Friday 28 September 2007

Twenty Is The Number

The NHL came down with their ruling today, and Steve Downie is being forced to sit for twenty games after his hit on Dean McAmmond. It's the fifth-longest suspension handed out by the NHL, and, quite frankly, I think it sets an excellent precedent for headshots. However, I do have some concerns about this suspension which I'll outline below. The suspension, in the eyes of this writer, is suitable for the offense committed by Mr. Downie, though. While I am surprised that the NHL came down hard on Mr. Downie, it has to be seen as a positive, especially when it comes to making the game of hockey much safer for the players.

In terms of my concerns, there are a couple. Firstly, the NHL's suspension should hold true for any other league that Downie may play in. If Downie is cut by the Flyers or sent to the AHL, he should still be forced to sit out the required twenty games. If he were allowed to play in any other league without serving his required punishment time, it would make the NHL look like a powerless entity. The NHL is the elite hockey league on the planet. The NHL needs to impose its will on the rest of the hockey world if Downie gets cut from the Flyers.

Secondly, I don't think that Steve Downie should be made into an example. Rather, I think his 20-game suspension should be the mark for establishing a suspension time when it comes to headshots. Chris Simon served a 25-game suspension for his two-handed baseball swing to the head of Ryan Hollweg. In much the same way, this suspension should serve notice to the rest of the NHL players that if you want to aim for head, you're going to have a lot of time on your hands. When a single concussion can end a career, one is too many. Especially when it comes from one of your own, NHLPA.

Thirdly, I still respect Steve Downie. He apologized to McAmmond personally, and that shows class. I've never disliked Downie over the hit, and I will continue to have respect for the hard-nosed player he is. However, headshots are not part of the game, never were part of the game, and never will be part of the game. The NHL did their part of the solution with the suspension. The NHLPA, specifically NHL players, needs to sit down to discuss the benefits of not killing their own, and to discuss finding some respect for one another so that game stops giving itself black eyes.

Twenty games. That's more than enough time for Downie to understand that headshots aren't acceptable. I hope for his own sake that Steve Downie realizes that he won't be the last guy to sit out for this, but he should realize that being first only means that he will be safer in the long run.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 27 September 2007

Being Busy = More To Write

Sometimes, I find that life just sort of creeps up on you and blindsides you with a swift kick to the gut. With volleyball starting on Tuesdays, hockey starting on Fridays, and various other things that have to be done, I find my writing pace has slowed. I vow, with all of my readers as witnesses, that once the NHL season starts, I plan to go back to my intended daily writing. The off-season doesn't really give a lot of stories, so that could be part of it. In any case, HBIC (Hockey Blog In Canada, in case that acronym wasn't obvious) will be kicked into high-gear in the next three days. Get your reading glasses on because the season is long.

Oh, Steve Downie. Are you kidding me? Let's break this down in terms of the video.

At the :06 mark of the video, you can see Steve Downie break off his man as he realizes that Dean McAmmond is going around the net. At the :07 second mark, McAmmond is making his way behind the net as Downie sizes him up. At the :08 second mark, McAmmond enters an area behind the net within the trapezoid called "Death Valley". This area is where the majority of players have received concussions in the last couple of years.

Colby Armstrong on Saku Koivu. Raffi Torres on Jason Williams. Steve Downie on Dean McAmmond. These three hits have one thing in common: the hittee was coming around the net while trying to make a play, and the hitter went shoulder-to-face with the hittee.

Here's where I have a problem, and I'll draw you a clear picture of why Steve Downie should be suspended for, at minimum, 20 games, if not for an entire season:

1) He glides into the zone, and then takes three strides after breaking off his man to increase his speed.
2) He leaves his feet, thereby increasing his speed again at the point of contact.
3) He had no intention of going shoulder-to-chest by propelling himself upwards with the jump into the face of an opposing player.
4) Downie is horizontal in the air at one point, proving that, indeed, he had gained speed and power by leaving his feet.
5) By catching McAmmond with his head down, he gave McAmmond no chance to brace for a hit that drove McAmmond's head and shoulders into the boards after the hit.
6) Downie risked his own head and neck area by crashing into the boards head-first after the hit.
7) McAmmond did not have the puck at the time of the hit, making this a violent and blatent interference penalty, and should be deemed "an attempt to injure".

"The timing of this whole hit couldn't be better. We watched a video on blows to the head in training camp," McAmmond explained at Scotiabank Place on Thursday.

"For this hit to come about now, it makes it more amplified. It's up to the league that they send a message to cause guys to think about hits like that."

Look, "finishing your check" is one thing. Destroying another player's career with a headshot is another. Steve Downie, you should be ashamed of yourself. Personally, if I were the coach of the Flyers, John Stevens, I'd cut Downie from the team. He has zero respect for the game, zero respect for his peers in the game, and zero respect for the conduct that makes great players fun to watch.

"For the good of Steve Downie, he needs to be suspended for a long time," said Senators' head coach, John Paddock. "For him to be in the NHL when he's 24, the best thing for the league to do is to take it away from him for a while. We all know his history in the OHL. Hockey is the most important thing to him. So take it away from him."

Steve Downie is a hard-nosed player who plays the game with an edge. I've watched him at the World Junior Championships where he was one of the hardest-working players game in and game out. However, this is a pre-season NHL game. If you're going to "finish your checks" like that, you better be prepared to fight every game. Old-time "Broadstreet Bullies" hockey left Philly in the early-1980s. It appears that if Steve Downie makes the Flyers, old-time Flyers hockey may return.

In fact, here's the return date: Saturday, November 24, 2007. It's a Hockey Night In Canada game as well, so I'll be tuning in, especially if Downie somehow makes the Flyers this season. Brian McGrattan has already given the obligatory "you're dead" speech for the next game, so this one should be a nasty affair.

RIP, Mr. Wirtz: For all the bad things that have been said about Mr. Wirtz and his ruling over the Blackhawks, this writer is saddened by the loss of one of the men who stood for tradition in the NHL. Mr. Wirtz was responsible for the United Centre being built, and he was involved in a host of philanthropic activities in and around the Chicago area. His battle with cancer was largely overlooked by most people, but he should be remembered as a man who was passionate about the NHL. Rest in peace, Mr. Wirtz. This writer wishes your family nothing but the best.

Ve-Sieve Toskala: If you're a Leafs fan and you complained about Andrew Raycroft last season, you're probably pretty worried about this season already. Vesa Toskala got shelled by the Barney Rubble Hairpieces, and has looked pretty average so far in the pre-season. In fact, it might have been the reason why he was the backup to Nabokov in San Jose. Just don't tell John-Fergie-Junior that. He's convinced that Toskala is the answer. If the Leafs don't make the playoffs, you know who to tar, feather, and lynch... and his last name isn't Toskala. It does rhyme with Jerkuson, though.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 24 September 2007

Milestones, Notes, and Random NHL Things

Hello and saultations, readers! It's that magical time of year! The kids are back in school, the ice has been painted and prepped, and the NHL is about to kick off another season. Today's little piece of writing will deal with the milestones that can be set or broken this season, the changes to the NHL in terms of looks and rules, and some other random stuff that I thought I should include. It should be entertaining... if you like words on a screen. I'm happy to have you onboard for this look at the 2007-08 NHL season, and look forward to the drop of the puck in London, England on Saturday, September 29 between the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks and their Pacific-division rival, the Los Angeles Kings. Grab a beverage, and get settled in. We've got like a million games to watch this year if you include the AHL, the World Junior Championships, the CHL, the Spengler Cup, both the Mens' and Womens' World Championships, and the Frozen Four NCAA Tournament.

