Friday, 31 July 2020

Return To Work Dates

With the NHL getting back to work officially tomorrow to end the 2019-20 season, there are question about when the 2020-21 season will start. The NHL always releases its schedule before the AHL does due to some of the teams sharing buildings, so we were awaiting the announcement of an official start date from the NHL in order for the rest of the chips to fall. With the NHL eyeing December 1, 2020 as a start date, the AHL finally released their plans to get things rolling for their league as well! We can now start making plans for that December 1 date based on the AHL's announcement yesterday!

As per American Hockey League President and CEO Scott Howson, the AHL Board of Governors has approved a start date for the 2020-21 AHL season to begin on December 4, 2020. There is no schedule that has been planned yet, but that will follow as we near that date for all 31 teams including the new Henderson Silver Knights who will play this season in Henderson, Nevada.

As stated above, that December 4 start date means that the NHL season will indeed begin at the start of December. The NHL usually starts their season on a Wednesday which would mean a December 2 start date, but we're talking about condensing a full 82-game schedule for the NHL clubs. I'd hope that they use the extra day - Tuesday, December 1 - to get things going because every day will count when it comes to squeezing all these games in with all the travel and required days off as per the CBA.

There were no other details released by the AHL about the conference call held yesterday representing the 2020 Annual Board of Governors Meeting, so if there are rule changes or decisions needed to be made at a league level those will have to be brought to the table following the conclusion of the NHL season in Toronto and Edmonton. In any case, having a start date for the AHL likely means we'll see the ECHL come out with plans for their 2020-21 season shortly as well.

If there is one piece of good news about next year's ECHL season, it's that the Adirondack Thunder, the ECHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils, are bringing back former Union College netminder Alex Sakellaropoulos on a one-year deal. The jersey to the right is Sakellaropoulos' jersey with the Binghamton Devils when he was in camp with the AHL club last season, and his name bar appears to be an equipment manager's nightmare. What made his journey a little more fun last season is he earned three AHL call-ups while playing with Adirondack, dressing for Binghamton, Utica and Springfield! That means his rather incredible 15-letter last name has now been on jerseys for Quad City, Jacksonville, Worcester, Adirondack, Norfolk, and Rapid City in the ECHL, Pensacola in the SPHL, and Binghamton, Utica and Springfield in the AHL as a professional hockey player!

In any case, if things are good with the whole pandemic come December in both Canada and the US, it seems like hockey will do its best to get itself going again. While a return to normalcy wouldn't be a bad thing, there's still a lot of work to do before anyone even mentions hockey in December. Let's do our part by wearing masks, maintaining distances, and being smart.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 410

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with a guest who has all the makings of a Hall of Fame career despite him not wanting to give up his work in the game! Honestly, when we talk about the great coaches in the history of hockey, names like Bowman, Blake, Arbour, and Adams come to mind, but who would you put on that list from the women's game? Names like Howie Draper, Katie Stone, Digit Murphy, and Shannon Miller are names that I'd suggest, but our guest today stands alone when it comes to the success of one Alberta Female Hockey League team.

That man to the left is Dan Auchenberg, and he's the head coach of the St. Albert Slash who have three-peated as the Esso Cup Champions prior to this year's tournament being cancelled. Dan's literally done almost everything one can think of as a coach - won national championships, multiple coach of the year awards, sent players onto schools to continue their dreams - but he hasn't done an interview with The Hockey Show until tonight! We'll talk to him about his time with the AJHL's Sherwood Park Crusaders, coaching Shannon Szabados, moving to women's hockey, the growth and changes in women's hockey he's experienced, winning with the Slash, and more. Honestly, I needed about six hours with Dan, but we'll get an hour's worth out of him tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM or UMFM.com!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? 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.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz sits down with Dan Auchenberg, St. Albert Slash head coach and Associate Director of Hockey at Vimy Ridge Academy, to talk boy;'s hockey, girl's hockey, championship hockey, changes to hockey, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 30, 2020: Episode 410
RESOURCES: Vimy Ridge Academy

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

A Community League

While it's normally the NHL that receives all the praise for the individual work done in the communities in which they play, it should be noted that the AHL's contributions to their own communities shouldn't be overlooked. While most AHL clubs rely on their NHL affiliate for funding and support, the AHL franchises haven't forgotten that their league is mostly a ticket-based revenue league and that community involvement is vitally important at that level. In saying that, the AHL has released its information on its charitable work for the 2019-20 season, and it should bring smiles to many faces.

The league announced on Tuesday that the AHL and its 31 franchises had collectively raised $4.8 million for charities and relief efforts across North America in 2019-20. That's no small amount of money considering that some of the AHL teams have razor-thin budgets when it comes to raising extra money, but it's still a significant chunk of money heading to a variety of causes in communities across this continent.

Some of the charities to receive these funds include American and Canadian Cancer Societies, Special Olympics, the You Can Play Project, and Ronald McDonald House Charities. All of the charities listed on the linked page above, however, do amazing work in their communities, and this infusion of cash from the AHL only will help these organizations do more to help people everywhere.

While monetary donations are always more difficult for the AHL, the one thing that isn't hard is the ability to bring smiles to people's faces. The AHL has continued its long traditions of going out into the community as well, and they had over 1300 player and coach visits and more than 2000 mascot appearances at schools, hospitals, libraries, and other events over the course of the year to reinforce their efforts in building strong communities. Add in more than 115,000 ticket giveaways by the league and all the clubs, and there was a lot of smiling faces in the crowds across AHL rinks who, for one night, got to see their heroes a little closer and in action.

The other thing the AHL clubs do well is organizing charitable givings by their fans with food, coats, holiday gifts, teddy bears, and hockey equipment being collected throughout the league to be turned over to community groups for distribution within the AHL communities. What seem like small efforts by the AHL franchises can be life-changing events for people when you consider that a warm winter coat can change an entire person's life, and I'm hopeful that we see more of these types of events more often so that the AHL continues to be a leader when it comes to being good community partners.

Now you might be saying, "Teebz, you're just doing their marketing for them," and I admit that I would shrug my shoulders and agree. It is marketing for the AHL, but I feel the need to point out that not all donations have to be cheques for millions of dollars. Coats for people, toys for kids, food for food banks, and hockey equipment for minor hockey players are expenses that can be offset by AHL teams so that parents and guardians can re-appropriate money in their budgets for more important things. While the NHL clubs boast hundreds of millions in revenue each year, AHL clubs do not, so pointing out how vital they are in with these smaller donations they make is important for those communities in which they're helping.

I'm a big fan of talking about teams helping fans. The cost of hockey - tickets, equipment, fees, everything - has never once gotten lower for families who love the game, so talking about hockey teams helping their communities is something I will do every day of the week when given the chance. This charitable work goes way farther than you might imagine, and that's the kind of community impact that a hockey club should have.

Keep up the great work, AHL. You're doing it right.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

They're Back!

In case you hadn't heard, the NHL actually played some meaningful games tonight. No, they won't count in the standings nor will the stats recorded matter, but the NHL saw three exhibition games played today in preparation for the season to resume on Saturday. There was some concern over how the games may look with no fans, over how they may sound in cavernous arenas, and over how the teams would look after a long layoff that saw them have zero exposure to each other outside of the last few weeks. What kind of experience would it be for viewers at home watching on television? We found out today as both the Toronto and Edmonton hubs got their first taste of action!

