Monday 31 December 2007

Gold In Switzerland

While the title of this article may seem like something out of a financial prospective, it actually is reflective of Team Canada's entry at the Spengler Cup. I was up extremely early today to watch this game in its entirety live on Rogers Sportsnet, and it certainly was a pretty good hockey game. Canada squared off in the Spengler Cup final against Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Russian Super League. The Russian club had posted a 3-1 record in the round robin to advance to the final against the Canadian squad, who had a 4-0 record.

Kirby Law and Ryan Keller scored in the second period to lift Canada to a 2-1 victory over the Russian club. Both Canadian goals were somewhat lucky. Law poked the puck across the line after it had appeared to be frozen by Ufa goaltender Alexander Eremenko. The referee indicated that he could still see the puck after the Simon Gamache wraparound, and the goal stood after a video replay.

Keller's goal was the result of a lucky bounce. His inital shot was deflected wide of the Russian net, but the puck took a weird bounce off the end boards towards the Russian crease. The puck ended up hitting Eremenko's leg and wound up in the back of the net.

Alexander Perezhogin, the former Montreal Canadians forward, scored the Russian goal for Ufa. Off a turnover at the Ufa blueline, Perezhogin streaked down the right on his off-wing, and fired a laser of a wrist shot over Curtis Joseph's right shoulder for the only Ufa goal.

With the Spengler Cup win, Canada now has 11 Spengler Cup gold medals since 1984 when it began play in the tournament, and their first championship since 2003. It was the second victory over the Ufa club team by a one-goal margin for the Canadians in this year's Spengler Cup.

More Canada News: The Canadians resume play at the World Junior Championships today after their loss to Sweden. The Canadians play Denmark today at 12pm EST. You can find live streaming audio sites for the game by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the article.

However, the Canadians will finish second in their pool if they defeat Denmark as Sweden defeated the Czech Republic today 4-2 in the early game. Canada will have a playoff round matchup with Finland in the medal round with the win. The Czechs will meet the Russians, while the USA and Sweden enjoy byes into the semi-finals.

Cold Air Hockey: Tomorrow is the first day of 2008, and there's no better way to bring in the new year like spending time watching the NHL bring us some old-time hockey. Buffalo and Pittsburgh meet in the first outdoor NHL game since the Heritage Classic, and I'm excited for it.

Ty Conklin, who shut out the Barney Rubble Hairpieces on December 29, gets the start for the Penguins. Ryan Miller will start for the Sabres. One player who will miss the game will be the Penguins locker room leader Gary Roberts. Roberts got tangled up with Buffalo's Tim Connelly on Saturday night and broke his left leg.

"The young players are going to have to step up," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien to, commenting on the loss of Roberts. "There's no doubt, Gary (Roberts) was doing a great job as a true leader for a lot of guys. The young players on the team will have to compensate for the leadership that we won't have from Gary Roberts and we don't know for how long."

The Penguins also lost defenceman Mark Eaton earlier in the week to a torn knee ligament. Eaton is out indefinitely, while the initial prognosis on Roberts would be a 6-8 week layoff.

Happy New Year, everyone! Take care tonight, and please don't drink and drive. Have a wonderful night, and we'll see you in 2008!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 29 December 2007

Perfection and Heartbreak

Today saw a couple of countries being forced to play for their chance to go to Ottawa next season in the 2009 World Junior Championships. There are several teams who have yet to record a point in this year's World Junior Championship, and they'll be playing in the relegation round when the medal round begins. The top six teams of the World Junior Championship advance to the medal round, three from each pool, while the bottom four teams play games against each with the hopes of collecting as many points as possible in order to not be relegated for the follwing year's tournament. Points are carried over from the round robin into the relegation round, so every point matters for these two teams right now.

Today, Slovakia and Kazakhstan were the first two teams to have their medal hopes dashed. Slovakia lost 5-2 to their neighbours, the Czech Republic, and cannot overcome Canada, Sweden, or the Czechs due to the tie-breaking rules of the World Junior Championships.

It's the fourth straight year that the Slovaks have played in the relegation round. Their next game is against Denmark in what will be a preview of the relegation round playoffs. Denmark has a slim chance of not being relegated, but the reality is that they won't make it with still having to play Canada and Slovakia.

Kazakhstan joined the relegation round after their disappointing 5-0 loss to Finland earlier today. After showing some grit in their opening game loss to the USA, the Kazakhstan team took it to the Russians, barely losing on a late goal by Alexei Cherepanov in a 5-4 Russian win. However, the emotion just didn't carry over against the Finnish team, and now Kazakhstan will battle to remain in the top tier of international junior hockey.

Kazakhstan and Switzerland meet later in the tournament, and it appears that Switzerland will be the final relegation round team as they have a slim chance of catching Finland, Russia, and the USA in their pool.

More World Junior Championship action can be seen and heard all week. If you're looking for a place to watch or listen online, please click on this link and scroll to the bottom for a list of places where you can watch on broadband or listen via live streaming audio. Yes, they're all Canadian feeds, but it's better than nothing, right?

In other international hockey tournament news, the Canadian team is now 3-0 at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Canada has defeated HC Moeller Pardubice of the Czech Republic 4-3 in a shootout, defeated the host team in HC Davos 6-2, and defeated the Russian Super League team Salavat Yulaev Ufa 3-2 with a late goal today.

Canada has been led by some familiar NHL names: goaltenders Curtis Joseph and Wade Flaherty, former Flames defenceman Mark Giordano, former Canucks defenceman Yannick Tremblay, former Avalanche and Senators forward Serge Aubin, former Penguins and Thrashers forward Ramzi Abid, former Flyers and Kings forward Marty Murray, and former Maple Leafs forward Travis Green.

The team is coached by Sean Simpson who is the head coach for EV Zug. His assistant coach is former Maple Leaf great Doug Gilmour. Clearly, the Canadian coaching staff has this collection of European league players and AHL players playing very well as Canada looks for its first Spengler Cup Championship since 2003.

Canada has one more game to play against the German Elite League's Adler Mannheim. The top two teams automatically advance to the finals, and Canada can secure a berth there with a win over Adler Mannheim. The German club lost earlier in the tournament to Salavat Yulaev Ufa 6-1.

The 40 year-old goalie in Curtis Joseph has been getting high praise for his work in the net thus far, something that the Pittsburgh Penguins should take notice of in my humble opinion.

"He's been outstanding - better and better every day," head coach Sean Simpson said of Joseph to The Canadian Press. "He's shown why he's been the goalie he has been over the course of his career.

"He has such an easy-going demeanor and takes everything in stride. He's thrilled to be here and he's a great guy in our dressing room. He made some key stops (Saturday)."

Canada has a chance for more international domination with the success of these two teams. It appears that both teams are relying on their excellent goaltending - Joseph at the Spengler Cup, and Jonathan Bernier and Steve Mason at the World Junior Championship.

If great teams are built from the net out, Canada has all the right pieces in place to win a couple more accolades this year. And that should be the new Canadian trademark in international hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 27 December 2007

Now Appearing: On Masks

Hello readers! I hope your Christmas went well, and your Boxing Day/Day After Christmas shopping extravaganza was fun as well. Personally, shopping on the 26th after having shopped for the previous two months doesn't really appeal to me, especially when it involves waiting in lines at 2AM to get the latest and greatest electronics. However, to each their own, and if that's your bag, enjoy it, baby.

Today's article is somewhat-related to the previous article on goalie masks that I wrote last Thursday entitled A Hollywood Touch. In that article, I explored the trend of having Hollywood imagery on goalie masks, and there were a lot of examples. I encourage you to check that article out after reading this one. If you've already read that article, there have been some updates to the article as well, so it's worth reading again.

In today's article, though, I am exposing another mask design that seems to be growing in popularity as goalies continue to express themselves and their personalities through their mask designs. This trend is the inclusion of musicians and bands on goalie masks around the hockey world. There have been several examples in the NHL up to this point, including one man who seems to have almost pioneered the trend.

