Thursday 31 July 2008

Hard To Understand

I've always respected the Minnesota Wild and the job that GM Doug Risebrough had done in being cost-conscious in the new NHL. They found hard-working, blue-collar guys in the systems of other teams, and drafted extremely well. In finding these hard-working guys, they brought in players like Andrew Burnette, Wes Walz, Cliff Ronning, Sergei Zholtok, Brian Rolston, and Pavol Demitra to lead the way in terms of teaching the younger players how to work hard while leading the franchise to success. The young guys that have grown in the system are guys like Marian Gaborik, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns, Stephane Veilleux, and Nick Schultz. These guys are the foundation that Doug Risebrough has added pieces around, and have allowed the Minnesota Wild to be successful thus far. As the Wild look to become increasingly successful, I have a major question for Mr. Risebrough to answer, and this is the premise for this entire article.

Yesterday, Mr. Risebrough went on record and stated that the Minnesota Wild had bought out the remaining three years of the contract that they had signed with Minnesota native and fan favourite in Mark Parrish. What struck me as odd in Mr. Risebrough's statement is this: "The unfortunate thing is when you have a big signing like that, people are looking at big production".

Look, I get that Mark Parrish signed a contract that may not reflect the desired offensive output that Doug Risebrough may have wanted. In 2006-07, Mr. Parrish played in 76 games, and racked up 19 goals and 20 assists. His 39 points was good for seventh on the team in scoring. In 2007-08, Mr. Parrish played in 66 games for the Wild. He missed a number of games due to a variety of injuries, but still put up 16 goals and 14 assists.

The problem that I have is one of dollars and sense. Not cents, but sense. Make that hockey sense. Mark Parrish is 31 years old. He still has a lot of good hockey in front of him. He's a fan favourite, and does an immense amount of work in the community with his charitable organization, 21 For Kids. Yes, I get that hockey is a business where winning and losing makes the difference for every player and member of a franchise, especially in the NHL.

The $64,000 question is this: why would you buyout Mark Parrish, a man who has an average salary of $2.65 million per season, and sign 36 year-old Owen Nolan for $2.75 million per season?

Let me change the scenario a little here. The Minnesota Wild play in a suffocating defensive system employed by head coach Jacques Lemaire. When talented players such as Marian Gaborik are complaining to the press about how their creativity is being stifled in system such as Lemaire's, how is a power forward like Parrish supposed to flourish?

Worse yet, Risebrough went out and signed the 36 year-old Owen Nolan to a two-year deal worth $2.75 million per season. Owen Nolan played in 77 games for the Calgary Flames last season, and scored 16 goals and 16 assists.

Parrish in 2007-08: 66 GP, 16 goals + 14 assists.
Nolan in 2007-08: 77 GP, 16 goals + 16 assists.

Does that make any sense to anyone? Risebrough signed an older, slower Nolan for more money than he was paying Parrish, yet Nolan had a whopping two assists more than Parrish in 11 more games.

"I had to just look at certain scenarios, including his salary versus his performance," Risebrough told The Canadian Press. "I just felt like this is an opportunity to buy somebody out and let the player move on and the team move on."

Excuse me? How does this make sense? You buyout a younger, cheaper player to make room for a guy who should have retired two years ago? I can understand loosening the purse strings to sign a guy like Andrew Brunette who, in the last few years, has become an extremely talented player. However, Risebrough is paying Nolan more than what he is paying Brunette.

Nolan is the fourth highest-paid forward on the Minnesota Wild roster. He played on the third and fourth lines in Calgary, and Minnesota made him the fourth highest-paid player on their team. A 36 year-old has-been who scored 32 points is the fourth highest-paid forward on the Minnesota Wild. Does anyone see a problem here?

If you think that Nolan will succeed as an offensive player in Jacques Lemaire's system, I have swampland in Florida to sell you. Nolan's best season came in 1999-2000 when he was an all-star with the San Jose Sharks. He racked up 44 goals and 40 assists that season, and played extremely well. Since the 1992-93 season, however, Nolan has not scored more than 66 points in a season aside from his all-star campaign. He hasn't broken the 50-point barrier since 2001-02.

Remember, Nolan is earning more money than Mark Parrish on his contract. Parrish's point-per-game average last season was 0.454. Nolan's point-per-game average was 0.416. Does this make any sense?

Statistically, there is no explanation for the buyout, and Mr. Riseborugh's statement about Parrish's buyout is nothing more than a rationalization. He made mistakes with his current contractual obligations, and he made mistakes in the past with contractual obligations. Risebrough even says as much when he stated that it "just felt like this is an opportunity to buy somebody out".

As a fan of the game, this smells like a manure pile. Mark Parrish is a talented power forward, and deserves better than to have Mr. Risebrough use him as scapegoat for his own shortcomings. As Mr. Risebrough said, "the team was successful, and Mark was a part of that", so why would you get rid of him? If change was necessary, why not trade him?

I'm sorry for your loss, Wild fans. Mark Parrish was a stand-up individual, and he deserved better than what he got. If I was part of the Team of 18,000, I'd be peeved right now. Mr. Risebrough scuttled one of your own, and that cuts deep.

Good luck getting 50 points out of Owen Nolan next season, Mr. Risebrough. My guess is that he'll fall out of favour with Jacques Lemaire early, and find himself on the bench a lot more often than you'd like to see.

And Wild fans, just remember who you're booing when Owen Nolan doesn't score 40 goals next season. It's not the guys on the ice who deserve the booing. It's the guy sitting in the luxury suite up above.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Twice In One Day?

That's right - I'm posting twice on the same day. I used to do this, but I found it to be impossible to devote that much time to this blog, especially during hockey season. However, today's second entry is a much more important piece than just some hockey news story. It follows along the line of the charitable organization articles I have been writing, and it actually deals with a fan's fight against a terrible disease. This second article is being written due to the efforts of Nicole DeByl, and her fight to raise money to help the Katie Thomas Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Treatment Fund.

I was checking the old inbox for Hockey Blog In Caanda and found Miss DeByl's email sitting at the top of the pile. It reads as follows:

"Hey there,
Just wanted to let you know that I am working with the Katie Thomas Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Treatment Fund, a charity benefiting a Denver mother who is fighting this terrible disease. Anyway, though you might be interested in posting a link to an auction site that has a bunch of rare, autographed hockey gear from the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Patrick Roy and Evgeni Malkin. All proceeds benefit Katie's treatment."

Now, this isn't a recognized charity by the NHL or the NHLPA, so I did some digging by following the links that Miss DeByl provided.

"Katie" is a young lady named Katura Thomas, or Katie for short, who lives in Denver, Colorado with her nine year-old daughter. She graduated from Kent Denver High School in 1992. From there, she went on to Columbia University in New York where she earned degrees in Organic Chemistry and Dramatic Theater. She then decided to pursue her doctorate in Molecular Biology with an emphasis in Genetics. She graduated with her Ph.D in Molecular Biology from New York University, and obtained Summa Cum Laude honours. She regularly volunteers her time at animal shelters, women's centers, and other non-profit organizations in the Denver area while caring for her daughter and managing a restaurant.

Clearly, Katie is one busy lady, and has lived a lifetime in her short time thus far. However, she's not done. She is an avid fan of the Colorado Avalanche, and loves theater, live music, and thrift shops as well. And now she faces a huge battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL).

Being that NHL is the disease that is currently affecting Katie, the Katie Thomas Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Treatment Fund has started an auction that runs until August 7, 2008 that has some really cool National Hockey League memorabilia - a Wayne Gretzky Oilers jersey, an autographed Miracle On Ice poster, a Ray Bourque Avalanche jersey, and much, much more.

