Sunday 31 August 2008

Finding My Way Back

I spent my entire weekend looking at something like the picture to the left. A team offered to pick me up for the Provincial Championships this weekend, and I accepted. I spent the entire day on Saturday in the sun and heat to help our team land in fourth overall in the pool of sixteen teams that qualified for the playoffs on Sunday. We were all pretty stoked. Sunday saw us take the field at 10am for the single-elimination playoff round, and we went gangbusters on the rest of the teams. We played back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and ended up on the top of the heap.

We're officially Co-Ed Provincial Champions! However, before we get into Softball Blog In Canada, let's bring this back to the ice. I got a few comments on the Five Ways I'd Change The NHL article I wrote, and I want to address these because it's sort of like a Q&A section. I like some of these ideas, but some of my ideas need some additional explanation.

Chronic Ice Man wrote, "Since Detroit is in the Eastern time zone, they should be relocated to the Prince of Wales conference and all original six teams should be placed in the same division for at least two years".

I like this idea, but there would be a number of teams who would miss out on playing an Original Six team over the course of a season. As you probably know, the Original Six teams are a pretty big draw in terms of ticket sales, so I'm sure a few teams would complain due to the missing "big ticket" games.

Also, when I designed the "new" divisions with the traditional names, it was done to try to alleviate the costs of travel. The price of gasoline isn't going down, and I'm sure that a few teams' bottom lines are feeling the pinch. This divisional alignment should help them save a little more money by cutting down on the costs of travel.

Feizal wrote: "I have a rule change of my own: automatic double minors for goalie interference. protect those guys as much as you can! esp. my boy luongo".

An interesting proposal, but one that I think would do more harm than good. There are already a number of GMs across the league that have complained loudly regarding some of the phantom calls that goalies get. However, what would constitute a four-minute penalty? Does Tomas Holmstrom deserve four minutes for this play?

Now, I'm not saying he did or did not deserve a penalty, but calling a double-minor for goalie interference - a call that is already highly subjective - will seriously hinder a team. Not only that, but guys like Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, and Brendan Shanahan, who are so skilled in front of the net, would be significantly reduced in their roles. I don't think this one would work.

Anonymous wrote, "Wider ice would put all play along the boards out of sight".

Really? You're telling me that if given more space, the players would choose not to use it? The NHL already has the problem that a lot of the game is played on the boards. If there was more room to move, powerplay units would have more room to operate. Flashy skaters like Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, and Scott Gomez would have more room to operate, and make defenders have to cover more room. Opening up the ice will help to kill the trap as well because there's more room to move out there.

Back to your comment, I know what you're saying regarding not being able to see the play along the boards. But hockey will always have a portion of the game played along the boards. That won't change. My proposal is to open the game up even more, and the guys who can skate and score do exactly that.

As for the owners, if you owned an NHL team and could play games in front of 15,000 people and have 100% capacity, would you choose that over having 18,000 seats and playing to 75% capacity? Ticket sales is supply and demand. That's why Toronto always plays in front of capacity crowds, and why tickets are so hard to come by. Economics isn't hard, but some people just don't grasp the concept.

WingsRock wrote, "I LOVE the idea of putting the original six back together".

Again, travel costs and the opportunity for every team to have some Original Six teams roll through town makes this an illogical idea. Don't get me wrong - it's one I would support if there were less teams in the NHL. However, I don't think most teams would agree to it, let alone agreeing to contraction.

Steve wrote, "heres an idea for an even fairer conference setup and for better hockey: get rid of atlanta and phoenix and have four divisions of 7. anon is right sight lines are built in arenas are built specifically for this size arena, updating is very expensive".

I can tell you right now that contraction will only hurt the game in the USA. This isn't even an option. In fact, if you really want to swing outrageous ideas, I've left a spot open in the Norris, and a spot open in the Adams. Those spots could go to Winnipeg and Quebec City, respectively, and make four divisions of eight teams each. Personally, I am against the expansion idea, so I'll just leave the alignment as it is.

As for sight lines, this is something that should have been done long ago. Don't get me wrong: I have no issue with the NHL-sized arenas right now. I'm simply saying that the ice surface needs to get bigger.

Look at it this way: Major League Baseball stadiums have all sorts of sizes and shapes of their fields. The elder stadiums - Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park - have homeruns hit out of them on a daily basis. The once-feared Green Monster is no longer a challenge for hitters, and MLB parks are getting bigger. Why? Players are getting bigger and stronger. And this is why the NHL needs to look long and hard at this. I'm not saying it has to happen now, but they should consider this at some point in the next 10-20 years.

Ok, I'm going to aloe myself up as the sunburn on my face and neck make me feel like I'm on fire. I encourage comments and questions to these responses or to the first article. Have a good one, everyone!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 29 August 2008

Someone Passes To Someone

Way back in 1992, two fledgling expansion franchises joined the NHL as Ottawa and Tampa Bay were granted membership into the NHL. Both teams assembled a group of players who were unknowns or past their primes, and sprinkled in a few young stars from the NHL draft. Today, it appears that history has come full circle as Ottawa and Tampa Bay have assembled a group of aging stars and some unknown players while sprinkling in a few stars from past NHL drafts. While Tampa Bay went back to its roots in signing free agents and acquiring players past their primes, the Ottawa Senators are making questionable trades and building from within. Today's most recent trade only solidifies this premise.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators agreed on a trade that sends disgruntled defenceman and restricted free agent Andrej Meszaros to the Lightning in exchange for defencemen Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard, and San Jose's 2009 first-round draft pick. The salary squabble that the Senators and Meszaros were engaged in ends with the 22 year-old packing his bags for the Sunshine State.

According to sources, Meszaros has agreed to sign a six-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $4 million per season. I find this odd that Meszaros would sign for $4 million when he was pushing the Senators for $4.5 million per season. Ottawa's offer was reportedly worth $3.5 million per season, and I really doubt that the Senators couldn't cough up the extra $500,000 to keep their most reliable defenceman in town. However, where Ottawa failed, Tampa Bay will benefit.

Here's where I find this trade to be somewhat laughable on both sides of the ledger.

Ottawa has now let go or dealt away the majority of their blueline from last season. Gone are Meszaros, Mike Commodore, Wade Redden, Luke Richardson, and Joe Corvo, leaving just Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov patrolling the defensive zone for the Senators as confirmed roster players. Christoph Schubert is basically a roster player by default, and both Kuba and Picard will most likely start the season with Ottawa as well. Ottawa signed free agent Jason Smith this off-season, so Ottawa's six defencemen will be as follows: Phillips, Volchenkov, Smith, Kuba, Picard, Schubert. Not bad, but certainly not intimidating by any means.

Lawrence Nycholat, Brian Lee, and Brendan Bell will challenge for a roster spot, but this group seems less talented than last year's group, and certainly has taken a hit in the offensive defenceman category. For a team that struggled so mightily in scoring goals last season at times, trading a decent offensive player for two insignificant players seems ridiculous, especially when you consider that $500,000 was the break even point between the two sides.

On the opposite side of the coin comes the Tampa Bay Lightning. For a team that wanted to cut salaries this season, that mandate has completely fallen by the wayside as they continue to restock their locker room with high-priced talent. Joining Meszaros as a new face are Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Vaclav Prospal, Mark Recchi, Radim Vrbata, and Olaf Kolzig. Matt Carle was acquired in the Dan Boyle trade and Steven Stamkos was drafted this season, so there's a couple of new kids too. That's ten players on a 22-man roster who have been brought in this off-season to help the Lightning make their way back to the promised land. And most were brought in under bloated salaries.

Look, I understand that owners Koules and Barrie want the Lightning to be competitive this season. They've gone out and bought everyone that they could, and traded away anyone who didn't fit into their plans. However, this "expansion team mentality" of signing aging stars and never-made-it youngsters is completely insane. Nearly half of the Lightning's roster is brand-new to the Bay Area, and they have a new head coach who hasn't been behind a bench in over a decade!

Welcome back to 1992, everyone. The Senators look worse than last season, and Tampa Bay is hoping that a number of players can turn back the clocks. It reminds me of Jamie Baker, Bob Kudelski, and Sylvain Turgeon in Ottawa, while Tampa Bay tries to restart the careers of some aging players like they once did for Brian Bradley, Chris Kontos, and John Tucker.

The only difference is that Ottawa is younger now than they were in their expansion season, while Tampa Bay is much, much older than their first season. Ottawa went 10-70-4 that season, finishing last in the Adams Division. Tampa Bay went 23-54-7, and finished last in the Norris Division. While I doubt that they'll end their seasons close to those abysmal records, don't be surprised if they linger near the bottom of the standings in their respective divisions once again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 28 August 2008

Not Many Left

I was saddened by the news today that long-time NHL player, Stu Barnes, has decided to call it a career at the age of 37. You might ask why, but Stu Barnes was always one of the most unsung guys on every team he played for. He did the dirty work, chipped in with a goal and a few points, and never once asked for any publicity for his work. He was a phenom in the WHL, and transitioned himself into one of the best two-way forwards that the game has never mentioned. However, it saddens me that Mr. Barnes has decided to step back from the game because there are only a few Winnipeg Jets left in the NHL. Much like the few players still playing who suited up for the Nordiques or the Whalers, this distinction is becoming more and more rare.

