Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Halloween!

I'll be spending my day out and about as I'm volunteering at a Halloween event down the road from HBIC headquarters. Halloween is a great evening for the kids, and I really think that kids who don't go out into the night to knock on doors and holler that magical Halloween phrase are missing out on what makes being a kid so great.

That being said, if you are heading out tonight, please be careful, wear reflectors if you're wearing a dark costume, carry some sort of pillowcase or bucket, and get your fill of Halloween goodies. I'll be back tomorrow with regular HBIC chatter!

Until then, keep your spooky sticks on the scary ice!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

TBC: Hat Trick

Teebz's Book Club has been tearing through books lately in an effort to give children everywhere an opportunity to find hockey stories to read during National Young Readers Week. There are some excellent stories that have been produced by very good authors, and these men and women deserve a little attention from your little hockey player or fan. Today, TBC is featuring another excellent story and author as I'm proud to bring to you Hat Trick, written by W.C. Mack and published by Scholastic Canada. Hat Trick is a very good story that has some excellent life lessons that children can learn from and apply to their lives as they read about Jonathan McDonald's struggles in this book.

According to Miss Mack's biography in the back of her book, "W.C. Mack was born in Vancouver, BC and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Always a Canucks fan, W.C. Mack has also been known to cheer for the Portland Winterhawks". From the site, "W.C. Mack was raised in Vancouver, BC, where she is certain her parents unwittingly cursed her writing career with a happy and stable childhood. Luckily, happiness did not impede her ability to write Hat Trick, nor her first book for middle-grade readers, After All, You're Callie Boone, also published by Scholastic".

Jonathan "Nugget" McDonald is a hockey player for the Cutter Bay Cougars in British Columbia, Canada. Jonathan, like most eleven year-olds, loves to play hockey and hates doing homework. It is here where Jonathan finds out how important school is in the grand scheme of his hockey life. And it only gets worse when a rival player named Eddie Bosko moves to town.

Jonathan hates math and conveniently forgets to do his assignments because he is more concerned with hockey. Mr. Holloway, his math teacher, doesn't let Jonathan off the hook, however, and informs Jonathan's parents at a parent-teacher interview that Joanthan's math marks aren't even close to where they should be. Jonathan's mother and father know the importance of school considering that Jonathan's dad was a Calgary Flames draft pick whose career was cut short after getting hit in the face with a puck. Because of this set of developments, the McDonald parents hire Eddie Bosko as Jonathan's tutor!

To make matters worse, Eddie Bosko isn't just a hockey player, but a right winger like Jonathan! Not only is a former rival now playing on his team, but Bosko is also trying to steal his position! And now the hulking winger was going to be his math tutor?!? What else could go wrong for Jonathan?

The one thing that Jonathan could rely on is his hockey skill. Jonathan had trained hard in the off-season, and the results were showing on the ice. Jonathan also was interested in a radio contest held on PUCK radio where the grand prize was tickets to a Vancouver Canucks game and the chance to shoot from center ice for prizes! Of course, Jonathan's favorite team is the Vancouver Canucks, and Jean Ducette of the Canucks is his favorite player.

Could he solve the trivia question for the prize?
Can he figure out math to pass Mr. Holloway's class?
Can he outperform Eddie Bosko to keep his position on the ice?

I really like the messages contained within Miss Mack's book. Hat Trick provides an excellent moral story without being too preachy, and Jonathan's story is one that kids should relate to in terms of school being more important than sports. The conflicts, both internally and externally, that Jonathan faces present very good lessons that all children should know.

Hat Trick is 163 pages long, but it shouldn't be too difficult for younger readers to get through, and the chapters are broken up quite nicely into small sections. Miss Mack has done an excellent job in making this book easy to read as well as providing some excellent lessons that all kids should know. Because of these reasons, Hat Trick certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. Add it to your hockey player's or hockey fan's collection so they can enjoy it over National Young Readers Week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Blue For The New Year

Despite looking a lot like Darth Vader walking through the corridors of the Death Star, the man to the left is Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Yesterday, we got our first glimpse of the new uniforms the Penguins will be wearing on January 1, 2011 against the Washington Capitals at the Bridgestone Winter Classic. As we saw in the first Winter Classic, the Penguins went back throuhg their past to come up with a gorgeous baby blue jersey, and have continued to use that uniform as their alternate jersey for their fifteen selected dates. If you're collecting Penguins jerseys, here is the next jersey for your closet as the 2011 Winter Classic will be blue again in Steeltown.

The Penguins have worn dark blue in their past, and the baby blue is slightly passé now that they have worn it for the past three seasons. I still like the baby blue uniform, but this is a step forward for the Winter Classic. There were other options that the Penguins could have used, and they certainly could have returned to Robo-Pigeon, but the Penguins are introducing a historical mash-up for this year's Winter Classic.

The logo chosen by the Penguins for this jersey is one of their very first logos. As you can see, the skating penguin is quite rotund and drawn in very simple lines unlike the vast majority of logos today. It is also quite happier than the current skating penguin, something that seemed to change as the Penguins evolved throughout the years. Overall, though, I like this older logo for a one-off jersey. And if they plan on using this jersey as an alternate, it is an excellent historical logo for throwback games.

The new Winter Classic jerseys are a mash-up of various other uniforms that the Penguins wore in their history. The arm and hem stripes are clearly from their original 1967-68 jerseys, but have been changed from dark blue to baby blue. The lace-up collar also remains from that jersey, but I'm really starting to wish that teams would move away from that trend. There is nothing wrong with the V-neck jersey that has been worn for a long time.

The font on the back is from the 1967-68 uniform as well, but the Penguins seem to have added gray to the white numbers to make them more subtle. I'm not sure why this was done, but perhaps there have been complaints about glare off the bright white jerseys when playing outdoors. Aside from that, there aren't really any other reasons I can think of in terms of graying the number font.

The names on the back of the jersey didn't appear on the dark uniforms until 1977 when navy became the dominant colour, so it appears the names are appearing due to the jerseys being mostly navy. Incidentally, the home white jerseys had names in 1970, but it took seven years for names to be added to the dark jerseys. Much like the numbers, however, the names are also that subtle gray rather than white. The captaincy designations are brand-new as far as I can tell since that font was never used on a Penguins jersey to designate captaincies.

Overall, I think this jersey does the trick, but I'm not overly happy about it being a mash-up of various blue jerseys throughout the Penguins history. One thing that did impress me was Reebok's usage of the collar to commemorate the game. However, the three million Reebok logos right below the collar still bothers me quite a bit. While I would have preferred the Penguins to choose one jersey from their history and go with it, I think this one does the trick for the Winter Classic.

Comparatively to the last Winter Classic, I much prefer the baby blue jersey. Here's hoping it will still be used in the future by the Penguins.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

TBC: Top 100 Players By Position

I'm a pretty regular reader of The Hockey News. They always present excellent pieces, and their writers have exceptional insight and information that they include in their articles. Occasionally, they will produce a "Collector's Edition" of their publication that normally generates some buzz about the sport. They have seemingly done this again as I received their newest publication entitled "Top 100 Players of All-Time by Position". There is always debate and discussion whenever a publication narrows down their sport or industry by the top however-many, but The Hockey News goes one step further in examining the sport by position, and ranking players according to their position rather than ranking them overall. Needless to say, this effort by The Hockey News should generate conversation if nothing else.

There shouldn't be a lot of surprise about who made the list. Names like Gretzky, Orr, Howe, Lafleur, Béliveau, Lemieux, Bourque, Coffey, Roy, and Hasek are almost given that they will appear on the list. And while this list has a lot of the same feeling as the 1997 Top 100 Players of All-Time, it is very interesting to see who made the new list after having been left off the first list. Also, the list has seen some players rise above others as their accomplishments over the last decade have given them a more impressive resumé since that 1998 list came out.