At first, I wasn't all that impressed. Watching the Penguins and Flyers play was good, but it felt like a preseason game where both sides were getting their legs underneath them and the broadcast crew was making sure they had names and numbers right. However, as the game progressed in the afternoon, I began to notice a few things that stood out.

The tarps (or whatever they are) over the empty seats aren't a distraction unless one makes them a distraction. Honestly, I'm surprised the NHL didn't use a green screen to superimpose advertising on those tarps, but that may still come depending on what the league does to satisfy their obligations to sponsors. Personally, they just became the background to the game.

Some of the camera angles were standard angles, but not having fans in the stands has allowed the NHL to put more cameras in for more angles. The end result of those additional cameras made this feel more like an outdoor game since there was no worry about obstructing fan views. I do like the camera placed on the end glass so you get a good look at what the goalies may be seeing out there. I think this could be a very good addition if the NHL can find a way to either make that camera unit smaller or have it less obstructive. Either way, I want to see the game directors get a little more creative with their shots as they get used to working with the added eyes in the sky.

Regarding the games themselves, the Penguins and Flyers seemed to reignite their rivalry pretty quickly as they knocked the rust off quickly with a Conor Sheary goal to become the first NHL player to score a goal in the month of July, beating Carter Hart 5:06 into the game to add his name to the history books. Sheary, who the Penguins had traded to Buffalo before re-acquiring him at the deadline, and he and Jake Guentzel looked like their old selves flanking Sidney Crosby. If there's a concern, the Penguins' blue line looked a little disjointed at times, and this Penguins team needs to play a little heavier against some of the more bruising teams like the Flyers.

The Flyers, though, really asserted themselves throughout this game, proving why they'll be competing for a top-four seed in this restart. Couturier, Konecny, Giroux, and Hayes all looked dangerous out there, and the Flyers' defence showed they're not going to be afraid to make things happen as Provorov, Gostisbehere, and Niskanen all looked dangerous. Despite the sloppy play by the Penguins' power-play units, the Flyers penalty kill was willing to block shots and get into lanes, and that looks good for them when they battle the likes of the Lightning and Bruins for a top seed.

Toronto made the Montreal Canadiens look a lot like the 24th-ranked team to qualify for the restart, and it's pretty clear that Toronto's offence will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for them in their series against the Blue Jackets. I thought the third line of Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Robertson, and Alex Kerfoot was much better than what they appeared to be on paper, and the speed in which they attacked the offensive zone may be something to keep an eye on assuming that head coach Sheldon Keefe keeps them together. While Andersen was steady, that Leafs defence still doesn't seem to be Stanley Cup-worthy just yet.

Montreal may have been 4-0 against the Penguins this season, but the Maple Leafs opened the book on the Canadiens and shown the Penguins that they can win with speed. Montreal's defenders simply couldn't keep up with some of the fleet-footed Leafs, and that has to be where Pittsburgh can attack. In saying that, the Canadiens did get a number of chances that they just didn't finish on, so perhaps the offence just needs to find that next gear to make the Canadiens legitimate threats against the Penguins.

The final game of the night saw the Oilers do what they do best as McDavid had a pair of goals while Kailer Yamamoto and Patrick Russell added singles in their 4-1 victory over the Flames. While the Leafs looked fast against the Canadiens, the Oilers looked like blurs against the Flames at times as Draisaitl, McDavid, and Ennis were flying up and down the ice. The Oilers' blue line, finally healthy, looks like what had been promised all year with a solid effort against their provincial rivals, and Mikko Koskinen seemed ready to play at puck drop last night. All of this makes the Oilers appear to be a formidable foe when they face Chicago this weekend.

The Flames, meanwhile, look slow and a little confused when trying to deal with the Oilers. If they play as they did last night against the Jets at five-on-five, this might be a short series. While the Flames' power-play did convert late in the second period against Mike Smith, there weren't a lot of positives to be found with players like Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett, and Matthew Tkachuk not finding the scoresheet. For the Flames to be successful, there has to be secondary scoring from their depth players that simply wasn't there tonight. Dave Rittich looked very human in stopping six of eight shots as well, and that simply won't do against the Jets on the weekend.

Honestly, it feels like the preseason with the changes and everyone finding their legs, but it's good to see the NHL back. While I still have huge concerns over some of the rules that the NHL has put in place surrounding the two bubbles, Day One of restart play seemed to go off fairly successfully. Let's hope that continues.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 27 July 2020

Dressed For Success?

This photo of Brendan Gallagher from April 9, 2018 shows him wandering the halls of the Bell Centre without the traditional suit that one would expect to see hockey players wearing as they arrive at the arena. As you may have heard, the dress code in the hub cities has been relaxed for players in this NHL Restart, and, with games getting underway tomorrow, we'll see what that looks like as the players file into the tunnels below the stands on their way to their respective dressing rooms. Will I miss the suit-and-tie look that the players wear? Maybe, but I honestly think this time-honoured "tradition" is less of a tradition that needs to be enforced and upheld, especially in these times. While Gallagher's attire to the left might be a bit more casual than what we'll see, loosening the restrictions on game-day wear will allow these players to show a little more personality than before.

This isn't the first time that the dress code for players has been brought up, and it likely won't be the last. Back in 2018, Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette wrote,
The suit thing has never made much sense to me because the players are rarely seen in them unless caught by TV cameras and ending up on Coach's Corner. For a Canadiens game at the Bell Centre, the players will put on their suits and ties at home, get in their cars and drive to the underground parking lot. They then get in an elevator before exiting and walking about 30 metres to the locker room before taking the suits off. After the game, they put their suits back on, walk back to the elevators, get in their cars and go home.
Stu's been around the game a long time, and this review of how long players wear their suits and the intention of wearing those suits to and from the games has long gone the way of the dinosaurs. It was different back when players still traveled by train and bus to games as the clothes from that time reflected more suits on men. Many of the NHL teams in the 1950s and 1960s had a requirement that suits had to be worn by fans to games, and the players were also instructed to wear suits to reflect the professional image of the league.

Here's Guy Lafleur in 1981 at the Montreal Forum, and check out the number of suits and ties seen in that picture (along with a very young Mario Lemieux applauding Lafleur's efforts directly behind him).
Times have changed in the last forty years, though, and Brendan Gallagher's image above from that same Montreal Gazette article also reflects some of the players' attitudes towards wearing the suits when arriving at the arena.

"Most of the time, nobody even sees you," Brendan Gallagher told Cowan. "You just kind of get in your car, then you walk in and you're out of it. I don't think that's changing, but I wouldn't hate that."

Having worked in a corporate setting, I get the idea of professionalism in the workplace. It's an image that the company wants to convey to anyone who may be visiting, and I'm not against that idea. However, I knew many people who would head to the employee restroom to add or remove the suit-and-tie at work to change into far more casual clothing when off the clock. It's exceedingly rare to see people wearing suits as they bike to or from work just as it's uncommon to see men and women in casual attire at work. The key here, though, is that once these men and women are in the office, they are dressed professionally regardless of what they wore to or from work.

Why does hockey have to enforce these stereotypes when we don't enforce them for ourselves any longer? When I see kids as young as seven or eight years-old in suits-and-ties, it makes me wonder why we're forcing parents - who already spend a ton of dough on hockey alone - to buy a suit for a handful of tournament games where the suit makes no difference to how kids play the game on the ice.

