Tuesday 30 September 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'm on the road for the next few days, but I'll try to update when possible. No, it's not for hockey, either. Work has sent me further up the globe into the Great White North for some actual work, and, since it pays the Internet bill, I accepted. I have a ridiculously early flight tomorrow, so I'm mailing this one in.

However, I will be blogging when I can, and I promise to have articles each and every day that I'm gone. I'm back on Saturday, and looking forward to catching all the Hockey Night in Canada action from Europe.

Just as an aside, I was watching the Montreal-Detroit game tonight as I packed, and I am blown away by how good Max Pacioretty was playing. If he's playing alongside Kovalev this season, we could be looking at this year's Calder Trophy winner. The Canadiens look strong again this season, led by their youngsters.

I'll check in tomorrow. In the meantime, if you want to see a topic covered or something talked about, hit me up with a comment and tell me what you want to see on this blog. I'm open to suggestions, and look forward to hearing what you want!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 29 September 2008

The Key Dates

With the NHL season ready to unfold before us, there are a number of dates that should be noted this year. Whether it be for specific events or simply due to the importance it could have on the rest of the season, these are the dates that should be circled on your calendar. Personally, I'm looking forward to the hockey season in 2008-09, and I'm going to try to catch as many of these dates on television, mainly because no one will pay for my travel nor will they grant me a press pass. But that won't deter me from using television and the good ol' Interweb from catching these dates. Here are your "key dates" in the 2008-09 hockey season.

October 4-5: NHL Premiere occurs in Prague, Czech Republic and Stockholm, Sweden. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning tangle in Prague while the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins battle in Stockholm.

October 8: The AHL regular season starts. The IIHF Champions League plays their first games in their respective groups for semi-final qualification.

October 9: First NHL games in North America take place.

October 17: The ECHL regular season starts.

October 22: The IIHF Champions League plays their second games in their respective groups for semi-final qualification.

October 29: The IIHF Champions League plays their third games in their respective groups for semi-final qualification.

November 9: Hockey Hall of Fame Game takes place in Toronto with the Montreal Canadiens squaring off against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

November 10: Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Toronto.

November 12: The IIHF Champions League plays their fourth games in their respective groups for semi-final qualification.

November 19: The IIHF Champions League plays their fifth games in their respective groups for semi-final qualification.

December 3: The IIHF Champions League plays their sixth games in their respective groups for semi-finals qualification.

December 10: The IIHF Champions League plays their first games in semi-final action for finals qualification. The semi-final winners on aggregate will advance to the final.

December 19-27: NHL holiday roster freeze takes place.

November 22: Patrick Roy will be honoured with a jersey retirement ceremony by the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec.

November 27: Bobby Orr will be honoured with a jersey retirement ceremony by the Oshawa Generals at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario.

December 26: IIHF World Junior Championship begins in Ottawa, Ontario.

January 1: NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field takes place between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

January 5: Gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Championship takes place in Ottawa.

January 7: The IIHF Champions League plays their first games in semi-final action for finals qualification. The semi-final winners on aggregate will advance to the final.

January 18: Glenn Anderson will be honoured with a jersey retirement ceremony by the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

January 21: The Reading Royals and the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pennsylvania host the ECHL All-Star Game. The IIHF Champions League plays their first finals game. The finalists on aggregate will win the Champions League championship.

January 24: NHL SuperSkills Competition takes place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec.

January 25: NHL All-Star Game takes place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec. The AHL All-Star Skills Competition takes place at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

January 26: The AHL All-Star Game takes place at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

January 28: The IIHF Champions League plays their second, and final, finals game. The finalists on aggregate will win the Champions League championship.

March 3: NHL trade deadline.

April 4: IIHF Women's World Championship begins in Hämeenlinna, Finland. The ECHL regular season closes.

April 9: IIHF World Under-18 Men's Championship takes place in Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota.

April 11: IIHF Division I Men's World Championship takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania.

April 12: Last day of NHL regular season. The AHL regular season closes. The gold medal game for the IIHF Women's World Championship takes place in Hämeenlinna, Finland.

April 15: 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

April 17: IIHF Division I Men's World Championship gold medal game takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania.

April 19: IIHF World Under-18 Men's Championship gold medal game takes place in Fargo, North Dakota.

April 24: IIHF Men's World Championship begins in Bern and Kloten, Switzerland.

May 10: IIHF Men's World Championship gold medal game takes place in Bern, Switzerland.

May 15: The Mastercard CHL Memorial Cup starts in Rimouski, Quebec.

May 24: The Mastercard CHL Memorial Cup finals are played in Rimouski, Quebec.

June 15: Last possible day for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals to be played on.

June 26-27: NHL Entry Draft takes place in Montreal, Quebec.

I'm sure there are other dates as well, but that's the start of all the important dates I could find for the upcoming hockey season. If you feel like contributing any additional dates, add them in the comments season below.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 28 September 2008

Electronic Mails

I want to use a little time to respond to an important email that I've received, and to post something that might interest readers. I've said before that I like getting email because I know people are reading and, more importantly, following hockey. That's what helps grow the game, and I'm all for hockey's popularity growing. So rather than doing this through the old email system, I thought I'd post this email here so others can see the news. The topic may be relevant to you, especially if you've enjoyed some of the previous articles I've written about sledge hockey. Let's get to that email, and give you all the opportunity to see the news.

From Alison Love: A number of months ago, I sent you an email about the documentary we were producing on Canada's national sledge hockey team. We have just completed it a week ago, and CTV has confirmed an airdate of Saturday, October 4th at 7:00 pm for the premiere!

You can also see more about the documentary at www.sledheadmovie.com

Please help us get the word out on this dcoumentary. It's a great opportunity to increase awareness of this paralympic sport and to start to build excitement and interest in the athletes and sports of the 2010 Paralympics in Whistler.

I had written an article regarding this movie in March, and I am very interested in seeing this movie.

If you have a CTV feed, I suggest tuning in on Friday evening. I will be doing that, and I really want to see the story of the Canadian Sledge Hockey Team. From the trailer on their site, it looks like a great story. I'll be tuning in for sure!

Thanks for the email update, Miss Love!

Now why is this important to me?

With the recent 2008 Beijing Olympics finishing, the Paralympians competed after the able-bodied Olympians in China. There were some amazing stories being written at these 2008 Paralympic Games, yet a lot of the stories went unnoticed by mainstream media. Why? I can't cite specific reasons, but it seems that the Paralympic Games simply aren't "sexy" enough for NBC to devote hundreds of hours of airtime to, especially when Michael Phelps is already back home.

However, with the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in British Columbia, Canada, the hockey-mad citizens of the Great White North should realize that there are three teams competing for Olympic gold medals at the next Olympic Games.

Thanks to Alison Love and David McIlvride, Sledhead will help to expose the "other team" that only a few thousand people know about. The efforts of Miss Love and Mr. McIlvrade in getting this movie on television shows the kind of passion that is required when lesser known teams need exposure. It's this passion that has allowed them to film and capture the efforts of the fifteen men of the Canadian National Sledge Hockey Team, and it's this passion that has allowed them to present it to Canada via a major network. Congratulations are in order for Miss Love and Mr. McIlvrade for their effort and work on this project. Hockey Blog In Canada will be tuning in this upcoming Friday for sure.

While other countries like Norway and Sweden celebrate their sledge hockey teams, it's nice to see Canada recognizing an outstanding group of athletes that have been recognized as one of the top teams in the history of the game. Sledge hockey is a fast-paced, exciting game, and it deserves recognition in this hockey-mad country.

