in the AHL, and now the Maple Leafs' ECHL affiliate in the Newfoundland Growlers have won the Kelly Cup after a six-game series victory over the Toledo Walleye. The party on the Rock at Mile One Arena in St. John's was boisterous as the hometown Growlers downed Toledo 4-3 to capture Canada's first-ever ECHL championship, and there was no shortage of fan support from the Newfoundland faithful in supporting their pro hockey team just as they had done for all the previous teams that called St. John's home. The difference? This time ended with a trophy being hoisted above the ice for the home side!

Growlers owner Dean MacDonald gave a ton of credit to the fans who came out and supported the team. The fans poured out of the arena and honked car horns and cheered loudly on the streets for their team as they brought home the first-ever professional championship to the province. For an ECHL team, the fan support means life or death in most cases, and it's pretty clear that the fans in and around St. John's, Newfoundland are pretty special considering how they've supported various AHL teams throughout the years before getting their new ECHL franchise this year. Clearly, the hockey market in St. John's is a loyal and passionate one, and the fans do indeed deserve a ton of credit for their support.

"I can't describe it, I cannot describe it, so good, we finally won the cup," Donna Brown, who has not missed a single home game, told the CBC. "It's amazing. It's the loudest I have ever heard at Mile One. It is fantastic."

For the historians out there, four of the six games in the final were decided by one goal with Games One and Two needing overtime to reach a final - Newfoundland won both, it should be noted. Newfoundland defeated the Brampton Beast in six games, the Manchester Monarchs in six games, the Florida Everblades in five games, and the Toledo Walleye in six games to claim the Kelly Cup. Despite being outscored 18-13 against Brampton in the opening round, including an 8-2 loss, Newfoundland eliminated the Beast. They then outscored Manchester 20-11 in winning that series before really putting the defence on display as Newfoundland grounded the Everblades in outscoring them 20-6 in those five games that included three shutouts. In the final, Newfoundland outscored Toledo 17-16 in winning the Kelly Cup.

In the entire playoffs, the Growlers only trailed once in a series - 1-0 to Manchester - while winning two-or-more games in a row in a series five separate times. Winning back-to-back games obviously puts your opponent at a disadvantage in seven-game series, and it was these runs that really helped to power the Growlers through the playoffs. They opened the playoffs against the Beast with three-straight wins before winning in six games. They won three-in-a-row after dropping Game One against Manchester, eventually winning in six games. They book-ended a Game Three Florida win with two wins in both Games One and Two and Games Four and Five to eliminate the Everblades. And they opened the final with two wins against Toledo before alternating wins to capture the Kelly Cup in six games. Winning in bunches makes life easier in the playoffs, and the Growlers went on mini-streaks in each series including winning six of seven games from Game One in the Florida series to Game Three of the Kelly Cup Final.

Among the players who celebrated tonight were four men who were born in the province of Newfoundland - captain James Melindy, assistant captain Adam Pardy, Zach O'Brien, and Marcus Power. Power and O'Brien are from St. John's while Melindy hails from Goulds and Pardy calls Bonavista home. O'Brien led all ECHL players in playoff scoring with 29 points, and he was named as the winner of the June M. Kelly Playoffs Most Valuable Player Award. O'Brien also tied the record for the second-most goals in a playoff campaign with 16, one back of the all-time record set by Richmond's Blaine Moore in 1995 and equalled by Peoria's J.F. Boutin in 2000. Melindy only had one assist in the 23 games he played, but the captain is wearing the letter on his chest for everything else he does on and off the ice for the team. Power scored four goals and added 11 helpers in 21 games, and Pardy recorded four assists in 22 games.

Where this good news story takes a bit of a detour is that there was a rumour that Adam Pardy was likely to retire at age 35 after suffering a serious concussion Sweden the year before if the Growlers won the Kelly Cup. With the Kelly Cup now calling St. John's home, will the big defenceman call it a career? Here's hoping he doesn't, but if he does he's had a heckuva career with NHL stops in Calgary, Dallas, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Nashville before finally returning home. If he can play a season or two more and raise the profile of the sport even more, Adam Pardy would be a great ambassador for hockey on the Rock. If he decides he's had enough, he'll still be one of the bets players to hail from Newfoundland while still being a great ambassador.