Milestones: In terms of NHL milestones this season, there are a few players looking to set new marks. Some of these are impressive, and some are surprising. In any case, here are a few milestones to keep your eyes on this season while watching the action:

- 48 victories. That's the mark set by Martin Brodeur in net last season. Can it be broken? Roberto Luongo took a run at it last season, and could very well come close to it this season if the Canucks play their normal defense-first game. Marty Turco is also a candidate for a chance at breaking Brodeur's mark, but keep your eyes on Luongo.

- 16 consecutive seasons. That doesn't sound impressive, but when you consider that the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr tied Mike Gartner's record of 15-straight seasons with 30 goals last year, you should know that this record will most likely be broken as long as Jagr stays healthy.

- 12 shutouts. That's all Martin Brodeur needs to break Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 career shutouts. He had 12 shutouts last season, and looks to follow that up with at least that many in Brent Sutter's defensively-minded system.

- 45 years. That's the age that Detroit's ageless wonder, Chris Chelios, will start the season at. His career started in 1983. Before compact discs. When computers were vacuum tubes and cost $5000 for nothing more than a brick. When there were still 21 NHL teams in four divisions. By the way, he'll move into second-place midway through the season to trail only one other player: former Detroit Red Wing and Hartford Whaler Gordie Howe.

Rule Changes: There have also been some rule changes, albeit small ones, for this upcoming season. The NHL has taken a hardline stance, it seems, against questionable hits. Here is a quick look at the four rule changes being instituted this season:

Rule No. 24: There are no more "gross" misconduct penalties. Any act deemed to be a gross misconduct will fall under the umbrella of game misconducts, and accumulation of game misconducts will result in fines and/or suspensions.

Rule No. 25: Penalty shots can now be awarded, at the referee's discretion, for fouls occurring on breakaways in the neutral zone.

Rule No. 56: Major penalties and misconducts can now be assessed for interference. Remember the hit Cam Janssen laid on Tomas Kaberle? Bodychecks occurring seconds after the play can now be given five minutes or more in the sin bin.

Rule No. 76: Faceoffs must take place at one of the nine faceoff dots on the ice. No more mid-zone faceoffs.

Jersey Changes: As you have been reading on this blog, you know there have been some jersey changes, thanks to our pals at Reebok. If you haven't seen them, feel free to scroll through the archived articles to the right. Or, if you're feeling less adventurous, click here for's uniform gallery. Don't say I didn't warn you about some of the disasters.

Expansion?: The Hockey News' Bob Duff went out on a limb in an article written in their 2007-08 Yearbook. He actually suggests that the NHL should look seriously at contraction instead of expansion. In fact, he went as far back as the original expansion of the NHL from six to twelve teams. He writes, "Expansion, in general, has brought more headaches than success stories. Beyond Philadelphia, San Jose and Columbus, every expansion market has presented the league with at least one crisis situation".

Mr. Duff is correct if you're looking at the history of the NHL, but I don't think that should be the only reason. However, Mr. Duff also tacks on this note:

"The time has come to go in the other direction. Thirty franchises is already too many. More would be mortifying. Consider 1974-75 and its major league hockey record, with 32 teams between the NHL and World Hockey Association. The hockey was brutal. Remember how bad the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts were? For sanity's sake, let's hope you don't. Instead, remember the 1980s. The NHL-WHA merger. Twenty-one teams, an odd number, but a surprisingly manageable one. Remember how exciting the hockey was? Remember the Isles? Remember the Oilers? Remember Gretzky? Less is more. Embrace the concept."

Just for argument's sake, the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts had records of 8-67-5 and 15-54-11, respectively, over the 1974-75 season. Do we really need a Las Vegas team and another Kansas City team? Mr. Duff may be right.

Predictions: According to the Hockey News, here are how the teams will play out their seasons. You can agree or disagree, but these aren't my rankings, so don't hate-mail me.

Western Conference
1. Detroit Red Wings - Central Division
2. Anaheim Ducks - Pacific Division
3. Calgary Flames - Northwest Division
4. San Jose Sharks - Pacific Division
5. Minnesota Wild - Northwest Division
6. Vancouver Canucks - Northwest Division
7. Nashville Predators - Central Division
8. Colorado Avalanche - Northwest Division
9. St. Louis Blues - Central Division
10. Chicago Blackhawks - Central Division
11. Dallas Stars - Pacific Division
12. Los Angeles Kings - Pacific Division
13. Edmonton Oilers - Northwest Division
14. Columbus Blue Jackets - Central Division
15. Phoenix Coyotes - Pacific Division

Eastern Conference
1. Ottawa Senators - Northeast Division
2. New York Rangers - Atlantic Division
3. Carolina Hurricanes - Southeast Division
4. Pittsburgh Penguins - Atlantic Division
5. New Jersey Devils - Atlantic Division
6. Tampa Bay Lightning - Southeast Division
7. Barney Rubble Hairpieces - Northeast Division
8. Atlanta Thrashers - Southeast Division
9. Philadelphia Flyers - Atlantic Division
10. Washington Capitals - Southeast Division
11. Toronto Maple Leafs - Northeast Division
12. Florida Panthers - Southeast Division
13. Montreal Canadiens - Northeast Division
14. Long Island Broncos - Atlantic Division
15. Boston Bruins - Northeast Division

Thanks, Eh!: And finally, to end this buffet of information, I want to send out a big "thank you" to Kirsten of Land Of Lakes And Hockey. She wrote me a great little thank-you note after having received a DVD copy of the Heritage Classic game that took place in 2003. Kirsten, it was my pleasure to get you a copy of that game. I'll keep reading if you keep reading. Thanks for the note, and I'll be in touch.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 21 September 2007

It's Better To Just Shut Up

The guy you see to the left is one of those Anaheim Ducks who will be flying off to start the season in London, England against the Los Angeles Kings in eight days. Chris Pronger has remained relatively unscathed on this blog mostly due to me not caring about the drama that goes on in his or his wife's lives. However, Mr. Pronger needs to a learn a valuable lesson when it comes to speaking: knowing when to shut up. He did it well when he wouldn't blame his wife for the trade out of Edmonton to a warmer climate where she can tan like she's an important member of society, and where she can spend money like it is going out of style. However, in a conference call on Thursday morning, Mr. Pronger might have taken a page out of his own book.

The Vancouver Sun posted an article about the conference call on their website. Written by Peter James, the article shows that not only does Chris Pronger never want to be a part of European hockey, he has some sort of disdain for European hockey and a possible NHL expansion to Europe. Please read Mr. James' article below.

"Chris Pronger is going to start his season in Europe this month, but he wouldn't want to start his career across the pond.

"The Anaheim Ducks defenceman believes NHL expansion to Europe wouldn't work because some North American-raised players would be unwilling to report to European teams.

"'How are you going to run the draft?' Pronger asked during a conference call Thursday. 'Are you going to take a Canadian kid and ship him off to Europe?'

"The Ducks will face off against the Los Angeles Kings in London on Sept. 29 and again on Sept. 30. They play the Canucks this Sunday.

"Pronger, 32, said the London event is a great opportunity to grow the game in a new market.

"'Obviously there's a purpose to going to England and opening the new building for the Kings owners,' he said, referring to the Anschutz Entertainment Group who own the Kings, Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy and operate the O2 arena in London.