With the game growing both in Canada and the United States in terms of its popularity, sledge hockey looks to ride this wave into the 2010 Olympics. Charlottetown, PEI has been selected as the host for the 2008 World Sledge Hockey Challenge, which will take place from November 18-22, 2008. The top four sledge hockey teams in the world - Canada, Norway, Japan, and the USA - will compete for the World Sledge Hockey Challenge Championship. The top four teams were the top teams at the World Championships earlier this year, and have been invited to this event. Canada is the defending champion, having won in 2007 in Kelowna, BC. The teams will each play three round-robin games, with the top two teams playing for gold on the final day. All games will be played at the CARI Complex in Charlottetown.

The 2009 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship will take place in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic from May 5-16, 2009. Along the way, there are a couple of other events that the teams will take part in:

  • Four Nations Tournament in Nagano, Japan - January 10-17, 2009
  • Sledge Invitational Tournament in Vancouver, BC - Feb. 23-Mar 1, 2009
If you live in or near these locations, I definitely suggest heading down to the rink and checking out the action. You won't be disappointed, I guarantee it. And if your local rink has a team practicing, stick around and watch these guys and girls do their thing. Or, better yet, ask them for a sled and try it out!

Sledge hockey is a wonderful sport, and my thanks and appreciation go out to Alison Love and David McIlvride for their film, Sledhead.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 27 September 2008

RIP Reg Dunlop

It's with great sadness that I have to start this article today with the news that Paul Newman has passed on. Besides the fact that he was a food entrepreneur and huge Hollywood name, Paul Newman was a generous fellow who routinely gave away piles of money to various charities and organizations. His role in Slapshot, as the leader of the Johnstown Chiefs in Reg Dunlop, wasn't his defining moment by any means, but it certainly is one of his most memorable. It was in this movie that I first discovered Paul Newman as a young teenager during my hockey days, and he will certainly be missed as an iconic figure and voice. Paul Newman was 83 years-old. Rest in peace, Mr. Newman. You've most certainly deserved it.

  • Members of the Blackhawks donned Chicago White Sox jerseys a week ago as the Sox featured several players throwing out the first pitch at US Cellular Field. I'm not big on cross-sport promotions as the jerseys normally upstage the entire event. However, with Toews, Kane, and others bringing respectability back to the Blackhawks, this promotion is alright. And it appears these appearances are working well. As of Friday evening, the Blackhawks have already sold over 13,000 season tickets!
  • With the Flyers playing their last game ever inside the Wachovia Spectrum, the Flyers' staff went retro on Saturday afternoon. Those bring back memories of old-time hockey, including the retro Hockey Night In Canada logo and announcer jackets. You just don't see that anymore. That's old-time hockey - something that Reg Dunlop would be proud to see.
  • The Anaheim Ducks finally pulled the trigger on a deal for Mathieu Schneider. Schneider was traded from the Anaheim Ducks to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for defenceman Ken Klee and forwards Brad Larsen and Chad Painchaud. I had commented last Friday that I saw him moving to either Los Angeles or Atlanta as both teams had considerable cap room to add his salary. I think this is a great move for Atlanta as they could use a guy like Schneider to mentor young Zach Bogosian, as well as being a solid outlet passer for guys like Kovalchuk. The Atlanta powerplay now has a solid quarterback as well. Atlanta will be better for this trade this season and for seasons to come.
  • Last year, I had written about the new junior team that the QMJHL was awarding to Montreal, and showed off these jerseys. The jerseys are alright, so nothing to worry about there. They hired Pascal Vincent, former head coach of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles; they went out and traded for Atlanta Thrashers' prospect Angelo Esposito; and they drafted well in their first draft in the "Q". But the Montreal Juniors? Why can't they come up with a better team name? This is the lamest team name in junior hockey that I have ever seen. Absolutely brutal considering the rich history that Montreal has, both as a city and as a hockey hotbed.
  • Petr Nedved's attempt at resurrecting his NHL career came to an end on Friday when the New York Rangers cut the veteran. He was hoping to make the team as a third- or fourth-line centerman, but the Rangers opted to go with youth as Tom Renney had indicated. It is expected that Nedved will return to the Czech Republic where he will play for Liberec.
  • In what seems to be a major oversight on their history's part, the OHL's Oshawa Generals have announced that they will retire Bobby Orr's #2 jersey in a ceremony on November 27 before a game against the Peterborough Petes. I was thoroughly critical of the Oshawa franchise in February after they announced they would be retiring Eric Lindros' number before retiring Orr's number. I guess "better late than never" serves here, and it will be special to see Orr's number raised to the rafters. Congratulations to Bobby Orr for this honour, and well done to the Oshawa franchise!
  • The Ottawa Senators sent some baggage to Binghampton on Saturday, including Brad Isbister, Matt Carkner, and Brendan Bell. All three were definite longshots to make the NHL club, but I still question why the Senators signed Isbister. He's been invisible since his days in Edmonton, and I expect him to remain that way during his AHL stint. Maybe it's time to look for a front-office job? The Maple Leafs may be hiring.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs' chairman Larry Tanenbaum has officially stated that he is interested in building for the long term rather than winning now. I guess all those years since Doug Gilmour led them to a Western Conference Final have finally sunk in. Toronto has been good, but never good enough since 1993. They have missed the playoffs once too often. While other teams, such as Detroit and Montreal, have gone through the dark periods of rebuilding - which is to be expected - the Maple Leafs continually tried to buy their way into the upper echelon of the NHL. Why did it take Larry Tanenbaum so long to learn that hockey is a cyclical sport? And why does he still have his job?
That's all for today, kids. I have some Slapshot to watch, and I need some time to get ready for the first night on the Beer League sheet of ice. I'm quite certain that my off-season regiment of beer and softball is not on any NHL training program, but that's why I play beer league hockey and not NHL hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 25 September 2008

It Made Me Laugh

I'm busy with work today, so this will just be a brief post. The Minnesota Wild put out a pretty hilarious commercial featuring Andrew Brunette. Brunette wants his old jersey number back, but being part of the "Team of 18,000" means he may have to pick a new number.

That commercial cracked me up something fierce. Hilarious work by the Wild.

Now let's just see if they can bring that kind of fun to the ice this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Wednesday's Headliner

Another Wednesday rolls through Hockey Blog In Canada, and there are a pile of stories to bring to the forefront of the hockey world. There are literally a ton of things to know as the NHL preseason starts, and we'll get to all of those stories below. The 2008-09 NHL season appears to be shaping up to be one of the most entertaining with all the new faces in lineups, and all of the regular faces missing. Teams have restocked their lineups, and others have tinkered by adding pieces they think were missing from last season. All in all, let's take a look at the prevailing stories coming out from the NHL. The NHL returns to TSN tonight, so grab a beverage and some munchies, get settled in, and let's take a look at some of the major stories.

