Friday, 15 January 2021

Knoxville's Going Nashville

If you know anything about me, you likely know that my disgust over teams using shortened names or nicknames on professionally-worn jerseys in sanctioned games doesn't sit well with me. We've seen a handful of teams do it - the Senators (Sens!), the Lightning (Bolts!), and the Hurricanes (Canes!) most notably - and it bothers me because team nicknames are used mostly in speech rather than in professional forums. One team that hasn't participated in this madness at the Nashville Predators (Preds!) thankfully, but it seems that their closest SPHL team will wear their nickname for them tomorrow night.

The Knoxville Ice Bears are situated some two-and-a-half hours from Nashville, and have zero affiliation with the NHL team outside of occupying the same state. Nashville has been pretty instrumental, however, in growing hockey within the state and in the south. The Ice Bears were founded four years after the Predators first skated onto the scene in 1998, and they've seen both success on the ice and at the box office in that time.

What makes this SPHL-NHL connection unique is that the Predators have never once turned the Ice Bears away when they approached the NHL team with an idea. The Predators hosted an Ice Bears' preseason game back in 2012 at Bridgestone Arena as part of bigger hockey event in Tennessee, and the Ice Bears seem to honour their NHL bretheren with a night devoted to the Predators every season.

That leads us to the logo above as the SPHL's Knoxville Ice Bears get set for Preds' Night tomorrow against the Huntsville Havoc!
We've seen Knoxville wear black Preds Night jerseys before as black is a component of the Ice Bears colour scheme, but this jersey is all sorts of crazy with the catfish logo containing the Nashville skyline, the striping on the sleeve to represent a guitar's strings, the guitar pick with KX on it rather than NP, and, of course, the "Preds" name plastered across the chest of the players which irks me.

The catfish logo is, to a degree, a very unique logo for the Ice Bears to choose since Nashville's desire to toss catfish on the ice during a game began in 2002 - the same year that the Ice Bears were founded! I'm not sure if the correlation is known by most Ice Bears fans, but that fact does make the catfish logo a little more palatable rather than just celebrating the tossing of catfish onto NHL ice.

The pick with KX is clearly a nod to Nashville's guitar pick they wear on their jerseys, and the font for the numbers is identical to what the Predators wear as well. Working that six blue-striped armband in on the jersey to represent a guitar seems like a bit of a stretch, but I won't lie when I say this black jersey needed a touch of colour somewhere. That "Preds" name, though? I can do without, thanks.

As stated above, the Ice Bears will wear these uniforms tomorrow night when the Huntsville Havoc visit, and the Predators will be giving these jerseys to fans as part of a jerseys-of-their-backs promotion. That promotion has been altered somewhat as no fans will be allowed onto the ice to receive their uniforms, and the lucky fans who win a jerseys will be mailed the jersey they won once they're cleaned and laundered to ensure that everything remains sanitized in this pandemic.

I feel like I'd be doing the Ice Bears a disservice if I walked away from this article without posting one of their big nights from last season, and that was when they hosted Mighty Ducks Night on December 28, 2019. The Ice Bears went full Wild Wing jersey, as you can see to the right, in that game, and the end result was a pretty fun jersey for an SPHL team to wear. I'm not saying the Wild Wing jerseys look minor-league in any way, but they seems to look more appropriate in a lower-level minor-league game. The fact that the Ice Bears altered Wild Wing to have their logo's bear head only makes these jerseys better, in my opinion, and that's what makes some of these minor-league promotions so much fun!

Enjoy Preds Night, Ice Bears fans. Just don't get catfished!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 January 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 434

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight to celebrate and denigrate the start of the NHL! As you know, the NHL kicked off its 2020-21 schedule of 56 games last night, and Jenna and I have some thoughts on the craziness leading up to last night in and around the NHL. With one team delaying the start of the season, you know we aren't very happy when it comes to the NHL's safety practices already. We get into that and whole lot more tonight on The Hockey Show!

The NHL kicked off its shortened season, and Teebz and Jenna get into everything that's happening surrounding the start of the NHL's 2020-21 campaign! They wrap-up the IIHF World Junior Championship, they chat about the COVID-19 problems already seen in the NHL, and they dissect the conference call Gary Bettman had with the media and explain why the NHL is pushing forward with this season despite "losing billions". There are a few shout-outs on the show to people in hockey, a segment all about Evander Kane's financial matters, a fun laugh about travel in the NHL with respect to the age of players, and they close the show with some ECHL news! All of this happens tonight at 5:30pm CT, so make sure you tune in on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via 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, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store. 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 Jenna break down the World Junior Championship, deconstruct the problems with the NHL's COVID problem in training camps, dissect the Gary Bettman rhetoric, scrutinze Evander Kane's spending, sort out some ECHL news, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: January 14, 2021: Episode 434

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Hockey's Back!

Don't even bother contacting me tonight because my evening is booked. From the dinner hours right through to midnight (or beyond?), there's hockey on my television and laptop, making me officially unreachable. If anyone knocks at the door and they don't have some soft of food delivery service attachment, that too will go unanswered.

Ok, the above isn't entirely true, but having watched the Penguins and Flyers tangle already has me set for hockey over the next 120-or-so days. The Leafs and Canadiens are having fun while I write this while the Blackhawks are finding out just how good the defending Stanley Cup champions are as Tampa Bay has opened a nice lead on the boys from the Windy City.

Having completed a fantasy draft one night earlier, I guess I'm locked-in for the 2020-21 season. I'm not going to make predictions because that's not what this blog is about, but I will say that it's likely there will be a lot more positive hockey stories on this blog moving forward instead of the daily COVD-19-in-hockey reports that I seem to have filed over the last few months.

Enjoy the hockey tonight, folks! The NHL is back!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Maybe They'll Be More Rested?

With the NHL on the precipice of starting the 2020-21 season tomorrow, there are all sorts of predictions being made about who will win, who will make the playoffs, who will succedd and disappoint, and everything in between those options. The NHL's North Division, featuring all seven Canadian teams, has been an intriguing division when it comes to these predictions as the seven teams will battle to determine who is "Canada's team" when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup. Every team will be looking for that edge to help them win, but what if the distance travelled by each team plays a factor when it comes to being rested and ready to play in a shortened schedule?