There are some players who I think should be included on the list that were left off through some process. Valeri Kharlamov? Vladislav Tretiak? Where are these iconic players? They are normally regarded as two of the top players to have ever laced up skates in hockey, but neither appeared in the NHL. Why do they not get a nod on the Top 100 Players of All-Time by Position? Perhaps THN needs to name it more succinctly as the NHL's Top 100.

Regardless of this oversight, the top 50 players from 1997's THN Top 100 Players of All-Time are all ranked within this book except one player. Max Bentley of the Chicago Blackhawks no longer appears amongst the top twenty centermen to have played the game. Of course, there are many players who could have moved ahead of the former Blackhawk, but it seems hard to believe that a large number of centermen have improved that much over the last 13 years. Guys like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic certainly have reason to be ranked ahead after leading their teams to Stanley Cups as well as being icons in their own rights, but Max Bentley has been omitted as one of the top centermen over the last 13 years after having been voted better than both Yzerman and Sakic. And if Bentley was on the list 13 years ago and Marcel Dionne was not, how is Dionne now better than Bentley?

There are many other questions that one may find when reading this Collector's Edition of THN. Questions that I have are as follows:

  • Is Nicklas Lidstrom really a better defenceman than Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Al MacInnis, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Leetch? I could make a case for him against each man, but to say he's all-around better than a man like Robinson seems very hard to justify. That's not saying Lidstrom doesn't deserve his spot on the list; he just doesn't seem to be better than at least two of the listed men.
  • Should Peter Forsberg be ahead of Sidney Crosby? Should either of them even be on the list, especially Crosby at this point in his career?
  • The list of left wingers is mediocre at best. Alex Ovechkin ranks four spots better than Brendan Shanahan, five better than Michel Goulet, and twelve spots better than Henrik Zetterberg. I get that Ovechkin is an amazing talent, but Henrik and Brendan have Stanley Cup rings while Goulet was a scoring machine no matter which team of which he was a part.
  • Alex Mogilny makes the list for right wingers. Aside from a few great years in Buffalo, why would he be on this list? Mogilny was talented and could score when healthy, but the man could hardly be considered a contemporary of players like Gartner, Bossy, Jagr, and Kurri.
  • If given the option of these three goalies, who would rank highest in your view: Bernie Parent, Tony Esposito, and Turk Broda? Goaltenders are always tough to rank, in my view, but there seems to be a definite Canadien flavor on this list. And while I can't argue with any of the selections, I can tell you that Johnny Bower is not on this list. And that seems very odd.
Overall, the magazine does generate a lot of debate. My father and I had a discussion over whether Phil Esposito should be higher than his seventh spot on the centers list, but there is no right or wrong answer in terms of how one justifies one's choosing of who ranks ahead of whom. Just as your favorite team is a subjective view, so are how the players are ranked, and it's clear that some may disagree with the panel that The Hockey News asked to participate.

Head out and get this magazine. Let the debate begin. I'm very certain that you'll find some disagreement, but the discussion you may have with others should enlighten both debaters as the list brings you new appreciation of certain players.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 3

The Banter returns today with the Moose staring down a couple of dates with the Hamilton Bulldogs at MTS Centre in a rematch of the Calder Cup North Division semi-final from last year. The Moose faltered in their home-opening weekend against the Grand Rapids Griffins, falling to 2-2-0 on the season, so they were looking to get back on the right track with a couple of wins against their divisional opponent. As always, for all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to check out the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. On to Week Three of Hardcore Hockey!

Renewed Rivalry

There is something to be said for North Division matchups between the Moose and Bulldogs. Both of these teams have good scoring, good defences, and high-quality goaltending. The Bulldogs came into Winnipeg with several of their players from last season still on their roster, but they certainly have some new talent added to their lineup. This game was wild and wacky, but there would be a good finish.

If there has been one thing that has been consistent this season for the Moose, it is the play of their goaltenders. Eddie Lack got the call on October 21 for the Moose, and he turned in a decent effort again. Lack was not as spectacular as he was a weekend earlier, but he made the majority of the saves he could see, and that's what you need your goaltender to do if you want to win night in and night out.

The Moose have to be happy with the offensive contributions they are receiving from their blueliners, especially one young man. Kevin Connauton chipped in with a goal and an assist on this evening, and leads the Moose defencemen in scoring. The youngster still needs a little work on his defensive play inside his own blueline, but he seems to be able to read the play very well in the offensive zone when he has the puck.

We all know shootouts are extremely important when it comes to points in the standings, so your best players have to be at their bests when the breakaway competition begins. It was nice to see Marco Rosa score on a nice move to slip the puck between Robert Meyer's pads, and that was followed by a big league backhander upstairs by Jordan Schroeder after a nice kick and deke. The Moose probably would like to win at the end of sixty minutes, but getting the extra points from the collection of talent on the bench is definitely an advantage.

Hamilton's Robert Meyer had a strong game, but when it came to the shootout, Eddie Lack was perfect in stopping four Hamilton players. With goals by Rosa and Schroeder, the Moose took the first of the two dates by a 4-3 shootout victory, and push their record to 3-2-0 for the season.

Déja Vu On Night Two

It took just over a period to get these two teams to start up the scoring machine, but once they did, it was like an old-fashioned pond hockey game. After having lost to the Moose one night earlier, the Bulldogs were certainly looking for some revenge. The Moose are 2-1 on the back-end of a two-night affair as well as 2-1 on Friday nights, so they were looking to improve upon those records as they met the Bulldogs on the back half of a home series on a Friday night.

Big game for three men that were thought to be cornerstones of the Moose offence this season. Cody Hodgson, Marco Rosa, and Joel Perrault all found the scoresheet with goals against the Bulldogs, and there's hope that these three men can continue to light the lamp. If there were proverbial monkeys on their backs, they all shook them off in one game. Here's hoping this a trend to come as the Moose have far too much talent on the bench not to score.

There seems to be a disturbing trend where the Moose fall asleep in front of their goalies for a short period of time. It happened a couple of times earlier this season, but it was very apparent that the Moose were just going through the motions for about three minutes in the second period while the Bulldogs padded their lead. Tyler Weiman can only do so much, and it was hard to watch the Moose ease up on their physical play. In their own zone, the Moose were guilty of standing around rather than forcing errors, and it nearly cost them two points on this night. I'm quite certain that head coach Claude Noel will have a discussion with his troops about this, but it must be corrected.

I'll give some credit to Aaron Volpatti, but I'm not going to give him nor the Moose an outright pass on this evening. Volpatti and Ryan White may have offered up the best hockey fight of the season in any professional league thus far, but the Moose seemed to step backwards after this physicality. I'm going to be a broken record this season, it seems, as I want to see the Moose play far more physical than what they currently show. They need to prove to me and to the rest of the AHL that they will not be pushed around by anyone, and are willing to sacrifice the body for the greater good. If the Moose aren't willing to play more physical, they will end up as also-rans in this 2010-11 AHL season.

Manitoba's Tyler Weiman and Hamilton's Peter Delmas battled it out in the shootout for the additional point as the two teams were deadlocked at 3-3 through four periods of play. Again, the collection of talent on the bench for the Moose is scary. Joel Perrault, Cody Hodgson, and Jordan Schroeder all scored in the shootout while Weiman stopped all three Hamilton shooters, and the Moose took the game by a 4-3 shootout score for the second straight night. With the win, the Moose improve to 4-2-0 on the season.

Good News For A Change

The Moose had a lot of man-games lost to injuries and call-ups last season, but it's been relatively quiet for the AHL squad thus far. No injuries at the NHL level means that the Moose might actually get to develop some good chemistry, but they have yet to show a five- or six-goal game this season. Chemistry takes time to develop, though, and we've only played six games. I'm hoping that it's now just a matter of time for the Moose.