Jamie McLennan is our first example. McLennan first wore the members of the band KISS on his mask in St. Louis in 2000. He continued with the trend as a member of the Minnesota Wild, both in 2002 and 2003, and with the Calgary Flames at the end of the 2002-03 season. McLennan followed that up with his Calgary Flames KISS-and-Nickelback mask in 2003-04 after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild. "I'm a huge KISS fan but I'm a big Nickelback fan and with them being local Alberta boys, I thought it would be nice to throw it on there", McLennan told the Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak. "I'm just showing support for the band."

The Minnesota Wild have another music-loving goalie in between the pipes for them. Josh Harding is sporting his Rascal Flatts mask this season. "I've been a Rascal Flatts for for a long time," he told "I know them pretty well." Harding also appears in the Hollywood imagery article.

The Los Angeles Kings have had a couple of music lovers. The first is Jason LaBarbera who has Metallica on his mask this season. "I'm a big Metallica fan so I have lots of Metallica logos and imagery - like the lead singer James Hetfield and the images of the Master of Puppets and St. Anger albums," LaBarbera told

The second goalie is a former King, but Jamie Storr wore a mask with a musician on it as well. Storr had the king of rock-and-roll on his mask in Elvis Presley when he suited up for the Kings in 2003. Storr's use of "king" is unique as it relates more towards the team than it does himself - "The King" on the mask of a King.

The Florida Panthers employed a goalie by the name of Jani Hurme during the 2003 season. Hurme, who is a huge Iron Maiden fan, had his mask painted to reflect that part about him. "Jani is a huge Iron Maiden fan," said Frank Cipra, goalie mask artist at ITECH. "Eddie is a character on the Iron Maiden Trooper CD cover. He liked the design so much that he wanted to recreate the image with Eddie holding a Finnish flag."

The Dallas Stars have their own music lover on their roster this season. Mike Smith is sporting a mask featuring the likeness of country music star Garth Brooks. "Last season I put a picture of Garth Brooks on my mask because I think his charity is absolutely unbelievable," Smith told "He also gave me his guitar last year after he played for our team."

Personally, I believe this is an excellent reason to feature Garth Brooks on his mask. Garth Brooks and Bo Mitchell founded The Garth Brooks Teammates For Kids Foundation to help kids through different non-profit organizations. "The purpose of the Foundation is to contribute financial resources to selected non-profit organizations that effectively serve and benefit children with an emphasis on health, education and inner city services. The Foundation enlists the participation of professional baseball, hockey, and football players who contribute a predetermined sum based upon selected categories of on-field and on-ice performance". Well done, Mike Smith. A very honourable dedication in terms of the artwork on your mask.

Atlanta Thrashers' goalie Kari Lehtonen makes an appearance in this article as well. On the back of his Kill Bill mask, Lehtonen has a picture of Li'l Jon. "I have a picture of Li'l Jon on the back," Lehtonen told "He is an Atlanta-based musician and a big fan of the Thrashers." Lehtonen's masks can also be seen in the Hollywood imagery article.

The Philadelphia Flyers had a music lover in net for a couple of seasons. Robert Esche wore Hank Williams Jr. on his mask in 2003. He followed that up in 2004 by portraying Kid Rock, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings on his mask. Interesting choices, I must say.

Finally, we get to the pioneer. The Canadian goalie who seemed to start this trend was a guy by the name of Sean Burke. Burke started the trend as a member of the Florida Panthers in 1999 where he had Slash of Guns 'n' Roses on his mask.

After Florida, he ended up in Phoenix where he continued the trend by having Eddie Van Halen and Slash on his mask. "Sean plays in a band, and every year he likes to pay tribute to great rock artists," said Frank Cipra, ITECH artist. "On this mask he is paying tribute to Eddie Van Halen and Slash. He also has three or four Harleys, which is why there’s a motorcycle at the top." He had his masked repainted in 2002 to show Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. In 2003, he had his mask redone again, but went with Robert Plant and Eric Clapton this time. Burke also has a Coyotes mask that featured Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page on it, but I haven't been able to find any good pictures of it.

Burke left Phoenix for Philadelphia in 2004, and his music trend continued. In Philly, Burke stayed with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton for the 15 games he played in the City of Brotherly Love.

From Philly, he went to Tampa Bay where his mask showed off Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton again.

Clearly, music plays a big part in hockey, and not just over the arena speakers. Goalies have been expressing themselves through Hollywood imagery and musical imagery for some time now, and the masks have a very distinct and unique look to them.

Just as a sidenote as I finish up here, I have started organizing some of the pictures in my collection on Photobucket. Having a thousand assorted photos in no order made it hard when looking for older pictures to use in current articles. If you are reading an older article on this blog and come across a broken link, PLEASE EMAIL ME. I want to be clear - email is the best way for me to fix it. Email the article title, the date of the article's posting, and the name of the link. I'll fix it ASAP.

Canada has just defeated the Slovakian junior team 2-0 at the World Junior Championships as well, so all it good here. Take it easy, folks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

- thanks to the DaveArt website for some of the mask images. Thanks to The Goalies Archive website for some of the images as well. Thanks to the Itech website for some of the hard-to-find images. Thanks to for some images and quotes as well.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

Hey, everyone! Merry Christmas! I know I said I wouldn't have a post today, but I couldn't resist posting some videos. Have a wonderful day, best wishes to all, Merry Christmas, and enjoy a tasty dinner!

The Detroit Red Wings wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

The Edmonton Oilers share their favorite Christmas memories.

More Oiler Christmas memories.

The Ottawa Senators share their favorite Christmas memories.

The Anaheim Ducks have some Christmas gift-giving fun.

The AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms deliver Season's Beatings.

Gotta love those videos. Have a Merry Christmas everyone! All the best to you and yours from Hockey Blog In Canada.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 24 December 2007

Christmas In Canada = Gold Medal

With today being Christmas Eve, tomorrow being Christmas, and the following day being Boxing Day if you live in a Commonwealth country, the holiday season is like family, piling through your front door and asking about Christmas dinner. While Christians around the world celebrate one of their biggest days on the 25th, Canadians prepare for the 26th of December when the hunt for another gold medal begins.

The 2008 World Junior Hockey Championships get underway at 10am EST on December 26 when Sweden plays Slovakia in the first game of the tournament at the Pardubice Arena in Pardubice, Czech Republic. The USA squares off versus Kazakhstan at 10am EST at the Tipsport Arena in Liberec, Czech Republic.

Canada plays its first at 2pm EST that day against the host Czech team, and it is expected that Canada will be one of the favorites to capture the gold medal. If Canada succeeds in its quest for gold, it will be the fourth straight year that Canada has defeated the world. Yeah, it makes me proud as a Canadian.

However, there will be some definite competition at the World Junior Championships this year, and that competition will come in the form of the Russians and Americans. The Russians have been the silver medallists the last three years while winning gold in 2002 and 2003. The Americans won bronze last year and gold in 2004.

Here are my medal picks for the tournament.

Gold Medal: Canada.

The Canadians possess something that no other team has: depth and experience in goal. Jonathan Bernier and Steve Mason are both big and athletic, and both have experience playing in high-pressure games: Bernier in the NHL and Memorial Cup; Mason in the 2007 Super Series and for the OHL's London Knights. Bernier started the season with Los Angeles in the NHL, but was returned to the Lewiston Maineiacs where he has put up decent numbers as the starter. Mason has excelled as the Knights' goaltender, and the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect looks to build on a solid junior career.

Canada's defence will be fast, mobile, and hard-hitting. Led by captain Karl Alzner, a Washington Capitals prospect, the Canadians will wear down teams and capitalize on turnovers. Expect Luke Schenn to throw his body around. The 2008 draft-eligible defenceman is 6'2" and weighs 210 lbs.

The Canadian forwards are quick, agile, and high-scoring. Kyle Turris, the Phoenix Coyotes prospect, has looked as good as he was in the Super Series. Linemate Brad Marchand, a Boston Bruins prospect, has been excellent in his international career, and looks to continue Canada's winning ways. The Central Scouting Services' top draft-eligible player in Steven Stamkos looks to make a mark for the upcoming NHL entry draft, and 2009-eligible player John Tavares is expected to contribute for the Canadians as well.