The 33 year-old "genetics wiz" is undergoing a clinical trial to treat the disease due to traditional methods failing. The problem is that this clinical trial costs hundreds of thousands of dollars that rarely anyone has to treat this disease. This is a fabulous way to raise funds, and the buyer - meaning you - gets a great piece of hockey history.

If you'd like to help, please bid on one of the items on EBay. The complete auction listing can be found here. You can also donate directly to the Katie Thomas Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Treatment Fund via the PayPal link found on this page. You may also send your donation via snail mail to:

Help Katie Fight!
8335 E. Fairmount Drive
Unit 11-202
Denver, CO 80247

If you have an item that you wish to donate to one of the auctions, please take it to your nearest iSold It store, and have them put it up on EBay for you. Just be sure to designate the item is to be sold for the Katie Thomas Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma Treatment Fund, and they'll take care of everything else for you, right down to the shipping.

If you'd like to know more about Katie Thomas, please check out her website here. This is the woman that you're helping, and I cannot thank you enough for doing whatever you can in helping this hockey fan win the battle of her life.

Thanks for the heads-up, Nicole, and thanks for the info on Katie's fight. Keep up the good work, and Katie will have this battle won in no time!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Charitable Donations: Cam Neely Foundation

Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to have brought this continuing series to you, the readers, in order to show everyone how involved hockey players are in their respective communities. Today is no different as we look at another charitable organization that looks to help people fighting cancer in Boston, Massachusetts. The Cam Neely Foundation For Cancer Care has made huge strides since its inception in helping people fight this disease. Not only do they provide funding for cancer research, but they also assist people by providing whatever care and support they may need during their time of need. The former Boston Bruins winger was touched by cancer in his own life, so he is committed to helping those that supported him throughout his career.

Mission Statement: According to the foundation's website, "[t]he Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care, The Neely House, and The Neely Cancer Fund exist for one reason - to help cancer patients and their families during their treatment.

  • "The Cam Neely Foundation makes it all financially possible. The special relationship with Tufts Medical Center's Cancer Center ensures easy access to Boston's world-renowned medical facilities and unmatched compassionate care. Together, we recognize that everyone's needs are unique, and therefore we strive to provide whatever care, emotional support, and hope possible to facilitate the healing process.
  • "The Neely House provides a convenient, comfortable place to live, relax, and talk to others.
  • "The Neely Cancer Fund supports treatment and research efforts."
How Did The Cam Neely Foundation Start?: As I stated above, Cam Neely was touched by the devastating effects of cancer.

"The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care was launched in 1995 by the Neely family after the passing of their parents Marlene and Michael Neely from cancer. This experience created the inspiration to help others living with cancer. With the dream of honoring their beloved parents and the hope of helping others, The Cam Neely Foundation was created to help cancer patients and their families during treatments.

"Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over $16 million from donations of all sizes, impacted thousands of families and continue to dedicate ourselves to designing, funding, and completing projects with immediate and tangible results."

Those are some pretty impressive results. Clearly, Mr. Neely is doing a world of good for the people of Boston through his efforts in raising funds for cancer research. However, the two branches of the Cam Neely Foundation are just as important as the actual foundation itself.

The Neely Cancer Fund "is dedicated to finding new ways to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families as they undergo treatment", but they also help patients after treatments. The Cam Neely Foundation is responsible for two major centers at the Tufts Medical Center.

The Neely Center for Clinical Cancer Research was designed and renovated in the summer of 2003, and the Center "provides cancer patients and their families the opportunity to have more rapid access to important, new cancer studies and treatments". Patients have access to staff at the Tufts Medical Center who can help to develop, coordinate and oversee their cancer therapy.

The foundation is also responsible for The Neely Cell Therapy and Collection Center. "Cancer and leukemia patients or related or unrelated transplant donors often spend several hours in one sitting having their stem cells extracted in order for laboratory technicians to process them for infusion back into the patient. In keeping with the Foundation's mission of providing comfort to cancer patients and their families, improving the physical environment for these patients or their donors was a priority as stem cell transplantation affects so many patients seen at Tufts Medical Center's Cancer Center". This newly-renovated 4000 sq. ft. area is complete with "specially-chosen furnishings, warm color palette, hardwood floors, state-of-the-art flat screen monitors for television and DVDs". All of this was essential in the re-design for patients to be in the utmost comfort.

The Cam Neely Foundation isn't done, though. They have already started the building of The Neely Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, located within The Floating Hospital for Children's Cancer Center. This unit will allow parents to remain close to their children during their treatments instead of being kept at a distance due to former medical procedures.

"'The new Neely Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit will, of course, provide the state-of-the-art medical technology and facilities required to care for children looking for hope from these intense treatment programs,' says Larry Wolfe, M.D., Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at The Floating Hospital for Children. 'Perhaps more importantly, the physical design of the unit will focus on not only world-class medical care, but the entire experience of care for the patient and their family. The Neely unit will transform the story of bone marrow transplant for a child by providing the amenities that will enable families to view this unit full of technology and intense treatments as a temporary, unthreatening home of healing,' explains Dr. Wolfe."

The second project that the Cam Neely Foundation is working to raise funds for is The Michael Neely Center for Brain Tumor Care and Research. "In October 2005, The Neely Foundation announced its commitment to raise $5 million for the establishment of The Michael Neely Center for Brain Tumor Care and Research, in memory of Michael Neely, father of Cam and Scott and their sisters Shaun and Christine. Michael Neely valiantly lost his battle with brain cancer in November 1993". The improvements being made will allow the patients staying at this world-class facility to access all services associated with brain tumors - imaging, surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and clinical trails. Currently, over $3.5 million has been raised for the new Center, so there is still work to be done.

This is fabulous work, and Mr. Neely and the staff on his foundation should be commended for their incredible work. However, this is only the first branch of the Cam Neely Foundation.

The Neely House, located at the Tufts Medical Center, is "a bed and breakfast style home away from home for cancer patients and their families". The warm, caring environment was built to help patients and their families by building bonds with other families in similar situations as well as providing a nurturing environment for all those affected by cancer.

"After opening its doors in 1997 with eight beautifully designed, self contained apartments with all of the comforts of home, The Neely House expanded to sixteen private apartments in 2000 and now encompasses over 15,000 square feet, with two common kitchen areas and two living rooms. The space is designed to encourage group conversation or provide quiet corners for reading. Families can also enjoy the privacy of their own accommodation that features a kitchenette, private bath and a warm and homelike environment. All necessities such as laundry, telephone, answering machines, internet access, movie and reading libraries have been considered and are integral to the amenities available to families."

Over 3000 families have stayed at The Neely House since its doors opened. The average stay is approximately three weeks, and the longest stay to date is 51 weeks. All of this is made possible through donation from sponsors and people like you.

The Boston Bruins and the NHL are corporate sponsors of the Cam Neely Foundation, but there are a pile of other sponsors as well. One of those includes hockey fan and stand-up comedian/actor Denis Leary. You can view all the corporate sponsors of the Cam Neely Foundation here.

The Cam Neely Foundation is doing an immense service for the people of Boston, Massachusetts. I commend their work, and am proud to outline their fantastic organization on this blog.

How Can I Help?: As seen above, there are a number of initiatives and projects with which the Cam Neely Foundation is involved. I'll run down the different ways you can help in the next few paragraphs.

You can make a gift directly to the Cam Neely Foundation or The Neely House by following this link. You can choose where the gift is used, and the dollar amount you'd like to donate. You can also donate in someone's name which might be a nice gift to give someone, or a nice tribute or memorial to someone who may have already passed on.