"But Pronger believes there are too many hurdles preventing the NHL from putting teams in Europe permanently.

"For instance, he said it wouldn't be practical to create a league where European-born players play on the European teams and the North American-born players stay on this side of the Atlantic."

Mr. Pronger makes a couple of good points, but the problem I have is this one: "Are you going to take a Canadian kid and ship him off to Europe?"

I don't know if Mr. Pronger has ever heard of Teemu Selanne, Samuel Pahlsson, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jussi Markkanen, Ales Hemsky, Radek Dvorak, Jaroslav Spacek, Sergei Samsonov, Dick Tarnstrom, Pavol Demitra, Petr Cajanek, Alexander Khavanov, Ladislav Nagy, or Michal Handzus, but he should hopefully recognize some of them. After all, they were all his teammates at one point. I'm pretty sure all those players are not Canadian or American kids, but European kids who chose to cross the ocean to play hockey. Why is it wrong for Canadian kids to play in Europe, but perfectly fine for European kids to play in North America?

What about the Canadian kids who choose to go over to Europe? Are they lesser hockey players in Mr. Pronger's mind? Guys like former Stanley Cup winner Paul DiPietro, Patrick Lebeau and Kelly Fairchild chose European hockey over the North American minor-league system, and they've done fairly well for themselves. DiPietro has won as many Stanley Cups as Mr. Pronger has, so I don't think he's really missing out on anything other than the ridiculous salaries tied to NHL players.

I understand there would be benefits and drawbacks to being drafted to a European-based team if you're a Canadian kid. However, if someone wants to pay you to play hockey for a professional team, my only question would be "why aren't your bags packed". Playing hockey for money is a privilege very few people get in this world. Playing hockey for money while travelling across Europe is an opportunity even less receive. I just don't see how Mr. Pronger can criticize someone else's way of life without walking a mile in his or her shoes.

NHL hockey in Europe is still a long way off. There are problems with the IIHF and transfer agreements that the NHL needs to work out first before anything like this can even be considered. However, Mr. Pronger needs to keep his mouth shut, especially when giving an opinion like he did can ultimately hurt the NHL in Europe. Honestly, I always thought Mr. Pronger wasn't as dumb as he let on. Now, I'm convinced he's received one puck too many to his head.

Sometimes, it's better to be thought a fool rather than opening one's mouth and removing all doubt. Words to live by, indeed, Mr. Pronger.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 19 September 2007

Veteran Goaltending For Cheap

There was an interesting topic brought up last night on a Canadian hockey highlight show. The Score's team of Steve Kouleas and Steve Ludzik were running down the highlights of the Pittsburgh Penguins-Montreal Canadiens game last night, and were commenting on the two young goaltenders that Pittsburgh is set to start the season with: Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin. As Mr. Kouleas suggested, what would prevent the Penguins from going out and offering free agent goaltender Curtis Joseph $500,000 this season to mentor Marc-Andre Fleury while providing more-than-adequate backup goaltending? This is a question I gave some thought to last night, and it occurs to me that this might not be such a bad idea.

First and foremost, it occurs to me that Curtis Joseph wants to be close to his family. He has publicly stated to that his kids and family are more of a priority now than ever before. His kids were home-schooled in Phoenix, but that's no longer an option. He and his wife decided that a stable school environment would be more productive for their children.

"'They need to be around their friends. They need to be stimulated socially and at school,' Joseph said.

"Joseph's three boys, ages 13, 11 and 6, are all involved in minor hockey in the area and his daughter is heading into 11th grade. Still, if people expected Joseph to feel sorry for himself or feel he is somehow owed something, they'll be disappointed.

"If a fit with an NHL club happens this season, 'That's great, that's a bonus,' he added. 'But my life has to go on. That's the way it's going to be.'"

This is somewhat similar to the situation that Joseph's friend and former teammate Gary Roberts went through at last season's deadline. Roberts had said that he would only play for the Maple Leafs or Senators in order to be closer to his family. However, when Pittsburgh came up, Roberts decided it would work. Pittsburgh is, after all, only six hours from Toronto. Having a familiar face in Gary Roberts there may only sweeten the deal for Curtis Joseph.

Besides having a friend or two in Pittsburgh already, Joseph wouldn't have to be the starter in Pittsburgh. Having Dany Sabourin around as an alternate backup would allow Joseph to take time off for family-related matters as well. Marc-Andre Fleury could still carry the workload while learning the trade from an established NHL goalie like Joseph. This would be a win-win situation as the young Sabourin could also gain tips from one of the premiere goaltenders of the 1990s. All the while, Joseph would be a reliable backup for the young Penguins team if Fleury should falter this season. That point alone should have the Penguins writing up a contract.

Of course, it's all up to Cujo. If he felt that Pittsburgh wasn't a good fit, that's entirely his decision. I understand that Dany Sabourin may not like getting pushed to number three on the depth chart, but signing Curtis Joseph will only help his career, not hurt it. It's not like Joseph will play for another three years or more. He's 40 years-old this season, and there aren't many 40 year-old goaltenders left. Having Sabourin play in the AHL to gain some real minutes after sitting the entire season behind Roberto Luongo last year will certainly help Sabourin in the long run.

If I were GM Ray Shero, I'd be calling Curtis Joseph's agent right now. There is no harm in bringing in the guy for a look, especially at this point in his career. He has enough money to live comfortably, and the Penguins need a veteran goaltending presence to help their young goaltenders get better, and their young team remain confident. Curtis Joseph in Pittsburgh seems like a perfect fit.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 17 September 2007

Good, Bad, And Other Stuff

Sometimes, people just do things right. Other times, things get so messed up, you're better to just scrap the whole idea and start from scratch again. Such is the case with the majority of the new NHL jerseys. For the most part, there have been atrocities designed by Reebok with input from the respective NHL teams who need help. Unfortunately, the teams that are now stuck with these crimes against the eyes are the ones who needed a small tweak or slight update. Instead, common sense was thrown out the window and replaced with sheer stupidity. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a team who has adopted stupidity like stupidity is its first-born, and a team who decided that traditional looks better and should be commended for it.

The Edmonton Oilers have been one of the classier teams since its arrival to the NHL in 1979. The Oilers shot to stardom wearing these gorgeous jerseys. The orange shoulder yoke contrasting against the blue jersey was an aesthetically-pleasing scene. The Oilers took steps forward in the 1990s, and their jerseys evolved with them. Gone were the orange shoulder yoke, and Vegas gold made its way into the jersey. The darker blue was still a good contrast, though. Of course, there was the highly-popular, Todd McFarlane-designed alternate jersey which, arguably, was the best of all the alternate jerseys to date. So you'd think that the Oilers would have a lot to work with when you think about their jerseys and their history, right?

Can someone please explain to me what the hell happened to the Oilers? Aprons on the Oilers? Why? I officially will never like the Oilers again. Ever.

The Oilers still have a highly-legible font, which is good when looking for a player to hex due to their ugly jerseys and terrible play. However, if you're being charged $50 to watch the Oilers play home games in their practice jerseys, I'd want my money back. The jersey really looks bad on the goalies who will be doing all the cooking at the next barbecue. What's up with the pants striping? Again, if striping accomplishes nothing aesthetically, get rid of it. It doesn't line up at all, so it should be removed.