Stu Barnes was drafted 4th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets out of the Tri-City Americans system. In the WHL, Mr. Barnes averaged 129 points per season over three seasons. In three seasons in the WHL, he played 204 games, amassing 148 goals and 238 assists for 386 points while spending 370 minutes in the penalty box. Pretty impressive numbers, and certainly worthy of a first-round pick.

Barnes started his WHL path with the New Westminster Bruins in Vancouver before the franchise moved south to Kennewick, Washington and changed names to the Tri-City Americans. Barnes spent the next two seasons lighting the lamp for the Americans before being drafted by the Jets. After being drafted, Barnes spent the 1990-91 season with the Canadian National Team, playing 53 games for Team Canada.

Barnes spent the next season shuffling between the Winnipeg Jets and their AHL affiliation, the Moncton Hawks.

The sad part is that he was never given his due in Winnipeg or Moncton, despite him playing in most situations with Moncton and in checking roles with the Jets. I know the Jets wanted more production like they saw in the WHL, but Barnes never really developed into an offensive juggernaut. After a couple of rocky seasons, the Jets decided to part ways with Barnes.

After two seasons, Barnes was traded to the Florida Panthers for Randy Gilhen. Barnes was part of the improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 when the Panthers lost to the Avalanche. Barnes showed his value as a two-way centerman during this season, as well as an excellent face-off guy.

In November of 1996, Florida traded Barnes to the Pittsburgh Penguins, along with Jason Woolley, for Chris Wells. He bounced between Pittsburgh, Florida, and Buffalo between 1996-99 as he was placed on waivers and claimed by teams. He ended up in Pittsburgh three times through the waiver wire.

However, he was traded from the Penguins to Buffalo at the trade deadline in March of 1999 for Matthew Barnaby. It was in Buffalo that Barnes' value as a two-way, clutch centerman really came through.

In four seasons with the Sabres, Barnes averaged 42 points, and routinely was sent out against the opposing team's best players in a checking role. Barnes was highly effective in head coach Lindy Ruff's system, and another team took notice of his abilities.

At the trade deadline in 2003, the Dallas Stars swung a deal to acquire Barnes from the Sabres for Michael Ryan and a second-round pick. In four seasons with the Stars, Barnes platooned himself in the lineup as one of the premiere checking forwards in game, and was definitely a fan favourite.

Honestly, Stu Barnes had one of the best hockey names in the history of the game. I loved listening to play-by-play guy Rick Jeanneret's calls in Buffalo when "Stuuuuuuuuuuuu Barnes" would score.

Absolutely classic.

The good news is that Stu Barnes isn't going very far. He accepted an assistant coach position with the Dallas Stars, and I think he'll be great as a coach.

"I was truly fortunate to play as long as I did, and I knew this was the time for me to wrap up my playing days," Barnes said at the press conference today. "A great opportunity to become an assistant coach was presented to me by the Stars, and I look forward to making that transition and learning a new part of the game."

It's also good news for people involved with the Athletes Against Autism foundation as Stu Barnes is a big supporter of the charity, and often donates his time to helping the organization achieve their goals.

Congratulations on a fantastic career, Mr. Barnes, and good luck on the coaching side of the ledger, and whatever else comes your way in life!

By the way, if you're keeping track at home, there are only a few ex-Jets left now: Shane Doan, Keith Tkachuk, Teemu Selanne, Kris Draper, Teppo Numminen, and Nikolai Khabibulin. With Dallas Drake and Stu Barnes both retiring this summer and Chad Kilger going AWOL on the Florida Panthers, the number of ex-Jets remaining in the NHL is dwindling fast. Of course, the number of former Jets who are now coaches is remarkable: Randy Carlyle, Barry Melrose, Stu Barnes, Scott Arniel, and Paul MacLean just to name a few. Maybe that's what the Jets franchise was - a breeding ground for coaches?

Just as a note, I am working on a follow-up article for the Amadeus Steen Foundation Charity Benefit that I attended last night. I am still waiting on some material I'd like to include in that article, so I'll have it posted by early next week if everything falls into place.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Tidying The Place Up

Today's entry is one of odds and ends. The reason I'm not posting a long article today is that I will be attending the Amadeus Steen Foundation's Charity Benefit tonight, and I have a pile of stuff to complete before that. Also, I feel there are a number of small things that I need to address before carrying on in my normal hockey diatribe. In any case, this article is simply some housekeeping so that you're aware of some of the stuff that may have been added and/or changed. And it's always good to be kept aware of changes, especially when you're here to read about hockey. Here we go.

  • Hockey Blog In Canada has taken on a sponsor! HBIC is proud to have featured on this site. They offer a ton of equipment in a variety of sports at competitive prices. Specifically, they have a ton of hockey equipment, including goalie equipment. If you're in the market for some new gear, please check out!
  • A huge "thank you" goes out to Puck Daddy and, more specifically, Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew for mentioning me in Kevin's "5 Ways I'd Change The NHL". Personally, I think the realignment of the divisions would be easy to do, and the NHL really needs to embrace this idea sooner rather than later.
  • Some patch news to pass on your way. As shown earlier in a previous article, EA Sports' NHL 09 showed the Montreal Canadiens wearing two varieties of the 100-year Centennial patch. According to the Habs' website, one of those patches will be worn all season to commemorate 100 seasons of hockey in Montreal. No word on the second patch yet, but we know that Montreal will have at least one patch to wear this season.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets will be joining Montreal in wearing a patch this season. The Blue Jackets announced that they will honour the team's late founder and majority owner, John H. McConnell, with a patch on their right shoulders. The same logo will appear in the trapezoid behind each net for this upcoming season as well.
  • The AHL All-Star Game takes place in Worcester, Massachusetts this season, and we have our first glimpses of the All-Star Game logo. It's nothing special, but at least you know that Worcester has sharks. I mean, these Sharks.
  • Does anyone find it slightly disconcerting that both TSN's Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger haven't posted anything all summer on Did they get the same summer break as kids in school? Personally, as long as they come back with the same solid reporting that they did last season, I'm ok with them taking a break, but I miss my fill of McKenzie's insights. As for Pierre McGuire, just keep him off the air.
  • Even worse, Mike Toth of needs his head checked. His "Pass The Puck" articles are ridiculous. Toth has apparently never covered hockey in his life, and proves that he doesn't even follow the stories in the hockey world with his three-part essay. You can read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three if you like, or you can simply read the reactions posted by The PensBlog and Sean Leahy's Going Five Hole to give you the full reasons as to why Toth rarely appears on camera anymore.
  • Aneesa of Love The Game, Don't Like Puck Bunnies conducted an interview with Washington Capitals' owner Ted Leonsis. Personally, I think Ted has a great grasp on the game and how to market it through new media. And the fact that he still has about 30 items to complete on his list of 101 things to do before he passes on means there will be no shortage of Ted in the near future.
Ok, I'm off. I have more work to do than I can shake a hockey stick at. You know what to do for comments and questions. With my attendance at the Charity Benefit tonight, expect a picture-laden post of tonight's function in the near future!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Hitting The Bricks

I'll confess to the world right now that I'm a fan of the plastic, brightly-coloured, Danish bricks. Lego has always been a mainstay in my life, especially when I was a kid. My parents should have purchased stock rather than the number of sets that my brother and I obtained over the years. Whether it was town sets, space sets, castle sets, pirate sets, or whatever set we could get our hands on, my brother and I had the makings of a small country for our Lego people. However, being Canadian, the one type of set that I always wanted to see was a hockey set that was endorsed by the NHL. I watched a lot of hockey as a kid, and it was the one thing that separated me from Lego in my childhood.

In my search of the Information Superhighway, I have seen a ton of stadiums and arenas built out of Lego, but I have yet to find an excellent representation of a hockey arena. There have been some absolutely amazing creations - case in point is the Allianz Arena found in Legoland, California. This amazing creation required 1.3 million Lego bricks to build, and contains an astonishing 30,000 mini-figures. Check out the slideshow below of the whole Allianz Arena.

At night, the Lego stadium lights in three colours: red, white, and blue. The real stadium in Munich also does this. It is lit red when the FC München takes the field, blue when TSV 1860 FC takes the field, and white for all other occasions. In creating the LED setup for the Lego stadium, Lego developed a white, translucent brick so that the LED colours could be seen through the bricks.

This is a pretty incredible stadium for soccer, I must say. Honestly, it is the crown jewel of all stadiums and arenas that I've seen, and is certainly a remarkable achievement.

The next few soccer stadiums I've seen aren't as esthetically amazing, but certainly are well-worth a view. A stadium in Denmark was created out of the little bricks. It's extremely well-detailed, and has an extreme amount of realism built into it. There was a gigantic German stadium built, and it, too, is highly-detailed, right down to the scoreboard. Japan also had a stadium built for the Lego Cup, and it is quite impressive in its own right.