Overall, Canada's depth and skill should lead them to a fourth-consecutive IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal.

Silver Medal: USA.

The Americans have now run into the problem that Canada faces each year, thanks to their development camps and training: who goes, and who doesn't. Their medal hopes basically come down to their goaltenders, a position of international inexperience for the Americans.

Jeremy Smith and Joe Palmer are the tandem in between the pipes for the Americans, and neither has had a ton of big-game experience. Smith has played well for the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL, but he'll have to be very good for two straight weeks in order for the Americans to win. Palmer is the goaltender for the NCAA's Ohio State Buckeyes, and has played well enough to lock his position down as the back-up.

On the defensive side, Bobby Sanguinetti of the OHL's Brampton Battalion will bring a pile of offence from the blueline. The New York Rangers' prospect is expected to see a load of time on the powerplay. Jonathan Blum, a Nashville Predators prospect, will also get a lot of ice time. The California native has played well for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL.

The Americans should have the firepower up front to compete with the Canadians and Russians. Kyle Okposo, who recently left college to join the New York Islanders, should be an offensive force in the tournament. He's joined by Philadelphia Flyers prospect James vanRiemsdyk, Islanders prospect Rhett Rakhshani, and Montreal Canadiens prospect Max Pacioretty up front in what should be a talented American forward group.

Overall, the big game for this group in winning a medal comes via their third game of the round robin when they meet up with the Russians. If the Americans can play well in that game and secure the top spot in the pool, it will go a long way in helping them bring home at least a silver medal. Complacency in the playoff round will be something that the Americans will have to overcome, though, especially against some of the weaker teams in the tournament.

Bronze Medal: Sweden.

The Swedes look to be a force this year, ending their twelve-year drought of not winning a medal. The Swedes boast some world-class talent this year, and are expected to play a puck-possession game in the same style that the Detroit Tre Kronor Red Wings play.

In net, the Swedes boast Jhonas Enroth, a Buffalo Sabres prospect. Enroth is figured to be the best goaltending prospect in the game, and will certainly put that on display in the Czech Republic. Enroth could boost this team to a silver if he lives up to his pre-tournament billing.

Defensively, the Swedes feature 17 year-old Victor Hedman, a young player who already logs a ton of ice time for Modo of the Swedish Elite League. They will be fast and quick, and certainly will provide offence from the blueline for a potent Swedish attack.

Up front, the Swedes have scoring. Oscar Moller, a draft-eligible player from the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL, should lead the way for the Swedes. Mikael Backlund, a Calgary Flames prospect, should also light the lamp often for the Tre Kronor, and expect to hear a lot about Mario Kempe. Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi will be the first 16 year-old to suit up in the World Junior Championships since some guy named Sidney Crosby did it in 2004.

Overall, the Swedes should medal this year. Where they end up will depend on their willingness to play gritty with the Canadians and Americans. Getting a monster tournament out of goaltender Enroth will certainly make it easier for the Swedes to break the drought.

What About: Russia.

I'll be the first to admit that you can never count the Russians out. The problem with the Russian team is their goaltending. They haven't developed a deep pool of prospects in the net for some time, and that was reflected by the shelling they took in the Super Series at the hands of the Canadians. Because of their weak goaltending, I think they have a very exposed Achilles' heel. However, if one of the young Russian goaltenders develops a hot hand, the Russians could finish as high as second. My money would be on Sergei Bobrovsky as that goalie if I had to choose.

The Russians will certainly be able to score, and will feature New York Rangers' prospects Alexei Cherepanov and Artem Anisimov. The rest of their forwards will contribute, but aside from the first-line duo, they run thin into their third and fourth lines. Playing physical against Cherepanov has proven to be a way to eliminate him as a scoring threat.

Defensively, no one stands out. These players were man-handled by the aggressive and unrelenting Canadian forecheck in the Super Series, and they seem to play soft in their own end. The Americans should be able to capitalize on this in their round robin game, thus giving a gameplan to every other team in the tournament. The Russians seem to become undisciplined when they are played physically, a weakness the Canadians exposed in the Super Series.

In short, I feel that the Russians may not be able to match the Canadians or Americans in physicality, thus giving those two nations a distinct advantage. The Swedes, in my opinion, are much too skilled for the Russians to overcome them as well, and will fall in the bronze medal game to that Swedish group.

Overall, I am excited for the tournament to begin. TSN will have live broadband coverage on their website of the Canadian games if you have a Canadian-based internet service provider. If you're outside of Canada, TSN Broadband will replay the game after it has ended for all to see. If you live near the Canada-US border, you may be able to pick up the game on one of the radio stations below (frequency in parentheses), or by listening live through their streaming audio on their website.

Belleville, Ontario – CJBQ (800 AM)
Calgary, Alberta – FAN 960 (960 AM)
Edmonton, Alberta – TEAM 1260 (1260 AM)
Halifax, Nova Scotia – CJNI (95.7 FM)
Hamilton, Ontario – CHML (900 AM)
Kitchener, Ontario – CKGL (570 AM)
London, Ontario – CJBK (1290 AM)
Moncton, New Brunswick – CHNI (88.9 FM)
Montreal, Quebec – TEAM 990 (990 AM)
Ottawa, Ontario – TEAM 1200 (1200 AM)
Saint John, New Brunswick – CKNI (91.9 FM)
Sarnia, Ontario – CHOK (1070 AM)
Toronto, Ontario – FAN 590 (590 AM)
Vancouver, British Columbia – TEAM 1040 (1040 AM)
Wingham, Ontario – CKNX (920 AM)
Winnipeg, Manitoba – CJOB (680 AM)

Just as a note, I cannot guarantee a post for tomorrow with it being a major holiday. I will certainly try, but there's no guarantee. However, there will be one on the 26th. I also plan on having another book review ready to go for this week, so keep your eyes on this site for that.

Happy holidays to all! Merry Christmas to those that celebrate it. Happy Kwanzaa to all those that may be celebrating that festive occasion as well. All the best to you and yours in this holiday season.

And, of course, GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 22 December 2007

Spongee Night In Winnipeg

In a little city on the cold Canadian prairies, there lives a game that encaptures thousands of people on any given night. This game is played by both men and women, young and old, and fills outdoor rinks with laughter on the coldest of Canadian winter nights. The game I am referring to called "sponge hockey" or, as its players call it, "spongee". Sponge hockey is a game that is almost exclusively known to Winnipeg. There is nowhere else in the world that features as many leagues, players, and games as the city affectionately called "Winterpeg". With a name like that, you know the city embraces its winter traditions. Let's take a closer look at this local phenomenon.

So what is "spongee"? Well, the name of the game is derived from the type of puck that is used. Sponge hockey players avoid the hard, vulcanized rubber pucks used in traditional ice hockey, instead opting for a puck made of a sponge-like material. The pucks are identical in size and shape. Their only differences are the hardness of the puck and the weight of the puck.

The only person on skates during the game is the referee. The players wear a soft-soled shoe that grips the ice. The best shoe choice actually comes from another sport: broomball. The broomball shoe has re-inforced toes and side panels to help protect the foot. The broomball shoe also has treads that allow for better grip on the ice, thus allowing the players to move with greater ease. The smaller circles act like suction cups, using the air in the hole to create a bit of a vacuum on the ice. The treads help with turning and stopping, both vitally important in spongee.

In terms of protection, only the goalies wear full equipment. Players normally wear hockey gloves for protection of the hands. Shin pads have become more and more common, especially outdoors where the puck can freeze solid and feel like a traditional puck. Jocks are common for male players for reasons that shouldn't need to be explained. The shoes come re-inforced, as mentioned above, so there is nothing else worn to protect the feet. Some players wear elbow pads. Another trend that is more commonly seen in spongee is the inclusion of wearing volleyball kneepads on the knees to help absorb some of the abuse that players take when they fall.

In terms of uniforms, teams create their own. There are literally thousands of jerseys out there that have been used in spongee. However, some of the more creative ones are rarely forgotten. The jerseys are worn over some sort of warm clothing. To play outdoors, you will certainly need a toque, a jacket or layers of sweaters, sweat pants, some sort of water-resistant pants, and possibly some woolen socks to keep your feet warm.

