Friday 31 July 2009

Eurasia: A Place For Defencemen

I'm surprised I missed this tidbit that flew under the radar since he was a noted enemy while suiting for the Philadelphia Flyers. With word that longtime stand-out defenceman Sergei Zubov had signed a deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, an offensive defenceman comes back the other way as the Detroit Red Wings signed 32 year-old Andy Delmore after he spent the last two seasons with the Hamburg Freezers in the German Elite League. Both of these moves are a little surprising considering each player's circumstance.

First off, I have always been a Sergei Zubov fan. The man was a magician with the puck during his early days with the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. During his time under Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett in Dallas, he became a much more rounded defenceman, playing larger roles defensively while still putting up decent point totals.

With age catching up to him, however, arthroscopic surgery on his hip at the start of the 2008-09 season limited Zubov to a mere ten games last season. While his vision and hands haven't left him, there were large question marks about his skating and mobility after the surgery. And those question marks were simply the reason why the Dallas Stars couldn't re-sign him at the $5.35 million per season deal he had the previous season. With Dallas in a youth movement, Zubov looked elsewhere.

The "elsewhere" that came about was a deal from SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, marking the return of another Russian NHL star to the overseas league. While there have been no dollar figures announced, it is expected that Zubov's deal would be worth $1 million or more for the season. Zubov will make St. Petersburg's blueline immediately better if his hip is 100%.

Zubov was one of my favorite Russian defencemen of all-time, and I'm glad he found a home for this upcoming season to continue his work. I wish Zubov the best in St. Petersburg, and, of course, HBIC will keep an eye on the KHL standings all season long in 2009-10.

On the other hand, the man coming back to North America was a pretty big deal when he came out of the OHL. Andy Delmore recorded 18 goals and 60 assists in his final year with the Sarnia Sting in 1996-97, and looked like a promising talent. Except he went undrafted as there were questions about his defensive play.

After bouncing around the NHL and AHL, Delmore found a home with the Freezers over the last two seasons and showed some better defensive play. The Red Wings' scouts must see some potential ability as Delmore was inked to a one-year deal. It is expected that he'll challenge for the fourth defensive spot at best, and also see some time on the powerplay.

The reason I always disliked Delmore? 2000 NHL Playoffs, Game Three in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Andy Delmore scores the overtime winner to give the Flyers the 4-3 win. After Pittsburgh had won Games One and Two, the overtime loss completely shifted the series as the Flyers rallied to win the series 4-2.

Overall, though, Delmore is a decent player who just needed to improve the play within his own zone. Playing for a coach like Mike Babcock should help his game immensely, and he may earn himself another contract in the 2010-11 season if he works his butt off.

A couple of offensive defencemen going in opposite directions across the ocean. It's always interesting to see some of the names that are dug up in the off-season. Zubov leaves as one of the best Russian blueliners of all-time, and Andy Delmore gets a second/third/whatever chance with the Red Wings.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 30 July 2009

Getting Ready For A New Season

As the pages on the calendar turn to August in a couple of days, the dog days of summer will soon be upon us. Another summer for me spent on softball diamonds, another summer of me soaking up the sun, and another summer where hockey news is slow. However, like the leaves in the autumn air, things are changing here on HBIC. I'm updating, I'm re-arranging, I'm deleting, and I'm making things better for you, the readers, in your quest to get your hockey news. Is this the best site out there? No. I'd be a fool to claim that, especially with guys like Mirtle, Wyshynski, and Kukla doing phenomenal jobs bringing you the latest news. But there are things happening behind the scenes here at HBIC for another magical hockey season.

First, I've changed the layout on the right-hand side. The "Feed" options are now below the "Buttons To Click". I also moved the "Broken Link" notice down as well since I've received almost no emails regarding that.

You may notice a new button to click as well. The "Home" button has been added and programmed to allow you, the reader, to get back to the general site. Basically, if you click it, it will open a new window to the HBIC page so you can navigate the site while remaining on your entry page in case you want to use it for reference. I had a few readers ask me about adding it, and I finally got off my lazy butt to do that. Thanks for the suggestion, Connie and Mike. I really think this may help readers who want to read more than just one linked article.

Secondly, I removed blogs from the "Hockey Blogs" list that hadn't been updated more than once per month in the last two months. There are some still on the drop-down list that haven't been updated frequently, but that's because they have contacted me regarding this. If you'd like to see your blog added, please send me an email.

Moving on... you may see more of a dedication to minor-pro hockey on this blog in the near future. Without letting the cat out of the bag, my focus may change slightly. You'll still get lots of NHL chatter, but there will be an increased amount of AHL, ECHL, and other minor-pro league talk. There is a reason for this, and, when the time is appropriate, I'll tell you why. For now, just know that the wheels are in motion, and I'd prefer to keep the shroud of secrecy up until everything becomes official.

Huge disappointment out of the New York Islanders' camp yesterday - which is nothing new if you've been an Islanders fan for the last 15 years. But yesterday, Chris Botta, who writes the amazingly-intelligent and always-honest NYI Point Blank, was cut loose by the Islanders. I've left Chris a comment on his post letting him know he'll be welcomed here as a guest blogger if he likes, but I'm almost certain he needs a paying job to support his family. Head over to his site and say a few kind words. The man was, and still is, an inspiration to me, and everything I want to be as a blogger.

Chris, if you happen to read this, chin up, man. You're a great writer, and the Islanders may have lost their best marketing mind with this move.

I hope to have another book review up within the next week. Look for that shortly. This one should be a good one.

That's all for tonight, kids. If there's anything else you want to see added to this blog, please let me know. I'm open to suggestions, and I'll consider anything you'd like to see added.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 29 July 2009

A Matter of Trust

Billy Joel, who has banners hanging in Madison Square Garden for sold-out shows with 12, wrote a song in 1986 called "A Matter of Trust". In it, he explains why a relationship is nothing more than a lie when it comes to matters of trust. After the meeting conducted by the NHL's Board of Governors in regards to the new applications for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, it appears that the only issue separating Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie from owning the Phoenix Coyotes is trust. It has nothing to do with his wealth, his application, his team, or his dream of placing a team in Hamilton. Instead, from everything that Gary Bettman said today, it appears that the NHL Board of Governors made is clear that they don't trust Jim Balsillie, and that his application, while sound financially, doesn't meet the standards of character than the NHL is searching for in an owner.

The NHL Board of Governors met today in a special meeting to consider the three applications in front of the NHL for the Coyotes' ownership. The applications were from Mr. Balsillie, Mr. Jerry Reinsdorf of Chicago, and a group led by Mr. Anthony Leblanc of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The goal was to find an application that satisfied the criteria outlined by the NHL's constitution and bylaws and by the bankruptcy findings as set out by Judge Redfield T. Baum.

The findings of the NHL Board of Governors were as follows:

  • The application submitted by Jerry Reinsdorf for $148 million, which included keeping the franchise in Phoenix, Arizona, was unanimously approved by the NHL Board of Governors.
  • The application by Jim Balsillie for $212.5 million, which included a proposal for moving the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario, was unanimously rejected by the NHL Board of Governors.
  • The application by Anthony Leblanc, which included a proposal for having the Coyotes play in various cities across North America, was deemed "incomplete" by the NHL, but Mr. Leblanc's group was encouraged to continue on the application process.
Now, there may be some serious backlash towards the NHL for shooting down the Balsillie application when it would mean a better cash windfall in terms of the sale. However, Gary Bettman made it very clear that all three applications were based upon some very vital criteria.

"The criteria set forth in the constitution and bylaws relates to financial wherewithal, character, integrity and the view whether or not the other owners would deem you a good partner," Bettman told a group of reporters.

Clearly, Jim Balsillie's "financial wherewithal" is not in question as he is the CEO of Research-In-Motion which owns the Blackberry and its related technologies. With the Blackberry earning more and more of the cellular and smartphone markets, Balsillie's financial backing is rock solid.

However, the last three criteria points raise a major concern if you're an owner. Character, integrity, and good partner are major issues when you're working in a partnership.

In circumventing the rules twice to try to gain ownership in the NHL, Balsillie's character and integrity should be called into question. Why does he feel the need to do things differently than the other 29 owners who followed the rules? If you're going to enter into a business partnership with him, would you feel comfortable if he feels he's above the rules?

PSE spokesman Bill Walker offered a rebuttal statement to the NHL's findings: "We do not think that Jim Balsillie's qualification to be an NHL owner is an issue in this case given his 2006 approval as an NHL owner".