  • As we all know, the Montreal Canadiens are celebrating their 100th Centennial Anniversary this year, and they have pulled out all the stops in making this their most memorable year yet. They will be wearing two patches on their normal jerseys: the 100th Anniversary patch, as seen here on Robert Lang, and the NHL All-Star patch, as seen here on the right-hand side. They also released the 2009 NHL All-Star Game logo, and it's decent, although a little bland. You can see the Montreal All-Star Game jerseys in this photo, and they look pretty decent as well.
  • The Canadiens also released the schedule of when they will be wearing their throwback jerseys, and I have to say that this is a cool feature. They will wear a total of six different jerseys between 2008 and 2010, besides their regular jersey. The other six jerseys include the 1970-71 Canadiens, the 1945-46 Canadiens, the 1915-16 Canadiens, the 1912-13 Canadiens, the 1910-11 Canadiens, and the 1909-10 Canadiens. Lots of good patches in there as well.
  • The schedule of the Centennial nights runs into next season. The first Centennial night is October 20 against the Florida Panthers where the Habs will wear the 1970-71 jersey. November 15 will feature the Habs in the 1945-46 jerseys against the Philadelphia Flyers. December 4 will see the Habs don their 1915-16 jerseys to play the New York Rangers. February 1, 2009 will feature the Canadiens in their 1912-13 jerseys against the Boston Bruins. February 21, 2009 will have the Canadiens on the ice in their 1970-71 jerseys against the Ottawa Senators. March 14, 2009 sees the Habs in their 1945-46 jerseys against the New Jersey Devils. March 21, 2009 has the Habs wearing their 1915-16 jerseys against the Toronto Maple Leafs. March 31, 2009 will feature the Canadiens in their 1912-13 jerseys against the Chicago Blackhawks. The following season will feature both the 1909-10 jersey and the 1910-11 jersey before the end of the 2009 calendar year.
  • The Canadiens haven't missed the boat when it comes to marketing this historic event either. The Canadiens have partnered with a number of companies to release such merchandise as a Canadiens video game, a documentary release on DVD of the team's most memorable games, a special set of 200 Upper Deck anniversary cards and even a Canadiens version of Monopoly. The Royal Canadian Mint will issue 10 million one-dollar coins and Canada Post will issue four million stamps honouring the Canadiens anniversary. They also have erected a new video screen inside the Bell Centre that is the largest in the NHL at 25-feet by 40-feet. Pretty spectacular stuff.
  • The Buffalo Sabres put their ice in at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, and it seems that they are a little confused as to what their primary logo is. As you can see here, the Sabres are using their alternate logo at center ice, something that isn't normally seen in NHL rinks. However, the Hurricanes have also followed suit by placing their alternate logo at center ice. I have yet to see what Boston's ice looks like, but let's hope they stick with the spoked-B.
  • The Oilers are wearing their 30th Anniversary patch on their shoulders thus far in the preseason, and they will apparently be using it at center ice this season as well. However, the logo yesterday during the game against the Canucks at Rexall Place seemed different. Can anyone confirm?
  • A good find by Matt Lesser while attending the Columbus Blue Jackets' training camp was this photo: TRON, presented by Disney on Ice and the NHL.
  • Curtis Sanford of the Vancouver Canucks has started wearing his fan-designed goalie mask, and I think it looks pretty decent. The Sandman is out, the angry Orca is in. Sanford just has to hope that Luongo decides not to play 80 games this season so we see that mask once in a while.
  • Speaking of new masks, Martin Gerber has decided to ditch the all-black mask that he wore last season for a newly-painted one. However, his new moniker of "Darth Gerber" won't go away as his new paint job resembles the Empire's most powerful force. Whether or not he can use "the force" to propel Ottawa back to the Stanley Cup Finals remains to be seen, but his new mask is alright.
  • Sergei Gonchar will miss the trip to Europe as he is out indefinitely with a dislocated shoulder. The hit into the boards by Tampa Bay's David Koci was clean, but somewhat away from the play, and Gonchar went to the bench immediately after being hit. He will be evaluated by the Penguins' medical team before any timeline for his return can be set. After losing Ryan Whitney to surgery to correct an injury, the Penguins can't afford to have Gonchar miss any significant amount of time.
  • St. Louis Blues defenceman Erik Johnson will most likely miss this season after the team announced that Johnson had suffered a tear in both his ACL and MCL. Johnson was injured when his right foot got stuck between the accelerator and brake on his golf cart during a team bonding golf expedition. Maybe it's not such a good idea for hockey players to be playing golf anymore?
  • The Montreal Canadiens are hoping for the best after a scary situation tonight on the ice. Defenceman Matt Carle was taken off the ice on a stretcher after being hit by Detroit's Tomas Kopecky at the Montreal blueline. Carle reportedly lost consciousness on the ice, but regained it before being put on the stretcher. He was taken to Detroit Medical Center for further testing. Here's to hoping nothing serious has happened to Matt Carle.
  • Can I just say something about these NHL exhibition games being played in neutral sites? The game in Winnipeg tonight is a total farce. There are a ton of tickets still available at prices between $39 and $119. And the biggest slap in the face to the people of Winnipeg? Both teams have stated that there will be no autographs given during warm-ups or after the game. Why is the NHL sending teams to neutral sites to "build momentum" for the league if they have no interest in doing the little things to make fans happy? The moron that decided to have the no-autograph rule should be fired immediately. This is an absolute screw job for the people in Winnipeg.
  • Do you like NHL.com's current look? Well, check out NHL.com's beta site for the new look. It seems to be a little slicker in its delivery, so it will be interesting to see what else they may add on.
  • And I hate ending articles this way, but my thoughts and prayers go out to Jussi Markkanen, formerly of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers. Jussi's four year-old son, Olli Markkanen, was playing alonside his younger brother, Juho, on Tuesday when he fell out an open third-story window of Markkanen's apartment in Moscow. An ambulance was called, but Olli couldn't be saved. Markkanen, playing for the KHL's CSKA, was 3-1-0 with a 1.25 GAA and one shutout on the season.
With that, I am going back to the NHL on TSN's presentation of the Penguins versus the Maple Leafs. With no advertising on the boards tonight, it feels like the 1970s watching the teams tonight. Toronto appears to be looking to become the lowest-scoring team in history as they have little jump tonight. It might be a long season for the blue-and-white.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 23 September 2008

The Old Barn

As we embarked on another season of hilarious volleyball action, we actually got into a bit of a serious conversation on the bench. With Yankee Stadium closing officially this past weekend, we talked a little about the older stadiums and arenas still standing amongst sports. There was talk of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and Madison Square Garden as being some of the more famous "old barns". And it led me to start thinking of places like the old Boston Gardens, Maple Leaf Gardens, Montreal Forum, Chicago Stadium, and the Detroit Olympia. There aren't very many places left in the NHL world that have the aura and mystique of these grand old facilities. And with each passing year, more and more get wiped off the face of the planet.

Currently, the oldest arena in the NHL is Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena, and its days are numbered. The arena can hold 17,231 people for hockey, and certainly rocks when the Penguins are winning. Affectionately known to Penguin fans as "The Igloo" due to its domed shape, the Mellon Arena was originally built to house the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and not sports. The Opera needed a new venue due to being rained out at the open-air Pitt Stadium too often, thus the Pittsburgh Civic Arena was built for a cost of $22 million in 1961. The dome is rarely opened today, and this option allowed the Opera to play under the night sky.

Complaints about the acoustics prompted the Opera to move out in 1968, and the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins moved into the Civic Arena, ousting the long-time successful Pittsburgh Hornets of the AHL. It has played host to the 1990 All-Star Game, and the NHL Finals three times: 1991, 1992, and 2008. In 1999, the Penguins signed a ten-year, $18 million agreement with Mellon Financial to rename the arena as the Mellon Arena.

All in all, this is one of the most unique arenas in the history of the NHL, and the last game to be played in the Mellon Arena will take place in 2010.

The third-oldest arena is one that really deserves better, despite hosting an abysmal team and having a total lack of television exposure. The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was opened in 1972 amidst some tenant controversy.

The WHA's New York Raiders were to be the WHA's flagship franchise based in the Big Apple. However, Nassau County didn't consider the WHA to be a professional league, and prevented the Raiders from moving into the newly-constructed arena. Nassau County and William Shea worked with the NHL to secure a franchise, and the NHL hastily awarded an expansion team to Roy Boe situated on Long Island, forcing the WHA's Raiders to play at Madison Square Garden in the shadow of the NHL's New York Rangers.

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum sits on 63 acres of Mitchel Field, a former Army and Air Force base. The arena seats 16,234 patrons for ice hockey, and actually has the smallest seating capacity of all the NHL arenas. The arena was called "Fort Neverlose" by Islander fans during the Islanders' run of four Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1984. Recently, it has been given the moniker of "Nassau Mausoleum" due to the deteriorating state of the building and the long losing streak of the Islanders.

Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was built for $31 million in 1972, and there have been recent "redevelopment" plans proposed. One included having a sixty-story office building erected to look like a lighthouse, something similar to the Islanders' alternate logo. However, this idea was downsized by Islanders' owner Charles Wang and a consortium of businesses.