The game is organized on the ice like normal hockey. Most leagues play five-on-five with goalies, but there are some that play six-on-six with goalies. Coed leagues are common in spongee, and that scenario incorporates two females on the ice at all times, not counting the goalie. The goalie can be male or female, but the gender does not matter in terms of the number of females on the ice. In coed spongee, males are not allowed to take slapshots. The snapshot, where the stick doesn't rise above the knee on the back-swing, is allowed, though.

The gameplay is somewhat different than hockey. First off, there is no icing or offsides. Some leagues, however, incorporate a "no icing" rule in the last minute to encourage play. There is also a "key". Much like basketball, offensive players are only allowed to be in the key for three seconds at a time, unless the puck is inside the key. If a player is found to be in the key for more than three seconds, the play is stopped, and a faceoff outside the offensive zone takes place. There is absolutely no intentional body contact in spongee as well. Players are allowed to battle for the puck, but if there is too much contact in the referee's eyes, the play can be blown dead, and penalties may be assessed.

The rules of spongee are similar to that of hockey. Tripping, roughing, hooking, holding, and high-sticking are common infractions that are penalized. The only difference is that there is no bodychecking or fighting. Bodychecking will get you a trip to the sin bin. Fighting will get you a suspension. The "commissioner" of the league, also known as league management, determines the length of the suspension based upon the information gathered from the referee and the player's previous record in terms of suspensions. Penalty times differ for leagues, with some leagues going with two minutes and others opting for three minutes. Major penalties, double-minor penalties, and misconducts can be awarded at the referee's discretion.

Game misconducts and suspensions can also be handed out for illegal modifications to shoes. Any player who is found using tacks, staples, spikes or any other device on the bottom of his or her shoes that could pose a danger to both that player and others is automatically removed from the game, and will be subject to further punishment from the league. Some players have attempted to find ways to increase the stickiness of their shoes on the ice. This has led players to using WD40 lubricant on their shoes. The problem is that WD40 dissolves the bottom of the soft sole, leaving large shoe marks on the ice. Anyone caught using anything like WD40 on his or her shoes is also awarded a game misconduct and further league punishment.

Games ending in ties may be left as such and reflected in the standings as a tied result. Some leagues have incorporated the shootout to determine a winner. The normal shootout is similar to the NHL's shootout of three initial shooters followed by more if necessary. The rules for the shootout are identical to that of the professional ranks.

The CBC did a pseudo-mock documentary on sponge hockey during their 2004 Hockey Day In Canada. It was produced well by the CBC and directed by Gavin Adamson and Dougald Lamont. Here's the video, and I apologize that the audio and video don't quite sync. It's not my video, so don't kill me. It's an excellent introduction to the sport, though.

Besides the cold, it looks pretty fun!

Spongee Night In Winnipeg!

Honestly, the game is a lot of fun. I've played in several leagues, and it's a pile of fun with great competitiveness. If you live in a cold climate, get outdoors and have a little fun. Who knows? You might be the founding member of the local sponge hockey league in your area.

For more information, please refer to the Sponge Hockey Wikipedia page, or any of the these spongee-devoted pages: Westridge Sponge Hockey, Kildonan Spongee League, and the University of Manitoba Engineering Society Spongee Tournaments.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 20 December 2007

A Hollywood Touch

I've been watching a lot of hockey this week, thanks to me having this week off, and I've noticed that there is an increasing trend towards using Hollywood imagery on goalie masks. Artistic designs on masks have always been a reflection of the goalie wearing the mask, and it appears that Hollywood characters are finding their way into hockey via the goaltender. Personally, I think there are some fabulous designs that have been used over the years, and some of the characters depicted on masks are quite unique. I've gone back several years to find some of these pictures, but I think you'll agree that these are quite unique, and some are extremely well-painted.

Rather than just breaking into the movies, let's start with Hollywood itself. Kelly Hrudey has probably worn the most famous of Hollywood masks, complete with the Hollywood hills and the Hollywood sign on his mask. As an homage to the film industry, he also has a filmstrip on his mask as well.

However, another Kings' prospect has followed in Hrudey's footsteps. Erik Ersberg has designed a mask with the filmstrip all over the left side of his mask, along with the Hollywood sign. The right side has a huge Kings logo just in case you had no idea what team he was drafted by.

When it comes to the movies being used on masks, there appears to be certain images that players like. Action movies seem to be the movies of choice. Cartoon characters also get a pretty good representation on masks, and they range from the popular to the forgotten. In any case, here is your list of movies that appear on masks.

I'll start with a guy who seems to change his mask design as often as he changes his underwear. Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers is wearing a Kill Bill mask for this season. Last season, he went with a Final Fantasy X-themed mask, and it has been reported that he's currently having a Transformers mask painted. Well, here is the left side and right side of that very mask. A big thumbs-up from this writer on adding the word "Thrashers" in Transformers font. It appears that Lehtonen is all about pop culture on his masks.

Mike Wall of the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters also went with a Transformers-inspired mask. His mask is painted as Optimus Prime's head. Wall's mask is one of the more recognizable in the AHL due to this pop culture reference.

Lehtonen's goaltending partner, Johan Hedberg, decided to add a theme to his Moose mask this season. He has been called "Moose" as a nickname since he was brought up from the AHL's Manitoba Moose for the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2000-01 playoff run. He's kept the Moose imagery on his mask since his call-up, taking it where ever he has played. Since the Penguins playoff run, he's spent time in Vancouver, Dallas, and Atlanta. It's this last place where he devised the "Pirates of the Moose-ibbean" theme for his mask. You can see the imagery on all sides of his mask: left, top, and right.

Since we're talking about Pirates of the Caribbean, we might as well look at Karol Krizan's mask. Krizan plays for Modo in the Swedish Elite League, and he has devoted his entire mask to the Pirates of the Caribbean. You can see Geoffrey Rush on the right side of his mask, and the standard skull-and-crossbones with the Black Pearl above it on the left side. Personally, I really like this design, but I don't know if there would be licensing issues here in North America.

Olaf Kolzig has worn some movie imagery on his mask while in the NHL. Olie the Goalie is most famous for his Godzilla mask, and it was quite prominent earlier in his career. Of course, Kolzig has re-designed his mask several times since then, but this one is certainly one of his most memorable designs.

Ken Wregget took his Hollywood idea to a whole new level by incorporating his team into his mask. Wregget introduced his new mask to the Steel City during the release of Batman Returns which featured Danny DeVito as The Penguin. This is still one of the coolest mask designs in my humble opinion. Aside from Johnny Canuck on Roberto Luongo's mask, this has been the only Hollywood imagery to promote the team rather than the individual.

Chris Mason of the Nashville Predators recently had his mask painted, and he included some Hollywood imagery on the back of the helmet. King Leonidas from the movie 300 is featured on the back plate, and Mason explains why. "When they built up the Spartan wall, it was kind of related to my position as a goalie," Mason says. "We try to build up a wall and not let anything in."

Former NHL goalie and current goaltending coach for the Canadian World Junior team Corey Hirsch had an interesting image from Hollywood on his mask when he played in Vancouver. Hirsch decided to honour one of the early horror movies in having Norman Bates' house on his mask from the movie Psycho. Hirsch is reportedly a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, and his mask certainly reflects that.

New York Islanders goaltender Wade Dubielewicz has Yoda of the Star Wars movies on the back of his mask. When asked why, Dubielewicz replied, "I don't really look like a goalie and Yoda doesn't look like a Jedi Warrior."

In keeping with the Star Wars theme, Mathieu Chouinard wore Chewbacca the Wookie on his mask during his time with the Manchester Monarchs. Chouinard's nickname during the season was "Chewie", and his nickname can be seen on his throat protection.

Perhaps the greatest set of goalie masks comes compliments of a German Elite League team. Dusseldorf employs Jamie Storr and Jochen Reimer as their netminding tandem, and they decided to partner up in their design. Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was their theme, and you can clearly see the design on their masks: Storr on the left and Reimer on the right. After all, "if you're not first, you're last".