You can help a family stay at The Neely House by donating $20 per night. The form for this donation is found here, and your donation goes directly to helping someone who is fighting cancer.

You can choose to donate stock. "By donating appreciated stock, you maximize your gift to the charity while minimizing your taxes. Instead of selling the stock and paying capital gains taxes out of your pocket and then sending the cash to the charity, you can donate the appreciated security to the charity, which can then sell the asset on its own without tax consequences. And you can deduct the full market value of the holding at the time of donation". If this interests you, I encourage you to call the Cam Neely Foundation directly at (617) 346-5900.

You can bequest your estate to the foundation. I suggest reading through the information on bequeathing before making this decision to see if it is right for you.

You can name one of the rooms in The Neely House or the newly-built Neely Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. These two centers need your support to help as many people as they can, and they have a number of rooms and areas that can be named as a tribute or memorial to someone or yourself. Please call the Cam Neely Foundation at (617) 346-5900 for more information.

If you're in charge of a corporation, the Cam Neely Foundation can help your tax situation as well. There are a number of ways that corporate donors can help out, and I encourage you to read this page to find something that may interest you.

You can also volunteer your time to help the Cam Neely Foundation. If the work that the Cam Neely Foundation is doing interests you, you can help them out by filling out this form and donating your time and efforts in helping people fight cancer. If you are unable to donate anything in terms of a monetary value, this type of donation will also go a long way in helping someone out.

Lastly, if you like to be involved at the events in terms of supporting the foundation, I encourage you to check their calendar of events on the Cam Neely Foundation website. There are events planned monthly, it seems, so there's always something going on. You can see photos of past events here, read the past newsletters here, and read all the media coverage that the foundation has received by clicking here.

If you'd like to join the Cam Neely Foundation's mailing list, I encourage you to fill out the form found here. If you do have any questions about anything that the Cam Neely Foundation is doing, please email them at dlavoie-at-camneelyfoundation-dot-org. You can also call them at (617) 346-5900, or send them a letter via snail mail at:
The Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care
30 Winter Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, Massachusetts 02108

The Cam Neely Foundation, the NHLPA, and the foundation's namesake, Cam Neely, 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!

Monday 28 July 2008

Alternate Information

With all that was happening this weekend, I neglected to post anything on this blog (as you may have noticed). I helped my brother move into his new house on Friday night, went to Jeff and Melissa's wedding on Saturday, and spent the final day with my extended family on Sunday before they returned to southern Ontario. However, a friend of mine did text me with the subject of "New Alts 4 NHL" along with a HockeyBuzz link. As you know, our good friend and hockey prognosticator, Eklund, works for them, so I was slightly skeptical of the information he was sending.

It turns out that Howard Berger was writing the article, and he's come up with descriptions of each alternate jersey he has seen thus far. Some sound reasonable while others sound like a three year-old designed them. I'll run through them quickly, posting Howard's description followed by my thoughts.

"ATLANTA: The club will introduce a dark red jersey with the word 'THRASHERS' on the front, just above the player’s uniform number, which will appear on both sides of the design. A broad white stripe will adorn each arm of the jersey with a dark red number in the stripe. A broad white-and-dark blue stripe will run down the sides of the jersey."

Can't they just replace the god-awful baby blue jerseys? If anything, these sound like Dallas' home uniforms, only in red. I wasn't fond of Dallas' design, but Atlanta's alternate jerseys will be a definite improvement over the hideous home jerseys they currently wear.

"BOSTON: The Bruins will unveil an all black jersey with the club’s alternate logo on the front – a black bear with the word 'BRUINS' above it in a semi-circle. Two gold stripes will appear on the arms, with gold numbering above the stripes and on the back."

We had seen a variation of the Bruins' alternate duds earlier this year, but the video has since been removed from YouTube. I think they looked pretty decent. The logo, as Mr. Berger wrote, will look like their shoulder patch. I think these jerseys will be alright, and a definite improvement over the Winnie-The-Pooh designs. I still would have preferred them to go with the early-1990s version of the Bruins uniforms or even their 75th anniversary throwbacks, but these new uniforms should get a passing grade.

"BUFFALO: The Sabres will bring back their original road jersey – the blue design with the round 'cross-sword' logo on the front, and the three gold stripes on the arms and the bottom of the jersey. It’s the uniform the Sabres’ first GM/coach, George (Punch) Imlach, requested; a design similar to that which Imlach's Maple Leafs had from the 1967 playoffs through 1969-70. And, it’s the jersey Buffalo wore during road games from the beginning of the franchise in 1970-71 to the end of the 1995-96 season. Beginning in 1996-97, the Sabres switched to a black, red and white uniform, and completely redesigned their logo. Another redesign occurred prior to the 2006-07 campaign, with the team returning to its blue and gold color scheme."

These alternate jerseys should be their home and road design. High marks from this writer in bringing back these alternate jerseys. Now if they could only wear them on the road as well! Well done, Sabres!

"CAROLINA: The Hurricanes will introduce a black third jersey, with red and white trim – different than their customary red home uniform with the black and white trim. Each arm will sport red and white angular stripes. The bottom of the jersey will feature a narrow white stripe and a thicker red one. In between, will be 10 white stars. The club’s red logo on the uniform front is placed within a white triangle, presumably to honor the famed Research Triangle that dominates the Raleigh-Durham area."

I'm unsure of this idea. I really like the look of Carolina's home jerseys, and resent the fact that they are using a detail colour as a primary colour now. Unless you have black as one of your dominant colours, you shouldn't use it as a primary colour. Ever. Someone actually mocked up a design, and I am not a fan of this at all.

"CHICAGO: The Blackhawks will return to the predominantly black third jersey they have worn in recent years. A white stripe flanked by two red stripes will appear on each arm, and at the bottom of the jersey. A wide red stripe is featured at the tip of each arm. The traditional Blackhawks Indian-head logo appears, as usual, on the front."

Why can't they go with their traditional look as the alternate? Seriously, how much better does this jersey look compared to this jersey? This might be the first mistake that Rocky Wirtz has made since taking over the franchise's operations. Blackhawks fans love their traditions, and the throwback jerseys would have been huge, especially with the Winter Classic taking place at Wrigley Field this season.

"DALLAS: The Stars’ third jersey is simple… a white uniform with the word “DALLAS” crowned on the front, atop the jersey number, which appears on both sides. Parallel dark-green and black stripes appear on each arm. There are no stripes at the bottom of the jersey."

Dallas' home jersey now become a white alternate jersey. Wow... creativity at its finest. I thought you would have been better than this, Dallas. You know, maybe go back to wearing your star-designed jerseys? At least they ditched the female anatomy jersey. That alternate was one of the worst of all-time.

"EDMONTON: The Oilers are going back to their glory days with the predominantly blue jersey Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier et al wore on the road while winning five Stanley Cup titles between 1984 and 1990. Orange shoulder piping will re-appear, along with a broad orange stripe at the tip of each arm. Two white stripes flanking an orange stripe are on the arms and near the bottom of the jersey. The original round Oilers logo, with the orange oil drip and blue team name, is on the front."

Huge thumbs-up to the Oilers in returning to a very recognizable jersey design. While I really liked the Todd McFarlane-designed alternate jerseys, new owner Daryl Katz grew up watching the Oilers of the 1980s, so I appreciate this look. Well done, Oilers!

