Friday, 18 June 2021

The Bobcats Are Alive

The SPHL rarely seems to make waves in the hockey world, but today's story was something that was discussed on The Hockey Show a few months ago. The image to left is the new logo for the Vermillion County Bobcats, the newest expansion team in the SPHL. Expansion teams come with their own fun, but Vermillion County is special because the team is owned by a woman! Ellen Tully is the primary owner of the Bobcats, so this expansion franchise is not only shaking up the SPHL, but the SPHL boardroom as the league welcomes an owner who doesn't have an X-chromosome! Let's dig into the birth of the Bobcats as they've been busy since the calendar flipped to June!

Before we get into what the Bobcats have been up to, I want to point out how terrible that logo is. Bobcats have a distinct face, but the image above could be any housecat or any smaller species of cat since the defining features of the bobcat aren't so well-defined in the image. Usually, you see bobcats with the big flares of hair coming off the cheeks as seen to the right, but the Vermillion County Bobcats don't seem to pay that facial hair enough recognition. Also, why is the face so elongated on a small cat? I'm struggling to find any good in this rather poorly-conceived logo.

Regardless, the Vermillion County Bobcats are on their way following their first announcement on June 2 when owner Ellen Tully announced that Brent Hughes had been hired as the team's first head coach! Before you get excited thinking this is the guy that used to be part of the Winnipeg Jets, I'll end that dream by saying that this guy is not him.

This Brent Hughes spent most of his career in the Central Hockey League before jumping across the ocean to the EIHL where he finished his career. He was a player-coach in his final season with the Dundee Stars in 2011-12 before returning home to Toronto in 2012-13 where he coached in the GTHL and was an assistant coach in the OJHL. He became an assistant coach with the CHL's Brampton Beast before they moved into the ECHL in 2015 where he became head coach and the Vice-President of Hockey Operations for the Beast. 2016-17 saw him move to the QMJHL where he was an assistant coach for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, and 2020-21 saw him take a head coach position with the Espanola Express of the NOJHL. Clearly, Hughes has been around the coaching block a few times.

"Brent has incredible coaching experience at higher levels," Bobcats owner Ellen Tully made in a statement. "He knows what it means to be part of a family, taking care of one another, having each other's back. He embodies development, loyalty and commitment to the community, the youth and our Bobcats, all those things we look for (in a coach)."

While those traits are great and everything, coaches are paid to win hockey games. Expansion teams rarely are flush with talent and skill, so what is Hughes' plan for the expansion Bobcats?

"Fans are going to go home and say, 'that Vermilion team works hard,'" Hughes said of the team identity he wishes to form in Vermilion County. "We're going to play fast. I like the players that showcase their talents. We're going to be structured defensively, but we'll give some room for creativity as well."

While I like that answer, I wonder exactly how much creativity the boss will see when it comes to his squad since the expansion draft happened on June 9, and there were a lot of players taken whose goal-scoring talents may not quite be where the head coach needs them to be at this point when it comes to "room for creativity". Jason Tackett, the left-winger from Macon, might be Hughes' most-gifted player offensively, but there doesn't appear to be a ton of lamp-lighters joining the squad out of the expansion draft.

The players chosen by the Bobcats in their expansion draft include: Admittedly, there are players on there who I've never heard of despite them playing in major junior hockey in Canada or at a Canadian university, but this will be the start of what Hughes will begin to mold into the inaugural lineup for the Bobcats in September. There will be additional players signed and more attracted to Danville, Illinois for the team's first season, but I'm not putting my money on Vermillion County as a champion just yet.

What I am championing, though, is an SPHL expansion franchise owned by a woman that now has both a coach and players it can officially call its own. That's something to celebrate in a very male-dominated hockey world, and we might not be that far away from seeing a female owner hoist a championship trophy in men's hockey with the team officially having players who can score goals and stop pucks!

Congratulations to the Vermillion County Bobcats who now have the beginning of a lineup and a guy who can piece together a lineup! There's still room for a pile of other players, but the Bobcats are officially in business with these new players on the roster!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 17 June 2021

The Hockey Show - Episode 456

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with the usual cast of suspects on the show as Jenna returns and Teebz mans the pilot's chair! With everyone focused on the Stanley Cup semifinal series happening right now, we will not be doing that since there are a ton of hockey stories you likely missed if you were only tunnel-visioned in on the NHL. That means there will be no playoff talk on the show tonight because we're covering everything else in hockey!