The problem is that Balsillie didn't try to skirt very clear rules about becoming an NHL owner in 2006. The problem is that Balsillie didn't enter into an agreement with an NHL owner to pull the rug out from under the Board of Governors' feet in 2006. The problem is that Jim Balsillie's business tactics seem to have changed since 2006. His qualification to be an owner in terms of the financial side have not changed - he's still got the cash to be an owner. The problem is that the way he has approached the opportunity gets sleazier each time.

As a businessman, you would expect Jim Balsillie to understand business ethics when it comes to a large-scale, global company like the NHL. You would hope that he would understand that there is a process in the transfer of ownership in a business like the NHL, and expect that he would respect that process. It's not like trading hockey cards; rather, there is a long process of due diligence that needs to be conducted on both sides of the ledger.

It's time for PSE Sports and Jim Balsillie to stop crying over spilled milk as in the picture above. Just as in hockey, you win some and you lose some. When you lose, you go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to find a way to win. Sometimes, however, you have to do things a certain way. And you have to trust your teammates - in this case, the other 29 owners.

But if they don't trust you, why should they want you on their team?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Campbell: President and Legend

Hockey Blog In Canada has been running its examination of how the NHL trophies came to be for most of the summer thus far. We've seen former players, former coaches, former managers, and former owners honoured with a major NHL trophy for the work that they have done to build and better the game of hockey through their efforts. Today's trophy takes a look at one of the key men who shaped the NHL as we look at the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy. The trophy is currently awarded annually to the to the Western Conference playoff champions. Essentially, if you represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final, you've earned this trophy. So how did this trophy come about? Who was Clarence S. Campbell? Is there anything interesting about this trophy and its winners?

Clarence Sutherland Campbell was born on July 9, 1905 in Fleming, Saskatchewan. The young man grew up playing hockey before enrolling at the University of Alberta as a teenager. He graduated in 1924 from the University of Alberta with a double-major in law and arts, and decided to further his studies at the famous Oxford University in England where he was a Rhodes Scholar. It was at Oxford where he took up a serious interest in playing hockey again as he joined the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club.

After his university career ended, Campbell began officiating in the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. His notoriety for being a strict but fair referee caught the eye of NHL President Frank Calder. Campbell joined the NHL as a referee in 1933. Campbell was a favorite referee of President Frank Calder, and Calder assigned him to many important games. Campbell was the referee on the night that Howie Morenz broke his leg on January 28, 1937, ending Morenz's career. Campbell was routinely assigned to the toughest playoff series as well. He was the referee on the ice when Bruins defenceman Dit Clapper struck a Montreal Canadiens player with his stick. After Campbell said some unsavoury things to Clapper, Clapper punched Campbell in the face, sending the referee sprawling across the ice. Campbell, realizing that he was in the wrong, sumbitted a report to Calder on the events of the games, and only spoke of the stick-swinging incident. This resulted in Clapper only being fined and not suspended for his actions in the game.

His refereeing career ended in 1939 after a controversial call in Toronto. Maple Leafs captain Red Horner was high-sticked and cut open, but Campbell only assessed a two-minute minor penalty for the infraction despite the blood evidence on Horner's face. Maple Leafs President Conn Smythe was outraged by Campbell's call, and asked for his removal as a referee. The other owners chimed in with their thoughts about his removal, and NHL President Frank Calder was forced to remove Campbell as a referee after 155 regular season games and 12 playoff games of service.

Calder, however, saw more in Campbell and asked him to join the league offices where he would work directly for Calder. This was short-lived as the outbreak of World War II in 1940 began, and Campbell decided to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces. He moved through the ranks to the post of Lieutenant Major, and was eventually appointed to Queen's Council where he successfully prosecuted several high-profile Nazis for their crimes against humanity during the war.

During Campbell's time overseas, Frank Calder had passed away. Red Dutton stepped into the role of NHL President, but it was one he had no interest in keeping. When Campbell returned to Canada in 1946, Dutton encouraged him to follow in the path that Calder was making for him. Campbell agreed, prompting Dutton to resign, and Campbell became the new President of the NHL.

Campbell earned the respect of the NHL's Board of Governors as they all wanted to make more money. Campbell decided to increase the number of games player so that each team could increase its gate revenue. During his time as President, the NHL teams would eventually play 70 games per season, up from the 48 they were playing when he took over. The players also saw benefits as he spearheaded the movement for the NHL Pension Plan to which both the players and the league would contribute monies.

In 1950, he decided that the broad expanse of territory and minor-league teams that the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs held would be controlled. He introduced the Inter-League Draft after the Bruins and Black Hawks were struggling mightily as they had no minor-league system setup like the Canadiens and Maple Leafs had. These systems, of course, was due to Frank J. Selke as he had worked tirelessly in building a talent pool for both the Leafs and Canadiens during his time with those teams. Campbell decided that more talent in the league would be beneficial, and he created a dispersal draft system in which teams could cherry-pick talent off other teams' unprotected rosters. A good example of how the Inter-League Draft was a successful talent dispersal tool was how goaltender Tony Esposito became a Black Hawk after being property of the Montreal Canadiens. Esposito was left unprotected in 1969 during the draft, and the Black Hawks selected him in the draft. Esposito, of course, went on to have an extremely successful career with the Black Hawks.

In 1955, Campbell's most (in)famous act as President came to be as he suspended Montreal Canadiens superstar Maurice "The Rocket" Richard for the remaining three games in the season and the entire playoffs for abusing an official. Richard punched linesman Cliff Thompson during a melée between the Canadiens and Bruins on March 13, 1955. Fans in Montreal were calling for his death shortly after the announcement. With Campbell in attendance on March 17, he was insulted throughout the evening by Montreal patrons, attacked by fans, and was pelted with all sorts of items thrown by the Canadiens' fans as they saw Campbell as English-Canada's representative in trying to hold down the Montreal Canadiens. Campbell wisely left the Forum during the first intermission after he had been pelted by eggs. After a tear gas bomb was set off in the Montreal Forum, fans poured onto the streets surrounding the Forum and started a riot. Because of the actions of the fans, the game was awarded to the Detroit Red Wings, and this set off the powder keg. After all was said and done, the "Richard Riot" resulted in some 60 people being arrested, and an estimated $500,000 in damages to properties.

While it was said that Richard would never forgive Campbell for his actions that day, photographic evidence shows that the two men were at least civil towards one another. Perhaps this was more a sign of respect for one another than anything else. In 1956, however, Richard and Campbell were present for Maurice Richard's signing of the guest book in the Mayor of Toronto's seat. Cooler heads definitely prevailed in out of this situation as photographers showing that Campbell took the time to greet Richard in 1976 at the Montreal Forum.

After 20 years as NHL President, Campbell was elected the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966. In 1967, he was instrumental in doubling the NHL's size when six expansion teams began play in 1968. Because of his work in the expansion effort, the NHL teams decided to highlight his achievements by presenting the NHL with the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy, which would be awarded to the regular season winner of the newly-formed West Division that had all six expansion teams as members.

With the announcement of a "rogue" league, called the World Hockey Association, beginning play in 1972, Campbell was swift to hem in the WHA's efforts in competing with the NHL. 1970 saw the NHL welcome the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks into the NHL as expansion teams. 1972 sees the NHL include the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Flames as expansion teams. All four cities were targeted by the WHA for franchises, and Campbell and the Board of Governors moved swiftly to prevent them from occupying large population bases in those cities. The Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals are awarded expansion franchises in 1974 as the WHA's popularity was beginning to open new opportunities to them. In seven years, Campbell had tripled the size of the NHL, and put serious strain on the WHA.

Campbell also outlawed players not under NHL contracts from playing in international events. The 1972 Summit Series saw players such as Bobby Hull, Derek Sanderson, and Gordie Howe banned from participating in the historic series against the USSR because of their defection to the WHA. This move was specifically designed to crush any sort of marketability of the WHA's stars while highlighting the NHL's stars. Campbell's moves into new, large markets combined with his tactical moves against the WHA saw the WHA suffer financially. Several WHA teams were forced to fold or relocate within the first year of the WHA's existence because of the NHL's pressure and/or competition.

In 1974, with the NHL sitting at its highest number of teams ever in 18, the league decided to split into four divisions under two conferences. The Clarence S. Campbell Conference, made up of the Conn Smythe and James Norris Divisions, was created to honour Campbell, and the winner of the conference would earn the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy.

In 1976, Campbell was charged with a crime as he was found guilty of bribing an airline executive. While the NHL paid his fine, the embarrassment he caused both himself and the league would weigh heavily on him. After the 1976-77 season, Campbell announced he was stepping down as NHL President after holding the position for 31 years. It is still the longest tenure of a President of the NHL to this date, and one that more recent NHL Presidents have been compared to in terms of accomplishments and achievements.