Professional hockey players should be used to travel by the time they reach the NHL, but a shortened schedule means more movement with less breaks where one can spend a full night in one's own bed or using one's facilities for rest and rehabilitation. This could result in more injuries or required nights off for players whose bodies have taken a bit of a beating in previous games. This is the importance of a well-stocked taxi squad, but the amount of travel factors into this possibility when players need some time to nurse injuries and tweaks.

I didn't do the math for this - all credit should go to Jacob White of Daily Hive's Offside Vancouver - but they went ahead and figured out how many kilometers and how many road trips each Canadian team will undertake in this unique season. Here are Jacob's findings:
Winnipeg, who has the least kilometers on the road and the second fewest road trips this season among the Canadian teams, seems to be in a pretty good spot when it comes to mitigating this possible travel factor. I was a little surprised that Edmonton leads the way being that they aren't the outliers like Vancouver or Montreal are, but that's how this season breaks down. And Toronto's 29 road trips seems excessive when one considers it's a 56-game season.

As you can see to the right, Edmonton and Toronto are the oldest teams in the division for average age according to CapFriendy's calculations on January 1, 2021. Some of these numbers will need to be adjusted with teams moving players to the taxi squads, but they should remain fairly accurate. If this is the case, the Jets look like they'll be in a good position with respect to age and travel when it comes to standing up to the rigors of this compressed schedule for the 2020-21 season. As I said above, taxi squads will be important this season, especially for Toronto and Edmonton if the bumps and bruises start to pile up.

Will this be huge factor when it comes to this season? I would assume it would be no worse than previous seasons, but it might start to bear fruit late in the 56-game schedule when players are looking to rest up for playoff series. Again, these players are used to the travel implications by the time they hit the professional level, so it shouldn't be so severe in a 56-game schedule, but we shouldn't discount the importance of sleeping in one's own bed.

Should you be betting on the Jets and Senators to have better seasons than the prognosticators have predicted? I can't answer that, but I can say that having a younger team travelling less than older teams who are criss-crossing the country might be better in the long run. If there is an uptick in points for either team, I won't say less kilometers travelled was entirely the reason for it, but it may have played a factor in being healthier and more game-ready than the older teams, more travelled teams.

For the old dudes in the division - Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Mike Smith, and Corey Perry - the body doesn't heal as fast as it did twenty years ago. Let's hope they have hyperbaric chambers onboard some of the planes these guys are on this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 11 January 2021

The Wool Over Our Eyes?

I'm pretty certain I'll never be an NHL owner. Besides the fact that I'm not a bazillionaire and I don't have a nest egg from a highly-successful business I can use, I'm in staunch disagreement with the NHL running a season when there are so many variables they can't control despite there being a myriad of examples where things have gone off the rails in the other major professional sports. If you listen to The Hockey Show, you know my feelings on the NHL ramping up for this season despite me being a nobody in the hockey world, so maybe it's time to get the ringleader's thoughts on the matter.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat down for a conference call with the media today and things got a little heated at times. Like "lighting money on fire" hot as shown in the lede image. For example, he was asked about economic picture for the NHL this season, and his response was quite surprising.
"We're going to run through more money, or say it differently, lose more money at the club level and at the league level by playing than by not playing. But the owners unanimously are OK with that because they know how important it is for our fans and for the game.

"The magnitude of the loss, when you add it all up, starts with a 'b'. We’re out of the 'm' range and into the 'b' range. That's just what we have to deal with and that's what the clubs have decided they're prepared to do. Even though it would be a smaller number if we just shut down for a year, everybody thought it was important, as one of the four major sports, for us to take our role and play our game and deliver what people expect from us."
Wow. There's a lot to unpack there. The commissioner basically laid out the state of the game for everyone to see in two paragraphs, and is asking us to believe that this is the best course of action for the NHL. So, in saying that, let's break this statement down.
"We're going to run through more money, or say it differently, lose more money at the club level and at the league level by playing than by not playing. But the owners unanimously are OK with that because they know how important it is for our fans and for the game."
This might be first time in the history of businesses anywhere that the guy in charge is basically admitting that they want to lose money by conducting business, and we all know the NHL is not in the money-losing business. What would be the purpose for doing this? There seems to be nothing to indicate that this is a good idea in any way aside from a hollow nod to fans and "the game".

Let's be honest here in that fans have never once changed how the NHL does business. With only four teams opening their doors to actual fans who can attend games, claiming this is for the fans is pure lip service.

The NHL knows it has all sorts of contractual obligations to fulfill this season that it can't avoid, so this season will push ahead because the NHL contractually has to play it out. Sponsors, TV deals, and players all have contracts that were agreed to by the NHL, and there is no avoiding that responsibility.

As for "the game", there is precisely nothing that the NHL can give to the game in a 56-game effort that the game of hockey hasn't already seen. This season isn't going to be magical in any way unless the NHL can magically have no players miss games due to positive COVID-19 test. They've already failed that through the training camp portion, so whatever the NHL thinks it's doing that is important for the game simply isn't true by any measure.
"The magnitude of the loss, when you add it all up, starts with a 'b'. We’re out of the 'm' range and into the 'b' range. That's just what we have to deal with and that's what the clubs have decided they're prepared to do."
The fact that the NHL is forecasting losses in the billions is telling when it comes to the stupidity of holding a season, but it's fairly apparent in Bettman's next statement that "the clubs" need to play this out in order to make good on their sponsor dollars they willfully accepted.