Now, this blog isn't becoming Toy Blog In Canada or Model Blog or Soccer Blog. I'm just blown away by these stadiums that were created out of Lego, and the extreme details that make them so incredible. That's what I want to see out of a Lego hockey arena - attention to detail.

Heck, there was even a scale model done of the Beijing Olympics recently. It included the Bird's Nest Stadium, the Water Cube that lit up, and the Athlete's Village. There was the ability to peer inside the Water Cube to see the mini-Michael Phelps shattering world records, as well as chance to see an equestrian event and go inside the stables.

But what of hockey, I ask? Why are there no phenomenally-detailed models of Madison Square Garden or the Great Western Forum or Joe Louis Arena? Maple Leaf Gardens or the Montreal Forum would be incredible to see as well!

Well, Lego and the NHL had an agreement of sorts, and they did produce some very rudimentary hockey sets, but these didn't produce the same eye-popping design that the above designs did. Nor did they do anything to promote NHL stars through the Lego sets. This was as close to acceptable that Lego got with their hockey sets, and the rest are quite disappointing.

However, Lego did create the Stanley Cup out of Lego for a sports equipment show that took place in Las Vegas in 2003. According to the Hockey Hall of Fame website, "[i]n 2003, toy manufacturer Lego created a replica Stanley Cup created out of 6,000 Lego blocks and displayed it at a sports equipment show in Las Vegas to promote the launch of their new NHL line of merchandise. There were only two such Lego Stanley Cups made, one for display, and one as a gift to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The cup on display, like the Stanley Cup collar years earlier, was stolen and a national search went out to hunt down the Lego Cup. An Arizona man saw an article on the missing cup in the paper, and alerted authorities that he had the cup and had bought it for fifty dollars U.S. while on business in Las Vegas. The Lego Stanley Cup was returned to the company, and the good samaritan was rewarded with Phoenix Coyotes tickets and products from Lego's NHL line of merchandise."

People have also sculpted hockey players out of Lego for corporate reasons. One such creation was on display in Hartford, and built to look like a member of the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack. Pretty cool design again, if you ask me.

However, there are very few NHL arenas that have been built. My scouring of the 'Net has produced a few results, though, so let's check these out.

Someone decided to recreate a smaller model of the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. This builder actually shows the progression of how the Scottrade Center came to be. Some decent shots here of the "building" of the arena, and it looks like a decent model of the real thing.

A builder named "Zonker" also came up with some hockey-related designs. He designed a diorama for his wife's team in the Northern California Women's Hockey League (NCWHL). An interesting design, but not quite an arena. However, Zonker came up with a great idea in designing the same zamboni that the San Jose Sharks used in the NHL in 1995. The result? This cool creation. Notice the shark fin? Great addition!

Lastly, I discovered that the Battle of Alberta doesn't just exist on the ice or in blog form. The Lego form doesn't take place in the Saddledome or Rexall Place, but the arena is still pretty cool. You can check out all the pictures here.

So that's a little more about me. I like Lego. But I really want to see an exquisite arena built. The hallowed halls of the Montreal Forum demand it! In all seriousness, though, that Allianz Arena is a work of art, and congratulations to everyone on their designs featured here!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 24 August 2008

Five Ways I'd Change The NHL

One of the messiahs of hockey blogging, Greg Wyshynski, has been getting some fairly big names to weigh in on how they'd change the NHL. He's had former players, well-known bloggers, and mainstream media folk weigh in, and even started a war of words between a reporter and an NHL owner with the five ways people would change the NHL. Now, Puck Daddy is clearly going for those people who work daily in the sport of hockey, and that's cool. It's good to hear how they view the game. Today, however, I would like to present my five ways, and see what people have to say.

In no way is this an attempt to steal Greg's thunder with this fantastic idea. Rather, I just want to get some of these ideas off my chest. Ready? Let's get to it!

1. Embrace the traditional names of the divisions and conferences, and stop insulting the intelligence of the fans. I'm quite aware that New York is on the Atlantic coast. You don't have to tell me that Atlanta is in the Southeast. Oh, and I just found out that Vancouver is in the Northwest after somehow thinking it was in the Central Division.

(a) Look, NHL fans are smart, savvy people. Traditions are held strong in the NHL, so let's go back to the way it was. In fact, with this idea, I can solve four problems at once. Here are my proposed divisions.

Smythe - Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, and Vancouver.
Norris - Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, and St. Louis.
Adams - Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.
Patrick - Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

The Smythe and Norris Divisions would be in the Campbell Conference, and play for the Clarence Campbell Trophy in the playoffs. The Adams and Patrick Divisions would be in the Wales Conference, and play for the Prince of Wales Trophy in the playoffs.

(b) The schedule would be easy to configure. Each team would play teams in their own conference four times (56 games), twice at home and twice on the road.

After that, there would be one game each for teams in the other conference (15 games), with teams alternating between home and road. For example, if Anaheim played Atlanta in Anaheim in season A, they would play in Atlanta in season B. There would be alternating between the teams as well in terms of home and road dates. For example, if Anaheim played Atlanta in Anaheim in season A, Anaheim would play Carolina in Raleigh in season A. This would ensure even coverage of all teams, and allow for fans to see every team at least once within a two-year period.

The last seven games would be against teams in close proximity. This would allow for stronger rivalries to be built, as well as allowing for teams to even out their schedules.

(c) Total number of games per team: 78. The reduction of four games can actually cut a full week to 10 days off the current NHL schedule. Not that I'm complaining, but I'm tired of watching the Stanley Cup Final in 30-degree Celcius heat.

(d) Playoffs are easy to plan. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs. However, for the divisions that have eight teams, if the fifth-place team has more points than the fourth-place team in the seven-team division, the fifth-place team would take the last playoff spot.

For example, Anaheim, San Jose, Calgary and Colorado all qualify for the playoffs from the Smythe. Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota, and Nashville qualify for the playoffs from the Norris. However, Nashville ended the season with 82 points, while fifth-place in the Smythe, Edmonton, finished with 83 points. Edmonton would bump Nashville out due to them having more points in the uneven divisional alignments.

With this idea, the encouragement to win games becomes much more prevalent, and should force teams to play hockey instead of trapping each other to death. Except the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils. I expect they won't change.

2. Expand the ice. Everyone else in the world plays on international-sized ice surfaces. There are complaints about space on the ice from players and fans. So why not go bigger?

Most of the NHL players have played on international-sized ice at some point in their careers, so it's not like this would be a monumental change. If the owners could shut up about losing four rows of luxury seats, this would already have been done. Just make it happen!

3. Make the salary cap work like it's supposed to work! It's a cap. It's not a floating spending amount, and it's not helping a large number of teams. Until the league can figure out how to keep the New York Islanders from losing $25 million in a cap world, it's not working. It's time to fix the cap once and for all. If the players don't like it, there's a Russian league that's dying to sign them. Just don't come crawling back when those teams go bankrupt. If they are truly committed to helping the league get stronger, it's time to trade in the Ferrari for a Volkswagon.

If all the owners can't make money, all the players shouldn't be allowed to make money either.

4. Kill the instigator rule. Now. Do it. I'm still waiting. How long is this going to take?

Look, I'm all for reducing injuries, but it's time for guys like Steve Downie and Jordin Tootoo to start paying for their cheap, ridiculous, unnecessary crap on the ice. While a number of teams have moved away from employing a fighter, nine times out of ten sees a skilled guy jump in to rain blows on the attacker. And, of course, the guy stepping in to defend the victim gets the game misconduct. Fair? Hardly.

With the bad blood spilling over into the next game(s), why not have the players police themselves right there? If you want the players to respect one another, let them earn that respect. Kill the instigator rule, and there will be less "questionable" hits because more people will have their heads on a swivel.

5. Visors are mandatory for everyone, and no-touch icing is a reality. If you're on the ice, you wear a shield. It doesn't matter if you're an official or a player, the NHL needs to protect its most valuable assets. That also means less time on the injury list, and more time in front of the fans.

Look, people can make whatever excuse they want for not wearing a visor, but the evidence is clear that they protect more than they harm. And it's not just me who wants to see changes. If you're not interested in wearing a visor, don't bother showing up for games. It's as simple as that.

As for no-touch icing, the Kurtis Foster accident last season was horrific enough. However, there have been a number of players hurt racing for the puck, and this can be solved by going to the international rule of no-touch icing. How hard is it to adopt this rule? And for the people who find races to eliminate icings "exciting", would you drive your car into a brick wall for the chance to grab $5? Because that's about all an icing call is worth compared to the value of your car. It's the same for NHL players and their worth to their team compared to the value of the icing call.

So those were my five. I'm open to hearing comments, questions, criticisms, and discussion on these five items. Fire me an email if you don't want to leave a message in the comment section. But if I were in charge of the NHL, those are the first five things I'd make changes to before fixing other nuances that need changes.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 23 August 2008

Field Hockey's Last Post

The title of this article is a little misleading. It's not going to be the last post forever on field hockey. It's just that today was the last day of field hockey at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the men were due to settle their standings. Being a Canadian, my interest in how the Canadian squad did actually ended on August 21 when the Belgians and Canadians played their final games in the XXIX Olympic Games, but there were still medals to be awarded and games to be played. Would the Dutch men complete the sweep of the gold medals to equal the women? Would Pakistan, once world powers, rise to the medal podium once again? Without further adieu, let's take a look at the men's field hockey results.