During his last few years as NHL President, Campbell had begun having respiratory problems. With his announcement, he no longer had the extra stress of running a major sports league. Campbell fought his respiratory problems for another seven years before time caught up to him. Campbell passed away on June 24, 1984.

In 1981, the NHL changed how they award the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy. Instead of it going to the regular season conference winner, it would now be awarded to the winner of the NHL Conference Playoff Series. This winner, of course, represented the Campbell Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. With the change in 1993 to geographical conferences, the winner of the Western Conference in the NHL Playoffs now receives the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy.

So there's your history on how this trophy came to be. Mr. Campbell's record as NHL President is extremely impressive despite his obvious blemishes with the criminal charge and the Richard Riot.

Here are some facts about the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy winners:

  • The first team to win the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy was the 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers.
  • In the 41 years the trophy has been awarded, only 12 teams have won it.
  • The Edmonton Oilers sit first place in NHL history with seven Campbell Trophy wins. Detroit and Philadelphia sit second all-time with six victories each. Chicago sits third in NHL history with four Campbell Trophy wins in their history.
  • The 1973-74 Philadelphia Flyers were the first Campbell Trophy winners to capture the Stanley Cup in the same season.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders are the only teams from the current Eastern Conference to have won the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy. Philly, as stated above, won six times, and the New York Islanders have won three times.
  • The Dallas Stars are the only team to have won the Campbell Trophy after having won the award in a previous location. The Minnesota North Stars franchise won the Campbell Trophy in 1990-91, and the Dallas Stars have since won the award in both 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
  • The Clarence S. Campbell Trophy winner has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup only 17 times in the same season in NHL history. Since the change to awarding the trophy to the conference playoff winner in 1981, the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy winners have won the Campbell Trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same season 14 times in 28 years.
There's your history on the Clarence S. Campbell Trophy, the man behind the trophy, and some trivia on the winners. Without a doubt, Campbell should be considered as the greatest NHL President in NHL history. In his 31 years of running the league, no one did more for the game to date.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 27 July 2009

Earning the WIN

I had mentioned a few days ago that I was planning on putting some laundry detergent through a vigorous test. WIN High Performance Sport Detergent was supposed to lay the smack-down on bad smells and horrific odors brought on by sports. Well, I found a way to ensure that the final exam planned for testing the WIN Detergent would be absolutely fool-proof. In other words, I was designing a test that would redefine the term "stank". The test would be one for the ages, and I would put the little team of molecules in WIN Detergent against their toughest challenge.

DISCLAIMER: I want to make a clear statement here. I am not here to plug companies and sell out this blog to the highest bidder. I have always worked to maintain integrity with my blog in order to help you, the readers, when it comes to products. Basically, if I wouldn't use a product, there's no way I'm going to tell you to use it. So when I tell you that this product test was done impartially, and the results are posted with integrity, I'll hope you'll believe me. Thanks for letting me take the time to post this disclaimer.

Now before we get to the results, I need to describe the test. This first test was simply a "stank" test. It has nothing to do with stains or marks on clothing, nor does it have anything to do with removing stains or marks. It is simply "stank" test - that is, a test dealing with smell only. Because of this, the pictures are entirely underwhelming in that they don't conduct smell. So I didn't bother with pictures. I will simply give it to you straight.

First off, I needed to find something that would not only absorb sweat and perspiration readily, but allow it to hold that sweat and perspiration for a period of time. I looked at my old jerseys and current jerseys, and decided they would work... except that they are designed to wick away water and sweat from the body. So I took to the internet to find out which fibre would be best for absorbing and holding water, particularly that from the body.

Because one needs heat to generate sweat, I thought of several pieces of clothing: fleece jackets, cotton t-shirts, polyester shirts, and wool hats. And honestly, the wool hats I play baseball in seem to hold the smell of sweat the best. Therefore, I decided that if the wool in my hats do the job well, a large amount of wool would do me wonders for this test.

To the science! Wool takes up moisture in vapor form. Tiny pores in the wool make the fibre semi-permeable, allowing vapor to pass through to the heart of the fibre. Wool can easily absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp or clammy. Once it begins to smell, wool should be washed thoroughly to remove the odor.

Nice, eh? In essence, wool is nothing more than a breeding ground for stank. Now, one has to be insane to participate in a sporting endeavour in the summer in wool. It's hot, it will stink, and it doesn't haven't have the same ability to cool the body. I'm a bigger dude, so I need to be cool when I play sports. A woolen sweater was not an option.

Instead, I did the next best thing. I brought a knitted, wool blanket with me to a Friday night double-header baseball game that I was playing in. The looks from my teammates were, in a word, priceless as they watched me wipe the sweat away from face and arms with a blanket on a night that saw the temperature near 27 degrees Centigrade. Several asked me why I was doing what I was doing, and all I could give them was an answer of "it's for science".

However, I wasn't done there. I also wrapped my jersey in the blanket on the ride home, allowing the smell and sweat from my jersey to permeate the wool blanket as well. I enclosed the blanket-jersey combination in a plastic container and placed it in the remaining sunlight on the deck for continued building of the stank while I cut the lawn.

After cutting the lawn, I unpackaged the blanket-jersey and proceeded to wipe the sweat off me again. And, rather than wash away all the good work that I did in the shower, I proceeded to head to bed with the slightly damp, beginning-to-stink blanket that I had used as a towel for most of the day. There's your commitment to science, kids: me, sweaty and stinky, wrapped in a sweaty and stinky wool blanket, in bed with the air conditioning off. I was more than ripe, and this test was starting to show its ugly face.

I began the next day by replacing the now-dry, unwashed jersey and the overly-soiled blanket into the plastic container again as I stripped down my bed and threw the sheets and pillow cases into the wash. A shower for me followed shortly thereafter. As the container sat in the Saturday sun, I went ahead and stained the deck. As you know, working in the sun with the sun being reflected off a darker-coloured deck will make you sweat. Again, I added a new shirt to the mixture in the plastic container after four hours of work. I left the mixture outside for the remainder of the afternoon in the sun to percolate nicely. After dinner, I would get the smell test from members of my family.

The smell test went flawlessly.

  • Mom: "Oh my god... that nearly made me gag."
  • Brother: "Holy $#@!, that stinks. What's wrong with you?"
  • Dad: "You better wash that separately. Or burn it."
Dad always has the best suggestions. Needless to say, the blanket stunk. Badly. It smelled like a combination of body odor and sweat that could have had skunks saying that it stunk. It was awful.

As a test, I grabbed the two shirts that I had in the mix and threw them in their own wash cycle with some regular Gain Detergent as the baseline. The shirts came out smelling just ok. There wasn't anything overly great about them - despite Gain's claims of how great it is - and the baseball jersey still had a slight odor to it.

Into the wash went the blanket with a half-cap of the liquid WIN Detergent. I waited. I'll give you this info, though. WIN Detergent, when I opened the cap, has a strong smell. It's not a bad smell, but it kind of smells like a new public, indoor pool - like a fresh, chlorine-y smell. I know that isn't a great description, but if you get some and smell it, you'll probably be like "yeah, it does smell like that". But let me stress this: IT DOESN'T SMELL BAD. I like the scent of it. It smells like it is sterilized clean.

After running it through the dryer, and then hanging it outside on Sunday while I fixed an old fence, I brought it in Sunday night. It smelled clean! And not just clean, but there was no odor of sweat or stank at all! My mom dropped by today, and I jokingly threw the blanket at her and asked her to smell it. Even she was quite surprised that the smell was gone.

What does this have to do with hockey? Well, that stench that hockey players get in their hockey bags that permeates and lives on hockey socks, undershirts, gloves, and breezers can now be defeated! I am quite aware of the scent with my hockey gear, and I'm quite hopeful that WIN Detergent will be able to defeat the stank.

So here's my unabashed, unbiased, non-corporate rating towards WIN Detergent in terms of how it tackles the challenge of stink:

If you're looking for an effective detergent that can essentially eliminate nasty odors, WIN Detergent is the detergent for you. If you want to locate a retailer who is selling WIN Detergent, check out this page and enter your ZIP code. If you're in Canada, head down to your local Shopper's Drug Mart and get WIN Detergent there.

WIN Detergent is endorsed by the US Olympic Team. HBIC rarely endorses a product, but it will endorse WIN Detergent simply due to the fact that it does what it says it does. And when it comes to corporate rhetoric, sales pitches, and slogans, it's nice to find a product that backs up its claims. WIN Detergent has a customer in me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 26 July 2009

Charitable Donations: A Contest!