The one player who has missed a few games is Victor Oreskovich. The big winger was given the weekend off after taking what looked like an elbow or forearm to the head in the series against Grand Rapids. From the reports out of Moose camp, it sounds like the cobwebs are clearing for Oreskovich, and he should be available on the upcoming weekend for the Moose. This is great news as Oreskovich has two goals and one assist in four games this season.

Halloween Weekend

The Moose have a three-game road set on the weekend to start their seven-game roadtrip. The Moose will visit the Monster on Friday, October 29 and Sunday, October 31 in some Halloween-appropriate games. The bookend games surround a game on Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the mythological Griffins are already 2-0 against the Moose this season. Long roadtrips are hard in the AHL where games come in rapid succession, so the Moose will have to play some smart, fundamental hockey in their upcoming games.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Some Tuesday Thoughts

As I work through another week here at HBIC headquarters, I'm proud to say that the upgrades went wonderfully yesterday. There were no hiccups to report, and everything is working much better with the increased amount of RAM I installed to give the old box o' chips a much-needed speed infusion. Because I really wasn't watching any hockey on a very quiet Monday in the hockey world, I do have some thoughts that occurred to me while working on my computer last night. Some of these will certainly come with pictures, but others will simply be questions with potential answers. All in all, I have some thoughts I want to get down, and this is the place to do it. Let's go!

  • Just an update from that story from Sunday about Miami University (Ohio) defenceman Will Weber. If you missed the info, Weber's neck was cut inadvertently byu a skate. Weber has been released from hospital, and apparently is doing well. The only thing that's hard to take? That wound that required 15 staples and 100 stitches to close. I'd never wish that kind of injury on anyone, but Weber is truly ready for Halloween. Stay strong and get well, Will!
  • Speaking of Halloween, the San Jose Sharks are continuing a good NHL tradition of jerseys and charity. The Sharks wore Halloween-themed jerseys for practice once again, much in the similar vein as they did two years ago. All of the practice jerseys will be sold during an auction on two nights: October 27 vs. the New Jersey Devils and October 30 vs. the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks will also offer up one Halloween jersey via the NHL Auctions page, and Ryan Clowe's jersey is up for grabs. The online auction ends November 3. All proceeds will benefit the Sharks Foundation in assisting local non-profit organizations in the San Jose area. Good cause, great font, love the execution of this idea.
  • In keeping with Halloween, it was nice to see Mike Bossy honored by the New York Islanders last season. The only problem is that Satan was honoring him! That's Miroslav Satan in the Bossy vintage jersey, and I really think the Islanders should do more of these kinds of events to bring back the former Islanders fans who may have moved on.
  • It has long been stated that the reason for the broken center red line was for black-and-white television to ensure that viewers could differentiate between the blue lines and red lines on the ice. But what about teams that weren't televised on the old Hockey Night broadcasts? The Quebec Aces prove that solid red lines can be used for non-televised hockey teams, despite the blue lines in the background looking somewhat similar. So television really may be the reason for the center line to have a pattern. I still love that old Aces logo, though.
  • I've got nothing but praise for Steven Stamkos this season as he is truly proving he is a bonafide NHL scoring machine in leading the NHL in scoring, but he's really abused one team in his division: the Atlanta Thrashers. He has 12 goals and nine assists in 14 career games against Atlanta, and doesn't appear to be slowing down after picking up four points in his most recent game against the Thrashers. Perhaps the Thrashers should be a little more aware of Stamkos when he's on the ice, and get under his skin a little to get him off his scoring streak.
  • After losing his starting job last season to Tuukka Rask, there were rumours all summer about Tim Thomas being traded to various teams. The 2009 Vezina Trophy winner has shown that he's back to his dominant form, and really looks like the man he was two years ago. Thomas is 4-0-0, and is playing some of the best hockey in the early-going that I have seen in some time.

There are some photos and thoughts on Tuesday. Antler Banter is back tomorrow as I take a look at the Moose through three weeks, and we'll see if they can get back on the winning track against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Day Off Upgrades

Just a quick note from me today. I've decided to upgrade the old computer with some bulked-up sticks of memory and the removal of a bunch of stuff that should have been deleted months ago. While I doubt that I'm going to have a bag of old computer parts when I'm done, I'm almost certain that I'll be recycling a number of old CDs and perhaps an outdated mouse or two. Either way, I do know that the upgrade was long overdue, so it's time to give the old box o' chips a new lease on life. That, and upgrades are a fun way for me to practice all of my learnings regarding computers.

Over the next 24 hours, I'll be off the grid while I'm bringing this PC back up to speed, both literally and figuratively. In that time, be good, watch some hockey, and enjoy yourselves. I'll be back on Tuesday with more hockey stuff!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Another Gruesome Injury

Just caught this quickly in passing today, but apparently there was a scary and gruesome injury in an NCAA game last night. From some of the reports I've seen and read, it appears as though defenceman Will Weber, a member of Miami University (Ohio), had his neck sliced open by a skate in their win over Northern Michigan. The RedHawks' assistant captain was opened up accidentally by a Northern Michigan player's skate, and had to be rushed to the hospital. This kind of story brings back memories of a couple of gruesome injuries that I've witnessed. The man to the left is Clint Malarchuk, and his injury was horrific. The second man was Richard Zednik, and Zednik's injury was downright scary.

Kids and parents, if you're squeamish, I recommend not sticking around for the videos below.

Here is Clint Malarchuk's injury.

And we'll follow that up with Richard Zednik's injury.

Godspeed to Will Weber, and here's hoping he makes a full and speedy recovery. I'll update Will's condition in the coming days, but injuries like these will take time to heal. All the best to Will and his family in a time like this.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

HNIC Talks Brains

There is no doubt that the frequency of diagnosed brain injuries, specifically concussions, has seen an infinite increase as more and more doctors learn about the injury. While there have been great advances in helmet padding and protection as well as campaigns to reduce checks to the head, concussions still happen at an alarming rate in hockey. Some leagues have banned and penalized all contact with the head, and this is something I endorse and applaud. Junior leagues and developmental leagues deserve to give all the players in those leagues a fair shot at advancing their careers, but a concussion can not only derail those plans, but end them completely. That being said, the piece done by CBC's Elliotte Friedman on the Inside Hockey segment was excellent.

Teddy Katz, a reporter for CBC, filed a report one day earlier from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota about concussions, and his report was excellent as well.

He writes, "The chief medical officer for Hockey Canada, Mark Aubry (who's also the team doctor for the Ottawa Senators) was at the microphone saying any time a player starts feeling that way - a trainer, coach, doctor should immediately remove that player from the ice. And rarely, if ever, allow them to return to play the same day."

This is the one thing that players always try to do: return from a big hit. Most times, the pros can be seen sitting on the bench with glassy eyes as the trainer or another player waves smelling salts under the concussed player's nose. There's an element of "toughness" that players have to exhibit, and "bouncing back" after a big hit is "part of the game".

Except it's not. And Dr. Aubry states that some players lie about their symptoms to remain in the game due to how competitive they are.

Here is what Mr. Katz found:

  • "There are consistently between 70 and 78 reported in a typical year". That number is fairly scary.
  • "Most of the concussions happen in youth hockey". That is downright frightening. Developing brains don't need to be slowed by the effects of a concussion, yet most of the reported concussions happen in youth hockey. Wow.
This article isn't meant to scare you, though. It's being written with young hockey players in mind. I want parents, coaches, referees, arena employees, timekeepers, and anyone else in the arena to be far more cognizant of players who may have take a rap on the noggin.

According to NCAA football rules, any player who is diagnosed with a concussion is not allowed to return to the game, and any loss of consciousness is automatically deemed a concussion for the player's protection. This is a very good rule considering the number of helmet-on-helmet hits that football players see, so there must be something that can be done in hockey as well.