11th-Place Match: China vs. South Africa

The host Chinese team didn't fare as well as the Chinese women did, but they still put up a great fight in their games. South Africa was a determined team all week as they attempted to pull off upsets, but both teams found themselves in the 11th-place match. South Africa got on the scoreboard in the 3rd minute with a goal from Lungile Tsolekile after he scored on a rebound from his own shot. Both teams pressed each other defensively, and there were numerous chances throughout the half. At the 32-minute mark, China's Yubo Na even the score at 1-1 when he poked a loose ball home in a goal-mouth scramble. In the second half, the intensity didn't change. Chinese captain Yi Song scored two penalty corner goals in succession, the first in the 53rd minute while the second was scored at the 58th-minute mark. South Africa looked to be defeated, but they didn't give up. At the 63rd minute, Ian Symons converted a penalty corner to make the score 3-2. And then, in the 70th minute with seconds left, Austin Smith tied the game on a penalty corner to send the game to extra time.

As the thought of the "golden goal" crept into the minds of both teams, the first half of extra time was played cautiously. However, in the final stages of extra time, South Africa could not convert a penalty corner, and China was awarded one of their own. On this attempt, captain Yi Song scored his third of the game and seventh of the tournament to secure the 11th-place spot for the Chinese men. This is a drop from Athens for the South Africans where they finished 10th.

9th-Place Match: Belgium vs. Canada

This game, as stated above, was played a day earlier, and the teams entered the pitch to find the field under a torrential downpour. However, that rain didn't put the fire out in the Belgians, and Jerome Dekeyser gave the Belgian team the lead only two minutes in with his deflection goal. In what looked like a replay of the first goal, John-John Dohmen deflected a shot past the Canadian goaltender, Mike Mahood, at the 23rd minute to give Belgium a 2-0 lead going into halftime. In the second half, the Canadians furiously tried to get a shot past the Belgian defence, but found themselves coming up empty as the Belgians played shutdown defence. Jerome Dekeyser scored his second goal of the game with a hit in the dying seconds to give Belgium the 9th-place spot in the tournament after their 3-0 win over the Canadians. The Belgians equaled their best finish at the Olympics with the win, while Canada equaled their last Olympic finish when they finished 10th in Sydney in 2000.

7th-Place Match: New Zealand vs. Pakistan

This was another match that took place on August 21, and the "Blacksticks" really exposed the Pakistani team's weaknesses. Both teams went back and forth for the first 20 minutes of the match. However, New Zealand began to take over, and were rewarded with a marvelous deflection goal by Simon Child at the 26th minute. New Zealand appeared to be gaining momentum, but entered the halftime break with the 1-0 lead. The second half was all about capitalizing on that momentum, and the Kiwis did that. Hayden Shaw scored an impressive penalty corner goal in the 39th minute, and followed it up with some grandstanding by pointing at his image on the scoreboard. The 43rd minute saw a superb effort by Simon Child deflected high into the net by Gareth Brooks to give New Zealand a 3-0 lead. Pakistan's Syed Abbas Haider Bilgrami struck back three minutes later to cut the deficit to 3-1, but another Hayden Shaw penalty corner goal in the 53rd minute gave New Zealand a 4-1 lead. Rehan Butt scored in the 56th minute for Pakistan, but the New Zealand team showed their resiliency by holding strong until the final whistle. New Zealand earns the 7th-place spot with a 4-2 victory over Pakistan. It was clearly evident that the Pakistani squad was disappointed with their 8th-place finish, and this may be a wake-up call for the nation in terms of a sport they dominated for so long.

5th-Place Match: South Korea vs. Great Britain

This game looked to be a closely played match in the first half. Both goalkeepers were busy making saves, and neither side could put the ball past the keepers. Entering the halftime break, the game was deadlocked in a scoreless draw. However, the second half would show why this game can be one of the fastest sports on the planet. Barry Middleton opened the scoring for Great Britain at the 44th minute with a goal at close range. Four minutes later, Jong Hyun Jang converted a penalty corner, and the game was tied at 1-1. Ashley Jackson didn't wait long to move Great Britain ahead again. His penalty corner goal came one minute after the Korean goal, and gave Britain a 2-1 lead. At the 54th minute, Jonty Clarke extended the British lead to two goals off a superb full-length dive to tap home a crossing pass. Clarke struck again in the 63rd minute, deftly sending the ball past the Korean goalkeeper for his second of the game. Hye Sung Hyun scored in the 67th minute on a penalty corner to pull the Koreans within two goals, but Britain's Glenn Kirkham sealed the victory with his deflection to give the British squad a 5-2 victory over the Koreans.

Bronze Medal Match: Australia vs. The Netherlands

After losing a heart-breaking final to the Germans by a 5-4 score on penalty strokes, the Netherlands were up against another powerhouse in the Australians, who lost their semi-final game 3-2 against the Spanish on a goal in the 68th minute. Both of these teams were hungry for a medal, and this match looked to be a high-scoring affair.

Unfortunately for the Dutch, the Australians simply controlled this game from start to finish. Eddie Ockenden scored the first goal of the game in the 5th minute, and followed that goal with another one 30 seconds later. In the 9th minute, Des Abbott made it 3-0 when he slapped the ball past the Dutch goaltender on a terrific setup by Jamie Dwyer. The Dutch team looked stunned and in disarray, but the 12th minute saw Taeke Taekema convert a penalty corner to reduce Australia's lead to 3-1. Teun de Nooijer cut the lead to one goal on his deflection in the 27th minute, and it appeared that the Netherlands had found some life. However, Australia's Eli Matheson restored the two-goal lead when he tapped in a brilliant cross from Eddie Ockenden. As the teams went into halftime, Australia lead 4-2. Rob Hammond increased the Aussie lead back to three goals with his reverse stick strike in the 42nd minute. From there, the Australians simply shutdown the Dutch's efforts. Australia's Luke Doerner scored the sixth goal of the match for the Hockeyroos in the 62nd minute on a penalty corner that erased any hopes of a comeback for the Netherlands. Australia wins the bronze medal with a 6-2 victory, and ease some of the disappointment of losing in the semi-final game.

Gold Medal Match: Germany vs. Spain

In the all-European final, Germany and Spain came out playing cautious hockey, knowing the gold medal and "Olympic Champion" title were on the line. Germany clearly controlled the ball while the Spain seemed to lie in wait for a German mistake. At the 16th minute, Christopher Zeller ripped a flick on a penalty corner under the crossbar to give the Germans the 1-0 lead. This seemed to energize Spain, and they took it to the Germans. It appeared that they may have had momentum on their side as the half was ending, but the Germans carried the 1-0 lead into the break. In the second half, the Germans displayed world-class defence. Spain controlled the ball in the open field, but couldn't punch the ball into the scoring arc for an attack. With time ticking down, the Spanish squad simply had no finish against a powerful German team, and the Germans claimed the gold medal with that 1-0 victory. The Germans have now been crowned the Olympic Champions and World Cup Champions, and look to be strong for the foreseeable future.

Final Standings
1. Germany
2. Spain
3. Australia
4. Netherlands
5. Great Britain
6. South Korea
7. New Zealand
8. Pakistan
9. Belgium
10. Canada
11. China
12. South Africa

The men's side had their fair share of upsets and underdog wins. Australia, the #2-ranked team in the world, lost a match they looked ensured of winning. The Germans defeated the Netherlands in an exciting match on the equivalent of a hockey shootout, and it made for tense times. All in all, this tournament showed that field hockey games can change in a moment's notice, and that no score is completely guaranteed until the final whistle is blown. The twelve teams that participated should hold their heads high. The skill, speed, and athleticism shown by all was, indeed, world-class.

Congratulations to all the men who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympic field hockey games! Congratulations are also in order for the gold medalist German men, the silver medalist Spanish men, and the bronze medalist Australian men!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 22 August 2008

The Top Of The Mountain

The women's field hockey competition came to a close at the 2008 Beijing Olympics yesterday, and there were some surprising finishes to this fantastic event. The gold medal was won by a powerhouse while the silver medal went to a team that wasn't figured to have a shot at the top medal prizes. All in all, this was an excellent showing of athleticism and determination by all the women in this tournament, and they undoubtedly have made their respective countries proud. We'll work our way backwards towards the gold medal match.

11th-Place Match: South Africa vs. New Zealand

The two winless squads in the women's competition battled for the 11th-place spot in the tournament. Marsha Marescia put the South African women up by one with a goal in the 14th minute. New Zealand responded in the 22nd minute to tie the game 1-1 on a goal by Caryn Paewai. However, before the half ended, Jennifer Wilson restored the one-goal lead, allowing the South African team to enter the halftime break with a 2-1 lead. Two more South African goals in the second half allowed the South African women to win the 11th-place match. It has to be slightly disheartening for both squads to finish where they did, considering South Africa's 6th-place finish in Athens and New Zealand's 9th-place finish in 2004. However, both squads played hard in every game - a testament to their determination.