"LOS ANGELES: The Kings will unveil a predominantly black jersey with the letters 'LA' inside a pencil-point logo on the front. Broad white stripes will adorn each arm. A thin white stripe will run horizontally on each side of the jersey, just beneath the shoulder. There are no stripes at the bottom of the uniform. The color purple – widely evident in the Kings’ primary jersey – will likely be featured in the number outlines of the alternate, though the photo copy I have doesn’t clearly show it. A better idea would have been a reprise of the Kings’ original purple and gold uniforms from 1967, but the club marketers are apparently not bent on tradition."

Why does LA insist on going with black? Are they incapable of designing anything else? Does someone there wish they worked for the LA Raiders of the NFL? I have to agree with Mr. Berger and vote for the gold-and-purple jerseys. Those look classy, and Mr. Dionne agrees with me (unofficially).

"NEW YORK ISLANDERS: The Isles are going back to their original road jersey from 1972-73, when they joined the NHL along with the Atlanta Flames. It is a royal-blue base, with broad orange and white stripes on the arms and at the bottom of the jersey. The uniform numbers – as they appeared during the club’s inaugural season – are orange with white trim. Player names will also be orange. The Islanders switched to white jersey numbers after their dreadful first year in the league; when they compiled a 12-60-6 record... worst, to that point, in NHL history."

The throwback jersey gets a thumbs-up from me. I like the look of it, and it harkens back to the Islanders' dynasty days. While I would have been ecstatic had the Islanders chosen to go with the Fisherman look again, I'm certainly happy with the choice of the throwback jersey.

"OTTAWA: A dramatic change in the Senators’ third jersey will see a predominantly black uniform with the word 'SENS' angled upward on the front. A fashionable red stripe will run from the arm pits, down the side of the jersey, to its base, where the stripe turns inward. A pair of narrow red and white stripes will adorn each arm, and the very bottom of the jersey. It’s quite a sharp design."

If it looks anything like their previous alternate jerseys, I'm ok with the design. However, this wordmark on the front seems a little "beer league" to me. Why are they just putting "Sens" and not the team name? I'll reserve the right to hold off judgment until I actually see these uniforms.

"PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are also going for tradition, bringing back the predominantly orange jersey the club wore at home when it joined the NHL in 1967-68. White shoulder piping will again run the length of each arm, with orange numbers trimmed in black. A large black stripe is affixed to the tip of each arm. A broad white stripe adorns the bottom of the uniform. The Flyers’ stylized “P” black logo with the orange dot is on the front."

We've known about Philly introducing an orange alternate this season since they unveiled their new uniforms last season. As Mr. Berger states, the throwback/traditional orange jersey will be used, and I approve of it over the ridiculous futuristic orange jersey they were previously using. I like the traditional look. Good on Philly for making the change.

"PHOENIX: The Coyotes will unveil an all-new design… a predominantly black jersey with a leaping desert-red coyote as the front logo. A large, dark-red stripe will run down the side of the jersey, broadening at the base. A similar dark-red stripe, only smaller, is affixed to the latter half of the arm, beyond the white numbers."

Why black? Their current home jerseys are one of the best in the NHL! They don't need an alternate jersey, especially after seeing some of the previous designs they've come up with! Again, the brick-red-and-white is excellent. Don't give into the black jersey. You were looking like a team with class, Coyotes. Now? Not so much.

"PITTSBURGH: Kudos to the Penguins for staying with the jersey the club wore during the Outdoor Classic in Buffalo last Jan. 1st. It’s a replica of the home jersey the Penguins wore starting in 1968-69, their second year in the NHL: Predominantly light-blue in color, with broad white stripes trimmed in dark blue on the sleeves and uniform base. A large, dark-blue stripe is at the tip of each arm. The neckline is dark-blue with the lace-up feature. The dark-blue, circular Penguins’ logo is on the front."

I'm onside with this alternate jersey as well. As seen at the Winter Classic 2008, the Penguins will be sticking with the baby blue jersey as their 2009 alternate jerseys. These got rave reviews at the Winter Classic, and I'm glad Pittsburgh stuck with these. While a couple of their other alternate jerseys wouldn't have been bad choices either, the baby blue jerseys certainly are different and emphasize the tradition of the Penguins.

"SAN JOSE: Though the photo I have is a bit grainy, the Sharks will wear a predominantly black third jersey with aqua and white stripes on each sleeve. The back number is white. The traditional Sharks’ “biting-stick” logo is on the front."

The Sharks go back one year to bring back their ridiculous black alternates. There are no black sharks swimming in the oceans, yet the San Jose Sharks continually design black alternate jerseys. Between Dallas, San Jose, and Los Angeles, the Pacific Division has gotten worse in terms of their looks, and I didn't think that could be possible. I stand corrected.

"ST. LOUIS: Another significant change. The Blues will introduce a dark-blue alternate jersey with a white stripe trimmed in black on the sleeves and uniform base. The club’s traditional 'blue-note' logo appears within a circle on the front of the jersey, with the city’s famous Gateway Arch in the background. It will also have the lace-up feature."

Rather that reviving an alternate jersey that Mike Keenan vetoed while he was destroying the St. Louis Blues, the Blues are designing a new one with a little city history involved. I like the inclusion of the Arch, but it sounds as if the logo-in-circle design will emulate that of Minnesota. Either way, it still can't be as bad as what Gretzky wore, can it?

"TAMPA BAY: Also completely different. The Lightning will introduce a predominantly dark-blue alternate with the word 'BOLTS' angling downward in white on the jersey front. A narrow white stripe is featured above a broad black stripe at the uniform base. Grey and white stripes are on each arm, and the latter half of the sleeve, to the tip, is black."

Tampa Bay goes "beer league" by including their nickname on their alternate jerseys. At least there are no cartoonish raindrops or lightning bolts down the arms on this one. However, the "Bolts" name across the chest makes the Lightning franchise seem like a minor-pro team.

TORONTO: "[T]he Leafs’ alternate jersey will be identical to the one the players have worn, on and off, since 1998: A replica of the club’s white road uniform from the mid-1960s, with the 35-point, blue maple leaf logo on the front; blue shoulder piping, and two blue lines on the arms and near the bottom of the jersey. A thick blue stripe encircles the tip of the sleeve. The neck has the lace-up feature prominent in the 1960s and early-'70s."

I'm ok with this jersey. It's classic and shows tradition. Lots of people own one over the standard Toronto jersey, so there's nothing wrong with bringing this classic look back.

"VANCOUVER: The Canucks are going back to their inception in 1970-71 by bringing back the predominantly blue road jersey the club wore. At the bottom of the jersey – and on each arm – is a broad green stripe flanked by a pair of white stripes. The club’s original 'hockey-stick-in-a-rink' logo is outlined in green and white on the front."

The Canucks bring back their most popular alternate jersey to date. The retro look was huge in Vancouver, and lots of people could be seen wearing it during Canucks' games on television. Ironically, they won't look much different in colour compared to their home jerseys, but the highly-popular design was asked for by the fans during the jersey re-designs, and they've brought it back. It was far better than the Golden Skate alternate, and 100 times better than the Orca Bay alternate. Well done, Canucks!

There you have it, people. 18 teams with alternate jerseys on the way so you can pay through the nose to purchase another jersey for your team-based collections. I'm excited for the looks of some of these jerseys, but the rest should be put out to pastures. And enough with the base colour of black! Get creative!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 25 July 2008

Becoming Obsolete

Life has thrown everything at me in the last few days, and I've been extremely busy because of it. It will continue into the weekend as well, and I'll find myself at a good friend's wedding tomorrow. However, it should be a good time, and I'm looking forward to being a part of Jeff's and Melissa's big day. However, before I get into my suit and tie for the event, I was looking at some of the names signed to teams today, and it seems that there are fewer and fewer true enforcers left in the game. Yes, you still have your Godards, Boogaards, Laraques, Hordichuks, and Parkers, but they are expected to do more than just chuck knuckles. In honour of these guys, I present to you some of the greatest NHL enforcers in this writer's humble opinion.

