Tuesday 31 August 2010

End Of An Era... Or An Age?

The announcement was made today, and I am still in shock over it. Long-time NHL defenceman Chris Chelios - he of 48 years young - has decided to hang up his skates for retirement. While most hockey players call it a career between the ages of 38 and 42, Chelios defied the odds and continued to play at a high level well past 45. However, it appears that Gordie Howe's record will continue to stand as the eldest statesman in the NHLPA has decided to call it quits before his first pension cheque arrives.

There were a ton of accomplishments in the rearguard's career of which he should be proud:

  • 1651 games by a defenceman - the most by a blueliner in NHL history.
  • Three-time Norris Trophy winner.
  • Three-time Stanley Cup winner.
  • 27 years as a member of an NHL team.
  • Four Olympic appearances.
However, the bigger accomplishments may come in helping Detroit's young players develop. Chelios accepted a role with the Red Wings as Advisor to Hockey Operations. It is reported that he will spend much of his time working with the players on Detroit's AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

"The luxury I have now is being able to stay in Detroit with my family and working for the Red Wings," Chelios said to Brian Compton of NHL.com. "I watched what [Steve Yzerman] did, and I'm trying to kind of follow in his footsteps what he did. His first year was kind of a learning experience for him. He didn't know what he wanted to do. He tried to find his niche with the organization. I'm just going to take it day by day here and enjoy what I'm doing. I'm learning from the best."

The "best" that he is referring to is none other than Red Wings' GM Ken Holland. Holland seemed particularly thrilled with Chelios' hiring, and sees him working in a number of capacities within the organization.

"It's a little bit of trying to figure out time commitment, figuring out what 'Cheli' wants to do and where he fits in," Holland said. "Player development is one area that he's going to be very important to us, going to Grand Rapids and working with our young defencemen. It's not one defined job. His role is probably going to evolve over the course of the year. I think Chris is going to bring us a lot of different dimensions to our front office."

Is there a chance that the veteran defenceman could suit up for the Griffins or the Red Wings this year?

"I'm not going to leave the door open," Chelios said. "I'm 100-percent sure that this is it. I know that I'll never play in the NHL again. It's not a hard decision. I couldn't have played any longer than I did. I accomplished what I wanted to. Basically, there's nothing left."

Sounds like he's ready to make the next step.

Congratulations to Chris Chelios on his amazing career and longevity in one of the most violent and brutal games on the planet! There is no doubt that he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and should be a shoo-in once his time comes in three years!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 30 August 2010

Back To Phoenix

Some interesting news hit the wires today as the Phoenix Business Journal is reporting that there is a new bid for the Phoenix Coyotes, and the mystery buyer wants to keep the team in the Glendale, Arizona locale! Honestly, between all the Ice Edge Holdings news and the possibility of the team relocating back to its original home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, I have been ready to close the book on this story until something significant happened. With new owners on the horizon and a commitment to keep the team in Arizona, the Coyotes may have received the best news they've heard all summer that hasn't included any player signings.

As the article states, there has been no names mentioned as to who is involved with this possible bid, but it sounds as though Ice Edge may not be fully out of the picture.

"We understand another party that we have become acquainted with is in advanced negotiations with Glendale and an announcement could happen soon. If this occurs, we expect to continue to be involved with the Coyotes as an adviser for the foreseeable future," Ice Edge CEO Keith McCullough said in a statement. Ice Edge is reportedly interested in and committed to founding an ECHL franchise in Thunder Bay, Ontario at this point.

We do know that Jerry Reinsdorf is not involved, and that the purchasing group is not affiliated with True North Sports and Entertainment in Winnipeg. True North has maintained its position as a possible relocation option for an NHL franchise, but they have not ventured forth with a purchase offer at this time, according to several sources.

So who is this mystery buyer? Anyone want to venture a guess?

UPDATE: According to Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy, the mystery buyer is Matthew Hulsizer. Click the link for more details!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 29 August 2010

Dowbiggin Makes A Case

The Globe & Mail, one of Canada's daily national newspapers, has a number of excellent writers at its disposal. One of those writers is Mr. Bruce Dowbiggin. Today, Mr. Dowbiggin's column sounded surprisingly like an excerpt from the NHL Commissioner's various speeches about NHL participation at the Olympics. It is worth pointing out, though, that Mr. Dowbiggin is framing this article very well, and makes a case for why the NHL should be compensated in some way if they are releasing the players they have under contract to the Olympics.

Now don't get me wrong here: I love Olympic hockey. Besides the national pride on the line, there's always a good chance to see a surprising upset, a highlight-reel play, or a show-stopping save. Olympic hockey is fun, fast, and exciting, and the reason it is this way is due to the talents of the men on the ice.

And there's the rub: the NHL employs the best hockey players on the planet, and they get little to nothing in return except a few headaches.

As Mr. Dowbiggin writes,

"The Olympic TV impact is negligible in most of the American burgs where Bettman has hawked franchises, the elite players are exhausted by the travel and it punishes the NHL regional broadcasters who must go on hiatus at a time when hockey has the stage almost alone to itself in February.

"Plus, the NHL gets bupkis in return. As it stands now, the panjandrums of the International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation are telling the league to butt out, they’ll be the ones to collect the cash. They’ll also tell you what uniforms teams can wear, how often you’ll play and probably how much luggage you’re entitled to bring.

"It’s a one-sided deal, one not reflecting the NHL’s leverage: the world’s best hockey players."
If you were the owner of an NHL team and you allowed your best players to head over to Sochi, Russia in 2014, what kind of return do you get besides a little national pride? And how does the IOC repay you if your superstar - say, Ovechkin or Crosby - ends up with a season-ending injury during his participation at the Olympics?

Mr. Dowbiggin even points out that the NFL may be pushing the Super Bowl into the Winter Olympics' normal window of time by expanding its season to an eighteen-game schedule. If you're a hockey fan, you want the NHL players there to give the Olympic hockey event some meaning, especially if they are competing against the largest annually televised sporting event. Otherwise, it should be business as usual for NHL teams, and the players watch the national teams from North American soil.

My feelings are that the teams should allow their players to represent their countries. Much like the transfer fees that the respective sport federations demand in Europe, the NHL should turn the tables on those federations and demand compensation for their stars.

After all, if the federations' arguments are that they trained and developed the players that the NHL teams are drafting, the same excuse can be used against them: NHL teams are training and developing those players into stars. If the Russian National Hockey Federation can demand payment from an NHL team, the same can be done by the NHL teams to the federations that demand that payment.

Isn't that fair for both sides?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 28 August 2010

Springfield Looks Good!

If you watch Sunday evening television, or any sort of syndicated television, the image to the right is a bit of a joke from The Simpsons. While the Simpson family lives in a fictional town of Springfield, there is a real Springfield in Massachusetts that is home to the AHL Falcons franchise. This franchise has undergone many changes in its history, but they always seem to honour their past. With the AHL beginning its 75th Anniversary with a home-and-home throwback series involving the Falcons, it's time we take a quick peek at what the Falcons will be wearing.

We're still waiting on the other five teams to reveal what they will be wearing, but the Springfield Falcons made the AHL look exponentially better with their opening weekend throwback jersey. That, readers, is absolutely stunning!

How much is there to like on that jersey? The old Springfield Indians logo from 1936 is absolutely gorgeous! Combined with the beige background colour, the bright red really jumps out at you, and the white colouring is accented brightly, making it stand out from the rest of the jersey. If drawing your eyes to the logo wasn't enough, the blue stripes and red sleeves frame the logo beautifully.

People, this is entirely what a hockey jersey should look like, and I cannot credit the Falcons and the AHL enough for their efforts in making these throwback games look amazing.