I'm not going to fault the NHL for admitting that they owe some sponsors money or advertising, but it seems those words can't find their way out of Bettman's mouth. Instead, we get a barrage of verbal diarrhea about doing this for the fans and the game when it's clearly about making good with the sponsors who paid a pile of money for content and advertising spaces. Dressing this effort up as some favour to fans and the game is another word that starts with a "b" and it usually comes from the back end of a male bovine.
"Even though it would be a smaller number if we just shut down for a year, everybody thought it was important, as one of the four major sports, for us to take our role and play our game and deliver what people expect from us."
Who, precisely, is everyone when the NHL already asked the players to take a pay cut because the owners cried poor about lost revenues one month ago? With Bettman crying poor about teams running through money at an alarming rate, who in their right mind would agree to lose more money because it's "important... for us to take our role and play our game and deliver what people expect"?

The NHL is playing this season out because there's a pot of gold waiting at the end of this dark cloud. The rainbow is there if the league pushes through to the end of this season because the NHL's $200 million-a-year deal with NBC expires after the 2020-2021 season. By not playing this season, they'd have to extend the deal one more year rather than using this abbreviated season to their advantage and ending the deal with NBC.

With ESPN chomping at the bit to get back on the ice with the NHL, there will be a more NFL-like TV deal put in place by the NHL where NBCSN, ESPN, and other networks will be able to bid on pieces of the NHL's weekly setup of games with more lucrative spots earning the league a bigger monetary windfall. With this strategy of branding across a number of major networks, expect bidding wars for weekend games and the established Wednesday night Rivalry games that the NHL scheduled for NBC, and that means more revenue for the NHL in the long run. Short terms pains for long term gains is a sound investment when one gambles on itself as the NHL has.

Would I miss NHL hockey if we were forced into another long wait for the game to return? Undoubtedly, and, if social media is to be believed, there are a lot of fans who are excited for the NHL season to start this week. What we should remember is that the NHL isn't doing this for the fans despite Gary Bettman trying to pass this off as something for the fans. This is a business decision that one year of losses will be cancelled out by years of lucrative television contracts in the near future.

That, too, may benefit fans in the long run with more channels to watch hockey, but let's just make sure that Gary Bettman isn't begging for your gratitude in playing this season when ticket prices to attend games may ultimately go up because of the losses this season. I might be cynical, but the NHL doesn't burn money because it loves its fans, and it hasn't been in the business of losing money for some time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Off To Kansas!

Every once in a while, this blog likes to throw some spotlight on players from my home province. I should probably do it more often than I do, but I try to make sure I post a few of these every now and then such as today. The player to the left is from the city of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba where he had a good run with the MJHL's Portage Terriers before taking his talents to Omaha, Nebraska to play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he spent the last four years and served as captain in his final campaign with the Mavericks. That player is Dean Stewart, and he officially signed his first professional contract on Friday when he inked a deal with the ECHL's Wichita Thunder!

A shade under five hours to the south of Omaha, Wichita is the ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers and Bakersfield Condors. Stewart had been drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh-round at 188th-overall back in 2016, but it seems nothing ever happened on that front, allowing Stewart to become a free agent as he left Omaha following an outstanding senior season in which he was named the team's MVP, Most Outstanding Defenseman and earned the Biggest Heart award for his play.

"I think he's one of our hardest workers, and it's special how he prepares everyday," Maverick head coach Mike Gabinet told Jordan McAlpine of The Gateway. "What he does on the ice and in the weight room–it's no surprise he's a captain. He's ultra competitive and really sets the bar for how we need to compete here in this program."

That's what the Thunder want to hear about their new defenceman as they're currently battling the Allen Americans for first-place in reshuffled Mountain Division and are one of the top teams in the ECHL this season. Stewart will join a Thunder team desperately needed help on the power-play (4-for-33 this season) and finding some offence from the blue line as Wichita has just four goals from the defenders through nine games. As a self-described two-way defenceman, Wichita can use some of that offensive game he showed over his final two season with Omaha where he scored seven goals in 70 contests.

The Thunder do have former Mavericks teammate and goaltender Evan Weninger on the roster, so Stewart will recognize a familiar face in the dressing room. Weninger, played a game with the Florida Everblades and a pair of games with the Allen Americans, landed in Wichita last season where he played twelve games, going 4-4-3 with a 2.93 GAA and a .917 save percentage, prompting the Thunder to bring back the Saskatoon native this season. Obviously, the communication forged between Stewart and Weninger over their time together at UNO should help both players once Stewart gets into the lineup.

Stewart left Manitoba as a 17 year-old after helping the Portage Terriers capture the 2016 MJHL Turnbull Cup as league champions, and he still has fond memories of what being a Terrier meant. "I just remember looking up to the Portage Terriers – those guys were just my absolute idols," Stewart told McAlpine in February. "I remember when I made the Terriers at 16, that was a dream come true to me, and that was my main goal for life up to that point – I thought that was going to be the end."

As we know, there's more to write in Dean Stewart's hockey career thanks to the Wichita Thunder, so keep your eyes peeled for #28 on the Thunder blue line as this ECHL season progresses. It might not be an Arizona Coyotes contract he signed, but the feeling of getting your first shot at professional hockey in the ECHL after thinking the MJHL was the pinnacle is still a pretty great feeling, I'd imagine.

Congratulations, Dean Stewart, and here's hoping you have an amazing season with Wichita!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Best Way To Sell Concessions?

If there's one snack at a hockey game that might get overlooked, it's the classic order of french fries. Sure, you can get them all fancy as a poutine and no one would complain, but a good, crisp french fry just has that sound as you bite into it, that taste as the salt and fat on the exterior of the potato hit your tongue, and that warmth from the fying process that it might be one of the best hockey-watching snacks when sitting in an arena.

Of course, in this year, there haven't been a lot of opportunities to visit the concession stand for those crispy, golden fries, but it seems that the Knoxville Ice Bears might have the best concession sales team skating for them this season in the SPHL!

Centerman Josh French and forward Connor Fries stood side-by-side on the bench to give us the above moment in the game last night between the Ice Bears and the visiting Macon Mayhem. Fries scored a goal at the 19:00 mark of the first period, but French didn't hit the scoresheet in the 6-3 Ice Bears loss to Macon. You have to wonder if the Ice Bears or some other restaurant will offer up free fries if French and Fries combine for goals this season. It would be a fun promotion!