It should be noted that the dress code for the NHL is mandated by the CBA where "[p]layers are required to wear jackets, ties and dress pants to all Club games and while travelling to and from such games unless otherwise specified by the Head Coach or General Manager." In other words, the suits are going nowhere unless the NHL and NHLPA agree to it and make it law via the CBA, and that's not changing anytime soon with the recent CBA agreement.

If I'm being honest, I don't mind the suits that players currently wear, but it will be interesting to see how the players arrive at games with the loosened dress code in effect. I don't expect to see tank tops and board shorts, but perhaps we'll see some golf shirts and dress shorts as players settle into their summer wear. If the look is good for most players, perhaps the relaxed dress code will spill into future seasons so that the 30 minutes of wearing a suit while broadcast teams ogle the players as they come into the rink isn't the biggest issue when it comes to a player's overall performance on game day.

It's been said of players that if one looks good, one plays good. I'm more interested in seeing that theory tested by the idea where if players are comfortable, they play better. Perhaps this is something to track in the bubbles!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Like A Wile E. Coyote Cartoon

It's hard to imagine that Coyotes general manager could pinpoint the exact moment his efforts were no longer needed in Glendale, but this image might be the moment he picks. As of today, Coyotes GM John Chayka has tendered his resignation from the position, leaving assistant GM Steve Sullivan as the man who will carry the management bags for the Coyotes moving forward. The reasons for Chayka's abrupt resignation have yet to be fully revealed, but it seems the man tasked with making the Arizona Coyotes into a Stanley Cup contender was left out of key meetings and decisions lately, and this may speak to how the Coyotes' new ownership group viewed Chayka's body of work. Whatever the case was, Chayka's officially out in Arizona as of today.

Chayka's efforts in the desert saw him bring in some superstars such as Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall to help bolster a lineup full of young players, but his work in identifying some key performers through his advanced stats training may have been why the Coyotes were steadily improving as well. Both Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have stabilized the goaltending position with the Coyotes while some quality additions from other teams such as Nick Schmaltz and Carl Soderberg have added some key scoring. While the Coyotes aren't a perfect roster of all-stars, they were just four points from a playoff spot when the stoppage happened in March.

According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, "at some point during the pandemic, the Coyotes were approached about Chayka's availability and granted permission for him to explore the situation." It seems hard for me to believe that the Coyotes would allow Chayka to explore this possibility when he's under contract through 2024, but it seems they went ahead and gave Chayka permission to look into this opportunity for some reason.

As per Friedman, "when it became apparent Chayka could leave, the Coyotes dug in and resisted." Again, why would you let him explore this possibility of leaving if you would refuse his request to leave? This seems like the Coyotes' owners might have underestimated Chayka's desire to move to whatever this new opportunity was, and then decided they had heard enough when Chayka leaving became a real possibility. What makes this ever stranger is that Coyotes "owner Alex Meruelo was a huge supporter of his GM" in his role with the team, so why would they even spend one second allowing Chayka to look into this opportunity?

With both the Coyotes and Chayka releasing different statements today on the events surrounding Chayka's resignation, it seems there are pieces to this story which have yet to come to light. A source told Coyotes Insider Craig Morgan, "There's this narrative that members of this organization started to take job functions away from John like talking to players and agents, but the reality is John abandoned the organization."

Yikes.

Chayka, meanwhile, told Morgan, "The past four years have been the most enjoyable of my life. In Arizona, I became a husband and a father, while working as hard as possible to make the Coyotes a Stanley Cup contender. I love our players, coaches, staff and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility."

So it seems that there was some contention between Chayka and Meruelo's ownership team at some point, but what exactly "the situation" was hasn't been explained. Chayka did cryptically add, "That's all I intend to say on this matter for now. A fuller, more detailed explanation may be necessary in the near future."

Yikes.

Whatever happened here seems a little like a Roadrunner-Wile E. Coyote cartoon in that the Coyotes blame Chayka for whatever happened while Chayka is simply running away from whatever weird situation was setup by the Coyotes. It's honestly no laughing matter like a Warner Bros. cartoon, but the once-prosperous relationship between a GM and an owner has turned into a contentious, bitter battle.

And there are never winners in that situation.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Day Of The Tentacle

The name that the vast majority of social media wanted was the name they revealed on Thursday, and Tom Leiweke's announcement made it official as the Seattle Kraken rose from the depths on July 23, 2020. While there were other names in contention as the potential team name - "over 1,200 names" as Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy noted to ESPN - the imagery that this team chose to use in its look is fantastic and what it could potentially use in marketing ideas could be pretty epic. While I wasn't against the "Sockeyes" or other fishing imagery due to Seattle's history with the ocean, I have a feeling that the Kraken will make Seattle proud with their look and their new team once they hit the ice.

There were reports that the ownership group had considered "Metropolitans" as the name for the team, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly threw water on that idea because he didn't want to have to rename an NHL Division. Honestly, if this is the reason for not using the "Metropolitans" name when the city has a history with that name thanks to their early-20th century Stanley Cup-winning squad, that says a lot about the pride of Gary Bettman when one considers that the Metropolitan Division might be the dumbest name in all of sports. I know I'll never be the Commissioner of the NHL in this life, but I assure you that, if it ever were to happen, we'd be going back to the Smythe, Norris, Adams, and Patrick Divisions in a heartbeat.

In any case, as Emily Kaplan wrote in the linked ESPN piece above, "[a]round Christmas 2019, the group was all but settled on" the Kraken name for the team, and the team went ahead and did everything they could to prevent anyone from mentioning the name and "Seattle" in the same sentence until Thursday. I'd say that despite the online chatter about the name, the group did a phenomenal job in keeping this from hitting any sort of message board, forum, or social media site for that long!

When you see the logo at first, the stylized "S" looks pretty good in contrast to the dark blue background, but it's the little things that make this logo great. Clearly, the "S" is for Seattle, but it also harkens back to the Metropolitans logo as seen above as the new Seattle NHL team will stand at center ice with an S upon their chests just as the Metropolitans did. While the marketing material talked about the bevel in the "S" being about how boats were carved for sea life, I look at how the bevels create a look like the segments in the "S" are waves in the water. Combined with the tentacle down the middle, it looks like the kraken is lurking beneath the water, waiting to strike with that powerful arm. Adding in the red eye of the beast only serves to make this leviathan below the surface look more dangerous. I'm not sure about you, but I like this idea of the waves more than the boat explanation, but to each their own. Either way, I like the logo.

I know the Islanders wear a lighthouse on their shoulders, but this secondary logo that the Kraken rolled out that will on their shoulders might be the best in the league. Incorporating the Seattle Space Needle into the anchor image to tie the Seattle metropolis to the maritime history of the city has to rank up there as one of the best logos - primary or secondary - of all-time. While some Seattle logos have used the Space Needle and others have used marine imagery, the Kraken combining the two seems so easy to do that it makes me wonder how it wasn't done before. Regardless, this secondary logo needs to be used in a lot of their marketing because it's that darn good in this writer's eyes.

Speaking of marketing, there's already one Kraken superfan who decided that the logos can be improved if they were put together! Check out the tattoo that Redditor "Seaside_Suicide" went out and got after the new Kraken logos were released! Honestly, the primary and secondary logos look even better when put together, and perhaps this could be a design for a future alternate jersey logo? I'd hope so!