While we wait to see what Rochester, Lake Erie, Syracuse, Hershey, and Providence will do, seeing Springfield pull off a gorgeous jersey like this makes me happy, and leaves me wanting more of these incredible throwback jerseys. There's also a good chance we could see more jersey magic at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic as the league pushes the game's look back to 1942 with more throwback sweaters.

Two thumbs-up to the look that Springfield will don on October 8 and 9. Simply beautiful!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 27 August 2010

Calendar Notes

With the summer months rolling into the autumn season, there are a lot of things to consider in terms of time. As you may be aware from reading this blog, I'll be away for the entire month of September, but this blog will not stop. Instead, I've already lined up some excellent writers to do a few pieces for me while I'm away, and they will receive the schedule this week. There are also some notes on the AHL and KHL calendars for important dates, and we'll take a look at these dates this evening. We can't be missing these events from other leagues not named "NHL", so I want to be sure you're up-to-date on your calendar with all of these events.

September 8th sees the KHL season kick off as the two-time Gagarin Cup Champion AK Bars Kazan meet the newly-named OHC Dynamo, the merged team of last year's finalist in HC MVD and the folded Moscow Dynamo. If you remember, it took Kazan the full seven games to finally knock off HC MVD, so this game should be a great start to the third KHL season.

St. Petersburg, Russia will have all eyes on it as the KHL All-Star Game festivities take place there on February 5th and 6th. The KHL season will end on February 20th, and the Gagarin Cup Playoffs will begin on February 23rd. If the Gagarin Cup Final goes the distance, the last game in the KHL season will be played on April 20th.

The AHL finally released their schedule for the teams in the circuit, and I am already looking forward to a few games on the Manitoba Moose schedule. But we'll start with the unhappy news.

The Moose have two ugly road trips this season: one that spans seven games, and another that sees eleven games played consecutively on the road. The Moose play six three-games-in-three-nights scenarios this season. While some teams thrive on this setup, the Moose have maintained that it is something they would like to see changed in the future.

"There’s no way to avoid them," Moose GM Craig Heisinger told Jim Bender of The Winnipeg Sun. "We don’t have too many of them. Some teams that bus from city to city can’t get enough of them."

While those are the blemishes on the schedule, there are some bonuses. The Moose get to play their North Division rivals a total of eight times per team. Abbotsford, Hamilton, Toronto, and Rochester will play four games in Winnipeg, and the Moose will visit those teams' respective buildings four times as well. The Moose will tangle with the Lake Erie Monsters four times as well - twice at MTS Centre and twice at Quicken Loans Arena. The expansion Oklahoma City Barons visit Manitoba on December 3 for the first time in their history.

Looking at the Eastern Conference, the Moose get to battle their nemeses in the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins once again this season. They will play these teams twice in Manitoba, and twice in their respective arenas.

The Moose open the season on the road against the Peoria Rivermen on Friday, October 8. They travel to Rockford for the second half of their two-game road trip to start the season on October 9 for a date with the IceHogs. The Moose hold their home-opener on October 15 against the Grand Rapids Griffins. After a pair of games against the Griffins, they welcome the Hamilton Bulldogs to MTS Centre.

As for special dates, the Moose will host the Chicago Wolves for the third time in fifteen years on their New Year's Eve game. The Moose get their CBC airtime on the brand-new "AHL on CBC" program when they battle the Abbotsford Heat on Sunday, January 23. They follow-up those games with a CBC airing of a Toronto-Manitoba on February 27, another Abbotsford-Manitoba affair on March 27, and close out the CBC AHL schedule with a Toronto-Manitoba battle on April 3. The January 23 and March 27 games will be broadcast live from the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Looking at the AHL's overall schedule, the opening weekend on October 8 will feature a home-and-home throwback series between the AHL's most storied clubs. From the AHL site: "The Providence Bruins will take on the Springfield Falcons (Oct. 8 and 9), the Lake Erie Monsters will square off against the Syracuse Crunch (Oct. 8 and 9) and the Hershey Bears will face the Rochester Americans (Oct. 10 and 16) while wearing throwback uniforms that will hark back to the earliest days of the American Hockey League. Providence, Springfield, Cleveland and Syracuse were among the league’s charter cities in 1936, with Hershey coming aboard in 1938 and Rochester hitting the ice in 1956."

The AHL will also see the WBS Penguins and the Hershey Bears clash on December 30 at the brand-new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh as a part of the build-up to the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The XCel Energy Center in Minneapolis will play host to a game between the Houston Aeros and the Peoria Rivermen on February 12 as a part of "Hockey Day In Minnesota" festivities.

The 2011 AHL All-Star Classic will take place on January 30 and 31. The Hershey Bears are playing host to this year's event, and the event reverts back to an East-vs-West format for the first time since 1942, and all of the players in the game will wear throwback sweaters from that year.

Lots of great news from the AHL and KHL, so start marking your calendars! I'm especially excited for the 75th Anniversary activities that the AHL is planning!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 26 August 2010

The Great Whale

We head back to the mailbag, or email inbox, for Thursday's question, and it's quite a doozy if I do say so myself. Personally, I like the tough questions, and I really want to be sure that I get this one right. It means a great deal to me, and I'm sure it means a great deal to the email writer and the people of Hartford, Connecticut. They may have the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack playing there now, but it sounds as if the "Whalers" may make a triumphant return to the city they called home through the NHL and WHA eras.

I've cleaned up the email a little bit in terms of grammar, but Sal S. of East Hartford, Connecticut writes,

"I’d like to get your take on if you think the NHL could and should return to Hartford. Obviously, this is not going to be an overnight adventure. We are trying to build support again here in this city (not that us fans ever lost it).

"I think Baldwin is the right guy to try his hand at this. He did it before here, and we believe he can do it again. There is a lot of renewed energy here again with Howard in the picture.

"But with Bettman still as commish, I just don’t know. We here in Hartford also support the return of the Winnipeg Jets and the Quebec Nordiques. That the Whalers merchandise is the 11th best selling merchandise in the NHL should say something about this once proud franchise. P.S... we still HATE Karmanos!!!!"
First off, a great email to hit me with as I am still a huge fan of the Hartford Whalers franchise. The Whale can do no wrong in my eyes, and I used to love the old Boston-Hartford/Montreal-Hartford battles in the Stanley Cup Playoffs before Peter Karmanos decided to pack up his gear and head south to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Here's what I know thus far.

First, according to Howlings - a reliable Hartford Wolf Pack blog from all I've read - the movement to bring the Whalers back to Hartford is already on, albeit in a different form. Mitch Beck wrote on July 24, 2010,
"[T]he last hurdle has been cleared for Howard Baldwin and his Whalers Sports & Entertainment to take over operation of the Hartford Wolf Pack. Larry Gottesdiener and his Northland Investment Corporation’s essentially removed itself from the equation in the operation of the XL Center. They turned over their interests to AEG. Well, it is only a matter of time now, as early as next week, that it should become official. When that happens, the Hartford Wolf Pack will be no more and the new team will be the Connecticut Whalers. The relationship with the Rangers will remain in place."
So while the Connecticut Whalers are on the verge of being born as an AHL franchise, the question of whether or not the city of Hartford can support the NHL returning is a murky one.

There are a few things to remember here: the NHL currently owns the logo of the former Hartford Whalers, and is marketing it extremely well. Sal S. correctly points out that Whalers merchandise is eleventh-best when it comes to merchandise sales, so the new Connecticut Whalers will undoubtedly be forced to come up with another logo.

Secondly, if there is an opportunity for an NHL team to move back into Hartford, there are some questions that have been raised about the arena, the XL Center. For hockey games, the seating plan allows for 15,635 people, and this would be the smallest arena in the NHL by a longshot. The smallest, and oldest, arena right now is Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island, and it seats 16,297. If the Islanders are suggesting that they need a bigger place to play, Hartford might also have to examine their arena options.