With the loss, Knoxville drops to 1-2-0 on the season to sit in fifth-place in the five-team SPHL, but they've also played one less game than three of the other teams and two less games than league-leading Pensacola who are four points ahead of Knoxville.

If you're looking for the Canadian angle on this story, former UPEI Panthers centerman Gabe Guertler scored at 1:53 of the second period and added an assist on Brian Bowen's first-period marker for Macon while former Queen's Golden Gaels winger Jared Bethune scored at 5:04 of the second period for Macon in helping them to the 6-3 win. Not a bad night for a couple of U SPORTS kids!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 8 January 2021

Here We Go Again

With NHL training camps ramping up for the start of the abbreviated NHL season in a week's time, the Dallas Stars announced today that six players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the team to close its facilities and the NHL to cancel or postpone games for the Stars until January 19 at the very earliest. It's not surprising with players congregating from all over the world who have contracts with the Stars that we'd see an early positive test in this process. After all, it happened with the World Junior Championship squads, and it likely will happen again in NHL circles. What is surprising is that the NHL, who has shown the effectiveness of a bubble situation once already, seemingly throws caution to the wind once again when trying to make a buck.

"But Teebz," I hear you saying, "it's just one of thirty-one teams, so chill out." I could chill out nicely if it wasn't for the fact that Dallas' first three games - a back-to-back on the road against the Florida Panthers and the first of a two-game set on the road against Tampa Bay - weren't been postponed. These games likely can be worked into the remaining schedule, but it makes one wonder how the Stars, Panthers, and Lightning will be affected as this shortened, compressed schedule moves forward. Injuries and fatigue could play serious roles in the outcomes of these games.

Complicating matters further was the announcement just hours after the Stars' news that the Columbus Blue Jackets were holding players out of practice due to COVID-19 protocols. For Columbus, this is the second time they've flirted with COVID-19 at their practice facility as they reportedly had "several players" test positive for COVID-19 back in November. You would think that November incident would have given the Blue Jackets some better insight on how to mitigate this kind of outbreak, but apparently they learned nothing.

Remember that the NHL set up two bubbles, tested and tested and tested and tested some more, and saw no positive results when players entered those two bubbles. Remember that they had a very successful Stanley Cup Playoff tournament where the Lightning were eventually crowned as champions with a grand total of zero positive tests within those bubbles, even with minimal team movement when they consolidated the bubbles.

That same process should have been used to prepare the short training camps for the players, but it's pretty clear that the teams and the NHL, by proxy, learned nothing from being prepared. They all watched Sweden and Germany lose players for portions or all of the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament by not being more prepared and giving camps ample time to set up and establish a quarantine. They all watched Canada pause its camp for a quarantine after Hockey Canada brought the players together early for selection camp.

And that led to this classic comment today from Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour stated in a media confernce call:
"It's bound to happen. Every college hockey program has had it. Almost every team that's got going, every avenue, has had it or experienced it. You hope you don't. But it’s certainly not unexpected."
Are you actually serious with that statement, Rod?

Look, I get Rod Brind'Amour is just a head coach, but that comment is an admission of defeat. He's admitting that it's going to happen, so let's just get it over with because it's inevitable that players and staff are going to contract the virus. I know that the NHL is dead-set on playing the games, but what does it say about the business of the NHL that one of its most respected coaches has all but resigned himself that he or someone around him is going to get the virus? What does it say about the NHL about being a good community partner in its thirty-one communities that they know they're going to contract and likely spread the virus within those communities because, as Rod stated, "almost every team has had it or experienced it"?

While the NHL will stress it's doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the players and staff under its watch, once again we failures to even do the basics when it comes to putting camps together such as recommending and enforcing ample, extended time for quaratines before camps start in order to prevent things like cancelling three games for the Stars to start the season. The examples of why this would have been good are literally sitting right in front of the NHL and its teams, and they chose to ignore these examples of smart planning just as the IIHF ignored them.

Don't get me wrong - I'm excited to have NHL hockey back. I love this game because of the excitement, the passion, and the dazzling play on the ice, but I really hate the business of hockey this year. I know I'm beating a dead horse here with my pleas for some sort of sanity, but this isn't how I wanted the NHL to start its season and it's certainly not how I want Rod Brind'Amour to feel about his chances going into this season.

Hopefully, once things get going, the NHL will land on its feet and not experience the same weekly announcements that Major League Baseball undertook and the National Football League are undertaking with respect to players missing weeks of practice and games due to COVID-19 exposure. But Rod Brind'Amour is right: it seems inevitable, and you just hope it doesn't happen to your team.

That's not exactly the mindset I want to watch hockey under for the 2020-21 season, but it's going to be that mindset because the NHL couldn't do some very easy things to ensure better safety and a better season. if this feels like deja vu, here we go again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 433

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, kicks off 2021 with a rather big show considering the guest who joins Teebz and Jenna tonight! If there's one thing that hosting The Hockey Show offers, it's a chance to meet some rather interesting people who have done all sorts of things in hockey, and, occasionally, we get to chat with our heroes. Tonight, Jenna gets to experience meeting a hero of hers (and one of my favorite players) as we welcome her all-time favourite player to the program!

Tonight, Teebz and Jenna welcome two-time Olympic gold medallist Cassie Campbell-Pascall to The Hockey Show! It's a huge honour to have Cassie on the show, and we chat with her about her playing career, her broadcasting career, switching positions, the demise of the CWHL, her first night as a color analyst on Hockey Night in Canada, playing for the OUA's Guelph Gryphons, whether she'd ever want to coach at a high level, inducting more women into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the HHOF's Selection Committee, her thoughts on the NHL's all-Canadian North Division, which rinks she likes working in, and more! It's a big show with one of Canada's most decorated players in Cassie Campbell-Pascall, so make sure you tune in tonight at 5:30pm CT tonight to hear our chat with Cassie on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or on 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, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store. 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 Jenna sit down with Cassie Campbell-Pascall as we learn about her playing career, broadcasting experiences, coaching opportunities, secondary roles in the hockey world, geting ready for another NHL season, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: January 7, 2021: Episode 433

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

That Makes A Dozen

As we know, the pandemic has wrecked a number of hockey seasons for leagues across the world. Whether it be players opting out, teams opting out, or entire leagues sitting this winter out, hockey has barely been a blip on the radar this winter. Professional teams and leagues are slowly trying to piece together schedules and ideas on how to make a season work while the junior and college ranks have tried, aren't trying, or simply trying their best to play any sort of meaningful games. One of those leagues is the ECHL and they're trying their best, but another team has decided to sit this out as the total number of ECHL teams sitting out hits a dozen.

