Monday, 30 June 2008

Free Agency Eve

With July 1 looming in front of the hockey world, there has been plenty of movement in the NHL to lockup free agent talent before the market opens tomorrow. Phones have been busy, and players have been scrawling their signatures to contracts for huge, and sometimes ridiculous, salaries. With that in mind, it's time to prepare for the second biggest day in player movement over the course of the year. Get your phones lined up, sit your agent down, and hang on. This year's free agency period looks to be a wacky free agent season.

  • The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings swung a deal yesterday. The Oilers send forward Jarret Stoll and defenceman Matt Greene to the Kings for defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky is an excellent powerplay quarterback, and should solidify the point when the Oilers have the man-advantage. If paired with Sheldon Souray, Visnovsky could be the trigger man that Souray so desperately needed last season. I don't understand why Lombardi would trade his, arguably, best defenceman for an underachiever and a sixth-man, but it seems this is a salary purge as Stoll is a free agent next season, and Greene the season after.
  • Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts are now officially members of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malone signed a seven-year, $31.5 million deal with the Lightning, while Roberts signed an incentive-based, one-year deal for $1.25 million. The incentive is that for every game he appears in, he will receive a $10,000 bonus. If he plays in all 82 games next season, his salary could top out at $2.07 million. The strangest part is that the Malone deal is front-heavy as Malone will earn between $7 million and $8 million for the first two seasons. Isn't this the same reason they traded Brad Richards - too much money between four players? It now appears the Dan-Boyle-to-someone rumours will become reality if Boyle is willing to waive his no-trade clause. According to George Bazos, Boyle's agent, that is highly unlikely to happen. Is it just me, or has Tampa's payroll increased to about $100 million this offseason?
  • In more insane Tampa Bay news, the Lightning traded a conditional draft pick in 2009 or 2010 to the Wild to acquire exclusive negotiating rights with UFA Brian Rolston. While I understand that the Lightning are trying to be aggressive in the free agent market, how do they expect to pay for all these players under the current cap system? And why trade for a guy who stated that he was going to test the market no matter what?
  • Just because it needs to be said, I respect TSN's coverage of all things hockey. However, their beat writers need to take more time in reviewing their work, and their editors need to spend more time reviewing facts. Apparently, Brian Rolston started his NHL career when he was 13 years old if you believe TSN's information. Rolston is 35, not 25.
  • Add a few more names to the free agent pool. Alexei Zhitnik and Duvie Westcott have been bought out by the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively, and are now free agents. Denis Gauthier of the Philadelphia Flyers was placed on waivers after playing all last season in the AHL, and will reportedly be bought out as well.
  • Former New York Islanders goaltender Wade Dublielewicz has signed a deal to play in Russia next season with Ak Bars Kazan. The Islanders had offered Dublielewicz a $500,000 contract, but it is believed his contract with the CHL-R team is worth much more. Joey MacDonald has a one-way deal with the Isles this season, forcing Dublielewicz to start the season in the AHL with Bridgeport. That was something the veteran goalie was not willing to do, and may have forced his hand in signing with Ak Bars Kazan.
  • The Flyers, just days after acquiring defenceman Steve Eminger at the NHL Entry Draft, have signed the 24 year-old to a one-year contract. Eminger should fit nicely in Philadelphia alongside their current defencemen, in my opinion, and should provide another good defensive defenceman to help replace Jason Smith.
  • While there has been little activity from Joe Sakic's camp in regard to the Avalanche re-signing the star, the Avs did sign a couple of key defencemen who were heading towards free agency. John-Michael Liles signed a four-year, $16 million deal while Adam Foote signed a two-year deal worth $6 million. These signings bring back two important pieces of a defensive unit that looked to have more holes than swiss cheese entering this free agency period.
  • The Florida Panthers re-signed RFA Rostislav Olesz to a six-year, $18.75 million deal. Olesz has been a perennial underachiever, but looked to be having a break-out season last year before injuring his hand. He is a career +1 player despite never appearing in the playoffs, and playing on some brutal Panthers teams. They may have overpaid, but it appears that Rusty will be counted on for some scoring this season with this new contract, more so than in the past.
  • From the "insanely stupid" file, a number of parents have been banned from the Bell Sensplex in Kanata, Ontario after they were involved in a brawl at a hockey tournament for five year-olds. The Bell Sensplex is managed by Capital Sports Management, an affiliate of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Club, and they have banned the select parents from entering the arena after one parent was left with a broken nose. A witness stated that the "parents began shoving and punching each other after a referee called a penalty shot in the last minute of the game". You can see the CBC video report here in Quicktime format. Seriously, what the heck is wrong with people? Fighting at a tournament for five year-olds?!? Grow up, people. Try setting a good example for your children.
  • Some more good news for Sherry of Scarlett Ice. The British equivalent of Wayne Gretzky has decided to return to the Manchester Phoenix for a third season. Tony Hand, the only British-born player who was entirely trained in his home country to have been chosen in the NHL Entry Draft, will return this season as a player/coach. To date, the British phenom has recorded "3,659 points, including 1,380 goals, in 1,260 games. In 57 IIHF-sanctioned international tournament games, he's racked up an even 100 points for Team Great Britain". If that's not enough, "[i]n his best season, he averaged a hat trick per game en route to racking up an astounding 105 goals and 216 points in a mere 35 matches". That's a ridiculous average of 6.17 points-per-game! Good luck to the Manchester Phoenix and Mr. Hand this season! And good luck to you as well, Sherry!
Ok, that's everything for today. Tomorrow will have the free agency recap as everyone prepares for money to be thrown around like it is going out of style. More charitable organizations coming up this week as well, so tune in for those to see who is helping his community!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Charitable Donations: Mike Fisher Foundation

Hockey Blog In Canada has examined a number of charitable organizations over the past few weeks, and we've seen some excellent work done by NHL players in assisting the communities that helped make them celebrities. Today's charitable organization is no different in that a local NHL player is making a difference in his community. Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators has started the Mike Fisher Foundation in Ottawa. Through his foundation, he has started the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp which goes to serve the Eastern Ontario region's minor hockey programs, as well as supporting a number of other charities.

Mission Statement: From their website, "Our mission is to help minor hockey players of this region 'complete' their game. This required focus, strong work ethic, and a desire to improve. No matter what age or level a player is at, these are the building blocks of success. The MFHC program is designed to nurture these attributes without forgetting the most important thing of all, having fun!"

The Mike Fisher Foundation explains the mission a little more. "The Mike Fisher Hockey Camp is a not-for-profit camp. Our commitment is two-fold; to serve the minor hockey community of greater Ottawa by providing a first-class summer hockey program and to financially support regional charities."

The Mike Fisher Hockey Camp and Foundation are helping children reach their full potential by teaching them how hard work translates into great success.

How Did The Mike Fisher Hockey Camp Start?: This is the inaugural year of the hockey camp, so you're basically getting in at the ground level with this organization. There are several levels of the program, meaning that no matter what age group your son or daughter is in, there's a place for him or her to play.

A typical day at the camp starts at 8:00am with on-ice training. At 10am, the skaters move to dry land training. At 11am, the students move into a classroom setting where a professional coach or player will provide additional training. At noon, the students have an hour lunch break. There's recreation time from 1pm until 2pm, followed by an one-ice hockey tournament from 2pm until 4pm. That sounds like a pretty good day of hockey in the summer to me! The recreation time is normally a trip to the pool for some fun in the water which is perfect for summer fun.

Lunch is provided by Capones Catering Service in Ottawa, and they provide some very healthy and tasty options for lunch. Monday's entrée is a hamburger. Tuesday features a turkey-cheese pita-wich. Wednesday offers lasagne. Thursday's lunch special is a chicken sub. And Friday is hotdog day!

The Mike Fisher Foundation ensures that 100% of all proceeds make it to various charities in Eastern Ontario. Two of those charities are the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada, and Roger's House, which provides pediatric palliative care with the objective of enhancing the comfort and quality of life for children and their families. Clearly, the Mike Fisher Foundation is working to help children in all capacities in the Ottawa area.

How Can I Help?: As it stands right now, the novice camp is full for players, but there are openings for the novice goaltenders. The atom division has 34 spots open for players, as well as openings for goaltenders. The peewee division has three player spots open, and goaltender positions are available. If you'd like to register your son or daughter, please fill out the form, and mail it in. The mailing address is at the bottom of this article as well as on the form itself. The cost for the week-long camp is $425 per child, and they start on July 21, 2008.

