Saturday, 10 April 2021

Cancelled Via COVID

As Jenna and I highlighted on The Hockey Show last night, we're nowhere close to being out of the woods when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic situation. We went over the calamity in Vancouver combined with the AHL's Utica Comets just getting out of their own pandemic lockdown. We talked about the AJHL shutting down six teams for fourteen-day quaratine periods since April 1, and pointed out that both the Quebec Remparts and Gatineau Olympiques were in the midst of positive tests while the three teams they played over the past were all quarantined for fourteen days as well due to contact tracing. The NCAA saw the UMass Minutemen affected despite them winning last night, and William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs is sitting out for seven days due to his contact tracing. Hockey is getting hit with the third wave in a big way and now another event has been cancelled.

The PWHPA was taking its two American squads to St. Louis for a pair of games this weekend after the Blues committed to supporting the PWHPA, and it seemed like we were going to get more women's hockey on TV as NBC Sports committed to airing one of the games. That is, until late last night when the PWHPA put out the following statement about the games this weekend.
Just as men's hockey has been affected, we've seen the NWHL's playoff bubble destroyed by COVID-19 and now a PWHPA weekend event has been cancelled by the virus. Emily Kaplan released a video today stating that we aren't close to the finish the line, and I happen to agree wholeheartedly as the new variants become more dominant. We're seeing outbreaks happen across North America again, and it's pretty obvious that the PWHPA got far too close to one of those new outbreaks based on the news today.

As Jayna Hefford stated, the PWHPA will return to St. Louis in the future as the organization looks to continue to build strong relationships with the teams who have thrown their support behind the women. While I'm still hoping for the Jets to come out and pledge their support, the PWHPA is getting good traction with NHL teams in the US which should, in theory, only strengthen the chances of the Women's NHL beiung founded with the PWHPA being heavily involved.

In any case, the pro women's games are on hold until a future date when things get a little less virus-y and everyone remains healthy. Here's hoping none of the players have contracted the virus and we're being overly cautious just to be safe.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 9 April 2021

Voting Day!

I don't care what you're doing for the next 24 hours or so. It doesn't matter if you're at work, have the day off, or anything in between because you have one job today, and that's to cram the ballot box with votes! Unlike elections for office, the Kraft Hockeyville voting opened at 8am CT this morning, and you can vote as many times as you like until 4pm CT tomorrow, so let's get this rolling! You already know who you're voting for - hint: Saint Adolphe - so let's help them win the $250,000 in rink renovations and get them an NHL preseason game next season!

For those that aren't aware, St. Adolphe has ran into a little trouble with their rink. The ice plant crapped out on them, so making ice is not an option for the St. Adolphe rink. They discovered that one wall had mold growing in it, so they had to do some renovations there in order to be able to have people in the rink. And, of course, all the various functions that a rink serves - socials, meeting place, festivals, and everything - were cancelled this season due to the pandemic.

Being named a finalist means that St. Adolphe is guaranteed $25,000 to help with those renovations that they need to bring life back to the arena, and that's a good start. Let's get behind them and really show our support of the town and arena by voting as often as we can in order to add an extra zero to that total, making it $250,000 for those renovations! That will go a long way in repairing the ice plant and adding some finishing touches to the wall that replaced among the various projects they have planned!

What will make this awesome is that St. Adolphe is the first Manitoba community to make it to the finals of Kraft Hockeyville, and we have a chance to push them into the winner's circle with our votes. That would be a great accomplishment for Manitoba, so get your voting finger stretched, head over to the Kraft Hockeyville website, register to vote, and then go bananas because votes are unlimited until the contest closes!

Best of luck to the other three finalists as well as the folks in Bobcaygeon, Ontario are looking to win some rink cash, the great people of Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick are looking for some arena renovation money, and the citizens of Lumsden, Saskatchewan also have their eyes on the prize. All three of these communities have made strong cases for them to be the Kraft Hockeyville 2021 winners, so we'll see how the votes turn out tomorrow during the first intermission of the early games on Hockey Night in Canada!