Why is it that great ideas to make an arena unique, like the one the Islanders had, are killed off by people who can't see that the venue is just as important as the team on the ice?

People go to Fenway Park to sit in the bleachers amongst the history of the stadium. Yes, they go there to watch the Red Sox play, but I guarantee you there are a lot of people who go there just to say they saw the Green Monster in person.

It's the same thing in Wrigley Field in Chicago. People go there to see the ivy on the outfield walls, and to sit in the seats that their parents and grandparents sat in while watching the Cubbies. The curse, the agony, the history of the Cubs makes them lovable, but the venue plays a huge role in why the Cubs are one of the much-loved teams in Major League Baseball.

With the current NHL arena designs looking similar in nature, it seems that the aura and mystique of the old arenas are being lost. The old pipe organ of Chicago Stadium no longer plays the familiar hockey tunes we used to hear. The intricate designs of the old arenas, along with the old movie theater-style signs, made for unique arenas that carried a certain aura with them. And I feel we're losing the mantra that comes with some of the hallowed arenas of the past.

Places like the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, and Boston Gardens used to make players cringe when they walked into the arena, knowing that they were playing a star-studded team. The fans sat much closer than they do today, so the "sixth man" played a huge role in the game. Players had to walk up and down a flight of steps to get to the ice surface in the old Chicago Stadium, something that a lot of players hated during an overtime playoff game. Walking up and down the stairs on skates was dangerous, to say the least, and players hated it.

"You had to go from the dressing room up about 17 or so stairs to the arena and the ice surface," Darcy Rota, a member of the Blackhawks from 1973-79, said to Evan Weiner at NHL.com. "It was very unique. I don't know any other rink that had that arrangement. The atmosphere in that facility... you would walk up and the noise would get louder and louder and it was very spine-tingling. It was a special place to play."

That's what I'm talking about. The entire atmosphere of the arena would get inside the players, building confidence and generating excitement. The fans would respond to the cheering by cheering louder, adding to the hysteria exponentially. The sights and sounds of the arena made the place an incredible place to play for the home team, and an intimidating, scary place for opponents.

But it's no longer that way. And I miss it. Can't we go back to the way it was?

This is something that Pittsburgh needs to consider in their designs. The nuances and aura that will be lost by moving out of the Mellon Arena need to be worked back into the new arena. Otherwise, the Penguins will be playing in a cold, cement building. Not an arena... just a structure made of cement and metal. And that's too bad.

Don't follow the cookie-cutter arena design, Pittsburgh. Build flashy. Make it fun. Do it differently. If you build it, they will come. Oh, they will definitely come. And isn't that what this new NHL is all about?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 22 September 2008

Good Vs. Evil

Two more teams trotted out their new alternate jerseys that Reebok and Satan franchise executives have designed. Saturday saw the Buffalo Sabres roll out their new threads, while the St. Louis Blues got into the act on Sunday. One was refreshingly different while the other has already been commented on by this writer. I just have the photos from the official event to back my statements up now. In any case, here are the next two teams to saunter down the runway in their new uniforms.

Buffalo Sabres

Let's go back to last Sunday's article, entitled Grade Nine Home Economics Class, where I spoke about the leaked image of the Buffalo Sabres' new alternate jersey.

I had written that "[t]he dark blue colour, while maintaining the current Sabres' colours, ruins the effect of the yellow stripes", but I was off on that one. It's the crappy silver piping and stripes that kills the entire look of these jerseys. Honestly, why can't the Sabres leave well enough alone? The former look of the Sabres' traditional jerseys was excellent in the contrast between the blue and yellow. Instead, we get this.

Another thing that bothers me? What the hell is up with the gray patch in Ryan Miller's armpit? What purpose does that section of fabric serve? Why can't it be dark blue? You can see it slightly on Nathan Paetsch here, meaning that the gray patch is exposed when players are skating. WHY IS IT THERE? CAN SOMEONE FROM REEBOK ANSWER THIS QUESTION?!?

There are a couple of positives to these alternate jerseys, though. I'm a fan of the old logo, despite Buffalo changing the look of it with the silver outline and dark blue colour. I'm also a fan of not having the Barney Rubble Hairpiece appear on the shoulder. That's a huge bonus for these jerseys.

Honestly, though, the hockey gods will punish Buffalo for messing with tradition. This is how the throwback jersey looked two years ago. This is how it looked at the Winter Classic. This is an abomination in trying to combine the future with the past. The hockey gods will frown upon Buffalo for this uniform.

St. Louis Blues

And that leads us to St. Louis. The Blues have had some questionable alternate jerseys in the past, as well as one that never saw the light of an arena on an NHL player's back. The potential for these jerseys was, in my opinion, pretty low, considering the discussion of having a colour called "white gold" in the colour scheme.

Surprisingly, though, the new Blues alternate jerseys are refreshing. They have a snazzy new logo that I'm quite fond of, and they are quite simple in terms of their design.

For the first time in Blues' history, they will be wearing white numbers and they've kept the font fairly basic. The shoulders feature the Bluenote, and the lace-up neckline is a decent feature.

The only issue I have is the same one I had last year when the Blues introduced their normal Rbk EDGE jerseys. I had written, "Something else that caught my eye was the pants stripe. It looks stupid when the jersey is untucked, and even worse when the jersey is tucked in. Why does it stop at the hip? Why doesn't it match up with the yellow piping on the jersey?"

Well, the new alternate jersey does nothing to help that useless stripe on the pants. Again, I have to ask why is it there? It doesn't match up with anything on either jersey now. Let's just ditch this stripe on the pants once and for all. Whaddya say, Reebok? Can we ditch the stripe? Paul Kariya wishes the stripe was gone. Let's make Paul smile again.

There are your new threads in the NHL from this past week. Honestly, Buffalo will suffer at the hands of the hockey gods. I can't say that enough. St. Louis, though, should be alright. You look good, you play good. Simple as that. Your thoughts? Leave them in the comment section.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 21 September 2008

TBC: Black And Gold

Teebz's Book Club is proud to present another book today that should be on the bookshelf in every hockey fan's home. I happen to like books that present a pile of NHL history because it gives you a sense of why the NHL was so great in years past. Today's book, Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs, is an amazing collection of photos by Steve Babineau. Written by Rob Simpson and published by Wiley, this book is similar in nature to Saving Face in that it is a gallery of amazing photography. The rich history of the Bruins captured by Steve Babineau cannot be put into words due to the amazing pictures he has included, but I'll try to give you a description of this astonishing publication.

Rob Simpson already has one publication out. He co-authored Between the Lines: Not-So-Tall Tales from Ray "Scampy" Scapinello's Four Decades in the NHL. That's quite the title. Mr. Simpson is a 25-year veteran in the sports reporting and broadcasting business, producing such television shows as Hockey Odyssey on the NHL Network and Maple Leaf America on Leafs TV.

Steve Babineau has been the official Bruins photographer for the last 35 years, and has also worked for the Red Sox, Celtics, and various events that have traveled through Boston. His images have appeared in magazines, yearbooks, on hockey cards and promotional items, and on-line. Today, he and his son, Brian, run Sports Action Photography, and are still mainstays with their cameras at the TD Banknorth Garden when the Bruins play.

The foreword is written by one of the Bruins' most famous faces in former head coach, Don Cherry. Cherry writes a great little story about how he met Babineau, and puts his personal touch on Babineau's great work over the years.

Don't forget: we're talking about forty years of pictures here. There's bound to be thousands of them that Babineau has taken and used in publications, but there's probably even more that haven't been selected. It's in this book, though, that Babineau organizes them into specific categories where his favourite photos can be shown. And, without any doubt, there are some absolute gems in his collection.

There are fifteen chapters in the book, and all of them are beautifully detailed with photos. Some of the better parts are the little snippets of information that Babineau tacks on about the photos featured in the book.