After all the numbers and stats and hoopla surrounding this win has died down, I'm happy for the fans of the Growlers. St. John's has seen its fair share of almost-wons with the AHL teams that have called the island home, but they've never had a championship parade in any sport snake through the downtown area. They'll finally get one thanks to the Growlers, a team that Kyle Dubas' fingerprints are on. If only the one that he's in charge of daily could find the same push as the AHL Marlies and the ECHL Growlers - back-to-back championships for the Leafs' affiliates! - maybe they'd eventually break the curse of 1967 in Toronto.

Congratulations to the Newfoundland Growlers, your 2019 ECHL Kelly Cup champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 3 June 2019

Officially Off The Roster

The "Summer of Chevy" has officially started as he's been busy signing draft picks and keeping Laurent Brossoit in the fold with a new contract. Of course, fans in Winnipeg are still holding their collective breath as Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, Jacob Trouba, and a number of other key free agents are still pending, but we scratch one of those names off the list as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff salvaged what he could for a guy that seemed unlikely to sign a fiscally-conservative deal in Winnipeg when bigger dollar signs are available in free agency. While his time here didn't work as well as planned after the Jets made a blockbuster deal to get him, Kevin Hayes is no longer in the plans, it seems, as his rights were moved today.

The Winnipeg Jets traded the right to negotiate with Kevin Hayes up to July 1 to the Philadelphia Flyers today for a fifth-round pick in 2019. The move officially cuts ties between Hayes and the Jets, but it re-unites Hayes with former New York Rangers and current Philadelphia Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault under whom Hayes found the greatest team success of his career thus far, but not so much in terms of offensive production which seemed to flourish under Vigneault's replacement in New York in David Quinn. With over $33 million in cap space to use, finding the money to sign Hayes shouldn't be a problem for the Flyers who can then explore all sorts of possibilities down the middle.

With Claude Giroux capable of playing all three forward positions, this may allow Hayes to center Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the Flyers' top line and use his offensive gifts that he's shown. If he slots in further down the roster, there are all sorts of possibilities of re-igniting the career of James van Riemsdyk, getting Nolan Patrick rolling on the wing, boosting the production of Travis Konecny, or pairing with other newly-minted free agents. While he was used in a high number of defensive situations in New York, the emergence of Sean Couturier as a reliable defensive center may allow Vigneault to take the leash off Hayes.

Whatever fans want to think of Hayes' time in Winnipeg, they should realize that he did make the team better. Yes, there were no Paul Stastny moments that fans will recall, but Hayes made the second line much better than what the Jets had skated with since January. While he didn't set the world on fire or propel Laine to hit 50 goals or get Ehlers to 90 points, Hayes was a solid producer who was defensively sound in his own zone. He won face-offs, he checked well, he had good vision in the offensive zone, and he was a solid addition to the power-play. For the Jets, they now have the same hole in the lineup they did in February, and there isn't an internal solution present at this time.

The fifth-round pick that Kevin Cheveldayoff salvaged for a player he was unlikely to sign is probably the best return he would have received in any situation. The fact that he got something for an asset that was likely walking in one month's time is better than getting nothing, so take what one can get in this situation.

If the Flyers can sign Hayes, they get much better. And they still have a ton of money to spend on improvements.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Going Home Again?

Dustin Boyd, born in Winnipeg and drafted by the Calgary Flames, made the decision to sign another one-year contract with Barys Astana in his home country of Kazakhstan. If that last portion of the previous sentence sounds odd, Boyd made the effort to ascertain Kazakhstani citizenship to play for the country in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics as Kazakhstan looked to add some established talent to their lineup at the Olympics. Regardless of his home country, the Canadian-Kazakhstani professional hockey player will suit up for the Astana-based KHL squad for eighth season in the Kazakhstan capital.