Let's start with the man who redefined the term "enforcer". Bob Probert was one of the toughest, meanest guys ever to don a hockey jersey, and you simply did not take liberties with guys like Yzerman when Probert was in the lineup.

Bob Probert vs. Greg Smyth

Another guy who looked like he might be Probert's main contender to the title of "Heavyweight Champion of the NHL" was Link Gaetz. Gaetz was a fierce competitor, and threw punches like they were going out of style. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire after a boating accident.

Link Gaetz vs. Bob Probert

The other half of the "Bruise Brothers" in Detroit was Joey Kocur. Kocur was one of the most feared enforcers of all-time due to his fighting style. He put his entire body behind every punch.

Joey Kocur vs. Sean Brown

Who is the most dangerous lefty in the NHL? Georges Laraque. And Laraque knows how to rain blows down upon people.

Georges Laraque vs. Riley Cote

Those are some of my favorite enforcers of all-time. Of course, there are a pile more. Dave Semenko, Ryan Vandenbussche, Tim Hunter, Tie Domi, Dan Kordic, and Stu Grimson would also be included in this list if I were doing a Top-10 list, but I'm not. Is there anyone I've forgotten or overlooked? Let me know in the comment section!

I'm off to get some sleep before the wedding bells ring for Jeff and Melissa! Congratulations, and I'll see you two tomorrow! As for everyone else, stay safe and take care!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Updates, Mercis, and Other Blogs

As some of the frequent readers may note, I like to walk around the blogosphere and keep tabs on what may be going on in other parts of the Internet. It's a big place, and I figure that I should stop by as many places as I can before they ban me completely. There's news and stories and all sorts of craziness that goes on, and I like to bring those fun things to light. That's what today's entry is all about - visiting other places. Along the way, I will say thanks to a few people who make this blogging thing a whole lot more fun. There's also going to be some nice updates to some stories I wrote as well. Get your walking shoes on because I'm about to start.

With the article I wrote about the charitable organization known as Right To Play, I got a great email from a gentleman named Mr. Mark Brender who works for Right To Play. Mr. Brender is the Deputy Director, and he had some really nice things to say. I appreciate emails from any and all my readers, as well as comments, so I feel I should keep everyone up-to-date on what is going on with Right To Play.

Recently, Robyn Regehr and Zdeno Chara spent some time over in Africa working with Right To Play. Chara climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, while both players spent time in Mozambique. Mr. Brender accompanied Mr. Chara on the trek up the side of the tallest mountain in Africa.

"We conquered two points, including Gillman's Point," said Mr. Brender of Chara's fundraising climb. "It was amazing. Zdeno was really committed to making a difference."

Chara and Regehr visited and played with children in and around Mozambique's capital city of Maputo from June 24th to the 28th. The two rugged defencemen had never met before the trip, but both came away from the experience with much more than just friendship. And that's what Right To Play is all about - helping others, and learning by doing.

Thanks for the email, Mark! Keep up the excellent work!

In a second update, Jennifer Hammer, author of I Mean, We Got Guys..., sent me a quick note to let me know that she had attended the summer golf tournament at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland, called "Olie and Stu's Desert Bash", to help raise funds for the Carson Kolzig Foundation which works in conjuction with the Athletes Against Autism Foundation. Olaf Kolzig and Stu Barnes host the event.

The most impressive part of the entire tournament was the total raised for the foundation: a record $170,000! Fabulous work, and a big thumbs-up from this writer to all who helped make this year's event the best ever! You can see pictures from the event, take by Miss Hammer, in her Picasa photo album: Day One is here, and Day Two is here.

Again, well done to all involved, and thanks for the note, Jennifer!

Now that we got those two great updates out of the way, I want to continue to work my way down the "thank you" list I have here.

Greg Wyshynski - linking me on your blog has driven hundreds of readers to my blog. I'm certainly nowhere near the talent that you possess in writing about hockey, but I appreciate the links, and want to say thank you to you for linking me, and thank you to your readers for stopping by and reading my rambling tales about hockey.

I want to say thank you to the people of Iowa for not hunting me down regarding my view on the Iowa Chops. The passion of people in Iowa makes me believe that this season's AHL team in Des Moines will receive excellent support, and that's great news for the game. Thank you for being excellent, well-rounded, non-murderous people, Iowans. And thank you for your passion for the game.

Finally, I want to highlight a few blogs that have stood out over the past few days for me.

Lowetide has done some excellent work recently, most notably his thoughts on blogging, and his thoughts on the Oilers grabbing "Bou-Bou". Fabulous work, and a great Oilers blog.

CapsChick, in an effort to pass some of the incredibly long summer days, has started a new campaign on A View From The Cheap Seats. She has started Ask CapsChick, a sort of question and answer piece where you can ask her "[a]nything and everything on which you would like an opinion is fair game, as long as it has some sort of association with hockey". Got a question? You know who to ask.

Kevin over at Barry Melrose Rocks examines the latest hiring at the CBC for Hockey Night In Canada. This article is definitely R-rated as Kevin examines the hiring emotionally. The result is basically what we're all thinking about this particular man.

Richard-Steven Williams gets a shout-out for his work on Blood on the Ice. Great work, good writing, and a solid passion for hockey. The only problem? He's in England! He still does some excellent work, though.

Norte, of He Score, He Shoots fame, has started up his own page called Hockey The Blog. He's now all alone in the scary world of the Blogosphere! Wait, this isn't such a bad thing. Go check his new page out as it's solid.

Andrew over at Scoring For Houston linked me up a while back, so I'll do the same for him. Andrew writes about the Houston Aeros and the AHL, and does it well albeit briefly. There aren't that many AHL blogs that I've found, and I'd really like to find some more. If you know of any, please leave a comment or send me an email.

The Frozen Fan dispels a few myths regarding the Philadelphia Flyers. This is another well-written blog that deserves a little of your time, especially if you're a fan of the orange-and-black.

My eyes are begging me for sleep, so I'm going to go get some. Have a good one, everyone, and check out all the links listed above!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Breaking Down Barriers

The image to the left is of Hayley Wickenheiser. Miss Wickenheiser has basically done it all in her illustrious sports career, including playing for Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics in softball. She's won World Championships with Team Canada, Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, and has even played professional men's hockey in Europe. In 2003, she played for HC Salamat in Finland where she scored two goals and added ten assists in 23 games. This would also make her the first woman to score in a professional men's hockey game. Today, it was announced that Hayley Wickenheiser signed a one-year contract with Swedish third-tier team Eskilstuna Linden. The 29 year-old Canadian is looking to break down barriers in the sport again.

I've been a big supporter of the women's game mainly because it emphasizes everything the men's game doesn't: skill, speed, and scoring. I've spoken at length about how the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto is holding all women back, not to mention the sport as well, with their exclusion of women in the Hall of Fame. I have championed the women's game for the fierce rivalry that exists between the American and Canadian women. I've covered both the Women's NCAA Frozen Four and the CIS Women's Championships, and have seen nothing wrong with the level of hockey being played in either league.

It has been said for some time that Hayley Wickenheiser is the best women's hockey player on the planet right now. She routinely leads Team Canada in scoring, and is always near the top of the list for scoring leaders throughout the various tournaments in which they play.

Which leads me to this question: should she be suiting up for a Tier-3 professional men's Swedish team?