There was a push by Hartford mayor Eddie Perez to secure the funding to replace the aging XL Center with a new arena. There are good points and bad points to this plan, but the truth is that this decision comes down to the people of Hartford. Do they want to push for a new arena in the hopes of getting an NHL team one day?

My thoughts come down to this: the citizens of Hartford need to come out and show the world that they are passionate about hockey, in particular the new Connecticut Whalers/Hartford Wolf Pack. In 2009, the Pack averaged 4190 fans per game, putting them eighteenth in league attendance. In 2010, they actually had less fans out to games as they averaged 4188 fans per game. Comparatively, one city that continues to pop up on the NHL map is Winnipeg, and the Manitoba Moose have finished second in league attendance for two straight seasons.

The NHL notices these numbers, and normally responds in kind. The fans of the Whalers need to start going to games if and when the franchise changes its name from Wolf Pack to Whalers. While I get that the people of Hartford never felt as though the Pack were a part of their community, shunning the AHL team only looks bad on the city if Whaler fans are truly passionate about getting an NHL team back.

Can Hartford become an NHL city once again? I believe they can. The greater Hartford area has a population of 1,188,841 people, but those people need to start supporting their local team. The NHL will notice, but it takes a concerted effort from the community for the NHL to actually consider placing a team there if one is available.

Hartfordians, the opportunity to be back in the professional hockey ranks is certainly within your reach. But you have to make the effort by showing that you're willing to support your pro team.

You know what you have to do to bring back the Whale. Now do it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

How Swede It Is

I always love getting reader email, and the next couple of days will feature some stuff that people have been emailing me. Today's piece is compliments of reader Mikael Hjelm. Mikael reports that he was searching through YouTube, and came across a commercial starring Sweden's most famous hockey players. The commercial is for an Italian restaurant called "Mammamia" in Örnsköldsvik, the hometown of Swedish hockey power, Modo. Of course, the four men in the commercial - Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin - all got their starts suiting up for Modo.

Here's the commercial. My comments will follow.

According to Mr. Hjelm's comments in the email, the four Swedish superstars did this commercial for free, and a friend of the owner directed and produced the commercial. It is reported that the four players still dine there regularly when they return home.

Just to prove that this wasn't a one-off thing, the same men went about doing a second commercial as well!

I've never been to Mammamia, but it sure looks like a great place to dine if those four men consistently choose it as their favorite restaurant. And who knows... maybe you'll come across some more Swedish superstars while you're there!

Thanks for bringing these commercials to my attention, Mikael!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Reader's Artistic Talent

The man to the left is Michael Nylander. Nylander suited up for a few games with the Grand Rapids Griffins in his career, and you can see him to the left in an alternate logo for the AHL club. Now this is the second day in a row where I've spoken about the Michigan-based AHL franchise, but this is less about the Griffins and more about someone who will see his uniform design worn on the ice next season. As you may know, the Griffins allow fans to submit designs for their annual jersey design contest, and one reader from the incomparable Uni Watch Blog came out on top! Who was the designer, and what design was chosen? And when will his design be seen? All of this below!

The man with the artistic abilities that trumped everyone else is Ryan Muraro. The Waukesha, Wisconsin native's design was chosen from 97 entries for the contest! The contest was held on the incredible PuckDrawn site - a site I frequent often - and Ryan's design was certainly one of the best, if not the best.

Ryan's design featured a powerful, muscular griffin on the front of the jersey. On the shoulders, the secondary logo, resembling the NHL's Detroit Red Wings logo, is present, keeping the tie-in to the Griffins with their NHL affiliate. Honestly, it's a very cool design, and I may have to contact the Griffins about getting my own jersey. I like that design!

"Ryan’s completely original design features an aggressive Griffins logo, yet he was able to keep the lines simple and capture the tradition of the game with use of the ties in the front of the jersey," Rich Meyers, the Griffins’ director of game operations, stated. "And his creative integration of the city’s logo into an allusion to the famous 'winged wheel' put Muraro's design at the top. I'm looking forward to seeing this jersey come to life on Dec. 31, once we’ve converted Ryan from a Milwaukee Admirals fan to a Griffins fan."

Ryan is an accomplished industrial designer and illustrator with a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The 23 year-old has designed suits for British speedskater Philip Brojaka as well as the Ukrainian national speedskating team, and will get to see his newest design on the ice in Grand Rapids, Michigan on December 31, 2010. From his comments, it appears the young man is a hockey history lover as well.

"I wanted to make an accelerated evolution of the Griffins’ current look, making sure to keep the same sort of structure," Muraro said in an interview. "For the jersey, I looked back to the jerseys the Griffins wore back when they began in the old IHL and wanted to emulate the feathered shoulders that were such a unique look. When I first saw them play the Admirals back then, I saw those jerseys and immediately identified them with the team, just as much as the logo itself."

Muraro will receive a customized jersey of his design and four tickets to the New Year's Eve game in honour of his winning design, and I'm hoping that he'll wear that jersey proudly. It looks great, and it should look fabulous on the ice! Congratulations to Ryan for his work, and I'm looking forward to seeing your design in action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 23 August 2010

Raw Talent

While this blog is devoted to the AHL news from the Manitoba Moose, I do keep my ear to the ground in terms of digging for other great news from around the AHL. Thanks to Randy Cleves, Senior Director of Public Relations for the Grand Rapids Griffins, I've been able to follow the happenings in Michigan with Detroit's AHL affiliate. While it is interesting to hear about future Red Wings, I've been much more interested in the stories coming out of the Griffins' camp about other hockey ventures. Tonight is one such story as the Griffins are proud to announce that they are developing hockey players for Team USA's sledge hockey team!

Nineteen year-old Tyler Anderson and sixteen year-old Chris Melton, a pair of defencemen, will suit up for the American National Sledge Hockey Team in the 2010-11 season as part of ten newcomers to the national team. Both men have spent the better part of a decade playing with the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, and now they have a chance to take their skills to another level with the national program.

What's great about this news is that this opportunity was made possible to these two young men thanks to the Grand Rapids Griffins, and, more importantly, by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Both of these organizations allow people with disabilities to participate in a variety of sports, and it's encouraging to see an AHL team promoting a national team that doesn't get much press.

Both men will still play with the Sled Wings this season, but will also participate in a number of national team camps in preparation for exhibition series against Canada's junior sledge hockey team.

From the press release, here is a little about the two men:

"Anderson has also played for both the Grand Rapids Junior Pacers wheelchair basketball team and the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association’s tennis team. The 2009 graduate of Jenison High School now attends Grand Rapids Community College.

"Melton, a junior at Zeeland East High School, is also a multi-sport athlete. An avid hunter, he plays wheelchair tennis for Zeeland East and is a member of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association’s tennis and hand cycling teams."
Pretty cool, in my opinion. The full American National Junior Sled Hockey Roster can be found here. If you notice, there's even one gal playing on the national team, proving that sledge hockey isn't just for boys. Kristina Vaughn, who I assume is a female with that name, is one of the nine forwards that were named to the team, and member of the Jamestown Lakers appears to be the only gal on this year's roster. Could we be seeing another trailblazer à la Manon Rheaume?

Overall, a great announcement to send out from the Griffins. While I'm certainly not turning my back on Team Canada, it's always nice to see a professional hockey team celebrating the achievements of a national team, especially when two of their own make it on to the roster! Congratulations to both Tyler Anderson and Chris Melton, and best of luck in your season and international games this year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 22 August 2010

Worth A Thousand Words

I received an email from Mr. Mark A. Penxa, the man whose shield logo is displayed prominently to the left. Mr. Penxa is an accomplished artist whose works include a ton of excellent hockey imagery. What makes Mr. Penxa's work so great, in my humble opinion, is that he really captures the essence of what hockey is: the contrasts and bold colours of the sweaters, the detail that goes into each player's chiseled look and face, and the overall passion for the game that is brought to life in each image. And Mr. Penxa wanted to let me know about his exhibition of hockey images called Stealing Signs 2: Memories From My Last Life; Saskatchewan, 1934.

