Sunday, 14 August 2022

On Fridays, We Play Checkers!

Checkers is a game that is nearly known universally, and it goes by a couple of other names in different parts of the world. For example, in England, the game is called draughts whereas the game is known as "dum" in Singapore and Malaysia. There are some variations to the games as well as international draughts are played on a larger 10x10 checkerboard as opposed to the standard 8x8 checkerboard usually seen, and Canadian checkers and the Singapore versions can be played on a 12x12 checkerboard. Everything remains the same: two opponents using pieces in contrasting colours to take control of the board through strategy.

Normally, HBIC isn't following the competitive checkers scene that exists, but it's also not often that you see a professional hockey team use an April Fools' Day joke as an official jersey for an entire season.

Knowing that the Charlotte Checkers are going all-in with the checkers logo, they made the announcement on Friday that the checker logo jersey, seen to the right, will be the team's official alternate jersey for the 2022-23 season, and the Checkers will wear them every Friday for games! Not surprisingly, the Checkers' first home game of the season is on Friday, October 14 where they'll meet the Hartford Wolf Pack, so get yourself ready for a home-opening night of Checkers hockey as they wear the checkers jersey! In total, the Checkers will wear these checker logo jerseys ten times this season as they play on Friday nights at Bojangles Coliseum with January and April being the only months they won't be seen thanks to the Checkers having no Friday home games in those months. Otherwise, Friday nights will see the Checkers in the checkers jerseys!

The press release put out by the Checkers regarding this Friday clothing situation actually had a number of interesting points of which I wasn't aware before reading the information. The Checkers point out that this jersey started as a prank, but we already knew that thanks to the April 1 social media post seen above. Having any jersey presented by a business is emetic, and we need teams to stop doing that entirely. The part that stopped me in my tracks, though, was when Charlotte stated that "[t]his marks the first time that the Checkers will don an official alternate jersey throughout a season since 2016-17". I did not know that about the Checkers!

As a guy who usually dislikes black jerseys, this one won't break that trend. What I do like is that the Charlotte Checkers were able to poke a little fun at themselves last season by wearing this April Fools' Day prank last November against Lehigh Valley for a game. In looking at some of the jerseys worn over the years for promotional games, this checkers jersey might actually be the best of them, and it seems that the Checkers may have realized this in making it their official alternate jersey. I can't say I know the thought process behind this decision, but this is a solid logo that, while tongue-in-cheek, represents the "Checkers" with the crown on it representing Charlotte as "The Queen City".

If you're headed to Bojangles Coliseum on a Friday night for some hockey action, make sure you're wearing the right jersey as the Checkers will take the ice in their official alternate jersey for the 2022-23 season. I don't know how good the Checkers will be this season when it comes to results on the ice, but at least they'll have some fun wearing checker pieces as their logo while playing the game.

Let's just hope that everyone else isn't playing chess!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 13 August 2022

A Prairie Rivalry

If you're a fan of Canada West sports, you likely are aware of a competition between two schools in Calgary that pits those schools against one another for the right to be called "best in Calgary". The Crowchild Classic happens annually in Calgary as the University of Calgary Dinos and Mount Royal Cougars go to battle to prove which Canada West school is best that year, and it's always a good time on both sides of the competition for fans, students, faculty, and alumni. Today, we learned another set of teams will engage in a competition while competing with bragging rights for a province on the line!

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies and University of Regina Cougars/Rams teams will face off in the first-ever U-Prairie Challenge this school year for bragging rights as one of them looks to claim the "best athletics school" this season! The schools' football, hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams will be represented as women's soccer opens the newly-founded competition on September 2 in Saskatoon before wrapping up the inter-university battle on February 4 as the women's hockey teams will compete for a final time at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon while the men's hockey teams will face-off at The Co-Operaters Centre in Regina!