The short answer is "why not?", but that doesn't really say anything, does it?

There's a huge difference between the Swedish Elite League and the Finnish Elite League. She'd be playing in a better league than the third-division of the Finnish Elite League. Granted, she didn't do as well in the second-division of the Finnish Elite League, but I'd put Tier-3 of the Swedish Elite League somewhere between Tier-3 and Tier-2 of the Finnish Elite League.

This isn't 2002 any longer, and she's grown as a person and a player. I think she'll be able to use her experiences as a learning tool. That being said, the guys playing against her won't back down, and she'll have to keep herself moving at all times. Foot speed, as we've seen with aging NHL players, is always a concern, but being only 29, she's in the prime of her career.

Of course, Eskilstuna Linden will be using Miss Wickenheiser's on-ice appearances to help them draw a few more fans that what they normally may attract. However, the Swedish team is also giving girls in Sweden a chance to see one of the best women's hockey players of all-time. This can only result in positive growth of the sport in the Scandinavian country, and that's good for everyone. Sure, some fans may call it "a gimmick", but if more girls start playing hockey, isn't that good for the sport in general?

I'm all for Miss Wickenheiser playing in Sweden and making herself better, as well as growing the game. Women's hockey outside of North America doesn't have the growth it experienced here, and anything to help the game along is better than nothing. If playing against men makes Miss Wickenheiser a better player as well, that's also good for the game and Team Canada.

Good luck, Hayley, and all the best in Sweden!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 21 July 2008

Charitable Donations: Cardiac Kids

Hockey Blog In Canada is proud to present another charitable organization that is receiving help from the NHLPA. Today, I'd like to present the work of Toronto Maple Leafs' forward Matt Stajan, and his efforts in helping Cardiac Kids, an organization helping children with congenital heart disease at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Mr. Stajan, the Mississauga, Ontario native, has gone beyond the call of duty as a spokesperson, and Cardiac Kids cannot be happier. Rather than just speaking about the children who need help, Mr. Stajan spends as much time as possible with the children, and the children get to spend time with one of their hockey heroes.

Mission Statement: From their website, "Cardiac Kids is a volunteer group founded in 2000, established to raise much-needed funds for children who are suffering from congenital heart disease". They also provide "funding for educational seminars for patients and their families, as well as Camp Oki, the first Canadian camp for children with pacemakers". But their mission doesn't stop there as they award five scholarships to "Cardiac Program nurses to maintain their position at the leading edge of pediatric cardiology nursing". That's pretty special.

How Did Cardiac Kids Start?: As stated above, Cardiac Kids got its start in 2000 by a gentleman named Jeff Neiman. The goal was to raise as much money as possible to assist the cardiology ward at The Hospital for Sick Children.

Mr. Neiman originally had two other Maple Leafs as spokesmen, namely Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker. However, as the organization grew, Cardiac Kids wanted someone as the face of the growing organization - someone who could grow alongside the organization - and Mr. Neiman found Matt Stajan's enthusiasm.

Congenital heart disease is a serious affliction for children with 8 out of 1000 children born with congenital heart defects. As their website says, "[l]ast year in Canada there were approximately 400,000 births, which means that in this country alone, approximately 3200 children were born with some form of heart defect". Approximately 36,000 babies in the United States are born with congenital heart disease each year. A congenital heart defect is a defect in the structure of the heart and great vessels of a newborn. Heart defects are one of the most common birth defects, and have become the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. There are many different types of congenital heart defects that can vary in severity.

I'd say that is a pretty serious affliction for a newborn to overcome. However, "CHD may be treated with certain medications, minimally invasive procedures, and surgeries that offer the promise of a much brighter and healthier future". For more information regarding CHD, its symptoms, and its treatments, I encourage you to read this website's information.

"We were looking for someone to do the so-called 'dirty work'," Mr. Neiman stated to the NHLPA. "It wasn't going to be a role that was all glitz and glamour. We needed someone to spend some quality time with the kids and to also help acknowledge the wonderful work the nurses do in taking care of the children."

Not only has Mr. Stajan done that, but he has done so much more. Matt routinely shows up at the hospital to spend time with the children in the cardiology ward at The Hospital for Sick Children. He never has to be asked to show up. Rather, he calls Cardiac Kids and asks if he can go.

"Can you believe it? Matt calls us to ask if he can go to the hospital," praised Neiman. "It's simply unbelievable how open and caring he is about this. He's always willing to do his part without looking for praise."

The kids at The Hospital for Sick Children cheer on their hero whenever they can, and he returns the favor by visiting as often as he can. He's also brought along some of his teammates so that the kids can meet more of their heroes, as seen here with Carlo Colaiacovo.

Clearly, Mr. Stajan's work with Cardiac Kids is making life for these young hockey fans much better, and that cannot be overlooked.

How Can I Help?: There are a number events that Cardiac Kids holds in order to help in their fundraising efforts. The 2008 event list is here, and while we've missed most of them, there is still one event listed. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, here's your chance to help the Cardiac Kids Foundation.

If you'd like to make a donation to Cardiac Kids, there are two ways to do so. The first is by credit card, and that can be done by following this link. You'll receive a tax receipt, so it's good for you and it's great for the children. The second way is to send your donation in by cheque. To do so, please print off this form, and send your completed form and cheque through the mail to:

Cardiac Kids
2450 Victoria Park Ave.
Toronto, ON M2J 4A2

If you do have any questions about Cardiac Kids, I encourage you to fill out the online form found on their website. You can also send them a question via email at info-at-cardiackids-dot-ca if you prefer to personalize the question. You can also reach them by telephone at (416) 850-9055 extension #228. If you'd like to reach them by snail mail, please follow the address listed above.

Cardiac Kids, the NHLPA, and Matt Stajan 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 20 July 2008

Shopping On EBay

I have to laugh sometimes at what one can find on Ebay to purchase. I get that it's nothing more than a flea market with deals to be had on everything you can imagine, but I really question the sanity of some people who try to sell things on Ebay. Babies? They've been on there. Uranium? The radioactive material has been up for auction to the highest bidder. It was on Ebay that I located the Pittsburgh Penguins garter - you know, for the woman who can't let hockey go on the biggest day of her life. Or maybe she wears it to get her Penguins-obsessed guyfriend into the mood. Whatever it may be, I put together a little shopping list of the craziest things found recently on Ebay.

Anaheim Ducks
- you can own two Anaheim Ducks red poker chips. Yes, just two. Not a whole set... just two.

Detroit Red Wings - nothing says "I'm a fan" more than having your very own ticket stub from Game Two of the Stanley Cup Finals. You can brag to your friends that you spent $395 on it, I guess.

Philadelphia Flyers - when you need that special accessory, go with the belt buckle. It says so much about you.

Tampa Bay Lightning - when looking for fans of your team, this probably isn't what you had in mind. Can you even see the logo when the fan is spinning?