As Mr. Penxa stated in his email, this new exhibition is "a visual love letter to the game that we love so much". And it truly is a visual cornucopia of hockey images that should please anyone's eyes. You can view the entire collection here, but I want to point out a few of Mr. Penxa's images that I really like.

There are lots of gorgeous pieces of art in Mr. Penxa's collection aside from the ones I've listed above. I encourage you to go through them and be inspired by Mr. Penxa's work. If I had any sort of artistic talent, I would possibly attempt something like this, but I know my limits.

If you're interested in purchasing one of Mr. Penxa's pieces for your own hockey-themed room, click on the "Purchasing Information" link on his site. They are reasonably priced, and they would really catch people's eyes on a wall with other hockey memorabilia.

Great work, Mr. Penxa, and thanks for emailing! You have a fan in me!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 21 August 2010

HBIC Comics - Volume 5

As we near the start of September, there are a lot of trainers and teams sending players out for specific training camp exercises in order to make them better as a player. Since I missed last week's Funnies as I was out in the great wilderness of Canada, that means I'm moving to a two-a-day schedule for today to get myself up to speed for this team. Absences be damned as a I need to get myself back on schedule! So without further adieu, here are your HBIC Funnies, two-by-two, for today!

Benchies is a comic strip produced by Rick Pearson. Mick and Mike find themselves in all sorts of humorous situations, and hockey is just one of those situations where crazy things happen to the guys! You can find more of Mr. Pearson's Benchies every weekend on Uni Watch Blog where Mick and Mike get up to all sorts of hijinks!

Here is your Benchies for August 21, and it's a two-part equation. Mick and Mike are looking for better training techniques, and they have found the answer... and a new innovation for hockey!

Small Market Sports is a comic strip produced by Bill Charbonneau where his cast of characters are always up to something. There's Carter (the baseball), Doug (the football), Dave (the sports radio), Nash (the basketball), and Wayne (the hockey puck). Named after the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, Wayne the puck is "a hot-tempered and slightly egotistical 'super-star' (in his own mind, anyway). As the ambassador to his sport, he is quick to defend the unrelenting jabs about the excessive violence that permeates his hockey. Even if he has to drop his gloves and knock some teeth in to do it." Mr. Charbonneau produces a new comic every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday about these characters, and you can find them on Small Market Sports!

Here are Small Market Sports comic strips for August 21. Wayne complains to Doug about how poorly hockey is covered in the US, and then Carter discovers that hockey and religion are related!

I also want to help out the author and illustrator of Small Market Sports. I can't thank Bill Charbonneau enough for allowing me to post some of my favorite Small Market Sports comic strips, so I want to post a recent note from his blog to help him out.

"First let me just say thank you to everyone for your kind words of encouragement. I am happy to report my wife is back to her normal self (well, normal pregnant self) and the baby is fine too. I probably should've updated the site with that information a little sooner, eh?

"Anyway, let's get back to the fun stuff, shall we?

"Fun stuff like the new t-shirt design available in the Small Market Sports shop, Hockey+Beer=ME!

"It's the perfect gift for both the hockey fan AND Small Market Sports comic strip fan in your life (or beer fan even!). I intend to be wearing one to the Toronto Maple Leafs / Philadelphia Flyers pre-season game being held at the John Labatt Centre here in London, Ontario in September. Provided, of course, that my wife isn't in the middle of giving birth at the time. :)

"All proceeds from the shirt sale will go directly into paying for anything my son might need the first few months of his life (you know, like food, clothing, shelter, booze, whores, an atomic arsenal, etc...)

"Okay, enough with the sales pitch... get back to enjoying the comics."

Help Bill out if you can! It's a great looking t-shirt!

Thanks to Rick Pearson and Bill Charbonneau as always! I'm off as I have a ball tournament to continue in on Sunday, and need some sleep!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 20 August 2010

Pure Canadiana

If there is one thing that Canada is known for, it surely has to be hockey. There are a few other things, though, that have put Canada on the map: snow, cold, the addition of "eh?" to questions, and comedians. That last one is quite notable since there have been a number of excellent Canadian comedians that have crossed the border and found great success on the south side of the Canada-US line. Among the comedic greats that we have exported from this country, two characters by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas seem to be the epitome of Canadian stereotypes, and one of the best ways at summing up all things Canadiana.

Bob and Doug McKenzie are the brain-children of Moranis and Thomas, and they regularly appeared on Canada's version of Saturday Night Live. SCTV, which stood for Second City Television, was a successful comedy skit show where a variety of highly-successful actors got their starts. For Moranis and Thomas, it was the starting point of a very "beauty" way to begin their movie careers.

Strange Brew was released in 1983, but the story itself was sold to MGM in 1981. Max Von Sydow is the biggest star in the film, and he plays the antagonist to Bob and Doug McKenzie. Where this movie ties into hockey, though, is through Von Sydow's characters mind-control beer.

Jean "Rosie" LeRose, a former hockey player who quit the game because of a nervous breakdown, is staying in the institution next door to Elsinore Brewery where the McKenzie boys work. Bob, played by Moranis, recognizes Rosie as one of hockey's greats, and gets him to sign a hockey card amongst many things that Rosie does in the movie.

Brewmeister Smith, played by Von Sydow, begins to add a chemical concoction to the beer that allows him to control people's minds through auditory cues. To demonstrate this, Brewmeister Smith has the patients from the institution play hockey against one another.

The result? See the following.

Of course, out of their love of all things Canadian, Bob and Doug got to do some pretty awesome commercials too, eh?

That's beauty, eh?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice, eh?

Thursday 19 August 2010

Thursday Updates

We have a number of excellent updates today that should start getting you ready for hockey. We're less than one month away from pre-season games, so hockey is right around the corner once again. And with it, the schedules for leagues start being released along with their TV schedules. CBC's Hockey Night In Canada is, as you may know, a staple on Canadian television on Saturday nights in the winter, and it is consistently one of the public broadcaster's highest-rated shows week in and week out. The Toronto Maple Leafs get a lot of broadcasts due to the CBC's proximity to the Air Canada Centre, but this year there will be another Toronto team that gets some airtime on the country's flagship hockey broadcast.

CBC announced today that they will broadcast ten AHL games on their station as part of a new hockey broadcast called "AHL on CBC". All ten games will feature at least one of the four Canadian-based AHL clubs, and these games will be aired on Sunday afternoons in conjunction with the AHL schedule.

Now, I have yet to see the Manitoba Moose schedule, but there are four Moose games that have been confirmed over the ten broadcasts. Thanks to a Moose press release, here is the AHL on CBC schedule for 2010-11:

Sunday, Oct. 17 – Binghamton at Toronto, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Oct. 24 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Nov. 21 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Dec. 12 – Toronto at Hamilton, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Jan. 16 – Toronto at Abbotsford, 2:00 ET
Sunday, Jan. 23 – Abbotsford at Manitoba, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Feb. 27 – Manitoba at Toronto, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Mar. 6 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Mar. 27 – Abbotsford at Manitoba, 1:00 ET
Sunday, Apr. 3 – Manitoba at Toronto, 1:00 ET

As you can see, each of the Canadian-based NHL teams will have their AHL affiliated team broadcasted at least once, and that should make Canadian hockey fans happy. Oklahoma City is the new AHL affiliate of the Oilers, and Binghamton is the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators.