Speaking of jerseys, here's what the Squid Squad will be wearing on the ice, and they look sharp. While they won't top the Best Jersey lists, the contrasts in the colours when placed on a white background as one will see on the ice allow the jerseys to pop. The red accents on the jersey give that little bit of colour needed to let the blues do their thing, and that logo really stands out on the dark blue colour. These are gonna look good flying around the ice next year!

Full marks to the Seattle NHL team on their introduction on Thursday as the Kraken. Yes, there are all sorts of jokes one can make about "Krakheads" regarding the drug references, but we're more mature than that, right? We can use "Squid Squad" as I did above or "Team Tentacle" if you want to get creative. If you're gonna follow the Team Tentacle idea, the new arena being built in Seattle can even take on the name of "Maniac Mansion". There are so many fun ways to spin the names for this team's fans that we can have some real fun with this if we apply ourselves, so let's do that. All drug jokes will cease here and now on this blog because I'm down with Team Tentacle moving forward!

As a final note, the HBIC banner at the top has been updated with the new Seattle colours along with placing them with the rest of the Pacific Division. In doing so, the Coyotes moved to join the Central Division to balance out the divisions once more. I'm not saying this prediction will be accurate, but it seems logical. Perhaps I've gotten a jump on an NHL announcement? We shall see!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 24 July 2020

Women In Baseball Week - Part 3

The woman to left hard at work in helping the Chicago Cubs get better at the plate is Cubs' hitting lab tech and coach Rachel Folden. Hired the same day as the Yankees hired Rachel Balkovic in 2019, she's stepped into her role at Wrigley Field in a big way as she's a stats nerd and loves to build spreadsheets from data. That doesn't mean Folden's out there "moneyballing" the Cubs to another World Series championship, but the four-time All-American from Marshall notices the details that others may miss when it comes to swinging the bat which is why the former catcher is now working with the Cubs on improving and refining swing mechanics at the highest level of baseball!

Take nothing away from Folden's career as a competitive softball player, though. She was constantly working on her own game, leading her to a five-year stint with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league where she was behind the plate for Jennie Finch's perfect game! Her work alongside Justin Stone, now the Cubs' director of hitting, led Stone to recommend Folden for the job, and she's used video, technology, and her dedication to detail to help the Cubs find added batting average points for hitters in the Cubs' system!

In saying that, today's player I want to highlight who is making an impact on the ice at the Canada West level while playing catcher for the Canadian Women's National Baseball Team is Mount Royal goaltender Kaitlyn Ross! The rookie netminder has played at the highest baseball levels for a long time in Alberta, and her attention to detail regarding her mechanics on the ice saw her help the Cougars to new heights in 2019-20 as Ross backstopped the Cougars to their first-ever U SPORTS Top Ten ranking as well as helping them capture a Canada West silver medal and attend the U SPORTS National Championship for the first time ever in program history! Ross had the second-lowest goals-against average this season at 1.14, the third-highest save percentage at .943 in allowing just 12 goals this season, and tied for fifth with four shutouts while grabbing the starter's role from her two netminding partners while posting an 8-3-0 record in her eleven appearances!

Ross grew up in Redcliff, Alberta and played baseball in Medicine Hat where she quickly made a name for herself with the AAA Thunder, Majestics, and Knights in the city. Her work behind the plate attracted the attention of Team Alberta where she established herself as the everyday catcher thanks to her cannon of an arm and her fearless efforts in keeping the ball in front of her. She has won the Alberta colours seven times at Nationals as a catcher already, and has been named the top catcher in three of those tournaments including the 2019 tournament. This is her third season with the Canadian Women's National Baseball Team, and there's no doubt she'll be a fixture on this roster for years to come.

"She's a stabilizing force behind the dish," Medicine Hat K of C Knights coach Lane Aman praised. "She thinks the game really well, she throws it well. She's just a good catcher, but moreso just that stabilizing force, that baseball sense that she has is the most elite part of game."

Like Folden, it seems that Ross's efforts as a student of the game are serving her well, and her work both as a catcher and a goaltender complement one another on the field and the ice as it's all about keeping the ball or puck in front of her. Judging by her work on the diamond and in the crease, it seems Ross might be one of the best at both positions that this country has to offer, and it seems she only has room to get better as she continues to push herself to be better in both sports.

If you missed the other articles, I highly suggest that you head back and read about former UBC Thunderbirds forward Amanda Asay and current Alberta Pandas forward Madison Willan as these two dual-sport athletes are helping Canada excel on the diamond while also starring for Canada West hockey teams. There's a ton of talent being showcased every night at the Canada West women's hockey level, and I hope that you'll get a chance to see these three women play some exceptional ball or come out to a rink near you to catch them at their bests in the winter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 23 July 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 409

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight to tackle the biggest elephant in the room known as the NHL Restart. Yes, it's happening and there seems to be nothing that will derail those plans at this point, but is the NHL's bubble around the hub city arenas as secure as it should be? We'll take a look at some of the potential issues tonight before getting into predictions on who wins the play-in games!

Teebz is joined by Jason Pchajek in looking at the NHL restart plan as laid out by the NHL along with some of the pitfalls where the NHL may be less secure than one had hoped. With COVID-19 numbers going up in both Edmonton and Toronto, these rules may need to be tightened up somewhat, so we'll go through everything the NHL proposed to players and hub cities regarding their visits. We also talk about fan gatherings and how that may be a risk, we discuss all eight play-in series and pick winners, and we have a quick chat about if and/or when the Chicago Blackhawks should be following the leads of other pro sports franchises and reviewing their logo. All this happens tonight at 5:30pm on 101.5 FM, UMFM.com, and, if you subscribe to BellMTS TV, Channel 718!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? 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.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason look at the bubble, people moving in and out of the bubble, the rules surrounding the bubble, when teams play, which teams will win, what to do about the Blackhawks, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 23, 2020: Episode 409

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Women In Baseball Week - Part 2

As we continue to look at women who are dominating on the diamond and racking up the points on the ice this week, the woman to the left needs to be mentioned. That's New York Yankees hitting coach Rachel Balkovec, and she was hired by the Bronx Bombers in late 2019 thanks to her work at LSU and her softball and baseball backgrounds. Balkovec interned with a few different Major League Baseball clubs in various capacities before the Yankees stepped up and offered her a shot at showing the guys how to hit after her work at LSU with the men's baseball team.

Balkovic, who played catcher for Creighton and New Mexico in her NCAA career, worked for LSU athletics assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Melissa Moore Seal on how to improve her own strength and conditioning to really up her game. Seal recognized Balkovic's potential while working with her, enabling Balkovic to work with the men's baseball team. While there was some initial gender discrimination to overcome, Balkovic didn't let it discourage her.

Through her work with baseball and softball and with her master's degree from LSU in sport administration, Balkovic interned with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox before coming back to the Cardinals as their minor-league strength and conditioning coordinator. Following that stint, she moved to the Houston Astros for three years where she worked at various minor-league levels as a strength and conditioning coordinator. Following her completion of another degree at school, the Yankees signed the free agent to be their coach!

Why am I spending a lot of time talking about Balkovic in her roles as a strength and conditioning coordinator and a hitting coach? Besides it being pretty awesome, the player featured today could likely follow in Balkovic's footsteps one say if she chooses.