While the last few seasons have seen him shuffled between Moscow Dynamo and Barys Astana, Boyd has always been a fairly consistent performer with Barys Astana. His 112 goals and 132 assists in 396 KHL games over his eight-year career in the KHL is solid, but he has missed a handful of games in 2016-17 after breaking his leg in a preseason game that limited him to just 30 games that year. His last two seasons that saw him play 53 games in Moscow before returning to Astana for 51 games were certainly his least productive, combining for just 14 goals and 20 assists in 104 games.

The key for Boyd's play seemed to be his linemates as he was dynamic with both Nigel Dawes and Brandon Bochenski, but Bochenski retired after Boyd signed with Dynamo while Dawes signed with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg last season and continued his torrid scoring pace. Boyd's season last year saw him suit up for 51 games with Astana after signing with them in the off-season only to be sent back to Dynamo Moscow late in the season on loan before rejoining Barys Astana for a solid playoff run that saw the team make the Gagarin Cup semi-finals. Like two star-crossed lovers, Boyd signed another one-year pact with Astana this off-season as he'll work to restore his game to his previous level to help Barys find new heights.

I'm happy for Dustin Boyd. For a kid who couldn't find a spot with Calgary before being shuffled off to Nashville and Montreal, he has fund a home in Kazakhstan and has done very well for himself. While the distance between his hometown and his new home isn't easily navigated, he certainly has made a name for himself as both a hockey player and Kazakhstani citizen in his time in the KHL. Here's hoping he finds some magic with Astana again this season in his ninth KHL campaign.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Incommunicado? - The Sequel

Sometimes, all you want is a straight answer. After it was revealed by former ECHL commissioner Patrick Kelly on the Fox Morning Blitz radio show on 1230 WCWA in Toledo, Ohio that the Colorado Eagles, the former ECHL and current AHL team, had kept the Kelly Cup and not returned it to the league, there was all sorts of cryptic speak and vague comments made by Colorado owner Martin Lind that made it sound like the Eagles had tried to return the Kelly Cup, but the league was having none of it. Clearly, having a league's championship trophy possessed by a team no longer in the league is entirely a situation the ECHL likely doesn't want, the league said they would issue a statement today to try and clarify these rather muddy waters. To reiterate, all I want is a straight answer so that the newly-made Kelly Cup - the fourth of its kind - wouldn't be needed when either Newfoundland or Toledo wins the Kelly Cup Final.

Here is what the ECHL released today with regards to yesterday's news.
As stated by ECHL Commissioner Emeritus Patrick J. Kelly yesterday morning, the tradition of returning the Championship Trophy to the League was not honored by the Colorado Eagles. Despite a confirmed plan with Eagles' management to return the Kelly Cup to the ECHL in December 2018, the arrangement was not fulfilled.

In reaction to this, the League created a new Kelly Cup, complete with the history of players, coaches, and staff that have earned ECHL Championships over the past 30 years, including the inscription of 'Patrick J. Kelly' on the Cup itself to honor the man that is the trophy's namesake. This Cup represents the fourth Kelly Cup in ECHL history, with the older models enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

If the Colorado Eagles do intend to return the Kelly Cup, the ECHL welcomes its return so that it too may be a part of hockey history.

The ECHL looks forward to awarding the Kelly Cup and all that it represents for hockey to the Champion of the 2019 Kelly Cup Finals.
Look, I get this response. The ECHL, in the wake of this embarrassing moment, is taking a more passive approach in trying to reclaim something that is theirs from a team - the Colorado Eagles - who seem intent on keeping it. The statement above does nothing to answer questions or provide a resolution, but it does share in the blame of "the arrangement" regarding the return the Kelly Cup to the ECHL not being fulfilled. This is a solid public relations move when it comes to damage control and keeping the lines of communication - as damaged as they may be - between the ECHL and the Colorado Eagles open.