However, there is a way for you to win a spot at the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp. The Mike Fisher Hockey Camp has teamed up with to offer up ten spots to the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp. The contest closes on July 4, 2008 so please enter as soon as possible if you're interested.

"iPLAYHOCKEY is a hockey based web company that represents the interests of hockey players of all ages. It offers unique promotions and affordable services to the hockey community in Canada. iPLAYHOCKEY’s official launch will be August, 2008". The website already has a pile of information which can be used by anyone, and I encourage you to check out the site.

If you have any questions about the Mike Fisher Hockey Camp, I encourage you to email the foundation directly at info-at-mikefisherhockeycamp-dot-ca. They'll be able to answer any and all questions regarding the camp, as well as the foundation. If you have any questions regarding iPLAYhockey's initiatives, please contact Angela Murdock via telephone at (613) 745-1352, or via email at angela-at-iplayhockey-dot-ca.

The Mike Fisher Foundation, the NHLPA, and the foundation's namesake, Mike Fisher, are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Saturday's Roundup

Being that it's Saturday today, I figured I should probably look at doing some poking around on the Internet for some stories to expose. I know there are a lot, so this will be a combination of blog-walking and mainstream news stories to give you a full perspective on what's been happening around those that cover the great sport of hockey. There's a lot of news, so let's get the ball rolling on this weekend roundup of news!

Back on March 12, 2008, I did a piece on Dan Cloutier's interview in the Vancouver Sun. This interview sparked outrage and anger amongst Los Angeles Kings' fans, most notably Carla Muller, a blogger for Miss Muller was understandably frustrated with Mr. Cloutier's comments, and wrote her own blog entry on the subject. Today, however, Miss Muller informed the world that she now moving over to, and offered a few kind words to me on her departure.

"I wonder if this guy will apologize now that Cloutier is taking the unique position that despite the fact that two different doctors have medically cleared him to play, including one of Cloutier’s choosing who also found him fit, he is alleging now he is too injured to play."

I will not apologize for what I wrote. I am not obligated to apologize for what I wrote when all you did was spew hatred for Dan Cloutier. In fact, you took a few steps back on your very next blog entry, and came across as more objective. The result? A much more convincing argument. It came across as being less "angry-at-the-world" blogger, and more "she knows what she's talking about" blogger. The latter is a much better place to be, in my opinion, and I believe you would say the same. I will commend you for the better approach in the second article, but I will not apologize for calling you out on your tantrum in the first article.

I will, however, wish you good luck in your new role with, and hope that we can establish some sort of friendly rapport. I have no malice or ill will towards you, Miss Muller, and simply wanted you to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. I would be more than happy to speak with you, and let you know I still hold you in the utmost respect in person if you so choose. I assure you, though, you will get an email from me wishing you nothing but the best in the next couple of days.

Good luck, Carla! Your passion makes you an excellent hockey blogger, and you deserve all the best in your new position!

Canada's Loss = Britain's Gain: It was announced, late last week, that Sherry of Scarlett Ice has accepted a position with the Manchester Phoenix of the British Elite League! She will continue to blog from "across the pond", but she also brought in a heavyweight blogger (not literally, of course). Dany Heatley Speedwagon has joined the Scarlett Ice team to help readers stay up-to-date on Senators' news and happenings. Congratulations, Sherry, on the exciting new job! And congratulations, DHS, for your appointment to Scarlett Ice's team!

More Kings News: CKim from A Queen Among Kings has been keeping busy with her team's Year-In-Review, as well as two podcasts! I suggest checking both of them out as they both have good chatter on them. Also, the special guests found on the I'm Not A Puck Bunny podcast bring their unique perspectives to each show, and shouldn't be missed!

Jagr Watch: The three-year, $35 million tax-free contract that Avangard Omsk offered free agent Jaromir Jagr this week is insane. Pat Brisson, Jagr's agent, has assured the Rangers that his client's first priority is to secure a contract in the NHL. However, we're talking about Jagr here. Rangers' GM Glen Sather stated that he "talked with Brisson last week in Ottawa before the draft and I told him we wanted to do a deal, but there's been no communication back on their end". In the end, money has always spoken loudly to Jagr, so I wouldn't count the CHL-R out at this point of the negotiations.

Waivers And Buyouts: There were a few significant addition to the free agency pool this past week. Todd Bertuzzi, Shawn Bates, Josef Stumpel, Rhett Warrener, Anders Erikkson, and Marcus Nilson are all on their way to the July 1 sweepstakes. There probably won't be many teams throwing bags of money at these guys, but some tire-kicking should happen with Warrener. We'll see what happens come Tuesday.

It's Called A "Cap" For A Reason:
The salary cap in the NHL will rise to a maximum of $56.7 million this season, up $6.4 million from last season. The minimum requirement for teams to spend is now set at $40.7 million, while the maximum any individual player can make is $11.34 million per season. It's the fourth straight season that the cap has increased, prompting me to ask why we had a lockout. I get that, at the time, the Canadian dollar was not as strong as it is now, but that's no reason to increase the spending every year. It's a cap linked to revenue - I get that point. But league revenue is far different than each team's local market's revenue. Someone needs to review this before spending is out of control. Again.

Ok, I'm done. I'll have another charitable organization to present tomorrow, so tune in for that. Expect an email, Miss Muller, because that's the next item I am about to tackle. And for those Kings fans who are coming here to flame me, read my article first. Out of everything you can do, reading is probably the most important part when it comes to commenting.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Charitable Donations: Healthy Hope

Having taken yesterday off after a busy day at work and a softball double-header, Hockey Blog In Canada returns today to outline another charitable organization. As we've seen in the past articles, NHL players have been affected by their family members' afflictions and diseases, and have started charities and organizations to help them with their battles. Today's organization was started because of the player's affliction. Czech-born defenceman Jiri Fischer of the Detroit Red Wings collapsed on the bench during a game against the Nashville Predators. After doctors saved the young man's life, Fischer went on to found Healthy Hope: The Jiri Fischer Foundation, and HBIC is proud to profile this organization today.

Mission Statement: The Healthy Hope Mission page doesn't really give this organization its due credit, so here's a little more. The Healthy Hope Foundation helps people who need help. They are "a group of [v]olunteers, who have been through some [l]ife threatening times". The foundation's volunteers provide those who are facing adversity a chance to rediscover their passion for life by assisting them in their battles. Giving up does not exist at the Healthy Hope Foundation.

How Did Healthy Hope Start?: For this, we need to go back to Novermber 21, 2005 when Mr. Fischer collapsed on the Detroit bench in Nashville.

Part One

Part Two

NHL Network Coverage

Wow. That's pretty scary.

Out of this experience, Mr. Fischer started the Healthy Hope Foundation in early 2007 to help others in their most trying times. However, the organization has now branched out to encourage CPR training, and for arenas to acquire and learn to use Automated External Defibrillators (AED).

The CPR+AED program has taken Mr. Fischer to a number of cities in order to bring awareness to these two life-saving techniques. He has worked with the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Canada to help make AEDs as accessible as fire extinguishers in public buildings.

"Until the sudden cardiac arrest, hockey was first, everything else was second," said Fischer in Calgary in 2007. "This is the first time in my life I can be part of something bigger than hockey."

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, "[a]pproximately 40,000 cardiac arrests occur in Canada every year, and for every minute that passes without help, a victim’s chance of surviving drops by about 10 per cent. Brain death starts to occur 4 to 6 minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest if no CPR and defibrillation occur during that time. Ultimately, less than 5% of people who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, largely because CPR is not performed at all – or not started soon enough".

Fischer was one of the lucky ones as his heartbeat started up again after being unconscious for six minutes on the bench.

"I get up every day, and I live," he said in 2005 to Larry Lage of the Associated Press. "Everybody says you should live to the fullest, but what is it? No one knows until you come so close that you're not worried about anything else but being alive."

Thankfully, Mr. Fischer is still with us today. He works with the Red Wings organization in the capacity of player development, and the Red Wings, in a classy move, have even kept his locker intact in the dressing room. He even returned to the ice on February 28, 2008 in the "Shocks and Saves" charity game in Saginaw, Michigan. The charity game helps to raise funds for the Healthy Hope Foundation's initiative to place Automated External Defibrillators in Michigan schools and arenas.

How Can I Help?: First and foremost, Healthy Hope wants you to share your Survivor Story. Your story will help others in their fight to hang on to their hope in the face of adversity. They would also like you to share your passion and your ideas. You can contact the Healthy Hope Foundation at info-at-healthyhope-dot-org. They can be reached by telelphone at (248) 635-1082. And you can also write them via snail mail by sending your letters to:

Healthy Hope: Jiri Fischer Foundation
PO Box 702310
Plymouth, MI

The Healthy Hope Foundation is also looking for volunteers. If you'd like to volunteer with the organization, please email them for volunteer opportunities.