It's been a while since I've written a piece on the work that NHL players are doing within out communities to make the lives of people better, but today seemed like a great day for this after receiving an email from a lady named Natalie. Natalie wrote me so that I could bring to light a contest involving an NHL player who was diagnosed with a serious disease at the start of the 2007-08 NHL season. Fernando Pisani of the Edmonton Oilers missed 26 games to start that season after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and is now championing the fight against this disease. Today, HBIC wants to bring to you the foundation that Pisani has partnered with, and the contest they are offering for children aged 10 to 12 across Canada who want a chance to skate with Mr. Pisani in camp designed for them.

Mission Statement: The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research is a registered charity that was founded on October 18, 1976. CSIR is dedicated to funding education and research regarding gastrointestinal diseases and disorders, and relies on fees, donations, and funds from special events to help their cause. With these funds, CSIR helps scientists and doctors search for cures for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as Crohn's Disease and colitis, by providing grants for research initiatives.

How Did CSIR Start?: According to their website, "the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (CSIR) arose as the first charity in Canada to enhance public awareness by covering the widest array of GI diseases and disorders and by funding medical research" in 1976.

Statistically, the number of people suffering from the various Inflammatory Bowel Diseases is staggering. According to the CSIR website, "as many as 6 million Canadians with irritable bowel syndrome, more than 9 million with functional dyspepsia, almost 8 million with chronic acid reflux (GERD), and a further 165,000 suffering from chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's and ulcerative colitis)". And, of course, Fernando Pisani is one of those suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Thanks to Mr. Pisani and CSIR, a contest, called the Score for Colitis and Crohn's Contest, is being run for children to take part in a hockey camp run by Mr. Pisani in Edmonton, Alberta. Children that want to enter must be between the ages of 10 and 12, and are required to send in a one-page essay on one of the following three topics:

  • What it is like to have someone close to them living with the inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn's disease (CD) or ulcerative colitis (UC).
  • What it is like to have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.
  • what it would mean to them to help raise funds for people living with these diseases and to be coached by NHL hockey player Fernando Pisani.
The deadline for this contest is August 7, 2009 at 6pm. There are three ways to get your essay in for consideration.
  1. Email your essay to them at
  2. Fax your essay to them at 416-643-8572.
  3. Snail mail your essay to the following address:
Score for Colitis and Crohn's
c/o Six Degrees Medical Consulting
10 Bay Street - 16th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M5J 2S3

Honestly, this is a pretty cool contest being run by CSIR in association with Fernando Pisani. The best news? There are TWO winners per province! The hockey camp will take place on August 29, 2009 in Edmonton, Alberta, and each winner will be accompanied by one parent or guardian if selected. Included in the package are round-trip, economy flights for each winner and his or her parent/guardian, and one-night accommodation in Edmonton.

What may make this even better is that the game played by the contest winners will be sponsored by Schering-Plough Canada. Schering-Plough Canada has committed to donating $500 per goal scored for "each of four patient associations dedicated to raising public awareness and helping Canadians who suffer from these various gastrointestinal and digestive diseases". Those four associations are the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, and the March IBD Care Foundation.

If you're reading this and you have a youngster at home between the ages of 10 and 12, have them sign up. This sounds like a great contest, and it's an excellent opportunity to bring to light those who may suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It really puts things into perspective, especially when you see Fernando Pisani's young family.

Thanks for the heads-up on this great contest, Natalie!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 25 July 2009

Bags Are Packed But Nowhere To Go

After a busy day that saw me put in a good day's work staining a deck, I was hoping to come inside and find that some teams have spent wisely with the number of decent free agent players out there. Alas, nothing major went down outside of Jason Spezza's weddings which, I'm happy to report, went off without a hitch. Or a Heatley. But that's another story altogether. My heartfelt congratulations go out to Jason Spezza and Jennifer Snell on their happy ceremony today, and I wish them all the best in the future.

Back to why I'm here, it seems that there are a number of excellent free agents still out there waiting for a contract offer. And the names aren't just your average run-of-the-mill third-liners. There are players who, put into the right situation, could actually be game-breaking players. Let's take a look at who might fit where.

Maxim Afinoganov: At 29, Afinoganov isn't getting any younger. He still has world-class speed, and shows flashes of brilliance when he plays. Which is part of the problem. Since the lockout, Afinoganov played 77, 56, 56, and 48 games in the four seasons that followed. He put up career numbers in the 77-game 2005-06 season which saw him tally 22 goals and 51 assists. If a team can convince him to sign an incentive-laden contract, he could be a steal if he has another career year. Otherwise, the risk may be high for a base salary anywhere over $1.5 million per year.

Teams that could use him: Atlanta Thrashers, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Phoenix Coyotes.

Marc-Andre Bergeron: The 28 year-old defenceman brings a solid offensive game to the blueline. He won't overwhelm anyone with his skating nor will he put up gaudy point totals, but he does have a solid breakout pass, and can skate the puck out of his own zone. For a team looking for a transition defensive player, Bergeron would come a lot cheaper than players like Brian Campbell or Dan Boyle.

Teams that could use him: Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes.

Steve Eminger: Eminger is a former first-round pick in 2002, and, in this writer's opinion, has gotten better since he broke into the league. He's not the fastest skater, but he has good vision and plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Eminger's game uses his big body presence, and his physical play down low rarely allows an opponent to gain the edge. To me, he's a poor man's Willie Mitchell or Brooks Orpik. You may be able to get him for cheap if he's given a top-four spot on the blueline.

Teams that could use him: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks.

Mike Grier: Grier is a rugged, hard-working forward who never takes a shift off. The 34 year-old hasn't played less than 61 games in his career, a sign of his durability. He kills penalties, he's a dressing room leader, and he skates against the opposition's top line. I'm not sure why no one has approached him yet as he would fill a major need for most teams - a guy who battles every shift, doesn't take penalties, and fills whatever role he's asked to fill.

Teams that could use him: Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Josh Harding: The 25 year-old restricted free agent goaltender is looking for a new home after the Wild signed veteran Wade Dubielewicz. Harding has gone on record that he feels he could be a starting goaltender in the NHL, and his numbers don't lie. He hasn't posted a GAA over 3.00 in any season including his time with the Regina Pats in the WHL. He is fundamentally sound, and his youth combined with his drive should make him an attractive free agent for any team willing to pick up a capable goaltender with an offer sheet.

Teams that could use him: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks.

Joey MacDonald: MacDonald spent last season in hockey purgatory, posting a record of 14-26-6 with a 3.37 GAA on Long Island. The 29 year-old has spent most of his career in the AHL where he continually posted solid numbers, but his time seeing more rubber than a Goodyear factory last year should make him an attractive, fairly inexpensive goaltender. Perhaps the one thing that MacDonald does better than the other goaltenders out there is his ability to work hard. MacDonald never quits on a play, and he routinely bailed out his team last season.

Teams that could use him: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks.

Drew MacIntyre: Another goaltender who has seen incredible success in the AHL, MacIntyre would be a fabulous compliment to any current NHL starter. The 26 year-old, like MacDonald, never quits on a play, and, in my estimation, should have gotten a better shot in Nashville last year after leading the Milwaukee Admirals to the second-best record in the AHL. As a back-up goaltender, MacIntyre would be a great option if any starter faltered.

Teams that could use him: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks.

Brendan Shanahan: This future Hall-of-Fame candidate is still on the market. Yes, there's some concern about his age as he's 40 years-old, but there's no doubt that he can still bring his game while providing some valuable leadership. He's probably only going to sign near his New York home, so there won't be many options, but he doesn't need a monsterous contract. From his comments, it sounds like he'll play simply for the love of the game at this point.

Teams that could use him: Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders.

Mats Sundin: Personally, I don't care if anyone doesn't sign him. He was a waste of money for the Vancouver Canucks last season after holding out for half the year. If he's not willing to play in September pre-season games, there's no sense in talking dollars and cents. While Vancouver has expressed an interest, my list of teams below should tell you a lot of who I think should sign him.

Teams that could use him: None. Please retire. You're not even close to playing at the same level you did in Toronto.

Alex Tanguay: Alex is an interesting case. He puts up decent point totals, yet everyone seems to shy away from the winger. At only 29 years-old, it would appear that the veteran would be in the prime of his career, but he remains in talks at this point of the free agency period. There are views that is he is a player who only plays as well as the centerman he's lined up with, meaning he isn't a game-breaker himself. I think that if Tanguay is given the chance, he could rebound in a big way this season.

Teams that could use him: Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders.

There are some other impact players still out there, but, if I were building an NHL team, these players would be on my list of "must talk to" free agents. Ok, every one of them except Sundin. All of them have shown that they can play at the NHL level, and none of them should be overly expensive if a team has the cap room. Personally, the young goaltenders are particularly interesting as every team is looking for that "next great goaltender", yet the three men listed above seemingly aren't getting a look.