I, as a hockey fan and an AHL fan, am pumped about this opportunity. The games will be featured on your local CBC station on TV as well as being available live and on-demand on CBCSports.ca

Good move by the CBC to start showing some of the next stars before they hit the NHL. The AHL is great hockey, and this exposure should help drive some people to their local AHL arena. Well done, and thumbs-up from this writer!

From the AHL schedule, we move to another scheduled game in the WHL. As you're aware, the Calgary Hitmen and the Regina Pats will meet on February 21 at McMahon Stadium in Calgary as part of the NHL's Heritage Classic weekend. However, the first outdoor game in the WHL's history may actually happen a month before the Hitmen and Pats clash.

The Spokane Chiefs announced on Wednesday that they will host the Kootenay Ice on January 15, 2011 at Avista Stadium in the league's first outdoor game. Avista Stadium is home to the Northwest League's Spokane Indians baseball club, a Short-Season A baseball club that is affiliated with MLB's Texas Rangers.

"Since the NHL outdoor game in Buffalo 2008, I have wanted the Spokane Chiefs to play in one," said Chiefs president Bobby Brett in a statement. "I think it will be an unbelievable event for our players and fans."

The average high for temperature in Spokane in January is approximately 34-degrees Fahrenheit, while the low is 23-degrees. This is nearly the same average that Buffalo experiences, so there may be some similarities in how slick the ice is and how the game is played. They receive approximately 1.76 inches of precipitation as well, so there may even be some snowflakes for this game like there was in Buffalo!

All in all, there might be a push amongst all the leagues to have one of these games per year. I, for one, enjoy them, and think that one per league per year is more than enough to satisfy any hockey fan's craving for outdoor games.

Speaking of the Heritage Classic game between the Hitmen and the Pats, the WHL's oldest team is going back to its roots for this historic game.

The Regina Pats will wear a jersey that resembles those from their 1924 team, the first season the Regina Pats played as the "Pats". Originally, the team was named the "Patricias" in honour of Princess Patricia of Connaught, the granddaugher of Queen Victoria and daughter of the Governor General.

The front of the jerseys are gorgeous - not overstated with any additional designs or logos. They are nearly identical to the original jerseys worn in 1924, and I like the cream-coloured background. Very nice, and a thumbs-up from me.

The back of the jerseys go more modern with block numbering and names, but red outline on the numbers almost disappears under the navy of the number. However, still a very decent design, and another thumbs-up for not overdoing it.

You might already know this, but I cannot stand the Rbk logos on CHL socks. Despite Weal's propensity for having his socks pulled up to different lengths, I like the striping and the colour scheme works very well with the pants in contrast to the socks.

Overall, a thumbs-up for this jersey design. The throwback is entirely appropriate, minus the Rbk logos. This should be a very good look for the Pats when they take the ice at McMahon Stadium in February.

That's all for today, but I'll be back tomorrow with some more news. As you may have read, I'm still looking for writers who want to pen an article in September, and you can help the wives of the NHL Officials by donating to help end women's cancers. Get on those activities!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 18 August 2010

WHA Reunion

The greatest line arguably in Winnipeg Jets history is pictured to the left. Bobby Hull was the superstar, but the two European talents made him that much better. Hull, Anders Hedberg, and Kent Nilsson took the WHA by storm as they shot the lights out, and their signings put Winnipeg on the hockey map. These three men racked up an amazing 1310 points between them during their reign of terror on the WHA, and the three men reunited in Winnipeg today for the first time since the 1978-79 season.

“The coach said, ‘Bobby, go with the Swedes,’” Hull told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, choking up at the memory. “I never saw two kids come out of the corner like they were shot out of a cannon like these two guys. And we went up the ice and, bing-bang-bing, it was in the net.”

Hull was the first major NHL superstar to jump ship to the WHA when the rebel league began. He joined the Winnipeg Jets in 1972, and promptly scored 51 goals and added 52 helpers in a mere 63 games for the upstart Jets. Two seasons later, Hull would record an astounding 77 goals and 65 assists in 78 WHA games.

Hedberg's first professional hockey game came in 1974-75 with the Jets. While he was a relative unknown as a Swedish player, his talents on the ice soon made him a household name. In his rookie season with the Jets, Hedberg recorded 53 goals and 47 assists in 63 games. Two seasons after recording 100 points as a rookie, Hedberg put up his highest point total of his career when he notched 70 goals and 61 assists in 1976-77 in just 68 games.

Nilsson was the last to join the Jets out of the three superstars, and came over to Winnipeg with Hedberg after having drafted by the Toronto Toros. Nilsson was a solid, consistent scoring threat for the Jets as he posted two straight seasons of 107 points. Nilsson would go on to play in the NHL, most notably for the Calgary Flames, but would never experience the same success as he had as a member of the "Hot Line" in Winnipeg.

"It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my lifetime, to come with Anders and be able to play with Bobby," Nilsson said to Friesen. "It was unbelievable to step on the ice with this old man."

It's not uncommon to see players getting together after their careers are over to reminisce about the "good ol' days", but the reunion of these three men is long overdue in the city where they played their greatest games. This reunion, however, was the result of some hard work by film director Tim Gassen.

Gassen is an Indianapolis, Indiana native who followed the WHA as a kid. His newest film is a documentary about the WHA which features the Winnipeg Jets. For Gassen, this reunion was enough of a reward for his new film which debuts Friday in Winnipeg.

"It was a surreal moment," Gassen told Friesen. "I’m not from Winnipeg. But I felt this incredible swell of pride for the people of Winnipeg. They’re here. They are so excited to be here. We could have done this in Toronto or a couple of other places. But they wanted to do it here."

"Being together means so much," Hull added. "I don’t think it matters where we are. You saw how emotional I got. And I don’t do that very often. I’m 71 years old. And I’m on the back nine. I’m not going to get many chances to be with three guys that made my life worth living back in 1974."

If it means anything to Mr. Hull, I, as a hockey fan, appreciate these three men getting back together after such a long period of being apart. And hockey fans in Winnipeg should appreciate the work these men did for their great city!

If you're in Winnipeg and are interested in going to the film premiere on Friday, please call the Amadeus Steen Foundation for more information at (204) 475-4744.

The WHA era in Winnipeg might be the greatest era of hockey in the city's history, and it's nice to see the men that made the Jets what they were back in each other's company in the city that loved them so dearly.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Zebra Chicks Care Too

This article isn't about any African hoofed animals, but there is a strong correlation to stripes and those that go about earning them. While I've talked a lot about the NHLPA charitable organizations, there's no doubt that there are other people that give their time and their efforts selflessly, and these people should also be highlighted for the efforts they are putting forth. The NHL Officials also do a phenomenal job in their charitable work, but it doesn't just end with the men that wear the stripes. Instead, the wives of NHL Officials have decided to raise a ton of money for a very good cause this summer.

If you wander over to the NHLOA website, you can find a great article written by Amy Watson, wife of NHL referee Brad Watson. In her article, you learn that Chris Van Massenhoven, Christa Cherrey, Kristen Ciamaga, Katie Line-Courcy Joannette, Tamara Devorski, Rhonda Galloway, Mary Imrie, Alaine Kowal, Kathy McConville Racicot, Natalie Miller, Natalie Miller-Kovachik and Michelle O’Halloran are all participating in the Shopper’s Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, taking place September 10 – 11 in Toronto. It's a great event, and they can use your help.

The ladies were inspired by Chris Van Massenhoven's fight against Stage Three breast cancer. Chris found out that she was afflicted with the disease in April 2009. After six months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and lymph node removal, she finally finished her radiation therapy in February 2010. Chris decided to participate in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers after defeating cancer.