The logo above likely gave it away, but the Toledo Walleye announced yesterday that they were choosing to opt out for the abbreviated 2020-21 ECHL season as part of the ECHL's COVID-19 Voluntary Suspension options. Toledo joins Adirondack, Atlanta, Brampton, Cincinnati, Idaho, Kalamazoo, Maine, Newfoundland, Norfolk, Reading, and Worcester as the teams choosing to sit out this season, leaving the ECHL with fourteen teams still hoping to find a way to crown a Kelly Cup champion.

Jon Napoli, President and CEO of the Walleye, stated,
"We are grateful to the member teams of the ECHL who gave us the opportunity to push the start of our season to February. We had hoped the extra time would be enough for the vaccine distribution to begin to take hold and to loosen the COVID-19 attendance restriction for indoor arenas to the point where we could safely play a significant portion of the 2020-21 season in front of fans. Unlike Major League sports that enjoy the benefit of national and international TV and streaming media rights contracts, the Walleye's financial stability is dependent upon attendance and the generosity of local sponsors. After much discussion, we have decided to turn our focus to a safe, healthy and successful 2021-22 season. We are heartbroken for our fans, our players, our employees and the downtown Toledo neighborhood that depends upon the success of the Walleye."
Like a number of other ECHL teams, the costs outweigh the benefits in playing this shortened season in front of few, if any, fans, so the Walleye made the decision to take a break and get after it again next season when it would financially make more sense. I don't fault any of the ECHL teams for doing this, but it's hard for me to suggest that a champion be crowned when nearly half of the league isn't playing in 2020-21.

The problem with waiting this long is that players who expected to be playing in Toledo this season now become free agents. As stated above, the ECHL season has already started so these players will need to relocate if they hope to play on one of the remaining fourteen teams, and, assuming they are signed by other teams, those players will bump players currently on roster off those rosters. This upheaval at this stage of the season is a bit of a mess, but the ECHL trying to award a championship when half the teams aren't playing also seems like a mess.

Again, I hope everyone who is playing remains safe and healthy throughout the season. For players who don't play this season, that holds true for them too, but let's hope they return for hockey next season. The Walleye are a strong and proud franchise, and they always find character players who represent the franchise proudly.

For now, though, I guess the Walleye can do a little ice fishing this winter if they need a new activity.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

The Crescendo Of A Champion

Having watched the December 25 game between Russia and the US, it was pretty clear that the American team didn't have their best effort that day, particularly in the defensive zone. Tied 1-1 after one period of play, the Russians scord three times in the middle frame of that game to really put the Americans in a tough spot, and they would eventually win the game 5-3. At the time, I really thought the US's struggles in their own zone might hurt them, but if the adage of "you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win" is true, the American team lived that adage over two weeks.

While it hurts to see Canada fail to capture their second-straight gold medal, it shouldn't be a surprise considering how the Americans improved in each game after the the loss to the Russians. They were the far better team when it came to puck position, they forechecked hard and with a purpose, they played extremely well at their own blue line to force Canada into dumping the puck in where it could be recovered quickly, and they used their speed to catch Canada flat-footed at times and to cause chaos in the Canadian defensive end.

By the end of the tournament, the Americans were the best team of the ten that attended.

If adversity tests character, perhaps this is a part of the reason the Americans emerged victorious. The loss to the Russians likely focused the team as the coaches prepared for a December 26 game against the Austrians, and the Americans came away with an 11-0 victory against arguably the worst team at this year's championship. It was nothing to be overly excited about, but you could see the Americans working on smaller pieces of their game - transitions, positioning on the ice, chemistry among its lines.

That attention to detail on those finer points of the game were on display tonight as the Americans looked like the aggressors all night. They won puck battles and race to pucks using their speed, they closed gaps quickly to force the Canadians into making hasty decisions, and they moved as a unit on the ice as they built momentum and confidence before the Alex Turcotte goal at 13:25 of the first period. Having played the Russians, the Swedes, and the Finns along the way to a gold-medal final game likely helped prepare them for a high-tempo game, and it was clear from the time the puck was dropped on the opening faceoff that the Americans had come to play.

Take nothing away from the Canadians in this tournament as they played a dominating style throughout the two weeks, but it's hard to kick it up to a higher gear when you haven't been forced to do so for two weeks. While the Finns presented a challenge for Canada, it was pretty clear that the three other teams - shorthanded Germany, the Slovaks, and Swiss - didn't have the same effect as playing the Russians and Swedes did for the Americans.

On the international stage, it's helpful to remind one's self that speed kills. Physicality can help a team win games, but speed is the ultimate factor that goes into a team's success at tournaments. That's not just foot speed or skating speed, but the speed in which players process the game in front of them to make good decisions with the puck which the Americans did well tonight. The Americans were simply the faster team for about 40 minutes before the Canadians really upped their efforts in the third period. That final frame saw the Canadians draw no closer, and the Americans were able to celebrate the gold-medal win!

I've heard some scouts say that the NCAA game has closed the gap on the CHL in terms of player preparedness for the bigger stage whether that be the NHL or international tournaments or other leagues. I'm not here to debate the merits of one path or the other, but the NCAA offers something the CHL can't, and that's having 18 and 19 year-olds play against players who are 21 and 22 that force the 18 and 19 year-olds into playing at a higher level. We saw the Americans, with a team built largely from the NCAA this season, play at an exceptionally high level, and that's been the case for the last decade when Team USA is putting a team together to make a run for gold.