The part that really grabbed me on the Oilers' jerseys, though, was the placement of the letter indicating the captain and alternate captains. We were told at the Red Wings' jersey unveiling that they couldn't have the "C" and "A" on the left side due to the seams on the jersey. In fact, the exact quote reads as follows: "[t]he letters had to be moved because the new jerseys are constructed of multiple panels, more so than the old models, and there wasn’t room for them above the tip of the Winged Wheel on the left side without hitting a seam". So what's the deal here, Reebok? Is the tail wagging the dog, or were we just fed a bunch or rhetoric? I smell manure, and it's coming from Reebok's corporate offices.

Honestly, Edmonton couldn't do much more to make these jerseys worse. They will fall down the list to somewhere near the bottom. At least the Florida Panthers threw a little colour into their jerseys. It appears that Edmonton's jerseys were designed in about five minutes.

The San Jose Sharks, however, decided to go back to the future. The Sharks added hem stripes to their jerseys, and made the shoulder yoke traditional.

"Our goal was to produce a uniform that paid homage to our birth as a franchise while incorporating a few elements that are more 'now'," said President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison. "The striping on the jersey is reminiscent to our first sweaters. We increased the size of the numbers and added them to the front of the sweater, which will help our fans in identifying our players more quickly and easily. On top of all that, we are excited by the new technological innovations made by Rbk."

Ok, besides the front number stuff, the home jersey and road jersey are gorgeous. The logo, as cartoonish as it is, looks good on the traditional-style jersey, and the shoulder logo is alright too. I'm not sold on the front numbers, though. To me, that's just overkill. Sometimes, you can do too much, and that's what those numbers suggest. The rear font on the jersey is highly-legible, though, making it easy to read and easy to identify players.

Overall, the jerseys on the players look great, and the Sharks could almost be mistaken for an Original Six team with this design. The Sharks will rank in the top 15 teams for sure, and may even break into the top 10. Well done, San Jose.

I'm going to try to follow up with Reebok in regards to their conflicting stories. I also have a few other questions, but we'll see what kind of answers I get back, if anything.

The Mark Bell piece has been put on hold for now. It will appear this week once I have time to re-edit it. There's a few things I want to change, and I need to make time to do that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 15 September 2007

Six More For The Eyes

Since Thursday evening, there have been six more NHL jersey unveilings that have happened, officially or not. The teams that decided to wear their new clothes included the Anaheim Ducks in their exhibition games against the Kings, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Phoenix Coyotes, and the St. Louis Blues. Of course, some miss the mark as to what a hockey jersey is supposed to look like. In other cases, teams went way off the map. The Original Six team should be expected to stay the course, but no one was sure how the Blackhawks would end up, especially since their owner seems to enjoy screwing everything else up about the Blackhawks. In any case, let's take a look at each of the new jerseys for these six teams.

Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks really had no reason to change their jersey redesign from last season, and it appears that they didn't. The jerseys didn't change much which is good, although I wasn't a huge fan of them last season either. The striping on the socks and the sleeves is alright. The font on the back is the same as last year too, although this picture makes the Ducks appear to be wearing full-body unitards. The part of the jersey that did irritate me to no end was the jersey hemline. Why does it end? How come that side panel doesn't allow the hem stripe to wrap around it? That is the definition of stupid. The road jersey is an identical jersey to the home jersey, only in white rather than black. Another problem I've noticed is pants striping. Where the hell does this stripe start? If it starts under the jersey, why have it at all? It serves no function or purpose whatsoever.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks had one of the classiest and timeless jerseys before Reebok came long with their "new" ideas. The red Blackhawks jersey was iconic, and should be revered for its elegance and beauty. The Hawks unveiled their jerseys on Friday afternoon, and it appears that the Blackhawks understand what their logo and look means. Nothing has changed, and this gets a major thumbs-up from me. I've always been a fan of their jerseys, and own an "Amonte" Blackhawks jersey myself. The shoulder logo remains the same on the jerseys, a major highlight since it was an excellent patch already. The hem stripes and socks look good, another major highlight. Like the other Original Six teams, these jerseys are gorgeous.

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars were informed that their old jerseys weren't going to fit on the new Rbk Edge Uniform System template, and would have to redesign them. Dallas had a very recognizable jersey, and it was suitable as they are the Stars. Well, the road jersey now looks like this. If you've been reading this blog for some time, you already know I don't like the shoulder numbers. The Texas logo on the shoulder isn't bad, and I can live with that. However, these jerseys are entirely too white. They feel more like practice jerseys. The home jerseys, though, are entirely collegiate. It's a highly unique jersey in that it has no logo, but I'm sure the people of Dallas know where they live. Looks like the Stars are going to rival Vancouver and Nashville in testing their fans' knowledge of where they're from. The Stars logo on the shoulder is alright. What really scares me is the new padding that Marty Turco appears to be using this season. What's up with the gold? What happened to these pads? Or these pads? Heck, I'd even take the Reebok pads or his Michigan gear over those gold pads. Absolutely horrific to the eyes. The jerseys, however, aren't that bad, but they still don't rank that highly.

Philadelphia Flyers

Can someone remind me when the primary colour of the Philadelphia Flyers went from orange to black? I could have sworn they wore good-looking orange jerseys at some point in their existance. Well, the Flyers went black with their home jerseys again this season, basically erasing almost all the orange from their jerseys. The back font is the same as last season, but white-on-orange-on-black is nothing to be excited about. Looking at Simon Gagne from the side reminds me of those old suit jackets with the elbow patches. The road jersey appears to make Daniel Briere into some sort of storm trooper. At least the socks and road fonts look ok. Otherwise, I hate the Flyers jerseys. Just to make sure they did everything wrong, they made a mockery of Ben Franklin too. You don't humiliate history, Flyers. Ever.

Phoenix Coyotes

The Coyotes had one of the better jerseys in the NHL in recent memory. Their brick red colouring was highly-recognizable, and the howling coyote logo had replaced the whatever the heck this thing was. In any case, the Coyotes showed off their new jerseys on Friday, and they look pretty good. Granted, the jersey overall is pretty plain due to there being no hem stripe, but they are simple and elegant. The Coyotes kept their Phoenix shoulder patch from their previous jerseys. The home jersey, worn by their mascot Howler, looks pretty good too. I assume the "M" on the front of Howler's jersey stands for "mascot". Shane Doan just has an "A". Overall, these jerseys are not bad, but not great. No hem stripes are a huge loss on these jerseys.

St. Louis Blues

The Blues have always had fairly good jerseys. Their only mistake was the inclusion of red during the Mike Keenan era, but that's since been washed away. Saturday, the Blues unveiled their new jerseys, and they are less than appealing. I understand that the Blues have a colour in their name, but is there any need for the two different colours of Blue that look like fabric swatches rather than stripes? Were these jerseys made out of pieces of left-over fabric found on Reebok's floor? Oh, speaking of Reebok, thanks for highlighting your logo. We had no clue who made these jerseys. Back to the jerseys, there's no point in having the additional colour swatch below the shoulder yoke, especially when Reebok breaks up it up with their highlighted logo. Something else that caught my eye was the pants stripe. It looks stupid when the jersey is untucked, and even worse when the jersey is tucked in. Why does it stop at the hip? Why doesn't it match up with the yellow piping on the jersey? Who the heck is designing these uniforms? Paul Kariya's expression indicates he realizes he made a mistake signing with the Blues. These will not rank highly on my list.