When word of Chris' successful battle and charitable undertaking got around amongst the wives of the NHL officials, it became a no-brainer for the ladies to rally around Chris and her cause. After all, nearly everyone who is participating has been touched by cancer or knows someone who has been afflicted with cancer, so it's a cause that hits close to home.

"Together, I believe we can all make a difference," says Christa Cherrey, wife of NHL linesman Scott Cherrey. "I will walk for all the amazing survivors, those in my life who lost their fight too soon and for my daughter and nieces, in hopes that they will never be concerned about this."

And so it began: the "Zebra Chicks", named for their husbands' chosen field of work, decided to walk with Chris to show their support and raise money to help all women in their fight against cancer.

"Each member of this extended family is bringing a unique talent to the Zebra Chicks. Chris describes the Natalies as the organizers and Katie Joannette as the team recruiter. Kathy Racicot is the t-shirt designer and head cheerleader; Michelle O’Halloran is the pajama pre-party host; Christa Cherrey is the fundraising inspiration, and Alaine Kowal is the one with brilliant ideas. Tamara Devorski is the you-can-do-it girl and Rhonda Galloway is the motivational walker."

Now, I know Mrs. Galloway quite well, and I'm very proud of her in taking on this kind of challenge. She really is passionate about these kinds of events, and I'm quite certain that she's more than just a "motivational walker" in this group. Her energy and enthusiasm will not be lost on any of the women, and this outlook in life that she brings to everything will help to inspire everyone.

That's what I'm hoping to do today: inspire everyone. I'm pledging to donate $50 to Rhonda's total today, and I want to see the Zebra Chicks meet their goal of $26,400. I'm not soliciting donations, but I would hope that both Chris' story and the story of the Zebra Chicks would motivate you to add some money to their total. $10, $20, a nickel... anything to help them on their path to defeating cancer.

Here's how you can add some money if you so feel like donating:

  1. Click on this link to get you to the endcancer.ca website.
  2. Click on "Toronto" where the ladies will be walking.
  3. In the top right, click on the "Donate" button.
  4. Change the radio button to "Search for team", and enter "Zebra Chicks" in the search field.
  5. When the search returns the Zebra Chicks team, click on their name.
  6. You should arrive at this page where you get info on their progress.
  7. Click on any of the ladies' names, and make a donation to aid their progress.
I'm proud to mention this effort by the NHL Officials' wives as they help both a friend and colleague in Chris Van Massenhoven, as well as helping daughters, wives, aunts, grandmothers, and mothers across the country.

While their husbands are wearing the stripes, these ladies have certainly earned them. But they still have a ways to go in achieving their ultimate goal - defeating cancer for good!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 16 August 2010

Top Ten Skilled Players

I've talked a little in the past about the excellent work TSN is doing in terms of their hockey coverage. They have expanded their hockey coverage from the Toronto region to covering high-profile games in the United States. They have brought in more excellent analysts and former players for insights into the game. And they have gone out of their way to produce outstanding hockey broadcasts to rival those on CBC's flagship Hockey Night In Canada programming. Today is no exception as TSN takes a look at the ten most-skilled players to have played in the NHL.

Part One takes you through Players #10 through #4, and there are some amazing players in this group.

Gilbert Perreault is a player I would have loved to see play in real-life. He's just so fluid with the puck, and it seems as though it takes no effort for him to skate!

Part Two deals with the top-three players, and adds a highlight package featuring "The Best of the Rest". However, the amount of skill in this last ten-minute clip is simply outstanding.
Wayne? Simply outstanding. Bobby Orr? Changed the way that the game was played both offensively and defensively. Mario Lemieux? You could have run a half-hour of highlight reel goals, and no one would complain.

The goal against the North Stars where he put the puck through Shawn Chambers' skates? Legendary.
The goal where he slipped the puck through Ray Bourque's skates and accelerated past Bourque to regain control and score? Mythical.

There's a little fun for a Monday night. Enjoy, and I'll be back with something special tomorrow evening.

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 15 August 2010

Revisiting The WHA

As you're aware, I love hockey history. There are countless stories that have gone down in history that have been forgotten where today's hockey culture could learn a lot. I'm not sure why the NHL fails to recognize the efforts put forth by a number of players in the WHA, but it is what it is at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and I'll leave it at that. The stories that come out of that league about the way things were done behind the scenes, though, are close to being stories presented by Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone. Today is one such story, and it was reported in Sports Illustrated on May 28, 1979 by Reyn Davis. Enjoy the article, and I'll pick up some of the interesting points below.

  • "Joanne Hull was screaming at her husband: 'Why would you ever want to live in Winnipeg and play for that fat Jew?'" Wow. I'm not sure how many players' wives would negotiate with their husbands that way today, but Joanne Hull made it clear that she was not happy about Bobby Hull's dealings with Ben Hatskin.
  • "[I]t will live again next season when New England, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec—the four hearty survivors of the 32 teams that at one time or another belonged to the "other" league—join the NHL". I'll be honest when I say that I didn't know that there were 32 franchises that once played in the WHA. And here we sit today with the NHL at 30 franchises and "struggling". Deja vu, anyone? More on this below.
  • "Lured from the Boston Bruins by a $2.7 million contract with the Philadelphia Blazers, Sanderson played just six games for Philly before he became persona non grata because of his frequent disappearances". Sanderson was thought to be a big-time player in the same mold as Hull, but it seemed as though he didn't care about hockey in the least.
  • "One team had four names—New York Raiders, New York Golden Blades, New Jersey Knights and San Diego Mariners. Norm Ferguson was the captain and player representative of all four clubs. 'I remember the day I signed with the Raiders,' Ferguson says. 'It was April Fools' Day of 1972.'" 'Nuff said there, I suppose.
  • "When the Golden Blades couldn't meet their second payroll in 1973, the franchise was placed in receivership by the league and whisked off to Cherry Hill, N.J., just a step ahead of the bailiff." You are reading that correctly - the Golden Blades lasted exactly one two-week pay period before relocating. Ouch.
  • "There were no showers in the visiting team's dressing room, so the opposition had to dress at the Holiday Inn two miles up the road." This is in regards to the Cherry Hill Arena that the New Jersey Knights played in. No showers? That's inexcusable.
  • "Five Crusaders had their cars stolen out of the parking lot at the Arena, Wayne Muloin and Tom Edur both losing new Thunderbirds on the same night. Steve Thomas, the Crusaders' trainer, who often had to work at the Arena late at night, was mugged three times one winter." Who would want to see hockey in Cleveland with that kind of track record? Forget taking your kids to the game!
  • "A good travel agent was as valuable as a 40-goal scorer." The WHA travel schedule was simply brutal compared to the NHL of today. Because most WHA franchises were in "outposts" compared to their NHL brethren, the comment above proved true.
  • "[T]hose Jets are the last professional team to have beaten the Soviet National team". Those Jets are the 1977-78 Jets, regarded as perhaps the best team to have ever played in the WHA. Bobby Hull, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Ulf Nilsson, and Anders Hedberg brought fans to their feet every time they were on the ice.
To put this in perspective, only four teams survived the NHL-WHA merger, if you can call it that: the Winnipeg Jets, the Edmonton Oilers, the New England Whalers, and the Quebec Nordiques. Those that didn't survive include "the New York Raiders, the New York Golden Blades, the New Jersey Knights, the San Diego Mariners, the Houston Aeros, the Philadelphia Blazers, the Vancouver Blazers, the Alberta Oilers, the Calgary Cowboys, the Minnesota Fighting Saints, the Chicago Cougars, the Denver Spurs, the Ottawa Civics, the Ottawa Nationals, the Toronto Toros, the Los Angeles Sharks, the Michigan Stags, the Baltimore Blades, the Cleveland Crusaders, the Minnesota New Fighting Saints, the Phoenix Roadrunners, the Cincinnati Stingers, the Birmingham Bulls, the Indianapolis Racers—plus the Calgary Broncos and the Miami Screaming Eagles, who never got on the ice, and San Francisco and Dayton, which were not around long enough even to get nicknames."