Healthy Hope, the NHLPA, and Jiri Fischer are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Midweek Blues

Being that it's Wednesday, I find myself looking forward to Friday. Yeah, I know that Thursday is still in between Wednesday and Friday, but Thursday is pretty much already here, so I'm not even going to pretend that Thursday is in the way. As it stands, I have to find ways to satisfy my hockey needs until September rolls around, and I believe I may have found it. Rent-A-Goalie, found on the Canadian network known as Showcase, has provided me with some great laughs as I wait for the summer to turn to fall.

The Canadian television show is a half-hour sitcom about a guy named Cake, played by Christopher Bolton, who runs a goalie rental service out of the Café Primo in the heart of Toronto's Little Italy. Cake is joined by a group of individuals who are as tragically flawed as he is. Some of them are affectionately known as "Goth Girl", "Looch", "Puker", "Short Bus", and "Joey Almost".

Bolton, who is also the show's creator, executive producer, and co-writer, feels the show is more than just hockey, and I am inclined to agree.

"It is a character-based workplace comedy," Bolton said to Sun Media's Bruce Kirkland in April after the show was picked up for a third season. "We hang all of the comedy on the hook of what the workplace is, which is a rent-a-goalie service at an Italian coffee shop. So part of this show's charm is how well it knows its world - and our love for hockey doesn't harm that at all - and we are able to convey that pretty well."

Some of the show's topics range from the mild to the absurd.

"We have these ridiculous conversations," Bolton says, "about our characters getting rabies or our characters getting testicular fungus from a bench in a dressing room. And we're having these serious thoughts about the plausibility of it.

"Ultimately what happens when you play with the ridiculous is that, when your characters believe it and speak to it with authority, you can get away with it."

Rarely am I one to promote television shows on this blog outside of regular hockey programming, but I feel this is one show that all hockey fans can appreciate because it isn't a dedicated hockey comedy. Rather, as Bolton explained, it's more like The Office where situations arise from the workplace.

Of course, there have been some pretty impressive cameos from NHL stars and personalities. Tie Domi, Darryl Sittler, "Tiger" Williams, Mike Palmateer, Paul Coffey, Tony Esposito, and Phil Esposito have all appeared on the show. Being set in Toronto lends to the Toronto Maple Leafs being there, but getting the Espositos and Coffey to appear only goes to show the headway this television show is making.

If you'd like to read a little about the episodes from either Season One or Season Two, click on the appropriate season to read up on what the Rent-A-Goalie gang has been up to. You can download Rent-A-Goalie wallpapers for free for your desktop. And the best part of Showcase's website is that it allows you to watch the entire second season of Rent-A-Goalie for free!

This truly Canadian television show might be one of the best hockey-related television shows to ever be produced, and Christopher Bolton deserves some credit for producing a highly-enjoyable program!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rapid Fire Blogging: June

Lots of hockey stories have developed over the course of the last week, and I've neglected to make mention of these. However, Hockey Blog In Canada is committed to catching everyone up on news they may have missed, and that's what Rapid Fire Blogging is all about. Kick back, grab a beverage, and get ready for as much news as you can handle because it's time to get this article started!

  • One of the big stories out of the NHL today was one of the worst-kept secrets in Tampa Bay's hiring of Barry Melrose as the Lightning's newest head coach, the sixth in franchise history. Rick Tocchet and Wes Walz, two former NHL players, will join the mulleted one as his assistant coaches. Personally, I think the Lightning are taking a step backwards as Melrose hasn't coached in the NHL since 1995. Time will tell, of course, but this seems to be a very questionable move, especially with some of the coaches still on the market.
  • The NHL announced today that Anaheim Ducks' owner Henry Samueli has been suspended until further notice from any activity with his team or in the NHL after he pleaded guilty to perjury. He admitted to making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Michael Schulman, current alternate governor of the Ducks, will report to Commissioner Gary Bettman in Samueli's absence. Jim Kelley of makes an interesting argument as to how Mr. Bettman should handle Mr. Samueli's guilty plea. This is one story that could turn out to be costly for the Ducks.
  • The waiver wire has been hot in the last couple of days as washed-up goalies and lost causes hit the open market. Ray Emery, previously of the Ottawa Senators, is a free agent after being bought out by the Senators. Dan Cloutier is technically still with the Los Angeles Kings, despite being offered a buyout, because he feels he is medically unfit to play, thus ensuring the Kings have to continue to pay him. Marc Denis was placed on waivers by the Lightning in the hopes they can rid themselves of his brutal play. The Toronto Maple Leafs placed goaltender Andrew Raycroft and forwards Kyle Wellwood on waivers after they lost patience with those players. Toronto will also buyout Darcy Tucker, making him an unrestricted free agent. Good luck to these players in finding new homes!
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are finding out that success does not always breed an attraction for free agents. Gary Roberts basically confirmed that he will not be back this season in the Steel City, joining former Penguins Ryan Malone and Marian Hossa on the open market. While Roberts praised Pittsburgh's fans, his agent confirmed that the Penguins cannot offer what they are seeking. Good luck, Gary! You'll be missed in Pittsburgh!
  • The ECHL announced yesterday that the Pensacola Ice Pilots had their membership to the ECHL terminated. The termination comes as a result of the Pensacola ownership group notifying the ECHL that it did not intend to play in 2008-09 or any season thereafter. In the ECHL Bylaws, failure to ice a team is grounds for immediate termination of the membership. All Pensacola players now become free agents, and I am disappointed for the fans in Pensacola that supported this franchise. The ownership group should be ashamed of themselves for not working harder to make hockey work.
  • On the upside, the Toledo Walleye are now accepting deposits for club seats in their new arena! The Lucas County Downtown Arena is currently being built in Toledo, Ohio, and will begin play in October of 2009 in the ECHL! Congratulations to the Walleye, and to the people of Toledo on your new hockey franchise!
  • Hockey USA announced that former ECHL coach Ron Rolston will coach the 2009 USA World Junior hockey team in Ottawa, Ontario at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Joining Mr. Rolston behind the bench will be another ECHL alumnus, P.K. O’Handley, as well as Nate Leaman and goaltender coach Jeff Blashill. Good luck in Ottawa, gentlemen!
  • There were also some division and conference realignments in the ECHL that went down at the recent ECHL Board of Governors meeting. In the American Conference, there will be two divisions of 13 teams: the North Division with seven teams, and the South Division with six teams. In the National Conference, there will be two divisions of ten teams: the West Division with five teams, and the Pacific Division with five teams. The North Division will be represented by Cincinnati, Dayton, Elmira, Johnstown, Reading, Trenton and Wheeling. The South Division will be represented by Augusta, Charlotte, Florida, Gwinnett, Mississippi and South Carolina. The West Division will be represented by Alaska, Idaho, Phoenix, Utah and Victoria. And, last but not least, the Pacific Division will be represented by Bakersfield, Fresno, Las Vegas, Ontario and Stockton. For more information, please click here.
  • For readers in St. John's Newfoundland, you get some pre-season AHL action coming your way! Mile One Centre will play host to the Hamilton Bulldogs' training camp, as well as a mini-tournament featuring the three Canadian AHL teams - Hamilton, Toronto, and Manitoba. For a city that supported the AHL very passionately for 14 years, this is a nice gesture by the Bulldogs. It would have been much more respectable had the Marlies done it, since the Marlies were most recently called the St. John's Maple Leafs, but who am I to criticize, especially when it deals with one franchise's history?
  • The AHL's Springfield Falcons named Jeff Truitt as their new head coach. Mr. Truitt spent time honing his skill in the WHL as the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets where he posted a record of 113-76-18-9 in three seasons. Mr. Truitt also won a Memorial Cup with the Rockets, and helped Canada behind the bench on several occasions. Good luck on your new position, Mr. Truitt!
  • Hockey Canada announced that Benoit Groulx of the Gatineau Olympiques will take over head coaching duties for the Canadian World Junior team. Mr. Groulx guided his team to the QMJHL Championship this year, despite them not being a favourite to win. He'll be joined behind the bench by Dave Cameron, who coaches the OHL's St. Michael's Majors, and Willie Desjardins, head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Good luck in Ottawa as well, gentlemen!
  • Just in case you were wondering, the IIHF World Junior Championship is only 184 days away. The tournament will be opened on Friday, December 26, 2008 at 2:30pm EST with a game at the Ottawa Civic Centre between Latvia and Russia. Canada's first game is at 7:30pm that night as the Canadians take on the Czech Republic. Team USA will square off at 3:30pm EST on the 26th against Germany.
  • The new Continental Hockey League/Russian Super League (CHL-R, acronymed by me) in Russia has all the makings of the WHA except for one thing: it's in Russia. Now, don't get me wrong. Russia is a great place to play hockey, and many players have gone over there and done very well for themselves. But let's face it - the NHL is where players want to play. Columbus Blue Jackets' draft pick Nikita Filatov already told the CHL-R that he wasn't interested in playing there. Evgeni Malkin was reportedly offered a contract for approximately $12.5 million per year tax-free, but wants to stay in Pittsburgh. You can have Chris Simon, though. We don't really need him as it is.
Ok, so that's all for today. More charitable organizations coming up this week, and I'll be doing a complete "free agency" day blog on July 1. July 1 is also Canada Day, and I have the day off, and what better way to spend my day off than lounging by the pool and listening to TSN's panel talk about who's going where. Everyone except Pierre McGuire, that is. Let him go to NBC. Heck, trade him and Milbury for some cameraman-to-be-named. Just keep his yap shut for most of the holiday Tuesday, and I'll be content.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Charitable Donations: 21 For Kids