However, this statement answers no questions that were raised through the statements of both Patrick Kelly or Martin Lind. And, for what it's worth, that's likely the best way to settle this dispute between the former ECHL club and the league.

By not pointing fingers or playing the blame game, the ECHL can lose this dispute in the court of public appeal, but still win fan approval by getting the Kelly Cup back from Colorado by playing the passive role. The short-term outrage felt by the ECHL over this debacle ever happening will be solved by the long-term gains of getting back their league's championship trophy had back from the Eagles.

On the flip side, the Eagles will be required to answer no further questions on the matter if they simply return the trophy and focus on the upcoming AHL season. Out of sight, out of mind, so to speak. The ECHL is happy with the return of the trophy, and the Eagles can continue as if nothing had ever happened. Both sides walk away without having lost anything credible in the long-term.

As it stands, the ECHL has placed the ball squarely in the court of the Colorado Eagles. It will be up to Colorado owner Martin Lind and his team to make contact with the ECHL and work to facilitate the return of the Kelly Cup to the league. This all goes away in a very timely manner if Lind does this, and it can all be chalked up to miscommunication and a misunderstanding between two parties.

The only way this gets any worse? Lind decides he's not returning the trophy.

Do the right thing here, Mr. Lind, for all parties involved.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 31 May 2019

Incommunicado?

This trophy? That's the ECHL's Kelly Cup, the trophy given out to the winner of the ECHL's playoff bracket. It's legitimately the ECHL's Stanley Cup, and it currently is not under the ECHL's control. Yes, you read that correctly - the ECHL's Kelly Cup is not in the ECHL's possession as you read this despite the Kelly Cup Final between the Newfoundland Growlers and Toledo Walleye competing for it. If this seems rather unbelievable, it is. However, I assure you that this story is entirely true and valid, and I have no idea how something like this happens in a professional hockey league.

Former ECHL commissioner Patrick Kelly appeared this morning on the Fox Morning Blitz radio show on 1230 WCWA in Toledo, Ohio, and he told host Anthony Bellino that the Kelly Cup he had brought with him wasn't the original trophy. The segment starts at 3:26 below.
That's rather ridiculous that the Colorado Eagles, who played in the AHL in their first season in the "Triple-A circuit" this past year, have kept the ECHL's Kelly Cup after winning it in 2017-18 in their final ECHL season. As Kelly stated, "They still have it. I've never heard of this in the history of hockey. They won it two years in a row and one of their owners said, 'Fine. We'll keep it.'"

That's, uh... that's not how this works, Colorado. Sure enough, though, word of Kelly's comments on 1230 WCWA did get back to the Colorado Eagles today, and Colorado owner Martin Lind delivered what can be categorized as a flimsy defence for his team's refusal to return the trophy.

"The management of the ECHL has full knowledge of the situation with the Kelly Cup," Lind said. "We have made numerous attempts to return it. They have chosen to ignore our requests, therefore the Kelly Cup remains in Colorado. This is all that will be released regarding this matter."

Excuse me, Mr. Lind? What exactly is the situation with the Kelly Cup? If you made numerous attempts, why hasn't it arrived at the ECHL offices where it belongs? I find it highly unlikely that the ECHL would ignore the requests, so what is really going on here?

Perhaps we'll get some of these answers tomorrow as the ECHL held off on commenting on Mr. Lind's statement today, opting to release a full statement tomorrow. While there is no resolution tonight, updates will be provided tomorrow as we find out more. I know it's been discussed in jest for teams leaving leagues or folding that they should keep their league's respective trophy, but this is the first time I've heard of an actual professional hockey team holding onto a trophy that rightfully belongs to another league.