Having solid developmental leagues like the CHL and the NCAA have pushed Canada and the US to that upper echelon of teams at the U20 level, and this is precisely the basis of the argument I made back on December 29. Without good developmental programs, the teams outside the Big Five nations will always struggle. Yes, there might be a few stars who made the jump to the CHL or NCAA for development, but the depth on those teams will always be challenged when it comes to rising to the occasion in big games against the Big Five nations.

While I want to lament the loss today, I simply can't feel bad for Team Canada. They had an opportunity to win and defend the gold medal, but were beaten by a better team today. Not one player, not a hot goalie, but a better team. Canada showed some resolve in the third period to make this a more competitive contest, but I'm taking nothing away from the Americans on this day as they played at a faster pace, made better decisions, and executed their gameplan better than their opponents.

The best team won. It's that simple. Congratulations to Team USA on winning the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 4 January 2021

Not As Epic As We Thought

This was supposed to be a game that had all the markings of yet another outstanding chapter in Canada's and Russia's hockey histories, but the semifinal game tonight felt slightly mismatched as the Canadians easily handled the Russians in a 5-0 victory. I'm not sure what the Russians expected from the Canadian squad, but it seems they started the game flat-footed before being knocked back on their heels, and they never recovered.

Alex Newhook made an early impact in the game after he missed the quarterfinal game with an upper-body injury. He seemed to be feeling no ill effects as he flew around the ice early in this game and putting Canada up 1-0 just 59 seconds into the contest with a goal that almost no one saw thanks to the speed the puck had as it bounced off the inside bar of the goal. Whatever was ailing Newhook can officially be erased from memory because he looked 100% out there every shift.

Canada got its additional goals from Connor McMichael, Cole Perfetti, and Braden Schneider before Dylan Cozens iced the game with an empty-netter late in the third period. For both Perfetti and Schneider, the goals against Russia seemed to lift weights off their shoulders as they notched their goals after struggling to find the back of the net all tournament.

At the other end, Yaroslav Askarov had himself another adventure tonight as he was all over his crease, but never seemed to be in control. His goal stick officially picked up frequent flyer miles based on the number of times it was dropped or discarded by Russian netminder, and one has to wonder if his stock as being the best young netminder picked in this year's draft might have been slightly inflated. All tournament long, Askarov seemed to struggle with concentration and focus when it came to being the best at his position, and one has to wonder if the pressure in carrying that title and the weight of the Russian expectations may have caught up to him.

The Russians, for what it's worth, did find the back of the net in this game as Mikhail Abramov scored on a power-play to make it 4-1, but the keen eyes of the Canadian coaching staff thought that the puck had been brought into the Canadian zone while the Russians were offside. After Abramov seemed to give his team a spark, the Canadians challenged the missed call and the play at the blue line was ruled offside, negating Russia's goal and seemingly adding to their frustrations in this game.

The Russians must have received a stern chat from head coach Igor Larionov during the second intermission because they looked much more focused in the third period as they tried to claw their way back into the game. Despite some chances for players such as Shakir Mukhamadullin, Vasili Podkolzin, and Yegor Spiridinov, goaltender Devon Levi was having none of it in Canada's net as he shut the door on the Russians in this game.

The Russians will get a chance to salvage some pride as they'll play in the early game tomorrow for the bronze medal while Canada now advances to the late game where the gold medal will be up for grabs. Canada, as defending champions, will get that opportunity to defend their place on the podium, and they'll await the winner of the USA-Finland game which is happening as this article is being written. Whoever ends up on the lesser side of the scoreboard in that game will get a date with the Russians, and they'll have to be ready for a Russian team that, I would assume, wasn't happy with tonight's performance.

Canada looks to finish the tournament without having trailed through the entire 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, and they'll play for gold yet again as they defend their gold medals from last year! GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Bring Your Hip Waders

You may have heard some rumblings about potential outdoor games that the NHL is scheduling for this season now that the January 1 Winter Classic date has passed. According to rumours, the NHL is examining the possibility of holding outdoor games at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Lake Tahoe this season which is located on the border of Nevada and California, approximately two hours west-northwest on US Interstate 50 from Sacramento. The moment that I hear "California" and "outdoor game", I begin to question why this has to happen, but it's the NHL so I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to plan a game to played on the sun.

Make no mistake that the Edgewood Tahoe Resort is a picturesque place to hold a game, and it would follow the NHL's wanting to feature games on Lake Louise before that idea ended due to signage rules on government land. Instead, the NHL focused on a second location as Lake Tahoe made the cut, and Edgewood Tahoe Resort seemingly got the nod in part due to their celebrity golf tournaments.

As you can see by the image to the right of Edgewood Tahoe Resort in the winter, there's not a lot of ice on the lake in the picture. It should also be noted that the smaller ponds in the image also feature zero ice for skating. Since Lake Tahoe's February temperatures average a high of +7C and a low of -3C, something tells me that the NHL won't be able to play their games on the lake as they may have wanted. That likely means the NHL will haul the mobile ice-making plant down to Lake Tahoe sometime this month in order to start building their rink.

As per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, it seems the NHL will use this outdoor event to test some new technology since they can't have fans in attendance. He writes,
"Fans will not be in attendance, with the number of people limited to about 400 — basically the teams' travelling parties and whoever is needed to work. It will give television different opportunities to broadcast the games, such as drone cameras."
Look, I get that there's a lot of technology that can and perhaps should be brought into hockey broadcasts for various reasons, but the big appeal for the NHL to undertake an experiment of this magnitude is the crowd size. It costs the NHL a small fortune to set up rinks in odd locations such as football fields and baseball diamonds, but that's offset by the size of the crowds that they bring into these events. Holding an outdoor game like this just to test new technology seems a little crazy when one examines the costs involved, so I'm genuinely curious what the NHL hopes to gain from this experience.