As it stands, this blog has now covered seven charitable organizations working to make life better for all of us, and we're not stopping there. Heck, it's not even July yet, so let's keep the wheels turning on these great initiatives. Today's charitable organization is based in the midwest USA, and is backed by Minnesota Wild forward Mark Parrish. Mr. Parrish wears #21 for the Minnesota Wild, and the 21 For Kids Foundation was started by him after being personally affected by an instance of a disease. With that in mind, Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to present to you the organization known as 21 For Kids.

Mission Statement: Directly from their website, 21 For Kids "is a child-focused organization that provides grants and funding to Minnesota foundations and individuals, based solely on need, to cover a variety of expenses for children. The areas of need can include, but are not limited to health issues, recreational opportunities, educational funding. This assistance is provided without regard to the child’s age, race, physical abilities, religious beliefs, gender, or ethnic background."

How Did 21 For Kids Start?: I'll allow Mr. Parrish to explain how the organization got started.

"Over the Christmas Holidays in 2004, my three-year-old niece, Ruby, was diagnosed with epilepsy. She suffered a grand mal seizure and was hospitalized for four days. Luckily, my brother’s family was in Freiburg, Germany at the time. Freiburg is the premier neurological study center and hospital for the entire country.

"Once she was tested and placed on medication, things seemed to be okay. However, in May of 2006, she once again experienced a grand mal and was hospitalized at Minneapolis Children's Hospital. Both of these were frightening experiences for all the family members and had a strong impact on me. I felt it was time I did something to help Ruby and other children who need medical care and support. This is why I am starting my Foundation. This Foundation is designed to give financial assistance to children like Ruby who need extra medical care."

Epilepsy is a very common disease that gets little exposure compared to things like cancer and heart disease. It is estimated that one in 100 people are afflicted with epilepsy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are currently 2.7 million Americans battling epilepsy, and it primarily affects the very young and elderly.

What Mr. Parrish is doing for children with this affliction is highly commendable. In working with HockeyDocs Charities, 21 For Kids has been able to branch out and help other kids experiencing other medical conditions.

HockeyDocs Charities was started by two Minneapolis doctors, Dr. Mark Fallen and Dr. Marshall Everson. In teaming with Mr. Parrish and 21 For Kids, the two organizations have been able to use their passion for hockey and their vast network and resources to help children within the Twin Cities. Together, the two organizations have partnered to assist the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, the Children's Miracle Network, the Confidence Learning Center, and Minnesota Special Hockey.

The work being done by these two organizations is helping children throughout Minnesota, and they have a number of people involved with helping the organization. Of course, Mr. Mark Parrish is the man in charge of 21 For Kids, but he receives additional help from NHL players such as Keith Ballard (FLA), Andrew Brunette (COL), Marian Gaborik (MIN), Bret Hedican (CAR), Ryan Malone (PIT), and Willie Mitchell (VAN). There are a number of Hollywood celebrities onboard with these organizations as well.

How Can I Help?: Well, you know there's always the donation thing. However, you can donate money, an auction item, or both if you so choose.

You can become a sponsor of these organizations. Of course, there are a few levels of sponsorship one can undertake. Just fill out the form, and you're on your way!

Of course, if you like the social aspect of supporting these charitable organizations, I recommend you review the upcoming events list to see if anything tickles your fancy. To attend the golf tournament, you must be a sponsor, so I encourage you to review the sponsorship levels if you'd like to play a round of golf with a few celebrities.

Lastly, be sure to sign up for the newsletter to receive updates on the work that 21 For Kids and HockeyDocs Charities are doing within Minnesota. If you have any additional questions, I encourage you to email them at info-at-hockeydocscharities-dot-org.

21 For Kids, HockeyDocs Charities, the NHLPA, and Mark Parrish are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

NHL Entry Draft Non-Coverage

I'll admit that this draft was fairly decent in terms of the amount of activity that happened, and it appears that everyone is full of optimism over their new recruits. It's a good feeling to know that your team has a bright outlook, and that's what the NHL Entry Draft brings. However, there were some excellent trades made by a few teams, so we'll look at the winners and also-rans in this year's NHL Entry Draft.

Before we get to my opinions, here is the complete list of players selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Try to ignore Pierre McGuire's comments. You'd be better off hitting yourself in the face with a shovel. Rounds two through seven can be found here.

In terms of winners at this year's draft, the team that stands out the most to me would have to be the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes came into the draft with some optimism, drafting at the #8 spot, but really made a splash by acquiring Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers in exchange for defencemen Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard, and the 49th overall pick.

Jokinen will solidify the Coyotes down the middle of the ice by giving them a scoring threat every single time he's on the ice. He's a veteran presence, and will help both Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller by providing some leadership. At 29 years of age, Jokinen could be a fixture in the desert for some time.

The Coyotes also traded the 90th pick overall to get Alex Bourret from the New York Rangers. Bourret looks to be a decent power forward-type player. He's a strong skater who works hard for every inch of ice, and that will be something that pleases head coach Wayne Gretzky. While he struggled with injuries this past season, Bourret looks to be a decent prospect for the Coyotes as well.

The Coyotes used the #8 pick to draft Mikkel Boedker from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. Boedker has incredible speed and great vision on the ice. He was taught by former head coach Peter DeBoer to go to the net and score ugly goals, and that's something that can translate into a long, successful NHL career. His creativity is off the charts when he has the puck, and could be an excellent compliment to centerman Kyle Turris as Turris is a legitimate goal-scoring threat.

The Coyotes didn't shy away from some hockey pedigrees at the draft this year. The 'Yotes selected Viktor Tikhonov with the 28th pick in the first round. Viktor is the grandson of the legendary soviet coach, Viktor Tikhonov, and his skill set makes him an attractive pick. However, being a little older, he'll have to prove himself quickly in the Coyotes' system. With the 49th pick, they selected winger Jared Staal from the OHL's Sudbury Wolves. Staal is the youngest of the four Staal children to play in the NHL, following Eric, Jordan, and Marc. The Coyotes also selected forward Brett Hextall with the 159th pick. Brett is the son of former Flyers goaltender Ron Hextall.

All in all, with the additions of Jokinen and Boedker, the Coyotes will be a better offensive team this season. Losing Ballard and Boynton will hurt them defensively a little, but the Coyotes have some money to play with during the free agency period, and should be able to replace both men.

I like what Phoenix did this weekend, and expect them to push for a playoff spot next season.

The next team that did very well was the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings made an early splash in the draft by sending Mike Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames, and then flip-flopping picks with the Anaheim Ducks to move up to the #12 spot, as well as having the #2 overall pick. The trade sends a very disenchanted Cammalleri to a new environment, and allows Los Angeles to look at free agents with a pile of money to spend. The Kings then swapped spots with Buffalo to select at #13 instead of #12. On Day Two, the Kings picked up centerman Brad Richardson from the Colorado Avalanche, and will be a good, gritty third-line centerman who can put the puck in the net.

With the #2 pick, the Kings selected Drew Doughty from the OHL's Guelph Storm. Now, I was never big on Doughty's defensive abilities, but he does bring an impressive amount of offensive talent to the table. Also, shedding an amazing 24 pounds before the combine shows that he is committed to making the Kings' roster next year, and that has to be commended. In losing some of that weight, he will need to be paired with a body-moving defenceman, but he will also get stronger which will help the Kings.