The next woman is someone I've featured on this blog for her baseball talents on a couple of occasions already while her work on the ice got her a pile more mentions last season. I'm talking about Madison Willan of the Alberta Pandas who lit up Canada West netminders as a rookie this season en route to winning both the Canada West and the U SPORTS Rookie of the Year awards on the strength of her 11-goal, 14-assist season that showcased her strong play at both ends of the ice. She's showed all sorts of talent and speed last season in her rookie campaign with the Pandas, and it's likely head coach Howie Draper will lean on her for the remainder of her U SPORTS career with the skills she showed in her freshman year. And let's not forget the back-to-back Esso Cups she won with the St. Albert Slash!

Madison's been playing baseball since she was five years-old as a member of Confederation Park Little League, and it shows as she's an incredible hitter and infielder. She joined the Canadian National Women's Baseball Team in 2017, and just decided to go make history when she became the first player in women's national team history to hit a home run during game play when she launched a three-run dinger at the Washington Nationals Youth Academy in 2017!

Down at the 2019 COPABE World Cup qualifying tournament in Aguascalientes, Mexico where Canada was trying to secure a spot at the 2020 Women's Baseball World Cup, Willan made an impact once again as she bombed another three-run home run over the fence as part of an 11-1 drubbing of Mexico to help Canada earn the bronze medal in the tournament, and, more importantly, a spot in the 2020 Women's Baseball World Cup!

While we're still waiting to see whether or not the tournament will happen from November 12-21 in Tijuana, Mexico after it was rescheduled from September in Monterrey, Mexico, the good news is that Willan won't miss any Canada West hockey games due to the pandemic cancelling all games over the fall half of the schedule. Of course, with the University of Alberta announcing that they're not participating in any Canada West sports this season, it might give Willan a little more time to work on her swing if she so chooses!

Regardless of how you cut it, Madison Willan is as talented on the ice as she is on the diamond. No, I didn't reverse those two sports. With the way she plays baseball, she could be the next hitting coach for a Major League Baseball team with the bat she carries just as Rachel Balkovic is doing! How cool would that be?

We have one more player to highlight who plays ball as well as she plays puck, and we'll do that on Friday after The Hockey Show jumps into the mix on Thursday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Women In Baseball Week

This was the image seen on Monday as Alyssa Nakken stood in the first base coach's box for the San Francisco Giants against the Oakland Athletics. It was a historic moment as Nakken became the first women to be on the field as a coach in a Major League Baseball game. I'll give Giants manager Gabe Kaplan a lot of credit for elevating Nakken's status with the club through this move, but let's hope that other clubs will follow this lead after hiring women to be in more prominent baseball roles within their respective organizations. I'll get to a few of those names in a second, but this moment where Nakken stood alone on the right side of the field should prove that coaches can be of any gender at the Major League level.

Regarding the other hiring in the off-season, the Yankees hired Rachel Balkovec as a minor-league hitting coach, the Chicago Cubs added Rachel Folden as their lead hitting lab tech and coach, and the St. Louis Cardinals brought Christina Whitlock aboard to help develop coaching and scouting talent. Needless to say, four MLB clubs are getting the message that talent wins ball games, not just men.

That brings us to today's topic that crosses into the hockey realm as the Canadian National Women's Baseball Team is made up of some rather amazing ball players who should be in the running for higher-level baseball jobs in Canada or the US if they were to pursue that avenue of employment. Hockey Blog In Canada, though, is more concerned with three players whose hockey skills can't be overlooked when it comes to their on-ice achievements, and that's who I'll focus on today as three of the women play or played Canada West hockey when the country plunged into winter.

We'll start with the woman who has served the longest with the Canadian national squad in Amanda Asay who played with UBC Thunderbirds on the ice. Asay actually played with Brown University in the NCAA from 2006 to 2009 under Digit Murphy before suiting up with the T-Birds from 2010 to 2012 following a transfer back home after an ankle injury, using all five years of U SPORTS eligibility in the process. She recorded two goals and five assists with Brown in three seasons before transferring back home to BC where she joined the Thunderbirds to score 11 goals and nine assists in 48 games. Just as she does for the Canadian national team, Asay plays two positions in hockey as she suited up as a defender for Brown before jumping into a larger offensive role as a forward for the T-Birds. Asay completed her Masters of Science, and has been completing a PhD in the faculty of Foresty studying interior Douglas fir trees at UBC.

On the ball diamond, Asay has been with the Canadian national team since 2005 where she's collected some impressive hardware and accolades. She's collected two bronze medals at the Women's Baseball World Cup in 2006 and 2012 and a silver medal in 2008. She also helped Canada earn a silver medal at the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto. She was named as a member of the All-Tournament Team in 2006 at the World Cup, was named the Canadian women's team MVP in both 2006 and 2016, and has twice been named a finalist for the Tip O'Neill Award which is awarded annually to a Canadian baseball player "judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to the highest ideals of the game of baseball" in 2006 and 2016.

Today, Asay is still playing hockey for the Northern Penguins of the South Coast Women's Hockey League while doing research in her field, but I'm not sure the game on the ice will ever supplant the game on the field for Asay. Her success in both sports, though, is a testament to the high-calibre athlete she is!

As we move through the next few days, I'll highlight the other two women who have made names for themselves in Canada West hockey and on the diamond with Team Canada. They're names you're more likely to know being that they're still current Canada West players, but you'll have to come back to find out who those players are!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 20 July 2020

Some KHL News

For as long as I can remember, seeing Alexei Kovalev dazzle crowds with his moves and frustrate coaches with his play meant that there was some form of entertainment on the ice. Seeing him dressed in a suit with his usual #27 on his back and sleeves is still something I'm getting used to as Kovalev transitions into the coaching world following his playing days. While it seems weird that a player who often drove coaches mad with his play would want to move into that world, there's no denying that Kovalev saw the game in a unique way that might be able to help him transfer some of his talent to the next generations of players. Today, he'll get that chance after a big announcement in the KHL!

Today, Kunlun Red Star announced that Alexei Kovalev would take over the head coaching duties for the club after serving as an assistant coach for the last two seasons! Kunlun has missed the playoffs in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 under a combination of Mike Keenan, Bob Carpenter, Jussi Tapola, and Curt Fraser, so having a fifth head coach in three seasons isn't ideal, but Kovalev does has familiarity with the players and systems being used in by Red Star which may help. Kunlun was a respectable 26-28-8 under Curt Fraser last season before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appeared they may have missed the playoffs based on projections as well.

If you're wondering why Curt Fraser was let go by Kunlun following his work with the club that saw them improve under his watch, it seems that it wasn't due to his work with the club or its record. It should be noted that Fraser is a diabetic, and he opted not to rejoin the team amid the coronavirus pandemic despite Red Star's growing optimism with him at the helm. For someone who is passionate about coaching, it can't be easy resigning from a position where he was starting to find his footing.

However, that task will now fall to Kovalev who worked under Fraser as an assistant coach, and I suspect we'll see Fraser's systems being used by the neophyte Russian head coach. I do believe we'll see Kovalev's Red Star team emphasize some additional offensive creativity in the same vein that Kovalev used to dazzle crowds with his offensive skills, but it will be up to the Russian offensive dynamo to see that the Red Star find their way back into the Gagarin Cup Playoffs.

One just hopes that Dave Elston's joke in the following cartoon doesn't carry into Kovalev's coaching style.