Babineau covers all the legends with their own chapters: John Bucyk, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Terry O'Reilly, Ray Bourque, and Cam Neely. He includes sections devoted to the Lunch Pail Gang, coaches, goaltenders, defencemen, scorers, grinders, and enforcers. This coverage of all the various Bruins players is a wonder, and the photography is truly spectacular.

The historical aspects of this book are second-to-none as well. I discovered a fuzzy picture of the Chicago Blackhawks' 50th anniversary patch while flipping through the Terry O'Reilly section. Seeing all the old jerseys, the old masks, and the various nostalgia from the old Boston Gardens is reason enough to pick this book up. There are shots of the Cleveland Barons, the old Vancouver "V" jerseys, and the Atlanta Flames playing against the Bruins - it's this kind of history that I, as a hockey fan, have grown to love. How many people are aware that goaltender Jim Pettie played with the word "Seaweed" written above his eyes on his goalie mask?

Again, the stories and descriptions that go along with Babineau's amazing photography make this book even more valuable. There are stories and historical tidbits on every page, and both Babineau and Simpson should be commended for their thoroughness in this book.

Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs is the standard that every team should be measured against when publishing a photographic history of their team. In my honest opinion, Steve Babineau should be a part of the Hockey Hall of Fame already after having seen his work. This book is the epitome of everything a team's history in photographs should be, and Black and Gold: Four Decades of the Boston Bruins in Photographs undoubtedly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you're a hockey fan, a Bruins fan, or a hockey history buff, this book has to be part of your required reading. I highly recommend this book to everyone!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 20 September 2008

Fantasy Pool Questions

As I prepare for a fantasy hockey pool, started by the gents over at Barry Melrose Rocks, I find myself asking a lot of questions when it comes to player rankings found on the Internet and in magazines. I'm not one to rank Player A over Player B ever, considering my playoff prognostication is worse off than a monkey on TSN. No, this monkey, named Maggie, not James Duthie. I know - sometimes I get them confused too.

I get that Martin Brodeur is a great player. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he's one of the best goaltenders in the league. But how many sites and magazines have him ranked as the top goalie in the fantasy world? Clearly, his play suffered down the stretch last season due to him being overworked. So how does he get the top spot?

I will bet that the Devils are going to be close to the top of the Atlantic Division again this season. Dictator Lou and General Sutter will ensure that the Devils remain competitive, even if they have to trap every single team to death. It's a safe pick to have Brodeur on your fantasy team because the Devils will undoubtedly win close to 40 games again this year.

The reality of the situation says that Brodeur's age will have to catch up to him at some point, and this could be the first season we see serious cracks in his armor. He looked tired and vulnerable last season in the playoffs against the New York Rangers. While I'm betting he'll get the Devils off on the right foot, can he really carry the load for 77 games this season without getting tired?

Another team that has serious question marks when it comes to a goaltender's statistics is the New York Rangers. Lundqvist's abilities are second-to-none, but the team that is iced in front of him may take a while to come together. Defensively, the Rangers have no stand-out "stopper" defenceman - a guy who shadows the best player from the other team, and gives him no room to operate.

Wade Redden isn't really the guy you want for that job, and I doubt he's going to be as effective as his bloated salary says he should be. Dmitri Kalinin? Not the guy you're expecting to play the shutdown role. Marc Staal? He could certainly do it, but will the Rangers use him in that role?

I expect Lundqvist to have another stellar season. As a goal, I'd expect him to win 35 games this season, but it will all come down to how well the Rangers' offence meshes together with the new faces, and how the defence is employed on the ice.

All I know is that fantasy hockey leagues are a boatload of fun, and I'm excited to get this one underway. I haven't participated in a fantasy league in a long time, so we'll see how this goes. Updates won't happen often on here, but I'm sure the gents at Barry Melrose Rocks will bring the trash-talk on their site.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 19 September 2008

Stories From Everywhere

I am far from resembling anything even close to Christian Bale, but news is news and it must be told. I doubt this blog will ever be a full-length musical feature either, but a guy can dream, right? In any case, I will not be dressing as Batman, and I doubt that Christian Bale will be blogging about hockey on this site, so I'm comfortable being me for the time being. I'm not going on strike for a ten-cent raise, nor am I looking to leave New York City. Heck, I'd simply like to visit New York City once. However, like the movie Newsies, I am here to deliver the news. Let's get to it.

  • A couple of updates have been added to the Patch It Up series of articles that I've written. Both Edmonton and Columbus have been seen wearing patches, so they've been added to the list. You can find the updates here.
  • Jean-Sebastien Aubin has found a new home in the NHL as he'll be donning the orange of the Flyers this season. Aubin appeared in 19 regular season games for the Los Angeles Kings, compiling a record of 5-6-1 with a 3.19 GAA. He also spent some time toiling for the AHL's Manchester Monarchs and Portland Pirates after he was traded from the Kings to the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline last season.
  • Sami Kapanen's reign as owner/player of Finnish Elite League team KalPa Kuopio appears to be going well. The team has struggled out of the gate, earning 3 points in four matches thus far, but the return of the fans is impressive. For a team that was bailed out of bankruptcy by Kapanen, the return to the Elite division seemed to be a dream after being relegated twice. Congrats to Kapanen, and good luck with your team! Just as an aside, that jersey will probably make its way on to the next You're Wearing That? article. Lots to talk about there.
  • It's been a long time coming, but you can finally get Ontario Reign gear. The site is nowhere close to being done yet, but if you want to cheer for the newest ECHL franchise, you can now wear their colours proudly. Jerseys still aren't available online, though, so you'll have to be patient if you want what the players wear on the ice.
  • Wayne Fleming, assistant coach of the Calgary Flames, has stepped down from his position to take over the head coaching duties for the KHL's Avangard Omsk franchise. Fleming will bring some immediate stability with his style to a volatile Omsk club. Jaromir Jagr is second in team scoring with four points, but is far off the pace of the leaders in the KHL. Omsk is 21st out of 24 teams right now, and they desperately require someone to right the ship. With Fleming's NHL and international experience, this hiring should help.
  • Berlin's German Elite League team, the Eisbären, opened a brand-new arena in the downtown Berlin area this past week. The O2 World arena saw 14,200 people turn out to watch the Eisbären thrash previously undefeated Augsburger 11-0. For those of you who like history, former NHLer Deron Quint scored the first goal at the O2 World arena. The 11-0 victory is impressive, considering that the Eisbären will be playing in the IIHF Champions League later this month.
  • The qualifying tournament for the Champions League took place last week, and the qualifier is Swiss team SC Bern. SC Bern defeated the Sinupret Ice Tigers by a 4-1 score in the first game, and then defeated Kosice 5-4 to win the three-team tournament with a 2-0 record. SC Bern will join Group B as the 12th team in the big tournament. They'll be playing against the Espoo Blues (Finland) and HV71 Jönköping (Sweden). By the way, the first goal ever scored in Champions League play was scored by former NHLer Ramzi Abid for SC Bern.
  • The Buffalo Sabres re-signed forward Jason Pominville to a five-year, $26.5 million contract yesterday. The new deal will keep Pominville as a Barney Rubble Hairpiece until the end of the 2013-14 season. Pominville will need to have a similar season as last year when he netted 27 goals and added 53 assists for a career-high of 80 points. Buffalo finally signs one of the guys they've groomed since his AHL days. Maybe this is a turning of the corner for the Sabres front office?
  • The waiving of defenceman Mathieu Schneider by the Anaheim Ducks means one of two things: he will be traded before training camps get underway, or he will be bought out. Considering that GM Brian Burke hardly has any cap space to play with, my guess is he will be traded so that the Ducks can rid themselves of his salary and re-sign sniper Teemu Selanne. With so many teams close to the cap already, it seems that Schneider may be headed to either Los Angeles or Atlanta. He has not reported to the Ducks' camp, and is awaiting a move by the team. This one should be interesting.
  • Luc Robitaille is suing William "Boots" Del Biaggio after claiming he was defrauded. Apparently, Robitaille co-signed for a $2 million line of credit which Del Biaggio maxed out. Now, I'm not going to cut down Luc Robitaille for any reason, but just how much credit did Del Biaggio have to his name? Does no one do credit checks? Here's an idea for investors looking to co-sign for credit: freecreditreport.com. Have your potential business partners get a credit report, and bring it with you when you sign the documents. The banker might even be kind enough to explain what the terms means.
  • Can the Hurricanes' Justin Williams catch a break before he's too old to play? Williams missed 43 games last season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, and will now miss four-to-six months after tearing his Achilles' tendon. He was a big contributor in the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup championship in 2006, but has suffered some serious injuries since signing a five-year deal in the 2006 off-season. Get well soon, Justin!
Ok, there's a quick update of the major stories in the hockey world lately. More good stuff coming up before Sunday, including another Teebz's Book Club entry. By the way, with hockey season upon us, if you're searching for reasonably-priced gear, I suggest checking out SportsDiamond. They have all the latest gear, and the pricing is quite decent. Hit them up if you're hunting for something specific to put you on top of your game!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 18 September 2008