With the #13 pick, the Kings selected Colten Teubert of the WHL's Regina Pats. I had complained for a long time about how the Kings needed to get a guy like Luke Schenn who can bring some accountability to the defensive zone. By drafting Teubert, they got exactly what they needed. Teubert is a physical force on the back end, and plays a lot meaner than what Schenn does. He will not back down from anyone, and, if paired with Hickey or Doughty, could be the Adam Foote-type player that the Kings have coveted for so long, only far nastier.

With the 153rd pick, the Kings drafted CHL Player of the Year and the OHL's Most Outstanding Player in Justin Azevedo. While he's a little on the small side at 5'7" tall, he showed an amazing ability to put the puck in the net last year with the Kitchener Rangers. His 43 goals and 81 assists were the CHL's highest point total last season, and his scoring ability will definitely be needed in both Los Angeles and Manchester.

I really like what Los Angeles has done, and, to me, is all because of Teubert. They have Jack Johnson in Los Angeles already, and Thomas Hickey is learning the pro game. By getting Doughty and Teubert, the Kings have built an impressive defensive core that will, one day, play in front of goaltender Jonathan Bernier. While the fans in Los Angeles may not appreciate the team staying its course, the Kings appear to be two to three seasons from taking over the Pacific Division at this point.

On the other side of the coin, there was a definite loser on Draft Day.

The team who really disappointed me was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did they deal away their first pick in this season's draft to acquire Marian Hossa, but GM Ray Shero confirmed that talks had broken off with the star winger, and Hossa will become a free agent on July 1. The entire goal this off-season was to re-sign the winger, and now the Penguins have nothing to show for the biggest trade of the 2008 deadline. Of course, he could still sign with the Penguins after July 1, but it seems highly unlikely at this point.

And not only did the Penguins lose the one guy they were targeting for a new contract this past weekend, but they didn't pick a player until the 120th pick. They only had four picks in the draft in total. If you're the Penguins, you know that Hossa and Malone are probably gone, so you probably want to find the best scoring players at that point in the draft as you can, right? Well, the Penguins started out by drafting centerman Nathan Moon from the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs. He appears to be a solid player, so that's not a bad pick.

However, with their next two picks, the Penguins drafted goaltenders. Why? If Fleury is your franchise guy, why not draft one goalie, and then go after some scoring? The Penguins drafted Russian goaltender Alexander Pechurski with the 150th pick, three picks ahead of where Justin Azevedo, the CHL's Player of the Year, was drafted. What were they thinking at the table?

A truly bizarre draft day for the Penguins, if you ask me.

I did want to say congratulations to all the players who were selected in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. From the #1 overall pick, Steven Stamkos, to the final and 211th player selected this year in Jesper Samuelsson, congratulations to all these kids! I look forward to seeing you all in the AHL and, hopefully, the NHL one day!

To the parents of all the young men selected, thank you for raising such wonderful young men. The communities that each of these men are going to will benefit as much as each individual franchise will.

And to the fans of the NHL, get ready for the next generation of young superstars! Stamkos, Doughty, Bogosian, Pietrangelo, and Schenn were the first five selected, but they won't be the only stars, I can assure you.

Free agency starts in just over a week's time, so stay tuned as I'll be blogging all day on July 1. Also, there will be more charitable organizations featured here, so check back to see how NHL players are working within NHL communities as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Charitable Donations: Companions in Courage

Over the past couple of weeks, we've seen all sorts of charitable organizations who are doing phenomenal work in helping to find cures for a number of diseases. However, helping to solve the medical issues is only one way that NHL players can help. As we saw with the Mario Lemieux Foundation's efforts in establishing The Playroom Project, allowing children to escape the moment of being sick is one of the best things that we can do. A smile is enormous on a sick child's face, and laughter, as they say, is the best medicine. With that in mind, Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to speak about Companions in Courage today.

Mission Statement: As their website states, "[o]ur mission is quite simple. No child in the fight for life or health should ever have to go through it alone. At Companions in Courage Foundation, we are here to give courage, friendship, compassion and support to those children and families who are overcoming illness and life-threatening obstacles". Companions in Courage (CiC) was founded in 1997 by NHL Hall of Fame forward Pat LaFontaine, and works to remove the isolation of hospital stays for children by providing interactive playrooms where children can escape the burdens of their hospital stays.

How Did Companions In Courage Start?: Mr. LaFontaine's work in Buffalo at the Buffalo Children's Hospital gave him unique insight on what battles children face while staying at the hospital.

"The evolution of this Foundation began during Pat's years with the Buffalo Sabres. Dedicating much of his off-ice time at Buffalo Children's Hospital, Pat began to appreciate the power of another person's strengths. 'Being with these kids – knowing their smiles, their pain and their courage – changed my life. They taught me about life and death. These children left me with a simple reality: We don't always have much control over what happens to us, but we do have a choice in how we respond.'"

Mr. LaFontaine decided to help as many children as possible after his retirement in 1998. Working with Edwin Schlossberg and his renowned ESI Design team in New York City, Mr. LaFontaine worked to establish a series of "Lion's Den" rooms in children's hospitals across the state of New York. Partnering with reputable companies such as the Microsoft Corporation and Cisco Systems, Mr. LaFontaine created unique rooms designed to make children's lives better while at the respective hospitals.

The Lion's Den rooms are quite impressive. I'll allow the Companions in Courage website to talk about these fabulous rooms designed exclusively for children.

"Patients learn about the Lion’s Den Room when they first check into the hospital. They receive an eye-catching 'smart' card that tells them they are members of a special community with unique privileges.

"The key is an ID device that allows each child to personalize their experience within the Lion’s Den Room. When patients use their key to enter the main activity area, they are greeted with a gentle flourish of sound and lights. The room is set up with areas for group games, pods for semi-private conversations, and individual computer stations unlike any they’ve ever seen before. Stations are equipped with a keyboard and other input devices such as drawing tablets, touch pads and joysticks, all on flexible supports that children can easily adjust for their comfort.

"Children log-on to computer stations using their 'key' and are greeted. The 'smart' function of the key makes sure they are directed to content and activities that suit their age level. Children can participate in semi-private video conference 'pods' with classmates, their parents, or other family members. Some children may opt to collaborate on an animation project available on the network. Still others may elect to challenge other online participants in games and tasks. The children can also choose from more than 150 movies available on the system. The system also remembers children from one visit to the next, so they can pick up an activity wherever they left off."

That's a pretty phenomenal room. However, it doesn't stop there. Because the rooms are fully connected on a network, children can take part in special events that are broadcast to each of the rooms. Celebrities, sports heroes, and role models can drop by any of the children's hospitals, and their visit is broadcast back to the other respective hospitals. "For instance, if Pat LaFontaine visits children in Buffalo, that visit can be streamed live to all of the other Lion’s Den Rooms on the network". I'd say that's pretty cool.

But it doesn't stop there. The Lion's Den rooms allows children to also "connect with the people and activities of their normal lives. It offers children opportunities for play, communication and creativity and is responsive to each patient’s particular interests. An oasis from the poking and prodding often associated with hospital stays, the Lion’s Den Room provides a brief respite to allow a kid to be a kid".

Now, you're probably asking yourself "where are these rooms located", and that's why I'm writing this. You can actually see images of any of the rooms already built, thanks to the Companions in Courage website. The inaugural Lion's Den was opened at the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Westchester, New York. There's also a Lion's Den at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (also featured as a partner of the Steadfast Foundation) in Buffalo, New York. The third Lion's Den room built is located at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in New York City, New York. There's a fourth Lion's Den at the Women and Children's Hopsital of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York.

Companions in Courage actually uses several resources to ensure that the majority of the money donated to the organization gets to the people that need it. One resource is Network for Good. Network for Good offers people the opportunity to give to one's favorite charity or charities while having all "donation records stored and accessible at any time". For more information on Network for Good's donation process, please click here. For Companions in Courage, the use of this service allows CiC to "keep its overhead down, thereby allowing us to use more of the money donated for our programs, and less for our expenses", and that's always a good reason to use this resource.

Another resource that Companions in Courage uses, and one I may start using more often, is GuideStar. GuideStar is an online resource that gathers and publicizes information about non-profit groups. In fact, they have a mission statement:

"GuideStar's mission is to revolutionize philanthropy and nonprofit practice by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving."