Maybe I should talk to Balsillie about his expansion team. I could build a pretty solid team through free agency this season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 24 July 2009

What Is This Sweet-Stick?

I know that skate sharpening is a personal preference for all hockey players. Some like their blades to be razor-sharp while others will go days, weeks, or even a month without sharpening their edges. It's always interesting to see when an NHL player runs down the ramp to go get their skates sharpened as the speculation of injury creeps in. Announcers keep their eyes on the bench, and if a guy heads down the ramp, it's either an injury or an equipment adjustment. The problem, though, is that there is no sharpening instrument that one can use on the bench to reclaim the edge on their skate blades... or so I thought.

I hadn't heard of the Sweet-Stick until a friend sent me a YouTube video of Kelly Hrudey and Roberto Luongo talking. He sent it because he was surprised that Hrudey commented that Mike Vernon got his skates sharpened only once a month. To me, like James, it seems incredible that a guy can go that long without improving the edge on his skates at the NHL level. However, what caught my attention was Luongo's accidental commercial for this Sweet-Stick product. Take a look:

So what is this Sweet-Stick thing?

According to the website, it is a plastic handle containing two ceramic pieces that, when applied to the skate blade, "roll the edges in slightly which maintains the same sharpness and BITE angle". Because the ceramic does all the work, little pressure is needed for the Sweet-Stick to do its thing. The flat side of the Sweet-Stick also removes burrs on the blade, giving the skater an even better edge.

This seems to be almost too good to be true, but the Sweet-Stick website claims that "a player loses between 15-25% of their edge efficiency for every hour on the ice". I would imagine that players who make harder turns wear down their edges faster, so this seems reasonable. For goaltenders like Roberto Luongo, edges mean everything when pushing laterally across the ice.

While I have never once seen a professional hockey team employ the Sweet-Stick, it would seem that the Canucks do have one on their bench. I can't comment on how many other teams use it as I couldn't find any evidence of any other team employing this tool. While the cost isn't that high for a Sweet-Stick - coming in around $19 USD - it seems that it would make sense for equipment managers to have one of these handy.

And it would seem a lot more practical than having a superstar run down the ramp into the dressing room area, have him remove his skate, run it through the sharpener, and then have him back on the bench. Not only would he miss one or two shifts at minimum, but it would also tie up the equipment manager for that period of time. If the Sweet-Stick was used, the player could sit at the end of the bench and have the equipment manager simply run the tool over his skate blade a few times. It's faster and more practical... something that every player and equipment manager would want, I would assume.

The Sweet-Stick does not replace proper sharpenings, though. It is simply a tool to increase the edge of the blades during a game. If you regularly have your skates sharpened once a week, please continue to do so. The Sweet-Stick should only be used for 4-6 swipes on the skate blade before a regular sharpening is needed. Let me repeat this: IT DOES NOT REPLACE SKATE SHARPENINGS. Sweet-Stick recommends using the tool after 8-10 hours of skating, and to have your skates sharpened regularly.

So my question to you, readers and fans: have any of you used this product? Does it do what they claim it does? Is it worth the $20? Let me know in the comments. I'm interested to see exactly how effective this product is.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 23 July 2009

Memo From The Prez

Hockey Blog In Canada pushes forward with another trophy today, although this one has less history simply because it isn't named for any one person. The President's Trophy is awarded annually to the best regular season team in the NHL with points accumulated over the course of the 82-game schedule. If there is a tie for the highest point total, the tie-breaker is games won. There is a significant cash bonus that comes along with winning the President's Trophy, so the motivation to be the best team can be very enticing. What's the purpose of the President's Trophy? How did it come to be? Are there any interesting facts that one should know about the trophy?

The trophy was presented to the NHL by the league's Board of Governors at the start of the 1985-86 season. It comes with a $350,000 CDN cash bonus which is normally divided amongst the team and the franchise. Another added bonus for the regular season champions is the guarantee of home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs due to having the season's best record.

Before 1968, the Prince of Wales Trophy was awarded to the regular season champions. The Prince of Wales Trophy, which has been a part of the NHL since 1925, was awarded to the regular season NHL champions from 1938 until 1968 as the NHL was a single division of six teams.

Upon expansion to two divisions in 1968, no trophy was awarded to the regular season champions, but a cash award was still given to the team with the best record. The Prince of Wales Trophy was given to the Eastern Division representative in the Stanley Cup Final instead of the league's regular season champions. Teams normally elected to have banners made to recognize this accomplishment as it was still largely regarded as a major award. However, in 1985, the NHL's Board of Governors added the President's Trophy to the cash award that the best regular season team receives.

There's how the trophy came to be. The first team to receive the President's Trophy in 1986 was the Edmonton Oilers who finished the season atop the NHL standings with 119 points. Here are some interesting facts about the President's Trophy and its winners:

  • In the 23 years it has been awarded, only 13 teams have won the President's Trophy.
  • The Detroit Red Wings are way out in front of all the other NHL teams with six President's Trophy wins. The Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche sit in second with two wins each.
  • The Detroit Red Wings hold the record for most points in one season to win the President's Trophy with 131 points. They accomplished this in 1995-96.
  • Not counting the strike-shortened season of 1995, three teams share the lowest point total to win the President's Trophy. The 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers, the 1987-88 Calgary Flames, and the 1991-92 New York Rangers all recorded 105 points to win the President's Trophy in their respective years.
  • The strike-shortened season saw the Detroit Red Wings win the President's Trophy for the first time with 70 points on the reduced schedule.
  • While Montreal has finished first overall 21 times in the NHL, they have not won the President's Trophy to date.
  • Of the 23 times the President's Trophy has been awarded, only seven of those teams have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. They include the Edmonton Oilers ('86-87), the Calgary Flames ('88-89), the New York Rangers ('93-94), the Dallas Stars ('98-99), the Colorado Avalanche (2000-01) and the Detroit Red Wings ('01-02 and '07-08).
  • Of those winners above, none of them won the Stanley Cup after winning their first President's Trophy. With the exception of Detroit, all of them won the Stanley Cup after winning their second President's Trophy. Detroit won the Stanley Cup after their third and sixth President's Trophy wins. Perhaps experience speaks louder than regular season success?
  • Only twice have President's Trophy winners advanced to the Stanley Cup Final after winning their first President's Trophy. Both the 1989-90 Boston Bruins and the 1994-95 Detroit Red Wings lost in their respective Stanley Cup Final series.
  • On four occasions, the President's Trophy winners have been knocked out of the NHL Playoffs in the first round. The 1990-91 Chicago Blackhawks were the first team, losing to the Minnesota North Stars. The 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues bowed out to the San Jose Sharks. The 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings went home after losing to the Edmonton Oilers. And the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks lost to the Anaheim Ducks.
  • Since the NHL moved to the six-division alignment in 1998, the Atlantic and Southeast Divisions have not had a President's Trophy winner. The Central Division has had five winners, the Pacific and Northeast Divisions had two winners each, and the Northwest Division has won once.
  • If the divisions were aligned as they are now back through the NHL's history, the Southeast Division would still produce no President's Trophy winners.
So there's a little history and some interesting facts about the President's Trophy and its winners. I think the fact that no NHL team has won the Stanley Cup after winning their first President's Trophy is an amazing stat. After all the success those teams have in the regular season, it's hard to believe it doesn't carry over into the playoffs. Yet all of the teams who have won the President's Trophy multiple times have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. Will the trend continue?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 22 July 2009

162 Days And Counting

Add a little snow, two feisty teams, several television networks, and about 30,000 people. Looks pretty good, doesn't it? I'm excited for it.

The NHL Winter Classic should be another beauty. And with both Boston and Philly retooling for an extended playoff run in 2009-10, you know that this game will reach intense levels of excitement.

January 1, 2010 says if you're not at Fenway Park, you'll probably be in front of a television set. And if you're doing neither, I'm not sure what excuse you can give.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Reader Email

I got an email today from a good friend in Mr. Michael Elves. Michael runs a blog call Ear To The Sound, a fantastic music blog that features a lot of independent and lesser-known musical tidbits. Michael is the program director at UMFM 101.5, the University of Manitoba's student-run radio station. He is also a huge hockey fan, and regularly reads my blog... so he tells me. Mike is a new dad - congratulations, buddy! - so his time is limited, but he sent me a great hockey article today via email about the New York Islanders' plight on Long Island when it comes to getting Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project off the ground.