As to what can be done, I'm not sure. I'm not a neurosurgeon nor am I any sort of doctor. What I do know is that players need to be honest with coaches and trainers, and trainers need to be far more protective of the players. I realize that not every single concussion can be prevented, but we can still make up a lot of ground in the treatment and prevention of additional concussions.

That's something we are all responsible for, and something we should be demanding all leagues, from the NHL down to your local beer league and kids' hockey leagues. If your favorite NHL star tells you and your kids to help prevent concussions, there's a very good chance that it will start to sink home.

And knowing is half the battle.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Give Him Six

After watching what Vancouver's Rick Rypien did on Tuesday night to a fan in Minnesota, it was fairly elementary to think that he would get himself some time off. If there is one thing that a professional in any industry cannot do, it's to confront a fan in a physical manner. It isn't tolerated in Hollywood, and it's certainly never tolerated in sports. We have numerous examples of where players have crossed that line, and, in most cases, the proverbial book has been thrown at those players. In knowing that, I waited in anticipation for the ruling that Gary Bettman would make regarding Rick Rypien's actions.

It was announced Friday afternoon that Rick Rypien would be suspended for six games. I have a read a few articles that seem to express outrage that Rypien's suspension would be this short, while others have supported the NHL in their decision not to make an example out of Rypien. I'm not here to debate what is right or wrong in terms of the length of the suspension today. What I want to look at is the accessibility that fans and players have to one another in the player's realm.

We've seen altercations in Hollywood where an actor will confront a heckling fan or paparazzi. Normally, the heckler feels they have the right to speak their mind, and I am not here to squash any First Amendment rights in the United States. If the actor confronts the heckler with physicality, the lawsuit procedure ususally plays out with the heckler claiming "extreme emotional and physical distress".

But what would happen if that fan confronted the actor on the set of their next movie or TV show? Could the heckler claim "extreme emotional and physical distress" if he or she was pummeled by the actor or security for being in an area he or she shouldn't be?

The reason I ask this is that hockey is a very fan-friendly sport. The players are approachable and welcoming for the most part, and the fans are extremely knowledgeable in terms of knowing who each player is. The proximity of the fans to the players isn't as intimate as, say, the NBA, but there is a lot of opportunity to interact with players while they are in their arena of play.

The chutes where the players get from the dressing to the ice in are one of the most exposed areas where fans and players can interact. Normally, the chute extends out to the bench during the intermissions so that the players can safely approach the ice without a lot of fan interference, especially on the visitors' side. Not only is this a safety idea for both players and fans, but it allows separation between the players and fans when the players are focusing on the job they are needing to do.

However, when a heckling fan confronts a player in his arena of play, the results are normally nothing to report. We've had incidents where fans have engaged players - Tie Domi's penalty box fight with a fan - and we've have incidents where players have engaged fans - Mike Milbury's infamous shoe fracas in New York - but where is the line drawn when something like this happens? Why is the fan normally exonerated of any responsibility in the situation?

Look, I'm not saying that what Rypien did is in any way acceptable. He had a lapse in judgment after a fan heckled him, and he certainly should be punished for not showing some restraint in that situation. Six games is a very good lesson that Gary Bettman has handed down, and I'm quite certain that Rypien will not make the same mistake again.

Gary Bettman, in a very good PR move, has reached out to the fan to apologize on behalf of the league, and I think this is a very classy move from the Commissioner that shows that the NHL is serious about taking care of its fans. The offer of dinner and a couple of free tickets only goes to show that the NHL wants to keep Mr. James Engquist as a fan of the NHL and the Minnesota Wild, and the Commissioner deserves praise for fostering some good rapport with Mr. Engquist.

We, as fans, still need to remember one thing: we are not to enter the playing field at any time, and the chute to the dressing room is the player's domain. Regardless of whether Mr. Engquist was in the playing field, he was very accessible to Rypien, and Rypien reacted poorly. The six-game suspension is worthy of the grab-and-push that Rypien delivered on Mr. Engquist.

My only example of this would be at a zoo. Just because you can touch a lion or tiger or bear (oh my!) by sticking your hands between the bars doesn't mean you should. Just because you can tease an animal by throwing popcorn at it doesn't mean you should. We still need to be cognizant that there are dangers in stressing a wild animal. I'm not suggesting that Rypien is a wild animal, but he was stressed in terms of being angry, and then he made a serious error in judgment in reacting poorly to heckling and teasing from a fan.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that if the NHL wants to have the retractable chute down to the dressing rooms, they may want to look at having more security in areas that allow the fan and player to meet in the player's domain. It's the only way I can see this incident from never repeating itself again. While it may reduce the fan experience for some people, it will also help to foster better player-fan relationships where the player isn't tempted to relinquish restraint in a stressful situation.

A few things are certain, though: Mr. Bettman did the right thing in reaching out to Mr. Engquist to help foster Mr. Engquist's relationship with the NHL, and Rick Rypien will probably never make this mistake again. If he does, I'm sure it will cost more than a two-week vacation.

Or we could simply prevent this by having security there to keep the players and fans at a reasonable distance from one another.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 2

We're two weeks into the season, and that means we're back with another Antler Banter edition. This past week, the Moose tangled with the Grand Rapids Griffins at MTS Centre as they attempted to improve upon their 2-0-0 record while attempting to avoid any setbacks. Can they get some more timely scoring from the newcomers? Will the goaltending be as solid as it was on the road? All that and more coming up! For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to check out the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's get to the Hardcore Hockey!

MacDoughnut For MacDonald

The Moose haven't been overly successful against Joey MacDonald when he has suited up for the Griffins. The AHL veteran goaltender has seen decent success against the Moose, and has helped the Griffins get past the Moose in the Calder Cup Playoffs in the past. The Detroit Red Wings' AHL affiliate has some firepower, but both Manitoba's Eddie Lack and Grand Rapids' Joey MacDonald put on a goaltending clinic in this 1-0 Griffins win.

Eddie Lack is a beast. There's something to be said about the great goaltenders being developed in Sweden with the likes of Jonas Gustavsson, Jhonas Enroth, Henrik Lundqvist, and, seemingly, Eddie Lack grabbing the spotlight. Lack was sensational at times, making 27 of 28 saves in the game. On more than one occasion, the Swede found himself making second, third, and even fourth saves during a flurry to keep the Moose in the game. Lack is looking like a very good goaltender early in his professional career. If it wasn't for a loose puck on a rebound, Lack could have carried his zero into an extra period for sure.

Despite being snake-bitten on Friday night, the combination of Cody Hodgson and Aaron Volpatti looked dangerous all night. Both men recorded four shots on MacDonald, but neither could find the back of the net. Hodgson looks like he is rediscovering his touch as he set up Volpatti a couple of times on the doorstep, but MacDonald was equal to the task. I liked the energy these guys showed, and they should have better results if they keep it up.

Sergei Shirokov was a speed demon again, including being stopped on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period. Again, I have to say that Shirokov is improving in his own zone, and is actually proving that he is committed to defence by playing on the penalty killing unit. Much like the rest of the Moose who were snake-bitten on Friday, Shirokov couldn't get one by MacDonald, but he should find the back of the net often if he continues to show the solid effort he has put forth thus far.

The Moose drop their first game to a defence-first Griffins squad as Joey MacDonald records the 1-0 victory. With the loss, the Moose drop to 2-1-0 on the season, but they would have their opportunity for revenge on Saturday night as these two teams clashed again.

Hot Goalie Problem

For the second straight night, the Moose would face Joey MacDonald in the Grand Rapids Griffins' net. He had stopped all 25 shots the night before, so the Moose had to find a way to solve MacDonald. The Moose responded with Tyler Weiman in between the pipes, and he was looking to improve his record to 2-0 on the season.