TBC: Saving Face

It's been a little while since I had time to review any hockey publications, but Teebz's Book Club hasn't disappeared. Maybe a hiatus during the summer school vacation period, but TBC is still here and still going strong. Today, TBC is proud to present a book that every hockey fan should own, regardless of age or which team you like. Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask, written by Jim Hynes and Gary Smith and published by Wiley, chronicles the entire history of the goalie mask, the pioneers who made changes to mask designs, the artists who made goaltenders larger than life, and the men who donned the masks of legend. Honestly, if you've ever been interested in anything about goalie masks, this book is certainly for you.

Jim Hynes is a freelance writer, researcher and editor from Montreal, Quebec who has worked on numerous books for a number clients: Time-Life Books, the Home Depot, the Discovery Channel, and Reader's Digest Canada to name a few. He also worked on the book entitled First and Goal, serving as a consulting editor and photo researcher for the publication about the Canadian Football League. He is a hockey fanatic to this day, and has played hockey for 35 years and counting.

Gary Smith is a former junior and varsity university goaltender from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He learned how to craft goalie masks in 1976, and made his first Junior "A" mask in 1978 for Ottawa '67s goaltender Jim Ralph in the OHL. Gary still makes 1970-style masks today in his workshop, and has crafted masks for movies and television such as Miracle, starring Kurt Russell, and the CBC miniseries Canada-Russia '72.

The book itself is an amazing piece of literature, and the pictures of the old-time masks are excellent. Gerry Cheevers, who wore his own historic mask, wrote the foreword of the book, and talks about how the challenges he found wearing masks. Hynes and Smith go into great detail in the book about how his mask became one of the most iconic masks of all-time in the book, but having Cheevers write the foreword gives the book a little more history.

The book is broken down into several key chapters. The introduction deals with the appeal of masks in society, and the usage of masks throughout history for various functions. Whether the mask was adorned with colour and decorations or was plain in terms of vividness, they served one purpose: protection. And that's the same evolution that the goalie mask has gone through.

Chapter One deals with "The Innovators" - the guys who redefined both goaltending and the first guys to don some sort of facial protections. Clint Benedict is discussed. Teiji Honma's mask at the 1936 Olympics gets a mention. Elizabeth Graham, a goaltender at Queen's University, wore a fencing mask in a game in 1927. All in all, though, the position of goaltender in those early days was rough as the man in between the pipes often found himself in a hospital room as much as he saw the ice. Eye injuries were the most devastating, and normally resulted in the ends of careers as loss of vision was common with those injuries.

The authors go on to introduce Bill Burchmore who, after Jacques Plante was injured by an Andy Bathgate backhand, designed a mask out of fiberglass to protect Plante's face.

This leads into Chapter Two - "The Golden Age". At the start of the 1960s, only two goalies were wearing masks. The number of goalies who went to facial protection grew as the decade progressed, and, by the end of the 1960s, those that chose not to wear a mask were in the minority. The introduction of the pretzel mask made goaltending easier, and that led to another mask designed by Detroit Red Wings' trainer, Ross "Lefty" Wilson. Ernie Higgins, a plumber by trade, came up with another design that caught on with a number of goalies. In essence, the goalie mask industry was born right around the time of the 1967 expansion from the Original Six to 12 teams.

The authors touch on how mask designers got a huge shock from the Summit Series in 1972 when the Canadian NHL All-Stars squared off against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was here that everyone first witnessed the peculiar "birdcage" mask worn by Vladislav Tretiak.

Chapter Three, entitled "Paint Jobs and Metal Bars", examines the paint jobs on goalie masks, and the changes made to the original fiberglass models. Among all the historic photos, there are shots of Jim Rutherford, Rogie Vachon, and Doug Favell. They touch on how Chico Resch started the custom paint jobs on goalie masks, opening the door to all sorts of innovative designs, including Gilles Gratton's famous mask.

The authors also examine some of the changes that the masks went through during this creative period. Montreal mask designer Michel Lefebvre designed masks with additional chin and neck protection. Tony Esposito added wire to his mask for additional eye protection. Soon afterwards, the hybrid mask was designed by Dave Dryden, brother of legendary goalie Ken Dryden, in order to add additional protection while allowing greater vision for goaltenders. The hybrid mask is the chosen design as we know it today.

Chapter Four talks all about the creativity that goes into the masks today. The pictures in this section are incredible, and the information is unparalleled. I spent a ton of time reading and re-reading this section because it had so much knowledge on the pages. I won't go deep into this section because it truly is a marvel, but it needs to be seen.

Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask will be used over and over again by this writer due to its impressive amount of historical information. The pictures are literally a Hockey Hall of Fame of goaltender masks, and have no equal in terms of the quality and number of the photographs. This is, by far, the best book I have ever read regarding goalies and masks.

If you're a hockey fan of any amount, this book is a must-have for you. Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask comes recommended with highest esteem, and definitely receives the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for its phenomenal information. Well done, Mr. Hynes and Mr. Smith! This book is excellent!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Je Suis Fatigué

I've been a little tired lately. When it comes to "being a nighthawk", "burning the candle at both ends", "burning the midnight oil", or whatever cliché you want to use, I tend to put sleep off as much as possible in every circumstance when I have things to do. Work has become increasingly demanding due to a few people resigning and moving on to bigger projects. Volleyball starts next week for me, and hockey begin in a couple of weeks. Basically, my time is at a premium, and I tend to try to give to others at a discount price while totally neglecting myself.

This is the main reason there was no addition to the blog yesterday. I got home, I sat down and began planning an article, and I don't even remember dozing off. I do remember, however, waking up at 3AM and wondering what had happened in the last eight hours after falling asleep around 7PM.

Anyway, I'll proceed with the article tomorrow and we can all pretend that yesterday didn't happen. Ok? Alright.

Bob McKenzie posted an interesting article yesterday on TSN's website, and spoke about it on SportsCenter. The "bonus cushion" - an allowance that allowed teams to spend up to 7.5% more than what the salary cap allowed - has disappeared this season due to the NHLPA's clause to have the ability to opt out of the current CBA if they choose.

Basically, it means that, despite the salary cap increasing by $6.4 million this off-season, all of that "additional" cap room is eaten up by performance bonuses in players' contracts. All of the contracts signed by players become hard cap numbers instead of having that "bonus" room to add to players' salaries.

Teams like Chicago have certainly felt the weight of this problem. Deals signed by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Cam Barker will now cost the franchise $9.3 million instead of $2.709 million. That bonus-laden contract that Steven Stamkos signed with Tampa Bay? The Lightning will pay him $3.75 million this season instead of the rookie-minimum contract amount of $850,000.