Hannu Toivonen gets two mentions on this list. First, he payed homage to one of the greatest hockey movies ever in Slapshot with this mask, a design based upon Denis Lemieux's mask from the movie. I think this mask is an excellent design, except for the hair and ears. That's a little weird.

Toivonen also gets mention as he'll start the cartoon character section. Toivonen, who nows plays for St. Louis, has images of Piglet and Snoopy on the back of his mask. I haven't found out a reason for these two characters holding the flags of Finland and the USA respectively, but there must be a reason for Toivonen having them on his mask. If anyone knows, please add it to the comment section below.

Another Atlanta Thrashers goaltender makes the list. Pasi Nurminen has worn two different cartoon-themed masks in his NHL career. His first was a Batman-themed mask that had Batman on the right side and The Joker on the left. He also wore a mask with South Park's Eric Cartman on the chin in 2003-04. His 2005 mask had what appeared to be a South Park character on the side as well.

Before he was picked up on waivers by Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov had an interesting cartoon character on his mask. Bryzgalov wore Daffy Duck, famous for his appearances in the Warner Brothers cartoons.

However, "Bryz" re-designed his mask, and explained his new mask design to Ducks TV.

Bryz is awesome. Great interview.

Peter Budaj of the Colorado Avalanche has an interesting character on the back of his mask. Budaj has an image of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders on the back plate of his mask. Why Ned Flanders? "It's an inside joke from two years ago," Budaj said to USA Today's Kevin Allen. "Our equpiment manager, Terry Geer, gave me the nickname 'Ned' and he said it would be funny to put it on my mask. He has a Slovakian jersey on and is holding a Slovakian flag."

Jason Bacashihua of the Dallas Stars may have superstitions, but Friday the 13th isn't one of them. Bacashihua wore a Jason Voorhees image on both his masks in Dallas - first in 2003, and then again in 2004.

Patrick Lalime has brought his favorite cartoon character with him where ever he has played. In Ottawa, Lalime started the tradition of having Marvin the Martian on his mask.

"My current design requires a bit of backtracking," Lalime told Kevin Allen. "When I played in Pittsburgh, I had a penguin emerging from a cracked egg and all you could see were the penguin's eyes. When I went to Ottawa, the designer kept the two eyes, using Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes because Marvin wears a helmet similar to the helmet in the Senators' logo. I liked Marvin, and kept him in St. Louis. When I came to Chicago, Marvin traded in his centurion's helmet for an Indian headdress."

Roberto Luongo was also a cartoon fan when he played for the Florida Panthers. In Florida, Luongo sported a mask that featured the Pink Panther. Not the diamond, but the actual cartoon character. Of course, the team took to this, and would play the Pink Panther theme whenever he made a big stop. The Pink Panther also followed Luongo to the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. His Team Canada-themed mask had the Pink Panther featured on it as well.

Stephen Valiquette of the New York Rangers honours a New York City superhero with his Spiderman mask. "I have Spiderman on my mask because of the character's relationship with New York City," says Valiquette. Ok, it's not the greatest reason, but at least it makes sense.

Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild wore a well-known cartoon character on the back of his mask last season. Harding had Stewie Griffin of TV's Family Guy on the back of his mask. I was waiting for Harding to utter a "victory shall be mine" comment in an interview, but it never came to be.

The AHL has its share of Hollywood imagery as well. Chris Madden of the Toronto Roadrunners wore Wile E. Coyote on his mask in honour of the Looney Tunes' Roadrunner. For some reason unknown to me, Jason LaBarbera wore Gonzo of The Muppet Show on his mask during the time he spent with the Hartford Wolfpack.

For the last mask, we go back to the international scene. Christian Engstrand, a Swedish goaltender, who plays for Linkopings HC in Sweden has one of four famous reptiles featured on his mask. Engstrand has Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles displayed on the right side of his mask. I've never known turtles to play hockey, but the artwork is still pretty neat.

It is very apparent that Hollywood imagery plays a large role in the artwork selected by goalies for their masks. Hockey, like movies and cartoons, is entertainment, so bringing the two together seems quite natural. Personally, there are some fabulous mask designs out there, and some of them have been seen here. The designs created by the artists and goalies are top-notch, and certainly worth viewing up close.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

- thanks to the DaveArt website for some of the mask images. Thanks to The Goalies Archive website for some of the images as well. Thanks to the Itech website for some of the hard-to-find images.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

25 To Life

The NHL has decided on the length of time that Chris Simon deserves off for his ridiculous act versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, and the amount of time should come as no surprise. Chris Simon's eighth suspension of his career has set a new standard. It will be announced today that Simon will sit out 30 games for his stupidity. Really, what else can it be called except stupidity? When does Simon learn his lesson? With the suspension, Kevin from Barry Melrose Rocks will see a huge change in his standings for this season. We know that the Long Island Broncos and Philadelphia Flyers are divisional rivals, but why did Simon feel it necessary to catch them on the GoonBoard?

Anyway, let's go back to the scene of the crime.

Slew-foot, and then a stomp. Does the NHLPA want to appeal?

Look, 30 games is suitable for a continual offender. It is expected that Simon will appeal the suspension, but why waste the time? He clearly has some sort of problem in controlling himself on the ice, and this has been demonstrated time and time again.

He received a three-game suspension in 1997 as a member of the Washington Capitals after uttering a racial slur towards Mike Grier, who is black. Grier, at the time, was a member of the Edmonton Oilers.

Simon was again suspended while as a member of the Capitals during the 2000 playoffs. He cross-checked Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Peter Popovic across the throat in the opening game, and sat out Game Two for his actions.

Simon was once again suspended in 2001 as a member of the Capitals for elbowing defenceman Anders Eriksson of Florida. He sat out for two games for his act of aggression this time. If you're keeping count, that's three suspensions in four years, and a total of six games.

In 2004, Simon received two two-game suspensions. The first, as a member of the New York Rangers, was for cross-checking Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ruslan Fedotenko, and then jumping on him and punching him. Fedotenko and Simon are now teammates with the Islanders. The second act, while with the Calgary Flames, was for throwing a knee-on-knee hit on Dallas Stars defenceman Sergei Zubov.

Last March, Simon received a 25-game break for this horrific act:

This is a guy that the league and NHLPA wants to keep?

This should be the last chance for Chris Simon. The NHL needs to inform him that if he screws up again, and attempts to injure a player in any way, he's done. Gone for life. No more fat salary for being a fourth-line, six-minute player. I don't care what he's done for charities or the community. He's risked players lives and careers with his stupidity, and that cannot happen. If the NHLPA doesn't come down on him as well, they show as much backbone as a jellyfish.

If the Islanders want a six-minute, fourth-line player for $900,000 per season, they can call on me. I'll even pay my own moving expenses. I'm no superstar, but I can certainly throw a few checks, get into a couple of fights, and serve my time for that pay. Heck, I'll even add some benefit by being defensively-responsible unlike Simon.

If the NHL and NHLPA don't send a message to Chris Simon about his stupidity, something bad will happen in the future. It might not be Simon that commits the act, but someone's career will end tragically, and the onus will be on the two most important factions in the NHL: Gary Bettman and Paul Kelly.

Use your heads, men. The tarnish does not wash off very easily.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 18 December 2007

TBC: The Top 60 Since 1967

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present another hockey book today. I have finished reading The Hockey News Top 60 Since 1967 by Ken Campbell and Adam Proteau, and it is one that will be for great debate for all who read it. Anytime someone is ranked as "the best" or "#1" there will be debate that follows regarding the rankings. It's happened before, and it will happen again. However, Ken Campbell and Adam Proteau polled a number of people involved in various aspects of the game of hockey, and they devised their list based on the opinions of these men. Is it correct? No. Is it worthy of talking about? Of course. Will it make Teebz's cut? Let's find out.

First, a little about the authors. "Ken Campbell was born in Sudbury, Ontario, and after a mediocre youth hockey career, found his calling as a sports writer. Over the past two decades, Campbell has covered all levels of the game from minor hockey to the Stanley Cup Final. Adam Proteau was born and raised in Toronto. After a lengthy suspension for fighting ended his house league hockey career, he attended Ryerson University to pursue a passion for sports journalism. In 2007, the columnist was honored by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association with its top column award."