"This Challenge will offer new opportunities to connect, compete, and celebrate, building pride in our programs and opening the door to new fans and new supporters, as we highlight and spotlight one of the best rivalries in the country," said USask President Peter Stoicheff. "Like the Cougars and Rams, our Huskie student-athletes are outstanding players and also wonderful ambassadors for our university every time they put on a jersey. We are extremely proud of their efforts, on the field and the track, in the gymnasium and the arena, and in our classrooms, labs and research facilities."

I went looking for a quotation from a University of Regina administrator, but they seem to be keeping a lower profile than the Huskies when it comes to making statements. Nonetheless, as the Huskies' release stated, "the initiative also signals a new partnership between the programs, as USask and U of R team up to bring new exposure to university athletics and generate new fans and followers, supporters and sponsors" which will only help bring more eyes and, ultimately, dollars to the university athletic programs at both institutions.

Both schools began competing against one another in 1968 while the University of Regina was still a campus under the University of Saskatchewan's control despite operating indepenedently. Regina Campus, as it was called, broke away from the University of Saskatchewan in 1974 after an extensive review involving the Surpreme Court of Canada following complaints that there had been no investment by the University of Saskatchewan in the Regina Campus. Needless to say, the history and evolution between these two schools are tightly intertwined, so this makes the competition even more meaningful when the history is baked into the equation!

What makes this rivalry fun this season with the new U-Prairie Challenge twist is that "the new competition will also feature an enhanced experience for fans, with the opening and closing games also including concerts and other entertainment and activities". As a guy who has been preaching for years about improving the gameday experience at university events, this sounds like the two Saskatchewan-based universities understand that they're selling more than just a game. This is precisely the "shot in the arm" that university in sports needs in Canada, and my hope is that it becomes more NCAA-esque in both its execution and presentation as this competition builds season after season.

The first hockey battles will happen on November 3 and 4 as the Regina Cougars women's team visits Merlis Belsher Place while the men's Huskies team heads to The Co-Operators Centre. Because these teams swap places thanks to the interprovincial travel, the Huskies women's team will be in Regina on November 4 while the Cougars men's team visits Saskatoon on the same night.

That leads to the February games in the schedule where the men's series starts in Saskatoon at Merlis Belsher Place and the women's series starts in Regina on february 3. Februrary 4 has the teams swap spots once again as the hockey edition of the U-Prairie Challenge comes to a close with the women in Saskatoon and the men in Regina. If there's a playoff series between the teams, those games are not included in the final tally for U-Prairie supremacy.

Honestly, this is the kind of thing that reinvigorates a fanbase, and both cities should see their fans, students, faculty, and alumni excited for this competition while elevating the skills and abilities of the students and coaches who call those schools home. If this attracts new fans or casual fans a little more often, that's good for both institutions, and the opportunity to bring in more sponsors and supporters grows as well.

Count me in as someone who will watch these new U-Prairie Challenge games a little closer. We already know that the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina have a deep rivalry on the women's hockey front, but this makes the other sports that I either ignore or watch casually a little more meaningful. And that's entirely the purpose of these games - to bring in more eyeballs and butts in seats to help both universities and their athletic programs.

Well done, Sasktachewan and Regina. This is going to be even more fun this season with a U-Prairie Challenge trophy on the line!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 12 August 2022

San Jose Has Ice?

The AHL's San Jose Barracuda are currently in one of the longest uniform set unveilings in modern history. Normally, teams will debut their home and road jerseys at the same time to help boost merchandise sales across the board, but the Barracuda have released just a specialty jersey before the new white and coloured jerseys hit the sales racks. It's hard to fathom why they would have done this, but I'm not in charge of the Sharks' AHL affilate. On Thursday, though, we finally got to see another jersey as the white jersey was unveiled, and I'm still confused why the team waited so long to unveil this look after teasing the image above on July 29.