Random Hockey Stuff

  • People from Columbus should give a hoot, as this Columbus Owls button says.
  • Paul Coffey was a Canada Cup winner in 1987 and 1991, but where's the rest of the trophy? There's a Bill Ranford one and a Guy Lafleur one as well, in case Coffey doesn't float your boat.
  • How about something to carry your hot drinks in? The NHL Thermos will help! Here's the actual description of this item: "Vintage Aladdin NHL Hockey Thermos National Hockey League, about 6 1/2 inches tall. I've not seen this model before."
  • If jerseys are more your thing, you can pick up this Skoda-endorsed jersey on Ebay. Again, the description should tell you something: "The jersey is made of a material that I could not name but it looks like a mix between cotton material and strong paper". Um... yeah.
  • Midale, Saskatchewan held a hockey alumni reunion for the Midale Mustangs hockey team. They apparently issued $5 coins good for purchases, and now you can have your own! Except that they aren't worth $5 anymore. And probably aren't of much use outside Midale, Saskatchewan.
  • These beads were billed as "Detroit Red Wings team colored beads", but I don't recall the Red Wings being any colors other than red and white. Use them in New Orleans, I suppose.
  • For you hockey card collectors, you can own a 1981-82 O-Pee-Chee display box. No cards actually come with the box, but you do get that stylish tape fastener on the front. It's simply an empty display box.
  • For you crafting people, you can now make your own soap with a soap-making mold! Rather than using traditional store-bought soap, you can make your own hockey-themed soap. The best part of this auction is: "As a bonus, I am also throwing in a chunk of black Soap colorant. That way you have the correct color for your hockey pucks :)". Ridiculous.
Yeah, there are some idiotic things on Ebay. Between fake "authentic" jerseys and used "new" equipment, that's scary enough. However, if it was made once, it can be sold again... right? No? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 19 July 2008

Building The Hype

My Friday was completely wiped out by the fact that I went to see the midnight showing on Thursday of The Dark Knight. I was sluggish at work on Friday after having only four hours of sleep, and I returned home after work to fall straight into bed and sleep until 8am Saturday morning. Like I said, a completely wasted Friday. But I will say this: go see The Dark Knight. It was incredible. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was, in my opinion, the best I've seen this year, and probably the best I've seen as a Batman villain. My apologies to Mr. Jack Nicholson, but that is how evil should look. Aaron Eckhart's performance as Harvey Dent and Two Face should not be overlooked either. If you liked Batman Begins, you'll love The Dark Knight.

Ok, onto some hockey-related stories. I'll recap as much as I can from the last few days.

  • The NHL's announcement of playing the Winter Classic in Wrigley Field in Chicago is a good move. Wrigley Field is a field with legendary mystique, and having the Blackhawks tangle there with their Original Six counterparts in the Detroit Red Wings should help to bring a number of fans back to Blackhawks hockey. Rocky Wirtz is doing an amazing job in rebuilding a relationship with the fans since taking over for his late father, Bill Wirtz, and he could be commended for his fabulous work.
  • Following up on the heels of an impressive NHL rookie campaign, the Blackhawks named Jonathan Toews as their captain for the 2008-09 season. The young forward scored 24 goals and had 54 points in his debut season, and the club feels he should be rewarded for his leadership throughout the season last year. Well done, Mr. Toews!
  • The Blackhawks have more news as they will retire jersey #3 this season. The number will be retired in honour of defencemen Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote. Magnuson was a Blackhawk for 11 seasons, and was captain of the team from 1976-1979. Pilote was a Blackhawk for 13 seasons. His best season came in 1964-65 when he scored 14 goals and recorded 59 points. Congratulations to these two men, and a classy move by the Blackhawks organization.
  • Detroit Red Wings winger Dallas Drake announced his retirement earlier this week. Drake played for the Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, and St. Louis Blues during his 15-year career in the NHL, and finally won the Stanley Cup last season with Detroit. The winger played in an "energy role" for the Wings last season, but was instrumental in their run to the Stanley Cup. Congratulations on a long and successful career, Mr. Drake, and enjoy your retirement!
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed head coach Michel Therrien to a three-year deal yesterday. Over the past two seasons, Therrien has coached the Penguins to a 94-51-19 record, along with winning the Atlantic Division title and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. He was also a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy, so this re-signing seemed elementary. Therrien will receive a pay raise with this new contract, and his work with the young Penguins should make them a contender in the foreseeable future.
  • Terry Murray was named as the successor to Marc Crawford's tenure behind the bench for the Los Angeles Kings. Murray is a good fit for the young Kings as he spends a lot of time working with defencemen having being one himself. If he can nurture and teach the young Kings' blueliners how to play the NHL game, this signing might be one of the biggest in the offseason. Murray becomes the 22nd head coach in Kings history. The big thing about Murray is that he has worked with some very good, young teams in the past, most notably the 1997 Philadelphia Flyers who he guided to the Stanley Cup Finals that year.
  • The Flyers re-signed winger Joffrey Lupul to a four-year deal, but it won't be officially announced until Monday. After having been traded the last two summers, it appears Philadelphia may be a home for the 20-goal scorer. Lupul is a good fit in Philly's system, and he is surrounded by young talent as well. This signing is a good fit for the Flyers as it provides them with some second-line scoring as well as some grit.
  • The Atlanta Thrashers signed UFA Marty Reasoner to a deal on Thursday. Reasoner is an immediate upgrade to their penalty killing and checking line units, something the Thrashers can certainly use. While he may not bring a pile of scoring to the Thrashers, he's good for 10-12 goals per year in a checking role, and that's huge when playoff spots are on the line.
  • From former Oilers, we go to a current Oiler in Shawn Horcoff who signed a contract extension for six years at $33 million. Horcoff had 21 goals and 29 assists in 53 games last season , and was named to his first NHL All-Star Game as a result. He has improved each year, in this writer's opinion, and certainly looked to be a integral piece of the Oilers' puzzle as he developed. I'm alright with this signing.
  • In other contract extension news, the Buffalo Sabres re-signed goaltender Ryan Miller to a five-year, $31.25 million contract extension on Friday. The 28 year-old netminder posted a record of 36-27-10 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage last year despite Buffalo missing the playoffs. The 2001 Hobey Baker Award recipient is now signed through the 2013-2014 season, and solidifies Buffalo's goaltending situation immensely with this re-signing.
  • The NHL released its schedule for the upcoming season, and there a few notable dates to watch. On November 8, the Montreal Canadiens visit the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Hall-of-Fame Game. There will be more patches in this game, meaning updates to the patch articles I wrote. Hockey Day In Canada features all six Canadian teams doing battle on February 21. The NHL All-Star Game is being played in Montreal, Quebec this year, and the Skills Competition takes place on January 24, while the All-Star Game goes January 25. Saturday, October 25 will be a big day as all 30 NHL teams take to the ice in games. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs will officially begin April 15, 2009.
  • The AHL has not finalized their schedule yet, but it will be released some time around August 1. The AHL All-Star Game takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts this year, home to San Jose's AHL affiliate, the Worcester Sharks.
  • The IIHF has sanctioned the European "Champions Hockey League" which will pit the top teams from Europe against one another for a prize of 10 million Euros (approximately $15.9 million USD). The top teams from each league in Russia, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland each get an automatic berth in the tournament. Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic also have a second entry into the 12-team tournament, while the other three countries will have a playoff for the last wild card spot. In 2008-09, Group A will consist of Kärpät Oulu of Finland's SM-Liiga, Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Continental Hockey League and Eisbären Berlin (the Berlin Polar Bears) from Germany's DEL. Group B is comprised of Swedish Elitserien champions HV71 Jönköping, Finnish runner-up Espoo Blues and a qualifying team. The qualifying team will be one of Sinupret Ice Tigers, the DEL runners up from last season; Slovak Extraliga club HC Kosice; or SC Bern of Switzerland's Nationalliga A. Group C features defending Russian champion Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Slovak Extraliga champions Slovan Bratislava and Czech regular season winners HC Mountfield Ceske Budejovice. And Group D features Czech Extraliga champs Slavia Prague, Swiss champions ZSC Lions and Swedish runner-up Linköpings HC. The winner of Group A will play the Group C victor in the semifinals, while the top team from Group B draws the best squad from Group D. The semi meetings will be played Dec. 10 and Jan. 7. The finals will take place on Jan. 21 and 28. It is hoped that this league will eventuallu expand to 30 teams from 24 countries, much the same way that the Euro soccer championship is played out.
Ok, so there were some pretty important stories this past week, and I have to say that I am excited for the Champions League that Europe is preparing. It looks to be the Stanley Cup for European league play, and it attracts only the best of the best.