Speaking of the list, here it is, based solely on my opinion only and in reverse-order:

25. New York Islanders - home and road.
24. Los Angeles Kings - home and road.
23. Florida Panthers - home and road.
22. Nashville Predators - home and road.
21. St. Louis Blues - home and road.
20. Atlanta Thrashers - home and road.
19. Philadelphia Flyers - home and road... and Ben Franklin.
18. Calgary Flames - home and road.
18. Vancouver Canucks - home and road.
17. Colorado Avalanche - home and road.
16. Anaheim Ducks - home and road.
15. Dallas Stars - home and road.
14. Tampa Bay Lightning - home and road.
13. Washington Capitals - home and road.
12. Phoenix Coyotes - home and road.
11. Minnesota Wild - home and road.
10. Ottawa Senators - home and road.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets - home and road.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins - home and road.
7. Carolina Hurricanes - home and road.
6. Detroit Red Wings - home only.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs - home and road.
4. New York Rangers - home and road.
3. Chicago Blackhawks - home and road.
2. Montreal Canadiens - home and road.
1. Boston Bruins - home and road.

Edmonton is supposed to show off their jerseys on Sunday. I'll keep my eye on them and post when I can. I hope to have my Mark Bell article up by Sunday night, but it still requires a little tweaking.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 14 September 2007

Look Away... I'm Hideous

Between the ridiculous jerseys of the Northwest and Southeast Divisions that have been unveiled in this offseason, the NHL and Reebok have taken a scared institution known as the hockey sweater and turned it into a laughing stock. No longer do the jerseys evoke a sense of pride and loyalty to a team. Instead, they make me ashamed and embarrassed for the NHL. I liked Minnesota's jerseys, and was nice about Colorado's recent unveiling when I could have been much more cruel. I was critical of both Vancouver and Calgary. Carolina's was a good jersey, but Washington, Tampa Bay, and Florida could have been much better.

Today was the Atlanta Thrashers' big unveiling. I'll go on record right here, right now as saying that I was never, and never will be, a fan of their baby blue alternate uniforms. Bold colours work to be intimidating. Pastel colours do not. I had hoped that Atlanta would ditch the "True Blue" crap, and stick with their original home uniforms. The Quebec Nordiques are the only team that gets a pass from this due to their history with baby blue. I've never seen a baby blue Thrasher bird before.

Well, their home uniform for this coming season has me extremely disappointed. I hate these jerseys! I hate them even more for that stupid "Atlanta" that runs down the sleeve. I ahted it last year, and it bothers me again right now. But I hate them even more than that because the hem stripe is gone from last season. Baby blue is the colour that you paint a baby boy's room. You do not dress men who play a physically violent game in a pastel colour. As unique as the colour is to hockey, it's also equally stupid.

Their road uniforms incorporate some larger aprons that some of the other teams. I'm not sure if they get extra messy at their block parties, but you rarely need an apron that big for a barbecue party. The faux elbow stripes also bother me, especially since there's a tiny white line connecting the two. Why not just connect the two ends of the stripe? Is it really that hard to do? No hem striping again on this jersey either. Why is it so hard to put a hem stripe on a jersey?

Overall, the Thrashers rank right up there with the likes of Florida and the Long Island Broncos for worst jerseys. I'm not one to ever turn off a game of hockey when watching it on TV, but I may make an exception if Atlanta's playing at home.

I plan on looking at the Mark Bell suspension this weekend. I've been going over a lot of the information out there, and getting the full story. It should be a good topic worthy of a discussion, and the points I hopefully will make should hopefully stir some comments. In any case, I'll be working on that this weekend. Also, I'll be posting the new looks of the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers this weekend, along with my commentary on them. I'll re-rank the unveiled jerseys as well.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 13 September 2007

Gag Order On Buds' Photos

I've always known that the Toronto Maple Leafs were a little different. Their fans can be downright rabid, including the foaming at their mouths. They have an intense following where ever they go. Their battles with the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators make the rest of hockey look tame. However, it puzzles me why they have to be so different when it comes to their website, and, in particular, their new jerseys. Their website only offers the video of the unveiling, and they have yet to put up a picture gallery. What is going on in Leafs-Land that they can't get images of the new jerseys on their site?!?

In any case, I found this picture of the new Maple Leafs jerseys on their site... the only one to be found. I'll do my examination from a few pictures I got from Toronto newspapers, thanks to the Leafs seemingly putting a gag order on all photographers so that LeafsTV can capitalize. Aaron Lynett of The Toronto Star had this photo published. Veronica Henri of Sun Media had this photo published in The Toronto Sun.

Anyway, here's my take. The Leafs jerseys look good. The silver is gone, leaving only the famous blue-and-white. The logo they have worn for the last 22 years remains the same, and that's a good thing. The two elbow stripes look good, and the font appears to be the same as last season.

Drawbacks include the loss of hem striping and the cuff stripe. Why would Reebok or the Maple Leafs want a cuff stripe at the end of the sleeve? No one will even see it as a player's gloves cover that portion of the jersey. These drawbacks aren't huge or anything, but they are noticeable.

Overall, the Buds are in the Top 5 for their jerseys. The jerseys are elegant, simple, and classy in their design. The Original Six teams have gotten the new jerseys right, and all have been impressive so far. The Leafs could have done worse, if you know what I mean.

Today should also see the Atlanta Thrashers coming out with their new jerseys. If it follows the trend, they could be horrifically bad. We'll have to see.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 12 September 2007

An Avalanche Against Common Sense

I have been extremely harsh in regards to the Northwest Division so far. The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames ranked low on my list of favorite new jerseys due to their complete stupidity when it came to obvious things: the city's name, and the provincial and national flags. However, the Northwest Division made strides at becoming more respectable when the Minnesota Wild showed off their new jerseys. They're simple and elegant - what a hockey jersey should be. Today, another Northwest Division team showed off their new jerseys. The Colorado Avalanche had a quick fashion show this morning. Let's check out what they looked like.

The Avalanche's new home jersey was modelled by John-Michael Liles. They look somewhat like last season's jerseys, although the hem striping is gone and the piping now follows the seams on the jerseys. The problem is that the road jersey looks like the players are wearing aprons again, only they have a burgandy one AND a white one. Perhaps the NHL is leaving the Versus channel for FoodTV?

The side panels on the side are little distracting, but overall don't really detract from the jersey. I still don't understand why they have to be the contrasting colours of the team's colour scheme, but at least there aren't any ridiculous designs... unlike the panelling on some teams. Even the road jersey's side panels look ok.

The font on the back is still the same, but I have a problem with the broken shoulder yoke again. Does Reebok have to do this? They did it to the Florida Panthers as well, and I am still not a fan of that idea. However, the Avalanche kept their font, and that's good as I was a fan of it as well.

All in all, not the best jersey produced by the Colorado Avalanche. They didn't do too much in terms of improvements, but their recognizable logo didn't change at all. They'll fall somewhere in the middle-to-the-bottom of the new jerseys. I really wish they had kept their bottom stripes, but that's asking for too much, I suppose. Enjoy your aprons, Avalanche fans.

Also being unveiled today are the new jerseys for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As soon as I have some photos, I'll post them in a new article.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 10 September 2007

The NHL Is Jason Bourne

I have always been fond of articles and stories that dive into the NHL's identity problem in the United States of Capitalism. Normally, there are comparisons made to the other three major professional sports leagues about how the NHL is gaining ground, and how the NHL is playing to packed houses, and how the NHL is on solid ground. The normal retraction to this is that the game has been watered-down and the talent pool just isn't what it once was back in the heady days of the 1980s. Of course, the real "die-hards" call for contraction of the teams with lower than expected attendance, most notably in the Sunbelt States. The problem is that the NHL itself has an identity problem. Much like the Robert Ludlum character named Jason Bourne, the NHL can tell you who they are, but not much else. This is where the NHL's problem lies in the United States. Allow me to expand on this in the next few paragraphs.