Can I ask why we have a salary cap again?

Look, I'm all for signing players based upon performances, and paying out bonuses when players achieve certain accolades. It happens in my job, it happens in other jobs, so it should be the same with an NHL job. However, most companies that I know of - Enron and Worldcom not included - budget for these bonus payments accordingly during their budgeting process. Yet the NHL has a "bonus cushion"? Why do we have a salary cap again?

Here's another scenario. The NHL announced that several NHL teams will be playing in neutral sites during the preseason. One of these sites is Winnipeg, where Phoenix will play Calgary. The idea, from what Gary Bettman has indicated, is that the NHL is trying to grow the game in markets where an NHL team is not located. Las Vegas and Kansas City are two other venues where exhibition games will be played.

The problem is that the tickets for this preseason game in Winnipeg range from $39 to $119 per ticket. For a preseason game. To watch players who will be playing in the same arena in a few weeks later when the Quad City Flames and San Antonio Rampage visit the Manitoba Moose. Don't get me wrong - I love the NHL. Winnipeg still wants a team, and they'll probably sell this game out due to the overwhelming sense of wanting to be part of that NHL clique that won't die in Winnipeg citizens. But $119 to watch the Coyotes' B-team?

What about all that rhetoric that Bettman hit us with about the cap making the game affordable again, and how ticket prices will be much more affordable for families? It's been four years since the NHL closed its doors to get itself back to some sort of fiscal responsibility, yet the NHL wants to charge $119 for a preseason ticket? A PRESEASON TICKET! In a city that doesn't have an NHL team? In a city that would love to have one back, but will never be able to afford it? Want to know why the New York Islanders play to sparse crowds when Florida and Atlanta come to town, and, in turn, lose $25 million in the salary cap era? $119 to watch a glorified practice should tell you something.

I don't know why the NHL thinks that its current accounting practices aren't questionable. Hiding money in "bonus cushion" accounts, inaccurate disclosure about bonus monies paid, and pulling wads of money out of hats is nothing more than illusions and trickery when it comes to accounting. Pricing yourself completely out of range in terms of the market you're playing in is the best way to lose piles of money.

Supply and demand are how tickets are sold, NHL, and your product just isn't in demand in places like Atlanta, Long Island, and Miami. Do you really think that you'll be the major draw in places like Quebec City, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon when it costs $476 for a family of four, plus applicable taxes and fees, to attend an exhibition hockey game? In a one-off situation, you'll probably sell out because these cities want to see the NHL. But if you think you can sustain this sort of business in these cities for 41 home dates, you're completely out to lunch.

The cap is more than twice the amount of the Winnipeg Jets' salary when they left Winnipeg. And now you're talking about expanding to Europe? Are you out of your mind? Until you can have every team turn a profit for five consecutive years, the word "expansion" should be considered a cuss word.

Theorizing about strengthening your league and actually demonstrating it are two very different things. There has been absolutely no demonstration of this fact from the individual teams, and the steps the league and NHLPA have taken are also questionable when some franchises are hemmorhaging red ink. But no one seems to care. The NHL's "Marketing Machine" seems to have no interest in helping the Islanders attract more fans which make me question as to whether or not the NHL even cares.

I have no idea how the NHL balances its books. You can usually get a pretty good sense of how a business operates behind the scenes when they talk openly and honestly about the state of their business. However, the NHL never seems to grasp this openly and honestly policy, and continues to operate in secrecy and with rogue bank accounts. I'm not entirely sure how or when this started, and I'm not sure how it will end.

But it's almost like the NHL, the premiere hockey league on this planet, answers to no one when it is us, the fans, who make it such a great league. Do you really think that major corporations keep their shareholders in the dark?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 15 September 2008

KHL Updates

With hockey season approaching, it's not hard to ignore that "other" league that's currently playing across the ocean in Russia. Or, rather, just down the street from Sarah Palin's house. In any case, there haven't been a pile of updates that I've seen, so I'll run down the updates as best as I can. I'll even give updates on all the "defectors" - guys like Jaromir Jagr, Alexander Radulov, Ray Emery, and others. Why am I doing this? It's hockey, and I love me some hockey. So settle in, kids, because we have a lot of Euro-Russian hockey to examine, and a few surprises have emerged already.

The standings are as follows (W-L-OT/SOW-OT/SOL):

1. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl: 5-1-0-0 for 15 points.
2. Dinamo Riga: 4-2-0-2 for 14 points.
3. Metallurg Novokuznetsk: 4-2-0-1 for 13 points.
4. Salavat Yulaev Ufa: 4-0-0-1 for 13 points.
5. Traktor Chelyabinsk: 4-1-0-1 for 13 points.
6. Atlant Mytishchi: 4-1-0-1 for 13 points.
7. HC Dynamo Moscow: 2-1-3-0 for 12 points.
8. Ak Bars Kazan: 3-0-0-2 for 11 points.
9. Metallurg Magnitogorsk: 3-2-0-1 for 10 points.
10. HC Spartak Moscow: 1-1-3-1 for 10 points.
11. Amur Khabarovsk: 2-3-1-1 for 9 points.
12. HC Lada Togliatti: 2-2-1-0 for 8 points.
13. Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod: 2-2-0-2 for 8 points.
14. HC CSKA Moscow: 2-1-0-1 for 7 points.
15. Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk: 2-2-0-1 for 7 points.
16. HC MVD: 1-3-2-0 for 7 points.
17. Severstal Cherepovets: 1-3-2-0 for 7 points.
18. Vityaz Chekhov: 1-2-1-2 for 7 points.
19. Avangard Omsk Oblast: 2-4-0-0 for 6 points.
20. HC Sibir Novosibirsk: 1-3-1-1 for 6 points.
21. HC Dinamo Minsk: 1-5-1-0 for 5 points.
22. SKA Saint Petersburg: 1-4-1-0 for 5 points.
23. Barys Astana: 0-4-2-0 for 4 points.
24. Khimik Voskresensk: 1-4-0-0 for 3 points.

As you may have guessed, the KHL awards three points for a win, two points for an overtime or shootout win, one point for an overtime or shootout loss, and nothing for a regulation loss.

The scoring has been cranking up as players find their legs early in the season. Ak Bars Kazan leads the way again with the top two scorers thus far. Please note that the third player is Marcel Hossa, formerly of the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes. I guess he needed a name change as well as a change of scenery?

1. Danis Zaripov (ABK): 5-6-11 with 2 PPG.
2. Alexey Morozov (ABK): 5-5-10 with 4 PPG and 3 GWG.
3. Martsel Hossa (DR): 7-3-10 with 4 PPG and 1 GWG.
4. Valeriy Klebnikov (MN): 3-7-10 with 1 PPG.
5. Fedor Polischyuk (MN): 3-6-9 with 1 PPG.