And despite what The Sports Network says, Russia did not defeat New Zealand. Considering that Russia didn't even have a team entered in either the men's or women's events, this kind of error makes you wonder where some sites copy-and-paste from.

9th-Place Match: Japan vs. South Korea

The South Korean women established an early lead off a goal by Jeong Sook Park at the 12-minute mark. Park deflected a Seon Ok Lee hit on a penalty corner into the goal to start the Koreans off on the right foot. The first half was largely uneventful and both teams appeared to be quite lethargic. The Koreans carried the 1-0 lead into halftime. Japan looked a little more energetic after the break, and were rewarded with a goal by Rika Komazawa at the 43rd minute. However, the Koreans went up by one goal again thanks to a Jeong Sook Park deflection at the 49th minute. The Koreans pressured the Japanese team for most of the remaining time, but were unable to add to their lead. At the final whistle, it wouldn't matter as South Korea earned the 9th-place victory by a 2-1 score over Japan.

7th-Place Match: Spain vs. USA

Spain really pushed the tempo of this match in the early stages, and their efforts paid off at the 8-minute mark as Esther Termens converted a well-executed penalty corner. This early score seemed to wake up the Americans, though, and they began to impose their will towards the end of the half. Dana Sensenig scored on a rebound in the 30th minute to even the score at one goal apiece, taking Spain and the USA into halftime deadlocked at 1-1. The second half saw the Americans carry the play, causing Esther Termens, Carrie Lingo and Nuria Camon to pick up yellow cards during a 10-minute timeframe. The Americans capitalized on the Spanish squad's lack of discipline when Angie Loy scored at the 59-minute mark. However, Spain forced extra time when Raquel Huertas' reverse stick hit found the back of the goal in the 68th minute.

Much like in regulation time, the Spanish team came out strong looking for the early "golden goal", but the Americans weathered the storm and began to wear down the Spanish team. In the 89th minute of the game, Spain's Rocio Ybarra scored the golden goal off a penalty corner to give Spain a 3-2 victory over the Americans, and the 7th-place finish in the Beijing Olympics.

5th-Place Match: Australia vs. Great Britain

Both teams were looking to avenge heart-breaking losses by winning the 5th-place match, but it was Australia striking first. In the 29th minute, Madonna Blyth scored for the Australians. The game see-sawed back and forth throughout both halves of play. However, the Australians struck again in the 68th minute as Hope Munro scored to add the insurance marker for the Hockeyroos, and seal the deal for the Australians to end in 5th-place at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Bronze Medal Match: Germany vs. Argentina

The second-ranked team in the world, Argentina, against the third-ranked team and defending Olympic gold medalists, Germany. Sounds like it would be a match made in heaven for organizers, except this was the bronze medal match. Both teams were looking to secure a medal for their respective countries, but it was the "Leonas" who came out firing. Argentina's Rosario Luchetti deflected a penalty corner hit at the 11th minute to open the scoring, and Carla Rebecchi gave the Argentinian squad a two-goal lead at the 23rd minute. Argentina's strong play in the first half led them to a 2-0 lead by the break, but the Germans came out strong in the second half as they looked to erase the deficit. Anke Kuehn put Germany on the board in the 45th minute with her goal, and reduced the lead to one goal. However, Noel Barrionuevo scored in the 63rd minute to restore the two-goal cushion. Germany was 0-for-3 on penalty corner chances in the second half, and it appeared that those missed opportunities cost them the game. Argentina wins the match 3-1, and takes home the bronze medal. This was Argentina's third Olympic hockey medal, having won a silver medal in 2000 at Sydney and a bronze in 2004 at Athens.

Gold Medal Match: Netherlands vs. China

It wasn't to be expected, but the sixth-ranked Chinese squad advanced through to the finals against the powerhouse Dutch team. The host team were outmatched in this one, despite playing some of their best hockey in the previous game. However, the Chinese women managed to hold the powerful Dutch team at bay, and entered halftime at a scoreless draw. Naomi van As finally got the Dutch side on the board by converting a penalty corner in the 53rd minute to post the Netherlands to a 1-0 lead. The Chinese women battled hard to try to equalize the game, throwing everything they had at the Dutch. However, in the 62nd minute, Netherlands' Maartje Goderie made the Dutch's lead 2-0. Despite their best efforts, China couldn't crack the Dutch defence, allowing the Netherlands to claim the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a 2-0 victory.

Final Standings
1. Netherlands
2. China
3. Argentina
4. Germany
5. Australia
6. Great Britain
7. Spain
8. USA
9. South Korea
10. Japan
11. South Africa
12. New Zealand

My thoughts on the women's field hockey event are all good. There were some phenomenal games played between these teams, and every team gave it their all in each game I watched. In no way should any of these women be disappointed with their efforts because this writer thought that the athleticism displayed was second to none. All of these teams will be world powers for decades to come with showings like this.

Congratulations to all the women who participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympic field hockey games! Congratulations are also in order for the gold medalist Dutch women, the silver medalist Chinese women, and the bronze medalist Argentinian women!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 21 August 2008

Charitable Donations: Amadeus Steen Foundation

It's been a few weeks since I wrote the last Charitable Donations article, and I had been meaning to publish this one earlier. When it comes to faces of franchises, no one embodied the spirit of the Winnipeg Jets more than Thomas Steen. Thomas Steen played 950 NHL games with the Winnipeg franchise, and was a fan favourite every time he stepped on the ice. However, the Steens were affected by a tragedy within their family, and from that loss came the Amadeus Steen Foundation. Today, Hockey Blog In Canada is honoured to present this amazing foundation to you, as well as having the chance to speak about a man who I've admired for a long time.

Mission Statement: Directly from the Amadeus Steen Foundation website, "The Amadeus Steen Foundation exists to enhance the lives of the community’s children and youth through non-clinical initiatives that seek to restore hope.

"The Foundation strives to raise awareness around lesser known issues, make change through simple solutions with a big impact, and forge emotional connections with both children and their loved ones."

How Did The Amadeus Steen Foundation Start?: I hate talking about tragedies, but this story starts off that way. 18 years ago, young Amadeus Steen, the fourth child for Thomas and Mona Steen, had been diagnosed with a virus on his heart at the age of two months. Doctors worked tirelessly to help little Amadeus overcome the virus. However, the virus would eventually cause Amadeus' pulse to elevate greater than 200 beats-per-minute. Doctors tried to bring his heart-rate down, but were unsuccessful. Amadeus Steen passed away before he celebrated his first birthday.

In 2007, Thomas Steen and his son, Toronto Maple Leafs' forward Alex Steen, decided to team up and start the Amadeus Steen Foundation in honour of Amadeus. Along with Thomas and Alex, Mona and Alex's wife, Sofie, have been instrumental in getting the foundation off the ground. The Amadeus Steen Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to enhance the lives of children who need a helping hand in whatever battle they may be facing. Rather than using the funds raised by the Amadeus Steen Foundation to fund research initiatives, the foundation works to bring hope and happiness to children who need it most.

The Amadeus Steen Foundation works out of both Toronto, Ontario and Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 2007, the Amadeus Steen Foundation raised funds in the Greater Toronto Area for the Lakeshore Area Multi-service Project (LAMP), an Etobicoke centre for at-risk youth. LAMP needed funds to build a new facility, and the Amadeus Steen Foundation lent a hand. LAMP's current facility is the former Mimico City Hall, part of which is an old jail which is in very bad shape. Thanks to Alex and Thomas Steen, LAMP can focus on providing quality programming in a new facility. You can read more about Alex's visit to LAMP here.

This year, the Amadeus Steen Foundation is raising funds for the Children's Hospital in Winnipeg. The two major fundraising events are the Benefit Reception, taking place on August 27, and the CanWest Steen Classic golf tournament, taking place on August 28. Both of these events will help raise funds for improvements at the Winnipeg Children's Hospital. The Amadeus Steen Foundation is also holding a golf event in the GTA region as well. The CanWest Steen Classic in Ontario will go towards helping LAMP once again.

Clearly, the Steen family and the Amadeus Steen Foundation are doing a fabulous job in raising funds for children who can most certainly use the help.

How Can I Help?: Of course, there is always the option of making a donation. If you'd prefer to avoid the online donation in favour of the mail-in donation, you can do that as well. Please send your donation through the mail to:

Amadeus Steen Foundation
Box 69007
110-2025 Corydon Ave.
Winnipeg MB R3P 2G9

As stated above, the Amadeus Steen Foundation holds events, and you can certainly attend these events if you like. The Winnipeg Foundation Benefit will take place at the Tijuana Yacht Club, and tickets can be obtained by following this link. If you'd like to golf at either event, please click here for the Winnipeg golf event, or click here for the Oakville, Ontario golf event.