Before we get too deep into this jersey, let's remind everyone that, back on April 28, the Barracuda invited media down to Tech CU Arena as they unveiled the first jersey in their new wardrobe. Underwhelmingly and, in this writer's opinion, abhorrently, the Barracuda introduced their "Cudas" blackout jersey to the crowd assembled. While it was reported that this jersey was going to be one of the Barracuda's primary jerseys for next season, they wisely optioned it to being their "Blackout Series" jersey instead.

With the uniform options reset, there was a chance for San Jose to do much better than the "Blackout Series" jersey, and that leads us to today where they introduced the white jersey that they'll don for the 2022-23 season.
Ok, these are infinitely better than the "Blackout Series" jersey, but we weren't exactly setting the bar high there. There are some very good things seen on this jersey, but I do have a major question that I'll pose below. Overall, though, the Barracuda are inching their way back towards looking respectable on the ice once again.

The jersey looks fairly traditional with the contrasting shoulder yoke to break up the white base colour of the jersey, and the black outline of the yoke combined with the black collar on the jersey accents the teal colour that the Sharks wear so well. I'm not a fan of the stripes on the hem or sleeves as they appear too thin really break up the white colour, and four stripes seems like one too many. The stripes, in my view, are a bit of a problem, but the Barracuda are going to roll with them.

The name and numbers are clean and crisp thanks to the contrast against the white jersey, and the font is fairly easy to read even when at a distance. I do like the teal font over the black number rather than having matching colours, but it almost feels like the number overpowers the teal name as your eyes are drawn to it first. That extra stripe seems to force the name and number to fill out of the back of the jersey, but your notice the open white space as your eyes move down. That's not good.

That's brings us to the logos seen on the chest and shoulders. The San Jose Sharks logo on the shoulder is a standard for all AHL teams as all 32 teams sport the logo of their NHL affiliate on their shoulders. As seen in the image above, the left shoulder is where the Sharks logo will reside. The right shoulder will have the primary logo of the San Jose Barracuda on it... which makes no sense. The primary logo should be on the chest where the "SJ" is, and the "SJ" secondary logo should be on the shoulder where the primary logo resides. It's almost as if the Barracuda are trying to be anything but the Barracuda by not using their primary logo to brand the team. I can't explain this thinking.

Need more confusion? Watch the introductory video for this jersey.

This jersey is officially called the "Ice" jersey in the Barracuda world, and they took inspiration from ice, snow, and polar bears. Not from the ocean or barracudas or anything else even remotely related to their team. I can see the jersey is white - why would I need inspiring to design a jersey from snow-capped mountains and white bears? How does this even relate to anything San Jose or Barracuda at all?

I'm not sure if the Sharks and Barracuda share a marketing department, but it seems like they're doing a lot of work to accomplish nothing when it comes to naming these jerseys and justifying the design of the jerseys. They can use whatever terms they like to push the jerseys, but, if you're looking for the secret to selling merchandise, the answer is make good merchandise.

The Ice jersey that the Barracuda introduced yesterday has good designs elements that bring it closer to respectability, but the weird choice of using the "SJ" logo over the primary logo combined with the off-putting thin stripes likely will have the Barracuda looking a little off this season. While this is a major improvement over the "Blackout Series" jersey, there's still a mountain to climb when it comes to designing a good jersey.

How long before these "Ice" jerseys are put on ice? Based on how often the Barracuda change their jerseys, it'll be sooner than later, I expect.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 11 August 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 516

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a returning co-host who has been exploring the world! With Jason off and out in the wilderness, Jenna Thompson returns to lead the way on the program, and she's bringing her usual smarts, humour, and insight with her! There were a lot of little stories that you may have missed this week with all sorts of other summer stuff and bigger hockey stories happening, so Teebz and Jenna will go over all of it tonight!