No, Springfield isn't hosting the next Olympics, but Teebz and Jenna throw a shoutout to Sheldon Kennedy who celebrated a birthday and received the Order of Hockey in Canada, review the new logos for the MJHL's Neepawa Titans and the ECHL's Trois-Rivières Lions, they discuss the new name for the downtown arena that houses the Winnipeg Jets and the Manitoba Moose, and Teebz drops a little new on the new MJHL team in Niverville that should be heard for people looking for opportunities in hockey. From there, the hosts discuss Switzerland's women's national team seeing a pile of player retire this week, a pile of U SPORTS and NCAA coaches descending on Penticton in July, the UNB Reds women's program stacking their team for this season, the University of Saskatchewan stealing from Manitoba, Augustana University looking to start a men's Division-1 NCAA team, Katey Stone being honoured by USA Hockey, and Aerin Frankel receiving more accolades for her past season. Needless to say, it's another busy show so tune in for all the details at 5:30pm CT on 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 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 discuss logos and names, new team info, retirements, opportunities for players, attracting talent, honours, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: June 17, 2021: Episode 456

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Women's Hockey Wednesday

Today's article is all about women's hockey, but these are smaller stories that only require a few lines of writing to go with them due to the stories being fairly self-evident. Sometimes, these smaller pieces get overlooked, so I'm going to give them a little space here while the majority of the hockey world is concerned with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the meantime, things are still happening in other parts of the hockey world, and women's hockey is part of that larger landscape of hockey! Let's get rolling with these stories!

New Boss In Town

Ok, I'll be completely honest when I say she'll never, ever call herself "the boss" while behind a bench, but former guest of The Hockey Show and current incredible Manitoban Christine Bumstead is on the move thanks to hockey!

Christine, as you may have heard, was doing amazing things in the Pembina Valley region in Manitoba when it came to women's hockey following a very successful career as a player in Winnipeg with the St. Mary's Academy Flames as a defender. We discovered that she was also part of the National Hockey League Coaches Association's Female Coaches Development Program, and that things were going pretty well as she had spoken with and learned from some of the NHL's coaching fraternity as part of the program. Things were obviously going well, and she indicated that she was thrilled to be included. And that brings us to the announcement by the Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey program that Christine Bumstead will be joining the Huskies as an assistant coach as a mentee coach as part of that Female Coaches Development Program!

Honestly, seeing Christine leave for Saskatchewan makes me sad because she was just starting to build an amazing program with Pembina Valley, but I'm super-excited to see her learning from Steve Kook and the Huskies because he runs such an excellent program out in Saskatoon. There's no doubt that Christine is going to learn from one of the best coaches in U SPORTS, and I'm thrilled to see her get this opportunity despite it being in the green-and-white of the Huskies. Tongue-in-cheek, of course.

Congratulations to Christine Bumstead on this opportunity, and congrats to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for picking up Christine as a coach! You're not going to be disappointed with her passion or her effort, and I have a feeling she's going to learn a lot!

Holes In The Roster

Normally, retirement announcements come out piecewise as players take time to weigh options and figure out if they still have the passion for the game they once did. Women's hockey is different in that women often retire long before their playing days are over due to pursuing careers, and this is something that the PWHPA is working to change. The problem is it won't help Switzerland as they saw four players retire this week!
The announcement that Laura Benz (right) and the Waidacher sisters (Monika, Nina, and Isabel from left to right) were retiring from hockey probably didn't send a shock across the hockey world like it should have, but these three players have been solid performers for the Swiss National Team and the ZSC Lions for some time. Seeing all four go at the same time now means that the Swiss have to find four players who can fill those roster holes before the 2022 Beijing Olympics in eight months!

Combined, these four didn't have many points on the international stage, but Switzerland was starting to see good growth with women like Benz and the Waidacher sisters laying down the path to success. All four played hard for Switzerland, and all four never backed down in any game in whoch they were involved. Their absence on the Swiss National Team and for Zurich will be noticed.

Who will take their spots in the lineup in Beijing? I can't answer that as it will be up to the Swiss coaching staff to determine how to build the team, but replacing four women who had experience from eight Olympic Games and 17 Women's World Championships won't be easy. Best of luck in retirement to each of Laura Benz, Monika Waidacher, Nina Waidacher, and Isabel Waidacher, and here's hoping that this won't be the last time we hear those names when it comes to hockey!