You can also sponsor the event if you wish. There are three levels of sponsorship, each with its own merits: Gold Level, Silver Level, and Bronze Level. If you're interested in becoming a sponsor, please click here to obtain more information.

If these options are out of your price range, that's ok. There is an additional way you can help. The Amadeus Steen Foundation, in conjunction with River City Sports, will be collecting $10 from every Jets Steen Classic Cap or Maple Leafs Steen Classic Cap sold through River City Sports. The hats look quite spiffy, and won't set you back a bundle of cash to get one.

Of course, if you have any questions on anything you've seen here, I encourage you to write the Amadeus Steen Foundation with your questions and/or comments.

If it hasn't been already said, the work that the Amadeus Steen Foundation is doing is quite phenomenal. Seeing the Steen family help children in Toronto and Winnipeg is a testament to the Steens' commitment to their communities. And in this commitment, you find the greatest tribute of all: the lasting memory of an angel named Amadeus.

The Amadeus Steen Foundation, the NHLPA, Thomas and Mona Steen, and Alex and Sofie Steen 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 20 August 2008

He's Just A Kid

I'm sure you've read and heard all about 19 year-old Stefan Legein deciding to hang up his skates and walk away from the game of hockey. The picture to the left is somewhat appropriate given that people have said that he's "turned his back on his future", he's "walking away from the biggest opportunity of his life", and so on. While all of these opinions have some validity here, we shouldn't be speculating on why a gifted young man decided to walk away from the game. Instead, we should be helping him through, and allowing him some time.

Let me explain this. From the time that Mr. Legein was a young boy, he's been under the brightest of lights as his hockey career has unfolded. He played in the OHL with the Mississauga Ice Dogs, garnering attention from scouts and Hockey Canada. He played in the World Junior Championships, winning gold most recently. He was drafted to the NHL by the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening his path even wider in terms of how far he wanted to follow his dreams. But somewhere along the way, the fire that burned within him for the game of hockey began to die. The spark that had kept him as one of the top players in his age group began to disappear. And now, Mr. Legein has decided to step away from the game.

We've all been there. I was a 19 year-old kid once, and I had no idea where my life was leading me. My minimum wage job allowed me to have some fun in the summer while barely paying for university in the fall and winter. But it was all I knew.

Today, my chosen field of work has nothing to do with what I attended university to learn. The career path I thought I wanted never panned out, and I decided to make several changes that got me to where I am today. However, I can tell you that I lost the passion for the subject I was studying in university once that path I had worked for closed quickly. Could this be the case with Mr. Legein?

Stefan Legein has always been a talented agitator and jokester. He was the guy that the coaches relied heavily on for some relief of all the tension that Team Canada was feeling in their quest for World Junior Championship gold. The 37th overall pick in the 2007 draft was thought to be one of the energy guys that GM Scott Howson was looking for to add another dimension to the Columbus roster.

While he was generously listed at 5-foot-10, he was looking at the same battle that Theoren Fleury had to endure as a smaller forward in a game now dominated by giants. The punishment on his body alone could have been a reason for his departure from the game. It has been noted by a number of sources that a shoulder injury at the end of last season really affected his game. He returned home to focus on working out after playing in only two playoff games for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. I'm not sure about you, but how many hockey players give up the opportunity to play in the playoffs voluntarily? Not many, I can assure you.

Here's what matters, though. Stefan Legein is a healthy, young man who has a long life ahead of him in whatever walk of life he chooses. Whether it be hockey, business, flipping burgers, driving a bus, or whatever he chooses, I know he'll put the same energy and passion into it as he did for hockey. Why? That's just who Stefan Legein is.

Columbus fans, don't hate on the kid for being a kid. We've all been there, and we most likely can relate to what he's going through. The best way to help him is not to rag on Mr. Legein for being young, but to support him until he finds his way.

To Stefan Legein: hang in there, kid. You made me proud as a Canadian on numerous occasions, and you deserve happiness and health in whatever venture comes your way.

To my friend and blogging colleague, Bethany: well done on this one. You handled this news like a pro, and you should be commended for your integrity and honesty when it came to dealing with a sensitive matter such as this. Enjoy your time in the spotlight. You certainly deserve it.

To Mainstream Media outlets: maybe we're not so different after all, eh? Huge props go out to Adam Proteau of The Hockey News for giving Bethany her due, and for calling out his media brethren for their negative views on bloggers.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Dog Days of Summer

I took the last couple of days off for a couple of reasons. First, I got a pretty decent sunburn from the incredible weather over the weekend when I was playing in the softball tournament. The 30+ Celcius (approximately 90F) temperatures finally arrived and had nothing but clear blue skies to operate in, making the sunburn factor high. Secondly, the nice weather has encouraged me to spend more time in the pool and less time indoors. Air conditioning is nice and everything, but there's nothing like summer in the pool. Lastly, it's been all quiet on the hockey front aside from the KHL and NHL jostling for compensation over players who can't decide where they want to play. Let's take a look at some of the stories I opted to avoid over the last few days.

  • The recent report from the Bertuzzi-Moore civil case that is taking place is that head coach Marc Crawford did not order Todd Bertuzzi to attack Steve Moore. Moore, of course, broke his neck, and has never played in the NHL again. In fact, it was said that Bertuzzi acted in "direct disobedience" of his coaches, and skipped a line change after killing off a penalty moments before the attack happened. However, given the charges that could potentially be handed out to Crawford if found guilty, this seems to be a cop-out. Former Canucks GM Dave Nonis testified that he recalled Crawford stating that he had told Bertuzzi to get off the ice, but Nonis stated that this recollection by Crawford came in the "weeks afterwards", not hours or days later. More to come on this one. It could get ugly.
  • Free agent Mats Sundin is apparently not interested in becoming a New York Ranger despite some reports. Here's an update for Sundin's agent, JP Berry: no one cares.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins' blueline took a hit this week as defenceman Ryan Whitney had surgery to correct a chronic foot condition. It has been said that recovery time could be anywhere from three to five months, meaning Whitney could first see the ice in January if it takes the maximum time to recover. Mark Eaton will need to step up while Whitney is out.
  • Former NHL player Alyn McCauley has joined the coaching staff of the Queen's University Golden Gaels hockey program in Canada. A series of knee injuries forced McCauley's premature retirement at the age of 31 as a player, but he has now decided to take his hockey knowledge behind the bench as an assistant coach. Congratulations on your new position, Mr. McCauley, and good luck to the Golden Gaels this season!
  • The Edmonton Oilers will retire Glenn Anderson's number this season, raising his famous #9 to the rafters to join Al Hamilton, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, and Grant Fuhr in Rexall Place. I expect a jersey patch, so I'll keep my eyes on this one for more additions to the Patch It Up articles. Anderson was lights-out in the playoffs during his time with the Oilers, ending his career in fourth-place in terms of career playoff points. Congratulations, Mr. Anderson!
  • The AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins unveiled a brand-new alternate jersey yesterday, and I was slightly underwhelmed by its monotony. I liked the Penguins' third jersey from last season, but I guess with the NHL Penguins going light blue this season, the AHL Penguins followed suit. Full story here from the WBS Penguins site.
  • Aaron Scholder, a commentor on the Uni Watch blog, found this screenshot from NHL '09 by EA Sports that shows the Montreal Canadiens wearing two variations of a 100-year Centennial patch. Great find, Aaron! Also to be noticed is the old-style mask on the goaltender in the picture, as well as the old-style helmet on the player. Great attention to detail in this new game, it appears.
  • The New York Islanders officially hired Scott Gordon as their new coach, filling the last coaching vacancy in the NHL. Again, I think this is an excellent hiring as Gordon has been extremely successful throughout his coaching career, most recently in Providence. Snow and Gordon know each other from their time together as the goaltending tandem for the Quebec Nordiques, so I doubt there will be any "differences in philosophies" when it comes to Gordon handling this team.
  • Field hockey is continuing over in Beijing, and here are the men's standings up to 10am CST on August 19: Pool A has Spain out in front (4-0-1, 12pts), followed by Germany (3-0-2, 11 pts), South Korea and New Zealand tied for third (2-2-1, 7 pts), and Belgium and China tied for fifth-place (0-3-1, 1 pt). Pool B has the Dutch squad leading the way (4-0-1, 13 pts), Australia in second (3-0-1, 10pts), Great Britain in third (2-1-1, 7 pts), Pakistan in fourth (2-3-0, 6 pts), Canada in fifth (1-3-1, 4 pts), and South Africa in sixth (0-5-0, 0 pts). The men's classification matches start tomorrow, and I'll have more updates as to who finished where tomorrow.
  • The women's side of the field hockey draw is as follows: Pool A has the Netherlands in first place (5-0-0, 15 pts), China and Australia tied for second (3-1-0, 9 pts), Spain in fourth position (2-3-0, 6 pts), South Korea in fifth position (1-4-0, 3 pts), and South Africa in sixth spot (0-5-0, 0 pts). Pool B sees Germany sitting atop the standings (4-1-0, 12 pts), Argentina and Great Britain tied for second (ARG - 2-0-2, 8 pts; GBR - 2-1-2, 8 pts), the United States in fourth position (1-1-3, 6 pts), Japan in fifth spot (1-3-1, 4 pts), and New Zealand in sixth spot (0-5-0, 0 pts). Korea will play Japan in the 9-vs-10 match, while Spain and the USA meet up in the 7-vs-8 match today. The rest of the teams will tangle tomorrow, and I'll update the games then.
  • Rachel Hunter, ex-wife of musician Rod Stewart, and Los Angeles Kings' forward Jarret Stoll are engaged to be married. Hunter, 39, and Stoll, 26, met at a hockey game in 2006, and will be married in the upcoming spring. The move to LA for Stoll will work out well as Hunter has a modelling and acting career in Los Angeles. No word on whether or not Stoll will be as successful as another former Oiler who moved to California who married an actress, but I somehow doubt it. Congratulations to Miss Hunter and Mr. Stoll on their upcoming nuptuals, and best of luck to both of you!
Alright, I have a pile of work here that hasn't been touched, so you know what I'm doing. Comments, emails, and whatever are welcome. You know what to do.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 16 August 2008