As for some notable players, here are the bigger names that used to play in the NHL at some point in their careers:

Yaromir Yagr (AOO): 2-2-4 with 2 PPG. Yes, that's Jagr.
Alexandr Svitov (AOO): 2-1-3 with 1 GWG. Former Blue Jacket.
Alexey Cherepanov (AOO): 0-1-1. The Rangers' 2007 first-rounder.
Jozef Vashichek (LY): 3-4-7 with 2 GWG. Vasicek of the Isles.
Vitaliy Vishnevskiy (LY): 1-2-3 with 1 PPG. Former Devil.
Alexey Mikhnov (LY): 1-5-6 with 1 PPG and GWG. Former Oiler.
Alexey Yashin (LY): 2-2-4 with 1 PPG. You know him.
Mark Hartigan (DR): 0-4-0. Former Blue Jacket and Red Wing.
Oleg Tverdovskiy (SYU): 2-0-2 with 1 PPG. Former King.
Aleksandr Radulov (SYU): 1-5-6 with 1 GWG. Nashville's headache.
Alexandr Perezhogin (SYU): 2-1-3 with 1 GWG. Former Canadien.
Andrey Nikolishin (TC): 1-2-3. Former Capital.
Oleg Kvasha (TC): 0-3-0. Former Islander and Panther.
Yan Bulis (AM): 2-3-5 with 1 PPG. Former Canuck and Canadien.
Aleksandr Korolyuk (AM): 0-4-0. Former Shark.
Igor Korolev (AM): 1-2-3. Former Maple Leaf, Jet, and Blackhawk.
Karel Rahunek (HDM): 1-2-3. Former Ranger and Senator.
Aleksey Zhitnik (HDM): 1-2-3. Former Thrasher and Islander.
Niko Kapanen (ABK): 0-1-0. Former Star and Coyote.
Stanislav Chistov (MM): 1-2-3. Former Bruin and Duck.
Branko Radivoevich (HSM): 2-3-5 with 1 PPG. Former Wild.
Pavel Brendl (TNN): 4-1-5 with 1 PPG. Former Ranger.
Alexandr Suglobov (HCM): 2-0-2 with 1 PPG. Former Maple Leaf.
Oleg Saprykin (HCM): 1-0-1 with 1 PPG. Former Senator.
Dmitriy Yushkevich (HSN): 1-2-3. Former Flyer and Maple Leaf.
Igor Ulanov (HDM): 0-0-0. Former Jet and Oiler.
Ben Klaymer (HDM): 1-0-1 with 1 PPG. That's Ben Clymer!
Andrey Zyuzin (SSP): 0-0-0. Former Flame and Devil.
Daryus Kasparaitis (SSP): 0-0-0. Former Ranger and Penguin.
Sergey Brylin (SSP): 2-3-5 with 1 PPG. Former Devil.
Nils Ekman (SSP): 1-3-4 with 1 PPG. Former Penguin.
Jozef Shtumpel (BA): 1-2-3 with 1 PPG. Former Panther and King.
Trevor Letovski (BA): 0-1-1. Former Hurricane and Canuck.

Some notable goaltending names include:

Raymond Emeri (AM): 1-2-0, 2.94 GAA. Yes, that's Ray Emery.
Martin Prusek (HSM): 3-2-0, 2.49 GAA. Former Senator and CBJ.
Tyler Moss (AK): 3-2-0, 1.83 GAA, 2 shutouts. Former Flame.
Mike Fountain (HLT): 1-2-0, 1.71 GAA. Former Senator.
Mika Noronen (TNN): 1-3-0, 2.35 GAA, 1 shutout. Former Sabre.
Yussi Markkanen (HCM): 1-1-0, 2.00 GAA. Former Oiler and Ranger.
Robert Esh (SSP): 1-3-0, 2.03 GAA, 1 shutout. Yes, that's Esche.
Marc Lamothe (BA): 1-2-0, 2.93 GAA. Former Red Wing.

Anyone noticing how many former Senator goalies there are in that list? Play for Ottawa, die in Russia? Gerber and Auld had better watch out.

And how about this line - Andrey Mezin (MM): 3-2-0, 2.69 GAA.

Remember him? I doubt you will. However, he was the guy that Tommy Salo was staring at down the length of the ice during the stunning upset when Belarus beat Sweden at the 2000 Salt Lake City Olympics.

You can find a complete breakdown of all the statistics on the KHL website.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 14 September 2008

Grade Nine Home Economics Class

After seeing the atrocious alternate jersey that Carolina will be "proudly" wearing this year, there have been a few leaks of other teams' new duds. Personally, the new threads that the Carolina Hurricanes will be wearing are perfect for a black-and-white TV since they are void of almost all colour. I guess it's kind of suitable considering all the power outages recently in the southern USA that Carolina chose black as their prevailing third jersey colour. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the next couple of teams that have had their new looks posted on the 'Net.

Let's start with the first team alphabetically that couldn't keep their new jerseys under wraps. The Boston Bruins originally showed what was called "one of four finalists" in their alternate jersey options on March 1, 2008 (apparently, that video has been taken off YouTube). Anyway, I had said, "Personally, it isn't bad, but I'm not overly fond of the lack of colour". Well, the Bruins apparently have a fear of colour as well.

Thanks to the guys at HubHockey, we get to see exactly what they look like, and I'm not impressed. The new Bruins alternate jerseys suffer from the same fear of doing anything impressive as Carolina's jerseys do. I get that the Bruins' colour scheme is yellow and black, but this much black? The Boston Black Bears are now nowhere close to being a bruin.

The problem is that the word "bruin" is defined as "another name for a brown bear (Ursus arctos), or for any bear, usually poetically or archaically". The species known as Ursus Arctos is actually a brown bear, specifically known as Kodiak Bears, Grizzly Bears, and Eurasian Brown Bears. Hockey isn't poetry, though, so I can't see the Bruins rationalizing this reason. And while the Bruins are one of the Original Six teams, I doubt they'd consider themselves archaic. Therefore, this jersey was actually closer to the mark in terms of representing a bruin than their new one. Does anyone actually do any research when it comes to these new jerseys?

The logo on the front is simply their home shoulder patch from last season. I'm not sold that this is a great chest logo when there were so many other jersey options that they could have chosen. Why didn't they simply go with Providence's look from last season? Providence wore "throwback" jerseys, and they look pretty good compared to the all-black alternate that Boston is planning on rolling out. Or, and here's a phenomenal idea, just copy the jerseys that Providence wore last year in the playoffs! Isn't it amazing how similar those logos are? How does Boston always seem to screw up their alternate jerseys?!?

Another one-piece uniform finds its way into the NHL, and I am downright angry about it. Why does every team want to look like the Anaheim Ducks? Personally, they look like terrible. So if you're planning on rolling out an all-black uniform, be prepared for the worst from this writer. Boston, your new look is horrible. Thumbs down. To say the least.

The second of the new uniforms that was leaked onto the Internet was that of the Buffalo Sabres, and this one is absolute crap in my opinion. Let's go back to the Winter Classic where Buffalo came out in these jerseys which are a thing of beauty. I can't express how much I love the look of those jerseys, and the blue jerseys were just as spectacular.

I had high hopes that Buffalo would bring back the alternates from 2006-07 before Reebok got involved in destroying everything that is pure and good about hockey, but The Buffalo News has confirmed that the Sabres will be wearing these in 15 games this season.

Where do I start with these? The dark blue colour, while maintaining the current Sabres' colours, ruins the effect of the yellow stripes. The royal blue and yellow were a much sharper contrast, and really made both colours stand out against one another. This new jersey? Not so much.

And why is everything outlined in silver? The stripes, the logo, the piping... is this really necessary? The yellow stripes simply don't look as yellow. The logo is enough to give me epilepsy with all the shades of colours being used. The neck flap with the NHL logo could have been yellow, couldn't it? Why is there a third colour introduced there?

This is terrible. I can't believe that Buffalo makes their jersey darker to match their pants when they could simply wear breezers over top like Carolina will for their new jerseys. This really isn't a difficult concept, yet it seems that common sense is nowhere to be found anywhere in the front offices of the Sabres franchise.

At this point, I'd take the red alternates over these jerseys. Heck, just bring back the black jersey with the angry bison's head. At least those jerseys are different than their current ones. This new alternate is the epitome of a "cash grab", and I am disgusted by it. Thanks for ruining a good look, Sabres. Well done.

I don't even want to speak about these any longer. This absolute crap that the NHL and Reebok are putting out is a mockery of the league and its traditions. I'm almost put off of hockey at this point. At least the old alternate jerseys made by CCM were colourful and different. These new jerseys look like they are half-assed, Grade Nine Home Economics projects, and I'm failing both these franchises for their total lack of effort. Thanks for not trying, Boston and Buffalo.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!