Investing In The Game

There aren't many places that invest heavily in women's hockey across Canada despite the oft-repeated myth about it being Canada's game, but one place has seen some incredible investments over the last few years: Quebec. And they're at it again with another significant contribution to helping more Quebec-based women become world-class hockey players.

The 21.02 High Performance Center for Women's Hockey in Verdun, Quebec saw a $375,000 grant bestowed upon the Center by the Quebec government thanks to Isabelle Charest, the Minister for Education who is also responsible for the Status of Women. The investment in the High Performance Center will allow them to allow them to construct a "professional locker room, a medical clinic and a technological viewing center for the players" as they look to have more girls play at the highest levels of hockey. As stated in the article, "several members of the national team, including [Marie-Philip] Poulin, have taken advantage of the facilities to train up to five times a week", so there's some history in developing and training world-class players at the facility.

If there was one incredible piece of news that was tacked on to the press release linked above, it's "the Association of Professional Hockey Players (PWHPA), which had also organized the Secret Cup, is still working to set up a new women's league. It will eventually have a team in Montreal."

You read that correctly - the PWHPA will have a team in Montreal. Take that news to the bank because we might be closer to a professional women's league than perhaps what has been discussed in the media!

A Sniper Returns

We'll close this article by coming full circle back to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies where there are questions about which fifth-year players have moved on, who is coming back, and who still needs to make a decision either way. One player who will return in 2021-22 is one of the best offensive weapons the Huskies have in Bailee Bourassa, and the Master's Degree student has committed to playing her fifth and final year in Canada West next season!

"My last season was probably my favourite year as a Huskie athlete, and moving into Merlis Belsher Place was one of the most surreal experiences and one of the best things to happen as a Huskie," Bourassa told James Shewaga. "We just appreciate that building so much. And I just had a lot of confidence in my fourth year and I was really excited to keep that going into my fifth and final year. I felt like I was really missing out on something big here, so that is why I am determined to come back for my fifth year. I don't know how it is going to look, but I hope it is going to be a good one."

With Bourassa back in the mix for the Huskies, we're now talking about a favorite for the Canada West championship banner for the 2021-22 season. As stated above, Steve Kook's teams are always well-prepared and execute on the ice brilliantly, so having Bourassa back takes some weight off the forwards with a finisher like her in the lineup.

Welcome back, Bailee! Glad to see you finish off what has already been an outstanding Canada West career with the Huskies!

There are your updates from a busy week-and-a-bit in the women's hockey world. Again, get out and support women's hockey whenever you can. There are some amazing women doing incredible work in the hockey world, and they deserve more than a mere mention of support!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

New Rink Nickname Needed

Today started with a bit of breaking news as the NHL arena in Winnipeg will see changes happen this month! The BellMTS Center, located in downtown Winnipeg, will officially be renamed come July 1 as the Canada Life Assurance Company, a Winnipeg-based national insurance and financial services company, takes over the naming rights of the arena in a ten-year deal with True North Sports and Entertainment that will give the home of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets and the AHL's Manitoba Moose a new name. If you were a fan of the "Phone Booth" nickname in Winnipeg, we'll need a new nickname starting on July 1 for the downtown rink now that Canada Life owns the naming rights.

For those that may not be aware, Canada Life came about through an amalgamation in 2019 of Canada Life, Great-West Lifeco Inc. and London Life as the three companies decided to end competition amongst themselves and simply join forces to become a powerhouse in the insurance, assurance, and financial services world. Needless to say, the joining of these three strong companies makes Canada Life a very big player in the financial world, and they're looking to raise their profile.

"We're thrilled to have this relationship with True North, it really is part of our business growth strategy to strengthen our brand in the Canadian marketplace," Canada Life president and chief operating officer Jeff Macoun made in a statement about the deal.

"It was important for us that this was not only local in the province of Manitoba where our head office is ... but it also allows us to have a large and wide national presence from coast to coast to coast, because the Winnipeg Jets are prominently featured in national games."

For those that aren't aware, though, Canada Life has a very strong connection to hockey as they are the title sponsor behind Hockey Helps The Homeless. Those tournaments are run in communities all across Canada so Canada Life has been involved in the game for some time, but getting their name on the arena in Winnipeg where it will be mentioned on broadcasts each and every time the Jets and Moose play will only help them become a household name when it comes to people searching for insurance options.