Use Your Head

I have been focused on the Olympics as of late, mostly because there's no hockey in the summer and because it's the biggest sporting event this year. Of course, there are lots of hockey stories that I could be reporting on, but I like watching the field hockey teams battle one another on the pitch. It's a fairly exciting game, and one that should garner more attention. But today's entry is one of those hockey stories that is just too juicy to pass up. And when one comes across a story like this, there needs to be a discussion started.

I received an email from the upstart Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) over in Russia. They decided to send out a press release. Somehow, I've found myself on their mail list as a member of the press or something. Anyway, I was sort of blown away by the wording of the press release that was sent. Here is the entire release in its entirety:

"The Continental Hockey League (KHL) has decided to unilaterally extend the moratorium on inviting players from the clubs of the National Hockey League (NHL), which was introduced on July 15, 2008, which does not affect free agents who do not have contracts.

"'We will adhere to the moratorium until the first manifestation of disrespect to the hockey contracts of our league and the contract rights of its clubs,' said Alexander Medvedev, the league's president."

Now, I'm no military strategist. I have zero training when it comes to diplomatic relations. But why is the KHL posturing against the NHL?

Essentially, what the press release says is: "We agree to play by the rules until one of you guys screws us over."

How is that the makings of a civil and friendly agreement between the two leagues? The KHL has tossed a grenade across the ocean at the NHL, basically stating that they expect one of the NHL teams to try to tamper with players under contract in the KHL. Do they really want to compete against the NHL? Should they not be working with the NHL to strengthen this relationship between the two leagues?

This, to me, is one of the dumbest things that the KHL has done thus far in their short history. The NHL owners agreed not to rob teams of their talent from Russia, and the KHL agreed not to rob NHL teams of prospects. That's a good starting block to which everyone has agreed, and to which everyone has adhered. Why toss this elephant into the room with the accusation?

Sometimes, people need to start using their heads. And I'm referring directly to Alexander Medvedev and the owners of teams in the KHL. If you point fingers, check how many are pointing back at you.

As a side note, apparently the field hockey article from Friday didn't post properly, so I've reposted it. It appears to be there now, so please read through it to see how the countries are faring against one another.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 15 August 2008

Putting Up Zeroes

Wednesday's games on the men's side of the field hockey competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics saw a number of zeroes put up. Low-scoring games are common in field hockey as teams match their opponents' movements, but you'd expect to see end-to-end action in some of these games. Granted, there have been some very exciting games thus far that have had goals scored on both ends of the pitch, but there were some phenomenal games played on Wednesday that ended with one team not scoring. Here are the results from the second matches on the men's side that took place on Wednesday.

Australia and South Africa met up in the first game of the day, and the "Kookaburras" proved once again why they are considered a favourite for a medal in this sport. Australia defeated the South African squad by a 10-0 score, and showed why they are the defending Olympic champions. The Aussies had goals scored by Grant Schubert, Fergus Kavanagh, Des Abbott, Jamie Dwyer with a pair, David Guest with a pair, and Eli Matheson with a hat trick. Not much else can be said about the Aussie squad's performance except that it was a showing of dominance.

Korea and China, long-time rivals, tangled in the second game. China jumped out to a lead in the 6th minute on a goal from Yubo Na. Two minutes later, Yi Song doubled the lead. However, Korea's Jong Heo Seo replied at the 13th minute to cut the deficit to one goal. At the 35th minute, before halftime was called, Jong Hyun Jang converted on a penalty corner to even up the score at 2-2. Jang added his second and third goals of the game at the 55th and 57th minutes respectively. Both of those tallies came on penalty corners, and gave Korea a 4-2 advantage.

Belgium and Germany matched up in the third game of the day, and the two European squads battled to a 1-1 draw. There were a number of glorious chances for either side to establish a lead early on, but it was the Germans who struck in the 19th minute on a reverse stick shot from Mattias Witthaus. However, three minutes after the Germans got on the board, the Belgians responded. Cedric Charlier scored his first Olympic goal for the Belgians to even the score. The rest of the match was highlighted by scoring chances, but neither side could break the deadlock.

Pakistan met up with Canada in the fourth game of the day, and it appeared that the Canadian squad was quite outmatched early on as Pakistan had a number of chances and sustained pressure. Bindi Kullar, however, opened the scoring for Canada on a last-minute penalty corner in the first half by converting a rebound. The Pakistani team didn't back down from their relentless attack strategy, and it paid off in the second half. Muhammad Imran scored a penalty corner at the 39th minute, and that was followed immediately by a Shafqat Rasool in the 39th minute again. Pakistan continued to press the Canadians at every turn, and they were rewarded with the insurance marker in the 57th minute when Muhammad Waqas scored on a reverse stick shot. Pakistan ran out the time, and won the match 3-1.

Spain and New Zealand put on quite a show in their match. Both teams came out flying, seizing opportunities to attack and counterattack. Both teams had a number of chances, especially Spain late in the half, but the two teams remained deadlocked at 0-0 as they went into the half. The Blacksticks really carried the play in the second half, and had Spain on the ropes a number of times. The teams see-sawed back and forth up and down the pitch, and it appeared that we were going to see the first scoreless draw. However, with four seconds remaining, Spain's Santi Freixa managed to put a ball past a number of players and into the goal. Spain wins the most exciting match on the men's side to date by a 1-0 score on the late goal.

After watching that game, there was another great game on the schedule featuring the Netherlands versus Great Britain. Great Britain stymied the Dutch attacks time and time again, keeping the powerful Netherlands team off the scoreboard. The two teams entered the half tied at zero. The second half looked to be much like the first. However, the Dutch squad finally got on the board in the 63rd minute. Taeke Taekema scored off a penalty corner, and the British were not able to respond before time ran out. The Netherlands wins the match 1-0.

More Olympic field hockey action coming up this week. I'm playing in a softball tournament on the weekend, so check back later in the day on Saturday for an update. I'll have my eye on the hockey action this weekend despite me fielding ground balls and popflies.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Emails, Blogs, And Other Scribes

I like getting emails and comments from people. Whether it be a question, a comment, a critique, or just some additional news, emails and comments allow me to appreciate the talented and intelligent readers that frequent this blog. After all, without you guys - the readers - this would just be more wasted Intertube space, and no one really appreciates dead spaces, do they? With that in mind, I will also give you some new places to check out by linking them on this article. They appreciate the traffic as well, and you might find a site you really like.

Let's start with an email I received from Miss Sandi Hathaway a few weeks back. Miss Hathaway works with a site called Takkle. Takkle is a high school sports community social networking site. Much like Facebook, there are a ton of people from around the world who have signed up to be on this site. If you are a high school student or coach, this would be an excellent networking site for you to be on. Check it out!

The NHL Arena is a fantastic forum, and they deserve a little attention for their current contest that is running. The Battle of the Blogosphere is pitting blog vs. blog from across the hockey spectrum to see who has the best blog. The key is that the readers get to vote on which blog they like, making this a little more impartial than Presidential votes in Florida. No, I'm joking! Seriously, there are some excellent blogs on there, and I encourage you to sign up and have your voice heard!

The Barry Melrose Rocks team has expanded to two gentlemen now as Ryan Henning from Victoria Times joined up with Kevin to bring you all the mullet news you can handle. As well as additional hockey stories. But mostly talk about Tampa Bay humidity on the frizziness of mullets. Congratulations, Ryan for your appointment, and to Kevin for finding a helper monkey! I'm just joking, guys. I love the BMR blog.

I was really impressed with the work being done over at Cox Bloc, specifically the work done in regards to mainstream media icon Al Strachan. If any of you know me, which should be a very small percentage of anyone who stops by, you would know that I cannot stand Al Strachan. Saving my commentary for a later date, check out Cox Bloc. It's well worth the effort.

LCS Hockey went to New York and found out that throwback hockey merchandise ain't cheap. I'd almost shut down this blog if someone were to give me a pro-style Hartford Whalers jersey from their dark blue-green phase. However, with the prices being charged for the long-sleeved t-shirts, it would feel more like an investment than a piece of clothing.