That's a pretty extensive list of teams that met their ultimate demise, considering that the WHA only existed from 1972 until 1979. As seen above, the New York Golden Blades only lasted two weeks before moving to New Jersey, while the Ottawa Civics only lasted one game before moving to Denver to become the Denver Spurs.

All in all, the WHA was a pretty crazy era in hockey, and it's full of great history. Thanks to Sports Illustrated's vault, we get to read about it and relive the insanity a little more.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 14 August 2010

Weekend Away

I am spending this weekend away from the sights and sounds of everyday life by taking in some lakeside comfort at a friend's place outside the city. It's quaint, it's quiet, and it's a break from the everyday hustle and bustle I usually do on the weekends. That being said, I drove through Neepawa today which is home to the MJHL's Neepawa Natives. Neepawa, Manitoba is also the home to NHL defenceman Shane Hnidy. No matter where you go in this country, you're always connected to the game somehow. And that's why I love both this country and its official winter sport.

That being said, no major piece today as I was on the road for most of the day, and I'll be getting caught up with friends who I haven't seen in some time. It will be good to get back into the swing of things with these people, so don't expect anything ridiculous on this site today.

I do want to remind everyone that I'm hunting for people who want to write one or two articles in September while I'm off on holidays. I've had a good number of people sign up, but I'm certainly in favor of "the more, the merrier". Check out the blog post from last Sunday describing what's happening in regards to this.

All in all, a quiet weekend here, but if you're interested in posting one or two articles next month, I really encourage you to get in touch with me. I'm excited for the opportunity that will allow my readers to determine what is being written. After all, if it weren't for the people who stop by, there wouldn't be much point in scribing these ideas. In that regard, thanks to everyone who stops by!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 13 August 2010


There are a ton of superstitious stuff happening today, given that today is the ominous "Friday the thirteenth". There were horror movies made that had very little premise about the superstitious day, but they were somewhat-entertaining. What is it about triskaidekaphobia - the fear of the number thirteen - that gets people so superstitious anyway? Historically, we can go back to the Code of Hammurabi which left out the thirteenth law, but it has been proven that the laws were not numbered. In the end, it's all superstition, and HBIC wants to take a look at some of the men who were brave enough to sport "13" on the back of the jerseys in the NHL. After all, superstitions be damned!

  • According to research, there have been 70 players who have worn #13 in the NHL since the 1950s.
  • There are only two teams to not have any players (that I could find) wear #13 in the last sixty years: the Minnesota Wild, and, surprisingly, the New Jersey Devils. Maybe Jacques Lemaire had something to do with that?
  • The Boston Bruins have had the most #13s in the NHL with seven players dressing in that number. They are Stanislav Chistov, Bill Guerin, Ken Linseman, Glen Metropolit, Gregori Panteleev, Jim Schoenfeld, and Wes Walz.
  • The New York Rangers have the second-most players wearing #13 with six. They are Bob Brooke, Valeri Kamensky, Sergei Nemchinov, Richard Scott, Jack Stoddard, and Nikolai Zherdev.
  • The Edmonton Oilers take bronze in the battle of #13. They have five players, and they are Andrew Cogliano, Todd Harvey, Risto Jalo, Ken Linseman, and German Titov.
  • Bill Guerin is the most-traveled #13 in the NHL. He has worn #13 for six different teams - Boston, Dallas, San Jose, St. Louis, the New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh.
  • Mats Sundin currently holds down the top spot for most years wearing #13 in the same city. Sundin spent nine seasons in Toronto wearing #13. However, with the opening of the 2010-11 season, Pavel Datsyuk will tie Sundin's mark. Looking forward, Datsyuk may break this record with ease in setting a new longevity mark in one city.
  • There are a few cities where the #13 hasn't played long. Buffalo had five players wear #13, but only two of them put in a second year as #13 - Yuri Khymlev and Jiri Novotny. St. Louis had four players wear #13, and only one has played two years there - Dan Hinote. Hinote is currently playing in Sweden, so these two cities will have to wait for a longer 13 legacy. Nashville had only had two players to wear #13, and neither made it to a second year... yet. Nick Spaling might be able to continue as #13 in this upcoming season.
  • The most famous players to wear #13, in my opinion, are Pavel Datsyuk, Teemu Selanne, Mats Sundin, Ken Linesman, Bill Guerin, Ray Whitney, and Mike Cammalleri. That list is in no particular order, either.
  • Detroit has had very good luck with #13. Both Pavel Datsyuk and Vyacheslav Kozlov wore #13 in Detroit, and both men have hoisted the Stanley Cup while wearing the unlucky number. Detroit is the only such team to have accomplished this feat since the 1950s.
  • There have been six teams to have only one player wear #13 since the 1950s - Chicago (Alexei Zhamnov), Columbus (Nikolai Zherdev), the Kansas City Scouts (Robin Burns), the Hartford Whalers (Geoff Sanderson), the Cleveland Barons (Bjorn Johansson), and the Quebec Nordiques (Mats Sundin).
There are some notes about thirteen on Friday the 13th. Obviously, players are somewhat superstitious in their practices and numbers, so thirteen isn't the most obvious choice most times. However, as seen above, there are some definite stars who have worn or are wearing #13 in the NHL. Triskaidekaphobia? Not in most cases.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

***Huge thanks goes out to Hockey-Reference.com for assistance in this research! And a big thanks to the Anonymous commentor who caught my football-induced KC name!***

Thursday 12 August 2010

Girls Being Drafted

This is not going to be an article about women in the military, although I would like to point out that HBIC is a big supporter of equality. That being said, the very first draft was held on Thursday evening at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the newly-founded Canadian Women's Hockey League. While only three of the five teams took part in the draft, it was seen as a success for the fledgling league as they look to break new ground in women's professional hockey.

The idea behind the draft was to create better parity in the league. Normally, teams fill out their rosters with the best players they can find, and player movement within the league is minimal at best. In order to shake the teams up and create some parity for the newer expansion teams in Toronto and Boston, the CWHL decided to employ a draft to move players around. The only catch was that each team could protect five players from the draft.

"In other professional leagues, people get place on different teams and people get traded and we in women's hockey have never really experienced that," goaltender Sami Jo Small explained to The Canadian Press. "It's been your choice as to where you want to go.

"Now you go where you are drafted and you have to make it work there and you really have to work hard to make it work."

With that knowledge, the woman pictured above, Tessa Bonhomme, was selected by Toronto as the very first CWHL draft pick. The former Ohio State Buckeye captain will suit up on the blueline for the as-yet-unnamed Toronto squad alongside current and former Canadian National Team members such as Sami Jo Small and Jennifer Botterill. Both of those players were on Toronto's five-player protected list.

Bonhomme is a self-described "offensive defenceman", and that should prove to be valuable in the new league when trying to attract fans to games. The 24 year-old's hockey skill has provided her opportunities with Team Canada, so you know she has the skill to back-up the lofty draft position.

The second overall pick went to Burlington, and they chose forward Ashley Riggs. Riggs was a member of the Niagara University Purple Eagles, and was a dynamic scorer for the school. Riggs holds the single-season school records at Niagara for points (51), goals (29), shorthanded goals (6), plus-minus (+29), and hat tricks (4). She's third all-time in scoring for Niagara, so Burlington is getting a very accomplished scorer in Ashley Riggs. Burlington protected four-time Olympic defenceman Becky Kellar to strengthen their squad.