In writing this book, Campbell and Proteau selected a jury of hockey-experienced men. Their careers range from general manager to coach to broadcaster to columnist, but all are experienced. Here is the list of those who made up the jury:

• Harry Neale - Hockey Night in Canada analyst and former NHL coach & GM.
• Jim Rutherford - GM of the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes and NHL player in the 1970s.
• Jacques Demers - media personality and former NHL coach.
• Brian Burke - GM of the Anaheim Ducks.
• Cliff Fletcher - longtime hockey executive and former GM of the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.
• Al Strachan - Hockey Hall-of-Fame award-winning hockey writer
• Kevin-Paul Dupont - Hockey Hall-of-Fame award-winning hockey writer with the Boston Globe.
• Mike Brophy - senior writer with The Hockey News.
• Ken Campbell - senior writer with The Hockey News.
• Adam Proteau - online columnist with
• Jason Kay - editor of The Hockey News.

Now that you know who was responsible for the rankings, the material in the book is vast. It literally is a storehouse of statistics and stories about, what is arguably, the best players to have ever played the game.

Now, I won't go into the rankings. I'll let you read the book for that. However, I also have a copy of The Hockey News' Top 50 NHL Players of All-Time, written in 1997 to coincide with The Hockey News' 50th anniversary. The lists are comparable, but there are some changes that this new panel made compared to the 1997 list.

The introduction written by Brett Hull is intriguing. He talks about his father, Bobby Hull, and his time as a Blackhawk when he would see players such as Gordie Howe, Jean Beliveau, and Bobby Orr. He talks about how his father and others of that era played the game at "breakneck speed", but did it "as gentlemen who had an unabated respect for one another". In saying that, I believe Mr. Hull has identified the trait that made all of the players on the list household names - they played the game with passion, but did it with great skill instead of thuggery. It is that skill that allowed them to amass the huge amount of points they did, and put them into the hearts of all hockey fans regardless of allegiance.

I found some of the names on the new list to be a little surprising. Who should be ranked higher - Sidney Crosby or Rob Blake? Is Sergei Fedorov good enough to make the list? Do Alex Ovechkin or Roberto Luongo make the list, despite their short careers thus far? In coming up with this list, the jury will certainly stir the emotions of every hockey fan with their choices, and, in turn, the players left off the list. That, in my opinion, is something that will always make the NHL great. No matter who you cheer for, you can come up with a reason why Player A should be included instead of Player B.

The Hockey News' Top 60 Since 1967 is an excellent source of information about some of the greatest players to ever have played in the NHL. It comes highly recommended to any hockey fan, and will certainly be a source of discussion amongst all NHL fans. The Hockey News' Top 60 Since 1967 receives the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval, and will remain a source of information about the greatest NHL players for this writer for years to come.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 17 December 2007

Software Issues

It took me a while to find out what the problem was, but I have now diagnosed my computer issues in terms of being able to access Blogger at home. Apparently, one of my firewall settings didn't like Blogger's IP address, and was preventing me from logging on. I could view blogs, but I couldn't access my own. Thankfully, a few tests after some long hours of cursing will now allow me to post all week since I am on holidays for a week. In any case, I will be posting a bunch of stuff this week that I missed out on last week, hopefully catching myself up from these software issues that I was experiencing at home.

First, the trade made between the St. Louis Blues and the Anaheim Ducks was beneficial to both teams this weekend, despite both teams losing their respective games. Andy McDonald, wearing #10 for the Blues, had a goal and an assist in yesterday's 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames. McDonald looked like he fit in well with the youthful Blues, playing on a line with Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes. Personally, this line could be dangerous for the rest of the season. They have speed, the ability to score, and pass very well.

The Ducks, meanwhile, welcomed Doug Weight to their lineup, as well as activating Scott Niedermayer. Weight played on a line with Bobby Ryan and Todd Bertuzzi, and set up Ryan for a beautiful one-timer goal in the Ducks' 2-1 shootout loss to the Sharks. I was reluctant to think that Weight would be the right kind of player to fit into the Ducks' offensive scheme, but he seemed to fit in well. Niedermayer also contributed defensively, and nearly scored the overtime winner after ringing the puck off the post in the extra frame.

Another Call-Up Gem: Another one of those "kids" from the farm made an impact this weekend. After being called up from the AHL San Antonio Rampage, the Coyotes threw winger Joel Perrault into the mix, and he responded versus the New York Rangers. Phoenix head coach Wayne Gretzky, making his first stop in Madison Square Garden since he retired, had Perrault on the powerplay as well as his regular shift, and Perrault scored his first two goals of the season on the powerplay. He also had an assist on an even-strength Daniel Carcillo goal, and the Coyotes defeated the Rangers by a score of 5-1. In two games with the big club, Perrault now has two goals and two assists.

"I was pretty proud of the way I played yesterday in my first game back since last January," Perrault said to the Associated Press. "I was pretty happy with my skill level, and today was even better.

"There was good bounces for the first goal. It's just fun to get it started."

No doubt. Phoenix had been 1-and-9 versus the Rangers on MSG ice since their last win there on October 28, 2002. Their last win there before that one? They won as the Winnipeg Jets on January 6, 1992. Madison Square Garden hasn't been very nice to the Phoenix franchise.

More Bad Ice: The Philadelphia Flyers ran into a wall yesterday known as Martin Brodeur. In doing so, the Flyers extended their winless streak in New Jersey to 10 games, and the Devils won the game 4-2. Philadelphia last won in New Jersey on March 9, 2004.

Jamie Langenbrunner sealed the win for the Devils with an empty-netter, and has become one of the on-ice leaders on the Devils' team. Langenbrunner might be one of the most underrated players in the NHL today. Like Ron Francis or Rod Brind'Amour, he does so many things right, playing the game hard for the entire 60 minutes.

In 16 games so far this season, Langenbrunner has five goals and 11 assists. That's right - in a Brent Sutter defensively-minded system, Langenbrunner is averaging a point per game. Offensively, it almost appears that as he goes, so do the Devils.

Of course, John Madden isn't complaining either since it appears that those two are clicking on all cylinders. Stop Langenbrunner and Madden, and you'll stop the Devils.

Killer B's: The Alex Auld trade to Boston appears to have reversed a couple of trends. First, Auld appears to have escaped the goaltending graveyard in Phoenix to find himself playing extremely well in between the pipes in Beantown. When Tim Thomas returns from injury this week, the Bruins will have two very good goaltenders ready to go on any night.

Second, the Bruins attitude towards losing games has disappeared. With the shutout of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, the Bruins are 6-3-1 in their last ten, and sit in second place in the Northeast Division. They trail the first-place Senators by six points, something rarely spoken about in Boston in some time.

"Tim carried the load for us most of the year and Alex has stepped in and done a good job," Bruins head coach Claude Julien told the Associated Press. "Our goaltending is one of the reasons we are where we are right now."

Julien is right. Since the acquisition of Auld on December 6, the Bruins have gone 4-1, losing only to New Jersey. Auld has played extremely well, and the return of Tim Thomas this week only looks to help the Bruins continue that winning theory.

"It's been great," Auld said of the trade. "Coming here was awesome, and having a chance to play a lot has been great. Being able to work through some things after not playing for a while, I think any goaltender will tell you playing a lot will help."

In winning over Columbus, the Bruins are the only team that has not lost consecutive regulation games. Despite losing some close games early in the season, the goaltending in Boston has given the team a renewed confidence, and it has been reflected in the standings. Good on Boston for righting the ship early on.

Is It Really A Loss?: When Andrei Kostitsyn hit Bryan McCabe into the boards Saturday night, McCabe ended up breaking three bones in his hand. It is thought that McCabe will miss six-to-eight weeks after getting surgery to repair his hand. My question is this: if the Leafs seem to play better without McCabe in the lineup, why is there all this complaining?

Look, I get that McCabe plays 30 minutes a night. I understand that it's impossible to replace a guy who logs that much time on the ice. But really, aside from supporting a fallen teammate, why is there such outrage over losing a guy who has played horribly thus far this season?