This transparency allows people to see exactly how their donated dollars are being spent, and to what initiatives they are going. You have to sign up to view the information in their database, but registration is free, and will allow you, the reader of this blog, to better research some of these non-profit organizations. I'm not going to post the financial information about Companions in Courage on here, so I encourage you to sign up and see how this excellent organization is working to make children's lives better.

Of course, there are a number of hockey people involved in this organization. Pat LaFontaine is the President. His wife, Marybeth, works within the organization at the various events that they hold. Former Pittsburgh Penguins star, Mario Lemieux, is an Honourary Board Member, and Companions in Courage and the Mario Lemieux Foundation support one another in their endeavours. Buffalo Sabres owner, Thomas Golisano, is on the Board of Trustees along with agent Don Meehan, Mr. LaFontaine's former agent. I encourage you to check out each list of the Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees, the Honourary Board, and the Medical Board for more information about all the wonderful people involved with Companions in Courage.

I encourage everyone to check out the print media, the photo gallery, and the video gallery in order to see and hear some excellent stories.

How Can I Help?: The first place I would direct anyone interested in this organization is to their Frequently Asked Questions page. It contains a load of information that can answer the majority of questions you may have. Like the other organizations features, Companions in Courage also accepts donations. If you'd prefer to send your donation via snail mail, please write to:

Companions in Courage Foundation
attn: Pat LaFontaine
P.O. Box 768
Huntington, NY 11743

The organization also holds events to help raise funds. If you're interested in becoming a sponsor of an event, or becoming a major donor, please email the organization at CiC16-at-optonline-dot-net.

Volunteering is an excellent way to help out as well, however Companions in Courage would rather see people volunteer at their local children's hospital. Please check with your local hospital to see if there are opportunities available.

If you're interested in buying merchandise produced for Companions in Courage, I suggest you check out this link. Now, it's a little bare, but check back soon as they continue to get their list of merchandise on their site.

Before I wrap this up, I suggest watching this excellent video segment done by the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on Pat LaFontaine's work with Companions in Courage.

This story is quite touching. Excellent work, Mr. LaFontaine.

Companions in Courage, the NHLPA, and Pat and Marybeth LaFontaine are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Charitable Donations: Mario Lemieux Foundation

Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to bring another charitable organization to the forefront today, and this one is one I have personally supported this year. I try to give to charities and organization that do things to benefit the community, especially if those efforts are helping children. Children are our future, and should be supported as much as possible. Today, I am proud to present The Mario Lemieux Foundation as the next organization to be featured on this blog. I've always been a Lemieux fan, and this organization - one which helps the smallest of children - is one I have personally supported.

Mission Statement: "The main objective of the Mario Lemieux Foundation is to fund promising medical research projects being conducted by talented scientists". The Mario Lemieux Foundation has funded a number of organization and charities sine its inception in 1993, and continues to help these organizations in their respective missions. The foundation helped to establish the Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, as well as funding the Children's Home of Pittsburgh with some large donations. The foundation most recently established the Austin Lemieux Neonatal Research Project.

How Did The Mario Lemieux Foundation Start?: I'll allow the foundation's webpage to explain how this organization started.

"The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993 by hockey legend Mario Lemieux. In that year, Mario was enjoying the greatest season of his brilliant career and on pace to establish a new NHL scoring record. Then he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease.

"After a successful battle with Hodgkin's, Mario is now twelve years cancer free and his experience led him to focus on ways to assist those not so fortunate. He devotes much of his time to the Foundation raising funds to help reach the ultimate goal: a cure for cancer".

There is also a message from Mr. Lemieux on the website that explains why he decided to start the foundation. I'd like to simply post this portion of the message:

"I know there are many people who are not as fortunate as I am. That is why the Mario Lemieux Foundation continues to be important to me, and why I devote time to raising funds for the Foundation, so we can continue to award grants for cancer research and other worthy causes".

Clearly, as we've seen with other organizations, cancer research gets a lot of funding from members of the NHLPA. The Mario Lemieux Foundation not only supports and funds research in finding a cure for Hodgkin's disease, but for other forms of cancer as well.

The foundation granted a portion of $5 million to establish the multi-disciplinary Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research. This grant went towards creating three important areas of research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center:

  • Mario Lemieux Center for Patient Care
  • Mario Lemieux Laboratory in Pediatric Leukemia Research
  • Mario Lemieux Laboratory in Hodgkin's disease Research
University of Pennsylvania Cancer Institute (UPCI) is western Pennsylvania's only National Center Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, and is ranked 12th in National Cancer Institute funding. "All three Lemieux facilities will advance UPCI's research into the biology and treatment of lymphoma, as well as support current patient care". The grant has made a very good institution into one of the best in the United States.

Another portion of the $5 million grant went towards establishing the Austin Lemieux Neonatal Research Project. Mario and Nathalie Lemieux's only son, Austin, was born three months prematurely at the Magee-Womens Hospital. In going through this experience, Mr. Lemieux devoted his time and monetary efforts in helping the neonatal unit at the Magee-Womens Hospital to better serve the smallest of children. Today, Austin is a healthy twelve year-old boy who loves hockey as much as his dad did. Thanks to the Magee-Womens Hospital and the Mario Lemieux Foundation, many other premature babies will be able to grow up healthy and strong like Austin has.

A third portion of the $5 million grant went towards helping the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Named in memory of the institution's founder, Mr. William McGowan, the institution works "to develop mechanical and bio-artificial organs to reduce human suffering and extend the life of patients suffering from acute medical conditions or end-stage organ failure from chronic disease". The Mario Lemieux Foundation's generous donation helped to fund various projects and research that the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine was working on.

However, Mario and Nathalie Lemieux recognized that there was more they could do. While they were tending to young Austin at the Magee-Womens Hospital, they realized that there was no place for their young daughters, Lauren and Stephanie, to hang out and play. Nathalie Lemieux came up with a plan to raise funds for playrooms in the various hospitals in western Pennsylvania to help ease the burden on parents. From this idea, The Playroom Project was born. There have been more than 15 playrooms opened with the help of the Mario Lemieux Foundation in just over eight years.

Clearly, the foundation is making an impact all over western Pennsylvania, and they are helping both children and adults overcome adversity with their donations to the institutions and hospitals in western Pennsylvania.

The foundation doesn't rely simply on the efforts of the Lemieux family, though. Mario Lemieux organizes and hosts a celebrity golf tournament each year to help raise funds for the Mario Lemieux Foundation. While the event is closed to the public, there are a number of sponsorship opportunities of which one can take advantage. While I understand that not all of us have that kind of money to toss around, it might be the dream of one person who is reading this. The list of celebrities at the event is quite impressive, though, and the history of the event only gets more and more impressive.

How Can I Help?: As with all charitable organizations, donations are more than welcome. Fill out the form, hit "send donation", and you've helped the Mario Lemieux Foundation. You can also join the mailing list for updates on what's happening with the foundation. You can also participate in an online auction for items with the proceeds going to the foundation.

I decided to help out the Mario Lemieux Foundation by ordering a t-shirt. I ordered the baby blue one, and it turns heads. I get a lot of people asking about where I got my shirt, and now you can get one as well if you wish.

The state of Pennsylvania has even decided to help out. You can order a license plate with the Mario Lemieux Foundation logo for your vehicle if you wish. The cost is $66, and the proceeds go directly to the Mario Lemieux Foundation. Personally, I think that's a pretty unique way to help the foundation out.

Of course, if you have any questions, please email the Mario Lemieux Foundation with your question.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation, the NHLPA, and Mario and Nathalie Lemieux are helping the communities they live in. It's time for us to help them as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Bending The Truth

Sometimes, I am blown away by how much buzz is generated by the "anonymous hockey blogger" known as Eklund. I mean, the guy is as accurate as your local weatherman in predicting business in the NHL, and about as vague as the horoscope in your local newspaper. I understand that people like to hear rumours about Player A going to Team B, but why do people pay to get a membership to hear his unsubstantiated crap? Well, readers, it's time to pull the hood off this "anonymous" NHL weatherman. Here is your favourite porch forecaster, otherwise known as Eklund.

In his most recent forecast of NHL movement, Eklund gives some lip service to Aaron Portzline for doing some excellent work for "scooping almost everyone this summer". Mr. Portzline is following the Ryan-Malone-to-Columbus story, and is doing a fabulous job in breaking down all the options.

The problem is that he works for The Columbus Dispatch, a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. It is his job to get scoops and break stories! In terms of Eklund's statement, this would be like saying "fish like water". Mr. Portzline gets paid to break stories. He uses the Dispatch's blog to expand on ideas and write his opinions about the Blue Jackets, but if he didn't scoop everyone about the Blue Jackets' player moves, he'd be a terrible reporter.