I'm pretty cynical about anything the NHL does that costs them money at this point due to the consistent push to make more money at all costs, and this cost has me questioning the very nature of why the NHL is conducting this experiment. Will it be cool to see the players playing on a rink with a mountain range in the background? Sure, no question about that. But it doesn't seem to be cost-efficient for a business that's crying poor when it comes to making good on contracts they've signed.

For the record, the Avalanche would meet the Vegas Golden Knights in one of the two games while the Bruins and Flyers would play in the second game. I mean, if we could somehow work Chicago into one of these games, it would feel like a normal outdoor game, but I digress since it will be the second time that Boston and Philadelphia meet in an outdoor game. If you recall, the 2010 NHL Winter Classic featured the Bruins and Flyers at Fenway Park in Boston with Marco Sturm scoring in overtime to give the Bruins the 2-1 victory.

As much as I want to be excited for this, my brain won't let me excuse the NHL's ulterior business motives behind every one of their decisions. When it comes to spending money on an outdoor game, the NHL doesn't like to lose money on these ventures, so I'm very curious as to the benefits the NHL will see when it comes to holding these two random, regular season games. Without fans in any sort of stands, I don't see the dollars-and-cents side of this decision, so there has to be another reason for this experiment.

Maybe my cynicism has taken over, but there has to be a business reason for the NHL to absorb these kinds of costs. Otherwise, they could have forced the AHL into doing something like this where the technology could be tested for a much lower cost. I guess we'll see what the reasons are come mid-February if and when this idea comes to fruition.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 2 January 2021

And Then There Were Four

Quarterfinals day at the World Junior Championship is always a tough day as four teams will see their tournaments end at this point. I know that it becomes a logistical nightmare for organizers, but I kind of wish that these four teams who fell today could stick around for a consolation side of the medal round where placements fifth through eighth could properly be determined. After all, no like ending any tournament with a loss. It's not to be, though, and four teams lived to play for medals as Russia, Finland, Canada, and US all moved into the semifinals.

Being that they won me over, I won't lie when I say that I was cheering for the Germans to upset the Russians. It nearly happened, too, as Florian Elias had a couple of great looks at times, but simply couldn't convert. At the end of the day, the lacklustre Russians survived this game with a 2-1 victory when, at times, it appeared that the Germans simply wanted it more.

That's not to say that Germany dominated the Russians, but that top German line of Peterka-Stützle-Elias made me believers in this German team. Peterka will be off to Buffalo and Stützle will head to Ottawa with Germany being eliminated, but Ottawa should be tracking down the agent for Florian Elias right now to bring him to camp as well. We know Stützle can score and Peterka showed some moxie as well, but it was Elias who really made a name for himself as an undrafted forward in this tournament.

The imagination and creativity shown by Stützle really seemed to open up space for Elias. And while there's no guarantee that Elias would even make Ottawa's squad, the chemistry shown by these two players in a short period of time should have had Ottawa scouts salivating. We'll see where Elias ends up eventually, but my hope is he finds a winger spot beside Stützle at some point soon.

From Germany-Russia, we laid witness to Sweden-Finland in another epic battle between these two nations. Sweden came out of the gate looking like the two losses in the round robin they suffered would be their last for a long time. After building a 2-0 lead through twenty minutes, though, the Finns took what they learned in the opening frame and completely flipped the script on Sweden.

Finland has been one of the better hockey nations for the last decade, and they have the trophy case to show it. It seemed like Sweden had a chance to really bury Finland if they played the rest of the game as they did in the first period, but some sloppy play and a preference to almost sit back and defend a two-goal lead for forty minutes really undid everything good they did in the first period.

Finland would score five minutes into the second period to make it a 2-1 game, but a disallowed goal minutes later is what seemed to really spark the fire for the Finns as they poured on all sorts of pressure and shots from that point. Despite the Swedes clinging to the one-goal lead after two periods of play, you could almost sense the walls caving in on them as the Finns continued to lay siege on the Swedish net.

With nine minutes to play, Anton Lundell scored on a power-play to pull Finland square at 2-2, and the Swedes suddenly realized that playing for the tie wasn't what they needed. Despite them pressing back, the Finns tore the hearts of Sweden out with 23.3 seconds to play when Swedish netminder Hugo Alnefelt seemed to lose track of the puck, allowing Roni Hirvonen to wrap the puck around the post between Alnefelt's skate and the post to give Finland the 3-2 victory.

Yes, I know you've had to listen to entire TSN crew talk about him all tournament long, but Brad Lambert looks like he's a surefire top-five pick in 2022 based on his play this season. While many factors can change between now and the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Lambert's game has to be liked by all scouts as he has a motor that doesn't stop, the puck seems to find his stick, and he's hard to knock off the puck once it's on his tape. I'm not suggesting a "Tank for Lambert" scenario, but he looks like he'll be a very good player.

The Czech Republic-Canada game went very well for Canada for the opening ten minutes before they seemed to forget that the Czechs are a talented team. Surprising virtually everyone, the Czechs led in shots through the opening twenty minutes, but they trailed 2-0 on the scoreboard.

The middle frame saw the two teams play a much more even period despite Canada outshooting the Czechs by an 11-6 margin. Leading back to my comments on the skill levels between teams, it's pretty clear that the effort by the Czechs was there, but the overall talent to finish was not when compared to Canada. Full credit to the Czechs for putting up a heckuvan effort, but they simply couldn't solve Devon Levi or the Canadian defence in a 3-0 loss.

Montreal appears to have another good young player on the way in with the effort shown by Jan Myšák in this tournament. Myšák was often the best player on the ice for the Czechs in each of their games, and it's not hard to see why the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs are big on this kid. Myšák looks like he's going to do just fine in the bleu-blanc-et-rouge in Montreal.

Slovakia and the US seems like a bit of a mismatch, but let's give the Slovaks a little credit for putting the Americans on their heels for a portion of this game. With the US comfortably leading 3-0 late in the second period, Matej Kaslik found the back of the net for the Slovaks to make it a 3-1 game. A power-play goal by Dominik Sojka early in the third period suddenly had everyone wearing the stars and stripes a little tense, but John Farinacci restored the two-goal lead just minutes after Sojka's marker as the Americans showed some resolve.