From the Chinese entry in the KHL to the Latvian entry, it seems that Dinamo Riga has decided to ditch their traditional, time-honoured logo for something more sleek and modern. While the Riga KHL entry has only existed since 2008, it carried forward the script "D" of the club that played in Soviet Hockey Championship - the predecessor of the Russian Super League - and the IHL from 1946-1995, so it appears someone decided that it was time for an update as we see on the right. Honestly, I'm not convinced it's better in any way than the old logo, but it is new so that's something, I guess.

The other piece of news from Dinamo Riga today is that former NHL netminder Peteris "Peter" Skudra will take over as the head coach of the Riga squad! Skudra replaces Ģirts Ankipans who led the squad to a rather brutal 17-38-7 record this season in what would have been their sixth-straight season of missing the Gagarin Cup Playoffs. Ankipans replaced Sandis Ozolinsh as the head coach of the Riga team in 2017. Skudra, a Latvian as both Ankipans and Ozolinsh are, joins the club after having coached Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod for five seasons and making a brief head coaching appearance with Traktor Chelyabinsk in 2019.

In his five seasons with Torpedo, Skudra never won less than 29 games, but only advanced past the first round of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs once where Torpedo fell in the second round of the playoffs in 2015-16. Playing in the Tarasov Division that season with perennial powerhouses CSKA Moscow, Yaroslavl Lokomotiv, and Dynamo Moscow, Torpedo finished in fifth-place with 100 points, but qualified for the playoffs as seventh-seeded team, meeting the 108-point Jokerit team in the opening round. Torpedo would win all three games at home to take the series in six games.

By adding Skudra, Riga is getting a goaltender whose coaching skills have been honed in the KHL already, and that should make help them as they have assembled a fairly young squad of Latvian-born players thus far. With Skudra being more of a household name, there's hope they can attract some solid scoring to the Latvian capital, but we'll have to see if money plays into some of those decisions. Either way, having Skudra as their head coach certainly won't hurt Dinamo's chances at breaking that playoff drought they're currently in.

A sniper, a goalie, a new logo, China, and Latvia added together result in two new head coaches for two teams in the KHL. Sometimes, KHL math seems harder than it actually is.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Open The Closets

I get there are rules surrounding which jerseys are worn in the playoffs, and that teams who want to wear alternate jerseys need to apply to the NHL directly for permission to allow them to wear their non-standard home and road threads. I also know the Winnipeg Jets have a couple of Heritage jerseys already to go along with their Aviator alternate jerseys, and I'm here to say that the Jets likely don't need to wear their Aviator jerseys for any reason. Like ever. Instead, I was hoping for an old-school match-up between the Jets and the Flames in the play-in round after Calgary went back to their original look. It might be time for the Jets to apply to the NHL to wear their Heritage jerseys for the five-game series against the Flames while having the NHL throw open the doors to the equipment rooms and allowing NHL teams to use what's in the closet.

If we're trying to make this NHL restart fun, I say throw all the rules about what players can wear on the ice out the window. Let teams wear throwback uniforms and alternate uniforms. With no fans in the stands, this is all about the visuals of the game so let the teams have some fun with their match-ups. You can't tell me fans wouldn't tune in just to see what the teams were wearing each and every night they play.

You can't tell me that this look that both the Jets and Flames wore at the most recent Heritage Classic doesn't look great. I think not knowing what each team will be wearing can create all sorts of fun visuals for the NHL, and by not taking advantage of this is a big opportunity that the NHL is missing to perhaps drive merchandise sales that they'll rely upon so heavily during this restart to recoup some of the money they're losing by not having fans in the arenas. Again, I'd tune into games I have no care about just to see what teams are wearing.

We could see the yellow Nashville jersey versus the black Kachina jersey of the Coyotes on one night. There could be a Penguins' gold alternate versus the Canadiens' red jersey. Panthers' red versus Islanders' blue. Oilers' dark blue versus Blackhawks' red. Honestly, the colour-on-colour options excite me the most, and this would be the opportunity to have some fun with it.

While we won't see the return of the red helmet that Teemu Selanne is wearing with the Jets anytime soon, this seems like a pretty easy win to show off the entire range of jerseys each team possesses while attracting viewership to games that may not mean much to specific fanbases. Maybe I'm off my rocker here with this suggestion, but if we're playing the games without having the fans in the stands, it would make much more sense to me to try something to make people stick around and watch them.

Am I crazy? Is this a dumb suggestion? Sound off below!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 18 July 2020

This Looks Crazy

Having been around the hockey world for a while, my interest in the game started when I was young. I was all about learning about leagues and teams and players, and I could never quite figure out how a Russian team of players found their way into the IHL during the 1993-94 season. It turned out that one of the best netminders to ever don a Winnipeg Jets jersey suited up for the Russian Penguins that season as Nikolai Khabibulin was their netminder, and my curiosity in this oddball team in the IHL grew. However, the Jets left for the warmer climate of Phoenix, Arizona, I was moving into a new chapter of my life, and this curiosity waned. Looking back, I wish it hadn't.

I received an email from The 2050 Group regarding a new film that Universal Pictures is releasing on August 4 on digital platforms and via video-on-demand. Written, directed, and produced by Gabe Polsky, a new documentary all about how an NHL team joined forces with one of the most dominant Russian hockey teams to try and redefine hockey on both continents. What Polsky found and shows in this new film seems to be pure chaos in speaking with the people who were directly involved in this venture!

Here is the trailer for Red Penguins. Honestly, this looks entertaining!
I don't know about you, but any time someone mentions hockey in the same sentence as "gangsters, strippers, and live bears serving beer," you're probably in for a rather crazy experience. From the Red Penguins trailer above, it seems that everyone who was involved in this relationship between the Penguins and the Central Red Army team experienced their own ballet of emotion and feelings when it came to how this entire collaboration played out.

I'll let you know right now that I'm booked on August 4 so I can watch this film. As I said, my curiosity as a kid about this team always had me wondering about them, and I'm hopeful Gabe Polsky's look at the Russian Penguins and this joint venture by the Penguins and CSKA Moscow in Red Penguins will answer a few questions while being as wildly entertaining as the trailer is.

Expect a movie review on this site once I've had the chance to see it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Astonishing Idiocy

For a guy whose career probably lasted four years too long, I'm not sure if Jeremy Roenick has ever seen the writing on the wall in any situation. Usually, when using that phrase, it means seeing the very obvious, but Roenick seems to be very near-sighted in his attempts to salvage some face after his situation with NBC surrounding his rather stupid comments on a podcast that led to him being fired from NBC Sports. While he has always maintained that he was speaking in jest while trying to fix both his innocence and his reputation, it's pretty clear that NBC, with all the issues they had regarding sexual misconduct in their workplace, had no choice to but to resolve the matter with Roenick being dismissed. And that's where we pick up this story as it takes another turn thanks to the Roenick camp.

According to a report in Variety, Roenick is suing NBC Sports "for wrongful termination on Friday, claiming the network discriminated against him as a straight man after he made off-color remarks on a Barstool Sports podcast."

Let that stew for a second as you collect your thoughts on how NBC Sports discriminated against him because he's a straight, white guy. Is there any group in the history of this planet who have NEVER faced less discrimination than straight, white men? And perhaps showing his true colours, Roenick doubled-down in the lawsuit he filed by also alleging "that the network retaliated against him because he was an outspoken supporter of President Trump in 2016."

I'm no lawyer, but if I were his representation in this one, my advice would be, "Just take the loss on this, JR. It's not going to end well".