See how that works? Good reporters gets stories. Bad reporters get freelance jobs.

Eklund then shifts his focus to the Marian Hossa saga. He writes, "First and foremost there are teams also trying to acquire Hossa's rights. Mainly Montreal and possibly Boston and/or the Rangers".

Really? Are you serious, Eklund? There are 30 teams vying for Hossa's services right now, so I fail to see how this is news. In fact, I fail to see why someone would try "to acquire Hossa's rights" when he can opt for free agency on July 1, allowing him to sign with whomever he chooses. FOR NOTHING.

But let's look at this seriously for a second. Montreal is most likely out. They have a pile of free agent defencemen after the 2008-09 season that will command some raises. Most notably, Mike Komisarek will be coveted by a number of NHL teams, and he was one of the most reliable defencemen that Montreal had this past season. Mark Streit is looking for a sizable raise after his season this year as well. And let's not forget that both Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev are free agents next season too. I won't deny there's a chance for them to sign Hossa, but it seems extremely unlikely given their impending free agency situation.

Boston? Not a chance. The Bruins may want Hossa, but Hossa has already made it clear that he wants to go to a team that has a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Boston is nowhere near that level of play, making this rumour equivalent to a blizzard in hell. It's not going to happen, so why bother reporting it?

The Rangers are an interesting case, but are also highly unlikely to sign Hossa unless they plan on telling Jagr to go home. They already have three players making more than $7 million next season in Gomez, Drury, and Lundqvist. The player with the next highest salary who is under contract for next season is Christian Backman, who will make $3.4 million. If they sign Hossa to the reported $7 million-per-season that Pittsburgh offered, they will have nearly $30 million tied up in four players! We saw how Tampa Bay suffered mightily with that problem. Do you think Glen Sather is that stupid, Eklund? He's already trying to get Jagr to take a pay cut. Not to mention that Brendan Shanahan, Sean Avery, and Martin Straka are unrestricted free agents. I'm sure the Rangers are interested, but they have other holes they need to fill before they need a fourth $7-million-dollar-man. You know, like finding an entire second line.

He goes on to report some other stuff that seems reasonable until he wrote, "Cammalleri has long been coveted by the Oilers and word is a Pitkanen for Cammalleri deal could be in the works".

Let me get this straight: the Oilers are interested in a guy they could sign without giving anything up next season after he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Yet, they want to trade a guy the Carolina Hurricanes are interested in? Worse yet, they want to trade Pitkanen when they could get Erik Cole or Justin Williams in return, and still sign Cammalleri in the 2009 off-season? Let's see here - Cole and Cammalleri for Pitkanen, or Cammalleri for Pitkanen and some other stuff? Which is the better deal to you if you're the Oilers? There are a lot of players that the Oilers covet. I'm almost certain we all remember both Michael Nylander and Thomas Vanek. If you believe this rumour will happen, I have swampland in Iowa to sell you.

Eklund decided today to agree with TSN's Darren Dreger who was the first to report on the Carolina-Edmonton discussion regarding Pitkanen for one of Cole or Tuomo Ruutu. Dreger made this public on Tuesday evening. Way to be on the ball, Eklund. Thanks for keeping up. Maybe try checking some reliable news sources for once instead of that puppet on your hand.

What struck me as odd in yesterday's truckload of bee-ess was this statement: "Two players in particular are already getting huge UFA interest and I am told will POSITIVELY be NHL players this season. Joel Kwiatkowski and Brian Fahey".

While I realize that both these players had excellent AHL seasons and helped Chicago win the Calder Cup, how does one "POSITIVELY" become an NHL player last season when both players have a combined total of 282 career NHL games in 20 seasons of hockey combined?

Kwiatkowski was drafted in 1996, and has played all of those 282 games from above. His longest NHL season was 2003-04 with Washington when he played 80 games, and scored six goals with six assists. He has not scored more than 12 points in any other NHL season. Let me repeat that: in 12 professional hockey seasons, he has not scored more than 12 points in an NHL season. And he's going to "POSITIVELY" be an NHL player?

Fahey was drafted in 2000, and has yet to suit up for an NHL game in eight seasons. He's played for a few AHL teams, but has never cracked an NHL lineup. Yet our good friend, Eklund, is telling us that he is going to "POSITIVELY" become an NHL player this season. The guy has zero NHL experience, but he will bump a roster player and stay there all season? What team is going to take an inexperienced defenceman and give him a one-way contract? Bonafide NHL Entry Draft studs get two-way deals. No team offers a one-way deal when you have zero experience. To me, this is nearly laughable.

Eklund even writes, "Of Fahey a source told me today, 'There simply are not many well-rounded, puck-moving defensemen around.' And a team executive out West believes that he is almost certainly headed to a Western team in desperate need of help on the blue line".

WHO THE HELL IS THIS SOURCE? This isn't news! Every single NHL team covets a "well-rounded, puck-moving defensemen", which is why teams overpay for them! Do you think that Brian Campbell is going to get a huge payday for his abilities? Hell yes! C'mon, Eklund... this is the weakest writing I have seen. I knew you were a hack, but "I have a friend who says..." stories are ridiculous. Use the source's name, or just claim that you thought this "news" up.

I guess what I'm trying to say, readers, is that you should be careful about what information you buy over the internet. For only $20-per-year, you can buy as much swampland in Florida as you like from Eklund. Just remember, though, that real reporters are normally employed by a reliable news source.

Oh, and they rarely charge you anything more than the price of the newspaper to get all of their work in print verified by legitimate editors.

Something Fun To End On: Ok, enough of this crap from one of the worst writers on the internet (that's an e5 rumour, by the way).

I always like fun hockey-related clips. They tend to make you laugh, and laughter is always good. A friend of mine, knowing my hockey passion, decided to send me a radio bit that involves a hilarious story. Honestly, if this doesn't make you laugh, you're not listening very carefully. I am still laughing today at it.

A big "thank you" to Mr. Ryan Loewen for the clip. It's truly one of the funniest hockey-related bits I have ever heard.

Ok, that's all for today. I'll have another charitable organization to outline tomorrow, so please tune in for that. It's one that I've already supported, and one I've spoken about in an earlier article.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Hockey Hall of Fame Day

Today saw four people inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto from a fairly impressive list of eligible candidates. There were international and NHL stars, as well as some executive and officials, who were eligible for the ballot, and I feel that the four men who received the vote today are certainly worthy of their spot in Hockey Hall of Fame. The four men elected to the Hall of Fame honestly need no introduction or fanfare due to their accomplishments, but, if that were really the case, why am I writing anything?

The first man I'll preview who was elected to the Hall of Fame today is Igor Larionov. Larionov was long regarded as the "Wayne Gretzky" of Russian hockey in the early 1980s. "The Professor", as he was also known, was part of the feared "KLM line" featuring Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov, and himself. His list of achievements is notable: four World Championship gold medals, three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings, and two Olympic gold medals.

The Russian superstar was a member of the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, and the New Jersey Devils. He began his professional career playing in Russia with Khimik of the Russian League before moving on to CSKA Moscow. It was there that coach Viktor Tikhonov enlisted him to play for the Soviet Union on one of the most dominating lines in hockey history. Larionov retired from the NHL in 2003-04 with 169 goals and 475 assists for 644 points in 921 games.

The second player to be elected to the Hall of Fame is Glenn Anderson. Anderson joined the Oilers in 1980-81, and was an integral part of the five Stanley Cups the Oilers won over an 11-year period. Anderson seemed to take his game to another level during the playoffs, and always scored clutch goals. He won a sixth Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994. He also was a member of the 1987 Canadian team that won the Canada Cup over the Soviets.

Anderson was a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues during his career in the NHL. His 93 playoff goals is fifth all-time in playoff scoring. The 17-season veteran retired from the NHL with 498 goals and 1099 points in 1129 regular season games.

The Builder Category will see the late Ed Chynoweth added as a member. From 1972 until 1995, Chynoweth served as the president of the WHL, and was the president of the Canadian Hockey League from 1975 until 1995. Chynoweth had recently served as president of the Kootenay Ice. Sadly, Chynoweth passed away earlier this year after a long battle with liver cancer. In his honour, the WHL Championship Trophy was named the "Ed Chynoweth Trophy" in honour of his accomplishments and for what he did for major junior hockey in Canada.

"This is a tremendous honour for my father," said his son Dean Chynoweth to TSN. "My father had a passion for the game of hockey and was committed to doing whatever it took to improve the game. Our entire family is very proud."