The NHL knows it has a safehouse in Canada. Canadian teams were responsible for 40% of the income that was generated by the NHL last season. That's six teams generating two-fifths of the entire NHL's income. I'm no economist or math wizard, but it appears that 24 teams are responsible for 60% of the income last season, making each American-based team responsible for 2.5% of the remaining money that the NHL made. I'm almost certain that each team can handle making 2.5% of the NHL's income through merchandise sales. If they cannot, they have a problem.

The NHL has a real problem on its hands with the new Rbk Edge Uniform System merchandise pricing. When CCM held the team merchandise contract, you could buy a semi-pro jersey in Canada for anywhere between $80 to $100, and an authentic jersey for anywhere between $200 to $250. Rbk Hockey has now shifted the game away from the people who keep the gate-driven league of the NHL in the black ink. An ARE-BEE-KAY replica jersey now costs $150 US, and the authentic on-ice jerseys sell for an outrageous $350 US. Does this new technology cost that much to design, test, and market? I'm a blue-collar worker with a modest salary. I can't afford to plop down $350 for my team. It would be even worse if I was married and had kids.

In this case, the NHL is losing out on major merchandising sales due to their partnership with Reebok. The NHL is a gate-driven league. It relies heavily on its fans to keep its ledgers on the positive side, and it does this through ticket sales and merchandising. By taking one of the larger-priced items of clothing out of the hands of NHL fans by increasing the price, the NHL's pocketbook should see a decrease in revenue this season. Will Gary Bettman spin it as a loss? Heck, no. His statistics will be about increased merchandise sales, and how teams across the board have sold more merchandise than the previous years. The only problem is that with all the new looks that teams are unveiling, there should be obvious merchandise increases in some areas. The overall dollar value, I suspect, will not be the same.

In following the trend of less jerseys being bought, there will be a notable loss of relating to a team. In NHL cities across Canada, I'd guess that one of every three people who go to NHL games owns an NHL jersey. Everyone knows what team you support when you wear it because of the logo and image. If the NHL doesn't alter its pricing of the jerseys so that the fans can afford to buy the merchandise again, the NHL will be forced to re-invent itself all over again in as little as five years as merchandise sales flounder. With ticket prices on the rise (in some cases, ticket costs are skyrocketing), the NHL is starting to find itself back in the same position it was before the lockout - too expensive for the average fan to care.

Carter Gaddis of the Tampa Tribune also looked at the problem with the NHL in the United States. He interviewed Gary Thorne, the long-time voice of the NHL on ESPN before ESPN became more Hollywood than sports. Mr. Thorne states:

"My first reaction is, and I've said this for the last 20 years, I wish the NHL would stop trying to compare itself to the other so-called 'Big Three' sports in this country," said ESPN's longtime voice of the NHL, Gary Thorne, who now calls Orioles baseball games as well as other sports including the NCAA Frozen Four on ESPN. "It's not going to be that. It doesn't have to be that. It shouldn't be striving for that. It's a great sport as it is. Highly successful as a gate-driven league. Take what you have and make it as good as it can be.

"But stop drawing comparisons with the other three sports. Once you start that with attendance numbers, television ratings... you're going to look bad. Why do you do that as a league? And they do."

Mr. Thorne is absolutely right. The NHL always tries to highlight the great players they have playing from all walks of life and all backgrounds, yet they always try to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to corporate comparisons. The NHL can't sell itself until it separates itself from the other leagues' statistics.

The NHL is unique. It has very little problems in terms of its image, unlike the NFL's recent dog-fighting scandal, MLB's steroid scandals, and the NBA's gangster-thug image. It is the fastest game played by human beings. It is beautiful and graceful while being brutal and violent. The athletes work hard in their communities to grow the game, and represent their respective countries when called upon in international play. No other league has this kind of uniqueness. And no other league fails to mention their positives as much as the NHL does.

The NHL, right now, reminds me of Jason Bourne from The Bourne Identity. He's awake, he knows who he is, but he can't remember anything else. He keeps pushing for answers only to find himself in more perilous situations. He won't let anyone get close to him because he doesn't know himself well enough, nor does he know where to start looking.

The NHL needs to stay ahead of the curve by being innovative. Partnering with YouTube and Slingbox, as well as offering broadband video and highlights on their own site, have helped in drawing in the MySpace and Facebook tech-savvy crowds to a degree. Bringing ESPN back into the mix as early as 2008-09 will definitely help the NHL's cause. Retaining TV contracts with such companies as TSN and CBC will help keep the game strong where those stations can be seen.

Most of all, the NHL needs to redefine their economics. Stop raising prices. Stop increasing the salary cap. Stop trying to be something you're not. The NHL is its own unique brand of entertainment just as much as horror movies are or ballet is. The best part of it all is that hockey, in its own uniqueness, can breath-taking, dramatic, and exciting all in the same moment.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 7 September 2007

Canes Country

The Carolina Hurricanes held a press conference yesterday to show off their new uniforms. Thanks to EA Sports' NHL 08, we had a pretty good idea as to what the new uniforms were going to look like as they leaked the photos a while back. Having Eric Staal as their featured player on the cover probably didn't help to keep the jerseys under wraps, but he's going to be a great player for years to come. I'd say it's a fair trade. In any case, the Hurricanes invited the press down to their arena for the press conference and some tea and cookies. Bubba, from Canes Country, is not a member of the press, but he did send me the newspaper's story from Raleigh. Here it is.

RALEIGH — When the NHL finally unveiled its new Reebok uniforms at the All-Star Game, two years of teeth-gnashing over the potential changes came to naught when the new "Rbk EDGE Uniform System" turned out to look a lot more traditional than some of the prototypes.

(Hurricanes players still cringe at the day Eric Staal modeled a skin-tight uniform complete with tucked-in jersey.)

Thursday, when the Hurricanes unveiled their version of the new uniform, a similar reaction occurred. The only significant change is contrasting piping along the shoulders and a patch honoring the team's 10th season in North Carolina.

Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford said back in January that the team didn't intend to make any changes to the team's look or logo.

The assembled players (Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Justin Williams and Cam Ward, the latter a late replacement for Eric Staal, who is attending an EA Sports event in Toronto on Friday) were pleased to see the Canes stayed true to that intention.

"I like the fact we didn't get too far away from the traditional look that we've always had," Hurricanes forward Erik Cole said. "I don't know if it's going to make me any faster out there. If they say it will, we'll just have to believe them."

Progress isn't cheap. The jerseys will go on sale on Sunday, Sept. 16, at the Caniac Carnival. (The Canes will wear them for the first time against the Washington Capitals that afternoon.)

Authentic models retail for $250, replicas for $120. The 10th anniversary patch is an extra $20, and if you're shelling out for the real thing on Day 1, it's tough to pass that up. So basically, if you want what the Canes wear on the ice, you're looking at $270 plus personalization.

Thanks for the article, Bubba!

Now, in regards to the new jerseys, I'll break them down a little more. The home jersey looks a lot like like last year's jersey, as stated above. The white shoulder yoke piping is noticeable, but it doesn't detract from the overall aesthetics of the jersey. The rear of the home jersey looks similar to last season as well, meaning anyone with an old jersey won't look out of place.