This might be a common theme in these weekly updates, but goaltending was a major factor in this game again. Tyler Weiman made several excellent saves, including a breakaway stop on Jamie Tardif in the early going and another breakaway stop on Francis Pare later. Weiman has long been thought of as an excellent goaltender who played for some pretty bad Lake Erie teams, but the AHL veteran showed exactly why that thought is correct. If it weren't for Weiman on this day, the Moose could have lost this game by a large margin.

I have to hand it to the Moose who decided to play a much more physical game in this affair. Tommy Maxwell threw a couple of big hits in the game, and really got his nose dirty in scrums. Aaron Volpatti, who should be leading Manitoba in hits and fights thus far, got into a scrap with Sergei Kolosov, but it didn't last long. I'd call it a draw, but Volpatti would have more than held his own, in my estimation. Travis Ramsey missed seventeen minutes after he was hit with an instigator penalty in the first period, so the Moose definitely were showing some anger. I'll have more on Ramsey below, but if the Moose want to score a lot this season, they'll need to create some room for the scorers to do so. Saturday's game was a good example of what these three players need to do for this team.

Much like last weekend, the active blueline really helped the Moose, and this needs to continue. Lee Sweatt tied for the lead in shots with four, and Kevin Connauton was a +2 on the evening. Not all was good for Connauton as his penalty led to the first Griffins goal, but the young defenceman played well when he was on the ice. Ramsey, as stated above, was a force on the blueline, and he and Nolan Baumgartner really need to be the big, physical players they appear to be. Overall, the defence corps of the Moose are looking good thus far into the young season, and that has to continue.

However, the Moose fall 3-2 to the Griffins on the strength of another solid game by Joey MacDonald in net. With the loss, the Moose fall to 2-2-0 on the season, and find themselves in their first losing streak of the campaign.

Small Adjustments, Big Difference

With the two losses, there are definitely some problems in how the Moose play. These problems, from the stands, appear to very correctable, though, so there shouldn't be a lot of alarm after four games.

First, the powerplay was a horrific oh-fer this weekend. The Moose powerplay failed to capitalize on twelve chances while on home ice, and this must change quickly. All elite teams use the powerplay to absolutely kill their opposition, and this has to happen for the Moose. If the Herd can't find themselves in the top-five powerplay percentages by the All-Star Game, something has to change. With their firepower, there's no way this team should miss on twelve man-advantages.

Secondly, the Moose lost one of their better players from the first weekend as Victor Oreskovich left Saturday's game with an "upper body injury". I put that in quotations because it seems likely that Oreskovich may miss some considerable time. Griffins defenceman Brendan Smith caught Oreskovich with a forearm or elbow to the head, and the Moose forward did not return. I'm guessing concussion, but the Moose camp has been quiet. With Oreskovich out, the Moose need to replace both his energy and his scoring. Someone has to step up and prove they want the opportunity.

Thirdly, the physical play must continue. While I'm not suggesting to become the Broad Street Bullies, the Moose have to wear down the opposition while demoralizing them on the scoreboard. Not only will the physical play haunt the Moose's opposition, but the intimidation factor of a crushing hit may cause some opposing players to not play their games. Again, the Moose need to score, but they also need to continue to throw the body at all costs. Letting Maxwell, Ramsey, and Volpatti do what they do best is entirely the way to getting scorers like Hodgson, Schroeder, Rosa, Shirokov, and Perrault appearing regularly on the scoresheet.

Bring On The Dogs

The Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs tangle tonight and on Friday, so get down to the box office and get your tickets! Hamilton has always played well in Winnipeg, and the Moose certainly need a challenge to see if they are contenders or pretenders thus far. While the Moose and Bulldogs battled to a six-game Bulldogs series win in the Calder Cup Playoffs last season, both teams look considerably different, so this should be a great North Division matchup!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

TBC: Hockey Superstitions

I'm pretty sure that if you followed hockey in the last five years, the image of Mike Commodore is one that you remember fondly. As you may recall, the Carolina Hurricanes were the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions, and Commodore was quite famous for his crimson locks and bright red beard. If you've been watching hockey in the spring at any level, you know that superstitions take on a life of their own as players don't want to change any aspect of their lives in order to keep a winning streak alive. Because of this, all sorts of traditions get started in the NHL, and Teebz's Book Club has a whole book of them today. TBC is proud to present Hockey Superstitions, written by Andrew Podneiks and published by McLelland & Stewart Ltd.

Andrew Podnieks has written more than 50 books on hockey, including Honoured Canadiens, Celebrating the Game, and Lord Stanley's Cup. Mr. Podnieks has played a major role in researching international hockey for various institutions including the Hockey Hall of Fame, the IIHF, and Hockey Canada. The Canadian author has provided Hockey Canada all of the statistics and historical info on all of Canada's teams at of the IIHF major tournaments since 2003. You can check out his website, which features all of his books, by clicking here.

Hockey Superstitions is broken up into two distinct parts: Group Superstitions, and Player Superstitions. Group Superstitions are the "Universal Tribalism" that is exhibited by teams and/or groups of players rather than the individual. Player Superstitions are obviously more of a personal tradition or superstition that individual players exhibit.

The first section, Group Superstitions, looks at how superstitions originated at the NHL level, as well as some of the more common superstitions we know. Things like player beards in the playoffs, not touching the Prince of Wales or Campbell Conference Trophies, and never touching the Stanley Cup until a player has won it are discussed by Mr. Podnieks. However, he also brings to light the many traditions that aren't as well-known. Some of these include team mascots, coaching attire, fan and media superstitions, Kate Smith's ability to influence the Flyers to win, and, in particular, the New York Islanders' superstition of elephant dung. Yes, you read that last one correctly - elephant dung. The first 55 pages cover 28 superstitions, and they really go to show how many susperstitions are or were part of the game.

The second portion of Hockey Superstitions is all about the individual player supsertitions. Some of these superstitions are displays of obsessive-compulsive behavior, but others are simply incredible in terms of how important they were to the player. For example:

  • Peter Bondra used five sticks during the pre-game warmup, and number them. He would decide during this warmup which would be his "game stick". If he scored in the first period, he would continue using the stick. However, if things weren't working very well, he'd grab one of his other numbered sticks to use.
  • Ray Bourque would change his sweaty equipment between periods, but he would also re-lace his skates during the intermission and discard the previously-used laces.
  • Shane Doan writes "29:11" on each of his sticks. Dona's religious beliefs have spread to a superstition with his sticks, and the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11 is very important to Doan.
  • Kyle McLaren, who is known for wearing a yellow visor, actually began his superstition because of a joke. McLaren is color blind, and a teammate swapped his clear visor for a yellow one. McLaren didn't notice until after the game in which he scored the game-winning goal! He did change back to a clear one in 2007-08 to see if that would change the fortunes of the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, but his superstition started because of a prank!

As you can see, there are a vast number of superstitions that players have used. Mr. Podnieks covers over 100 players on approximately 110 pages, so you know there will be interesting anecdotes passed on about a vast number of players from across all the NHL's various eras.

I have seen a number of superstitions in hockey dressing rooms over my time, and I know they drive a player in his preparation. Mr. Podnieks covers a lot of superstitions that embrace teams and players, and presents them in short, anecdotal passages. The information contained on the 179 pages of Hockey Superstitions is excellent, and Hockey Superstitions certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. While this book may be more suited for spring reading, there is nothign wrong with examining the traditions that drive players today.

Just as a note before you navigate away from this site, Hockey Superstitions goes on sale on November 2, 2010. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from McLelland & Stewart Ltd., and a huge thank you goes out to them for sending me this excellent book. Look for it at your local bookstore next week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Why, Rick, Why?