Beyond that factor, Canada Life has had a long history in Winnipeg thanks to Great-West Life being founded in the Manitoba capital back in 1891! The current building sits upon the old Osborne Stadium location where the Winnipeg Blue Bombers played until 1952, but the building on Osborne has been a fixture in downtown Winnipeg since 1953 when the building was erected. The fact that a long-time Winnipeg institution is the new naming sponsor of the downtown arena as opposed to a telecommunications company based in Ontario only strengthens the Winnipeg ties in the city.

It should be noted that the naming rights agreement includes branding, media, hospitality and community assets for Canada Life, so expect a few of the Jets stars to be featured in upcoming Canada Life ads for the next decade. I don't know if this will allow Canada Life access or naming rights to BellMTS Place out in west Winnipeg where the Moose played this season and the Jets practice, but time will tell as this agreement begins in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, the old "Phone Booth" nickname for BellMTS Center will be retired come July 1, so we'll need an insurance nickname for the rink moving forward. If you have ideas, leave them in the comments because the old rink in downtown Winnipeg will need a new nickname when referring to it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 14 June 2021

Asking A Little Much

Occasionally, I find myself clicking through eBay or other reseller sites as I look for jersey ideas. There are a lot of jerseys that on those markets that I'd consider overpriced by a large margin, but that's the catch: you have to know your limit on what to spend when it comes to something you want. Overpaying for anything takes the lustre off the item you're buying because you know you spent more than you originally had wanted.

If you recall, the Buffalo Sabres wore this style of jersey following the attacks on September 11 in the first game of the 2001-02 season as they visited the New York Rangers on October 7, 2011. Along with the Rangers and the rest of the hockey world, everyone stood in solidarity with the city, the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives in a horrific act of terrorism, and the survivors of the senseless act that cost New York and the world some peace of of mind. As Sabres equipment manager Rip Simonick stated, "It wasn't a game for the league or the players. It was for the people."

Eric Boulton was in the lineup for the Sabres on October 7, and he played in the game as was noted on the boxscore when he and Sandy McCarthy of the Rangers fought at the 17:56 mark of the second period. Outside of that, Boulton didn't have much of an effect on the outcome of the game which saw Brian Leetch score at 2:45 of overtime to give the New York Rangers the 5-4 victory. When all was said and done, Boulton had played just 4:23 of the game through eight shifts, recording one shot while sitting in the penalty box for another seven minutes of time.

The jersey above is a Buffalo Sabres jersey apparently from that night that Eric Boulton wore in the game. The reason I am posting this jersey is that there is someone asking $10,000 for it!
That sale can be found on Sideline Swap, a reseller market for all kinds of sporting equipment. In this case, the seller is looking to sell his autographed Eric Boulton 9/11 Sabres jersey, but I think he may be holding onto this one for a while based on the sale price he's seeking.

In my disbelief that anyone would demand five figures for a jersey that wasn't game-matched in any way, shape, or form, I went seeking other 9/11 Sabres jerseys for comparison to see if this seller had done his homework. Normally, I check a handful of places to get a rough idea what the going rate for a specific jersey might be, so I put my Google-Fu to work.
  • A Vyacheslav Kozlov 9/11 Sabres jersey with a team letter sold on Game Worn Auctions for $1681.89.
  • Denis Hamel, Boulton's linemate in the October 7 game, had his jersey sold with a team letter on Game Worn Auctions sold for $1111.96.
  • An Andreas Johansson jersey from the Rangers was sold for $4500 by Shafran Collectibles.
  • All of the jerseys were auctioned off after the October 7 game with proceeds being raised for The Twin Towers Fund to aid victims of the terrorist attacks. As per the Third String Goalie blog, "[t]he highest bids were $20,010 for Mark Messier's Rangers jersey, $15,010 each for Richter and Leetch of the Rangers, $9030 for Theo Fleury's Rangers jersey and $8030 for Lindros of the Rangers with the highest Sabres jersey being Barnes at $5885. In total, 44 jerseys were auctioned off and over $215,000 was raised."
Based on these sale prices, the $10K ask might be a little high. If Stu Barnes' jersey went for $5885 as "the highest Sabres jersey", I'm not certain that $10,000 for Eric Boulton's jersey is remotely worth the money. Further to that, any game-worn jersey collector would see the jersey's value lowered thanks to the autograph on it, so this Boulton jersey, while significant for its historical value, isn't close to the asking price that the seller set.

While I wish the seller well in finding a buyer, I'm thinking this might be priced so it doesn't sell as the seller admits in the listing that of all his "gameworn tough guy collection", this jersey "is my #1!"

The moral of this story: don't overpay for polyester.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!