The road jerseys look just as good as the home jerseys do. The striping on the jerseys look good, and I am especially happy with the Hurricane warning flag stripe being incorporated in the jerseys. The rear of the jersey looks good, but the numbers look slightly too big on both uniforms. However, that's a minor blip on the radar screen when it comes to these jerseys.

The Hurricanes will be wearing a new shoulder logo this season as well. The secondary logo looks good on the shoulder. The Hurricanes will also be celebrating their 10th anniversary in Carolina as stated above. The patch on the jerseys looks pretty good. The "X" in the patch could be a little smaller, but I can live with this.

These jerseys look good. I am happy that Carolina didn't try and overdo anything by adding half-stripes or side panels or apron outlines. Carolina will still rank high on the scale of new jerseys. Good work, Hurricanes!

The Minnesota Wild also gave us a quick peek at their new jerseys today. I have to say that they look similar to last season, and that's good as I was a fan of their look. The alternate red jersey is their new home jersey as sales of that uniform were way ahead of the sales of the green jersey. These jerseys still feel like Minnesota hockey, and that's good.

Here are the jersey-aesthetics rankings, according to me and only me, in reverse-order.

17. New York Islanders - home and road.
16. Los Angeles Kings - home and road.
15. Florida Panthers - home and road.
14. Nashville Predators - home and road.
13. Calgary Flames - home and road.
12. Vancouver Canucks - home and road.
11. Tampa Bay Lightning - home and road.
10. Washington Capitals - home and road.
9. Minnesota Wild - home and road.
8. Ottawa Senators - home and road.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets - home and road.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins - home and road.
5. Carolina Hurricanes - home and road.
4. Detroit Red Wings - home only.
3. New York Rangers - home and road.
2. Montreal Canadiens - home and road.
1. Boston Bruins - home and road.

There's the updates. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 5 September 2007

The Best Of The New

Everyone reading this knows what a tuxedo looks like. We're all aware of the tuxedo's elegance when worn properly. For a man, it makes him look sophisticated and confident. The one thing that the tuxedo has never needed was flash and flair. The simplest of tuxedoes looks fashionable and in-style. This is what the new NHL jerseys should have been modelled after. We've seen some ugly designs from the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Calgary Flames. On the other side, those that have stayed simple and true have looked heads-and-shoulders above the other teams. Boston, Montreal, the New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh have all accomplished that.

Pittsburgh, you ask? Yes, the Penguins. The Penguins introduced their new jerseys today at, of all places, a mall's food court. A number of Pittsburgh citizens came out to see players such as Ryan Whitney, Maxime Talbot, and Brooks Orpik strut their stuff along the stage in their new uniforms. For once, this writer is impressed with what Pittsburgh didn't do.

The Pittsburgh Penguins unveiled these jerseys today at the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills. I had made mention of the Penguins' new uniforms way back on July 29th in the Clothes Make The Man article. I had shown off this image of the home jersey and this image of the road jersey that had been leaked on the Internet. I believe the leaked photos were, in fact, the real thing.

In looking at the home jersey, the Penguins didn't go off the board whatsoever. The jersey is neat and tidy, and has no stupid half-stripes, no ridiculous patches, and no horrendous piping. This is how the new NHL jerseys should look. This is a perfect example of what the new Rbk Edge jerseys should look like. The rear of the jersey is just as good-looking, and the font is identical to what was used last season.

The road jerseys are simple and clean as well. Aside from having a little too much Vegas Gold on the jerseys, there is nothing wrong with these new uniforms. The logo is the still the recognizable Skating Penguin as it should be. The rear of the road jersey is just as classy and elegant as the home jersey as well.

This writer is a huge fan of these new Penguins jerseys. If the Original Six teams were supposed to stay traditional, the Penguins stole a page out of their books. The new jersey is almost identical to last season's jersey which were bought at a staggering pace, due in part to a few kids named Crosby, Staal, Malkin, and Fleury. Thank you, Pittsburgh, for showing sanity in a somewhat-crazy time in the NHL's history. Two thumbs way up for these new uniforms.

In other news:

- please welcome Bubba as a new blog correspondant. Bubba is the writer of Canes Country, which has been added to the Hockey Blog section to the right. He's volunteered to report on the Hurricanes, and I am more than happy to have him as a colleague! Welcome, Bubba, and I recommend you all stop by his blog to get your Carolina Hurricanes updates!

- the AHL has taken a different approach to the jersey unveilings than their richer affiliate in the NHL. The AHL has set up a page where you can view all the Rbk Edge AHL Uniforms at once, rather than looking for cryptic clues as to when your favorite AHL team will be unveiling their new duds. Ok, there are two pages, but you can see any AHL team's new uniforms in one convenient place. Good job, AHL! This is yet another reason where the NHL should be following the AHL's lead.

- Canada handed out a thorough beating last night to the Russians, hammering them in Game Five by a score of 8-1. Game Six ended up a little better, but the Canadians now lead ther series 6-0 after defeating the Russians 4-1. The highlight for the Russians tonight is that they played much better than the night before, and Semen Varlamov had a pretty good game in net. Game Seven goes Friday night in Red Deer, Alberta where the arena is already sold out. It should be another beauty game!

After Carolina unveils their jerseys tomorrow, I will try to give a recap on all of them. The problem is that there seems to be an unveiling everyday. I'll try to put one together by this weekend at the latest. Good job today, Penguins. I'll enjoy watching you next season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Polar Opposites

Today, as you may have read, was the unveiling of two Canadian NHL teams' new uniforms. The Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames were slated for today, and they have kept their word, despite Calgary pulling all evidence off their website at the time of this writing. As you may have seen in previous articles, the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings have kept their jerseys quite traditional in sticking with the Original Six theme. I expected Montreal to do the same, but it's hard to tell what may come about in this Brave New NHL World. In any case, let's take a look at two teams who went in opposite directions down a one-way fashion street.

As I did with the Islanders' unveiling, we'll start with the bad. Or, in this case, the horrendous. It was announced in January of last year that the entire NHL would be changing to the new Rbk Edge Uniform System. Since that time there has been plenty of speculation, plenty of talk and plenty of renderings of the potential 2007-08 Flames jersey floating around on the Internet, although the Canucks seemed to have dominated the searches I have seen.

"Nobody has it nailed from what I've seen," Flames' president Ken King said, regarding the new uniforms. His quote appeared in an interview with the Calgary Herald on August 23rd.

"There are some visibly noticeable differences with the new jerseys," says Kevin Lawton, FanAttic director of retail. "But the overall look will be similar to the ones we have now."

Well, if we're calling a spade "a spade", Mr. Lawton was close. Mr. King was also right that nobody nailed it. That's because the new Flames jerseys are not what people want to see.

The Calgary Flames will be rolling out these jerseys tonight, and they are not all that bad if you look at them straight-on. They look almost exactly like last season's jerseys, and that's good... until they move.

I will always hate jerseys that break-up a hem stripe with side panelling. What's the purpose of the hem stripe if it doesn't run continuously around the jersey? Just get rid of it if you want to overlap it with something else! Why have the side panelling at all if it doesn't serve a purpose other than to fade into seam piping? Who is designing these jerseys?

Not to be outdone by any of the other teams with shoulder patches, the Flames went way out on a limb and discovered that Calgary is a part of Canada. I guess the Northwest Division thinks all their fans are either stupid or brain-dead because apparently Calgary needs to remind us they're a Canadian team whether at home or on the road in the same way that Vancouver needs to remind us where they're from whether at home or on the road.