"He's too good a player to miss that much time after a (expletive) play like that," Maurice told the Canadian Press. Maurice was livid that Kostitsyn had allegedly horse-collared McCabe and threw him into the boards. No penalty was assessed on the play, and McCabe was visibly in a lot of pain.

"It's not a natural thing, it's not like getting hit into the boards where you can recover, but when you get hog-tied around the throat and you go back into the boards that's just brutal," Maurice said. "He's too good a player to miss that much time on a play like that.

"It's unbelievable, a little respect out there would be nice," Maurice continued. "You'd almost rather take a cheap shot than that. It doesn't matter, it's going to be his hand, it's going to be his knee, when you do something like that somebody's getting hurt. That's just not a natural thing to have happen on the ice."

Here's the hit that put McCabe out:

Notice that Don Cherry says nothing about Kostitsyn.

In honour of standing up for his player, I'd like to present Paul Maurice with some highlights of why the Leafs will miss the playoffs this season, compliments of his most-trusted rearguard, Bryan McCabe:

November 17, 2007: Beautiful pass for a breakaway.

October 15, 2007: On the doorstep for an easy goal.

November 20, 2007: Another beauty pass.

$7 million for a guy who has been a part of or directly involved in giving away four points in the standings? Sorry, Toronto... you're better off without him.

Ok, there may be another post today if I get time. I have some errands to finish, but with this week of holidays, I'll be updating and posting often. Keep your eyes on this space!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 13 December 2007

Those Would Be "The Kids"

Last night, it became very apparent that in order for your team to win in the NHL, you need to develop your players into very good NHL players. Simply drafting a blue-chip prospect and waiting for him to score 50 goals and 100 points doesn't happen very often outside of the first three picks at the NHL Entry Draft, so scouts and GMs need to be shrewd and start working with their AHL affiliates to develop the other guys they draft to help their NHL team remain competitive. Injuries happen, and you need an AHL guy to fill a role with the big club.

Anaheim had a pile of youngsters playing for them last season as they went on to win the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh has been in a youth movement for some time, and they had success last season. Ottawa has drafted well, and developed some excellent young talent. It appears the next wave of youngsters could be found on the west coast after last night's game.

Vancouver is struggling with a pile of injuries now, most notably to Roberto Luongo. Brendan Morrison and Brad Isbister were also sitting in the press box - Morrison due to his wrist, and Isbister due to a groin injury. In the wake of losing three regulars, the Canucks called their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, and had goalie Drew MacIntyre and forwards Mason Raymond and Jason Jaffray sent up to the big show.

It's understandable that the Canucks weren't expecting Crosby-like numbers from Raymond and Jaffray. It was expected that they would fill their roles as assigned to them by head coach Alain Vigneault. Instead, the Canucks saw the pair score their first NHL goals each, and both added an assist.

"It was a great feeling to see the look on Mason's face when he got his first one out of the way," Jaffray said to the Associated Press. "And when that puck went in for me, I could have jumped five, six feet in the air. It's definitely a moment I'll always remember."

Former Manitoba Moose coach and current Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was also impressed with Vancouver's call-ups. "They called two young players up from the minors and both of them made a contribution," Carlyle said. "That's huge when you can have young guys step in and get on the score sheet for you."

Mason Raymond opened the scoring 17:35 into the first period with an even-strength goal, his first in the NHL, coming from Jaffray and Aaron Miller. At 4:54 of the second period, Jaffray notched his first NHL goal on a beautiful wrap-around. Linemates Taylor Pyatt and Mason Raymond drew the assists. Both players worked hard all night, and goaltender Curtis Sanford was quick to notice Raymond, who started the season by playing nine games with the Canucks before being sent down to Manitoba.

"He has amazing speed and an NHL shot. It was just a matter of time for him," goalie Curtis Sanford said. "Maybe going back to Manitoba got him geared up to get back here, as it always does to all of us who have been through it. But by no means did he look out of place the first time he was up here."

All in all, both players finished with two points and a +2 rating on a night where they were expected to just not give up any goals. The Canucks ended up defeating the Ducks by a score of 3-2, giving Jaffray his first NHL game-winning goal as well.

However, the audition doesn't end there. Vancouver faces San Jose tonight, and both players will have a chance to build on their point totals. If they play like they did last night, there's a good chance we'll be seeing more of Jaffray and Raymond in Vancouver's colours this season.

Wrecking Ball Has Arrived: Mark Recchi arrived in Atlanta in a big way, scoring two great goals against the Boston Bruins last night in his Thrashers debut. He looked like he had been part of the Thrashers since the season opened.

"I feel very comfortable with the hockey club already," Recchi said. "I hope to continue to help and help us get some wins."

However, the Bruins prevailed over the Thrashers, thanks to a Milan Lucic goal with 3:47 remaining in the third to put Boston up 4-3. The Boston rookie scored his second career goal after being knocked down by Bobby Holik. With the delayed penalty being called, Lucic got up and headed for the net where he swept in a Phil Kessel rebound to put Boston up for good.

Former Thrasher Marc Savard scored an empty-net goal with four seconds remaining to give Boston the 5-3 victory. Alex Auld won his third straight game for the Bruins, possibly proving that his time in the Phoenix Goalie Graveyard wasn't all bad.

Capital Youth Movement: The kids came to play for Washington last night, and helped the Capitals defeat the New York Rangers 5-4 in a back-and-forth game that was decided in overtime.

Joe Motzko had his first two goals of the season for the Capitals, and looked very comfortable playing on NHL ice. Mike Green scored the overtime winner on a great shot at the 3:41 mark of the overtime period after having recorded two assists earlier in the game. Brooks Laich had a couple of helpers for the Caps, including a gorgeous feed to Green for the winner.

And not to forget another young guy, but Alex Ovechkin scored his 22nd goal of the season as well. If the Capitals continue getting production from their young players, they may be able to push their way into first place in the Southeast Division. Since Bruce Boudreau took over the head coaching duties from Glen Hanlon, the Capitals have gone 6-3-1, and have played much better.

Isles of Despair: It's been 19 games since the Islanders last saw four goals on their side of the ledger. The Long Island Broncos haven't scored more than three goals since November 1, and it has Ted Nolan out of options.

The latest setback came at the hands of the Barney Rubble Hairpieces last night as the Islanders fell 5-3 to the Sabres. Nolan juggled line combinations and benched Bryan Berard for the last two periods, but still couldn't solve the Isles' offensive woes. He's called players up from Bridgeport of the AHL and put veterans in the press box if they weren't hustling, but nothing has worked.

Personally, I think the Islanders aren't a very good team, and it's finally showing. They have some great hustle guys in Mike Sillinger and Richard Park, but they are a soft team with few high-calibre prospects. If this streak continues, look for GM Garth Snow to start heating up the phone lines.

The Little Hawks: Jonathan Toews and NHL rookie scoring leader Patrick Kane put up more points for the improving Chicago Blackhawks last night as the Hawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3.

Toews had a goal and two assists while Kane has two assists. These two have been impressive thus far, and it appears that Chicago has the makings of a very good team for the forseeable future with Patrick Sharp and Martin Havlat still relatively young as well.

The Kings' youth also showed up to play as well. Anze Kopitar and Patrick O'Sullivan scored for the Kings, showing that they are no slouches when it comes to getting the kids involved.

That's all for today, folks. I have some work to do, so I'm off until tomorrow.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Busy Like The Proverbial Bee

I've been ridiculously busy the last two days, but I am back to scribe some new hockey chatter. I apologize for the lack of posting, but both work and real-life have turned in some memorable disasters, so that has kept me away from this place. However, with both of those out of the way, I can now focus on some more hockey-related items to discuss. This entry will be more of a housekeeping entry, but it will certainly discuss some of the latest hockey happenings as well.

First, Teebz's Book Club will have some new entries as of next week. I am on holidays next week, and have looked at picking up some new books for reading. I do want to send out a thank you to Cassandra Sadek as well. She's also been a huge help in getting these editions of Teebz's Book Club off the ground. Look for some more book reviews next week.