Scott Reeves, a writer at, penned a sobering view as to why the Islanders might be doomed when it comes to even buying a box of black pens for their accountants. Reeves lists the Islanders as an "At Risk Team" in his article, and he may be right based on a number of factors.

First off, the $3.7 billion price tag hanging on the Lighthouse Project in this day of closing banks, foreclosures, and stimulus packages might be a little on the outrageous side. While Charles Wang has committed to paying half of the cost of this out of his own pocket, that leaves the three levels of government with a $1.85 billion bill. And I'm not too sure that anyone in the state of New York or in Washington, DC is too excited about that invoice.

Secondly, there aren't that many fans on or around Long Island that care about the Islanders. This is a team that last won a Stanley Cup in 1983 - 26 years ago. The last won an NHL Playoff series in 1993 - 16 years ago. They've traded away talent over and over again, and have little to nothing to show for it. If you're an Islanders fan - and there aren't many left - it's been a long time since you have something to be positive about. And this problem starts at the top of the management hierarchy.

However, there are some positives amongst all the dark clouds. John Tavares is your first highlight and the new cornerstone of the Islanders. Let me be clear, though: he's not going to right this ship in one season. Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, and Bruno Gervais are the foundation of this team. If GM Garth Snow is serious about rebuilding the Islanders, this is Year One of the Five-Year Rebuilding Plan. The youthful talent is starting to come around. Much like the building Los Angeles Kings and now-successful Pittsburgh Penguins, it will take time to mold these youngsters into a competitive, successful team.

Secondly, Chris Botta of the fantastic Islanders Point Blank blog reports that New York State Governor David A. Paterson is throwing his support behind the Lighthouse Project as the August 4 hearing with the Town of Hempstead nears. This is a huge boost for the Wang-Rechler team as they get the support from the state government in their project. While there is no guarantee that this will push the project through, his support does carry significant weight for the proceedings.

Islanders fans have had many reasons to hang their heads over the last 15 years. However, it appears there may be sunlight peeking over the horizon after seeing this franchise stuck in what seemed like eternal darkness. While I'm not suggesting that the Islanders are out of the woods yet in their fight to become profitable, there are breaks in the trees.

If there is still hope in Islanders fans, there is a chance that the Islanders can be moved off the endangered species list. But it will take time to right the ship.

How much longer are the fans of the Islanders willing to wait?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 20 July 2009

Giving It To You Straight

This article contains no paragraphs of filler... besides this opening, I suppose. With the off-season being so slow for hockey, I understand that people are taking vacations and some time away from the game to compose themselves for the 2009-10 NHL/AHL/ECHL/WhateverHL season they're following. However, the lean times are often when some of the best writing comes out, so I want to draw some attention to a few articles that I've read recently. So this article comes straight down the pipe at you. It's a point blank look at the sites I stop at because of the writers who are working overtime this summer. I'll have some news mixed in these articles, so we'll see you at the end.

  • Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski had his radio on today, listening to Wayne Gretzky talk about how he'd like to see the Coyotes built into a team in the same way that Pittsburgh has built their team. While I admire Gretzky's idea, there are serious flaws with his dream. The biggest one is believing that NOT having a downtown arena in a major city is a good idea.
  • Adam Proteau of The Hockey News brings an interesting perspective to the forefront in the examination of the cliché. Pretty funny, and it certainly calls Brian Burke's vocabulary at press conferences into question.
  • Paul Lukas of UniWatch Blog discovers the NHL Patches site, and falls in love with the database. While I'm not removing Paul from any Christmas card list because he's a solid dude, I will say that the author of the NHL Patches site and I have discussed patches via email. The result? He's a great guy, runs a fabulous site, and it really deserves to be linked to every blog out there as a reference source.
  • Strange and unsettling news coming out of America where the American Needle clothing manufacturing company is taking the NFL to the US Supreme Court. ESPN's Lester Munson has written, in my opinion, one of the best articles of the summer - maybe even the year - in regards to the future of sports as we know it if the NFL is allowed to circumvent the anti-trust rules in the US. And to think that this all started over American Needle's claim that the NFL was preventing them from making more money by operating as a single entity. Now, American Needle's claim could essentially shift the balance of sports in an unrepairable manner of the NFL wins. Cross your fingers, kids. This fight could affect us all in ways you can't even imagine.
  • To the bloggers on my drop-down list on the right: you have until Saturday to post something. If there has been nothing written within a month, you're taking up space. Sorry to those who do get deleted, but if you can't post anything in 30 days, you're not helping hockey's new media effort, nor are you giving me anything to read.
  • My test load of laundry using the new WIN High Performance Sport Detergent was fairly successful. All my clothes came out smelling good, and none had any noticeable marks or stains on them. I'll be doing the major tests this weekend. Get ready for grass stains, mud, various sports drink stains, and me sweating it up in the heat for some serious odor. Ok, you don't have to put up with any of that. That would be bad. But the shirts will, and they'll get run through the WIN High Performance Test... as conducted by moi.
There are a few things that are keeping me occupied today and, with the laundry tests, for the weekend. If you want to see me add anything to the tests, hit me up in the comments. Basically, I was looking for common sports situations that clothes get involved with, so don't come up with motor oil or something. It has to be a sports-related situation. Ok? Ok.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 19 July 2009

Jennings: Owner and Trophy-Maker

There are trophies for all sorts of things in the NHL, but the more recent trophies that the NHL has begun awarding to players deal specifically with individual statistics aside from points. The Maurice Richard Trophy, for example, is given to the player who scores the most goals in the regular season, and the tradition of handing out that award started in 1999. The William M. Jennings Trophy was the first trophy to be awarded for specific goaltender statistics. It is awarded annually to "the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it". Previously, this statistic normally lent its weight to the voting for the Vezina Trophy, but the NHL created the William M. Jennings Trophy to specifically reward those who kept the red light off behind them. So who was William M. Jennings? Why does he have a trophy named after him? Are there any interesting facts about the trophy and its winners?

William M. Jennings' history really is incomplete as far as I could find on the Internet. He was born on December 14, 1920 in New York City, New York. He attended Princeton University as a law student, and, upon his passing of the bar exam, began practicing law in New York City. As his stock rose in the world of law, he eventually became a senior partner of the New York City law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Because of his position with the firm, he was able to branch out into other ventures. He was a director or member of the Board of Directors for a number of companies and corporations in New York City. He served as the honorary chairman of United Hospital in Port Chester, New York. Due to his love of sports, Mr. Jennings became the owner of the New York Rangers in 1959, and moved into the role of President of 1961.

The Rangers were a ridiculously bad team at the start of the 1960-61 season, having finished the previous season with an embarrassing record of 17-38-15. Mr. Jennings' move into ownership didn't help the Rangers' fortunes as they compiled a record of 160-251-79 over seven seasons from 1960-61 until 1966-67. The only season above .500 that they posted in those years was in 1966-67 when the Rangers went 30-28-12.

However, Mr. Jennings was working on a number of other NHL initiatives during this period. In 1964, he was instrumental in having the NHL Offices relocated to New York City. He also worked tirelessly to start up the Metropolitan Junior Hockey Association, as well as assisting other minor-hockey leagues in whatever capacity he could to help the game grow. He also was a major part of the new Madison Square Garden opening in 1968 as the Rangers, and other attractions, moved from 17 blocks downtown from the old Garden on 33rd Avenue into their new home on 50th Avenue.

In 1966, Jennings initiated the Lester Patrick Award Dinner, which annually honours persons for "outstanding service to hockey in the United States". The Lester Patrick Trophy is presented to these persons by the NHL and USA Hockey. The Lester Patrick Trophy has been awarded to some impressive names over the years, including legends such as Jack Adams, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, and the entire 1980 US Olympic hockey team. Mr. Jennings, coincidentally, won the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1971.

One of the major undertakings that Jennings was involved with was the expansion of the NHL from six to twelve teams in the summer of 1967. He was voted in as the Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 1968 for his work with the NHL in doubling the league's size, and remained in that position until 1970. With the league growing, the Rangers also began to see their fortunes change as they finally posted their first 100-point season in 1970-71.

The National Hockey League inducted Jennings into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976, and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame inducted him in 1981. Unfortunately, Mr. Jennings passed away on August 17, 1981 at the age of 61.

While Jennings was certainly less controversial than some of the other names associated with NHL trophies, he certainly left his mark on the NHL with the 1967 expansion and by bringing the Lester Patrick Trophy to reality.