According to the Flames, they want to show that they're proud Canadians by wearing this patch. I guess the other five Canadian NHL teams aren't as proud as the Flames are. If you ask me, it reeks of unoriginality as I seem to remember some mid-season event putting flags on their sleeves or chest to show the country of origin of the player. Not only are the Flames playing for the logo on their chest and the city they are based in, but now they are representing an entire country. I don't know how the Americans, Swedes, Finns, and Russians on the Flames' team feel about representing Canada, but Jarome Iginla must be happy.

To balance out the Canada flag patch, the Flames affixed an eyesore of a patch to the left shoulder. The Province of Alberta flag will be proudly displayed for all those who have no clue what the flag is, what it means, or why the Flames are wearing it. Every single time someone sees it, the question of "what is that" will be asked. And it will have to be explained to everyone what it is. Over and over again. I guess if the Flames are Canada's proudest team, they should also be Alberta's proudest team.

Just in case the Flames and the NHL forgot, there are two teams in Alberta. Yes, the Oilers were a bad team last year, but how can they be forgotten? I guess Northern Alberta is in a different province now.

These jerseys are downright stupid. Choosing those two shoulder patches makes zero sense, and aren't visually-pleasing. The colour scheme is fine, but the hem stripe is ruined by the ridiculous side panelling. Calgary is challenging the Islanders, Kings, Panthers and Predators for worst jersey in the NHL.

However, all hope cannot be lost as we go from the North-stupid Division to their polar opposites, the fashion-conscious Northeast Division where the Montreal Canadiens keep the trend going of being classy and simple.

The Canadiens rolled out, with little fanfare, their new jerseys, and I have to say that I like them. A lot. Really a lot. Again, tradition gets huge marks on this blog, and the Canadiens have remained true to their past with these new jerseys.

The logo is still the familiar C-with-H for the Les Habitants. No changes were made there, and that's a very good thing. The Canadiens' logo is timeless and representative of the Canadiens' name and brand. This logo should never change for any reason at any time.

The home jersey is still regal-looking, and looks great with the midsection stripe. No matter how the jerseys have changed from year-to-year or from decade-to-decade, the red Canadiens' jersey is iconic because it has virtually remained the same. Huge marks for not changing anything about these beautiful jerseys except the hem striping. That can be overlooked.

The road jersey is nearly identical to the jersey worn by the Canadiens last season. Again, big marks for not changing anything except the hem stripe.

Montreal is right up there with Boston and the New York Rangers in terms of their looks. If people have any wonder why these teams are so popular, it's because they stick with a design and don't change it like they're changing their underwear. Huge marks for Montreal today. I'm not speaking of Calgary as it was painful enough once.

Tomorrow is Pittsburgh's unveiling, so I'll be sure to update on those. I'll have a full recap after Pittsburgh unveils their new jerseys, and then we'll look at the remaining teams as we wait for training camp to break.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 3 September 2007

16 To Go

Having seen 14 teams unveil their new Rbk Edge Hockey Uniforms, the next wave starts tomorrow as the last 16 teams show off their new jerseys so fans can dig into their wallets and fork over more cash to support their local teams. While some jerseys have been designed well (Boston, Ottawa), others have left a bad taste in the mouths of hockey fans (NY Islanders, Los Angeles). With the last 16 teams preparing for their unveilings, here are the known dates for which we, as hockey fans, have to be prepared.

Calgary Flames - September 4 (website movie teaser here)
Montreal Canadiens - September 4
Pittsburgh Penguins - September 5
Minnesota Wild - September 7 and 15
Toronto Maple Leafs - September 12
Atlanta Thrashers - September 13
Chicago Blackhawks - September 14
Dallas Stars - September 14
Phoenix Coyotes - September 15
St. Louis Blues - September 15
Carolina Hurricanes - September 16
Colorado Avalanche - September 16
Edmonton Oilers - September 16
Philadelphia Flyers - September 16
San Jose Sharks - September 17

Again, I am looking for correspondants. If anyone is going, please contact me, and I'll give you full credit for the work you do. Leave me a message in the comments.

I'll have a full recap of the first 14 jerseys tomorrow before Calgary and Montreal add to the list. I'll rank them how I saw them and give you insight as to why each team was ranked where they were.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 1 September 2007

Super Series?

Having watched Game Four of the Super Series today, I have come to realize that the Russians are either poorly coached, poorly prepared, or a combination of both. I suspect the latter mainly because it appears that the Russians are more concerned with showing off their individual talents rather than playing as a team. The Canadians, meanwhile, have dominated the series in terms of offence, puck control, and physicality. While I'm not suggesting that the series hasn't been entertaining, I don't think this is what Vladislav Tretiak had in mind when he proposed this idea. For all that has been said or done, the Canadians have dominated the Russians at every turn in the four games in Russia. Does anyone suspect that the Canadians will play less aggressively at home?

First, is there any doubt that Sergei Nemchinov was the wrong choice as head coach of the young Russian team? I'm not saying Mr. Nemchinov doesn't know the game. Heck, he played in the NHL for 12 years and won two Stanley Cups. What I am suggesting is that he isn't the motivator that a guy like Brent Sutter is.

The Russians played better today in shutting down the cycle game of the Canadians in the corners. They were more aggressive coming into the offensive zone, and worked the puck well down low. The Russians, however, are still extremely soft in front of their own net, and generally refuse to play physically against the Canadians. If you haven't seen it, here's David Perron's goal from Game Two.

Can someone explain to me how David Perron walked around the defender and scored from inside the crease without getting laid out? I think Mr. Nemchinov was a poor choice as a coach for this series, especially going up against a coach like Mr. Sutter who is relentless in his team's preparation for this kind of action.

As for the players, there is a distinct lack of teamwork on the Russian side. I'm not sure if it's frustration or whatever, but it seems that all the Russians want to do is go one-on-two with the Canadian defenders. The Canadian defenders are big, mobile, and physical. The Russians would be wise to use their speed along the wings and work the puck to the front of the net with some passing. It happened a few times in today's game, and the Russians had some solid scoring chances. Mr. Nemchinov needs to have his team play to their strengths more because the Canadians are exposing their weaknesses as it stands right now.

The Russian goaltending has kept the games respectable in terms of scores, and this is a nod towards the three Russian goalies. Semen Varlamov, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Vadim Zhelobnyuk have withstood the waves of Canadian attacks and kept their team in all of the games except Game Three. Kudos to the Russian goalies for doing all they can.

The Russians have been granted permission to add three players in the wake of the injuries they've had. The replacements are Victor Tikhonov, who is the grandson of the former Soviet hockey team head coach, Viktor Vasilevich Tikhonov, and two players who were in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season: Kirill Tupulov of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Ruslan Bashkirov of the Quebec Remparts. Bashkirov is a draft pick of the Ottawa Senators. Perhaps these three players will inject a little life into the Russian team.

The series shifts to Winnipeg for Game Five where a win or tie would clinch the series for the Canadians. Canada will wear the red 1972-style jerseys in Winnipeg on Tuesday. If anyone thinks the Canadians will let up, think again. Pride is on the line now that the Canadians are at home.

For instance, Brent Sutter is looking to extend his International Junior Team coaching record beyond his current mark of 16-0. He's coached two World Junior Championship winning teams, and is making his mark on this series. The Canadians are looking to leave their mark on the Russians as well as some of these players will be seeing each other again at this year's World Junior Championship. There will be no let up from the Canadians to be sure.

Game Five goes Tuesday night from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg at 8pm ET on TSN and broadband.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!