Get voting, Manitoba! We have a quarter of a million dollars to win for St. Adolphe! Do your part by mashing your mouse button all day so we can all join the celebration when St. Adolphe wins Kraft Hockeyville 2021!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 8 April 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 446

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight as we split the show in two with some special guests joining us in the first half of the show! It's not often we get Olympians who have enough time in their schedules for our show, so we're entirely grateful to have had thirty minutes with two gold medalists and exceptional women! Beyond that, Jenna and I will go over all the news from this week, so let's get into this show!

Tonight, Jenna and I are honoured to welcome three-time Olympians and gold medalists Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando to the program in the first half-hour! These two women have done pretty much everything in hockey before the age of 32 before announcing their retirements earlier this spring, and Jenna and I will talk to them about a few of the details found in their new book Dare to Make History: Chasing a Dream and Fighting for Equity which was reviewed here on HBIC! It's a very informative half-hour with the Lamoureux twins as we learn about them, hear their experiences, and get a glimpse of what their book features on the pages, so grab yourself a copy after the show tonight because they wrote an outstanding book! After a quick commercial break, Teebz and Jenna return to go over all the major hockey stories - hint: COVID-19! - from the past week! It's a busy show with two of the greatest players to have ever laced up the skates in Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, so make sure you tune in on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com at 5:30pm CT!

We'd also be remiss if we didn't remind everyone about the upcoming vote for the 2021 Kraft Hockeyville experience! Make sure you go and vote on April 9 - TOMORROW, folks! - from 8am CT until April 10 at 5pm CT at the Kraft Hockeyville website for Saint Adolphe, Manitoba! We could see an NHL preseason game out there in the fall if they win, so get your votes in, let's win this contest, and let's bring a game to St. Adolphe!

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 or Google Play 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 meet Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando as we discuss a few topics from their new book, Dare to Make History: Chasing a Dream and Fighting for Equity, before chatting about all the COVID-19 problems showing up in hockey again, Blake Wheeler skipping the road trip, the Islanders and Devils making a deal, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: April 8, 2021: Episode 446

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Strengthening The Foundation

There's no denying that the Chicago Blackhawks have benefitted from the AHL affiliation with the Rockford IceHogs. When it comes to development, we're seeing very good players being promoted from Rockford to Chicago regularly, and that has allowed Chicago to remain competitive despite it seeming like there was a rebuild on the way. On the other side, the Blackhawks have drafted wisely and signed players they thought could develop, and those players have gone to Rockford where they've thrived. While I always thought the Chicago Wolves would be a better fit for the Blackhawks, there's no denying that the Blackhawks and IceHogs have been a perfect match in terms of NHL-AHL affiliations.

Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority, a city of Rockford oversight group, has been running the IceHogs franchise, and they've been doing a fairly decent job in ensuring that their end of the bargain is upheld. Today, though, that all changed when the Chicago Blackhawks officially purchased the IceHogs from the RAVE Group for $11.8 million, giving the Blackhawks full autonomy in how they run their AHL affiliate!

"The Rockford IceHogs have played a critical role in our franchise's success, and today, the IceHogs officially become a part of the Chicago Blackhawks family," Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. The purchase agreement between the two parties sees the Blackhawks assume full control of the IceHogs while the Blackhawks signed a new fifteen-year agreement with BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown Rockford that will ensure the club stays in Rockford through 2036 and also committed to a $23 million renovation plan for the arena which recently turned 40 years old. Needless to say, it's a good day for hockey in Rockford, Illinois!

"With this fantastic investment, we're going to be able to address a number of projects, from core infrastructure to modernization," Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority chairman Craig Thomas stated. "It's completely going to be a completely different look and feel for our patrons as they come into the facility."

With the purchase of the IceHogs, there are now 21 AHL franchises owned by their 32 NHL counterparts which helps build stability for both the teams owned by those NHL teams as well as the communities in which they play. The added investment, as Mr. Thomas stated, will keep facilities in Rockford modern with the latest refrigeration equipment and techniques while providing fans a better viewing opportunity for games. Both of those benefits should keep the BMO Harris Bank Center in good standing when it comes to hosting events of all sizes.

For the Blackhawks, they call the shots for the IceHogs now, and that will allow them to sign and move players as they wish without anyone else's input. Since the Blackhawks and IceHogs formed their affiliation in 2007, 97 IceHogs players have suited up for the Blackhawks while another 31 have played for other NHL teams. As stated above, the affiliation has certainly helped the Blackhawks, and now they'll make all the decisions about players and personnel for their AHL squad.