The third overall pick went to Toronto again, and they opted to choose Brittney Smith. I have no information on Miss Smith, but I'm going to go ahead and assume she's a fantastic hockey player. That seems safe.

There is absolutely no news on the results of the draft results anywhere on the Internet, so I can't tell you who Brampton chose with their first selection. I can tell you that Brampton protected Olympians Cherie Piper, Jayna Hefford and Gillian Apps on their roster, so they'll start with an excellent foundation of experienced players.

Montreal and Boston did not participate in the draft due to costs of having players travel and potentially move to a new city to play hockey. The league felt that they were not in a position to tell the women where to play based on the fact that players in the CWHL are not paid a salary to play. Travel costs and ice-time during the season are covered by the league and teams, but the players receive no pay to play. To compensate Montreal and Boston, those two teams are able to recruit and sign players from their respective regions.

"We're not paying enough money to make a woman move from [Toronto] to Boston," CWHL executive director Brenda Andress said from Toronto. "It's not feasible or logical at this point."

Essentially, it's like the NHL circa-1920 for the CWHL where players from various regions are recruited and play for their local teams. To ensure that the players from the Greater Toronto Area are spread out evenly, the draft was devised to create parity amongst the southern Ontario teams.

The CWHL is smaller by one team this year. Last season, the league featured the Mississauga Chiefs, Brampton Canadette-Thunder, Burlington Barracudas, Vaughn Flames, Montreal Stars and Ottawa Senators. While Montreal, Burlington, and Brampton were retained as teams for the 2010-11 season, there were a few losses.

Ottawa was having problems drawing enough elite players to compete with Montreal and the Toronto-based teams in the CWHL, so they withdrew from the league. The league made an executive decision to shut down the Vaughn team in order to prevent a "watering-down" of talent amongst the GTA teams.

In their places are a team based in Toronto and the first non-Canadian team in Boston. The Boston team has already committed to practicing at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, and to play their home games in the greater Boston area.

Boston has already announced that American Olympians Kacey Bellamy (UNH), Caitlin Cahow (Harvard), Angela Ruggiero (Harvard), Erika Lawler, Karen Thatcher (Providence College) and Molly Engstrom will be a part of their team. Tryouts have been extended to defenceman Cherie Hendrickson, former UNH standouts Micaela Long and Sam Faber, and former Boston University goalie Melissa Haber. Hendrickson suited up for Brampton last season, so her experience will be counted on for this expansion season.

Canadian Olympians Caroline Ouellette, Kim St. Pierre and Sarah Vaillancourt have announced that they will play for Montreal next season.

For more information on which players were protected by each team, please click this link that will take you to the CWHL website.

Pretty cool idea in the CWHL, and I'm happy to see that the league is starting to gain ground. The "fantasy draft" is a very novel idea in the world of hockey, and it may prove to be the best way for this league to survive. Well done, ladies, and good luck in the upcoming season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Team Canada Summer Fun

While many other sixteen and seventeen year-old boys are off discovering the joys of a first job, a first car, and many other firsts this summer, there are some who have traveled to Slovakia where they are representing Canada on the ice. The Ivan Hlinka Tournament is currently being played in Piestany, Slovakia - where the Canadians have made memories once before - but the U-18 team is currently making the country proud as they march towards a gold medal. Canada is looking at a semi-final game already after having cruised through the round-robin portion of the tournament. We'll take a look at how they got to the semi-finals, and who they will be playing.

Canada opened the round-robin on Monday with a 6-3 defeat of Sweden. It didn't look very good in the middle frame as Sweden had built a 3-1 lead over the team in red, but the Canadians stormed back with five unanswered goals to secure the victory. Daniel Catenacci had a pair of goals in the win, but head coach George Burnett felt that the team needed this kind of win to prepare them for the rest of the tournament.

"We had a good start, we scored the first goal early but I think we ran into some lessons-to-be-learned," Burnett stated matter-of-factly to The Canadian Press. "We took seven stick penalties so we've got to tidy that up.

"Most of them were from being on the wrong side of the puck or trying to use your stick to check which doesn't work well in events like this, so they got some power-play goals. But we made some adjustments in the second period... and we got some good transition turnovers from some back pressure which was essential against a team that plays with the puck possession that these guys do and we turned some of those into goals."

Canada's winning ways wouldn't get any time off as they entered Tuesday with a date against Switzerland, a team who seems to play its best hockey against the Canadians. Canada went up 2-0 just 2:34 into the game, and never looked back as they led 2-1 after the first period, and 6-2 after the second period. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recorded a hat trick against the Swiss, and Brett Ritchie notched a pair in pacing Canada to the win. Tyson Teichmann made 21 saves for his second victory of the tournament. Coach Burnett liked what he saw from his team on Tuesday.

"Our game was better today so I think I can comfortably say that we've gotten better every day since camp," Burnett told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. "That's the big challenge – that you try to be better every day."

It was discovered that several of the Team Canada players have been suffering with the flu, so their Wednesday game against the host Slovakian team may have proved tougher than the Slovaks' 0-2 record showed. Canada fought through the illness, and prevailed with a 6-1 victory over Slovakia. Boone Jenner scored twice in the victory, and it was far more lopsided than the exhibition game that these two teams played. Canada squeaked by with a 3-2 overtime win in that game last Saturday.

The big win for Canada also allowed the Canadian coaching staff to sit a few of the players who had been suffering from the flu. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and defenceman Ryan Murray were given a chance to watch the third period from the bench as they look to rebound from the flu bug for their semi-final game.

With the standings settled after the round-robin, there were a few surprises to report:

  • Monday saw Finland defeat the Russians by a 3-2 score after a shootout. It was not the way that the Russians wanted to start, and it put them behind the eight-ball.
  • The Russians rallied on Tuesday to beat Team USA by a 6-5 score in overtime. While Russia needed a regulation win, any win was better than no win at all.
  • The Americans finished first in Pool A after defeating the Czech Republic 3-2 on Monday and by defeating the Finns 5-2 on Wednesday. That overtime loss to the Russians wouldn't come into play in terms of tie-breaking scenarios after all.
  • The Czechs, on the other hand, beat the Russians on Wednesday by a 3-2 score. That bumped the Russians out of the medal round, and into the fifth-place game. That game against Finland, who will play for seventh-place, was definitely a massive loss.
The standings are as follows:

Group A
USA 2 0 0 1 13 10 7
Czech Republic 2 0 1 0 9 8 6
Russia 0 1 1 1 10 11 3
Finland 0 1 2 0 8 11 2

Group B
Canada 3 0 0 0 19 7 9
Sweden 2 0 1 0 17 10 6
Switzerland 1 0 2 0 11 15 3
Slovakia 0 0 3 0 6 21 0

That means that Finland and Slovakia will battle for seventh-place, and Russia and Switzerland will battle for fifth-place. The medal round sees Team USA take on Sweden for a berth in the gold medal game, while Canada tangles with the Czech Republic for the right to play for gold.

Canadian head coach George Burnett thinks that the Czechs will be a good test for his squad on Friday. "They're a very competitive team, they really pressured hard,” Burnett told The Canadian Press. "There's no passive play at all. It was very aggressive and it's nice that we know that now.

"I'm sure there'll be a home crowd contingent as well."

That "home crowd contingent" Burnett speaks of is the crowd in Breclav, Czech Republic. The medal-round game shifts to the Czech Republic, providing the Canadians with a little more adversity to deal with in their quest for a gold medal. If they continue to play well, though, they should be able to advance to the gold medal game on Saturday.

All in all, it appears that several Canadian sixteen and seventeen year-old boys will return from Europe with some hardware this summer. All that remains to be seen is which colour of medal they return with. That being said, the hardest game lies in front of them on Friday against the Czech Republic. GO CANADA GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!