Look, Jeremy Roenick is free to do what he wants with his time and money, but when he posts a video on Twitter while suspended where he tells everyone that he won't be coming back to work after NBC chose to terminate his contract amidst all of the #MeToo news, this lawsuit now seems a little ridiculous.
"I'm very disappointed and angry today I will not be returning to NBC," Roenick said in the above video. I guess he's also disappointed that NBC Sports held him to what amounts to common decency when referring to his work colleagues and he's likely disappointed that NBC Sports is showing moral standards that they didn't show when dealing with people like Matt Lauer.

His jokes on the podcast diminished Kathryn Tappen and Patrick Sharp from NBC Sports hockey analysts to sexual objects. There's no place for those comments in public that simply embarrass and humiliate his two colleagues, and his apology to all involved in this debacle came two weeks after being suspended for his comments. NBC Sports stated they were "glad" he apologized, but his suspension continued as it rightfully should have.

The question that needs to be asked is why he was "disappointed and angry" with NBC's decision to fire him when we've seen men accused of sexual harassment fired from networks across the continent, and how this became discrimination against him for being a straight man. Honestly, he was the one who made sexually-suggestive comments about Patrick Sharp, not the other way around, so how exactly is he going to play that off as discrimination for being straight? And if he's "disappointed and angry" he can no longer work on NHL broadcasts on NBC any longer, does that devalue the apology he issued in January since he may have done it only to try and save his network job?

Proving there's discrimination against him for his sexual orientation is going to be rather difficult when one considers his own words that he used to land in the hot water he was in prior to his dismissal. It takes an astonishing level of idiocy to claim discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation as a straight man when Roenick made sexual comments about another man who he worked with on a prominent podcast. What else may be revealed if it gets to trial where Roenick's sexual history may be reviewed?

Just take the loss on this one, JR. You messed up bad, and there are consequences for your actions that need to embrace and understand. That last part - "embrace and understand" - might be the most important part of the equation.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 16 July 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 408

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a guest who has moved around quite a bit in her university career in the three years of playing university-level hockey. That, of course, would make for some great stories and pretty cool milestones, so my guest tonight on The Hockey Show is a woman with whom I had to speak. The only problem? She may not be playing at the university level any further depending on what happens surrounding her career and the team's future, so let's meet this woman because she has a great story to tell!

Tonight, I go one-on-one with Lethbridge Pronghorns netminder Chloe Marshall! Marshall has played all over the place since leaving the Battleford Sharks in Saskatchewan. She starred for the Northland College Lumberjills at the NCAA Division-III level, she's tended nets for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, and she was most recently stopping pucks for the Pronghorns until that program was axed by the school. I talk to Chloe about playing for these four teams, growing up in a tiny town, playing NCAA lacrosse, setting some milestones, the loss of the Pronghorns hockey program, and what her future may hold with two years of eligibility left. This is a great chat with a woman who has done a ton of amazing things, and I hope you'll tune in tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, UMFM.com, and, if you subscribe to BellMTS TV, Channel 718!

Where's the best place can you hear tonight's show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? 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.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz chats with Chloe Marshall of the Lethbridge Pronghorns about growing up in a tiny town, backstopping the Sharks, helping the Northland College get their women's hockey program off the ground, playing with Saskatchewan and going to the national championship, joining the Pronghorns, losing the Pronghorns, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: July 16, 2020: Episode 408

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Adding One Of The Best

I have an immense amount of respect for former Calgary Inferno goaltender Delayne Brian. Not only is she one of the best netminders to have played the game in my humble opinion, but she's a native Winnipegger which already makes her entirely cool in my books. Having been lucky enough to have interviewed her on The Hockey Show, I can truly say she's one of the greats in the game despite having retired from playing. With Brian transitioning to normal life away from the rink, I would suspect it would be hard for a competitor like her to walk away from the game entirely, so today's news put a smile on my face when I read it.

Announced on Twitter today, the Calgary Fire U18 AAA program have added the former CWHL All-Star to their coaching staff as Delayne Brian will be training goaltenders in the Fire program for the foreseeable future!

I'm a firm believer that great players never stray far from the game, and Delayne Brian's return as a coach in the Calgary Fire system is a great bit of news today. The girls playing in the Fire program will benefit greatly from one of the best female netminders to stop pucks in the city of Calgary, and having Delayne Brian back in the game teaching the next generation of goalies the skills of the position of goaltending means we're going to see great netminders emerge from Calgary in the next generation.

Welcome back, Delayne, and congratulations to the Calgary Fire U18 AAA program on getting an amazing netminder who is a better person to join the coaching ranks in Calgary!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

All About Kazakhstan Today

It's not often that we find Canadian hockey players looking for their Olympic dreams through other countries, but former Toronto Varsity Blues forward Breanna Berndsen might have found a way to the Olympics, only without a maple leaf on her chest. We've seen this happen with a handful of men who have played hockey in European countries only to be granted citizenship in those countries, and it seems that the sociology graduate from Kelowna, BC who played three seasons for the Varsity Blues may be following that exact plan when it comes to her Olympic dream as Berndsen will head to Kazakhstan for the foreseeable future with visions of a future Olympiad in her mind!

Announced today, Berndsen signed a two-year contract with the Aisulu Almaty in the European Women's Hockey League. Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan, but since Berndsen is coming from Toronto it may feel like a smaller city to her. Nevertheless, the team is highly successful within the borders of Kazakhstan, and has shown some flashes of brilliance on the international stage at the IIHF European Women Champions Cup. While they haven't won the European Women Champions Cup yet, adding Berndsen should help as she brings size and skill to the lineup.

Berndsen graduated from the Pursuit of Excellence program in BC where she was part of a silver medal-winning team in 2014 and gold medal-winning team in 2015 at the Female World Sport School Challenge. She would play her freshman season at the University of North Dakota before transferring to the University of Toronto after UND decided to cut the women's hockey program.

Berndsen's 11 goals and 13 assists in three seasons with the Varsity Blues doesn't sound like she was a scoring machine, but she was an effective player for Toronto as her career moved forward as she received more power-play time. Berndsen was responsible for three game-winning goals out of the seven she scored this season, helping Toronto win the OUA Championship and earning a berth in the U SPORTS National Championship.

No one will question Berndsen taking an opportunity to play at a higher level following her university career, but it was her declaration of her future plans that was a little surprising.

"I'm applying for dual citizenship to become a Kazakhstani citizen," Berndsen told the Varsity Blues. "Then I would be eligible to compete in IIHF sanctioned events, like the world Universiade, world championship, Olympic qualifiers and hopefully the 2022 Olympic Games."

Again, no one will fault Berndsen for chasing her dreams, but applying for dual citizenship is a big undertaking considering some of the requirements that Kazakhstan has for prospective new citizens like singing the national anthem at the citizenship hearing. If she's chasing her Olympic dream, I'm all for her finding a way to achieve that dream, but Kazakhstan has "dropped down considerably in the IIHF Women's World Ranking", showing up at 21st-overall on the May 2020 rankings.

The achievement of this dream may take some incredible effort, but, as the Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty". In saying that, I'm all for Breanna Berndsen chasing greatness in Kazakhstan, and I'll be cheering for her as she runs down this dream of representing Kazakhstan in the Olympics in the future. Let's hope she can make a lasting impact on Kazakhstan hockey in helping that country's national women's team find their way back to the biggest international tournament.