Only in minor-pro hockey, I guess.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The Hockey Show - Episode 349

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns to the airwaves being broadcast by UMFM to talk a little puck! As you may be aware, there's this little thing called the Stanley Cup Playoffs that are running, and the final series is underway with the Bruins and Blues deadlocked at 1-1 after the Blues pulled off a little OT magic last night. The AHL Calder Cup Final is set as well as the Chicago Wolves will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to face the Checkers on Saturday night in Game One of the series! The ECHL's Kelly Cup Final is also happening, and it features a Canadian team as the Newfoundland Growlers currently lead the Toledo Walleye 2-1 in the series with Game Four scheduled in Toledo, Ohio tomorrow! Beans and I will get into this and more on the show tonight!

There's not a lot to say about the Stanley Cup Final yet, but the Blues changed their style to be more physical last night and it paid off with a win. We'll talk about this shift in style and why Boston can likely match the Blues' physicality. There was a new hire in Canada West as the Lethbridge Pronghorns women's team has a new coach at the helm, and further north we saw the Oilers finally name their head coach. There's some instability and some potential expansion plans in the KHL to discuss. Finland dominates the world once more, and it's likely not going to stop any time soon. And we'll talk about Seattle looking at Boise and Palm Springs as AHL franchise locations! It's another busy night on The Hockey Show, so make sure you join us at 5:30pm CT!

Speaking of joining us, the new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

Having lost faith in Facebook, I spend far less time on that site for good reasons. In saying that, you can still 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! We're here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Beans talk new style, new coaches, new teams, old problems, a new powerhouse, 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 30, 2019: Episode 349

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

If One Expands...

There was some interesting news that came out of a radio interview today in Seattle as 950 KJR, Seattle's "Original Die-hard Sports Station", had CEO Tod Leiweke from the Seattle NHL group on to talk about the progress being made with the team. It seems that 950 KJR might be where you want to tune your radio to or get hooked up via an internet stream if you're interested in Seattle NHL news because it seems that Dave "Softy" Mahler and Dick Fain may have an exclusive "Tuesdays with Tod Leiweke" segment where the CEO talks all things related to Seattle NHL hockey after replacing the previous "Tuesdays with Tip" as Dave Tippett was doing before his departure. I'll admit I hadn't tuned in before today, but I might make a regular habit after Tod Leiweke broke some news on their show yesterday.

The full segment is 19 minutes, but there are some interesting comments on all sorts of Seattle NHL news here from Tod Leiweke - AHL affiliate locations, names, colours, and more. Give it a listen, and I'll continue below.

There's a lot to process here, but let's focus on the one reason why this article is being written: AHL expansion. As you're likely aware, the AHL is the sole development and affiliate league for the NHL, so the two cities identified by Tod Leiweke would need some analysis to see if it's right for an AHL franchise. Those cities, if you didn't listen, are Boise, Idaho and Palm Springs, California.

We'll start with Boise where the ECHL's Idaho Steelheads currently play. The Steelheads currently play out of CenturyLink Arena in Boise which has a maximum ice hockey capacity of 5,002 fans, so the arena may be a little on the small side for AHL play. The 22 year-old facility opened in 1997 when the Steelheads played their first game as part of the WCHL, and has been the home of the ECHL franchise since their move to the ECHL in 2003. The Treasure Valley area of which Boise is a part has a population of about 710,000 citizens, and major companies in and around Boise include the J.R. Simplot Company, Micron Technology, and nearly two dozen call centers for businesses such as DirecTV, EDS, and T-Mobile, giving Boise strong corporate partners if the team lands there. The Steelheads have never played below 78.1% capacity of CenturyLink Arena since joining the ECHL, so it seems like the hockey following in Boise is strong.

Palm Springs, California is an interesting choice as an AHL locale due to their year-round population of 45,000, but the winter months see that number balloon to somewhere near 150,000 thanks to snowbirds and tourists. Being within 150 miles of all of Ontario, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego would make for a nice location as there are millions of people in that region and a high number of hockey fans who may be more willing to stay near Palm Springs than travel to see pro hockey. While there is no current rink for an AHL team to move into and begin play, there was an announcement of a 12,000-seat arena complex that would be built off Interstate 10 in July 2018, the main artery for Palm Springs, that would be suitable for hockey. Completion is slated for 2021, so this would be an almost-perfect timeline for a Palm Springs AHL club. If there is one concern, it's that Palm Springs doesn't have the corporate partners in town like Boise does, but this is southern California - I doubt Leiweke would have to look hard to find corporate support.