"For the past 14 years, the Rockford IceHogs have been an invaluable asset as an affiliate for the development of our players and staff at the Chicago Blackhawks," President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman said. "We look forward to continuing to use the IceHogs as an extension of the Blackhawks to reinvigorate our roster with talent that is built from within, develop our young players and create depth throughout our system."

That agreement that has reinvigorated the Blackhawks roster will continue for at least another fifteen years, and, I imagine, many years beyond 2037 when the new arena lease needs to be signed. If the NHL and AHL need a shining example of two franchises complementing one another, they have a perfect example in Chicago and Rockford.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

There's The Rub

When you hear NHL teams talk about their depth, it's usually because they have NHL-ready players sitting in the pressbox who can step in at a moment's notice. Usually, those players have shown that they can play at the NHL level through the games they are afforded, and occasionally there's reason to believe that a player is ready is one is the best at the AHL level for a franchise. If you were an NHL team that's tight against the salary cap and you had a former AHL Defenceman of the Year and a defender that has been lauded as the best player in the North Division, you'd think they'd be playing, right?

The reality is that the Jets have these players available to them, and neither Sami Niku, he who was the 2017-18 Eddie Shore Award winner as the AHL's outstanding defenceman, nor Ville Heinola, he who is getting rave reviews in the AHL as per Elliotte Friedman, are getting that opportunity as the Jets scour the depth charts of the other thirty NHL teams looking for an upgrade. And it leaves me dumbfounded.

As Friedman wrote in his 31 Thoughts article on Sportsnet above, "[m]ore than one exec's called him the best player north of the border" and Nashville kicked tires on Heinola in what would likely be a Mattias Ekholm trade. The Jets have two of the best defenders not playing in the NHL at their disposal in Niku and Heinola, and they refuse to play them for some reason. If the Jets aren't going to play them, why did they waste the draft picks on them?

It's a known fact that the Jets have struggled to generate offence from their blue line consistently, so hiding two of the best puck-moving defencemen in the pressbox does nothing to improve the fortunes of the Jets. If you need an example of where playing the kids has not only helped a team but actually made the team better, I point to the Colorado Avalanche where their oldest defender, Greg Pateryn, is 30 and doesn't even play a regular shift. If Colorado can use six players aged 26 or younger and turn in the results they have, what is stopping the Jets from playing their kids?

Maybe that's the rub, though. Colorado, it seems, doesn't care about how many hits they throw or how much grit is in the lineup or needing "big bodies" for their game because they throw their best at the opposition and dare them to stop the Avalanche. What happens normally is that the hits and grit and all those intangibles that coaches seem to love present themselves as they always do in games, and the Avalanche have adapted to not only play more physical, but play physical and score a ton of goals. That seems like a pretty good combination, no?

With the likes of Samuel Girard, Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Bowen Byram, the Avalanche have four players aged 22, 22, 26, and 19 who constantly push the puck up the ice, jump into lanes for scoring chances, and look to drive offence while they learned to play defence at the NHL level. How did that happen? Head coach Jared Bednar is playing them. A lot. And the results speak for themselves as the Avalanche sit with 56 points and first-overall in the NHL with two games in-hand on Florida who also has 56 points. Not too shabby, Avalanche!

If the Jets are looking for a puck-moving defenceman who can step in and help the offence, they should be looking internally rather than at other depth charts. They have two players who have all the skill in the world to be able to do that, and both players would benefit from playing in NHL contests rather than watching from the pressbox. One can drop names like Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Josh Manson, and David Savard all day, but the Jets really should be looking to add from within with the talent they have at their disposal.

I'm not Kevin Cheveldayoff and I'm certainly not Paul Maurice, but this love affair with second- and third-pairing veteran defencemen that the Jets have needs to end immediately. It's time to drop this mantra about grit and physicality because I haven't seen one team come in and Broad Street Bully the Jets this season. Open the door to the kids, let them cut their teeth in the NHL by making a few mistakes, and get them ready for a playoff push because you're going to need them for the future.

Right now, they aren't even ready to be the seventh defender thanks to their lack of playing time and exposure to NHL situations on the ice. And that's really the rub here for the Jets: the trade deadline could be far less costly if the Jets would simply play the two best defenders the AHL's North Division has seen in some time.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!