There are a few absolute truths in this world, but none that seem to be bigger than the adage of "Never bite the hand that feeds you". If you're a dog and bite the hand that feeds you, chances are that the person feeding you may not want to do that again, and you might be given away to another family. In hockey, there is no excuse for a player engaging into any sort of scuffle with a fan. I don't care if the fan is the rudest, meanest jerk on this side of Jerkville, players simply cannot be unprofessional and allow their emotions to run wild.

Tuesday night, however, saw Rick Rypien go wild at the XCel Energy Center against a fan of the Minnesota Wild. Take a look:

While there was no serious damage done to the fan except an elevated heartbeat and a stunned look on his face, Rypien made a serious error in judgment.

I've always like Rick Rypien. He was a solid player while with the Manitoba Moose, and he was a fine player with the Vancouver Canucks. I've never seen this side of him before, so it's not like the man has a history of doing stuff like this.

However, I see a lengthy suspension on this one. If there is one thing that Gary Bettman has made clear, it's that the NHL will be as fan-friendly as possible. Or, in this case, the absolute opposite of what Rypien did.

No word on when the hearing is yet, but this one could be a long time-out for Rypien. And it should serve notice to any other player that this type of behavior from a player will be harshly punished.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Fifteen Years Later

It's hard to believe, but today marks the day that saw the Jets leave Winnipeg and move to Phoenix, Arizona some fifteen years ago. While Winnipeg's name gets tossed around every time someone mentions a franchise with financial issues, it's still hard to believe that the Jets left fifteen years ago today. It honestly feels a lot longer to me, but maybe that's because I swore off the NHL for a year or two before she pulled me back in. However, fifteen years it is, and that's why I'm here today with a special article that someone has written.

I'd like to intorduce Jamil Karim, a writer for a local publication in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia called Good News Weekly. It was his email that reminded of this day, and his article is brief, but memorable. With Mr. Karim's article, I began to reflect on some of the players who suited up for the Winnipeg Jets.

  • The first superstar that Winnipeg got to know was Dale Hawerchuk. "Ducky" was a great scorer, and still is fondly remembered in Winnipeg for his scoring prowess and leadership.
  • Following in the great nickname trend, Eldon "Pokey" Reddick was always a fan favorite. The goaltender was a journeyman for most of his career, but had some memorable seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.
  • Teemu Selanne will always be remembered in Winnipeg. The "Finnish Flash" set the rookie record for goals and points in Winnipeg, and was always available for one more photograph with fans and one more autograph. Truly one of the most memorable Jets.
  • The man who assisted on more of Selanne's goals than any other player during Selanne's record-setting season was defenceman Phil Housley. Housley was a fantastic player while with the Jets, and really turned in some excellent numbers on an offensively-challenged team.
  • Another solid Winnipeg Jet defenceman was Teppo Numminen. Teppo was never the stand-out offensive star, but he always seemed to chip in and rarely took a shift off in the defensive zone. He was a mainstay on the Jets' blueline.
  • Tim Cheveldae will always be remembered when he arrived in Winnipeg. Unfortunately, his numbers led him out of Winnipeg as "Chevy" couldn't recreate the magic he had in Detroit.
  • Bob Essensa was so close to being a standout goaltender in the old Smythe Division, but he always seemed to be overshadowed by Fuhr, Ranford, McLean, and Vernon. Essensa was a pretty good goaltender, and really provided solid goaltending for the Jets.
  • We can't forget about where the "Bulin Wall" got his start. Nikolai Khabibulin was one of the Mike Smith-era Russian picks that actually worked out for the Jets. The other 100 or so Russian players selected by Smith really did nothing.
  • Keith Tkachuk was a very good power forward while in Winnipeg, even if his salary demands were a little ridiculous. Either way, when he put his mind to it, Tkachuk was one of the best at what he did so well - scoring goals.
  • Thomas Steen was the consummate professional, and always gave 100% while on the ice. The man deserves a statue in Winnipeg for the work he did and the positive promotion he gave the team and its players.
  • Tie Domi was the enforcer that Winnipeg needed during Selanne's magical rookie season, and the fans instantly took to the pugilistic professional. Domi's partner-in-crime would actually have a bigger effect on the team because...
  • Kris King would come to Winnipeg in the same trade that brought Domi to the Jets, and King would eventually become the captain of the Jets. King was an excellent leader, and he always got the troops to rally when they were at their lowest.
  • Who can forget about Randy Carlyle? The man left everything he had on the ice for the Jets, and then returned to Winnipeg to coach the AHL's Manitoba Moose. Again, an absolute professional in whatever endeavour he takes on.
  • I always thought Mike Eagles was a lunchbox type of player, but he was the one guy who didn't seem to mind the dirty work. If only all the players had his hustle and drive.
  • Another lunchbox guy was captain Troy Murray. Murray came over from Chicago, and instantly showed what the term "work ethic" means. Nothing that a little sweat energy can't cure.
  • Winnipeg has a Pepsi bottling plant in town, so it was always nice to see the team supporting a local company. From left to right, that's Tim Watters, Dale Hawerchuk, Laurie Boschman, and Scott Arniel enjoying a cold 7Up.

Fifteen years ago, the Jets left town. Hard to believe it's only been that short of a time, but, thanks to Mr. Karim, we get to relive a little history through videos and pictures.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Viral Video From France

While there haven't been a lot of reasons to be excited about hockey from the country of France, the French do have some gorgeous uniforms. They have produced Cristobal Huet who has carved out a fairly decent hockey career in the NHL. For the most part, though, French hockey from across the pond has left hockey fans a little disappointed based solely on what seems like disinterest about the sport from the country. One man and one company, it appears, are looking at changing that through a viral video campaign. And I have to say that their commercial is quite funny.

Rémi Gaillard runs a website called "nimportequi" where he posts seemingly thousands of viral videos. The following video, however, is absolutely priceless as it features Gaillard as a man who appears to be getting bodychecked into the plexiglass in France in public. Take a look:

The two guys right at the end who burst into laughter are probably the best part of that whole video!

I'm not sure if Monsieur Gaillard is an Ottawa Senators fan, but he can be seen in the video wearing a Senators jersey as he flies into various plexiglassed structures. As for anything else, these videos take place somewhere in France, but comedy apparently crosses borders with ease because I found it as amusing as the two gentlemen at the end of the video.

By the way, M. Gaillard's catchphrase at the end of the video - "C'est en faisant n'importe quoi qu'on devient n'importe qui" - translates directly to "It's by doing just anything that you become just anybody", but a friend said that it could be interpreted to be more along the lines of "stupid is as stupid does". I'm not saying the video is stupid in any way, but M. Gaillard's version of hockey is pretty silly. And very, very funny.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

TBC: We Are The Champions

If there was ever a debate that could never be settled in the world of hockey, it is the one where a person determines which NHL team was the best of all-time. Of course, the team would have had to win a Stanley Cup as a way to determine if they truly were a great team, so that automatically eliminates the San Jose Sharks over the last decade. I kid, Sharks fans, I kid. There is one publication that may have the expertise and experience to make such a determination, though, and that's why I'm here today. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present We Are The Champions, written by The Hockey News, edited by Edward Fraser, and published by Transcontinental Books. There are a large number of teams that have won the Stanley Cup from 1917 up to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup victory in 2009, and The Hockey News considers all of these teams in their efforts to rank the best 25 teams in NHL history.

I can't imagine this was an easy job as there have been some juggernaut teams that have played in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens could have a Top-25 all to themselves, but they only appear four times on the all-time best list. The Edmonton Oilers had their incredible dynasty in the 1980s interrupted by the Canadiens and the Flames, so you could put all three of those teams in there. The New York Islanders had their dynasty interrupted by those Oilers, and the Philadelphia Flyers ended the run by the Montreal Canadiens, so you'd have to give a nod to those teams as well. But which of those teams made it? From what year did those teams come?