While I know a lot of people would love to see Palm Springs get the team, the choice will be interesting as the AHL has looked to cover the map very evenly. Their expansion into Tucson with the Coyotes and into Colorado Springs with the Avalanche have given them a strong presence in the Mountain Time Zone, and Boise's addition would give them another strong hockey city for Mountain Time road trips. On the other hand, the proximity of Palm Springs to current AHL cities such as Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, and Tucson doesn't hurt either when planning a road trip on schedules.

From everything written here, I don't see either city being significantly ahead of the other regarding demographics, corporate support, facilities, and location. This may simply come down to where Seattle wants to place its team and whether they want to bump a successful ECHL franchise in the Idaho Steelheads out of their current city. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Seattle will likely opt for Palm Springs considering a lot of divisional play will require players to be available for recall on the west coast near NHL cities such as Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Las Vegas on a moment's notice. Of course, I could also be wrong and they could opt for a stronger hockey market like Boise, so the analysis of these two cities may simply come down to dollars and cents for Seattle.

Regardless of where this new affiliate lands, we do know a few things about Seattle based on Leiweke's interview above: the team name and colours will be released sometime around December for what appears to be a Christmas marketing and merchandise plan, the team colours will not be like the current Seattle teams with neon green, blue, and silver, and the search for a GM in Seattle continues. That GM will be responsible for putting players into the Seattle system, and that likely means players will need to be prepared to play in one of Palm Springs or Boise.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Gone... But A Mess Still Lingers

Well, the shoe finally dropped in Bratislava, Slovakia yesterday as KHL squad HC Slovan Bratislava finally made their exit official from the Russian professional circuit. The seven years that the team played in the KHL saw them struggle in almost every campaign to make the playoffs, and it was clear from the beginning that there was likely going to be spending problems with how little they had invested in the talent on the ice. As the costs to run the team mounted, there were reports of players not being paid and the rumours of HC Slovan Bratislava's leaving the KHL seemed to be an annual summer story. That all changes now that they made it official.

Here is the tweet confirming the news above.
With the conditions not met for this upcoming season and despite barely meeting said conditions in the previous few seasons, this move likely should have happened long ago before yesterday. Nevertheless, HC Slovan Bratislava is now free to return to its previous spot in the Slovak Tipsport Liga, but they may not be welcomed just yet as you'll see below.

According to Patrick Conway over on Conway's Russian Hockey Blog,
"...the club still owes money to the city of Bratislava for use of the Ondrej Nepela Arena, and there are wage arrears to players to be paid as well (ex-Slovan forwards Jeff Taffe and Kyle Chipchura spoke out about the debts on the weekend). According to the reliable Igor Eronko, the club owes about seven million Euros to various parties, which is more than half of the KHL salary cap for a season. Furthermore, the front-office individuals who have drawn most of the blame for the current fiasco, namely club President Juraj Široký and Sports Director Oldřich Štefl, appear to be remaining in their positions, which will not please the Slovan fans (the kindest interpretation of events must still concede that the current mess came about on Široký’s and Štefl’s watch)."
In other words, there's a lot to sort through regarding the financial obligations that the club still owes from its KHL days. I don't know how that will affect a potential rejoining into the Tipsport Liga, but you'd think that the Liga would do its due diligence and ensure that HC Slovan Bratislava would be coming back into the fold debt- and obligation-free from its KHL days.

In any case, one thing is certain: there will be no Slovakian entry in the KHL this season. For a league that is reportedly looking at expanding to Dubai, one would hope that the KHL does its background checks and due diligence in ensuring that the costs of running a franchise won't lead to a similar fate for any new teams.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!