The reason this article is all about Kazakhstan is because Nigel Dawes, pictured to the right playing for Kazakhstan, did what Breanna is trying to do in earning citizenship with Kazakhstan while playing in the Olympics for the country. Dawes isn't playing in Astana with Barys as he once did, but he's still playing in the KHL as he suited up for Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg last season. This season? He won't be playing there as often as Dawes has signed with another KHL squad for what appears to be a legitimate shot at winning the KHL's Gagarin Cup for the first time in his illustrious KHL career.

He'll be reunited with Stepane Da Costa from Avtomobilist there, but it seems the lure of one of the best teams in the KHL annually was the draw for Dawes to leave Yekaterinburg for Kazan. Undoubtedly, Kazan has to be a favorite for the Gagarin Cup in 2020-21 with the additions of Da Costa and Dawes, and having Dawes on the roster for Kazan would mean he's not seen as a foreigner due to his Canadian roots thanks to his Kazakhstani passport. That would allow Kazan to pursue another foreign-born player if they so desired.

Regardless of how they use their foreign player spots, Kazan already looks like a formidable foe for KHL opponents this season.

For two Canadian-born kids, Kazakhstan has become their second homes as Breanna Berndsen looks to establish herself in the Eastern Bloc country while Nigel Dawes already has. Although their Olympic hockey dreams didn't come in the red-and-white, both players are looking to make Kazakhstan a bigger player on the international stage with their talents.

If nothing else, Berndsen may chase down her dream while Dawes already got to play in an Olympic Games. Follow Breanna's and Nigel's examples, and never give up on your dreams, kids.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 13 July 2020

Now It's Official

The man to the left, heralded in his junior hockey days with the Quebec Remparts for his scoring ability, has been across the continent and back before landing in Russia only to have finally returned to North America in April after signing a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mikhail Grigorenko was supposed to be added to the Blue Jackets' roster for the 2020-21 season following his KHL contract ending, and everything seemed like it was going to plan. The only problem? That contract was voided by the NHL after finding that the signing date had violated a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement as the contract didn't include the 2019-20 season. As a result, Grigorenko was still a free agent and the Blue Jackets were still wooing him to join the team.

With the deal in April having been terminated by the NHL, both Grigorenko and the Blue Jackets agreed to honour the original one-year, $1.2 million deal with the CBA allowed for the signing to officially take place. Today, that period of time to sign free agents opened up as per the CBA, and the Blue Jackets made it officially - again - by signing Grigorenko to the one-year deal.

It will be an interesting look at how Grigorenko has grown since last suiting up with the Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17. The 26 year-old spent the last three seasons with CSKA Moscow in the KHL where he had 46 goals and 116 points over 147 games. While he's not coming in as the Russian Connor McDavid by any means, there is hope from the Blue Jackets side that the older Grigorenko might be able to pick his spots offensively while playing a solid defensive game.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen reiterated what he liked about Grigorenko's game in Russia on Monday.

"He's just getting into his prime as a player," Kekalainen said on April 20. "We've watched him the last couple of years and have had interest in him the last couple of years. And he's improved. But time will tell on the North American side. We do believe in his potential. We do think he has a lot of those ingredients that will make a player successful over here."

Whatever the Blue Jackets saw in Grigorenko must have been something more than what both Buffalo and Colorado saw in his where he amassed just 64 points in 217 NHL games. Perhaps what Kekalainen liked most was Grigorenko's versatility in a lineup where he can play almost any forward position.

"He's a left shot," Kekalainen stated, "but he can play right side, left side and center. He plays special teams. He's a power-play player. We're going to see where he can fit in."

Where ever he slots into the lineup will be up to head coach John Tortorella, but the risk of signing a player who never reached his potential with two teams is low when considering the dollar amount attached to Grigorenko's contract. If Tortorella can squeeze more than 27 points out of him - currently Grigorenko's career-high in any NHL season - this should be considered a win for the Blue Jackets with respect to the return on investment.

If Grigorenko can't adapt to John Tortorella's demand of hard work and effort, the length of the contract doesn't hurt the Blue Jackets long-term either as Grigorenko can be cut loose next summer. For an NHL player who came in with big promise, heading to his third team before the age of 30 doesn't look to appealing to future suitors unless he can show NHL teams that he's made changes to his game and his old habits.

It's official as of today: Mikhail Grigorenko is a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2020-21 season. It will be entirely up to him to determine if he's there longer, and he can make that happen through hard work, scoring, and sound defensive play.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 12 July 2020

No Kiwi Hockey This Year

If there's one country who has done perhaps the best job concerning the pandemic within its own borders, it might be New Zealand. New Zealand has re-opened its country domestically after recording zero new cases weeks ago and the last case being treated had recovered. To say that they did well might be an understatement when comparing the island nation to other nations around the world. The one thing they haven't done is opened its borders yet which has kept their case numbers at zero, and it seems that decision is a wise one despite it affecting their national hockey teams.

It was announced on Thursday that the New Zealand national U20 men's hockey team and the New Zealand national U18 women's team would be withdrawing from their respective 2021 IIHF World Hockey Championships due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the IIHF Division-III U20 World Championship in Mexico City, Mexico, scheduled for January 10-17, 2021, will only feature seven teams while the IIHF Division-II Group B U18 Women's World Championship in Kocaeli, Turkey, scheduled for January 28-31, 2021, will now only have four teams participating.

New Zealand's two national teams are the first to cancel events in 2021, and it speaks to the efforts the country made in reducing their coronavirus outbreak to zero. By keeping their players at home, New Zealand has removed any need to open its borders to international travel once again, and that's a major factor when reducing the spread the virus as this decision prevents these New Zealand players from returning with the virus once their tournaments end.

There were other factors that the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation Management Committee highlighted in their statement, and they included limited travel options with international flights cancelled and the respective costs of booking flights on the few planes in the air, a lack of insurance for its players to protect them from COVID-19 in case they were to contract the virus, and quarantine time for players and the efforts needed to quarantine and clean all equipment after each use. In other words, it just didn't make sense.

NZIHF President Andy Mills did confirm in the statement "that no decision has been made as of yet regarding the remaining teams - U18 Men's, Senior Men's (Ice Blacks) and Senior Women's (Ice Fernz) - participating in their respective tournaments". The senior men's team is scheduled to compete in Reykjavik, Iceland in the 2021 Men's Ice Hockey Division-II Group B World Championships from April 18-24, 2021; the U18 men's team is scheduled to play in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg at the 2021 U18 Division-III Group B World Championship from March 27-April 3, 2021; and, the senior women's team is slated to play in Zagreb, Croatia in the 2021 Women's Ice Hockey Division-II Group B World Championships from March 7-13, 2021.

While it would seem sacrilegious for Canada to even consider something like cancelling international hockey events, New Zealand's efforts to prevent any further coronavirus outbreaks has been outstanding which very well should be the model that the rest of the world follows when it comes to handling this virus. We saw Canada make the difficult decision to cancel the IIHF Women's World Championship in Nova Scotia this past year, and this might be something that the organizing committee wants to look into as countries may consider their participation in these upcoming tournaments.

Cancelling these teams' participation in international competitions may seem, in the short-term, like the wrong decision when it comes to growth and development of these players, but this is a bigger issue than 40 players missing out on some international travel and a few hockey games. In order to keep New Zealand's total cases at zero, sacrifices have to be made for the good of that country's population through some difficult decisions, but the end result will be that the country, in the long-term, will be better off for it.

Honestly, that seems like a fair trade-off it you ask me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!