We Are The Champions brings forth some excellent points. As Managing Editor Edward Fraser writes in the introduction,

"How can you really compare collections from the Original Six years against those built under the oppression of the salary cap? Or what about those dynasties? How much stock should go towards an organization's maintenance of longevity? And what exactly makes a great team? Is it individual talent or a collective effort? There's only one factor that wasn't up for debate. As Alex Ovechkin simply, but brilliantly stated early in his career: 'Cups is Cups.' No championship, no consideration."
In knowing what factor was the first consideration tackled by the team of professionals at The Hockey News, we can automatically eliminate all those teams who have yet to hoist a Stanley Cup in their franchise histories. From there, there had to be some other considerations. I'll allow Mr. Fraser to continue. From the introduction, "In the end, we looked at all the above angles and more, and arrived at a list we feel represents a fair ranking based on how the team performed and excelled against the competition of its time."

Now that you know how the list was set up, let the debate begin. Who should be the top team of all-time? How did the Canadiens only rank four times? Do any teams from 2000 and beyond make the list? In regards to the Canadiens, Mr. Fraser did concede that the list could have fit a number of Canadiens teams on it: "We only chose one season from each dynasty or club that won multiple Cups in a short period of time. This was done in order to avoid repetition and, quite frankly, to prevent this work from reading like a biography of the Montreal Canadiens, who could easily occupy 15 of the spots without this proviso." So there you have it.

What makes We Are The Champions even more enjoyable is that after the best NHL teams of all-time are ranked, the writers from The Hockey News went ahead and picked the best team from each developmental league, junior league, the NCAA, and international squads. Like they did with the NHL's all-time best teams, each team that was selected by THN received a full story on that team's season and accomplishments to give the reader some retrospect as to why THN ranked that team as the best all-time team from that league.

Still want more? THN also provides the best team from each NHL franchise's history at the end of the book. They go all thirty NHL teams, and choose one team from each team's history as the best team to have ever laced up the skates in that franchise's history. Some teams don't have a deep history, so those ones are probably easier to choose. But how do you choose a "best team ever" for a team like the St. Louis Blues? The Florida Panthers? The Vancouver Canucks? The Buffalo Sabres? Again, once THN finally decided on the best season in franchise history, they provide evidence for their choice.

We Are The Champions will do one thing for certain, and that is cause debate amongst hockey fans. The choices are based on subjective factors, so there is bound to be some disagreement with the rankings given to each team. There may even be disagreement on the chosen year of the teams, but that's why this type of book is good. It gets everyone talking about hockey, and makes readers look deeper and find reasons as to why they may agree or disagree with a team's ranking. Because of the book's ability to make readers talk about and debate the subject of which team is the all-time best, We Are The Champions certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. Honestly, this type of book is always a good read in my humble opinion.

Just as a note before you navigate away from this site, We Are The Champions goes on sale on October 26, 2010. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Random House Canada, and a huge thank you goes out to them for sending me this excellent book. Look for it at your local bookstore next week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 15 October 2010

TBC: The Love Of Hockey

Teebz's Book Club returns for a second day with a look at a book filled with facts and fun. There are a lot of stories and fun facts that are missed by a majority of the population, and this could be caused by a number of factors: how widely known these facts are, where they happened, or simply how common they are in the hockey world, for example. There aren't many places, though, that bring them together in one place where you can read about them. However, The Love of Hockey, written by James Duplacey and published by Publications International Limited, brings together a ton of facts, and it was very interesting to read about some of them.

James Duplacey has written over fifty books on various sports. HBIC has featured one of these, Hockey's Book of Firsts. Duplacey is the former Curator of the Hockey Hall of Fame and is the Managing Editor of the Official NHL Guide and Record Book. The 56 year-old graduated from the University of New Brunswick, has done some acting in the past, and is an author for the Armchair Reader series of books. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta, and occasionally contributes articles about the Calgary Flames to the

It would be tough to describe this book without giving you an example of what is contained within its covers, but I can tell you that this collection of facts and figures is simply astounding, and the pictures that accompany the information are vivid and very appropriate. Mr. Duplacey has broken the book into six chapters, and we'll look at a few facts from the first of these sections.

Chapter One is entitled "Opening Faceoff", and there are all sorts of amazing anecdotes in this section. Some of these include:

  • The story of 44 year-old head coach Lester Patrick suiting up for the New York Rangers as their goaltender after Lorne Chabot went down with injury. Next to the story is a picture of "the silver fox" in his Rangers gear - an image rarely seen!
  • There's a story about Jim Riley, the only Canadian to suit up in both MLB and the NHL in his sporting career. Riley played with the St. Louis Browns and Washington Nationals during his baseball career, while his hockey career saw him play with the Detroit Cougars and Chicago Black Hawks.
  • The's a very interesting story about Mike Smith, a goaltender for the ECHL's Lexington Men O' War. Smith is the only goaltender in hockey history to record his first professional win, his forst professional shutout, and his first professional goal on October 22, 2002. Smith shutout the Dayton Bombers 2-0, and scored into the empty net.

Chapter Two is entitled "Greatest Show on Ice", but the chapter designations really just blend into one another as the chapters all feature stories on amazing players, lesser-known hockey history, anecdotes on arenas, and great moments in hockey. Chapter Three is entitled "Slap Shots"; Chapter Four is called "Power Plays"; Chapter Five is named "Last Line of Defence"; and, Chapter Six is entitled "Back of the Net".

What makes The Love of Hockey a phenomenal book are the images. The stories would be worth the asking price alone, but the images featured on the book's 320 pages are simply magnificent. I have never seen some of the historical photos that Mr. Duplacey has used in this book, but these are the photos that a person like me who loves hockey history would pay serious money to own. Simply put: amazing imagery in this book.

Because of Mr. Duplacey's work in collecting facts and figures and pairing these with the amazing collection of photographs that he has at his disposal makes this book worth the asking price assigned to it. While it really isn't a book that one can use for a trivia challenge, the facts and figures presented by Mr. Duplacey certainly could be used. Needless to say, Mr. Duplacey's The Love of Hockey was a highly enjoyable read, very interesting, and extremely informative. Because of these traits, The Love of Hockey certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval, and should be a welcome addition to any library or collection of hockey books that one may have.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

TBC: Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres

Teebz's Book Club is coming at you today with a book that presents three men who could certianly have an argument made about being "awesome centres" in the annals of the NHL. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres, written by Mike Leonetti and published by Scholastic Canada. Mr. Leonetti's books have appeared in TBC before, and he always produces an excellent book with his writing and insight. The three players that Mr. Leonetti looks at in his book will be discussed below, but one of the three men is a curious choice at best. I do know that the first two men that he profiles within the covers of Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres are legendary, and certainly were awesome centremen. Without further adieu, let's get into the book!

Mike Leonetti has written a number of hockey-centric books, including Canadiens Legends, The Rocket, and The Mighty Tim Horton, all of which were reviewed right here on Hockey Blog In Canada. Mr. Leonetti lives in Woodbridge, Ontario, with his wife, Maria, and their son, David.

Mr. Leonetti looks at three players in his new book. The first player is a Montreal Canadiens legend, and certainly was an awesome centreman. Jean Béliveau played in the NHL from 1950 until 1971 with the Montreal Canadiens, and was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972. In 1125 regular season games, Béliveau scored 507 goals and added 712 assists, but was also the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, leading the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups over his career, and won a number of individual awards while playing in the NHL.

Mr. Leonetti's second awesome centreman is a man who rewrote the NHL record books while playing for four NHL clubs. Wayne Gretzky is undoubtedly an awesome centreman, and his accomplishments are well-documented. Gretzky played in the NHL from 1979 until 1999, ammasing 894 goals and 1963 assists over 1487 regular season games. Gretzky captained the majority of the four teams he played with, and led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cups. He, of course, has a trophy case full of NHL awards, and is seen as the best player all-time in NHL history.