The first William M. Jennings Trophy was awarded in 1982, one year after Mr. Jennings' passing. It was presented to the Montreal Canadiens' goaltending tandem of Rick Wamsley and Denis Herron after they allowed a league-low 223 goals in the 1981-82 season. Here are some other facts associated with the William M. Jennings Trophy:

  • In the 25 years it has been awarded, 27 different goaltenders have earned the award.
  • Patrick Roy has won the most Jennings Trophies in NHL history with five wins. Martin Brodeur and Ed Belfour sit second with four wins each.
  • Only six goaltenders have earned the Jennings Trophy and the Vezina Trophy in the same year. They are Patrick Roy ('88-89 and '91-92), Ed Belfour ('90-91 and '92-93), Dominik Hasek ('93-94 and 2000-01), Martin Brodeur ('02-03 and '03-04), Miikka Kiprusoff ('05-06) and Tim Thomas ('08-09).
  • Only five goalies have changed teams after winning the Jennings Trophy and earned it again. They are Patrick Roy (MTL/COL), Ed Belfour (CHI/DAL), Roman Turek (DAL/STL), Dominik Hasek (BUF/DET), and Manny Fernandez (MIN/BOS).
  • The Montreal Canadiens have won the award five times, most in the NHL. The New Jersey Devils are second with four wins, and the Buffalo Sabres and Chicago Blackhawks sit third with three wins each.
  • The Montreal Canadiens hold the record for consecutive wins with three. This was done from 1986 until 1989, and all three wins were split between Patrick Roy and Brian Hayward.
  • Roy and Hayward hold the individual record for most consecutive trophies as well as stated above.
  • The highest number of goals allowed to win the award was 241. This was done twice. 1985-86 saw the Philadelphia Flyers' tandem of Bob Froese and Darren Jensen win the Jennings with 241 goals-against. The following season saw the Montreal Canadiens' tandem of Patrick Roy and Brian Hayward win the award with 241 goals-against.
  • The lowest number of goals allowed to win the award was 164. New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur set that mark in 2003-04 in winning the award.
  • In 2002-03, there was a tie between two teams - the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams allowed a league-low 166 goals-against, so Martin Brodeur, Roman Cechmanek, and Robert Esche shared the award. It's the only time there has been a tie in the history of the trophy.
  • Only 14 teams are represented on the William M. Jennings Trophy.
So there's a little history on the William M. Jennings Trophy and the man behind the trophy. While I would say this is more of a team trophy, it still takes that last man guarding the net to keep the puck out, so the goaltenders do deserve this trophy as much as the NHL likes to reward the goal scorers with the Richard Trophy.

I just find it a little odd that the NHL can't get the name of their trophy right on their website. According to their website, they awarded the William J. Jennings Trophy to Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek. Oops!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Games That Interest Me

I've spent the day out and about, doing a number of fantastic things, but there was something bothering me: I hadn't really examined the NHL schedule for games I want to watch this upcoming season. Other bloggers and media outlets have talked about the "Top Ten" games to watch this season and the likes, but there have to some games that interest people personally. Whether it be a star who returns to the city where he shone the brightest or long-brewing rivalry between two teams, there are always those games that stand out on the calendar for me as "must-see" games.

This is not a scientific breakdown by any means, and this entire schedule is purely a subjective, selfish view on games I want to watch this season. Take it for what you will, but after examining the schedule, I'm pretty sure these are going to be the ones that interest me the most.

  1. October 3 and October 24, 2009. All 30 teams play on those nights, so it will make for some serious hockey fodder the next day. It normally only happens once in a season, so having it done twice is twice as nice.
  2. Penguins-Rangers on October 2, 2009. I'm not going to say how sweet it will be for me as a Penguins fan watching them add "2008-09" banner amongst the "1990-91" and "1991-92" banners, but it'll be pretty sweet. The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins begin their title defence against the Rangers.
  3. Flyers-Bruins on January 1, 2010. Fenway Park. The Green Monster. Milan Lucic. Scott Hartnell. Zdeno Chara. Chris Pronger. Tim Thomas. Ray Emery. I'm already pumped about this game, and it's still five months away.
  4. Six games between Chicago and Detroit. If you didn't know the story behind this one, check last season for "Detroit vs. Pittsburgh". The star of that show was Marian Hossa and his leaving for greener pastures in the off-season. This time, he brought a sidekick in Tomas Kopecky. These games could be explosive, especially since neither team really likes the other.
  5. Penguins-Capitals on January 21, 2010. After playing in an epic seven-game series this past season, the Capitals and Penguins will tangle for the first time nearly four months into the schedule. No one should be able to say they weren't ready for this matchup at that point in the season. It should be a beauty!
  6. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics in February 2010. Canada plays on home soil, looking for redemption after a horrific showing in 2006 at Torino, Italy. If you didn't think there was pressure already, wait until the games start on February 15. "Powder keg" might be the only way to describe this event.
  7. Hockey Day in Minnesota on January 23, 2010. I might make the trek to Minneapolis for this day. Essentially, everyone in the state of Minnesota becomes hockey-mad for the week leading up to the weekend, and then goes completely bonkers for hockey on the weekend.
  8. Hockey Day in Canada on January 30, 2010. All six Canadian teams play. CBC features all three games, plus about 3000 hours of additional hockey programming. It's like hockey heaven for those of us with a slight passion.
  9. Islanders-Lightning on December 5, 2009. Some people might be laughing that I included this game in here, but this essentially pits the two rookies that everyone wants to see this season against one another. "Tavares-Hedman Round One" probably won't be all that spectacular, but it will be interesting to see if they get matched against one another.
  10. Senators-TheTeamHeatleyGetsTradedTo. Now, this may never happen. However, the drama that would unfold may not happen until after March 4. That day is the 2009-10 trade deadline, and GM Bryan Murray has already said he'd try to trade Heatley out west. If that's the case, the only Western Conference teams the Senators face before the end of the season are Calgary, Vancouver, Dallas, and - surprise, surprise - the Edmonton Oilers.
Again, these are simply some of the games I want to see this year. Like any die-hard hockey fan, I'll be logging a lot of hours watching televised broadcasts and listening to the radio, so I expect to be busy once the season kicks off.

It's good to have something to look forward to, eh?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 17 July 2009

Friday Animated Fun

I won't lie when I tell you that I have a slight movie obsession. I tend to watch movies more often than I watch regular television programs. Because of this movie insanity, I have a lot of Disney movies on DVD. They range from the classics like Pinocchio (1940), Cinderella (1950), and The Lion King (1994) to some lesser known titles like The Three Caballeros (1944) and The Brave Little Toaster (1987). In viewing some of these titles, it occurred to me that Walt Disney must have done something in regards to hockey with all the animation shorts that he's put together over the years. And sure enough, there are some shorts that he's done.

The first one that I found is entitled "Hockey Homicide" with Goofy as the star. While this is clearly a humourous and exaggerated look at hockey, this is a good examination of hockey in this seven-minute animated clip from 1945.

While there's no doubt that some of the aspects of hockey are hyperbolized in this animated short, there is a lot of hockey knowledge that is displayed by Walt Disney's animators and by the narrator/play-by-play man.

"Hockey Homicide" is actually Walt Disney's second animation based upon hockey. In 1939, Disney animators featured Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Duey, and Louie, in a comical look at pond hockey in a short called "The Hockey Champ".

Of course, Walt Disney got into the NHL business by obtaining an expansion franchise based in Anaheim, California, and named their expansion franchise as the Mighty Ducks. Using their half-hour "after school" cartoon slots, called The Disney Afternoon, Disney created the "Mighty Ducks" animated TV series and it aired in 1996.

Overall, the series wasn't received well, and only 26 episodes were produced. It was last officially aired in 2004, and hasn't appeared on television since. It was a far-fetched story to say the least, and it didn't attract many young fans as it was less about hockey and more about the heroes - aptly named Wildwing, Nosedive, Tanya, Duke, Mallory and Grin - who battled the evil Saurians. Needless to say, I didn't watch this show.

In any case, I think it's kind of neat that Walt Disney jumped into the hockey world with his very early cartoons. The cartoons feature excellent knowledge of the game, so it appears that someone in the animation studios at Walt Disney had a good grasp of the game by the late-1930s. Essentially, Disney was ahead of the curve in terms of American corporations with their looks at hockey. They even beat some of the larger sports media outlets to the punch!

In 1959, Sports Illustrated ran a nine-page, in-depth look at the game of hockey. Calling it a "strange, violent sport", they attempted to breakdown the game for people who had no or little exposure to the game. With some of the bigger stars in hockey attracting nation-wide interest, players like Jean Béliveau and Gordie Howe were on the verge of being household NHL names in places like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Vancouver even with the NHL not being in those cities at that time. But in order for the casual fan to understand the game, they needed a basic guide in helping them the understand the game.