There are a number of news stories from across the globe that you may have missed, so that's where Teebz and Jenna will get you up-to-date with everything in the world of hockey! Among the stories discussed tonight, Jenna updates us on her adventures in Inuvik where she's settling into the hockey scene nicely, Boston works to put the band back together, New York has a new captain, the Arizona Coyotes continue to take their lumps on this program, Joe Thornton has a number of retirement opportunities if he chooses, Jennifer Wakefield joins a new team, there's a discussion about the Calgary Wranglers' new logo, former UBC netminder Rylan Toth signed a professional deal, former Pandas forward Alex Gowie has a new job, the MacEwan Griffins women's program has a new coach, and there's some sad news at the end of the show as we pay tribute to a young man who captured the hearts of the hockey world during the playoffs. It's a busy show as we bring back a familiar voice with Jenna filling in, so make sure you're listening to The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to listen, we have options! The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online so you cnn call in for the contest as well. 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 talk old players, new captains, new rinks, bad schedules, bad logos, new deals, new jobs, new coaches, new opportunities, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: August 11, 2022: Episode 516

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

The First Ghost Pirate

It's always an exciting time in an expansion team's history when the first players are introduced to the fans. Expansion drafts help in this regard when it comes to teams stocking their rosters, but there are players who are signed prior to any sort of expansion help comes. If we've seen trends in expansion draft selections in the past, goaltenders are selected early as teams build from the crease outward. There is no planned expansion draft in the ECHL yet, but with the ECHL's Savannah Ghost Pirates getting ready for their first season of play, they need some players to fill out a roster so who becomes the historic name in Ghost Pirates history? Would they follow a similar idea other teams have had in building from the crease?

That answer is yes, and they went to a recent NCAA graduate for the historic signing! The Savannah Ghost Pirates officially announced they have signed goaltender Darion Hanson to a deal for the 2022-23 season, making Hanson the first Ghost Pirate in franchise history! Hanson played last season with the University of Connecticut Huskies where he went 20-15-0 while posting a 2.24 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage with one blank sheet. He'll be on the roster when the team opens the season on October 22 in Greenville!

Hanson, who stopped pucks for Union College prior to transferring to UConn, has played in one ECHL contest already as he donned the uniform of the Reading Royals last season in a game against the Maine Mariners on April 8. Hanson was solid in his professional debut following his collegiate career as he stopped 22 shots to help Reading to a 4-1 win over Maine. The former Vernon Vipers netminder was loaned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms late in the ECHL season, but he made no appearances in the AHL to this point. Perhaps he'll get his shot with Henderson at some point if he can continue to put up solid numbers with Savannah!

That being said, there's some familiarity for Hanson in signing with Savannah as former Union College head coach Rick Bennett is now the head coach of the Ghost Pirates. Under Bennett, Hanson had a 30-37-9 record, but 24 of those losses came in his final season at Union where the Dutchmen were anything but competitive as they looked to rebuild the program. Getting back into Bennett's system should prove beneficial for Hanson as there's less to learn if Bennett opts to use a similar system as he did at Union College.

For Bennett, he gets a netminder who he trusts in the crease, and that was evident when he awarded Hanson the captaincy at Union College as shown above. In none of Hanson's three seasons with Bennett at the helm did he post a goals-against average above 2.78 and he never once had a save percentage below .908, so Bennett can enter the inaugural Ghost Pirates season with a netminder who has shown consistency at the NCAA level. If that consistency translates to the ECHL will have to be seen, but Hanson's shown he can play the ECHL level in his quick showing with Reading.

"I am very happy to become a Ghost Pirate," Hanson told WJCL-ABC in Savannah. "Coach Bennett and the organization are certainly building something exciting. I'm looking forward to getting to know the City of Savannah, the fans, as well getting out on the ice at Enmarket Arena."

Hanson will get that chance on November 5 when the Ghost Pirates play their first-ever regular season home game in Savannah when they host the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. The Ghost Pirates have their first shipmate for their inaugural season navigating the ECHL seas. His name is Darion Hanson, and he looks like he'll be a good one for the Ghost Pirates!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!