Now that you're done reading this, go see The Dark Knight. It's totally worth it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 17 July 2008

Charitable Donations: Right To Play

Hockey Blog In Canada has overlooked the summer project that has been running on this very site for some smaller news stories, and I apologize for that. Yes, the news stories are also important, but the charitable organization articles have received very positive feedback, and they will continue. Today, HBIC is proud to present an organization who has thousands of athletes helping their cause. Right To Play is an organization that uses sports to help children overcome some of the many obstacles that stand in the way of them becoming more than what their future may hold. They operate in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the world, allowing the children there to grow through sports, and to meet some of the world's most famous athletes while playing those sports.

Mission Statement: The mission statement of Right To Play is "[c]reating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play", but they do so much more. According to their site, "Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in more than 20 countries affected by war, poverty, and disease in Africa, Asia and the Middle East". The work of Right To Play is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and works to help every child possible in the following countries: Azerbaijan, Benin, Chad, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, occupied Palestinian territory, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Zambia.

How Did Right To Play Start?: Right To Play has a very good history page about the organization, and I encourage you to read through it. However, here's how it started in brief.

"In early 2003, Olympic Aid evolved into Right To Play in order to meet the growing demands of program implementation and fundraising. Building on the founding legacy of Lillehammer, this transition allows Right To Play to include both Olympic athletes and other elite sports figures as Athlete Ambassadors; increase relationships to non-Olympic sports; partner with a wider variety of private sector funders; and deepen involvement at the grassroots level.

"Right To Play has a permanent presence in the world of children’s sport and play. In addition to its child development programs, Right To Play is established as a force in international advocacy on behalf of every child’s right to play, and is actively involved in research and policy development in this area. Our vision is to engage leaders on all sides of sport, business and media to ensure every child’s right to play."

The basis of Right To Play is founded on some very simple values and principles. In fact, they have a very easy way to remember their values - the word "children".

C - cooperation (put teamwork and fair play first).
H - hope (help make dreams possible).
I - integrity (our actions reflect our values, vision and mission).
L - leadership (teach leadership by demonstrating it in communities).
D - dedication (dedicated to working with communities).
R - respect (respect each other).
E - enthusiasm (have fun).
N - nurture (encourage each other with positive feedback).

The principles in which Right To Play operates under are quite basic, but very empowering. The first is inclusion - children who may be marginalized for reasons of gender, religion, ability, ethnicity, disability or social background; and the second is sustainability - lasting impact of the programs.

Their work has expanded to include communities in 23 countries in some of the less-fortunate areas of the world. Right To Play has included thousands of children across the world in the legacy of sport, and there have been a number of excellent stories to accompany the games. Clearly, this is an organization that is doing a phenomenal job in helping underprivileged children across the world.

There are thousands of athletes from all over the world who are helping Right To Play accomplish their goals. Among those are NHL and international hockey stars. Some of these hockey stars include Gillian Apps, Jennifer Botterill and Hayley Wickenheiser (Team Canada women's hockey), Billy Bridges (Team Canada sledge hockey), Andrew Ference (Boston Bruins), Wayne Gretzky (Phoenix Coyotes coach), Georges Laraque (Montreal Canadiens), Robyn Regehr (Calgary Flames), Joe Thornton (San Jose Sharks), Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins), Angela Ruggiero and Julie Chu (Team USA women's hockey), Mike Komisarek (Montreal Canadiens), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Alexander Steen (Toronto Maple Leafs), Elsemieke Havenga (Dutch field hockey), and Rolf Einar Pedersen (Norwegian sledge hockey). That's an impressive list of athletic talent from a number of countries across all walks of life, and that's only in hockey-related sports.

In 2007, Andrew Ference and Steve Montador traveled to Tanzania where they played soccer with a number of children. David Amber of asked Mr. Ference about his experience over in Tanzania.

"Q: This past offseason you traveled to Africa with the Right to Play organization. What was the most meaningful part of that journey for you?

"A: The thing that struck me the most is just thinking about North American society compared to life in Africa. Over there, there is a vast difference in wealth and the quality of life in terms of shelter, having food to eat, having clothes, the simple things we take for granted, even having a family. So many kids didn't have a family, they have been on their own for so long. Then on the other side of the scale, you have the outlook on life, and how they help each other, how they are happy for what they do have and how they approach everything in a positive way. I met orphans who had no family, but still went out and taught themselves English because it might help them get a step forward in life. Seeing that attitude in the kids and how strong they were, then you compare that to people out here that have all the advantages but complain about what they don't have. It gave me a lot of perspective about how twisted some things can be when so much energy in Western society is used on wanting a better car, a bigger house or more money."

You can hear Mr. Ference speak about his time in Africa in the following video, along with Canadian speed skater Clara Hughes:

Clearly, this organization is a first-class outfit, and, from the number of high-profile athletes that have made themselves available, the work that Right To Play does is going a long way in helping children in less-fortunate nations have a brighter future.

How Can I Help?: In a change from the ordinary, Right To Play is carried on the backs of volunteers. In that regard, they are always searching for volunteers to help them reach their goals. There are a few important steps to take to ensure that Right To Play is something you'd like to be a part of: is Right To Play right for you, filling out a volunteer application, and making it through the screening process. Again, this is a first-class organization, so I would expect a high standard when it comes to recruiting volunteers. Please read through the three links if you're interested in volunteering. There is a Frequently-Asked Questions page regarding volunteering as well, and I also suggest reading through that as well. It's highly informative. And don't forget to hear stories of the experiences that some past Right To Play volunteers have had. You can also ask your questions directly to Right To Play by emailing them at recruitment-at-righttoplay-dot-com. If you're interested in a career with Right To Play, I suggest emailing them at hr-at-righttoplay-dot-com.

You can also donate to Right To Play. They have several options for payments which can accommodate most people. You can also buy a mini red soccer ball. The funds from the soccer ball sales goes to helping a number of programs that Right To Play has started. You can also get the soccer balls at any adidas Performance or Outlet store. Donation questions can be submitted via email to donations-at-righttoplay-dot-com.

You can also help by fundraising for Right To Play. You can create a personal fundraising page and send emails to friends and family inviting them to donate. Right To Play's goal is to raise $100,000 annually through this effort, and you can help them with your efforts.

If you have any questions for Right To Play outside of what has already been covered, I suggest emailing them at info-at-righttoplay-dot-com. You can also reach them by telephone at (416) 498-1922. Lastly, you can reach their offices via snail mail by sending your envelope to:

Right To Play International
65 Queen Street West
Thomson Building, Suite 1900, Box 64
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2M5

Depending on where you live, there are also offices located throughout the world where you may be able to speak to someone face-to-face. They are located in Toronto, Canada; Oslo, Norway; Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Zurich, Switzerland; London, England; New York City, New York, USA; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and a special initiative in Beijing, China.

Clearly, this organization is doing a ton of good work to help children in third-world and war-ravaged countries become kids again while teaching them vital life skills that they can use in the future. It is efforts like this that will have lasting impressions on those countries, and make tomorrow a much better place to live. I commend Right To Play for the work they are doing, and the athletes for being leaders in making the world a better place to live for everyone.

Right To Play, the NHLPA, and international hockey stars 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!