In the Linesman/Referee Category, long-time NHL linesman Ray Scapinello was elected to join the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 33-year veteran was on the lines for 2500 NHL games, 426 playoff games, 20 Stanley Cup Finals, three NHL All-Star Games, and the 1998 Winter Olympic Hockey Tournament in Nagano, Japan. He also penned a book called Between The Lines, which will soon be added to Teebz's Book Club.

"I am very appreciative that former Referee-In-Chief Scotty Morrison took a chance and gave me the opportunity to have so many enjoyable years in the NHL," Scapinello said to TSN. He can now be seen on The Score television highlight station in Canada where he appears on "The Spin" with Steve Kouleas.

Congratulations to these four deserving men on all their accomplishments. They will be officially enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame on November 10, 2008. And despite Pierre Lebrun's assertion that the Hall of Fame missed out on an opportunity this year to elect a third player, these four men certainly are more than worthy of their elections.

Look, Gilmour is a great player, but his achievements are nowhere close to what Larionov and Anderson did. And next year's crop of players is impressive, considering these names: Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Luc Robitaille. But if Anderson had to wait nine years, why can't Gilmour? What's the rush?

Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. I have some funny stuff to post tomorrow, and will continue on the charitable organization trail later this week with a couple of great organizations.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Week That Was

With having been focused on discussing some of the charitable organizations that the NHLPA is involved with, I've neglected some of the stories from around the hockey world last week. There have been hirings, some chatter about draft picks, some ECHL news, and some off-season player news that need to be covered. If you haven't had a chance to scroll back to last week's articles, I encourage you to check out some of the charitable organizations. These organizations are working hard to make people's lives better in a number of ways, and they deserve a little recognition.

Ok, let's take a look at some of last week's happenings along with some of today's news stories.

  • The Ottawa Senators announced Craig Hartsburg as their new head coach on Friday morning after signing a three-year deal. Originally, it was thought to go to another OHL coach in Peter DeBoer, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. Instead, Ottawa went down the road to Sault Ste. Marie, and hired Mr. Hartsburg. Mr. Hartsburg has promised accountability in his new position with the Senators, something that seemed to be missing from last season's team. The two-time, gold medal-winning World Junior head coach certainly knows accountability while playing in big games, so I feel that Mr. Hartsburg should do well in Ottawa.
  • Speaking of Peter DeBoer, the former Kitchener Rangers' head coach signed a deal with the Florida Panthers to become their new head coach on Friday. Mr. DeBoer has a real challenge ahead of him as the Panthers have been doormats in the NHL for far too long. Another challenge will be replacing Olli Jokinen if the rumours become truth about the star being moved in the off-season. Mr. DeBoer did lead a very good team in Kitchener to success, but the jump to the NHL takes some adjustment time. While I'm sure that GM Jacques Martin is willing to be patient, the fans in south Florida may not be.
  • Alexander Ovechkin received the highest honour from the city of Washington, DC on Friday when he was presented the key to the city. Ovechkin was honoured as the city's first MVP in a major North American professional sports league since Joe Theismann of the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1983. Congratulations to Mr. Ovechkin on his honour, and for bringing life back to hockey in Washington!
  • Speaking of awards, the NHL honoured its best from the past season on Thursday evening, and Ovechkin was front and centre again. Ovechkin won the Hart and Lester B. Pearson trophies, as well as earning the Maurice Richard and Art Ross trophies for his statistical work. Washington's head coach, Bruce Boudreau, won the Jack Adams trophy as coach-of-the-year. Chicago's Patrick Kane was named as the Calder trophy winner for being the league's best rookie. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom won his sixth Norris trophy as the league's top defenceman while teammate Pavel Datsyuk won both the Frank Selke and Lady Byng trophies. In a surprising win, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur won the Vezina trophy for the fourth time. Toronto's Jason Blake won the Bill Masterton trophy after battling leukemia during the season without missing a game. Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier won the King Clancy trophy for his off-ice work in the community. And lastly, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman honoured former Hartford Whaler and Detroit Red Wing Gordie Howe with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations to all the winners on their achievements!
  • There was also a slight "oops" that occurred at the Awards gala on Thursday. And by "slight", I mean ginormous. You would think that spelling a player's name, especially one who is a perennial award winner, would be fairly easy for the NHL, right? Obviously not, as Nicklas Lidstrom found out. Lindstrom? Someone lost a contract for jersey customization with that mistake.
  • In an error that is still on their website today, TSN is reporting that the Pittsburgh Star-Review has information regarding the Penguins signing Malkin to a long-term deal. Now, that's great news for the Penguins, but the least that TSN could do is get their source's name right. The newspaper is actually the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, not the Star-Review. C'mon, TSN... you're better than that. Or at least I thought you were.
  • The Penguins also filed for salary arbitration with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in order to retain his rights, making him unable to become a restricted free agent. This will allow the Penguins to continue to negotiate with the young star past the July 1 deadline, and I expect a contract announcement sometime after the NHL Entry Draft this weekend.
  • The San Jose Sharks also made a coaching announcement on Thursday, hiring former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellan to be their new head coach after signing a three-year deal. He led the AHL's Houston Aeros to a Calder Cup victory in 2003, and looks to duplicate his head coaching success in California. He'll be expected to improve upon Ron Wilson's playoff record where the Sharks were eliminated in the second round despite being the favourites. His experience with the Red Wings should hopefully give him an edge that he can use behind the bench.
  • There are reports that Alexei Yashin is looking to make a comeback with the Islanders next season after playing this season in Russia for Yaroslavl Lokomativ. It is reported that Mark Gandler, Yahsin's agent, contacted Islanders' GM Garth Snow about Yashin's return. Gandler then found it appropriate to insult every member of the Islanders team by saying, "They didn't have a first line last season". While it's true that the Islanders struggled due to injuries, Mike Comrie led the team with 49 points in 76 games last season. Yashin's best season with the Islanders was in 2001-02, his first season with the club, when he scored 75 points in 78 games. He's older, slower, and still as moody as ever. My only message to Garth Snow is "why bother". Let him stay in Russia where he had 43 points in 56 games. He'll just be wasting a roster spot.
  • The ECHL's Ontario Reign, formerly the Texas Wildcatters, have 17 players on their protected list from the former Wildcatters team to help form the basis of the Reign next season. The Reign will begin play officially on Saturday, October 18, 2008 in Bakersfield against the Condors, and will mark their home opener on Saturday, October 25, 2008 versus this season's Kelly Cup Finalist in the Las Vegas Wranglers. The game against the Wranglers will also mark the opening of Citizens Business Bank Arena for hockey - a brand-new, state-of-the-art, $130 million multi-purpose facility.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs hired Al Coates as their player-personnel director Monday. While this isn't huge in terms of news, the rumours of Burke-to-Toronto will only continue as Coates was formerly employed with the Ducks for the previous six seasons. While it's not truly tampering, the Leafs are sure going about building an empire of experienced personnel with which he has ties. If he truly is interested in the GM job in The Big Smoke, he will have his "knights" already in place. Keep an eye on this one.
  • Russian player Maxim Mamin was suspended Monday by the IIHF for two years following a positive drug test from the World Junior Championships from this past year. He is suspended from all IIHF-sanctioned events and events organized by IIHF member nations until January 2010. He was 19 at the time of test, which followed a game in Pardubice, Czech Republic. The drug found was a metabolite of nandrolone, an anabolic steroid, and was three-times the threshold limit under the World Anti-Doping Agency rules. The undrafted Russian has essentially killed any hope of being drafted, but can still compete within Russia with his club team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
  • In the biggest news of the day, the NHL's transfer agreement with the IIHF expired Monday, and this will potentially change the way that hockey business is done since there is no requirement for NHL teams to pay European leagues for free agents any longer. Both the Czech Republic and Russia refused to sign the latest attempt at an agreement as they felt the $200,000-per-player fee was too low, causing the NHL to walk away from the deal. IIHF president Rene Fasel said the NHL plans to honour European contracts and the league expects European teams do the same with NHL deals, but this may open up a whole can of worms for the European teams. Players under contract aren't affected by the NHL's decision not to renew the deal, but free agents are now, literally, free to for NHL teams to pursue. With the European leagues not receiving compensation any longer, this may put some serious strain on their leagues. Again, keep your eyes on this one.
Ok, that's a long laundry list of stuff that's happened over the last few days. Clearly, there is hope for some teams as they embark on a new path with a new coach or management. I'll have a few more "Charitable Donations" articles coming up this week, and I encourage you to check out the previous articles about these organizations by using the drop-down list to the right, or by scrolling down this page.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!