With Matt Beniers adding an empty-netter, the Slovaks fell 5-2 in their quarterfinal appearance, but they showed that they can be dangerous. Again, like their Czech neighbours, this comes down to overall talent they can send over the boards. The effort they showed against the Americans was good enough to keep this game close, but the net loss in individual talent hurts Slovakia in the long run.

I really liked Simon Latkoczy's effort all tournament long in the nets. While it's easy to point at stats and say he had a bad tournament, let's not forget that the Slovakian defence wasn't as robust as some of the other teams. Latkoczy stole the game against the Swiss early in the tournament to help the Slovaks reach the medal round, and he'll be available for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft this summer if a team is looking for a goaltender who battles hard on every play.

With the wins, Canada will now face Russia on Monday while the Finns meet up with the Americans. I'm not a betting man by any means, but I like Canada and I'm taking the Finns in an upset over the Americans. Of course, if you use these predictions for your own wagering, all money is refundable if my picks miss!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 1 January 2021

The First Page

With the last page on 2020 closing last night, we have a new book to write here in 2021. If that imagery seems a little off to you, it's because I heard an excellent way to describe the coming year in that we should treat 2021 as a book with 365 pages that sits in front of us with each of us writing the story of 2021. There will be highs and lows, ups and downs, wins and losses, triumphs and defeats, and success and failures throughout this new story, but we should treat each page like we're going to write an incredible story. Some of us will cross paths while some of us will never meet but may affect others halfway around globe. Whatever the story holds, it's up to you to write that story!

If I want to start this story for 2021 here on Hockey Blog In Canada, I think I should bring forth the words of one of the people I hold in the highest regard: Mr. Gregg Popovich. I'm not a big basketball fan by any means, but Mr. Popovich coaches the San Antonio Spurs where both he and the Spurs have seen an immense amount of success. A lot of that success, I feel, points to how Mr. Popovich treats the people within his circle - family, friends, teammates, and fellow coaches. His words today about Becky Hammon need to be posted in every hallway, gym, athletic center, arena, coach's office, and locker room across this continent.

Rebecca Hammon played for the WNBA's San Antonio Stars and New York Liberty after a storied career with Colorado State. Her skills on the court were hard to miss as she was virtually unstoppable for the Rams where she still holds virtually all the school's basketball records for both the men and women. She continued that storied career into the WNBA where success followed her, but her trade to San Antonio in 2007 put her on Gregg Popovich's radar as Hammon continued to show a basketball savvy unmatched by her peers.

Following her retirement from the WNBA in 2014 after another ACL injury, Popovich hired Hammon as part of his coaching staff on August 5, 2014 after working with the Spurs' coaching staff during her rehabilitation. At the time of the hiring, Popovich stated, "I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I'm confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs."

One year later, Hammon was given the responsibility of coaching the Spurs' summr league team. Not only did the team see success under Hammon's coaching, but they captured the Las Vegas Summer League title on July 20, 2015! She coached in the NBA All-Star Game in 2016, and even interviewed for the vacant Milwaukee Bucks general manager position in 2017! Hammon's been making waves for a while in the NBA, but it was two nights ago where she officially became the first.

After Gregg Popovich was ejected in the Spurs' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Hammon took over the coaching duties in Popovich's absence, making her the first woman to be the head coach of any of any team in the four major professional sports leagues. The Spurs lost the game to the Lakers by a 121–107 but Becky Hammon's story will not end there if Gregg Popovich has any say in it.
"To me, it's not a big surprise. To a lot of other people it meant a lot -- I can understand that. She's somebody who's very skilled and could very easily fulfill the duties of a head coach in the NBA. That goes without saying.

"There are women in every other endeavour in the world, whether it's government, science, technology, aviation -- it doesn't matter what it is. Women do the same jobs as well and better than men. That's a fact. There's no reason why somebody like Becky and other women can't be coaches in the NBA."
Let that last line linger in the ether for a few moments - "there's no reason why somebody like Becky and other women can't be coaches in the NBA" - before continuing down this article because I think it's such a good way to start 2021. Some will say I'm biased since I watch and am a fan of women's hockey, but what Gregg Popovich stated is exactly how I feel about every job in and around hockey when it comes to women succeeding.

We've seen women make major inroads into the men's hockey world in big ways. Christine Simpson, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Jennifer Botterill, AJ Mleczko, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Kathryn Tappen are all doing incredible jobs at the NHL level on the broadcast side of things. Hayley Wickenheiser, Kendall Coyne Schofield, Dawn Braid, and Barbara Williams are all involved at the coaching level, and I'm expecting more women to be added to that list. Alexandra Mandrycky, Rachel Doerrie, Cammi Granato, and Meghan Chayka have proven that the front office of NHL teams shouldn't just be "the old boys' club" any longer.

For those coming to see what was on my mind today, the first page of 2021 for HBIC isn't some story on the IIHF World Junion Championship or the NHL. Instead, Becky Hammon was on my mind, and it has me asking what it will take to elevate a woman to an NHL assistant coaching position or - gasp! - a head coaching or general manager position. I feel like we're closer than ever, but why are the men that run hockey so afraid of breaking some sort of unwritten bias against women when it comes to men's professional sports?

In saying that, the first page of 2021 here in HBIC is a reinforcement of something I will continue to do as long as my fingers can find a keyboard, and that's celebrating the achievements of women in this great sport. There are times where hockey gets me down, but seeing Becky Hammon's achievement celebrated by some of the biggest NBA stars across social media and after the game shows me that there's still some good in sports. I've been pretty down on hockey for its focus on the business side of the game, but this story reinvigorates me to seek out good humanity stories within the game once more.

2021 is entirely unwritten as to where this blog will go, how it will evolves, and what it will feature. I do know that stories like Hammon's will get attention from me, and I hope that we really find the fun in sports again in 2021 rather than worrying about CBAs and contract fulfillment and all that.

That's my hope for 2021: find the fun again. The rest is still unwritten.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!