Mr. Leonetti's third selection as an awesome centreman is a more curious one. While both Béliveau and Gretzky have a number of honours amongst them, the choice of Vincent Lecavalier is certainly debatable when looking at the current crop of NHL centremen. While Lecavalier won a Stanley Cup in 2004 and has been a captain with the Lightning, there is far less evidence that he will be considered one of the elite centremen ever at this point in his career. Is he good? Absolutely. Is he awesome? I'd say there might be other men playing the game right now who rank above him in terms of accomplishments. However, Lecavalier's story is told by Mr. Leonetti, and he is the third awesome centre chosen by the author.

What makes this book interesting are the background stories told by Mr. Leonetti on each of the three players. He includes photographs from their early days, showing the players in uniforms rarely seen outside of major hockey circles. There are pictures of Jean Béliveau in a Victoriaville Tigres sweater and a Quebec Aces sweater that I had never seen before. Wayne Gretzky is shown as a seven year-old on outdoor ice and in an Ontario Major Junior Hockey League All-Star jersey in 1978. Lecavalier is pictured in the 1998 CHL Top Prospects Game and at the NHL Entry Draft. By using these pictures while explaining how these players became the great players they are and were, you instantly have an idea of why these three men are awesome centres. The images are excellent, and they really give you a great view on some hockey history as well as a few rarely-seen uniforms.

Overall, Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres was a very good look at three players whose history before they hit the NHL may not be known to younger readers. This book is geared towards a more advanced young reader and adolescents, but the 110-page book is nothing that should cause too many problems for the up-and-coming reader. Mr. Leonetti presents all of the facts clearly and concisely, and the three men he profiles should be an inspiration to young hockey players. Because of his excellent writing and the photos he chose to use, Hockey Greats - Awesome Centres is certainly worthy of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 1

The first week of the AHL season is in the books, and the Manitoba Moose are back on the ice doing what they do best. It was a long off-season where players left, players arrived, two coaches traded spots, and the team looked to return to Calder Cup Final form for the 2010-11 season. The week saw the Moose traveling through Illinois as they made stops in Peoria to play the Rivermen, and in Rockford to play the IceHogs. For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to check out the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. On to the first week of Hardcore Hockey!

Ahead of the Current

You'll notice something new this season. I'm not going to break games down on a goal-by-goal basis this season. Instead, I will stick to strictly what I saw that contributed to the outcome with regards to the Moose. It will seem a little odd at first, but I feel that you can get the info on who scored at what time in which period in a number of places. What you can't get everywhere is my view on what may have caused the win or loss. But you will find that right here. Let's get it started with the Rivermen.

Mark it down: defenceman Evan Oberg scored the first goal of the season for the Moose. That might not be a historic goal or anything, but it is the first goal of the season for the Moose in their fifteenth season in the AHL.

Let's start with Tyler Weiman. The former Lake Erie Monster goaltender looked sharp in his Moose debut, but he was victimized by one deflection and one goal-mouth scramble that put the Moose behind 3-1 early into the third period. Weiman played very well, though, as he stopped 30 of 33 shots on the night. He didn't have to be spectacular, but he provided what every team needs: solid goaltending. If the Moose get that in every game this season, they won't be out of many games.

Victor Oreskovich, a player who I profiled last week, was a force on the ice. He was an assist short of the Gordie How Hat Trick, but he showed exactly what head coach Claude Noel expects: energy, tenacity, and scoring. Oreskovich is certainly a streak of energy out there, and the Moose should benefit from his presence in the lineup all season long.

Jordan Schroeder looked very confident as he begins his first full season with the Moose. Last season, we saw Schroeder play very effectively, and he continued that in his first game this season as he racked up three helpers on the night. Schroeder still seems to wander in the Moose zone at times, so he'll have to be a little better in the defensive zone. However, the Moose forward was clicking with his teammates, and he should be a leader for the Moose all season long.

Overall, the Moose played a little loose in their first game. It took a third-period rally, but goals from Oreskovich, Evan Oberg, and rookie defenceman Kevin Connauton paced the Moose to a 4-3 come-from-behind win against the Peoria Riverman. The Moose start the season with a 1-0-0 record.

Serving Ham For Thanksgiving

The Moose visited the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday afternoon, and they looked to improve upon their winning ways. The Moose can certainly use all of the points they can get from non-divisional opponents as it appears that there might be some good competition in the AHL North Division this season. Let's check out what happened in Rockford, and who stood out on the Moose roster in this game.

I got my first good look at 6'5" Swedish goaltender Eddie Lack, and he certainly comes as advertised. The Moose goaltender is quick and big, and he certainly knows the fundamentals of goaltending as he turned away 23 of 25 shots in this contest. Again, like Weiman in the Peoria game, the Moose don't need spectacular goaltending to win games. Solid goaltending will keep Manitoba in games thanks to their offensive talent. Lack provided that on Saturday with his excellent performance.

I have to hand it to several of the new guys for their performances in this game. Lee Sweatt made a big impact as he notched a pair of goals and added an assist. Jonas Andersson, the man coming back to Manitoba in Vancouver's trade that sent Darcy Hordichuk to Nashville, made an immediate impact with his first goal of the season for the Moose early in the first period, and then added an assist later in the game. Victor Oreskovich added his second of the season in this game, and Kevin Connauton notched his second goal as well. If the Moose can continue to get these kinds of contributions, scoring should be way up compared to last season.

Sergei Shirokov looked very good in his second game of his second season. Shirokov had a goal and an assist in the game, and showed real speed up and down the boards in winning races to pucks. Shirokov will be an important player for the Moose this season if he can turn in this kind of effort on a nightly basis, and this kind of performance will go a long way in having Vancouver notice him as well. Shirokov looks far more interested in playing both ends of the ice this season, and that should score him more points for a potential call-up if he can continue with this progress.

Overall, the Moose controlled the game early as they got out to a 4-0 lead through two periods. Two quick goals by the IceHogs in the third period cut the lead to 4-2, but Oreskovich's second goal of the season iced the game at 5-2. The Moose increase their record to 2-0-0 after carving up the IceHogs in Rockford.

The Week Ahead

The Moose will welcome the Grand Rapids Griffins to MTS Centre this weekend for their home-opener. The Griffins opened their season with an 0-1-1 record, having fallen to the Abbotsford Heat in a shootout and to the Rockford IceHogs in regulation time. It will be a bit of a homecoming for Winnipegger Derek Meech as well, but I'm quite certain the Moose want to squash that party. It's a divisional matchup, and we all know how important those points are over the course of an AHL season. There are only two words I have for the Moose in terms of battling for two more wins this weekend: DO IT!

The Usual Suspects

I'm sure it seems like the new guys are making an immediate impact on Moose scoring. But that leaves a few guys from last season still looking for their first points. Marco Rosa has four shots on goal, but not much else to speak of at this point. Nolan Baumgartner has one assist. Cody Hodgson hasn't recorded a point, but has three shots and two PIMs. Mario Bliznak also has three shots on goal, but he has zeroes in all the other columns.

If the Moose can get these guys going, they could be an incredible scoring unit. They are already getting great contributions from the blueline, so getting the players listed above into the scoring act will certainly make the Moose a much more potent team in the offensive zone.

It is a long season, though, so there's no need to worry just yet.

Wrap It Up

The Moose and Griffins tangle on Friday and Saturday, so get down to the box office and get your tickets! While this might be jumping the gun in a big way, the Moose seem like they could be forging a path to hockey in June this season with their performances in the first two games. There's a lot of hockey to be played, so let's get out there and cheer them on this weekend as they battle their former IHL rivals!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!