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!