Philly Massacre: Last night, Philadelphia demolished the Pittsburgh Penguins 8-2 which turned out to be one of the roughest games in the NHL this season. Six points from Joffrey Lupul and five points from R.J. Umberger paced the Flyers to the win. Overall, the Flyers were 4-for-14 on the powerplay, scoring six straight goals to break a 2-2 tie midway through the second period. Philly's final four goals were scored on the powerplay.

Pittsburgh ended with 98 minutes in penalties to Philadelphia's 58. However, the jawing between the penalty boxes was constant, and this rivalry appears to be heating up. Highlights? Yeah, let's take a look.

The War in Pennsylvania looks like good TV for the next meeting which occurs on January 24, 2008. Keep your eyes on this battle.

Mr. Consistency: Vincent Lecavalier made it home to Montreal last night, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in the shootout.

Lecavalier notched his 20th goal of the season, marking the eighth straight season he has reached that mark. There was chatter this week on some of the Canadian sports shows that perhaps Lecavalier is a better player overall than Sidney Crosby, but suffers from his playing location.

In regards to suffering due to location, I have no doubt. Lecavalier has come into his own as a star for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but basically plays in obscurity due to his Florida home. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Rays get more local coverage than the Lightning do, even after the Lightning brought the Stanley Cup home recently.

However, when it comes to the question of being better than Sidney Crosby, it's six of one and half-a-dozen of another. They are both young, dynamic, offensive superstars that the league should market as much as possible. That should be a no-brainer, and Lecavalier would certainly benefit from the exposure.

Other than that, I will be doing a minor-league report sometime this weekend as well. I have to run again, but I'll be back tomorrow.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

- the picture up top can be found on Natalie Dee's site. It's good for a laugh if this article wasn't as interesting as it may have seemed. My apologies!

Sunday 9 December 2007

Dreaming Of A Green Christmas

I apologize for not getting this entry up earlier, but I've been caught up in Christmas spirit this weekend. Not only is the majority of my shopping done and wrapped, but the tree has gone up and I watched a few holiday movies. However, I still feel that it is important that I fulfill my obligations of writing about hockey. There were some excellent games played this weekend, and I have some updates to report on this blog as well. I also have to commend the NHLPA for their newest partnership with a Canadian icon in what can be called "the most eco-friendly team in the NHL".

The NHLPA has partnered with the David Suzuki Foundation in an effort to have the NHL players to become more eco-friendly both in their home lives and their professional lives through the NHLPA Carbon Neutral Challenge.

"It's unbelievable how guys pick up on it and know something is important," said Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference, the man responsible for the challenge. "Hockey is filled with a lot of great character and guys are showing it by stepping up and doing the right thing. It's all about taking initiative and we have a lot of guys who are really good at doing that."

According to the Canadian Press, "[o]ver 350 players - including everyone on the Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars - have already signed up to contribute $290 annually and hundreds more are expected to join in the coming weeks. The amount is based on a clean-air credit cost of $29 per ton and research that says each NHL player contributes 10 tons of carbon emissions per season."

"I congratulate the NHLPA and the players for showing leadership on the issue of climate change," added Dr. David Suzuki, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. "We have worked with them to ensure that this initiative has environmental integrity, including the use of high quality Gold Standard carbon offsets. Not only are players addressing their own climate impact, but their actions will deliver an important message that will inspire millions of hockey fans and be a model for other sports."

Canadians know who Dr. David Suzuki is. Dr. David Takayoshi Suzuki is a longtime Canadian environmental activist and Canadian science broadcaster. He is best known as host of the CBC Television science magazine, The Nature of Things, now seen in syndication in over 40 countries. He was born in Vancouver British Columbia on born March 24, 1936. Suzuki received his BA from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1958, and his Ph.D in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He was a genetics professor at the University of British Columbia from 1963 until 2001 when he retired. He has received 22 honourary degrees for his work in popularizing science and environmental issues.

Personally, I appalud this partnership between the NHLPA and the David Suzuki Foundation. Environmental issues are something that everyone should be aware of, and work towards fixing at a personal level. Hopefully, this can be the first step of all the major league sports in North America and across the world in reducing their carbon output and helping our environment.

For more information, please check out the NHLPA website and the David Suzuki Foundation website. For more information about the partnership, please check out the NHL's news release, the David Suzuki Foundation's news release, and the NHLPA's news release.

Wrecking Ball In Hot-lanta: The Atlanta Thrashers claimed winger Mark Recchi off the Pittsburgh Penguins this weekend, ending the 39 year-old's run in Pittsburgh for this season. Atlanta has been struggling for some offensive help, and picking up Recchi for approximately $875,000 is a great bargain for a proven scorer.

Pittsburgh will be responsible for the other $875,000 Recchi is owed after he was called back up from Wilkes-Barre Scranton on re-entry waivers. Recchi is expected to practice with the Thrashers on Tuesday, and possibly be inserted into the lineup for Wednesday's home game versus the Boston Bruins.

Recchi will most likely fill a second-line role with some occasional checking duties for the Thrashers, much like Scott Mellanby did during his time in Atlanta. The veteran should also provide some spark for 23rd-ranked powerplay, something the Thrashers need to improve on if they hope to make the playoffs this season.

More Shutouts: It was another weekend, and that means more shutouts across the league. Personally, I like the intensity a shutout brings to the ice, and there was certainly intensity this weekend.

Henrik Lundqvist picked up his fifth shutout of the season as the New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in overtime on Sunday. The Rangers' win snapped the Devils' nine-game winning streak, thanks to a Brendan Shanahan shot 30 seconds into overtime.

Friday night saw Tomas Vokoun shutout the New York Islanders as the Florida Panthers defeated the Long Island Broncos 3-0. Vokoun picked up his second shutout of the season. It was the fifth-straight loss for the Islanders, their longest losing streak of the season thus far.

Dominik Hasek had his way with the Minnesota Wild on Friday, helping Detroit to a 5-0 victory over their Central Division opponents. Hasek stopped 19 shots for his 77th career shutout, and first shutout of the season. In 11 career games versus Minnesota, Hasek has only surrendered nine goals. It appears the Wild have some fear of the Dominator.

Evgeni Nabokov shutout Phoenix for the third straight time as the San Jose Sharks beat the Coyotes 1-0 on Friday night. It was the fourth shutout of the season for Nabokov, and the fourth-straight win for the Sharks. The Coyotes have not scored on Nabokov in just under 231 minutes. Ironically, Nabokov is the only NHL goalie to have started every single game for his team this season.

Letang - The New Zubov: It appears that the Pittsburgh Penguins may have found their shootout hero in defenceman Kris Letang. Letang scored the shootout winner against Mikka Kiprusoff in Calgary on Thursday, and then followed that up by scoring the shootout winner in Vancouver on Saturday night.

Letang is now 2-for-2 in the shootout in his NHL career. Zubov is a career 12-for-27 in his career, the best shooting defenceman with more than 25 attempts. Like the former Pittsburgh Penguin defenceman, Letang is a smooth skater with soft hands. They also wear similar numbers - Zubov wore #56 in the Steel City, and Letang wears #58. Here are Letang's two shootout goals so far.

That's a great sell, and a beautiful backhand.

Wow... another gorgeous sell, and some soft hands to finish.

I Don't Have An Agent: I have yet to find a need for one, so I haven't hired an agent. I mean, I don't do press conferences or book signings or media scrums, so I don't really need one. However, I was contacted by an agency this week, and want to bring your attention to two new links on the right-hand side.

The first is Puck Agency Blog, the blog for the agency that contacted me. Along with their blog, they have a pretty informative site under the name Puck Agency LLC. This agency is home to one of the bigger names in NHL agents, Jay Grossman. They also represent Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Zubov, and Brian Leetch.

Check out both their site and their blog. They have quite a list of stars under their purview, and are one of the bigger agencies in the NHL. I appreciate them for checking out my humble blog, and am happy to have them on my list of sites.

Personally, if there is one side of the equation in contract negotiations that always seems to receive negative views, it's the agents. Hopefully in talking with them, I can present their views a little more clearly for all.

Ok, that's all for this Sunday. Have a good one everyone! I have a review of a handheld game this week which you may want to check out, as well as a write-up on another form of hockey that is extremely popular in a Canadian city.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!