Jes Golbez over at The Fanhouse looks into Dominik Hasek's clothing line business. It appears that, like his goaltending style, Hasek is all about flopping. Or how his NHL career flopped this past season.

Those are some of the stories I've been reading this past week while filling in the blanks with Olympic field hockey action. More men's action today, and I'll update that tomorrow.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 12 August 2008

The Men Take The Field

The men kicked off their Olympic field hockey competition yesterday, and the superpowers came to play. Watching field hockey gives you a pretty good perspective as to how taxing this game can be as a player when an Australian was carted off on a stretcher. Between the amount of running and the stress that must be placed on the lower back, this is a game for only the fittest of athletes. With that in mind, let's take a look at the world's best men's field hockey teams, and how they fared on Day One.

The opening game was played between the German and Chinese squads. While the Chinese squad is the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, they came out and played hard against the favoured Germans. A quick goal by Na Yubo put the hosts up by one, but the Germans stormed back with increasing pressure. Christopher Zeller scored on a gorgeous flick to tie the game, but the Chinese men held strong and weathered the storm until halftime. In the second half, the Germans overpowered the fading Chinese men, adding two goals from Florian Keller before Carlos Nevado sealed the deal with two minutes to go. Germany defeated China 4-1 in the opening match.

Great Britain squared off against Pakistan in the second match, and the Brits didn't waste any time in this one. James Tindall scored one minute in to put Great Britain up early. Rob Moore gave the Brits a two-goal lead on a spectacular reverse stick goal before adding his second of the game near the end of the first half on a penalty corner. Pakistan looked listless in the first half of the game as they entered halftime down 3-0. However, the "Greenshirts" responded early in the second half as Shakeel Abbasi and Muhammad Waqas scored goals for Pakistan to reduce the deficit to a 3-2 score. Britain's Matt Daly scored on a penalty corner to open a 4-2 margin between the teams, and the Brits held on to win by the same score.

Asian champion South Korea took to the pitch to play the New Zealand men, and things started well for the Koreans. Nam Yong Lee converted a rebound off a penalty corner to give the South Koreans a 1-0 lead which they took into the half. The "Blacksticks" came out strong in the second half. Hayden Shaw, New Zealand's penalty corner star, took over the game and scored three goals from the penalty corner spot on three corner attempts. The lower-ranked Kiwis defeated the Koreans by the 3-1 score, and set back the Korean men significantly.

Top-ranked Australia matched up with the Canadians in their first match, and the Aussies didn't waste any time in overpowering the Canadian squad. Des Abbott scored two goals in less than a minute, converting two phenomenal runs by teammates into goals. Fergus Kavanagh added a third goal shortly later for the "Hockeyroos", and the Canadian men appeared to be in over their heads. Late in the first half, Australian Jamie Dwyer was taken out on a stretcher after colliding at full speed with a Canadian defender. Early in the second half, Peter Short converted a Ranjeev Deol pass into a goal for the Canucks, cutting the Aussie lead to 3-1. However, the impressive Australian squad tallied three more times on goals by Eddie Ockenden, Grant Schubert, and Des Abbott's hat trick marker. Australia defeats Canada by a 6-1 score, and got some great news as injured player Jamie Dwyer returned for the handshakes and appeared to be in good health.

The Spaniards and the Belgians tangled in their game, and it appears that the Spanish men may finally shed the label of "underachievers". Eight minutes, Pol Amat put Spain up 1-0, and Santi Freixa doubled the lead at the 20th minute. Jerome Truyens responded for the Belgian squad before the first half ended as he deflected in a shot at the 28th minute. Six minutes into the second half, Xavier Ribas extended the lead to two goals again for the Spanish side. Eight minutes later, Spain went up 4-1 on a Victor Sojo goal. Jerome Dekeyser cut the deficit to two goals again at the 63rd minute, but it was far too late for a comeback against the solid Spanish team. Spain defeats Belgium 4-2 in their opening match.

The Dutch men, one of the favourites, took the pitch to face South Africa, and this one was all "Oranjes". While South Africa ran themselves to death in the first half, the Netherlands simply waited for opportunities, and then converted. The Dutch men scored on two of three penalty corners they had with both goals being tallied by Taeke Taekema. The second half looked remarkably similar as the South African men worked hard, but were not rewarded for their efforts. On the other side, Laurence Docherty, Jeroen Hertzberger, and Matthijs Brouwer added goals for the Netherlands, and they prevailed 5-0 at the end of time.

It appears that both the Australian and Dutch squads should be playing for the gold medal in this event, but the British and German squads will surely give them a run for the money. Can someone else upset one of these impressive teams? Only time will tell.

Day Two of the women's competition went today, and there was more heartbreak for a couple of teams. The field hockey powers established their dominance once again today, and look to be set for the playoff round.

The Argentinian women took to the pitch, looking to rebound after their underwhelming draw against the Americans two days earlier. They squared off against the British women, and got off to a great start as Soledad Garcia scored for Argentina early in the match. The 1-0 score carried into halftime, but Argentina clearly carried the play in the first half of this match. In the second half, Argentina extended the lead on a goal by Alejandra Gulla, and it appeared that this game's result was already decided. However, individual errors and penalties cost the Argentinians what looked like a sure win. Britain's Sarah Thomas scored on a penalty corner after Mariana Gonzalez Oliva was sent off under a yellow card after two rough tackles. Two minutes later, Mel Clewlow scored on another penalty corner on a superb flick. Argentina and Great Britain ended the game tied at two goals apiece, and this is a huge blow to Argentina's playoff hopes.

Australia and Spain tangled in their second matches, and it was thought that the Australians would handled the Spanish easily. However, Spain got on the board first off a goal by Silvia Muñoz. Twenty minutes later, Angie Lambert got Australia on the board, and helped the Hockeyroos carry a 1-1 draw into halftime. However, the Aussies came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Goals by Nikki Hudson, Casey Eastham, Emily Halliday and Megan Rivers put the game out of reach before Angie Lambert scored her second of the day to round out the scoring. Interestingly enough, Lambert's first goal was the 100th goal for the Australian women in Olympic competition, the first team to achieve that mark. At the end of the match, Australia had dispatched the Spanish by a 6-1 score.

The American women faced off against the Japanese women, and this game was a defensive struggle. Kaori Chiba opened the scoring for the Japanese squad at the 12th minute as she deflected the ball into the American goal. Japan took their 1-0 lead into halftime after a first half that was marked with errors and turnovers for both teams. The turnovers continued in the second half, and Kate Barber of the American squad made Japan pay by converting a poor clearing attempt into a goal. The game's flow was almost non-existant, and the two teams ended the game in a 1-1 tie. Japan will be anxiously waiting to hear about striker Kaori Chiba who was taken off the field on a stretcher at the end of the game.

In one of the more exciting games of the day, Netherlands and Korea squared off in the next match. In the first seven minutes, there were three goals scored. Maartje Paumen scored off a penalty corner flick to give the Dutch the early 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, Korean captain Seon Ok Lee tied the game for the Koreans. However, four minutes later, Janneke Schopman scored on another Dutch penalty corner to give the Netherlands a 2-1 lead. The back-and-forth action continued throughout the first half, but the one-goal lead held up as the Dutch women carried the 2-1 lead into halftime. Seon Ok Lee capitalized on a second penalty corner for her second goal at the 39th minute. At the 55th minute, Maartje Paumen scored on another penalty corner attempt to give the Netherlands a 3-2 lead. The game went down to the wire, but the Dutch women held on to defeat Korea 3-2 for their second victory of the tournament.

The Chinese fans packed the house for the late games as host China took on South Africa. Five minutes in, Chunling Tang gave the fans a reason to cheer as she deflected in a shot to give the home team a 1-0 lead. China began to establish themselves as the first half progressed, but the South African women began to stir near the end of the half. However, Fu Baorong scored a brilliant goal to relieve the pressure and give the fans some relief as they headed into halftime. In the second half, Qingling Song scored a reverse goal at the 40th minute to give the Chinese squad a three-goal advantage. From there, China played shutdown hockey and ran out the time to defeat the South African women by that 3-0 score.

The New Zealand women took to the pitch to face the powerful German squad in the late game. Krystal Forgesson scored at the 31st minute, late in the first half, to give the "Blacksticks" a 1-0 lead while throwing a scare into the German squad. The teams battled to the halftime mark in this 1-0 state. In the second half, it appeared that the German women were trying to make that extra perfect pass for a goal, and it was costing them opportunities. However, at the 59th minute, Katharina Scholz teed up a ball and fired it past the New Zealand goaltender on a long hit. With the game tied at one goal apiece, it looked as though the New Zealand women were going to be able to split the game with the German women. However, a late penalty corner cost the New Zealand women as Anke Kuehn flicked home the winner for the Germans at the 69th minute. Germany defeats New Zealand 2-1 in this match.

The men still have four days of play left, while the women have three days remaining. However, teams that have yet to record points in the women's competition are facing an uphill battle to make it to the playoff round. Lots more field hockey to come in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the field!