Sports Illustrated's William Leggett and artist Robert Riger collaborated together to come up with an article called "The Violent Skills of Ice Hockey" that ran in December 1959. I have pieced together the articles, and are presenting them to you here. I encourage you to read through each page. It's a pretty comprehensive, albeit rudimentary, look at hockey.
Pretty neat, eh? So there's a little Friday fun for you. Some cartoons, some historical Sports Illustrated documents, and a little laughter. Isn't that what Fridays are all about?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 16 July 2009

Jack Adams: Bench Legend

It's usually the players that get the credit when a team experiences a large degree of success, and, for the most part, it's credit that is well-deserved. After all, they score goals and stop pucks, and that's entirely how games are won and lost. However, putting the players on the ice on compatible lines is entirely up to the man behind the bench, and the head coach usually shies away from the limelight when it comes to accepting credit for his team's success. However, the NHL doesn't allow the best coach each season to avoid the limelight. The NHL awards the Jack Adams Trophy annually to the NHL coach "adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success". So who was this Jack Adams fellow? What did he do to warrant a trophy named after him? And what interesting facts are there about this award?

John James "Jack" Adams was born on June 14, 1895 in Fort William, Ontario. Adams was a solid young hockey player as a child, and eventually joined his hometown Fort William Maple Leafs by age 14. A year later in 1910, he was playing for the Calumet Miners. He spent five years with the Miners before joining the Peterborough 247th Battalion of the Ontario Hockey Association. By 1917, Adams was playing for the Sarnia Sailors.

By age 22, Adams was signed by the Toronto franchise, later called the "Arenas", of the newly-formed National Hockey League. Adams earned the reputation as a bruising, hard-hitting forward who didn't shy away from playing rough. The Arenas battled hard all season long, and made the playoffs. Toronto defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the first NHL Final in a two-game, total-goals series by a 10-7 count. This allowed Toronto to advance to the Stanley Cup Championship against the PCHA Champion Vancouver Millionaires.

Adams was the third centerman on the depth chart for Toronto, so he didn't see the ice in the Stanley Cup Championship due to the teams carrying only enough players as necessary. However, Jack Adams is listed on the Stanley Cup as a member of that Toronto team that won the first Stanley Cup in the newly-formed NHL.

Adams was lured west to the Vancouver Millionaires, and signed with the club in December 1919. It was in Vancouver where Adams really came on as a player. His success was highlighted by his leading the league in scoring in 1921-22. In the Stanley Cup Championship in 1922, Adams scored six goals in five games, leading all players in goals during that series.

He moved back east in 1922, however, and joined the Toronto St. Pats. Adams played alongside legendary St. Pats' forward Babe Dye, and led the NHL in scoring in 1925-26. He played four seasons with the St. Pats before joining the Ottawa Senators for the 1926-27 season and won his second Stanley Cup as the Senators captured the NHL Championship. The Stanley Cup Championship would be his last NHL game as he retired at the age of 32. He scored 83 goals and added 32 assists in 173 career NHL games.

Frank Calder, President of the NHL, suggested that the Detroit Falcons hire Jack Adams to be their general manager in 1927-28. Adams had little management experience, but it was thought that his hockey playing experience would benefit him as he could bring in talented players. However, the limited budget of the Cougars proved to be a major stumbling block in bringing in talent. Adams, unhappy with head coach Duke Keats, fired him after only 11 games as the Cougars sat at a mediocre 5-5-1 record. They finished the season with 44 points, and missed the playoffs. This didn't sit well with Adams, but his hands were tied in terms of attracting talent with money.

Adams did an admirable job despite the handicap he had. A name change to the "Falcons" in 1930 didn't do anything to help them in the standings, but things changed considerably when James Norris bought the Detroit Falcons in 1932 and renamed them as the Detroit Red Wings. Norris poured money into the franchise, and Adams was allowed to pursue and retain talent with money. Being a coach allowed him a rinkside seat for scouting, and this combination made the Red Wings a powerhouse for years to come.

Adams won three Stanley Cups as the coach of the Red Wings - 1935-36, 1936-37, and 1942-43 - before stepping down to concentrate on his general manager's duties in 1947. Adams' coaching career ended with 413 wins, 390 losses, and 161 ties. He is still the winningest coach in Detroit Red Wings history. He was the first coach to be suspended in the Stanley Cup Final after his rage bubbled over in what he thought was biased penalty calls against his team, and a referee was punched in Game Three of the 1942 Final. However, his greatest achievements had yet to been seen.

Much like what Frank Selke had done in building an amazing feeder system for players in both Toronto and Montreal, Adams had built a phenomenal system for the Red Wings. Players like Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly, and Terry Sawchuk made their way through this system. After the New York Rangers passed on a young player named Gordie Howe, it was Jack Adams who went out and signed the rugged winger to a deal and brought him into the Red Wings family.

Thanks to his incredible eye for talent and the feeder system he built for the Red Wings, Adams and the Wings went on to win four more Stanley Cups while finishing first overall in the NHL from 1948 until 1955. Because of these Stanley Cups wins, Jack Adams became the only man to have his name on the Stanley Cup as a player, as a coach, and as a general manager in NHL history. That still stands today.

Adams, however, was from the old-school ways of doing things, and he continually moved players in and out of the lineup via trades and demotions to the minors in order for them to avoid complacency. Because of his penchant for trading players who he thought had gotten too comfortable, he earned the nickname of "Trader Jack". This was certainly an accurate nickname considering the number of moves he made.

In fact, one of those moves caused significant friction between himself and a number of players. Ted Lindsay was involved in a movement in 1957 to get a players' union organized. This angered Adams beyond belief as he saw it as a rebellion by players. He traded Ted Lindsay to Chicago in order to curb the union movement. He told the media that the trade was necessary because Lindsay had been critical of his teammates, and Adams wouldn't stand for that. Adams discovered that there were a number of players in his dressing room who were onboard with Lindsay and the union movement, and, rather than trading them all, he demoted them to minor-league teams as punishment.

His actions were viewed as reprehensible by the affected players, and they began to leave the Red Wings as soon as their contracts had ended. Because of the mass exodus of players due to Adams' punishments, he was fired in 1963 - 36 years after he first moved into the role of general manager. His 36-year tenure is still the longest employment by one team in NHL history.

After being fired by the Red Wings, Adams founded the Central Hockey League, serving as its first President. Adams held that position until he passed away on May 1, 1968 at the age of 73. Adams was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959 as a builder due to his work with the Red Wings. The NHL created a trophy in his memory in 1973, and first awarded the Jack Adams Trophy at the conclusion of the 1973-74 season. Fred Shero, head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, was the first coach to receive the honour.

Adams was clearly an interesting man, and there are a number of interesting facts about his trophy. Here are some of those facts:

  • The Jack Adams Award has been awarded 35 times since its introduction to 30 individuals.
  • Pat Burns has won the Jack Adams Trophy three times, earning the award in 1988-89 with Montreal, 1992-93 with Toronto, and 1997-98 with Boston. His three wins are the most by any coach in NHL history.
  • Burns is also the only coach in NHL history to win the award with three different teams.
  • Four coaches have won the award twice with two different teams. Pat Burns, as stated above, did it; Jacques Lemaire won it twice with the New Jersey Devils ('93-94) and Minnesota Wild ('02-03); Pat Quinn won it twice with the Philadelphia Flyers ('79-80) and Vancouver Canucks ('93-94); and Scotty Bowman won it twice with the Montreal Canadiens ('76-77) and Detroit Red Wings ('95-96).
  • Jacques Demers is the only coach to have won the trophy in consecutive seasons, winning it in 1986-87 and 1987-88 with the Detroit Red Wings.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings have had the most Jack Adams Trophy winners with four each. St. Louis and Phoenix/Winnipeg follow with three winners each.
  • There have only been two winners of the Jack Adams Trophy who didn't start the season as an NHL head coach. Bill Barber replaced Craig Ramsay in Philadelphia in 2000-01, and went on to win the trophy. Bruce Boudreau replaced Glen Hanlon in Washington in 2007-08, and went on to win the Jack Adams Trophy.
  • 19 franchises are represented on the Jack Adams Trophy since it was first awarded. The only Original Six team without a Jack Adams Trophy winner? The New York Rangers.
  • Only three coaches have won a Stanley Cup in the same season that they earned the Jack Adams Trophy. Fred Shero and the Philadelphia Flyers did it in 1973-74. Scotty Bowman did it in 1976-77 with the Montreal Canadiens. John Tortorella did it with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04.
There's the history about Jack Adams, the trophy named after him, and the trivia you may want to know about this trophy. While Adams was the face of the Red Wings for nearly four decades, his legacy will live on forever with the trophy named after him.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!